Creatures of Castlefest: Coca

In Creatures of Castlefest we want to put the wondrous creatures, that are part of the world of Castlefest, in the spotlight. From visitor to entertainer, from exhibitor to volunteer. What moves them and which role does Castlefest play in their lives? This week: Coca, harpist of ‘Kelten zonder Grenzen’ and with us at Castlefest since the first edition.

As a musician, you naturally have a very different experience at Castlefest compared to a visitor. I have never even been to Castlefest as a visitor. We’ve played at this festival with Kelten zonder Grenzen, ever since the second edition. I view Castlefest as work, but that is not as bad as it may sound. I just have to be professional, which means I take my attendance seriously. For example, I go to bed on time, we only party after the performance and we make more decisions like that. That’s all okay though because when you are playing on stage and you see everyone dancing, it is all worth it.

All energy you save up for Castlefest for an entire year, to let it all go and enjoy it.

How I prepare myself? We often start with checking at what time we play. We then decide what an appropriate set is for that moment, and what kind of audience we expect. When we accompany the dance workshop, it is convenient when we can continue playing with our own setlist, because most dancers linger. For such a case, we’d make sure to have some extra swinging songs in the set. But we also want to keep those who don’t dance in mind, with slower songs. In addition, we try to find a balance in the number of new songs and familiar songs. There is a lot happening, before we are on stage!

The performance itself is an exchange of energy with the audience. Which can be very beautiful. And every performance has a different energy again. During the Castlefest Winter Edition, we had a seated audience, which brings a totally different energy than a dancing audience. We make a special set for those types of performances. What I really like about Castlefest is that people are coming to the stage willingly. They want to listen, dance, play and when you play a softer song, they join you into that moment of softness. They want to be taken along and experience the concert.

We have had times where we played in the rain, which meant that we had to go further and further to the back with the band because of the cables and instruments, but the dancers kept on dancing. We have played in forty degrees, and even then, the audience continues to dance. And I'm still not sure if I'm more impressed by super hot or super wet. That is so special!

Backstage, it's also one big family reunion, without them being your family. We actually see the other entertainers, exhibitors and of course volunteers only a few times a year. This, of course, leads to chit-chat about how everyone is doing. It is the bond between everyone, the organization, exhibitors and entertainers that provides a good foundation to Castlefest, and I also think that because that bond at the core is so strong, the public will notice it too. If they do pick up that flow, you get that magical atmosphere from Castlefest, is indescribable. It is a kind of invisible, intangible secret that makes Castlefest so special.

It is the basis in which everyone tries their hardest to get that bond right that I think ensures, at least for me, that we always come back to the festival with pleasure.

If there is still time after the performance and cleaning up, I often try to say goodbye to acquaintances, shop keepers and volunteers at the festival. And I often try to look at one or two other bands and I try not to shop too much.

I don’t feel different than a volunteer, employee or other crew member at Castlefest. We are all one big crew here, and everyone has their own tasks. I'm working on stage, someone at the catering is working with food. But we all work towards the same goal.

For me, that goal is to create a nice atmosphere in which people enjoy themselves. Everyone has a role in this. If you only have angry visitors, it doesn't work. A crew that doesn't feel like doing anything, doesn't work either. It is a balance in which everyone takes part. Especially the visitors, but also backstage, we want to have a nice festival. Which is something you have to do together. And I think that that is what makes the Castlefest magic: everyone is open to that connection, we create something beautiful together.

Article and photo by: Dewi van Zeggelaar

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