Go for the Fences

Common Fence Music keeps folk front and center in Portsmouth

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The folks at Common Fence Music (CFM) are in the midst of a busy season. The Portsmouth arts organization, located in their newly renovated space in Common Fence Point, presents concerts throughout the year, from national acts to well-known local singer-songwriters.

The organization was founded in 1993 as a nonprofit arts program dedicated to bringing quality folk music to Aquidneck Island. Since then, CFM has established itself as a leading music venue in the state, attracting audiences from all over New England.

Artistic Director Erin Young expanded the series to Hope & Main in Warren and the Casino Theatre in Newport a couple of years ago. There’s an eclectic range of performers as Young explains in a recent interview.

“I want to balance the number of national and international touring artists with the number of lesser-known or local acts we present, as well as the number of female and male artists,” says Young. “Pushing the boundaries of what is considered ‘folk music’ is something that is also important. For me, folk music is any music that is created, practiced, and performed by everyday people for other everyday people.” She adds, “There are many folk music traditions that have been established in this country and all over the world. Some have been integral to cultures for centuries, others are more recent, but all are folk and should be represented.”

This spring, CFM presents a pair of themed shows, including a tribute to Irish and American musical heritage, the “Traditions Festival” on March 7, featuring Irish concertina player Brenda Castles, Boston singer-songwriter/fiddler Liz Hanley, and Warren-based roots band Atwater-Donnelly Trio. On March 28, the annual “Love + Harmony” benefit concert returns with Bank of Ireland, Haunt the House, Emerald Ray, and others. The season continues through May 2020.

In addition to the concert series, CFM provides unique educational programs. Several times a year, featured performing artists lead pre-show workshops and demonstrations, plus two free Community Barn Dances. The “Connecting the Beats” program brings educational workshops showcasing percussion and dance of the African diaspora to youth in Newport County. For more information, visit CommonFenceMusic.org, and to volunteer, email cfmboardri@gmail.com.