Informal: an informal gathering with folk music and sometimes dancing.
“we invited friends to a hootenanny in our backyard”
It’s easier to describe what a hootenanny isn’t than what it is. It’s not stuffy. Or polished. Or particularly well organized. And it’s certainly not a hashtag kind of thing.
What a hootenanny is, more than anything else, is fun. It recaptures the sense of communal joy that folk musicians enjoyed when people would just gather around a table and play. It’s a bunch of people from all walks of musical life who bring their instrument of choice — whether it’s a guitar, a fiddle, a mandolin, a harmonica, a set of spoons, or their own vocal cords — and see what happens.
Granted, there is some structure to The Hootenanny and the Folk Heritage, with CCM guitar instructor Michael Dinallo. (We are a music conservatory, after all.) At each 90-minute class, we’ll select a “song of the week” from the rich repertoire of Americana music, with a particular focus on folk, bluegrass, and traditional country from legends like Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, and Woody Guthrie.
After spending 30 minutes getting familiar with that week’s song, we’ll spend the final hour coming up with different interpretations as a group of players — accomplished pickers side-by-side with novice pluckers. (Students should have a basic strumming ability and knowledge of open chords in the commonly used keys of C, G, D, and A. An ability to play simple melodies/riffs with a pick is preferred but not required.)
So that’s the “Hootenanny” part of the course. “As for The Folk Heritage” portion: If that title rings a bell, that’s because it was also the title of the late Dick Pleasants’ radio show, which aired from 1979 until 2004 on WGBH. Dick informed a wide-ranging audience in Boston (and beyond) about all the wonderful music that falls under the folk umbrella.
Many of Dick’s listeners, no doubt, are still out there. Wherever you are now, Dick, could you get the word out that people can rekindle the spirit of The Folk Heritage (along with the Hootenanny) on Thursday nights at CCM?