Winnipeg Folk Festival organizes free music and workshops


The New Customs sing “Leave me Cold” they thought of while performing as ministrels. THE PROJECTOR/ Sara Bulloch

Festival lovers will have to wait until the snow melts before they can enjoy live, outdoor music again, but the Winnipeg Folk Festival (WFF) is trying to ease the wait by offering free music workshops throughout the year. Dozens of fans and first time listeners came to the Millennium Library on Nov. 26 to hear the acoustic rhythm at “WFF In the City.”

“It might be out of some people’s means to attend the Folk Fest itself, so this allows them to get a feel for what it’s like,” said Jenna Baker, Community Events Volunteer with WFF.

“In the City” workshops give listeners the chance to enter a draw to win tickets to the 2017 festival in June.

Saturday’s workshop, called “Two Heads Are Better than One”, featured three local musical duos who had performed at WFF in previous years. Baker said the audience can interact with the musicians, which they might not have the chance to do when in a larger group at WFF.

Many audience members said they had a lot of fun watching the performers join in with one another’s songs, improvising new parts. The musicians also explained the origins of some songs or told the story behind their instruments.

“It’s less ‘I’m the artist, you’re the audience’. It’s more just we’re all here together,” said performer Dana Waldie, 24.

Waldie performed at the workshop with her duo, Haitia. She said Haitia performs at various WFF fundraisers throughout the year in order to help free workshops like this one take place.

“It’s a very intimate sort of setting, very friendly and open,” she said.

But regardless of the convenience of a free music workshop, the performers said many Winnipeggers don’t know how big the local music scene is.

“A few years ago I met someone in their early twenties who had never seen a live show,” said Dale Brown, 33, half of the musical duo The New Customs.

The other half of Brown’s band, Emma Cloney, said she wants listeners to disconnect from the online world and experience live music.

“See live music. See the good music. See the bad music. You never know, you might be able to say, ‘I remember when they sucked’,” Brown said.

The New Customs said lower-cost options for students include open mics, street fairs, or even house shows.

The next “In the City” workshop will be January 28th and features musicians from WFF’s Stingray