By Chad Ingram
A small army of ukelele players pluck strum and sing an advant garde version of Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies .
The crowd in the central building at Camp Wanakita erupts into applause.
It’s what’s known as the campers’ concert and it’s the culmination for four days of lessons workshops and rehearsals at the Haliburton County Folk Society’s Winter Folk Camp.
“The target group is musicians obviously but it could be beginners” says society president Barrie Martin. “People who play but who want to play more or play with others.”
Most of the 60 participants who’ve signed up for this year’s folk camp the eighth annual manifestation are beginner- to intermediate-level musicians.
They’ve been at Koshlong Lake’s Camp Wanakita since Friday taking lessons from and eating meals alongside some seasoned professionals.
This year that roster of instructors includes harmonica wizard Roly Platt singer-songwriter James Keelaghan multi-instrumentalist Dave Woodhead blues powerhouse Rita Chiarelli and songstresses Jane Lewis and October Browne.
Each musician has taught a different stream for the past few days; Platt harmonica; Keelaghan songwriting; Woodhead ukelele; Chiarelli blues; Lewis vocals; and Browne something called “musical lunchbox.”
As Browne explains at Monday morning’s campers’ concert musical lunchbox “means you don’t know what kind of instrument will show up but mostly it’s guitars.”
A group of guitarists then take the stage for a rendition of Tennessee Waltz with Eric Lilius the only non-guitar-wielding person on stage plucking out a ukelele solo.
Martin says that by the end of winter folk camp participants have spent 14 hours in lessons with their instructors. There are also workshops providing tips such as those for live performance as well as a couple of concerts from the pros.
The night before the campers’ concert participants and ticket-purchasing members of the public were treated to a blues-infused romp featuring Platt Lewis and Chiarelli.
On this Monday morning Chiarelli whose raunchy vocal prowess held the room hostage the night before is sitting quietly clad in a sweater taking in the participants’ performances.
Along with the musical programming folk camp has evolved to include non-musical streams.
This includes yoga with local instructor Lynda Shadbolt and new this year Adventures in Art which was headed up by Martin.
“My group went out and did a studio tour” he says. ‘Then they went on Sunday and tried glassblowing.”
Martin says the non-musical programming appeals to some of the non-musical partners of participants.
“We gave them a reason to come with their spouse” he says.
Folk camp will take place again next year.
To learn more about the Haliburton County Folk Society visit www.haliburtonfolk.com.