Striking a Chord at Old Songs Festival

"They're a lot of fun," Spence said.

Fellow performers Galitcha also hail from Canada, but the group's specialty is Indian music. Spence said the audience can't help but dance when Galitcha is on stage, noting that the group's members are "very exciting as musicians."

Malinky, a Scottish quartet, can also be counted on for a dynamic show. "They're all young. They come and bring their energy," Spence said.

While the featured performers are all working musicians, part of the festival's charm stems from the shows amateurs put on. There is a street corner area where people congregate and stage harmonica or a capella jams. There are drum circles and open mic opportunities. The Great Groove Band is made up of school-aged musicians who meet throughout the weekend and then perform early Sunday afternoon.

The kids aren't the only ones who can learn during the weekend. The festival features more than 100 workshops, covering topics such as choral harmony singing, building parade puppets and playing the mountain dulcimer.

Spence said people are welcome to come for just part of the weekend, or stay for all three days. On the festival's Web site, people can sign up to carpool. Spence hopes some people take advantage, not only because of the rising gas prices but because bus service from Albany to Altamont doesn't run during the weekend.

Everyone is encouraged to bring a chair. The fairgrounds are set up so that people with high seats sit in one area, and those with lower seats sit in another, which is designed eliminate the problem of people with higher seats blocking others' views.

"We started this process years ago, and it's worked out well," Spence said.

The festival kicks off Friday with in-depth classes starting at 2:30 p.m. The main stage will host a concert from 7 to 11:30 p.m., followed by a contra dance that will run until 1:30 a.m. On Saturday, there will be mini-concerts, dances and jam sessions throughout the day, with the night again ending with a main stage concert and contra dance. Sunday offers more mini-concerts and sessions earlier in the day, with the Great Groove Band performance at 12:30, a concert by Tree of Life at 1:15 p.m. and a choral harmony performance afterward. A main stage concert from 3:30 to 7 p.m. wraps things up.

For information or to purchase tickets, visit www.oldsongs.org/festival.""

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