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New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B., 1989.108.304


Miramichi Folksong Festival, singers seated onstage, Larry Hughes playing banjo, 1961

photographer: Dr. Louise Manny

Dr. Louise Manny Bequest, 1970

In 1966, the year of the Ninth Annual Miramichi Folksong Festival, Louise observed to a friend: "It is quite remarkable that our slow-paced unaccompanied singing gathers such enthusiastic audiences, in these days when the trend is all to professionals, banging guitars. The most popular songs locally are the ballads – the ones which tell a story."

The festival was Louise Manny's creation, and she directed its particulars – right down to who would sing what – every summer from 1957 to 1967. Taking pride in the fact that "We are the only people who dare put on this type of festival without professional singers," Louise discouraged guitars, barred professional singers from performing, and gently encouraged shy locals to get up on stage and sing their traditions. She sought an array of performances; the programme in any given year might include nine-year-old twins, French and Mi'kmaq singers performing in their own languages, veteran woods-workers, fiddlers and fishermen. But she set definite limits, prohibiting "off-colour" or risqué numbers (such as "The Face On the Bar Room Floor" or "The Alimony Song") and imposing ever more stringent measures to prevent singers from drinking alcohol before – and during – their performances. She confessed in 1966 that it was "hard to keep such a thing unspoilt, what with local people telling me how I could improve things." Nevertheless, for ten consecutive years the festival remained "unspoilt" under Manny's watch. Passing to new management after 1967, the folksong festival is to this day a popular annual event in Miramichi.