This is the final piece for this year from your Electronic Folk Fest Storyteller, Leif Norman. Hopefully I will return next year with more stories…
One of the traditions of the Winnipeg Folk Fest was getting up off your tarp, somewhere during the main stage concert like a seventh inning stretch, to proclaim how much like a little prairie flower you were, and how wild you were with twirling and jumping action. It’s a short bout of mutual silliness that lets the whole crowd know; everything will be all right, as long as you were as wild as wild can be. This tidbit of mirth was found by Brian Richardson in a stack of his mother’s music from the 1930’s, the music hall days, when language and wordplay as entertainment were a little more fervent. See the works of Leslie Sarony for more details.
Brian thought the little prairie flower song would be a treat and introduced it to the Fest when he began hosting in 1991. Brian is an all around dextrous guy who sings, plays many instruments and does many silly voices and accents. In the seventies he worked with some of Winnipeg’s best talent; Al Simmons, Fred Penner, David Gillies, Jim Ingebritsen, Wayne Nicklas, Stephanie Ballard and Odette Heyn; often all at the same time!
Peter Paul Van Camp, another fest tradition, began busking with his Vaudeville style poetry and performance permutations at the 1974 Folk Fest. Mitch Podolak heard him reading at some picnic tables and instantly booked him for the 1975 Folk Fest at the Poetry Stage; maybe that’s something we could bring back? I know bunches of poets in the city!
Peter and Brian’s performance circles were bound to overlap in Winnipeg, and indeed they did at the “Manitoba Puppet Theatre”, a splendid sounding situation I wish was still around. By the time Brian Richardson started hosting in 1991 Peter introduced him as “The New Guy”.
One of Mr Van Camp’s best loved creations is the famous “Dairy Products” poem. It made it’s premiere in 1977 at the Folk Fest; and the actual name of the piece is “A Milkman at Heart”. (People also think The Who song is called Teenage Wasteland but it’s really “Baba O’Riley”. And by the way, they never said Play it again Sam, or Beam me up Scotty. Sorry; where was I?) The main stage crowd would shout out “Dairy Products!” and eventually Peter Paul would come out and read it. From 1977 to 2002 for about five minutes the Folk Fest would ring with the sounds of cheese and butter.
Tonight, the huge crowd in the Park saw two classic performances for the 40th anniversary; Brian Richardson’s Little Prairie Flower song, complete with spinning and jumping sing along actions, and Peter Paul Van Camp’s syncopated modulated opus about being a Milkman at Heart. Yoghurt!