The 1999 Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert celebrated the work of his colleagues, Ethel Raim and Martin Koenig. From 1969 to 1974, Ethel and Martin conducted fieldwork for the Smithsonian Festival, particularly in the area of Balkan and Slavic cultures. Their research took them to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Illinois, and New York, as well as Yugoslavia and Greece. For Ethel and Martin, Ralph Rinzler's reputation preceded their meeting him. Raised on Folkways records and as music editor of Sing Out! Magazine, Ethel had heard about Ralph and his work with legendary artists Bill Monroe, the Balfa Brothers, and Doc Watson. Likewise, over ten years before undertaking in-depth field research for the Smithsonian, Martin remembers attending a folk festival at Swarthmore College in 1958 where he heard Ralph perform. The fifth Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert featured New York-based immigrant musicians with whom Ethel and Martin - and the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, formerly the Balkan Arts Center - had worked in recent years.
The Rinzler Concert featured the Yuri Yunakov Ensemble and Ensemble Tereza and reflected the history of the center and its range of programs. Yuri Yunakov hails from Bulgaria - one of the first regions in which the Balkan Arts Center conducted research. Ensemble Tereza came to the attention of the center through the Soviet Jewish Community Cultural Initiative, a multiyear project begun in 1997 that encouraged communities to participate in the conservation of their own heritage and artistic traditions.
Other special events included a "Fiddle Combination" with fiddlers from New Hampshire and Romania who came together to demonstrate the shared customs that existed amid the diversity of this year's Festival. A Conjunto Dance Party, organized in collaboration with the National Museum of American History's Encuentros program, brought Mexican-American dance music to a wider audience from its South Texas home, where it is played at weddings, female coming-of-age ceremonies, graduation dances, and funerals. The dance party also marked the release of a new Smithsonian Folkways recording, Taquachito Nights: Conjunto Music from South Texas, a CD formed out of a partnership between the Smithsonian and the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center.
Ethel Raim was Curator of the Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert, and Kate Rinzler was Program Coordinator. Mary Lee, Kate Rinzler, and Cynthia Vidaurri were Evening Programs Coordinators. The Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert was made possible with support from The Recording Industries Music Performance Trust Funds and the Ruth Mott Foundation.