Wild Hymns

Megan Woodland Donley Hewitt, second from right, of the York band the Wild Hymns, has organized a folk festival celebrating women. 

The fight for women’s equality in music is far from a new discussion.

In 2018, only one solo female musician accepted an award on the televised portion of the Grammy Awards ceremony. After the show, now former Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said that female artists needed to “step up” if they wanted to succeed in the industry.

And, in 2015, radio consultant Keith Hill told a trade magazine that stations shouldn’t play female artists back-to-back during a broadcast, likening them to the tomato garnish on a salad, while he believed men were the lettuce.

Megan Woodland Donley Hewitt, frontwoman of the York band the Wild Hymns, has experienced struggles as a woman in music herself.

“In my experience, it still is a challenge to sometimes, I don’t know, be heard, get booked and showcase as a female artist and musician,” Hewitt says.

That carried over to her band’s attempts at being included in festival lineups.

“I really enjoy playing festivals and I want to play more, and sometimes it’s really hard to get in. … So I actually was like, fine, we’re just going to make our own festival,” Hewitt says.

That was 2016, and now her creation — the Harvest Moon/Women of Folk Festival — is in its fourth year. The 2019 installment will be Sunday at Moon Dancer Winery in Wrightsville.

“I just wanted to have a space to sort of lift up and support and give voice to all these amazing women that I know,” Hewitt says.

While the event celebrates women, Hewitt wants to be clear that all are welcome.

“It’s not meant to exclude men,” Hewitt says. “There actually are men who come up on the stage, and men are welcome to come. There are some male vendors, and there are also genderfluid people and nonbinary people and gay and straight and all that ground. So I always try to make sure that people know that it’s not a women-only festival.”

Last year’s event drew about 200, Hewitt says. This year she hopes to see 300 to 400 people at Moon Dancer Winery.

Each band at Sunday’s event features women and is rooted in folk, Hewitt says, but notes that there are many styles of folk represented.

There are four local bands on the bill, Indian Summer Jars, Hens of the Wood, Gravel Quire and Hewitt’s own Wild Hymns.

Hewitt says her band will perform songs from its most recent album, “Stories With the Moon,” which was recorded at Right Coast Sound in Columbia. The new record is more experimental than the band’s past releases Hewitt says, and it has a warm, vintage sound from old-school analog tape.

Two musicians from outside of Pennsylvania will play as well: Cumberland Honey from West Virginia, and Jessica Smith, a British artist who is based in France.

The day will kick off at noon with a yoga class, which is included in the price of admission. Hewitt, who is a yoga teacher herself, enlists one of her yogi friends to lead, as she’s usually busy handling day-of organization.

There will be an array of artisans selling goods, including handmade jewelry and herbal healing products. Artists will apply henna and jagua, an indigo-blue ink, to willing attendees, and tarot readers, massage therapists and reiki practitioners also will be on-site.

Hewitt says a table will be set up for a clothing swap, where attendees can place their unwanted goods and take pieces donated by other guests.

Moon Dancer will sell wine, cider and beer, as well as wood-fired pizzas from its brick oven. Hewitt says another independent vendor will sell vegan items.

Overall, Hewitt sees the atmosphere at the festival as one of acceptance and celebration.

“It’s so beautiful and awesome, because I think when women come together and they are lifted up and they are in a space where they feel safe and supported and seen, it’s like the most beautiful energy,” Hewitt says. “And that sounds so cheesy and woo woo, but I really don’t mean it like that. It’s very community-oriented and fluid and just like fun, and a lot of camaraderie and connection.”