PFS plans to create a rich, interactive digital experience, despite tragic losses of headliner John Prine and founder Gene Shay, because folk always finds a way
From August 13-16, the Philadelphia Folksong Society will do the unthinkable: bring the vibrant experience of the country’s longest-running folk festival to the digital world. With COVID-19 threatening to derail a decades-long tradition, this folk community responded as it always has, with ingenuity, compassion, and the indomitable spirit of people-power. As folks worldwide reeled from the news of John Prine and Gene Shay’s passing, the organizers of the Philadelphia Folk Festival paused to mourn, reflect, and then realized that they must stay the course.
“We hold the honor of being the longest continuously run outdoor music festival in all of North America”, said Executive Director Justin Nordell, “and we weren’t about to disappoint our community, especially as countless music festivals and events worldwide are cancelling. So, the question became, how do we produce a festival so tied to gathering together in a time where we’re left with no choice but to be apart?”
In a very short time, PFS activated a small, dedicated group of volunteers and consulted with production and technology experts from Mountain View Staging. The blueprint for the Digital Version of this year’s event was created, complete with richly interactive versions of what folks have come to expect and love about this festival.
Today, we’re proud to announce that the 59th Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival Global Edition will offer multiple streams of music ‘on’ different stages, including all-star tributes to both Gene Shay and John Prine, children’s programming, crafts, campfire singalongs, and some really cool virtual features, too. “It was incredibly important to us to maintain and convey the sense of community that is the hallmark of this event”, said Lisa Schwartz, Festival and Programming Director. “Fest is a place where everyone is welcome and you never meet a stranger. In the midst of all the turmoil that is happening in the world, we think it will be reassuring to come to a setting that can soothe your soul with some incredible music and camaraderie.”
And as with all clouds, there are silver-linings. For the first time ever, folks from around the world will be able to purchase tickets on a sliding scale to ‘attend’ starting at $25 USD per day. “We’re ecstatic to be able to welcome more people this year than ever before. We recognize that many in our community have been financially affected by the pandemic, so we wanted to make the tickets affordable for everyone”, said Nordell. “This shift to a digital experience dashes geographical constraints and opens our doors in a new way,” proving folk’s long tradition of evolving in the face of an ever-changing world.
While the technology to deliver this year’s event may be brand new, the indomitable spirit and culture is nearly six decades old. Since its inception, the Philadelphia Folk Festival has been produced nearly exclusively by tireless volunteers. Sheer determination and moxie led to the first event on Wilson Farm in September of ‘62, and the same can be said of this year’s 59th version. This year we’re able to welcome our extended Folk Family from around the world, simultaneously continuing vital traditions while creating entirely new ways of connecting and communing.
ABOUT PFS / PFF:
Founded in 1957, The non-profit Philadelphia Folksong Society offers programs of presentation, participation, and education throughout Greater Philadelphia and the nation year round and contributes to the preservation of a vast variety of musical styles and historical perspectives. PFS has acquired international recognition and local acclaim through popular programs such as the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the longest continuously running outdoor music Festival in North America. The 59th Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival Global Edition occurs August 13-16, 2020. Follow PFS on facebook, twitter and instagram at @FolksongSociety
ABOUT MOUNTAIN VIEW STAGING:
Mountain View Staging is proud to have the opportunity to provide our technical support services and virtual event expertise to the Philadelphia Folk Festival. We are excited to find innovative ways of connecting people during these difficult times and the Folk Festival is an excellent opportunity to adapt what we have learned with our technology clients for a new audience.
Philadelphia Folk Festival 2020 branding is by John Warner.