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Art Notes: New World Festival helps Randolph celebrate return to festivity

  • The Seamus Egan Project — from left, Owen Marshall, Jenna Moynihan, Egan and Kyle Sanna — is slated to perform at the New World Festival in Randolph on Sunday. Dan Jentzen photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/1/2021 9:33:14 PM
Modified: 9/1/2021 9:33:20 PM

The New World Festival, which brings some of the finest Irish, Scottish and French-Canadian traditional musicians to Randolph on Sunday, has had a stringent set of coronavirus health protocols in place for some time.

But so many patrons have been calling the Chandler Center for the Arts, which organizes the annual festival, that Karen Dillon felt obliged to restate them more forcefully on the festival’s website.

“I would say we’ve had a small deluge of question-emails, mainly from ticket-buyers,” said Dillon, who became executive director of the Chandler a little over two years ago.

So, along with a list of 11 musical acts, including a festival debut for Seamus Egan and the return of fan favorites Le Vent du Nord, Dillon also is putting out a list of safety measures.

For example, attendance Sunday will be limited to around 550 people, far less than the typical crowd, which could number around 2,000 in years past, Dillon said.

“It feels like if we get above 550 people, we wouldn’t be able to keep venues to half-capacity,” she said. “We are going to cap the day.”

While the Chandler won’t require proof of vaccination, as some venues in Vermont have done, masks will be required, as will physical distancing.

And the entire program will be available as a livestream for ticketed patrons, which would expand the audience beyond the in-person crowd.

The music starts at 1 p.m. in four different spaces: Chandler Music Hall, Bethany Church, a dance tent and a family area that includes activities for children.

The festival features a mix of performers with local ties, such as Randolph’s own No Strings Marionette Company, Strafford accordionist Jeremiah McLane and multi-instrumentalist Owen Marshall, a Vermont native who performs both solo and with the Seamus Egan Project, and performers like Egan, who founded the celebrated Irish-American ensemble Solas.

The return of Le Vent du Nord feels significant, as it represents the reopening of the border with Canada, Dillon said.

Most years, the festival sells discounted tickets for entry after 6 p.m. The daytime crowd of families tends to thin out and make space for people who come to dance, both as partners and in groups for contradances. Both of those aspects will be different this year, Dillon said.

“If we reach our goal capacity, we may not have those discounted tickets,” she said. Volunteers will be keeping count of how many people are in each venue.

And contradancing is out; there’s too much contact. But attendees can dance with the people in their party.

Despite the concerns about the delta variant and the alterations to the festival, Dillon expects transcendent performances. Bow Thayer played an outdoor concert with Krishna Guthrie last weekend, and Thayer, the Stockbridge, Vt., roots rocker, was energized to be in front of an audience after a long time away.

“I think the shows this weekend will be the same,” Dillon said.

It will certainly be a change from last year’s festival, which was almost entirely virtual, with only 75 people allowed into Chandler Music Hall. Ticket buyers were able to stream events from all over the world, as musicians stayed home.

The virtual option is available again this year, but the livestreams will come from Randolph, rather than from Quebec, Cape Breton, Scotland and wherever else the musicians holed up to wait out the virus.

This year, it felt important to hold a live event, Dillon said.

The festival started as a response to tragedy in Randolph.

In 1991 and ’92, a series of fires damaged several downtown buildings, shuttering businesses and leaving residents homeless. The festival, which emanates from the Chandler onto closed off downtown streets, was a way to celebrate the town and bring people to it.

“It’s 29 years of Randolph’s history,” Dillon said.

For more information about the New World Festival, go to

A Four Corners quartet

When people are just out there doing their thing, it can be easy to take them for granted — or worse, to forget about them.

So a shout out to a quartet of longtime Upper Valley jazz players who are gathering Friday night at a venerable venue seems in order. Fred Haas, on keyboard and saxophone, guitarist Billy Rosen, Peter Concilio on bass and drummer Tim Gilmore plan to play Haas’ compositions from 5:30 to 8:30 in the tavern garden outside Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners.

Acting in the open air

And a reminder: Outdoor theater, at the JAG Productions temporary stage at King Arthur Baking Co., New London Barn Playhouse, Northern Stage, pretty much everywhere theater tickets are sold, comes to an end in the next 10 days.

The Barn’s production of Always ... Patsy Cline runs through Sunday, while JAG and Northern Stage continue performances through Sept. 12.

Just in time for the Tunbridge Fair.

Alex Hanson can be reached at or 603-727-3207.

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