Chosen as Connecticut's Official State Troubadours in 1993!
Sandy and Caroline Paton have travelled throughout the United States, Canada and the British Isles in search of folk songs and old ballads. Their vast repertoire derives from the traditional ballad and song lore of the entire English-speaking world. Behind almost every song is a fascinating story relating how, from whom, and where that song was discovered. One may be a lively banjo tune from an ex-rodeo rider in Oklahoma, another a plaintive lament obtained from a North Carolina mountain farmer, or a rare ballad collected from an Irish grandmother in the Adirondacks, a stone cutter in the Catskills, or a travelling "tinker" with whom they once camped in the beautiful Sottish Highlands.
In 1961, together with Lee B. Haggerty, Sandy and Caroline founded Folk-Legacy Records, Inc., a company devoted to making our traditional music, and the contemporary music that reflects its values, available to the general public. To date, they have produced over one hundred and twenty albums, CDs and casettes of folk music and tales and are currently working on several more. These highly respected recordings are distributed nationally and many are used in classes at colleges offering courses in folklore. The Patons operate the company from their home, a large, remodeled barn on a rural hillside in Sharon, Connecticut, which also serves as Folk-Legacy's recording studio.
Accompanying themselves on guitar, 12-string guitar, Appalachian dulcimer and autoharp, Sandy and Caroline have presented concerts at many colleges and universities throughout the country, from the University of Maine to the Universities of California. They have performed in hundreds of public and private schools, libraries, coffeehouses and community centers. Their enthusiasm, their obvious love for the songs they sing, and their easy rapport with audiences of all ages are key factors in their success. Their music is gentle, their style informal, but their scholarship is precise. The material used in each of their programs is carefully selected to illustrate the various types of songs that make up our rich musical heritage.
In recognition of their work as singers, folk song collectors and folklorists, the Patons were selected by the Connecticut Commission on the Arts to be Connecticut's Official State Troubadours in 1993. They also have been honored by the California Traditional Music Society, the Memphis Dulcimer Festival in Tennessee, and the Eisteddfod Folk Festival at the University of Massachusetts in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts.
Carolyn Robson is a professional singer and musician specialising in traditional folk song and dance. Her extensive repertoire consists mainly of songs from her native Northumberland and Scotland as well as from other parts of the British Isles. Many of her songs are performed a cappella.
Carolyn has worked as a radio presenter and regularly sings on radio. In 1981 she made her first album, 'Banks of Tyne' on the Dingle label and more recently can be heard singing on Kathryn Tickell's CD 'The Northumberland Collection'. Her latest album, 'All the fine young men' was produced by her own company, Reiver Records.
Carolyn is also featured on REAL, a 2001 CD release by the Scottish Borders Tourist Board. The CD comprises 17 tracks by various artists and reflects the rich literary, historical and cultural traditions of the Scottish Borders. All proceeds from sales go to charity.
Tom Spiers was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. His mother's side of the family had a great love for singing and they sang anything and everything - from traditional Scots songs to Frank Sinatra's popular ballads. Tom started attending Aberdeen Folk Song Club in 1962, not long after it had started, and played fiddle in a group doing a mixture of folk styles from Bluegrass to Scottish Traditional. After that, he started singing along in the chorus: initially without the fiddle, and latterly with the fiddle, without really thinking about it. He was encouraged to learn traditional material initially by Arthur Argo, and then by Peter Hall, who invited him to join a new group he was forming; this group later became The Gaugers. Tom’s songs are often performed unaccompanied or enriched with sometimes lively, sometimes haunting fiddle.
Pete Shepheard has had a tremendous influence on traditional music and singing over the years - collecting, recording, organising and generally making it possible for source singers to be heard. His involvement began in the early sixties when he was a founder member of the renowned St Andrews Folk Club and his interest was so strong that he started his own record label (Springthyme), which has featured many of the traditional singers who were considered 'uncommercial' by other labels. Pete is himself a very fine singer of Scottish, English and Irish songs
Tom Spiers and Arthur Watson, the surviving members of The Gaugers, still sing together, in a trio with Pete Shepheard, and in Flash Company, an 'informal conjunction' with the female a cappella group Palaver.
Norman Kennedy is an unaccompanied singer of traditional Scottish songs. He learned his songs naturally by growing up around some of the great Scottish singers of the last generation. He has a wide repertoire of songs learned directly from them without the facility of tapes and records. He learned them, not because he wanted to be a folk singer, but because even as a boy he was drawn to the music.
In concert, Norman draws only from that body of old songs. His concerts have a relaxed informality about them. He comes out on stage, takes a seat and seemingly starts a conversation with the audience. His dry sense of humor and memory of the stories surrounding the songs make his listeners appreciate not only the old songs, but the old ways as well. "You can tell stories, you can recite them, you can sing them," he says. Singing and recollecting are all part of the same cloth. With this directness he presents ballads -- stories of love won and lost, betrayal, death -- in a way that holds everyone's attention.
Norman shares what is enduring about traditional songs - their authenticity to life, the humorous turns of every-day events, the beauty of old melodies. As Norman explains it: "These songs are my roots; they're older and more important than I am." This unpretentiousness makes Norman's music as wonderful to the audience as it is important to him.
We strongly recommend that you purchase tickets for Nowell Sing We Clear in advance. Advance tickets can be purchased at Sandy's Music in Cambridge, or you can send a SASE and check to FSSGB, Inc., 58 Exeter Street, Arlington, MA 02474, (781) 648-4045.
December is a month of many holiday festivities. For many years one tradition in the New England area has been the performance of Nowell Sing We Clear. It is performed by John Roberts and Tony Barrand, experts of English traditional folk songs, and Fred Breunig and Andy Davis, well known in New England as dance callers and musicians.
Nowell Sing We Clear celebrates Christmas as it was known for centuries in Britain and North America. The songs come from an age when the mid-winter season was a time for joyous celebration and vigorous expression of older, perhaps pagan, religious ideas. Many of these ancient customs are the basis of today's holiday traditions, such as carol singing from door-to- door and the adorning of houses and churches with garlands of evergreen.
The first part of the program, "Leaping and Dancing," celebrates the birth of Christ as told in the vigorous carols and songs found in the folk traditions of Britain and North America. "To Drive the Cold Winter Away," the second half, offers carols heard in the twelve magic days following the winter solstice. A mummers play from Kentucky is also performed. The play is typical of folk dramas symbolizing and portraying the death of the land at mid-winter and its subsequent rebirth in the spring.
The pageant is stamped with the energetic dance band sound of fiddle, button accordian, electric piano, and concertina and includes traditional step dancing. Intelligent narration by Tony Barrand and audience participation have always been an important part of the program.
Four volumes of Nowell Sing We Clear can be heard on four cassettes or two compact discs. One disc is a compilation of the first three volumes which were originally on record. The most recent recording Hail, Smiling Morn is available on cassette and compact disk format. All recordings are available from Golden Hind Records.
This entertaining and informative concert is a perfect way to start the holiday season. It should not be missed!
Our January concert featuring Robbie O'Connell promises to be a pleasure. Robbie is known as a performer who ably bridges the traditional and songwriting worlds. A nephew of the Clancy Brothers, he began to play guitar and sing at age thirteen and soon became a regular performer at weekly folk concerts held at his parents' small hotel in Tipperary, Ireland. Later, during school vacations, he toured folk clubs in England and -- as an Irish entertainer -- in the United States. This latter experience he would later recall in his well known satirical song "You're Not Irish," based on all the requests he got for songs like "Danny Boy."
O'Connell has a rich and varied performing history. In 1977 he joined the Clancy Brothers and two years later moved to Massachusetts. Since then, in addition to his solo career, he has also performed with Jimmy Keane (as Aengus), as well as with his uncle Liam Clancy and Liam's son Donal.
He participated in the Festival of Mountain Music and Dance on a five nation tour of Latin America, and he won a prestigious Boston Music Award as Outstanding Celtic Act. He was also featured in the critically acclaimed TV series and album called "Brining It All Back Home," and in 1994 he headlined a celebration of Boston-based Irish music at Lincoln Center in New York.
In addition to his strong traditional credentials, O'Connell is a talented songwriter -- sometimes employing his keen sense of humor, and sometimes evoking more contemplative feelings. As one reviewer indicated, throughout his songs he demonstrates his "ability to take an everyday experience or thought and turn it into an effective structured song. All his material is melodic and accessible." In fact, his second solo album, The Love of the Land, was voted the #1 acoustic album of 1989 by WUMB's staff and listeners. He has performed on a number of albums, singing both solo and as part of a group.
In the past few years, O'Connell has taught songwriting classes at the Augusta Heritage Arts Workshop in Elkins, West Virginia. He also taught at WUMB's first Summer Acoustic Music Week, where I had the pleasure of working with him. He is warm and accessible, sharing his music and his insights with his students, and pulling his audiences into the spirit of his music. Expect opportunities to sing, to laugh, and to be moved by a variety of good songs!
Wondering what to expect?
Listen to some sound clips on CDBaby.com!
The annual FSSGB members' concert is always a popular event. Our members perform songs which range from traditional ballads to original compositions, and from instrumental to a cappella pieces. Some of the instruments that have been played at this concert in the past include violin, cello, banjo, mandolin, guitar, bass, keyboard and concertina. Some FSSGB members who have performed at this event have gone on to have successful performing careers, such as Elijah Wald, Mark Ryer, Fool's Errand and Merle Roesler.
Many new musical relationships have formed as a result of the members' concert, including our hosts for the evening, Two for the Show - Ellen Schmidt and Jake Kensinger! They began playing together many years ago for a members' concert, and have since become very active performers in the local folk music scene.
Members are invited to sign up to perform - one song or a spoken word piece. You may perform alone or with others. Some performers have been participating for years; others will do so for the first time. Children are most welcome. The program will feature professional musicians as well as living room folk enthusiasts. All are welcome. The Midweek Singers are an important part of the program as are the many members who show up especially for this event. The audience is always supportive and lively.
To sign up, you may contact Ellen by email at firstname.lastname@example.org by February 9th.
The Johnson Girls is an energetic all-woman a cappella group performing folk music with an emphasis on songs of the sea and shore. Each member of the group brings a specialty and style to the ensemble. The Johnson Girls’ extensive repertoire of both traditional and contemporary music includes songs with an Afro-Caribbean influence, of the inland waterways, of fishing, Irish, Anglo-American, Italian and French Canadian ballads and work songs, and much more. With a sound that has been called “exciting”, “haunting”, “uplifting”, and “full of harmony”, the Johnson Girls give “hair-raising” performances of powerhouse chanteys, tender ballads and just plain fun songs, bringing audiences to their feet wherever they go. The audience becomes part of the show, singing along with many of the songs. The Johnson Girls have performed for standing room only crowds at UK festivals and have appeared on Oscar Brand’s radio show.
In addition to powerful performances, The Johnson Girls have led participatory workshops and demonstrations during festivals and folk weeks/weekends on many topics including but by no means limited to: women and the sea, contemporary sea songs, harmony, sea chanteys 101, work songs: old and new, fishing: then and now, Afro-Caribbean songs, ballads, collecting, landsmen, sailors and ladies, and more.
One newspaper account of The Johnson Girls at the Wadebridge Festival in Cornwall, UK said: "The Johnson Girls, shanty singers from America, took the place by storm." "Those who thought a shanty singer had to be male, bearded and with a beer gut, had better think again."
Following their performances at the Mystic Seaport Museum’s Sea Music Festival in Connecticut, Festival Director Craig Edwards wrote: "The Johnson Girls turned in magnificent performances at the 22nd Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival, including a powerhouse main stage slot on Saturday night that demonstrated that you’re not great female chantey singers, you’re great chantey singers, period. " A world class act."
The Johnson Girls have 2 CDs, "The Johnson Girls", and the recently released "On the Rocks". Both have received rave reviews in the US and UK in such publications as Dirty Linen, Sing Out, Traditional Music Maker, and Living Tradition magazines, and the Folk Music Society of NY newsletter.
Jacqueline Schwab is a folk and classical improvisational pianist who plays "gorgeously spare piano" (The Boston Globe) yet "sounds as if she has an orchestra at her fingertips" (Sing Out). Chosen by the renowned Ken Burns for numerous public television documentaries due to the emotional expression in her playing, Jacqueline has performed on the soundtracks for the Grammy award-winning Civil War, the Emmy award-winning Baseball and Mark Twain, among others. She has performed at the White House for President Clinton in 1997 to celebrate Burns' Lewis and Clark series and also at the Smithsonian in 2000 celebrate its exhibition on the Presidency.
Jacqueline's signature style defies easy categorization, fitting somewhere in the crossover between folk, traditional, classical and new age music. Although many people connect improvisation with jazz, Jacqueline's inspirations are traditional music of England, Scotland, Ireland, and America, blues, vintage tangos, Bach's dance suites, nineteenth-century parlor piano, and the turn-of-the-twentieth-century sounds of Satie, Debussy and Bartok for starters. In the unique Third Stream program at New England Conservatory of Music, from which Jacqueline received a Bachelor of Music degree with honors, she was encouraged to meld different musical traditions into a personal style. She has "an uncanny sensitivity to the moods and proprieties of music from other eras," wrote New England Folk Almanac reviewer Scott Alarik.
Jacqueline performs solo piano concerts of vintage American and traditional English and Scottish music, creating the intimate feeling of an old-fashioned parlor setting. A Lexington Minuteman solo concert review said, "(Her playing was) full of colors and introspection which drew the listener into a musical reverie from which it was hard to return."
Ian is one of North America's best- known singers of English song. His musical roots were in choral music; as a boy soprano in London, England, he sang for a couple of years with one of the Westminster abbey choirs. Later, as a teenager in the sixties, he discovered the British folk music revival, and honed his skills as an interpreter of folk song, not to mention his powerful voice, in the pub-based British folk club environment.
He moved to Canada from his native London, England, in 1970, just in time to help found Toronto's much-loved and notorious Friends of Fiddlers' Green. Since then, with or without them, he has played folk concerts, clubs, and festivals from Vancouver to Bermuda. More recently, Ian teamed up with fellow Ottawans Shelley Posen and Ann Downey, to form the vocal harmony trio Finest Kind, whose eclectic mixture of hair-raising vocal harmony styles has been recorded on Lost in a Song (1996), Heart's Delight (1999) and Silks & Spices (2003). Since early 2003, he has also been working with the Ottawa band JiiG, with the multiple musical talents of James Stephens, Greg T. Brown and Ian Clark.
lan is known for his strong, direct singing style. He is something of a virtuoso on the English concertina, delighting audiences with hard driving reels, graceful waltzes, and luscious chordal accompaniments. Ian writes a regular column for the venerable folk magazine, Sing Out. and is co-founder and a current director of Ottawa's Old Sod Folk Music Society.
Betty and Norman McDonald hail from the north-east of England (canny Newcastle) and sing a variety of Geordie, Scottish and American songs in harmony, some a capella, but most accompanied by banjo and guitar, or guitar and autoharp.
Having lived in Scotland for twelve years they now live in Southwest England in Slimbridge Gloucestershire and are well known in the area for their appearances at folk clubs and festivals.
Concert held in conjunction with the
Cambridge Center for Adult Education Dulcimer Festival
Saturday, April 30, 2005, 8pm
St. John's Methodist Church
80 Mt. Auburn Street, Watertown
$15.00 general admission, $10.00 FSSGB members
Children 7-15: $5, Children 6 and under free
(Members' children 15 and under free)
(See map and calculate directions on MapQuest)
For public transportation, check the MBTA web site.
Jean Ritchie was born and raised in Viper, Kentucky in the heart of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, youngest in a family of fourteen children born to Balis and Abigail Ritchie. Walled in by the rugged Cumberland ridges, the Ritchies and their neighbors farmed their hillsides using primitive methods and entertained themselves with play-party games and ballads handed down through the generations from their Scottish, English and Irish ancestors. Jean is a graduate of Cumberland College and the University of Kentucky where she earned a Phi Beta Kappa key, taking her bachelor's degree in social work.
By 1950, Ritchie was an important figure on the New York folk scene, her influence probably best shown by the fact that dulcimers, previously relatively foreign instruments in New York, began selling at a brisk rate. Today Ritchie is credited with almost singlehandedly reviving interest in the mountain dulcimer and with helping to gain prominence as more than a regional folk instrument. As Ritchie's reputation grew, Oxford Press encouraged her to begin working on a book about her family and its music. Singing Family of the Cumberlands, as it came to be known, published in 1955, was reviewed as "an American classic". Nine more books, including the prize winning Celebration of Life, were to follow. The early 50's continued to be eventful for Ritchie. Three months after marrying New York photographer George Pickow, Ritchie met a Haverford College student named Jac Holzman, who told her he and a friend had just started a small record company they called Elektra and asked if she'd consider launching their folk music division. The result - the first record for Elektra and for Jean - was the 10-inch LP Jean Ritchie, Singing Traditional Songs of Her Kentucky Mountain Family. Since then, Ritchie has recorded more than 30 albums for different labels, including her own Greenhays label, which she and Pickow set up in '79 to assure availability of Ritchie's records.
Even though Ritchie still resides in New York she stays active performing in many of Kentucky's summer music festivals, telling her stories of family and experiences growing up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.
She says it best, "I believe that old songs have things to say to the modern generation, and that's why they've stayed around. That's also why I am still singing. I'm not afraid to be myself. Agents say you have to change and grow, but I believe you can sing the same songs and sing them better. I guess if I had to categorize myself or pin down a description of what I do, I'd have to say I'm a carrier of tradition. "
Sea songs galore form three accomplished performers...Ye Mariners All promises a great evening of singing and playing, with plenty of choruses.
Widely acclaimed for his lively and entertaining presentations of English folk songs, John Roberts has performed at major festivals, colleges, clubs and coffeehouses thorugh the United State, Canada and his native England. His vast repertoire includes the ballads and songs of the sea, of rural pursuits, of social and sociable situations, of industrial toil and strife, and much more.
Larry Young sings and plays violin and mandolin. He has a wealth of performance experience locally and nationally, and has performed with folk music luminaries such as Bob Franke. As part of the duo Poor Richard's Penny, he released a CD of American colonial music entitled Lovely Nancy.
John Rockwell sings and plays guitar, bodhran, and the bones. His passion for maritime music began while performing in the Sea Revels at the Emerson Majestic Theatre in Boston. He later sang and acted aboard a ship that toured the Boston Harbor with ah program called Boston By Sea: A Living History. He can be heard on two Revels' CDs: A Revel's Victorian Christmas and Homeward Bound.
Ye Mariners All takes its name from an old love song that invites any passing sailor to stop in the pub, have a pint, and enjoy the conviviality of friends until shore leave is over -- or the money is gone!
With impressive command of a wide range of traditional and contemporary material, Massachusetts balladeer and songstress Debra Cowan can draw listeners in to a haunting version of an ancient ballad, transport them to the world of workplaces old and new, and delight them with an outrageous comic song. She also shares the history of her traditional material, which is an integral part of the songs she sings. Her fresh interpretation and carefully selected material make music come alive for audiences of all ages.
With the 2001 release of her solo album "The Long Grey Line", Debra is becoming a familiar name in and around folk music both nationally and in the United Kingdom. Early 2004 saw her performing in English folk clubs from Cornwall to Yorkshire and ending her tour with successful performances at the prestigious Lancaster Maritime Festival. In 2003, she appeared on WFMT's “Folkstage, a live radio concert from WFMT radio in Chicago. In early 2003, she participated in a panel discussion of Woody Guthrie’s life and legacy along with Fred Hellerman, Oscar Brand, and jornalist Dave Marsh and appeared at the Champlain Valley Folk Festival. 2002 found her as a Formal Showcase Artist at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Annual Conference (NERFA) and as a headliner at the internationally renowned Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival in Mystic, CT. She contributed vocals to the 2001 Folk Legacy release "The Songs and Ballads of Hattie Mae Tyler Cargill" and was selected as an Emerging Showcase Artist in the 2001 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. In 2000, 2001, and 2002 she was a featured performer at the Greater New Bedford Summerfest Folk Festival in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Even though Debra has been performing since she was 18 years old, she made a choice to leave a successful public school teaching career in 1997 to begin a professional folk music career full time. During that year, she lived in Edinburgh, Scotland where she was one of the resident musicians in Edinburgh's premiere folk music pub Sandy Bell’s Bar. While in Scotland, she studied the singing of such notable Scottish traditional singers such as Gordeanna McCulloch, Christine Kydd, and Ray Fisher. It was at this time that she developed her signature unaccompanied singing style .
Although classically trained, Debra’s eclectic musical tastes have led her in the past to perform many different musical styles. In the early 1980’s, she was lead vocalist for the Redding, California swing and bluegrass band, EZ Pickin’. From 1988-1993, she was one-fourth of the Chico, California based group Tar’d & Feather’d, who performed at the grand opening of the world renown Sierra Nevada Brewery Brew Pub and were known for their innovative song arrangements and hilarious stage antics.
Debra’s vocal performances leave her audiences feeling that they have just taken part in something special. She presents her slow songs and ballads with emotive and well-focused vocals that are often compared to Joan Baez, Maddy Prior, and June Tabor. Her up-beat material inspires people to sing along and tap their feet. She is a warm, witty performer who is equally at home with traditional, contemporary, and children’s music.
Sara Grey is one of the most gifted and knowledgeable artists working in the field of traditional music. Sara's singing is both powerful and sweet, with a distinctive and lovely tremolo. It is a voice well suited to native American songs and ballads of Ireland and Scotland.
It is not Sara's lovely voice alone that makes her one of the most popular singers on the folk scene; on many of her songs Sara accompanies herself by frailing a five string banjo and, when playing dance tunes, it is obvious why she is regarded as one of the foremost exponents of the clawhammer style. As well as singing and playing, Sara is well known for her storytelling - specialising in stories from New England where she grew up learning many of her stories from her father.
"She is one of a select band of performers who still breathe life into traditional ballads." Vic Smith, Folk Roots "Sara Grey has quietly and powerfully taken over the mantle of premier interpreter of American traditional music." Tor Jonassen, WRDV Sara grew up in New Hampshire but has lived in North Carolina, Ohio, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wales, Scotland and England. As a youngster in North Carolina she developed a love for old time songs and banjo music. She cites Kyle Creed as the chief influence on her understated, syncopated clawhammer banjo style. She has now been performing professionally for more than 30 years.
Sara will be performing with her son, Kieron Means. Kieron's voice is especially striking, achieving the rare combination of a high lonesome edge with a warm richness of timbre, and it has a power to move the listener that few of his generation can match. His guitar playing is unconventional, but it's highly effective, while his stage presence is charismatic yet laid-back. His songs range from old-time through the blues - which he sings with startling conviction - to the work of tradition-influenced songwriters, and his own composition "The Shark" has people who know a good song when they hear one nodding in approval.
Tim Dennehy, broadcaster, singer/songwriter and national teacher, was born in Cahirciveen, Ireland. Tim brings that special mystical, mythical quality to his radio show, "Keep in Touch". "Keep in Touch" is a miscellany of music, song, and poetry, and a bilingually golden linking of all items with a voice which can be heard on his classic CDs like "A Thimbleful of Song"," A Winter's Tear" and "Farewell to Miltown Malbay".
Tim is the founder of Dublin's Góilín Singers, the Clare Festival of Traditional Singing, and a million spontaneous sessions in between. All that performing skill filters through his programs, as likely to feature live music in studio as some gem recorded in a Clare kitchen years ago. Outside the studio, he regularly performs with Garry O'Briain and he is, we are told, working on a biography of his neighbour soulmate Sigerson Clifford.
Tim can be heard often quoting a couple of lines, which capture much of what he brings to his listeners:
"Shape the silence to a golden reel
and dance away all care;
through the night I hear you whisper
dance a set for me in Clare".
"The land and lore of his native Kerry and adopted County Clare predominate in songs that are powerfully rendered and intensly felt". (Nuala O'Connor, Irish Times)
"These thoughtful and reflective songs help to contribute to an interesting and varied offering from one of the best traditional singer-songwriters of the present time". (The Living Tradition)
Keith Kendrick is an exceptionally fine singer and an equally adept concertina player of both the English and Anglo systems. He selects and writes wonderful songs and is not afraid to shape or rework material. His songs are mainly English, and a mix of traditional and contemporary. Keith hails from Derbyshire in the East Midlands of England, and has been around the UK folk scene for several decades now.