Ingersoll's Canterbury Folk Festival a beacon of musical diversity

INGERSOLL – The moment David Woodhead and members of his wonderfully imaginative Coffeehouse Confabulation (pictured above) hit the main stage, it was crystal clear – the Canterbury Folk Festival remains the very definition of eclectic music.

Just celebrating its 14th year this past weekend under the blazing hot skies in Ingersoll, the event brought together a remarkably diverse collection of musicians from top notch local performers like singer/songwriter Bob Breen, Woodstock vocalist Denal Soares and Newfoundland transplant E.S. Doyle to internationally recognized English star Chris Simpson and his revitalized Magna Carta.


Along the way festival founder/artistic director Ted Comiskey – who performed Sunday morning with Breen, Jim Gonder and Jim Carr – managed to lure some of the top names in the business to the annual summer event including the award-winning Lennie Gallant, Cape Breton’s dynamic fiddler Natalie MacMaster (pictured above), an exciting new Celtic band Steel City Rovers and Newfoundland’s fast-rising The Once.

Music lovers also got the chance to take in the vibrant sounds of Scallywag (pictured above), featuring The Beat columnist Bob Cunningham; a lively set from the London-based The Mandates; the first-time appearance of operatically trained vocalist Victoria Gydov; returning favourite Magoo; Tia McGraff with “a voice stolen from the angels”;  the musically diverse New Cumberland; the genre-bending instrumental music of the aforementioned Confabulation; the hard-working, folk-rocking Ritchie-Parrish-Ritchie; the picking, singing and songwriting The Schotts and many more.

To the delight of the thousands who packed the Yvonne Holmes Memorial Park and the downtown core of Ingersoll, Ted Comiskey (pictured below) reminded them on several occasions that Canterbury – a blend of music, dance and hand-crafted art – was still one of the very few free events of this magnitude in Canada, and possibly North America.

“As long as I and these wonderful directors are involved it will remain free,” he said. “We owe everything to the more than 100 volunteers who work, not only this weekend, but throughout the year securing sponsorships, staging fund-raising events and giving their all for this festival.”

Christian Hermann, from just outside of Hanover, Germany and a first-time visitor to Canterbury, made it clear why he had travelled thousands of miles: “It’s for the music, music, music. This is such a wonderful event and a lovely community with so much talent. I will be back.”

So what does Comiskey have planned for next year’s 15th annual event? With a smile on his face, he offers a simple, “Well, we’re already working on that. There’ll be surprises, some favourites…you’ll just have to be here to see and hear what we’ve got for 2014.”

You Tube video clips by Geoff Dale can be found at

Geoff Dale is a freelance writer and photographer based in Woodstock, Ontario. Born in London, England, he has been a journalist since 1975 and a lover of film, theatre and books since as long as he can remember. A Stratford Festival reviewer for The Beat, he is expecting his first work of fiction, an alternative history entitled The Fine Art of Boxing – No Stooge in the Ring, to be published sometime in 2013.

[Photos provided by Geoff Dale]

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