Review by Judith Robinson
For those of us who cut our teeth at the 1970’s folk festivals, the Skylight Festival in Paris, Ontario, during the Civic holiday long weekend, was a trip down memory lane. Although the musicians were younger, and most of the venues indoors, the spirit of protest, freedom and fun hasn’t changed at all. There were so many great concerts it’s hard to mention only a few musicians. Minnesota singer/songwriter Heatherlyn’s energy was so much like Melanie’s that the audience could close their eyes and swear it was the 1960’s flower child guru.
Heatherlyn’s gentle harmonies spoke about universal oneness, love and deliverance, overcoming hardships and having the courage to go on. In her bare feet and yoga pants, she recited poetry and invoked the great thinkers such as Rumi and Gandhi. Her simple lilting melodies were backed up with great lyrics, a big smile, and an expert command of a guitar and numerous instruments.
Welsh’s Bruce Cockburn—singer/songwriter, Martyn Joseph, stirred the hearts of the hundreds gathered at an outdoor venue with the haunting cadences of his song, “Turn me Tender” – “Turn me tender again. Fold me into you. Turn me tender again and mould me to new. Faith’s lost its promise. I’m standing deep blue. Turn me tender again through union with you.”
“When I witness people suffering I get angry,” Joseph said at a songwriting workshop. “A good song makes someone feel that they’re not alone in their struggles.”
UK musician/activist Grace Petrie’s compositions also demonstrated a quest for social reform. Her masterful voice bore witness to injustices—such as a politician raising university tuition fees after an election in which he promised to lower them. In other songs, she tackled huge issues—like out-of-control Capitalism. There was a strength and a power in her defiance —reminiscent of a Jeremiah streaming in the streets about corruption. Her prophecies were interspersed with witty, insightful commentary.
Jeffrey Straker’s soulful songs transported the audience to a piano bar in a lush hotel. His Frank Sinatra voice, and plaintive melodies, opened up wells of emotion and floods of memories, creating a contemplative, meditative atmosphere.
The event also hosted early morning yoga sessions, children’s activities, spiritual workshops, the Enneagram and peacemaking. There was something for young and old. The Paris Fairgrounds was open for tenting for the whole weekend for a nominal amount. It was an all around great time. Don’t miss it next year.