By Isaac Furman
Last Thursday, Union kicked off the Adirondack Lecture and Concert Series with folk music veteran Dan Berggren.
Berggren, a mainstay of the folk music community for over thirty years, performed in front of a gathering of Union students, faculty, and other members of the community at the Union College Adirondack Center.
As important guests such as President Ainlay looked on, Berggren sang traditional folk songs and shared stories about the Adirondack lumber camps.
Berggren, who played both acoustic guitar and banjo, balanced playful lyrics with comforting melodies and encouraged the audience to sing and clap along to his songs.
Many of Berggren’s songs focused on the environment and more specifically the environment of the Adirondack region.
The musician performed both original songs and ones that had been passed down to him from older folk singers.
He prefaced each song with a brief story that provided insight into what it was about. Most of his lyrics drew on personal experiences and characters he had met all throughout the Adirondack region.
The stories also lend some insight to Berggren’s own history with folk music. Berggren spent his adolescence slightly north of here, in the small town of Minerva, New York.
As he explained, it wasn’t until after college and some time in the Army that he was exposed to Adirondack folk music. He started listening more and more to folk artists like The Weavers and Pete Seger.
Berggren demonstrated a passion for the environment throughout the show. At one point, he started a song by first reciting a poem about nature, while another one of his songs was about feeling at home in the wilderness.
One of Berggren’s best-received songs was entitled “Pat Malone,” a humorous story about a man who tried to fake his own death. By the end of the song, he had the whole audience laughing and singing along with the chorus.
Berggren’s focus on the Adirondacks and the outdoors was a fitting open to the concert series, which is part of an effort by the college to reengage with the Adirondack area.
The Adirondack center’s small amphitheatre creates an intimate atmosphere and is the perfect place for such an event.
Despite being located just a few miles off campus, the center feels like its much farther.
It’s a great place to escape and appreciate the natural beauty of the region, and an even better place to enjoy a concert.