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The Golden Link Blog

2021 Festival
By Val Fowler
Posted on 7/19/2021 10:16 AM

A strength of the Turtle Hill Festival is the wide variety of music and styles, and the wonderful talent of performers of just about any instrument we can imagine. This year is the 50th Anniversary of Golden Link, and the 49th Turtle Hill Festival (including the 1971 music and picnic at the Turtle Hill Farm in Clarendon, NY). Thanks to last year’s Virtual Festival, the annual festival has never been cancelled. This year’s festival will be LIVE (“yeeeeeeeeee….HAW,” we would say in my homeland), but one day: Saturday, September 11. This year’s one day will encompass the breadth of the folk music we promote and support, and a blend of the first two year’s performers, a performer in many of the years since, and a first-time performing group. 


JOHN ROBERTS – Our opening Saturday evening concert

In 1971, John was in our area at the time of the first summer music picnic, and “crashed the party.” With his concertina and banjo he blended with the Golden Link folk and provided a wonderful and entertaining presence for that first year. The 1972 picnic was re-named a “Festival,” and John and his singing partner Tony Barrand were invited to perform . . . for the princely sum of $50. [I am still not clear if that was each, or total . . . and it’s too late in the evening to call someone). It seemed right to invite John to our 49th Festival, held in the 50th year. He was thrilled to be invited, and excited to come. Sadly, Tony is unable to travel, due to his health, but will be with us in spirit.


John is an ex-pat, born in Worchestershire, England. John came to the States to study at Cornell. It wasn’t long before that engagement revealed that his calling was folk music. With a fellow Cornell ex-pat, Tony Barrand, they began performing throughout the area. John and Tony were part of Nowell Sing We Clear for 40 years. The group performed a “different” Christmas program: pub carols, songs of various mid-winter customs, a death-and-resurrection mummer’s play, songs of different customs, as well as the story of Jesus through folk music. He and Tony even started a Morris-dancing program in Vermont. Through all the years, John has performed at many folk festivals, has always been invited back after his first appearance, and has provided workshops at festivals and educational institutions. John has a marvelous presence, and a beautiful way of drawing people in, to enjoy and be touched by music of all ages and types.


AMY GALLATIN & STILLWATERS – our second Saturday evening concert

Amy is from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. She was drawn in to music when she was very young, and was privileged to spend a decade in Montana and Idaho, with the opportunity of perform and feature at guest ranches and music venues in that area. During a wintertime trip to Connecticut in 1992 she met some Connecticut musicians. That connection and bond led her to pack her guitar (and her bags) and move “back East” in 1993. She performed solo and as part of numerous New England groups, one of which became Stillwaters, with whom she will perform this year. This is the first appearance for Amy and Stillwaters at this venue, thus helping us to connect 1971 and 2021.


Stillwaters, is Roger Williams, his son J.D. Williams, and Eric Levinson. 

Roger fell in love with resonator, Dobro-style guitar. He has performed in numerous bluegrass, country, and folk groups and is well-respected for his ability to bring out the best in the groups with whom he performs. He has been part of 13 overseas tours and many tours in the U.S.


J.D. partners with Roger on mandolin and guitar. He is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, and like his father has performed with numerous groups throughout our country.


Eric is a much-reknowned stand-up bass player. He is a recipient of the Boston Bluegrass Union Heritage Award. He also is a theatrical set and lighting designer, and thus a recipient of the annual Elliot Norton Design Award (given by Boston Music theater critics. Eric has contributed to such movies as The Departed; The Perfect Storm; Amistad; Good Will Hunting; and numerous others.

BILL STAINES – our closing concert

What can anyone say about the person who holds the record as “the most-invited performer—concerts and festivals—in Golden Link’s fifty years of promoting folk music? I had never heard of Bill prior to joining Golden Link in 1992 – though I learned that I had heard All God’s Critters at the Uncle Calvin’s Coffee House in Dallas, TX in 1989). One of Bill’s quoted statements says a lot about his music and his spirit:

Folk music is rich in the human spirit and experience. I have always wanted to bring
something of value to people through my songs.


I believe he appeared at either the fourth or fifth Turtle Hill Festival, and as indicated above, many times since. Bill has numerous accolades. He has appeared many times a the Kerrville Folk Festival, and in 1975 earned the award for yodeling. In 2015, Yankee Magazine featured Bill as one of “80 Gifts New England has Given to America. [Also featured were Stephen King and Katherine Hepburn.] 


Some in our organization can remember Bill from the Boston folk revival scene in the ‘60s and ‘70s. He performed at and hosted several important music venues. He began putting is calling to wheels, and in a short time was logging 60,000+ miles per year performing all over the country. If you want a good compendium of his early years, grab his two-disc album The First Million Miles. If that excites you, then look for his other compendium: The Second Million Miles.


So . . . . 

Even though his year is “everything packed into one day,” it promises to be an appropriate 50th Anniversary/49th Festival celebration. It covers the first year to the current year; it blends the first-time performer of 1971 and the first-time performers of our second 50 years; it blends traditional, classic folk, bluegrass, and current folk. The Festival honors the broad reach of our history and the history of folk music, and it—once again—holds the promise of drawing us in to the music in a fresh way. And we honor the persistence, the grounding, the freshness of a music tradition that not even a pandemic can silence.



Remember: This year’s fall concerts will be LIVE.