In a city teeming with urban life, the New Haven Folk Alliance strives to unite Elm City residents under the values of peace and justice — as expressed through American folk music.
The alliance, known in the New Haven community for its three day September Folk Festival, is currently starting to plan this year’s festival, scheduled for Sept. 8, 9 and 10 at Edgerton Park. The organization is presently working on booking main acts and gathering support from local businesses, festival director Jane Rudnick van Pelt said.
“Bringing great folk music to the city and livening the arts scene of New Haven is something really important to us,” she said. “New Haven has always been a city that’s politically and artistically progressive, and we’re happy to be a part of that scene.”
The alliance hopes to spread the traditional ideals conveyed in folk music to the city’s inhabitants, New Haven Folk Alliance president Bob Congdon ’72 said.
“We see [folk music] as a very positive influence. A lot of commercial music can be very vapid, and some urban music is pretty violent, negative and selfish,” he said. “We see the music we present as promoting values like tolerance, equal justice and spirited cooperation – messages that always bear repeating.”
The New Haven Folk Festival is the second incarnation of the Eli Whitney Folk Festival, begun in 1989, Rudnick van Pelt said. After losing the support of its main sponsor six years later, the festival dissolved, but it was revived in 1999. Rudnick van Pelt said the revival was made possible through the efforts of Yale students, in particular those of Adam Gordon LAW ’06.
“When the festival was revived, it was because of the interest of Yale students, who saw it as an opportunity to bridge the town-gown gap just a little bit,” Rudnick van Pelt said.
The festival traditionally opens on Friday night with a “song circle,” then presents 15 local and national folk artists over the following two days. Past artists have included Odetta, Arlo Guthrie, Sweet Honey in the Rock and Tom Rush. Yale student folk group Tangled Up In Blue traditionally performs the festival’s opening number.
“We’re always really excited for the group to perform for a New Haven audience instead of a Yale audience. It’s a very different performing experience for us,” TUIB Business Manager Anny Gaul ’07 said.
Money raised at the festival is traditionally donated to an organization that helps maintain Edgerton Park, as well as to various charities selected each year. The New Haven Folk Alliance announced in a press release this January that fundraising efforts at last year’s festival resulted in a $1,000 donation to the Music Maker Relief Foundation, an organization formed to aid musicians in New Orleans affected by Hurricane Katrina. The money was collected among audience members and was matched by a donation made by Yale University to various organizations providing hurricane relief.
The New Haven Folk Alliance welcomes all Yale students, faculty and staff to be involved in organizing this year’s festival.
“We think it’s important to be very inclusive,” Rudnick van Pelt said. “Folk music is just about all kinds of folk.”