No experience necessary at Old-Time Music Festival
With its abundance of workshops geared toward teaching traditional folk music to any- and everyone, the day-long event in Blandon is more about participating than spectating.
If you head out to the Maidencreek Old-Time Music Festival this Sunday, don't forget your fiddle.
As with old-time music itself, participation is key at the festival, which celebrates the traditional folk music of the Appalachians with a day of workshops and performances at Maier's Grove in Blandon.
Now in its second year, the Maidencreek festival is somewhat unusual in that it focuses more on teaching and participation than it does on performances.
Although it culminates in an evening concert, the real meat of the festival is its day-long workshops, where, for a flat fee, visitors can learn to play a handful of traditional string instruments in old-time style.
A social music, old-time songs would have been played by groups of friends and during community dancing.
Songs were passed down by ear and by sight - and that's the way workshop leaders will teach during the festival's 21 workshops.
Among the workshops offered at this year's festival are mandolin, dulcimer, fiddle, string bass, guitar, banjo, vocal harmonies and flat-footing (dancing), with options for beginners and more advanced players.
A workshop schedule and prerequisites can be found on the Web site of Meadowood Music in Blandon, the store owned by festival organizers Paula Taylor and Mike Andrews.
Although workshops take up the bulk of the day, non-musicians also can enjoy the music at two evening concerts.
Workshop students will get a chance to perform during a 6 p.m. open mic-style event, while their teachers will take the stage at 7:30.
The round-robin concert will feature all of the day's 17 workshop teachers, with three bands anchoring the performance: Mike & Paula, the Druckenmillers and the Wayfarers & Co.
Taking the stage together, the teachers will play in pre-coordinated arrangements until each has played.
The concert will end with a group song, which Taylor (of Mike & Paula) compared to a scene in the 2003 folk music satire "A Mighty Wind."
"The last number will absolutely be a big, cacophonous, 'A Mighty Wind' sing-along," she said.
The Maidencreek Festival was inspired by the annual Winter Dulcimer Fest of the Poconos Dulcimer Club in Stroudsburg, according to another organizer, Betty Druckenmiller, who plays in the style with her husband and son.
She added that despite strong fiddle and bluegrass events in Berks County and surrounding areas, she and husband Tom saw an opening for an old-time music event.
"Tom and I had talked about it on and off for probably the last four or five years," Druckenmiller said. "There really isn't anything in this area that deals with old-time music specifically."
The festival came together last year, when Paula Taylor and husband Mike Andrews suggested the grove to the Druckenmillers, who teach at their store.
Norm Williams of the Wayfarers & Co., a founder of the Poconos Dulcimer Club, was also instrumental in founding the festival.
Taylor said she was pleased with the turnout at last year's inaugural festival, promoted by word of mouth only, and hopes to grow the fest over the next few years.
"We would like to grow modestly," she said.
Added Tom Druckenmiller, who organized the evening concert, "It worked out really nicely last year."
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