Below is the philosophy of the Fox Hollow Festival, created by the amazing Bob Beers in Upper State New York in the 1960s. Bob’s sister, Janet Boyer, of St. Louis (the Focal Point Coffeehouse and Music Folk music store) gave us a copy of this probably 10 years ago claiming that the Big Muddy Folk Festival was an heir to this philosophy.
Interestingly, Bob had given a copy to Andy Spence, director and founder of the Old Songs Festival in Altamont, N.Y., which was specifically inspired by Fox Hollow. Andy’s husband, Bill, is Cathy’s hammered dulcimer hero, and Andy herself has been an important festival mentor to Dave for many years. That the Big Muddy Folk Festival may bear the legacy of these two excellent festivals would be a high honor.
A PHILOSOPHY, by Robert Beers
In concept, the Fox Hollow Festival is the gathering of a large, friendly circle, formed like a chain of small links, and joined together by mutual acquaintances, one to the other, across the nation. We feel that our audience, if not already, will become part of this circle. It has been a mutually, oft voiced dream among us to bring it all together.
We believe that tradition flourishes, when families and friends gather. Over the years, it wanes and revives with the changing seasons of history, like a fine and majestic tree.
The great Redwood that grew for our ancestors was ancient even then; and it, in turn, sprang from the burls of incalculable time. It still grows today, but its roots are deeper than before, and its fingers reach out farther, in an ever widening circle. From the rich loam of what is past, it gains its sustenance; and for creation, it uses the warm, golden ring of sunlight that surrounds its green branches. A hardy, scarred trunk bears the onslaught of storm and drought; and under an immense shadow, paths that were once mere forest trails, are now super-highways leading to the edges of the universe. Tender, delicate roots seek out and pierce solid stone, to find fresh and better environs, and to discover the secret of life incarnate.
Tradition today, as ever, speaks from the obscure depths of antiquity, but, like the Redwood, wears the regenerated raiment of the present. It freely chooses its own course and makes its own environmental changes, happily unhindered by the hypercritical mutterings of an intellectual society that tries vainly to classify, analyze, define, possess, or even control it. Hardy as the Redwood, it will not perish either. And the fool who tries, can never find a purer source for enlightenment than the rich mulch that nourishes its soul, the roots that penetrate the tough exteriors of human inadequacy; or the secluded forest trails that lead to that protective ring of friendship...the sunlight of its own creation.
This, I hope, is the essence of Fox Hollow. Too often, we picture tradition speaking in a cracked voice, wearing gingham, or plowing a field in faded overalls. Tradition is no recluse, it wears no identifying clothes, and it knows no “rules of performance.” It walks daily in the streets beside you, drives on the turnpikes, goes to the theater, and, above all, it likes company. Across America, and in other lands, families and friends gather. They still sing, tell stories, dabble primitively in oils, carve, build, or follow the often occult ways of their fathers.
Ours is not to judge whether they are authentic, ethnic, or “correctly traditional”, but just to witness the exuberance of their many ways. For this is the essence of tradition. The golden ring of sunlight is all about, and it has never shown more brightly than it does today.
The diversity of voices to be heard at Fox Hollow, we feel, are in part the sounds of a thriving, vital tradition, the nucleus of which spreads like the branches and roots of a living tree, to the corners of the ear.
From this, comes the rich loam of the future, and a new season, re-created by the sunlight that falls upon its own withered leaves.