It so happens that this post coincides with my monthly Underappreciated Music as sponsored (that's the word, no matter much I wanted the word to be "underwritten') by the great Todd Mason. This month, rather than featuring a musical artist, I thought I would write a few words about WFMA -- the World Folk Music Association.
WFMA began in 1982 when Dick Cerri, long-time host of the popular radio program Music Americana, and singer song-writer Tom Paxton agreed there was a need to keep people interested in folk music in touch with the folk music scene. WFMA is committed to promoting contemporary and traditional folk music. Today the Washington, DC-based WFMU is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that keeps the light of folk music burning brightly. Cerri used his radio show to promote the organization and to sponsor concerts throughout the area. Somewhere along the line, a young woman named Doris Justis came aboard as Cerri's assistant. Doris also happened to a very talented singer as well as a huge folk music enthusiast. At Cerri's urging, Doris Justis partnered with Sean McGhee to form the folk duo Side by Side, which became WFMA' s "house band" for over a quarter century. Doris was also the person responsible for getting the 60s folk group The Chad Mitchell Trio to reunite in 2005. For 25 years, WFMA's annual benefit concert brought together many of folk music's brightest stars. Many of their concerts were dedicated to such important artists as Odetta, Tommy Makem, Tom Paxton, Oscar Brand, Tom Rowe, Ronnie cox, The Brothers Four, John Denver, The Kingston Trio, David Mallett, John Steward, Kate Wolf,, Steve Goodman, and others. Currently WFMA sponsors a series of monthly showcases at thePositano Restaurant in Bethesda, MD, usually featuring three acts, both old and new, from around the country. They have also sponsored house concerts and benefit concerts for charity. All this in addition to being a guide to the best folk music venues throughout the United States.
Here's a few samples from their concerts. The video on some are not the best and many of the concerts were not recorded or were not available, but I hope you can see how wonderful these performances were. I attended many of them while I was in the D.C. area and have fond memories. (Who knows? I may be in some of the audience shots.)
Highlights of the 20th Annual Benefit Concert in 2005
Highlights from the Tom Paxton Tribute, 2008:
The Limelighters after the WFMA after party, 2011:
Jane Olivor, "The Water Is Wide":
Side by Side, "The Flower That Shattered the Stone":
Buskin and Batteau, "Boy with a Violin":
Kensington Station, "Whiskey in the Jar":
Mack Bailey, "This Old Guitar":
Side by Side Aloha Farewll Concert, 2015, with guests Bill Danoff, Tom Paxton, and The Chad Mitchell Trio:
Tommy Makem's "The Winds Are Singing Freedom" from a concert shortly after Makem's death:
Although this clip isn't from a WFMA concert, I could hardly end without a baton twirling exhibition from singer/songwriter Christine Lavin, which she often performed on the WFMA stage:
Great times. Great music. If you ever in the D.C. area, check out WFMA's website.