Square Dance Chance at Full Circle Festival

Square Dance Chance at Full Circle Festival
By Kim Barlow

Full Circle Festival is a sweet little music gathering in Newport on summer solstice weekend, when the Avon River Heritage Museum and surrounding area are filled up with sun-drenched nature-lovers, barefoot muddy children, friendly dogs, and blissed-out dancers. It is one of the first summer weekends when folks shed their workloads and winter worries and find each other in a field to share stories, kombucha, fresh air, and great music.

Hannah and Arnie Naiman are a father and daughter musical team from Toronto, performing Appalachian old-time and original songs, and leading a square dance at this year’s festival. Arnie is a legend in the old-time scene and has been a major influence on new generations of trad musicians. Hannah is a critically acclaimed performer in the genre as well. They are also touring with Arnie’s wife/Hannah’s mom, Kathy, and Hannah’s toddler. Here are some questions I gave to Hannah:

Kim Barlow (KB): How did you get connected with Full Circle Festival?

Hannah Naiman (HN): Dane George, one of the festival organizers, connected with me after hearing my interview with Michael Enright on CBC’s The Sunday Edition almost 2 years ago. I was there to talk about my songwriting and my newest album, Know The Mountain, which had recently been awarded the Canadian Folk Music Award for Traditional Singer of The Year. In the interview, Michael inquired about my work as a square dance caller, and Dane was excited at the prospect of having me on as a caller at the festival. Scheduling didn’t work in our favour last year, so we are excited to be here this summer!

KB: Is one of you playing fiddle when the other is on banjo? How does your set work?

HN: Our mainstage set will mainly feature my original songs. I’ll be primarily playing banjo and Arnie will be backing me up on guitar. We do often switch instruments–you never know who will be holding the banjo, guitar, or fiddle. We’ll even double up for a couple of songs: yes, that’s right, DOUBLE BANJOS.

I have a separate repertoire of music that we’ll be playing for the elementary school kids on Friday, and we’ll likely call up my mother, Kathy Reid-Naiman, who is a nationally-reknowned children’s musician, and here on tour with us this June.

The square dance will be a hoot! I’ll be calling Appalachian Old Time square dances (mostly dances from the US). Every dance will be taught before I strike up the band, and I’ll keep on directing the dancers until the music ends, so no experience is necessary!

KB: How are you finding it, touring with a two-year-old?

HN: We are taking this tour nice and slow, taking in the sights and sounds of Nova Scotia with a child’s wonder: she’s helping us remember that the sand on the beach is just as intriguing as the cliffs and mountains that surround us.

Photo: David Edelstein