Sidney festival ‘more than just fiddling’

IN CONCERT

What: Folk ’N Fiddle Festival featuring Darol Anger, Mike Marshall, Coco Love Alcorn and more
Where: Various venues, including the Mary Winspear Centre and Sidney Bandshell
When: Today through Saturday
Tickets: $20-$49.50 through the Mary Winspear Centre box office (2243 Beacon Ave.), by phone at 250-656-0275, or from tickets.marywinspear.ca

Artistic directors have both the best and worst jobs in the festival business.

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Programming is the sole territory of artistic directors, who are quite often musicians themselves. Their duty is to be all things to all people once a festival is up and running, which means they often cannot partake in the on-stage fun.

Folk ’N Fiddle Festival artistic director Nellie Quinn, who has scheduled a few dozen performers into a variety of Sidney venues through the three-day festival, is no different.

The Victoria native didn’t even consider performing this weekend, given her workload. “I might get up and jam for fun at one point, but there’s too much going on,” Quinn said.

“I’ve got to take care of the artists, so that’s my focus for the weekend, and to make sure the patrons are happy.”

Quinn, 28, who studied fiddle in the folk music program at Newcastle University in England, has been performing for 20 years, making connections around the world. She called on many of her friends and acquaintances to appear at the event, which gets underway today with the first of two free concerts at the Sidney Bandshell in Beacon Park (the Sweet Lowdown performs tonight; Pierre Schryer and Adam Dobres appear Friday).

By the time the event closes Saturday, with a concert by the Electric Timber Co. at the Mary Winspear Centre’s Bodine Hall, Quinn expects more than 1,000 people to have taken it in.

Folk ’N Fiddle grew out of the Victoria Fiddle Society’s Fiddle Fest, which ran for seven years. Quinn was involved in turning last year’s edition into something more inclusive, and made it her mission to expand the event for the inaugural Folk ’N Fiddle Festival. “We’re doing more than just fiddling. I really wanted to push to have multiple stages, food trucks, and local artists and vendors. We’ve made it appealing to all ages, to have it as open as possible.”

The festival is now presented by the Victoria Folk Society, the Victoria Bluegrass Association and the Deep Cove Folk Society, which created a new non-profit, the Saanich Peninsula Folk and Fiddle Festival Society, to put on Folk ’N Fiddle.

The breadth of events on tap is impressive, with 17 workshops, featuring everything from voice to ukulele, that will take over the entire Mary Winspear Centre complex on Saturday.

“This is definitely much bigger than the previous Fiddle Fest, it’s much more broad,” Quinn said. “There have been a few folk festivals that have popped up in the Greater Victoria area and I didn’t really find there was a home for myself or my [fiddle] students to be a part of.”

Nine free events are scheduled, in addition to dance classes for amateur, intermediate and advanced performers. Programming for children is also heavily represented, Quinn said.

“I really wanted to capture the attention of youth who maybe never thought to play the fiddle or the accordion or the banjo, or do dance. I wanted to broaden that for them, and be really inclusive.”

A gala concert on Friday at the Charlie White Theatre, featuring Darol Anger, Mike Marshall, Coco Love Alcorn and West My Friend, is expected to draw a large audience, and Saturday’s festivities run until 11:30 p.m. Performances are rooted in a variety of styles and locales, from the Cape Breton fiddling of Troy MacGillivray to the California bluegrass of Darol Anger and Mike Marshall of the David Grisman Quartet.

“It’s nice that we’re picking from all these different regions,” Quinn said. “We made it a mission to feature a lot of North American artists and showcase them in Victoria.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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