Folksteps Music Conference

Work Songs

Zion Lutheran Church

August 6, 2015

Dr_Ronald Labelle

In 2010 the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society decided to include a one-day traditional folk music conference as part of the festivities for our 25th annual festival. Called Folksteps, the conference aimed to stimulate interest in traditional folk music through a day-long educational event.

The first Folksteps conference was organized by Clary Croft, and proved so successful that we decided to continue and in the future to organize around a theme.

The aim of our annual Folksteps conference is to stimulate interest in traditional folk music.  Each year, the conference offers a tremendous educational opportunity for audiences to explore a particular, vibrant facet of this music, and to further understand its relevance to the music of today.  Our conference includes expert presentation as well as performance and discussion.  The format is fairly loose, providing opportunity for fun and learning and audience participation.

[Previous Folksteps conferences focused on Ballads (2011), Celtic Connections (2012),  Acadian, Cajun and Quebecois (2013) and African Nova Scotian Folk Traditions (2014).]

Bennett KonesniThe theme of our 2015 conference is Work Songs.

Bennett Konesni, a work song authority from Maine, will act as host throughout the day.  At thirteen Bennett shipped as a deckhand spending five summers sailing Penobscot Bay, learning the traditional work songs of the tall ships as he raised sails and hauled anchors. More recently, he was awarded a postgraduate fellowship to spend a year in Tanzania, Ghana, Mongolia, Vietnam, Switzerland, and Holland studying work songs of sea, field and steppe.  Bennett defines work songs as “music that transforms labour into something between work and play”.

Richard MacKinnonDr. Richard MacKinnon, noted folklorist from CBU, is the keynote speaker.  Dr. MacKinnon has been researching, writing and teaching in the field of heritage and culture for over 25 years. A native Cape Bretoner, Dr. MacKinnon holds both a MA and PhD in Folklore from Memorial University, and his research focuses on Atlantic Canadian folklore, culture and heritage with a specialization in Cape Breton Studies.

Other performers participating in the conference will be: the Gawler family, Jeff Davis, Yarmouth Shantymen, Debra Cowan, Kim & Reggie Harris, Trio Bembe, and John MacCutcheon.

Folksteps takes place from 9:30am to 4pm on the first day of the Festival.  The Folksteps conference is totally integrated within the Festival and therefore is included in the Full Festival Pass.  Single day passes are also available for the conference.   Delegates are on their own for lunch with time to explore beautiful, historic Lunenburg.

The conference will offer a tremendous opportunity for audiences to explore a vibrant facet of traditional folk music, and to further understand its relevance to the music of today.


9:00     Registration

Cape Breton Island Songs of Work and Protest – Richard MacKinnon

Work Songs of the Fields and Forests – Bennett Konesni & Jeff Davis with The Gawler Family

Work Songs at Sea – The Yarmouth Shantymen

Women’s Work – Debra Cowan

African American Songs of Faith, Work and Freedom – Kim & Reggie Harris

Pan-American Work – Trio Bembe

Modern Work Songs – John McCutcheon

The full day conference is included in your Festival Weekend Pass; or you can purchase a day-pass for the Conference and Evening Concert; or you can purchase just the conference ticket.  To see prices, follow this link to the About Festival Tickets page.

Folksteps is supported by SOCAN, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada.  We also acknowledge the financial support of FACTOR, The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings and Canada’s Private Radio Broadcasters.


We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage (Canada Music Fund) and of Canada’s Private Radio Broadcasters.



Supported by a grant from:

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