History of Dance in Cambodia

Buppha Devi

Journey from 1965 Cambodia to present-day Lowell and experience the transformation of an art form, once almost lost. Our next Lowell Folklife Series takes place on November 19, 2013 at the Visitor Center at Lowell National Historical Park. We begin by screening a 1965 documentary portraying the Royal Ballet of Cambodia. At the time of filming, the ballet performed exclusively for the elite and was patronized by the queen of Cambodia.

Photo of Reamker dance

Scenes show royal dancers being trained, masks and costumes being made, rehearsals, and the indoctrination of novices into the service of dance. Among several pieces portrayed in the film is the Apsara Dance, which features a special performance by Princess Bupphadevi.

Following the screening November 19th, audience members will be treated to a live performance by members of Angkor Dance Troupe. This screening is the first in the ” Evolution of Cambodian Dance Film Series” presented by Angkor Dance Troupe.

6:00 p.m.   Welcome & introduction

6:15 p.m.    Film Screening

7:45 p.m.    Live dance performance

Come join us. The event is free and open to the public.  For information about Teacher Professional Development Points, contact the Tsongas Industrial History Center: TIHC@uml.edu

Veronica Robles & her Mariachi

To help celebrate International Women’s Month, the Lowell Folklife Series is pleased to present Veronica Robles with her Mariachi. Known affectionately by fans as La Mera, Mera, Robles is widely recognized as the most authentic representative of Mexican music and culture in New England. 

This free concert takes place on March 23, 2013 at 7:30 pm in the Visitor Center Theater of  Lowell National Historical Park  (246 Market Street, Lowell, Massachusetts). 

Veronica Robles has Mexican music in her blood. She first learned to sing corridos and rancheros from her grandmother as she prepared traditional dishes in the family kitchen. It was in Mexico City’s Plaza Garibaldi, the cradle of mariachi music, where Veronica was introduced to the mariachi group led by El Chiquis.  She began working with his group at age 15, learning hundreds of songs and musical styles from these elder musicians. In 1992, Robles left her home country for New York City to pursue her life as a professional mariachi musician. 

Robles has made Massachusetts home since 2000, where she specializes in performing for young audiences through school assembles, residencies and dance workshops. Her television show, Orale con Verónica has been on the air since 2002. She was named an  Artist Fellowship Finalist by the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2012.



Latin Music & Dance Night with Alexander & his Quinteto

Bachata, both a genre of music and a type of dance, originated in the Dominican Republic during the early parts of the last century, later spreading to other parts of Latin American and Mediterranean Europe.

In its early days, bachata was unofficially banned from radio play and concert halls by those in power. Eventually, bachata’s popularity could not be denied. Come find out why at the next Lowell Folklife Series event.

Time: Saturday February 23, 2013

7:00 p.m. dance lesson; 8:00 p.m. live music

Place:  The Counting House, 2nd Floor, Boott Cotton Mills Museum

115 John Street, Lowell, MA 01852

Learn the basics of bachata and merengue dance of the Dominican Republic with National Park Ranger Victor Medina. Then listen and dance to the music of Alexander el Cantante and his Quinteto. Born in Venezula, Alexander Faria began singing and performing as a child. He came to Boston in 1995 and has been active in the Latin music scene ever since.

Seating will be provided, however ample space will be left open for dancing.

Return of the Lowell Folklife Series

We’re delighted to announce the 2013 Winter/Spring season of the Lowell Folklife Series. These free public events featuring craft, music, dance, & foodways traditions are presented by Lowell Lowell National Historical Park in partnership with the Massachusetts Cultural Council. See full schedule here.

Noodling: The Art of Chinese Hand-Pulled Noodles with Chef Gene Wu (watch video)
Place: Event Center @ Boott Cotton Mill, 115 John Street, Lowell, MA
Monday January 28, 2013 @ 7:30 p.m.





Latin Dance Night with Alexander Faria & el Quinteto: Dance lesson @ 7:00; live music @ 8:00
Counting House @ Boott Cotton Mill, 115 John St., Lowell, MA
Saturday February 23, 2013 @ 7:00 p.m.




Women’s Singing Traditions: Veronica Robles & her Mariachi

Visitor Center Theater, 246 Market Street, Lowell, MA
Saturday March 23, 2013 @ 7:30 p.m.




Model Making: Ship Models & Pipe Organs with Harold A. Burnham, Erik Ronnberg, Jr., & Greg Bover

Visitor Center Theater, 246 Market Street, Lowell, MA
Sunday April 21, 2013 @ 3:00 p.m.



All in the Family: Learning from Master Musicians with Balla and Sekou Kouyate on West African Balafons & Sixto “Tito” Ayala and Estefany Navarro on Puerto Rican Congas

Visitor Center Theater, 246 Market Street, Lowell, MA 01852
Sunday, May 19, 2013 @ 2:30 p.m.

For more information click here
Questions? Call Maggie at 978-275-1719

Chinese Hand-Pulled Noodles in the Making

Gene Wu hand-pulling noodles in his restaurant kitchen

 It’s just a few weeks before Chinese New Year’s, which falls on February 10th this year. In anticipation, the Lowell Folklife Series presents “Noodling: The Art of Chinese Hand-Pulled Noodles.” This cooking demonstration on Monday, January 28th will be presented by Chef Gene Wu, owner of   Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe in Chelmsford, MA.

Wu will share his knowledge and skill in making and serving hand-pulled noodles. Known as “biang, biang mian,” these broad noodles are made from dough that is cut, rolled out, and stretched.  It’s a dramatic thing to see, as Gene pulls the dough, flings it in the air, slaps it down on the counter several times, and then throws it into a pot of boiling water.

Gene Wu grew up in Xi’an, the capital of central China’s Shaaxi Province, a region noted for its noodle soups and flatbread. Menu items at Gene’s restaurant are mostly derived from his grandfather’s recipes.

In addition to talking about Chinese noodle traditions, Wu will demonstrate how to hand-pull noodles. He will then attempt to teach someone from the audience how to do it.

Date:   Monday January 28, 2013

Time:  7:30 p.m.

Place:  Event Center, Boott Cotton Mills Museum, 115 John Street, Lowell, MA 01852

More information

Questions? Call Maggie at 978-275-1719.
No reservations are necessary.

PS  Thanks to Jen Meyers who attended Wu’s demonstration and posted this  — nice photos of several audience members trying their hands at pulling noodles.

Banjo music before bluegrass? Find out more

When Lowell’s textile mills were clacking, what parlor music was popular? Come join us for a musical journey back in time, to find out. This was a time when if you wanted to hear music, you had to play it yourself.  The  Lowell Folklife Series presents “Classic Style Banjo Concert: The Lost Art of America’s Instrument” on Saturday November 17th at 8:00 p.m. in the Visitor Center theater of Lowell National Historical Park.

Classic style banjo playing was popular in the 1830s and 40s, and became somewhat of a virtuosic tradition by the 1880s. Originally played on gut strings, this parlor music has a classical feel to it.


Seasoned musicians Peter LaBau (banjo) and Mitch Nelin (mandocello) will deliver an entertaining evening of music interpsersed with stories of a nearly vanished musical tradition.

The 8:00 p.m. concert is free and open to the public. For directions, click here.


Gateway Cities: When Neighborhoods Change

Many of Massachusetts’ de-industrialized mill and manufacturing towns are known as “gateway cities.”  Home to close-knit communities of immigrants who initially came seeking work in the state’s once thriving mill and manufacturing sectors, gateway cities have been hit hard by job loss and poverty. Average household incomes remain below the state average as do educational attainment rates.

Gateway cities are often the starting place for new immigrants, who are drawn by the affordable housing and competitive business opportunities. In cities like Lawrence, Lowell, Springfield, and Brockton, and Fall River, it is not uncommon for aging Irish, French-Canadian, Greek, and Polish populations to live alongside a new generation of newcomers, emigrating from places like Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

When it comes to the practice of faith, this globalization means that once mono-cultural parishes are now multi-cultural, with multi-lingual masses. The 2009 documentary film Scenes from a Parishis a window into this world.

The   Lowell Folklife Series invites you to a screening of this powerful  film, with special guest  James Rutenbeck, the film’s director. Shot over four years in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the film sensitively captures the ethnic working class tensions of a multi-cultural Catholic parish in a hard-pressed former mill town.

Come see this award-winning documentary and join the discussion about how communities adjust as neighborhoods change. Free and open to the public.

Date: April 11, 2012 at 7:30

Place: Visitor Center Theater, Lowell National Historical Park, 246 Market Street, Lowell, MA







Sophia Bilides sings Smyrneika

Sophia Bilides. Photo by Valerie Catrow, 2009.

We have been trying to get this superb singer to the Lowell Folk Festival for many years, but she has always been away in Greece during the festival. Not only will Sophia Bilides be appearing at this summer’s folk festival, she and her trio will be performing for the Lowell Folklife Series, in an 8:00 p.m.   concert this Saturday, March 24th.

Sophia Bilides is considered the “foremost practitioner of the Greek singing style known as Smyrneika” (Boston Globe), the cabaret song tradition of the Greek Asia Minor refugees of the 1930s and ‘40s. She accompanies herself on santouri (the Greek hammered dulcimer) and zilia (finger cymbals), backed by master musicians Mal Barsamian on outi (oud) and kythara (guitar), and Mike Gregian on doumbeleki (hand drum). Although many in Lowell’s Greek community won’t need it, Bilides  provides translations and song contexts to help bring audiences into the intimate atmosphere of an Anatolian cafe-aman. Song lyrics, which are set to richly intricate melodies, Middle Eastern modes, and sensual rhythms, voice the universal themes of nostalgia for lost homelands, endurance, love in all its guises, and the celebration of life.

Consider joining us as we celebrate Women’s History Month and Greek Independence Day by attending this free concert on March 24th in the Visitor Center of Lowell National Historical Park. No reservations required.

Ode to Fat: Schmaltz, Salt Pork, Olive Oil & Ghee


Home cooks around the world rely on one essential ingredient to bring out food’s flavor: fat. Late January, when it’s cold and dark, seems the perfect season to sing the praises of fat. In our next Lowell Folklife Series program, we explore four forms of fat with deep cultural associations: schmaltz, the kosher poultry fat used in Jewish cooking; salt pork, the French Canadian ingredient so critical to fresh-made pork scrap and baked beans; olive oil, the healthy staple of Greek and Italian cuisine, and ghee, the clarified butter used in South Asian cooking.

 The free public event takes place Friday January 20th at 7:00 p.m.  in the Visitor Center of Lowell National Historical Park. Joining us for a lively discussion will be Sam and Gail Poulten, both of whom grew up in Lowell’s Jewish neighborhood where schmaltz was a staple, Lucia DiDuca of Framingham, a founding member of the Ciociaro Social Club, Kurt Levasseur of Lowell’s own Cote’s Market, and Yogesh Kumar, owner of Sai Baba Market in Chelmsford.


Come hear these culture bearers share their take on the flavorful fats in Jewish, Franco-American, Italian, and Indian cooking. David Blackburn, Chief of Cultural Resources at Lowell National Historical Park, will moderate the panel discussion, which is sure to touch on foodways traditions, family recipes, stories, and religious associations surrounding these fundamental culinary fats.


 P.S. — Jane Dornbusch, correspondent to The Boston Globe attended the event and wrote a wonderful review. To see the article, click here.

Promising young apprentice performs locally and abroad

It’s nice to see a mentoring situation continue after the formal Traditional Arts Apprenticeship has ended. Irish fiddler Laurel Martin was awarded an apprenticeship in September 2010 to work with home-schooled teen, Natayla Kay Trudeau. Beyond the learning of new tunes, special emphasis was put on gaining an understanding of the older regional fiddle styles associated with County Clare — a style Martin herself was taught by acclaimed Clare-born fiddler Seamus Connolly, in an apprenticeship more than 20 years ago. Trudeau also learned about fiddlers who were also known for their compositions, including tunesmiths Junior Crehan, Paddy O’Brien, Sean Ryan, and Ed Reavey.

By June 2011, Trudeau’s progress was audible; not only had she gained respect for the authenticity of regional fiddle styles, but her technique, musicality, and presence on stage were surprising for one so young. The two took part in a  Lowell Folklife Series concert back in June at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre. Their music enlivened the stepdancing of  Kieran Jordan and Kevin Doyle, along with their respective apprentices, Emerald Rae and Nicole Leblanc.

And though the formal MCC-funded apprenticeship with Laurel ended in June, Trudeau’s education as a budding musician has just begun. She will perform on December 12 at the Westford Museum  and will join Martin on stage at Club Passim (also on December 12) and the Java Room Coffee House in Chelmsford (February 11). Soon after, Martin and Trudeau are headed to Ireland for a week of seisuns, performances, and ceilidhs — a veritable immersion in the world of Irish fiddling. Lucky girl.