By Kinsey Heath
Throughout the festival, you could find a short, curly-haired man finding random people and asking them, "Would you like to sing with me?" This man was Sam Amidon.
Amidon was the choir leader of the festival, as he occasionally organized what he called "Pop-Up Choirs" where he asked random individuals to join him and a group of other random strangers to sing choral music with him. He handed out sheet music, assigned voice parts, and led the choir through a brief interlude through the festival. And, if you were lucky - like I was - festival artists would join the choir. In my case, it was festival curator and The National guitarist Aaron Dessner.
Born into a family of folk musicians, Amidon plays the fiddle and banjo while he sings over soaring string parts. I was pleased to meet with the folk choir director and discuss the festival with him.
Kinsey: So how did you first get started with the creation of Eaux Claires?
Sam: Through Justin (Vernon) and Aaron (Dessner). Justin called me up and asked me to be a part of it. Justin's been the main contact here. Earlier today I had a question on where I was suppose to go and I called Justin up and he told me. So it’s great that Justin himself is the direct contact.
Kinsey: Tell me about the “Pop Up Choirs” you’ve been hosting around the festival
Sam: Well it was Justin and Aaron's idea to get people from the audience to do these miniature collaborations.
Kinsey: What artists would you recommend to the person who is new to traditional folk music.
Sam: Allan Lomax and Paul Brady. Allan Lomax is folklorist and a field collector of music. He did something called “The Southern Journey” where he traveled all around the southern parts of America to record the little known southern back country and blues music that was considered uniquely American. He recorded families making music at home with their friends and people from their neighborhoods.
Kinsey: Who have you been most excited to see here at Eaux Claires?
Sam: I’ve been spending a lot of time at the “Dell Tent”. Low and Literagy were great. And I can't wait to see Sylvan Esso. I saw them open for Volcano Choir and they put on a great show.