Reviews & Previews

Lachine Canal folk fest proves more than just a nostalgia gala

Rwandan dancers get in the groove during Montreal’s Folk Festival on the Canal Photo: Irwin Block

Rwandan dancers get in the groove during Montreal’s Folk Festival on the Canal Photo: Irwin Block

BY IRWIN BLOCK

Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, a charter member of the 1960s folk music revival, is alive and well and doing what he has always done—singing about struggles past and campaigning for the underdog today.

For about 200 fans who packed his concert at the Georges Vanier Cultural Centre June 14, it was not only a return to the glory days but also the gala opening of Montreal’s Folk Festival on the Lachine Canal.

The good news is that it was much more than a nostalgia gala. At 74, Yarrow still sings for economic justice and a helping hand for disadvantaged youth in North America. He is fighting the good fight, as he did with the late Mary Travers and Noel Paul Stookey, and he does it with characteristic verve, generosity and good humour.

We heard Puff the Magic Dragon (“No, it’s not about drugs!”), Pete Seeger’s If I Had a Hammer, Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind, and Yarrow’s own The Great Mandela.

We also heard about Yarrow’s involvement in Operation Respect, which seeks to educate “the whole child,” beyond the proverbial three Rs.

He campaigns to build character, social and emotional development in the U.S. and other countries as he seeks to help children born with deformities as a result of Agent Orange defoliation in Vietnam.

Yarrow shared the stage with the talented singer/songwriter Sarah Scouten and her marvelous string band. Pairing this young, energetic, and soulful urban bluegrass group with a seasoned trouper point to the future for the range of music that fits the folk moniker.

When we checked out the scene at the Ilôt Charlevoix—the green space adjoining the bike path and Lachine Canal, near the Charlevoix métro—I was reminded of what a folk festival is all about

Under blue skies and bright sun, families were sprawled on the grass, picnicking, playing with kids and dogs and munching on snacks as they soaked up the sounds.

Festival organizer Matt Large of Hello Darlin’ Productions said 7,500 people gathered on site Saturday and Sunday and 180 camped out.

His conclusion, which bodes well for next year: “We couldn’t be more thrilled!”

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