What is a Hootenanny?

Gil’s Hootenanny, Ottawa’s annual community singalong, celebrates songs of hope and protest with exuberant audience participation.  While not currently in the lexicon of many people, Gil’s Hootenanny is hell-bent on reviving the ‘hootenanny’ for folks of all ages.

Gil’s Hootenanny traces its roots back to folk legends Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie who popularized hootenanniesin the 1950s-1960s as informal folk music gatherings with the audience singing along. Joan Baez famously noted that a hootenanny is to folk singing what a jam session is to jazz.

Gil’s Hootenanny brings people together every May Day to share the stories, struggles and victories of working people and the peace, environmental and human rights movements. First presented in 2010, it has seen increasingly larger audiences singing together in their belief in the power of song to change the world. As Pete Seeger said, “A good song reminds us what we’re fighting for”.

Singing together supports our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. It can also go a long way towards building community and strengthening social bonds

Headlining this 14th annual Gil’s Hootenanny is Canadian singer-songwriter Coco Love Alcorn, winner of the 2021 Canadian Folk Music Award for Contemporary Singer of the Year. An engaging performer who forges a deep connection with her audience, Alcorn will take thehootenanny on a soulful, joyful, and playful musical journey.

This year, Gil’s Hootenanny will open with a rousing procession and a selection of new and traditional sing-along songs led by the multi-talented artist and singer-songwriter Carmel Whittle. Ottawa vocalist Ulyn Georgettewill present a moving tribute to folk singing legend and civil rights activist Odetta. 

Gil’s Hootenanny will take place at 7:00 pm on May Day, Monday, May 1, at 30 Cleary Avenue, the campus of the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa. The venue is accessible, has ample parking and is serviced by OC Transpo. Tickets will be $20; kids can attend free of charge. 

Stay tuned for further information.