Friday, June 17, 2016

Oui, Franco Americans Let's celebrate! La Kermesse, Franco American Festival in New England

In the 1920s half of New Hampshire's population was foreign born with many residents having immigrated from Canada, Ireland, and Italy. Manchester was lovingly called la petite Canada and the French section on the west side, Mcgreggorville was nicknamed Notre Dame. 
In Manchester there was a French Opera,  French Orchestra and St. Mary's Church was adorned with the finest architectural craftsmanship in the city. 
There is still a strong presence of French-Canadian cultural heritage and arts in New England today. On June 16-18 in Biddeford, ME a New England wide festival, La Kermesse will celebrate Franco-American culture with food, craft, stories, and music. Linda Pouliot, a singer on the NH State Council on the Arts Traditional Artist roster will perform classic French standards. She will share stories of growing up in Berlin, NH, where she spent Sundays with her family sharing food and cultural traditions. 
Pouliot ensures us, "If you do not speak French, no worries, songs include the English version as well.  Beautiful song arrangements by Charlie Jennison, and melodies sure to please,"
She will be accompanied by seacoast artist Charlie Jennison on piano, Nate Therrien on bass and from Rob Duquette from Saco Maine.
The New Hampshire Humanities Council recently held a day-long symposium of speakers in Moltonborough, NH on Franco-American Life and culture in NH. The symposium accompanies an exhibit of photos and text at the Castle in the Clouds that will be available to travel around the state.

If you would like to learn more about your own heritage, the NH Historical Society will be sponsoring a genealogy workshop focused on French Canadian ancestry on June 25th. 

Below: video of Sandy La Fleur, Paul Lizotte, and others performing French Canadian fiddle tunes with a jig doll or gigeux at the NH Preservation Alliance Old House & Barn Expo.
A video posted by @juliannestarrynight on

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Americans for the Arts releases Statement on Cultural Equity

 At the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts we put a lot of thought, effort, and action into ensuring creative opportunities are accessible to all. In Folk & Traditional Arts that usually means making sure the traditional arts of rural communities, folk and craft, cultural traditions, and religious artistic practices are given the means to be celebrated and passed down to younger generations. All of these unique artistic practices affirm and connect us with our diverse cultural heritage.

Americans for the Arts released their statement on Cultural Equity earlier this year. At one page in length, it is an inspiring reminder for what we need to work toward every day.
Definition of Cultural EquityCultural equity embodies the values, policies, and practices that ensure that all people—including but not limited to those who have been historically underrepresented based on race/ethnicity, age, ability, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic status, geography, citizenship status, or religion—are represented in the development of arts policy; the support of artists; the nurturing of accessible, thriving venues for expression; and the fair distribution of programmatic, financial, and informational resources.
Acknowledgements & Affirmations
  • In the United States, there are systems of power that grant privilege and access unequally such that inequity and injustice result, and that must be continuously addressed and changed.
  • Cultural equity is critical to the long-term viability of the arts sector. 
  • We must all hold ourselves accountable, because acknowledging and challenging our inequities and working in partnership is how we will make change happen.
  • Everyone deserves equal access to a full, vibrant creative life, which is essential to a healthy and democratic society. 
  • The prominent presence of artists challenges inequities and encourages alternatives.

    Modeling Through Action
    To provide informed, authentic leadership for cultural equity, we strive to…
  • Pursue cultural competency throughout our organization through substantive learning and formal, transparent policies.
  • Acknowledge and dismantle any inequities within our policies, systems, programs, and services, and report organization progress.
  • Commit time and resources to expand more diverse leadership within our board, staff, and advisory bodies.
Fueling Field Progress
To pursue needed systemic change related to equity, we strive to…
  • Encourage substantive learning to build cultural competency and to proliferate pro-equity policies and practices by all of our constituencies and audiences.
  • Improve the cultural leadership pipeline by creating and supporting programs and policies that foster leadership that reflects the full breadth of American society.
  • Generate and aggregate quantitative and qualitative research related to equity to make incremental, measurable progress towards cultural equity more visible.
  • Advocate for public and private-sector policy that promotes cultural equity.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Cultural Fairs & Festival this summer in New Hampshire

Wow, New Hampshire. We know how to celebrate! 

Burundi Drummers at Concord Multicultural Festival
 From fairs, to festivals, to food celebrations and tons of music, there is no shortage of things to do.  Below are some of the state's cultural festivals, many of which are free. Be sure to also check out area Old Home Days (the tradition originated in NH), Music & Food Festivals, and our famous Agricultural Fairs

Cultural Festivals

June 16- 19
Biddeford, ME
June 25
Concord, NH
June 29- July 4; July 7-10
Washington, DC
Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Basque & Peruvian
July 9-10
Warner, NH
July 10
Laconia, NH
July 16
Exeter, NH
July 29-31
Lowell, MA
August 6-14
Sunapee, NH
League of NH Craftsmen Sunapee Fair, traditional and contemporary craft
August 13
Manchester, NH
We Are One, African, Caribbean, Latino Festival
August 19-21
Manchester, NH
September 10
Laconia, NH
September 16-18
Lincoln, NH
New Hampshire Highland Games, Scottish Heritage
2016 TBA
Somersworth, NH
Jakkarta Fair, Indonesian festival
2016 TBA
Dover, NH
2016 TBA
Manchester, NH

The NH State Council on the Arts has put together a reflection and observation guide for festival organizers and volunteers. If you are interested in helping with a future festival in your community, consider visiting festivals with this guide to help you remember all the good ideas you want to use at your event. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Faith and Folk Traditions: Music from South Asia

On April 7, a packed chapel at the Concord Community Music School  listened in awe to the beautiful tones and music that came from 3 Bhutanese and Nepali Musicians who performed as part of the Bach's Lunch Lectures. Each artist shared the history of their instrument, their own musical background, and how appreciative they were to find such a receptive and welcoming community in New Hampshire. Shyam Nepali performed on the sarangi, a hollow-bodied stringed instrument similar to a violin, but carved from one singular piece of wood from a mango tree. Shyam's sarangi was carved by his brother and had their family symbol of a bird, or "a free spirit", on the back of the instrument.  Harimaya Adhikari shared that the harmonim was originally a German instrument but found its way into South Asain and Classical and Folk music in the 1600s. It is performed like a small hand-pumped reed organ. Harimaya is a current Master Artist in the NH State Council on the Arts Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program. She and her husband Sagar have been teaching up to 15 local Nepali youth the harmonium, tabla, and folk songs every Sunday. They currently have 10 kids on their wait list to join the music classes. Sagar Khatiwada's rhythms on the tabla echoed throughout the chapel in patterns sometimes unfamiliar to Western audiences.

The trio will perform again next week on April 14 from 12:10-12:50 pm at the Concord Community Music School. The event is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Live Free and Dance, Blog Salon week 6: Evolving Traditions

What is one thing that remains constant in the world? Change.

There is a long tradition of contra dancing in New Hampshire and like many traditions, things change. Today, you can swing and pulse at techno contras under black lights to loud electronic renditions of traditional music. You can attend hot contras that spin dancers so fast that it rivals the toughest gym workouts. And most likely, the dance that you attend will be run a little differently than the dance that took place in your town 20, 30, or 50 years ago.

 Techno Contra in Peterborough, NH. Organized by Monadnock Folklore Society.

New generations of community members want to partake in local traditions, but also want to evolve practices so they are fun and relevant among friends. There's a balance between wanting to participate in activities of our parents and grandparents, and helping to shape a new form of community entertainment.

Most dances in New Hampshire have seen attendance highs and lows with organizers changing hands every few years. Eighteen dances are featured on the NH Folklife website, all with their own unique history and place within the cultural fabric of their communities. Some dances have been taking place regularly for over 100 years, some have just started up when a neighboring town dance failed to attract an audience. The stories of these dances, and the stories of eighteen New Hampshire communities can be found on the Folklife website through interviews Elizabeth Faiella conducted with local dance organizers in the spring of 2015.

After 35 years Northern Spy, an Upper Valley contra dance band has decided to stop being the lead organizer for contras at Tracy Hall in Norwich, VT. David Millstone, Northern Spy's dance caller,  recently wrote on his blog,

"Last spring, when Cuckoo's Nest announced the end of its dances and when Northern Spy decided that it, too, was tired or organizing its own series, we were concerned that this might spell the end of Norwich dances. As we had hoped, though, many community members stepped forward and the dancing will go forward. There's now a new website promoting dances on 2nd and 4th Saturdays, as well as an active Facebook page. The organizers are interested in presenting a mix of programs, some featuring local musicians and callers and some the bigger-name traveling bands and callers. I'll still be calling locally from time to time, including some summer dances at the Pavilion, and the various musicians from Northern Spy may appear in different configurations. In the meantime, support your local dances!"

Video highlights of Northern Spy's 35th anniversary party at Tracy Hall in Norwich, VT. 
November 14, 2015.

The tradition of social dancing in NH has been vibrant since the colonial era with different styles of dancing coming into fashion. In the mid 1800s English Country Dancing was popular, the first 4 decades of the 20th century fancied square dancing with young couples courting each other at dances. Contra dancing has only been the social dance flavor of choice since the 1960s. Styles change, musicians add slight variations to tunes, venues rotate. The dance goes on.

The Live Free and Dance Blog Salon is published weekly from October 12- November 25, 2015. Each week a different NH Traditional Dance will be highlighted. The Blog Salon is in conjunction with the exhibit: Traditional Dance in New Hampshire 1750-present, at the NH State Library.  To read more about traditional dances across the state, visit the NH Folklife website.