Rancho Folclórico do Clube Português de Hartford, founded in 1972, is the oldest continuously performing Portuguese dance group in New England. Based at the Portuguese Club in Newington, over fifty members of the Rancho ranging in age from 5 to over 60 come from families of dancers and musicians who have been with the group for decades. Their repertoire of Portuguese songs – and the hand-made costumes – come from all the cultural regions of Portugal including the Azores, reflecting the make-up of the Hartford community.
The concert will take place on the beautiful CHS lawns at 1 Elizabeth St., Hartford. Grounds are open for seating and picnicking from 5 PM, and the music begins at 6 PM. All of the CHS outdoor concerts are free and open to the public. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and food.
This concert is the second in the 2018 season of the Connecticut Historical Society’s outdoor concert series on summer third Thursdays with generous support from the Evelyn W. Preston Memorial Trust Fund, Bank of America N.A., Trustee, and the National Endowment for the Arts and the CT Office of the Arts/DECD.
More About The Artists:
Rancho Folclórico is committed to authenticity in its performances, presenting the songs, dances, and costumes as they exist today in Portugal. Northern dance formations start with male-female pairs dancing in circular rotation or in columns with the partners across from each other. Dancing with the arms raised, often holding castanets, is a distinguishing feature of Portuguese dance. The Rancho’s repertoire includes the vira from the northern coastal province of Minho. Dance movements – vira means “to turn” – reflect the activities and occupations of the area. So the vira refers to movements arising from the fishing activities of Minho, while the chula and malhao from Tras-os-Montes suggest threshing, husking and preparing grain in that farming province.
Accompanying the dancers, the Rancho’s musicians play accordions, violao (guitar), cavaquinho (the early form of ukelele), mandolin, hand-held frame drum, triangle (1), and reco reco (a long piece of serrated wood scraped with a stick). In the music of Ribatejo, a split bamboo stick called caninha (“little cane”) keeps the beat instead of drums. Male and female vocalists sing festive songs, often about wine, romance, and rural life.
Connecticut residents of Portuguese descent number close to 100,000. There is a Portuguese Consulate in Waterbury, signaling the importance of this ethnic group’s presence throughout the state. Large Portuguese communities settled in coastal towns to pursue fishing occupations; many of these immigrants came from the Azores. Factories in inland cities such as Waterbury and Hartford attracted immigrants from rural areas of Portugal who sought work wherever they could find it. The population of entire towns in the northern farming and seafaring provinces of Minho, Tras-os-Montes, and the Beiras came to settle here, so the Rancho’s songs, dances, and costumes reflect these specific regional origins. More recently settlers have come from Ribatejo, bringing different music and dance. In their home areas of northern and central Portugal, many of these farmers and laborers were singers and dancers in the regular festivals, church celebrations, and special events which were always marked with music and dance. In America too the connections to village and traditional practices remain fresh and solid despite the community’s successful integration.
The Portuguese Club in Newington, the Holy Ghost Society in East Hartford, and Our Lady of Fatima Church in Hartford celebrate a regular series of religious and secular festivals including St Martin’s Day in November (commemorating the crop of chestnuts), Festa Divino de Spirito Santo in May, the Rancho’s anniversary in October, the Day of Portugal in June, and the Festival of Folklore in March featuring Ranchos from the US and Canada.