39th Annual Old Songs Festival Storms into Altamont

The 39th annual Old Songs Festival was held in picturesque Altamont, New York, nestled just below the towering Helderberg escarpment. Thousands of fans gathered for the weekend celebration of folk music, instruments, and friendship. Campers braved the, at times, heavy rain to hear more than 40 performers over the 3-day festival. 

Intimate performances were held on three main stages, spread between the outdoor amphitheater and inside the fairground’s buildings. Musicians and festival goers gathered for more than 100 workshops over the weekend on topics ranging from dancing, open tuning, the bodhran (an Irish frame drum), and clawhammer banjo playing.  

The festival drew performers from across New York State, as well as the world, including Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, and South Africa. It was impossible to hear every performance, but the days were packed with great music. The artists were masters of their instruments, and wove together song and storytelling that made a performance in a barn in front of hundreds of people feel like sitting in a friend’s living room, listening to a jam session. 

Main Stage performers included: Bepe Gambetta, the Italian guitarist; Musique à bouches, a Canadian acapella group; Sharon Katz and The Peace Train, from South Africa; Tui, A fiddle duo; Mulebone, a New York Based blues duo; Poor Man’s Gambit, a traditional Irish trio.

The entire festival had a feel of a family reunion. Several kids could be seen riding bikes in the infield, as well as taking advantage of the numerous kid’s music and activities. As Sunday’s performances drew to a close, attendees could be heard asking, if not reassuring each other that that they would see one another next year.