Brooklyn Heights

7th annual Brooklyn Folk Festival celebrates best of folk music

Naomi Shelton & Gospel Queens, Jerron Blind Boy Paxton, Michael Hurley Among Featured Artists

March 2, 2015 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Peter Stampfel will perform at this year’s Brooklyn Folk Festival. Photo by Eli Smith
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Celebrating folk music from near and far, the Brooklyn Folk Festival showcases 30 bands, workshops, film screenings and contests. Daptone gospel group Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens, country blues and songster multi-instrumentalist Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, folk legend and songwriter Michael Hurley, old-time fiddle and banjo player Bruce Molsky, fiddle player Frank Fairfield and intergenerational anti-folk collaborators Peter Stampfel & Jeffrey Lewis are among the performers at this year’s festival, held from April 17 to 19.

The seventh annual festival has sold out every year, its attendance growing each time, and has moved to its largest venue to date, St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights. Its world-famous stained-glass windows will frame the stage. The festival is a co-production of The Jalopy Theatre and Down Home Radio. The three-day event has grown each year. This year’s partnership with St. Ann’s allows for a main stage inside the church, and a second stage for workshops, film screenings and vendors.

Adding to the festivities, the festival features the famous banjo toss contest, a family-friendly square dance, family concert and open jam session.

“The folk music of any place always has more heart and soul than corporate, mass produced music,” Paxton said. “The Brooklyn Folk Festival will make ‘the peoples music’ (folk music) more accessible to the people of New York. I enjoy playing the Brooklyn Folk Festival for the good music, good times, good people with whom I get to make music and the good people that I make music for.”

As an international city, New York is home to legendary musicians from around the world. Famoro Dioubate of Guinea will play the balafon — similar to an American xylophone. The Litvakus klezmer collective will bring to life the soaring music of Belarus and traditional Litvak Jewish music. Also featured is Souren Baronian, Armenian-American reedman extraordinaire.

“This seventh annual Brooklyn Folk Festival promises to be a truly special event as we move to a new home at St. Ann’s Church in Brooklyn Heights,” Eli Smith, founder and co-host of the Festival, said. “This amazing space will only heighten the effect of the incredible sounds that will be made at this year’s event, with music from a huge diversity of genres including gospel, blues, old time music, klezmer, trad jazz, song writers, Italian string music, jug band music and more. This year’s festival will also feature the ‘Treasures from the Archive Roadshow,’ an outreach program of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. This great program will feature live performances of materials learned from the incredible collections at the Library of Congress and will honor the work of famed folklorist Alan Lomax who would have been 100 years old in 2015. A selection of rare film footage taken by Lomax will also be screened.”

St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church is a National Historic Landmark, built in 1844. An important example of Gothic Revival architecture in America, the richly ornamented church is notable for its elaborately vaulted roof and window tracery. Before it was removed in 1906, its spire was the most visible landmark in Brooklyn and was used by ship captains to navigate the harbor. The festival will take place in the main hall of the church, with workshops, film screenings and the square dance in the side hall. Food, drink and retail vendors will be on site.

The performances are separated into daytime and evening shows, day passes and a full-festival three-day pass. All workshops, film screenings and the square dance are included in the price of admission.

For tickets and schedule, visit

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