GLENS FALLS - George Ward presents history lessons to which audiences can hum along.
“What I do is a mixture of songs and what I know about their stories or the stories of the people who sang them,” said Ward, a Rexford-based balladeer.
The veteran musician will perform an Adirondack folk music adventure Saturday at Café Beth El, which will transform Temple Beth El’s auditorium into a cabaret with table seating and service. Along with the music, guests can purchase homemade falafel, desserts and hot and cold beverages.
Although born in the Midwest, Ward became fascinated by the rich folk history of New York and New England in the late 1950s while pursuing an undergraduate degree at Union College. The era brought folk music into pop culture, but Ward thought the sound of New England often played second fiddle.
“There was a lot of interest in folk music of the South and the West, but there had been a strong musical tradition in the Northeast. I wanted to immerse myself in the music of this region,” he said.
Along the way, Ward picked up an arsenal of instruments — including the banjo, guitar, tin whistle, concertina, fiddle and jaw harp — to master the genre. The music he performs reflects a diverse group of sellers.
“It’s a very rich vein,” Ward said of New York’s musical culture. “Balladry goes back to the old country, and a lot of the tunes do, too. You could sing in Canadian French and be absolutely honest.”
Ward feels fortunate to be part of a generation that has worked to preserve the heritage.
“I think it is healthy in the region. We have a bunch of really strong singers who tend to mix traditional songs with songs with a regional sensibility we have written,” he said.
He sees Glens Falls as an ideal place to perform the music because of its connection to waterways.
“Glens Falls is a focus for a lot of regional music. You had the feeder canal and the Hudson River. It was a terminus for lumbering. It sort of connects a couple of regional interests,” he said.
Although his music reflects a bygone era, he is finding a renewed interest in the material among younger audiences.
“It’s not an epidemic like the folk music boom of the 1960s, which was a rare pop music explosion that was commercially driven,” he said. “What you tend to get nowadays are people who discover it and get fascinated. Some of them are becoming wonderful performers in their own right.”
If you go
George Ward performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at Café Beth El at Temple Beth El, 3 Marion Ave. in Glens Falls. Tickets are $13 in advance and $15 at the door. Reservations can be made by calling 792-4364. Refreshments will be available for purchase.
For more information on George Ward, go to www.mulesong.com.