Relaxed days and swinging nights have become a Baltimore Folk Festival tradition.
The atmosphere during the day is usually easy-going, with folk music fans mingling throughout dance and music workshops, said John Yankee, a musician with the folk trio Cross Country. But as the night nears, a crescendo builds until the final concert and dance, and "it gets wild," Mr. Yankee said.
The tradition will continue this Friday and Saturday when more than 200 performers, including Cross Country, get together for the sixth annual festival sponsored by the Baltimore Folk Music Society.
"We try to present Maryland artists, particularly Baltimore artists, and get people involved in folk music and folk dance," said Anne Kincaid, festival coordinator. "There are a lot of participatory workshops -- dancing, singing."
The festival, which usually attracts more than 1,000 people, will start at 8 p.m. Friday at Bryn Mawr School with a concert of traditional Irish music by fiddler Liz Carroll, button accordion player Billy McComiskey and guitarist and vocalist Daithi Sproule.
Both Ms. Carroll and Mr. McComiskey have won several awards at the All-Ireland championships, the most prestigious competition for Irish traditional music. "They're wild and beautiful," said Jeff Myers, program director for the Folk Music Society. "They create an absolutely spine-tingling reel that's very fast [and] a slow air that will make you cry."
On Saturday, the festival will continue from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., beginning with a parade through Bryn Mawr led by the old English ritual dance and music group Baltimorris.
After the parade, a Showcase Concert will feature a sampling of the day's entertainment. Then, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., workshops, performances and children's activities will take over.
Throughout the day, there will be jam sessions of Cajun, bluegrass, Irish and old-time music. "A core group of musicians will lead the sessions," Ms. Kincaid said. "We're encouraging people to bring instruments and join them."
Also during the day, you can learn the Cajun shuffle, eight-count Lindy or ragtime tango, if you can find some room. "The dance workshops are very popular," Ms. Kincaid said. Instruction will be given in Swedish, Middle Eastern, Israeli folk, Cajun and English country dancing. Old standbys like square and contra dancing will also be taught. (Soft-soled shoes or socks will be required on the dance floor.)
The music workshops border on the silly, such as the course called "Recorder for the Musically Uninclined," and the serene, with the lullaby hour. Other workshops cover sacred harp singing and handbell ringing.
Bill Amos, who has been said to be able to teach juggling to the most untalented and uncoordinated, will instruct children and adults. Other family activities include gypsy storytelling, Hawaiian dance lessons and games. Arts and crafts for kids will also be available.
For a break from dancing, singing and listening, traditional foods will be sold including Greek, Thai, Russian and others. Festival goers also may buy folk and country crafts such as Ukrainian eggs, Irish sweaters and Indian jewelry.
Gospel-singer Mary Hughee, accompanied by BHL Ministries, is one of three acts scheduled to perform Saturday evening at 7:30. Her program traces the African influence in American music, sampling from the Negro spirituals, traditional gospels and contemporary religious music. "She has a beautiful voice," Ms. Kincaid said. "She's one of those 'bring the roof down' performers."
Ms. Hughee will be joined by Cross Country and folk singer Paris Kern, who will be accompanied by Jonathen Jensen on bass, piano and synthesizer. Cross Country, which also includes Ned Quist and Carol Thomas Downing, plays everything from spirituals and country tunes to jazz and original works.
Also Saturday, beginning at 7 p.m. a dance will showcase two groups. First up will be Larry Weiner, calling to the international dancing music of Bamco, followed by square and contra dancing with Robbin Schaffer, who calls to the traditional Irish music of Sodabread.
Baltimore Folk Music Festival
When: Friday concert starts at 8 p.m.; Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Where: Bryn Mawr School, 109 W. Melrose Ave.
Tickets: For Friday concert, $10 for adults and $5 for children; Saturday's festival and concert, $7 for adults, $3 for children and $18 for families; children 3 and under free. Discounted tickets available for Baltimore Folk Music Society members. Interpreters will be available for the hearing impaired.
Call: (410) 366-0808.