Paul Silveria is giving two square dance workshops in advance of the Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival. (James Murray photo)

Paul Silveria is giving two square dance workshops in advance of the Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival. (James Murray photo)

A&E column: Spring choir concert, square dance workshops, Folk Fest volunteers needed

The latest in Cowichan arts and entertainment

Encore Women’s Choir is all ready to Feel The Earth with an outdoor spring concert on Sunday, May 29.

The concert starts at 2 p.m. and takes place at Providence Farm, just outside of Duncan.

Springtime choral works are on the programme, including two pieces composed by the choir’s Resident Composer Deborah Sumner.

“‘Little Blue’s poignant verses start with “Take the Earth, Feel the Earth and Touch the Earth,” which demonstrates Deborah’s deep love of nature,” says a press release for the concert. “A second Sumner composition was added to the program after the invasion of Ukraine. ‘Peace Walk’ tells us that we need to support each other in a quest for peace.”

Michelle Weckesser will conduct, while Eve Daniell provides accompaniment.

Tickets can be bought from choir members and Volume One Books in Duncan. They are $20 for adults, and $10 for children 12 and under.

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Kids in the Cowichan Valley will get a huge dose of fun when the Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival brings its popular square dance workshops to two local schools, says a press release for the program.

Featuring dance caller Paul Silveria with music by Toronto’s Lonesome Ace Stringband, the workshops enable children to participate in old-time Appalachian-style dance music with many exposed to acoustic stringband music for the first time.

This year’s workshops take place Thursday, June 16 at Palsson Elementary in Lake Cowichan and Friday, June 17 at Tansor Elementary in Duncan. Students are taught simple dance moves on the spot, with Silveria slipping in some music education by giving classes a brief history of old-time stringband music.

Silveria has been calling traditional square dances at festivals, community centres, schools and other West Coast venues since 2002.

“When you get into the art of calling, it’s really about party management,” Silveria once said, recalling that one of his dance-calling mentors told him, “It’s a party first and a dance second.”

The Lonesome Ace Stringband is an international touring band delivering what one UK magazine called “21st century acoustic music at its stripped-down, sharply- rendered best.”

The all-ages, family friendly Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival runs June 17-19 at Laketown Ranch, featuring Juno winners Pharis and Jason Romero and a square dance Saturday night at 9 p.m.

For more information contact: Bob Remington info@cowichanbluegrass.com

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The Cowichan Folk Guild is looking for volunteers for its annual Islands Folk Festival on Saturday, July 23.

The regular in-person festival at Providence Farm in Duncan has been cancelled the last several years because of COVID-19, and the group says it is now trying to rebuild its volunteer team for 2022’s one-day live event, which will feature 25 acts over five stages, including performances by Grammy Award winner Alex Cuba, Harry Manx, Jim Byrnes and The Bills.

“The past few years have been hard on non-profit events like ours,” says festival artistic director Bruce Gerrish. “Our festival is built on great volunteers and we’ve seen some attrition in our volunteer base, so we are looking for some great new individuals to join our team, people who love folk music and have some time to share.”

There are different ways to volunteer, including spots setting up for the festival and during the event. And the perks are pretty great. Volunteers get a free festival pass, camping, parking and a volunteer appreciation party at teardown.

“Volunteer spots go pretty fast,” said Gerrish. “I think that says a lot about the passion and spirit of the volunteers who have kept this festival thriving for 38 years.”

If you are interested in volunteering you can get more information or fill out an application on the festival’s website: www.islandsfolkfestival.ca.

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