SF Spring Arts Festival — A Whirlwind World Tour In Gainesville, April 9-10

There’s international excitement at the 42nd annual SF Spring Arts Festival, where diversity is the name of the entertainment. “You can go around the world with the entertainment at SF Spring Arts — we have everything,” said Kathryn Lehman, festival coordinator.

Both festival stages will feature a large number of performing groups, many with a foreign flavor. To name but a few, the Lost Safari Drummers represent African and Afro-Caribbean music. O’Reilly and Co. is an Irish band, and Latin music is featured by Marimba Ayin.

Middle Eastern belly dance and flamenco are performed by Ethnic Dance Expressions, and the Klezmer Katz play lively Jewish music. A diverse repertoire is possessed by the Gainesville Youth Chorus, which has toured and performed in many countries. And there are other international performers as well.

O’Reilly and Co. has been in existence for about 20 years, with variations of members, but always adhering to Irish music. When core members John and Lisa Johnson met up with Jim and Joyce Lillquist two years ago on the stage of the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, the newest version of the band sprang forth.

Drawn together by a shared love of Irish music, the quartet plays guitar, Celtic harp, hammered dulcimer, concertina, tin whistle, autoharp, and also includes a vocalist and backup singer. Some of their reels, jigs, slip jigs (a jig in a different tempo), Irish polkas, and songs will sound familiar, but the group also includes some less well-known traditional airs.

O’Reilly and Co. performs regularly at local venues. At the SF Spring Arts Festival, the group is scheduled to appear 3-4 p.m. Saturday, April 9, on the Garden Stage on the Thomas Center lawn.

Marimba Ayin plays a mixture of folkloric music and the popular music of Guatemala. “This music is the national music of Guatemala and the marimba is their national instrument, so it is a prideful thing for Guatemalans to see and hear such a performance,” said Professor Brian Holder, band director and a founding member.

“The group was formed in 2006 by graduate music students at UF,” said Holder. “We wrote grants to purchase instruments from Guatemala and to bring an instructor from there to teach us. The outfits we wear were handmade there.”

The band is composed of seven students, one of whom doubles on trumpet. One band member is a Santa Fe College student and the other six are University of Florida students. (The word Ayin means “alligator” in the Guatemalan Quiché dialect — a subtle homage to UF.)

Marimba Ayin appears locally, has performed at the Corn Maya festival in Jupiter, Fla. and has toured the state of Ohio. At the SF Spring Arts Festival, the group is scheduled to appear noon-1 p.m. Sunday, April 10, on the Garden Stage on the Thomas Center lawn.

Gainesville Youth Chorus (GYC) is a children’s international touring choir with 63 members. The group’s repertoire ranges from ethnic songs to Broadway show tunes.

“GYC has made four international tours and been to Italy, Austria, Ireland, England, Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland,” said Deborah Desforges, GYC artistic director. “We plan a tour in 2012 to Ireland, Scotland and England.”

Youngsters from ages seven to 11 comprise the Concertina Choir, while those aged 12-18 form the Concert Choir. Members come from as far away as Ocala and Lake City, and must pass an audition to join the chorus.

But the youngsters of GYC don’t come to the SF Spring Arts Festival just to perform. They also volunteer by helping to staff the Coke booths. “They love it — it’s a way to give back to our community and enjoy the festival from another viewpoint,” said Desforges.

Gainesville Youth Chorus appears at community and regional events. At the SF Spring Arts Festival, the group is scheduled to perform 10-10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 9, on the Center Stage at the corner of NE 6th Ave. and NE 1st St.

The SF Spring Arts Festival is the longest running arts festival in North Central Florida. Hours are 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, and noon-5:30 p.m. Sunday, April 10, rain or shine. Admission is free.

SF Spring Arts was voted Florida’s best arts and crafts festival by readers of Florida Monthly magazine and has been recognized as one of the top 20 events by the Southeast Tourism Society. Visit www.springartsfestival.com.