The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 5, 2013

Folk arts festival celebrates music and culture from around the world at Lakeside High School

By STACY MILLBERG - For the Star Beacon
Star Beacon

SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Area residents enjoyed a celebration of folk arts from around the world, Saturday, as the Ashtabula County Choral Music Society presented the “Big Wide, Wonderful World” festival at Lakeside High School.

Local artists displayed and sold their handmade creations during the event. Local musicians provided entertainment and ethnic music and a number of individuals provided food from different parts of the world.

Kathleen Milford, director of the Ashtabula County Choral Music Society choirs, said attendance was not what the group had hoped for, but it probably had a lot to do with the beautiful weather.

“We have a lot of excellent vendors and performers,” she said.

This is the first time the group has coordinated such an event. The Choral Music Society’s performance Saturday evening focused on music from around the world and the event just expanded on that, Milford said.

Saturday’s festival also featured performances by the Ashtabula Brass Band as well as the Erie Heights Brass Ensemble.

Laura Mannion, a member of Celtic Union, said the group had a great time performing at the event.

“We enjoy singing no matter where we are,” she said.

Milford said the event also served as a way of expanding the public’s understanding of who the Ashtabula County Choral Music Society is and what the group does.

“It’s a way to raise awareness and build an audience for our organization,” she said.

Ellen Jacobs, who handles the publicity for the group, said the organization is more than just folks who sing.

“We bring a lot of choral music to Ashtabula County,” she said.

The Choral Music Society has county-wide membership and features both an adult chorale and a youth chorus. The society sponsors a youth camp in the summer for local students.

“We teach them how to enjoy singing and how to sing together,” Jacobs said. “Our mission is to bring a variety of music to Ashtabula County.”

Jacobs said the group works to expose people to culture, how people are and how they grow up and music is a big part of that.

The group performs a number of major works, she said, including “A Night at the Opera,” which is the theme of the group’s June 1 concert.

“It’s just a different experience for people,” Jacobs said. “We focus so much in our society on differences but we are all essentially the same. This is a way of reaching out and connecting instead of dividing. It’s important to celebrate unity.”

Milford said she is uncertain as to whether the group would sponsor such an event again, but it is something that would be considered.

“We are not really in the craft fair business, but everyone says not to make a decision on the first event,” she said. “It sometimes takes two to three times to build a base of people.”