Richmond, VA – Alas, the circle is almost complete. In 2019, the world came to Richmond, VA to participate in the Folk Festival. It was an amazing time, as cultural acts from all over the globe converged to give the gift of their music and performances to Richmond. In 2020, thanks to COVID and a lot of innovation on the part of Folk Festival organizers, the festival was shared with the world, not limited only to those lucky enough to be in Richmond. In 2021, Richmond Folk Festival may not have been able to attract international performers, but thanks to this wonderful melting pot we live in called America, cultural diversity of a worldly nature once again graced the Richmond stages on Brown’s Island.
I was only able to attend the first night’s performances, although was blessed by taking in four wonderful acts from all over the US. Brown’s Island a flourishing place, with smiles resulting from great music, food, drink… and PEOPLE!! Kudos again to the organizers for putting together a schedule that was not a one size fits all, mixing it up so that no matter what one did, they would be treated to something new every time someone new took the stage. That is what a festival is all about.
The first act I took in was an a Cappella group out of Covington, KY called The Brotherhood Singers. Performing a mix of gospel and other a Cappella songs they warmed up the audience well. The size and energy of the crowd was refreshing, as it was obvious that after more than a year of COVID restrictions the local community was yearning to get out and celebrate. The spiritual flare in their music made the Brotherhood Singers the perfect opening act to kick off the return of Folk Festival.
The Brotherhood Singers PHOTO GALLERY
The next act of the night was an Irish folk Ensemble from Yonkers, NY. Joanie Madden & Cherish the Ladies treated the audience to a plethora of Irish folk tunes with a little Irish dance added for show. Joanie noted that their ensemble typically consists of all women, however, due to travel restrictions to and from Ireland, their normal keyboard player was unable to attend and a male had to fill in.
Joanie Madden & Cherish the Ladies PHOTO GALLERY
Up next on the agenda that Friday night was Rosa Tatuata from Clifton, NJ. To be honest, I thought her show would have concluded by the time I finished with the previous act. Luckily I was wrong. As I approached the tent, I was drawn in by her voice and the rhythms of her traditional Sicilian music. Her love for the music and being given the opportunity to share with the Richmond crowd was obvious as her eyes glowed with appreciation as she got the audience to participate.
Rosa Tatuata PHOTO GALLERY
The last act for the night was a blues performer, Sugaray Rayford from Los Angeles, CA. Sugaray delivered his style of blues to a packed tent. Within minutes he had those in attendance on their feet and moving (good for the heart!). What was special about their performance was how Sugaray and his band worked together, each member contributing to the performance while being given a chance to shine in the limelight. Sugaray’s sense of humor was an added bonus, as he had several one liners throughout, much to the delight of the audience.
Sugaray Rayford PHOTO GALLERY
As I walked away from the island the music from all venues. Even though each genre had its distinct sound, when listening to them all from afar, they all meshed together quite well. In a way, the combined sound summed up, in my mind, the meaning of Folk Festival. Even though the music was very different, when played together, it made something special… and we call it Folk Festival. My last thought was how wonderful it was to once again see Brown’s Island, home of the Festival, alive with people once again after more than a year of emptiness and silence. I eagerly await 2022, when Folk Festival will once again welcome the world, closing the circle that ties us all together.
Festival Date: October 8-10, 2021