The Northwest Folklife Festival starts Friday and runs through Memorial Day. The annual gathering highlights different cultures found in the region through stories, art, film, dance, food and song. There will even be opportunities for festival-goers to take the stage.
Martha Cohen's husband James Roe was the first one to coordinate sing-a-longs at the festival because he was motivated by one idea: Why just listen when you could do it yourself?
“He found so much joy in singing, and so it was his brainchild to set up the participatory singing place at Folklife because everyone’s always just sitting and watching,” she said.
Roe passed away suddenly a few years ago, and now Cohen has taken up the torch in organizing the groups, having them bring the music, teach parts and then sing together.
“We’ve had doo wop, Tom Lehrer, Gilbert and Sullivan, classical, gospel, barber shop, shape-note singing,” she said.
Cohen says these sing-a-longs at the Cornish Courtyard have become a big attraction for people. Some spend the majority of their time at the makeshift stage area trying out different styles.
This year, there's a wide variety of options including sea shanties, joining in for “Let’s All Sing Our Favorite Yiddish Songs” and one of Cohen’s personal favorites, singing along with the Seattle Peace Chorus.
“I mean, this is a great opportunity. You don’t have to be any kind of a great singer or professional and just enjoy the fun of it," she said. "Come and sing with us.”
More details about the Northwest Folklife Festival are here.