UMass Dartmouth’s Eisteddfod Preceded New Bedford Folk Fest
For many years, the Greater New Bedford area has been a player on the folk music scene. It appears the time has come to turn the page.
Rosemary Gill, President/CEO of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, and Alan and Helene Korolenko, Musical Directors of the New Bedford Folk Festival, have issued a joint statement declaring an end to the long-running festival that for years attracted folk musicians and folk music fans from far and wide to downtown New Bedford for a weekend each summer.
According to the statement, "Rising costs and post-pandemic expense increases made the festival financially unsustainable."
The 2022 New Bedford Folk Festival – its 25th anniversary – was the last.
The New Bedford Folk Festival filled a void created by the demise of the Eisteddfod International Folk Festival, which ran from 1971-1996 at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth – or Southeastern Massachusetts University, the school's name from 1969 until it became a part of the UMass system in 1991.
Eisteddfod is a Welsh word meaning "a gathering of bards and minstrels." According to the Claire T. Carney Library at UMass Dartmouth, the first eisteddfod, or folk music festival, was held in West Wales around 1176.
UMass Dartmouth professor and artist Howard Glasser made several trips to Scotland in the early 1960s, where he participated in ceilidhs – a Scotts-Gaelic word for small gatherings of musical friends.
Glasser introduced ceilidhs to Carnegie-Mellon University, the University of Rhode Island, and Southeastern Massachusetts University before founding the Eisteddfod International Folk Festival at SMU in 1971.
During its 25-year run, the Eisteddfod International Folk Festival featured many noted national folk music artists, such as Gordon Bok. The annual event also provided a showcase for local and regional talent, including Vic Wotherspoon, Barbara Carns, Maggi Peirce, Flora Azar, Patrick Sky, Paul Geremia, John Hec, Bruce Foley and others.
Eisteddfod concerts from 1972-1996 are listed in the Claire T. Carney Library Archives. Many of the artists and the year(s) they performed from 1971-1991 are also listed.
The Eisteddfod International Folk Festival received funding from the Allocations Committee, New England Foundation for the Arts, Massachusetts Cultural Council, National Endowment For the Arts, and annual student fees.
The Eisteddfod International Folk Festival featured free campus-wide concerts, workshops, and performances. Ticketed shows and events were held in the school's auditorium at night.