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Old Songs plucking on

Acoustic roots music festival welcomes families, keeps traditions alive

Children attending last year’s Old Songs Festival rehearsed over the weekend and performed as the Great Groove Band on the final day of the event. This year kids can once again perform together in the band.

Children attending last year’s Old Songs Festival rehearsed over the weekend and performed as the Great Groove Band on the final day of the event. This year kids can once again perform together in the band. Hannah Spence

— Music’s unplugged roots might seem a far cry from today’s auto-tuned, bass bumping pop music, but this weekend you don’t have to dig too far to find them.

Traditional acoustic music will once again be played at the 33rd annual Old Songs Music Festival, which kicks off Friday, June 28, at 3 p.m. and ends Sunday night at the Altamont Fairgrounds. There are three larger concerts held each day and during Saturday and Sunday, there will be around 120 performances, dances and workshops. Performances will feature the genres of folk, blues, world, bluegrass, old-time, Gospel and Celtic music, but listening to music is only part of the festival.

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John Kirk, front left, and Maggie MacDonald, sitting next to Kirk, lead the Fiddle Jam, which allows anyone to join in, at last year’s Old Songs Festival.

Old Songs is a “musical petting zoo” that allows anyone to get their hands on a variety of folk instruments, including in an Artisan Area, which includes instruments makers. In between activities, you can also visit a diverse range of food concessions offering many different cuisines.

Roger Mock, art director for Old Songs, said the festival started after the Fox Hollow Folk Festival in Vermont ended in 1980 after it ran annually for 14 years.

“That festival was a real gem at the time, people went to it especially for traditional music as opposed to the singer-songwriter movement that was growing at the time,” Mock said. “That community has stayed central to our festival and has grown over the years … generations have been to it now.”

Andy Spence started Old Songs along with her husband, Bill, in 1981. The community around the festival is what has keep it going for more than three decades, Mock said.

“It has a very strong community sewn through it. It is like a magical little community that happens overnight and then goes on for three days.”

At the festival, you’ll likely hear the same style of music you would have heard years ago, Mock said, because it’s still music that’s “under the radar” and is generally not played on most radio stations or television.

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