Saturday, 4 August 2012

Music festival ready to blow Princeton’s horn

Princeton (Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik)About an hour south of Merritt in the little town of Princeton will be a gem of a music festival.

On Aug. 17 - 19, the streets of Princeton will be alive with the sounds of fiddles, banjos, accordions and harps. The strains of singing voices will waft through the town. These are the sounds of the Princeton Traditional Music Festival, now in its fifth year.

Over 150 musicians will be in town that weekend, some local and some from as far away as California. Audiences will hear everything from toe-tapping Celtic tunes to sea shanties, banjo picking to Balkan songs.

The festival begins on the Friday evening (Aug. 17) with the opening ceremony, followed by a country dance right on the street. The dance will feature a live band and a caller to teach the dances, so no experience is necessary. Everyone is welcome and people don’t even need to bring a partner.



On Saturday and Sunday there will be music from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. on two stages right in town.

Admission will not be charged for the festival.

The theme of this year’s festival is “Princetonograd”— an eastern European way of saying “the town of Princeton” — in honour of the many people who immigrated to the area from eastern Europe.

Some of the earliest eastern Europeans to come to British Columbia were the Doukhobors from Russia, who first came to the province in 1908. They settled in the West Kootenays near Castlegar and brought with them their language, their communal way of life and their music.

Thanks to the descendants of those original settlers, the language and culture of the Douknobors survives. The Princeton Traditional Music Festival is honoured to have a Doukhobor choir from Castlegar join us this year.  TriChoir was formed in 1963 and consists of Doukhobor men who love to sing and preserve their culture. The songs they sing were all passed down from generation to generation and were all learned by ear, as there is no music written for them.

Another eastern European group appearing at the Festival is Something About Reptiles, an outrageous Turkish-Balkan cabaret band. They describe their music as “kitsch meets classic with traditional music, warped into something east of cabaret and west of gravity.” With guitar, bass, viola, darbuka (hand drum), vocals and accordions, Something About Reptiles will play music to mend your heart.

The group coming from farthest away is The Holdstocks, who will arrive from California. Dick and Carol Holdstock sing traditional ballads, songs of the sea, old time tavern songs, songs of the California Gold Rush and songs of social significance. They delight audiences with the unusual harmonies and arrangements of their varied material. Whether accompanying themselves on guitar, mandolin or autoharp, they get the stories of the songs across in a way that assures audience involvement. With lots of choruses it doesn’t take long for everyone to sing along.

These are just a few of the 50 groups performing at this year’s Princeton Traditional Music Festival.

To find out more, visit the festival’s blog at princetontraditional.org or call 250- 295-6010.

Submitted by Rika Ruebsaat


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