Folk music was made for dancing and to create a sense of social cohesion, so maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that millions of people – young and old – are watching a host of new folk fans stepping to sea shanties and other lively folk music on social media platforms.
(Google The Billy ‘O Tea for a sampling and I challenge you not to smile.)
Maybe it was the COVID pandemic and the social isolation that was at the root of the phenomenon.
Or perhaps it was just that, occasionally, we all have the urge to put a little pep in our step and need to dance.
With the Seaside Folk ‘n Fiddle Festival coming up in Sidney June 9-11, Monday Mag caught up with two local musicians who, together, are emblematic of the magic of folk music: Pierre Schryer and Adam Dobres.
This Canadian duo represent musical careers rife with awards and nominations including JUNO Awards, Canadian Folk Music Awards, Western Canadian Music Awards and Grammy Awards.
Here’s what they had to say.
Monday Magazine: You obviously love traditional music. When did that start?
Schryer: I come from a large family and have always been involved with traditional music. I’m one of a set of triplets and we are all fiddle players. That music has always been a part of my life.
Dobres: I can say that, like Pierre, my love of traditional music goes way back. I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t in love with it.
Monday Magazine: There seems to have been a new wave of popularity for traditional music. That hasn’t always been the case. How do you keep that going and reach a new generation and help them appreciate traditional music?
Dobres: You give the opportunities to listen to it … and sure, if that means listening to snippets on social media, that’s okay too. Maybe it’ll inspire them to investigate it a little further and find the great music that is out there.
Schryer: I think part of it is to use the intergenerational nature of the music to help keep it alive. I’ll give you an example. I did many years of creating events where families were encouraged to attend. We’d host ceilidh dances and get everyone involved. I did that for 16 years and over time you saw the young people coming on their own and the (traditional music) community grow. It’s a village sort of approach.
Monday Magazine: Speaking of a village approach, in addition to recording and playing larger festivals, you both will still play house-concerts. What’s the rationale behind that?
Schryer: Well, you have to remember that this is the way a lot of this music was first heard. There’s a magic to playing to a room that’s packed with people and you’re sitting two feet away from them. Sometimes they sing along or tap their feet or dance. It’s all very intimate.
Dobres: Remember that this was music that was created to bring people together and it’s played from the heart. People go home remembering the feelings that the music creates. I sometimes wish that I was around in the past when that’s how this music was always heard.
Monday Magazine: You’ve both talked about the “magic” of the music. Tell me a bit more about that. What’s at the root of that magic?
Dobres: The roots of this music are pure. It was created for celebrations, weddings, even wakes to remember the death of a friend. It spoke and still speaks to the things that are real in people’s lives.
Schryer: It’s rooted in culture and dance. It’s people music. It was set up in kitchens and eventually moved on to festivals and wonderful celebrations. But the roots are honest, and it’ll never die.
Monday Magazine: You two have released one album and I understand you’re working on another soon. What is it about this partnership that allows you to continue the magic of folk and traditional music?
Dobres: We’ve been playing together since 2008 and have travelled to Ireland, Scotland and England and we both love and respect the music. We have a chemistry that allows us to be spontaneous and let the inspiration take us to better and better ways to bring it.
Schryer: We met way back. When I moved here from Ontario, we put together the album Mandorla and it did really well. We’re just good together and we both love the music.
To hear Pierre Schryer and Adam Dobres and a host of other folk and traditional artists, check out the Seaside Folk ’n Fiddle Festival in Sydney this summer. The festival runs June 9 to 11 and tickets are available at folknfiddle.ca.
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