Skip to contents
Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

UChicago Folk Festival Brings Free Concerts, Workshops From Around The World To Your Home This Weekend

Nearly half the folk musicians performing at the fest will be from other countries, as the virtual format allowed organizers to invite artists "who live very far away" to perform from home.

Orquesta Charangueo, an ensemble performing Afro-Cuban styles from danzon to guajira and mambo, plays at the 60th annual University of Chicago Folk Festival last February.
Paul Watkins
  • Credibility:

HYDE PARK — This year’s University of Chicago Folk Festival will be held virtually Friday and Saturday, as Norwegian, Scottish and North American performers highlight the music of their home communities and regions.

Two concerts featuring nine artists will be livestreamed on the festival’s Facebook and YouTube pages. More than a dozen workshops hosted by performing artists and other musicians will be held through the weekend.

Admission to the concerts and registration for the workshops is free. Donations to the festival can be made through UChicago’s website and primarily go toward paying the lineup of musicians.

Here’s the lineup:

  • 7 p.m. Friday
    • Bruce Greene, a performer of “old-time Kentucky fiddle music” and curator of traditional Appalachian culture.
    • Cedric Watson, a four-time Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist performing Cajun, Creole and zydeco music.
    • Germaine, a Québécois quintet performing traditional French-Canadian songs through a feminist lens.
    • Gorrión Serrano, a Mexico City-based family band performing traditional music from eastern and northern Mexico.
  • 7 p.m. Saturday
    • Brìghde Chaimbeul, a Scottish smallpiper whose debut album “The Reeling” was named the folk album of the month by The Guardian.
    • David Davis and the Warrior River Boys, a bluegrass band led by Davis, an expert in Monroe mandolin technique from Alabama.
    • Dromeno, an ensemble performing traditional music of Greece and the Balkans.
    • Hubby Jenkins, a Brooklyn-born multi-instrumentalist who traces Southern Black history by performing country blues, ragtime, fiddle and banjo and jazz.
    • Kevin Henderson, a Scottish-born fiddler living in Norway and member of the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, which blends blend of Norwegian, Swedish and Shetland musical styles.

Due to the festival’s virtual format, organizers were able to invite international artists to perform from their homes and recording studios, said Eli Haber, University of Chicago student and Folklore Society co-president.

“We have this unique opportunity to invite artists who live very far away,” Haber said. “Normally, we wouldn’t be able to bring them to Chicago because it’s out of our budget.”

Now in its 61st year, the folk festival is steeped in history. Legendary author and historian Studs Terkel was emcee for the inaugural festival in 1961, while Ken Burns’ documentary series “Country Music” profiled numerous artists who performed in the festival’s early years, said Kate Early, alumni adviser and former Folklore Society co-president.

“Watching this [series] — oh my God, it’s like looking at our archive,” Early said.

No experience is required for Saturday’s free workshops, which cover a variety of styles and instruments, from clogging and contra dancing to tin whistle and blues harmonica.

Chicago musicians Mareva Lindo and Kathy Whisler will lead a sea shanty workshop 11 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Saturday. The genre has become a social media sensation, driven largely by Scottish performer Nathan Evans‘ TikTok videos.

While Haber said he’s excited to see the world embrace a musical style he’s always loved, the sudden attention also means his go-to song is now too popular to perform among crowds of seasoned shanty lovers.

“It’s incredibly cool to see a passion I have go mainstream,” Haber said. “The song that went viral is called ‘Wellerman’ — it’s a 19th-century New Zealand whaling tune, and it was the song I would always sing at shanty sings. Now I can’t do that anymore, because everyone is going to think I’m a TikTok kid.”

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Already subscribe? Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.