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Secure Online Donations - now appreciated.
For nearly 20 years, the Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival has survived and thrived on the very generous donations of our friends, fans, and angels. Now it’s even easier to donate.
There’s a new Donate link on the festival website (pmffest.org) and on our Facebook page (facebook.com/PMFF.NH), giving us all an easy, safe, and secure way to support the festival.
Should the spirit move you at the festival, the volunteers at the CD table in Market Square will be happy to take an electronic donation. ... See MoreSee Less
On September 29th and 30th , the streets of Portsmouth will ring with the music of the sea. Singers and musicians wander the sidewalks downtown, and the sounds of sea shanties and forebitters waft through the doorways of nearly a dozen venues all within a block or two of Market Square.
The Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival, now in its 19th year, is an annual celebration of the city’s rich maritime heritage, which dates back to the original English settlement in 1630 and continues today in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, across the Piscataqua River in Kittery, and with maritime businesses on both sides of the river.
Sea shanties, the rhythmic work songs that helped sailors coordinate their efforts while raising or lowering sails and anchors, recall the whalers and other wooden ships that were built along the Piscataqua and sailed out of Portsmouth in the 19th century. Forebitters, were songs that sailors sang for relaxation and amusement around the forebitts, stanchions to which ropes and cables were secured near the bow. These songs may recall the naval victories of Piscataqua-built warships and the exploits of Portsmouth-based privateers in the War of 1812, but they could be about anything—pirate escapades, Jack Tar’s romances ashore and at sea, mothers and sweethearts, popular songs of the day, hymns, bawdy ditties and whatever else could relieve the tedium of a long voyage and lift the spirits of the seamen between watches. Contemporary sea songs will be heard along with the old favorites, and the public is enthusiastically encouraged to join in the fun.
This year’s festival, on the last weekend in September, runs from 10 a.m. Saturday through Sunday afternoon, with a concert on Saturday evening at 7 at the First United Methodist Church, 129 Miller Avenue. All daytime events are free, though a $5 donation is suggested for adults at the Saturday concert.
The concert features three stellar acts. The Johnson Girls are a New York-based women’s quartet who have brought new rhythms and harmonies to international audiences. David Jones, originally from southeast London and now from the New York area, has been masterfully singing maritime songs for more than half a century, both solo and in bands including Starboard List, Poor Old Horse, Bermuda Quadrangle and New York Packet. Tim Eriksen is a powerful, innovative ballad singer who blends American regional musical traditions in creative and surprising ways.
A dozen other fine performers will provide street music and mini-concerts through the two days. These include Jeff Warner, Ken Schatz, A.J. Wright, Craig Edwards, John Roberts, Gina Dunlap, Spitzer and Mareva, and the Vox Hunters. There will also be several local groups that came together years ago as a result of the festival—London Julie, Mudhook, and Two Old Friends.
In addition to the entertainment, there will be a Maritime Songwriting Competition on Saturday morning at 10:00. The winner will be invited to perform the song at the Saturday night concert.
On Sunday afternoon, a musical lecture will trace the history of CSS Alabama, the Confederate commerce raider that terrorized Union shipping during the American Civil War and was eventually sunk by USS Kearsarge, a U.S. sloop of war built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and named for Kearsarge Mountain in Wilmot and Warner, N.H.
The festival will culminate in the Shanty Blast, a rollicking “all hands in” public sing in Market Square at 5:15 p.m. Sunday, with each of the weekend’s performers leading a song.
On the Friday afternoon before the festival, there will be a taste of songs to come. The Friday afternoon open sing that has met since 1982 at the Press Room, now undergoing renovations, will gather at the Thirsty Moose in Congress Street at 4:30 for an evening of sea music and Irish tunes.
The festival is a nonprofit enterprise, run by volunteers and financed entirely by donations. It was started 18 years ago by Portsmouth residents Jeff Warner and Peter Contrastano, modeled on the small maritime festivals in coastal towns and villages of the British Isles, where local pubs and other businesses would host small, intimate concerts while singers and small bands performed on the downtown sidewalks. It attracts a wide ranging audience—families, folk song lovers, sea music enthusiasts —from around New England and the Northeast, highlighting Portsmouth’s historic downtown and the city’s maritime connections.
By Gina Dunlap ... See MoreSee Less
Remembering Tom Hall's Role ...
While PMFF, as an event, was inspired by Peter Contrastano and Jeff Warner ... the musical community and sea song lore that nourished the festival from the earliest days was 'organized' by the one and only Tom Hall.
Tom's knowledge and love of maritime tradition, shared at the Press Room every Friday night for years, brought many a musician and storyteller into the fold.
Important links to other maritime communities like Gloucester and Portland broadened the reach, and inspired singers and groups took shape in the warm and informative atmosphere.
The short commemorative documentary, Tom Hall - Musical Life, Musical Community uses interviews with Tom and Press Room sea shanty footage to acknowledge Tom's background, the importance of the Friday session, and the individuals and groups that gathered and flourished under Tom's guidance.
Many thanks to Tom!
youtu.be/z6hJcfXN4WA ... See MoreSee Less
I was fortunate enough to meet Tom Hall in the late '90s - when he welcomed me into the long-standing Friday Night Session at the Press Room in Portsmouth, N...
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