Cultural Focus Program Announced for 45th Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle

Northwest Folklife today announced the programming for its 2016 Cultural Focus "The Power of the Human Voice through Song." As part of their extensive year-round outreach into the cultural communities that makeup the Pacific Northwest, Northwest Folklife engages a specific community or theme each year to showcase in-depth leading up to the annual Northwest Folklife Festival, the largest community-powered arts and culture festival in the United States. This is an effort that aims to empower the artistic expressions of this cultural traditions for the greater community to experience, learn about, and enjoy.

Now in its 45th year, Northwest Folklife is a year-round nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the communities of the Northwest through arts and culture. This work is accomplished through a variety of initiatives, most notably the production of the nationally-recognized annual Northwest Folklife Festival over Memorial Day weekend. Important additional cultural activities include the annual Seattle Children's Festival in the fall, an annual Cultural Arts Series in partnership with Crossroads Bellevue, and a variety of other multi-cultural events. All this mission-essential work is made possible through active, regular outreach and communication with the communities that make up the Northwest region.

"As organizations and communities grow, evolve, and change, it's important for Folklife to see where each community is in their evolution and how Folklife can serve them as a resource," Kelli Faryar, Programs Director for Northwest Folklife describes. "We work with over 100 communities across the Northwest throughout the year - it's our most important work in the programming office. For some communities, their performance at the Northwest Folklife Festival is something that they plan for all year and happens to be one of the few times the whole community can come together to participate in the larger arts and cultural community of the region. Our work involves developing and enhancing the artistic and creative process as well as building community."

This year's Cultural Focus concept was suggested by James Roe, a long-time Northwest Folklife Community Coordinator. Roe created the Choral Courtyard where four days of participatory singing happen each year at the Northwest Folklife Festival. "Jim's original idea was to focus on a collection of songs that he had been working on for some time, a collection he called 'Songs That Changed the World,'" Faryar commented. "When Jim passed away this summer, we envisioned a festival of many, many voices coming together to sing in his honor, and 'The Power of the Human Voice through Song' concept was born."

The human voice was the first instrument. Singing is one of the most natural means of human communication and expression. Songs play an essential part of the social fabric of cultures - every ritual a community shares calls for its own song: birth, marriage, death, the planting and harvest, the coming of spring and fertility, the changing of the seasons. Songs are used for protest, for love and honor. They are used as expressions of unity through national anthems and sports teams. Songs are used to sing babies to sleep and to accompany a child's play. Singing is thus an ideal tool to express the common themes of humanity and culture.

The Northwest Folklife Festival will be held Friday, May 27 through Monday, May 30, 2016 (Memorial Day Weekend) in and outdoors on the Seattle Center grounds. There is no admission charge, thanks to on-going community donations. Festival hours are from 11:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. from Friday through Sunday and 11:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. on Monday. The Festival includes events such as parades and dance parties lasting throughout the evening.

For programming details, visit The full Festival schedule will be announced on May 2, 2016.

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