Epic Little Folk Festival to light up Tourterelle


BRISTOL'S MOIRA SMILEY will bring her folk music to Tourterelle in New Haven for an Epic Little Folk Fest on Friday, Sept. 20. INSPIRE PHOTO ART (TONYA LESLEY)

JOINING SMILEY WILL be the Nordilc folk band SVER (pictured), Nate Gusakov and two student musicians from Young Traditions Vermont.

NEW HAVEN — The name says it all: Epic Little Folk Fest. This one-night festival of folk music, food and friends is coming to Tourterelle in New Haven on Sept. 20 — and, yes, it’s going to be, well, epic. Mark your calendars now.

Moira Smiley and the beloved Nordic folk band SVER (pronounced “Sfeer” — which means “grand” by the way) will headline the evening with energizing folk and traditional tunes. Smiley’s plaintive, powerful voice will weave between the fiery, inventive forces of SVER’s fiddles (including the special Norwegian hardanger fiddle), accordion, guitar, and drums. Alternating between songs and hard-driving instrumentals, SVER and Smiley will bring you to your feet and leave you singing and stomping along. 

Oh yeah, don’t forget those dancing shoes.

Smiley, a New Haven native who recently bought her home in Bristol, is just returning from six weeks away, traveling in Palestine, Israel and the U.K. The singer/composer was doing some concerts, but mainly learning about “how music sits in places of conflict and how it can serve people.” Travel is normal for Smiley — she does it about three quarters of her year — but she’s preparing to settle in and concentrate on writing and making new things this coming year.

“I’m inspired to make music here in Vermont,” said Smiley, adding that she’s working on a huge singing event in Middlebury for the summer of 2020.

But first, she’s starting off by throwing the Epic Little Folk Fest next Friday.

“This event was a great way to have SVER come to Vermont,” she said. “We first met in California, and then collaborated in Norway and Sweden. I love pulling our music together; I find ways to sing lyrics in their tunes, and they are beautiful musicians and play tunes on some of my original songs. It’s all based in our shared love of traditional folk music. They’re grounded in Norwegian and Swedish music; I’m grounded in folk music of the Appalachians and Eastern Europe.”

Since the group’s inception, SVER has gone from strength to strength, playing extensively throughout Europe and the U.S., gaining a reputation as one of the most acclaimed live acts in the Nordic folk scene. Olav Luksengård Mjelva, Anders Hall, Leif Ingvar Ranøien, Adam Johansson, and Jens Linell make up this group; however, Ingvar will be unable to join the festivities at Tourterelle on Sept. 20, so the other four members will bring even more energy.

Smiley has also earned a name far beyond her home. Smiley’s career has produced award-winning ensembles and recordings of experimental, emotional music. Always improvisational in her approach, Smiley marries her study of traditional folk-song with an avant-garde sensibility. She accompanies herself on banjo, accordion, piano and percussive movement while performing solo, or with her vocal group, VOCO. Smiley has also toured and recorded with indie-pop favorite tUnE-yArDs, Irish super-group Solas, the pioneering Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project, multi-grammy winner Billy Childs’ “Laura Nyro Re-Imagined,” Paul Hillier and KITKA. You may have seen her on BBC TV and Radio, NPR, or PBS. She is well-known and beloved around the world as a choral composer and arranger — with millions of singers worldwide singing her music, and a Carnegie Hall concert featuring her music, coming in the spring of 2020.

But this is an Epic Little Folk Fest — not just a gig for the internationally renowned — it’s a gig for all our local talent, including Lincoln musician Nate Gusakov and two students from Young Traditions Vermont, Hadley Stockwell and Maeve Fairfax.

“Moira taught at our TRAD camp last year and Maeve and Hadley were both youth leaders,” said Young Traditions Vermont Executive Director Mark Sustic. “Our organization is set up in sort of a sequential way: we like to get young folks inspired about traditional music, give them chances to learn it, then chances to perform it. It’s wonderful that Moira was willing to make that happen for a couple folks.”

Hadley Stockwell, a first-year student at CVU, has been playing fiddle since she was seven years old. She’s going to be playing tunes with her friend and fellow YTV  musician Maeve Fairfax, a sophomore from Burlington High School, who also plays fiddle, as people arrive at Tourterelle and during intermission.

“I had heard about Moira a lot,” said Stockwell. “She’s a beautiful singer and I’m really excited to play with her.”

“I really enjoy Moira’s music,” said Fairfax, “she’s amazing. I think folk music is really beautiful, and I love the community around it.”

“I think this event is aptly named,” said Gusakov a singer and songwriter who coaxes unexpected depth and range from the five-string banjo. “It’s going to be a little tiny micro dose of an awesome folk festival, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

In addition to new interpretations of old traditionals, Gusakov writes his own songs of the mountains of home, of love and sadness, and of the many journeys that fill a human life. He has performed and recorded with numerous local/regional musicians including The Suitcase Junket, Michael Chorney, Jamie Masefield, The Bengsons, Katie Trautz, The Welterweights, Abby Sherman & Mountain County, and with his dad, David, in their duo, Last Train To Zinkov.

Gusakov, believe it or not, grew up with Smiley. “Oh, yeah, I used to go to Moira’s house for childcare,” he said — small world. “So when I heard about this event she was throwing, I was so bold as to reach out to her and asked if she needed an opener.”

Smiley said, yes, of course.

“Nate came back into my consciousness as a banjo player and a farmer and a maker of drink,” Smiley said. “He was to me somebody who was making a life as a musical person in Vermont.”

Perfect for the Epic Little Folk Fest.

In addition to all this entertainment, the Tourterelle food truck will be parked on the back yard by the barn serving some kind of Scandinavian-inspired food — think meatballs, savory pancakes…. yum.

The restaurant will be serving normal dinner inside for folks seeking the Tourterelle menu.

Tickets are $25, and are available at the door or at epiclittlefolkfest.bpt.me. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; the show starts at 7:30 p.m.

“We are super psyched,” said Tourterelle owner Christine Snell. “We’ve had Moira play here a few other times, but this event is going to be more elaborate. It’s the perfect season for it and we’re excited to utilize the full back yard.”

What’s Smiley hoping for?

“Hopefully a dance party — people are definitely encouraged to shake their booty.”

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