Eric and Betty Armstrong have a deep appreciation for folk music, in its purest form.
But as newcomers to Chilliwack, they’re having a hard time finding musicians with the same interests.
The couple is used to meeting regularly with like-minded musicians, having lived for years in Vancouver with ready access to song circles and folk festivals. Now that they’re living here, the Armstrongs have noticed a lack in venue for their rootsy-acoustic stylings. They’re hoping to bring the folk scene to this quieter corner of the world.
“The basic idea is to meet new people, new musicians, singers, and we think it will add to the culture of Chilliwack,” Betty says, sitting in the The Art Room in Sardis. This is where their folk song circle will be held, on the last Monday of every month. Their very first get together will be on March 30, and they’re hoping to draw in a wide range of singers.
Folk music has a universal appeal, Betty explains, as it draws singers together to share their songs, learn from each other and enjoy a bit of musical camaraderie.
Folk music also gives the singers, and listeners, the opportunity to learn a little about their heritage. While the Armstrongs have an English background, they’re open to learning folk songs from all walks of life. In fact, they’re hoping for it. Everyone is welcome in a folk circle, they said.
And that’s one of the most beautiful things about them. There is no amplification, and there isn’t even a need to play an instrument.
There is no need to play the guitar, there is no paying audience waiting for a performance. It’s truly about singers getting together and improving their craft through togetherness.
Fine tuning their craft is a lifelong journey, and the folk music genre has some beautiful voices. Betty is sure there are voices out there that are only being heard by dust bunnies and house spiders, and laments what a shame that is.
“There are some great singers out there and they are just sitting in the cupboard,” she said. “They need to be pulled off the shelf.”
One of those great voices is their friend Helen Shilladay, who has been singing all of her life.
She and her husband will be taking part in the folk song circle, as a way to help promote the genre and help others hone their skills. In the great tradition of folk singing, gathering and singing together is how you learn.
“For folk singers, that’s how they become performers,” she says. “That’s how they learn their craft.”
She believes folk music has a broad appeal to a wide range of singers, and that it’s the storytelling within the music that resonates in a listener.
“I think everyone can find something in folk music that speaks to them,” she says.
The Chilliwack Folk Song Circle will be held at The Art Room at 20-5725 Vedder Road, on the last Monday of every month, beginning on March 30.
There is a $5 drop in fee, and an event has been created Facebook called Chilliwack Folk Song Circle.
For more information about The Art Room, visit chilliwackartscouncil.com or phone 604-769-2787.