2017 Performer Playlist:
Cast of “Forward into Light”
For nearly two decades, the Vermont band Atlantic Crossing has been thrilling concert audiences and contra-dancers with traditional songs and acoustic instrumental music from New England–music which has deep Celtic roots in the British Isles and in French & Maritime Canada–together with original compositions inspired by these traditions. Viveka Fox on fiddle, bodhran, djembe; Peter Macfarlane on fiddle, low whistle, vocals; Tristan Henderson on mandolin, bouzouki, tenor banjo, foot percussion, vocals, and more; Rick Klein on guitar, vocals.
Grammy-winning fingerpicker Pat Donohue’s devotion to acoustic guitar has made him an American standard. Borrowing bits and pieces of the styles of finger-picking pioneers he admired, he taught himself to play, building a repertoire flavored by Robert Johnson, Blind Blake, Muddy Waters, Django Reinhart, Merle Travis, and Chet Atkins (who calls Pat one of the greatest fingerpickers in the world today.
Drawing on the legacy of such blues greats as Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Blind Blake, Gary Davis, and Blind Boy Fuller, Scott Ainslie has taken his “fiery picking and slide work and his deep passionate bluesman’s growl” (Dirty Linen) to stages and classrooms across North America and beyond. This year, he’s teaming up with consummate musician and storyteller Reggie Harris, who combines a strong folk and gospel legacy with a solid background in classical, rock, and pop music.
Three accomplished musicians with eclectic tastes—fiery flamenco, baroque, Latin, and Appalachian—collaborate to create something unique: GX3+. The result is innovative arrangements of the traditional, classical, and Latin repertoire, as well as stunning original compositions by Maria. Ray Andrews on baroque guitar, charango, banjo, dulcimer; Sten Isachsen on classical guitar, mandolin, cajon; Maria Zemantauski on flamenco guitar, guilele, cajon.
Two of America’s most respected collectors, researchers, and interpreters of traditional music, Jeff Davis and Dave Ruch have each traveled far to learn from “source singers”—the people who built and settled our communities: farmers, miners, domestics, lumbermen, fiddlers, women, soldiers, children, immigrants, sailors, Native Americans, canallers, and more. Jeff plays fiddle, banjo, mandocello, guitar, spoons, jaw’s harps, and a few instruments hand-made by folk craftsmen. Dave plays banjo, guitar, mandolin, octave mandolin, bones, spoons, washboard, and jaw harp.
Connecticut’s first mariachi band, Fiesta del Norte is a Mexican Mariachi band performing the traditional folk and popular music of Mexico. The band’s repertoire spans from the Mariachis of Jalisco, to the Nortenas of Chihuahua, to the harp music of Vera Cruz, down to the Marimba music of Chiapas. All this played on authentic instruments such as guitar, vihuela, guitarron, violin, and trumpet, and with beautiful singing throughout.
Bady-Dorzhu Ondar, Ayan-ool Sam, and Ayan Shirizhik are Alash, masters of Tuvan throat singing (as well as traditional instruments), a remarkable technique for singing multiple pitches at the same time. Alash are deeply committed to traditional Tuvan music and culture. At the same time, they are fans of western music. Believing that traditional music must constantly evolve, the musicians subtly infuse their songs with western elements, creating their own unique style that is fresh and new, yet true to their Tuvan musical heritage.
As a singer, actress, writer, and musician, Anne Hills has continuously built a reputation of merit. She is best known for her singing and interpretive gifts, while her commitment to social justice and to children keeps her busy with benefit concerts and community-service projects. Whether she is singing her own song, the words of 6-year-old Opal Whiteley, or the Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley, accompanied with her guitar, her banjo, or simply a Tibetan bell, she puts her whole heart and soul into the moment.
Joe Jencks is an international touring performer, songwriter, entertainer, and educator. Noted for his unique merging of musical beauty, social consciousness, and spiritual exploration, Joe weaves a diverse web of stories with brilliant musical skill, inviting even the most rigid of hearts to open, and inviting all of us to live inside of our passions and our beliefs. Si Kahn has worked for over 50 years as a civil rights, labor, and community organizer—and as a musician. His songs of family, community, love, work, and freedom have been recorded and performed by hundreds of artists. As an organizer, Si has worked with such groups as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the United Mine Workers of America, the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (now part of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees), and Grassroots Leadership, which he founded in 1980.
The Jeremiahs combine traditional and contemporary sounds to create their own brand of Urban Folk music. Since 2013, the quartet has trailblazed across Ireland and Europe, playing some of the top venues and festivals. Joe Gibney (vocals, whistle) offers a diverse repertoire of songs, from rousing sea shanties to emotional traditional songs of hardship, love, and loss; James Ryan (guitar, bouzouki) draws on a wide a range of influences from different genres and traditions, evident is his unique percussive backing style; Jean Christophe Morel (fiddle, mandola) brings an exotic style of fiddling to the band’s sound.
Heather Pierson is an award-winning pianist, multi -genre singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, bandleader, and performer. From New Orleans-style jazz and blues to rousing Americana and poignant folk narratives, Heather’s live performances, both solo and with her Acoustic Trio (Davy Sturtevant on strings and cornet and Shawn Nadeau on bass) move seamlessly and effortlessly from one style to the next, and a growing catalog of wildly divergent CD releases reflects her boundless creativity.
Seaglass is an exhilarating dance and concert band that combines the diverse talents of three seasoned and dynamic musicians. Their repertoire ranges from classic New England contra dance tunes to French balfolk and English country dance music, with roots-rock grooves and captivating improvisations interwoven. Their concert repertoire includes vocals that range from swing to cowboy songs. Rachel Bell plays accordion; Andrew VanNorstrand plays guitar; Eileen Nicholson plays fiddle.
Susan Kevra burst onto the contra dance scene in the early 1990s in New England and honed her craft at her monthly dance series in Greenfield, MA for ten years. She now makes her home in Nashville, Tennessee, where she calls and organizes English, contra and square dances. Susan is noted for her warmth, clear teaching and lovely voice. Dancers on both sides of the Atlantic appreciate her diverse repertoire of singing squares, Western patter calls, contras and English Country dances.
The Vododeeyos are Joel Eckhaus and Tim Findlen. Maine’s “Ukulele Eck” has been “out there” for four decades or so, with his ukuleles, mandolins, tenor guitars, banjos, and musical saws in string bands, swing bands, vaudeville shows, and weird gigs of all sorts. Tim Findlen is the former leader of Over A Cardboard Sea, Portland’s premier ukulele novelty act. When not performing, they are likely to be found covered in sawdust, building and repairing the tools of their trade, especially ukes, at Joel’s Earnest Uncommon Musical Instruments.
Old-time string band The Down Hill Strugglers extend the legacy of the New Lost City Ramblers by bringing archaic sounds into the present. Unlike Sisyphus, these guys are desperately struggling to keep a huge boulder from rolling down a hill. Walker Shepard on fiddle, banjo, guitar, harmonica, voice; Jackson Lynch on fiddle, banjo, guitar, voice; Eli Smith on banjo, guitar, mandolin, harmonica, Jews harp, pump organ, voice. John Cohen often joins them, on banjo, guitar, mandolin, voice, brain.
The Press Gang perform the instrumental dance music of Ireland. These musicians have become popular for their skillful playing and their deep understanding of the music–and for their humorous stage presence. As American performers in the Irish tradition, the band brings a unique perspective to the music, interspersing their repertoire of Irish melodies with related tunes from Quebec, Scotland, and Appalachia, along with some New England waltzes. Christian “Junior” Stevens plays accordion; Alden Robinson plays fiddle; Owen Marshall plays guitar.
The Short Sisters—Fay Baird, Kate Seeger, and Kim Wallach—are neither sisters nor particularly short, but they share a delight in harmony. Their repertoire includes intricate rounds, songs from American, African-American and British traditions and material from contemporary songwriters. Their songs tell stories and paint pictures, conveying strong visual images through music. They favor a capella arrangements, but they also accompany themselves with guitar, autoharp and banjo.
Pascal Gemme and Yann Falquet started their musical journey 20 years ago, busking on the streets of Montréal. They have since played over a thousand shows in twenty countries with the Quebecois trio Genticorum, and they now return as a duo to present an intimate show based on the close musical bond forged by years of touring together. Pascal’s fiddling, Yann’s guitar accompaniment, and the duo’s vast repertoire of traditional songs and tunes are all presented with elegance and effortless musicianship.
Master guitarist, singer, and songwriter Archie Fisher is Scotland’s foremost troubadour. Archie was born in Glasgow into a large singing family, which yielded three professional singers—Archie and his sisters Ray and Cilla. Music was always in the house: his father’s appreciation of many musical styles (opera, vaudeville, and traditional ballads) proved to be a heavy influence on Archie’s own music, while his mother, a native Gaelic speaker from the Outer Hebrides, was a strong influence on the lyrical quality of his songwriting.
Tom Lewis’s repertoire—from traditional shanties to songs fashioned out of his own seafaring background—recruits his audience for a voyage by turns reflective, dramatic, and humorous. Born in Northern Ireland, Tom’s Celtic heritage is obvious in his clear, strong voice, evoking quiet sorrow for a fisherman lost to the sea just as honestly as it powers out a shanty “to be heard above the gales.” Tom accompanies himself on button accordion and ukulele, but it’s that powerful vocal style and infectious humour which keeps audiences coming back.
Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes are an old-time country music duo, performing songs old and new with close harmony singing and accompaniment on clawhammer banjo, guitar, fiddle and autoharp. Tyler and Sam’s programs feature fiddle and banjo hoedowns, close mountain harmonies, stories of all kinds, Carter Family-inspired autoharp and guitar, country gospel songs, lonesome ballads, and flatfoot dancing.
A native of Newfoundland, Keith Murphy offers a traditional song repertoire based in Eastern Canada and Quebec as well as his current home, Vermont. His direct and intimate style of traditional singing in English and French infuses old ballads and songs with a powerful immediacy, while his rhythmic and percussive finger-style of guitar playing brings new shape and color to his songs. Keith is also an accomplished arranger, as well a composer of songs at home in the tradition.
Larry Kaplan is the author of such well known songs as “Old Zeb,” “Song for Gale,” “Song for The Bowdoin,” John,” “Selling the Isabel,”—considered by many to be some of the best American contemporary and topical ballads you will find today—poignant stories in song, inspired by tradition, honest and highly singable. Born in Boston, Larry now calls both London, England, and Essex, Connecticut home. A fine performer and multi-instrumentalist in his own right, he has released three CDs through Folk Legacy Records, and is very pleased to share his fine music with us.
Alan Kaufman is an award-winning old-time fiddler, mandolinist, guitarist, songwriter, and yodeler who first appeared on the scene in New York City in the 70’s as a founding member of the legendary Oldtime Stringband The Wretched Refuse . He is the author of the classic manual for the novice fiddler—Beginning Oldtime Fiddle. Since moving to Boston in 1997, he has become one of the mainstays of the old-time music scene there, leading a legendary jam at the Skellig Pub in Waltham on Sunday evenings for the last 14-or-so years.
Margaret Walters has been part of the Australian folk scene for many years. Her warm, complex voice has graced songs ranging from traditional ballads through sea shanties, blues, songs of industrial life, and contemporary songs of the environment. Her workshops—inviting audience participation through call and response, choruses, and harmony—typically concern convicts, colonial women in Australia, feisty damsels wherever, working lives, peace, animals, the supernatural, unrequited love, and the sea.
Debra Cowan was once asked what kind of songs she writes. Her reply? “Bad ones. Besides, there are so many good songs out there written by others and they should be sung.” And she makes sure they are: Stunning” is a word that is often used to describe her vocals. Her captivating warm alto carries each song she chooses with such emotion that you’ll forget they were written by others. She performs unaccompanied and with guitar, interpreting a wide range of serious traditional songs as well as contemporary (often bawdy) folk songs.
John Roberts has been singing English folk songs since the early 1960s, when he joined a local folk club in his native Worcestershire. In America since 1968, he joined with Tony Barrand to form a duo which has lasted ever since. Singing in unaccompanied harmony, or with concertina or banjo, their entertaining style has delighted audiences. These days, he mostly performs solo or in tandem with Debra Cowan (also at this year’s festival). He presents a selection of songs, some well-known to folk aficionados and others less so, typically augmenting his banjo and anglo-concertina with Celtic harp, fiddle, viola, and whistle.
Seasoned solo performers Dan Berggren, Peggy Lynn and Dan Duggan have combined talents to create a dynamic trio—Jamcrackers—named in honor of the river drivers who broke up log jams. Those drivers worked hard to find solutions, to get things rolling again, and they couldn’t do the job alone. Dan, Peggy and Dan feel the same way about their music. With guitars and dulcimer (and other instruments), the trio showcases unique arrangements and striking harmonies as they present a diverse blend of blues and folk, ballads and dance tunes, as well as original songs.
Under the tutelage of Mist Covered Mountains school-age musicians (ages 6-17) bring acoustic instruments and voices to Old Songs in the Great Groove Band. In six hours of focused rehearsal over three days, they experience the joy of music— learning, arranging, and performing fiddle tunes and folk songs by ear. Learning to work cooperatively as a band, they prepare for a Sunday afternoon performance on the main stage. The band: Donna Hébert—fiddle and direction; Max Cohen—guitar; Molly Hebert-Wilson—vocals, standup bass; Rob Pruyn-Bush—winds, banjo, keyboard; Alex Bell—percussion; Noam Berg—mandolin.
Roger the Jester keeps pretty mum on stage, but here are some words of his. “My work is constantly changing; every venue will elicit new material. Every performance is a debut, since my work is so improvisational . . . . There are many events where I create something special just for that event. . . . I recently was commissioned to perform at a wedding reception. I played an arrangement of the Beatles’ ‘All you need is Love’ on the tuba, trombone, pocket trumpet, baritone, melodica, boom whacker and cymbals. . . . [But] I will continue to juggle, spin, throw and play with all sorts of objects. Don’t worry.”
John Dickson of Gomni believes that African drumming is the pulse of the heart beat. It is the African Cultural way of communication or celebration in symbolizing a sad or joyous occasion. John teaches basic fundamentals of African drumming for all ages and enjoys teaching youth.
Luke Donforth is a contra caller, choreographer, and dancer. As a caller, he brings a warm and inviting playfulness to the stage. He is based in Burlington, VT, but is willing to travel to share the joy of dancing. Luke calls new and traditional contras at weekly dances, festivals, barn dances, weddings, and parties.
The Waxwing Four is an all-male a cappella quartet that performs traditional American harmony from the early 1900’s, including jubilee gospel, bluegrass quartets, shape note songs, and Appalachian folk hymns. Also, a Prince cover. The members: Stefan Amidon, Adam Jacob Simon, Wheaton Squier, and Brendan Taaffe.
Stefan Amidon, a gifted singer and singing leader, leads shape note singing at the Old Songs Festival, and has led harmony singing at Oberlin and at the CDSS-sponsored summer camps Pinewoods Family Week and Ogontz Family Week. He has been on several Northern Harmony tours, and was a leader of an Adult Village Harmony singing camp. Although he is best known as a percussionist and singer, he is also becoming a hot mandolin player, and a deeply meditative old time fiddler.
Jake Thomas, our favorite master signer, has been interpreting the Old Songs Festival concerts every year since 1992. His considerable skills at conveying whatever our performers throw at him—often in unfamiliar languages, dialects, accents, etc.—with unflagging panache have made him a favorite, not only of those for whom his services are intended, but also of our entire audience. We’re delighted that he’s ready and willing to make the annual trek from southern Maryland up to Altamont for our festival.
In a dynamic, two-act concert, “Forward into Light”: The American Women’s Suffrage Movement in New York State in Song & Story tells the story of how American women won the right to vote. The ensemble brings the suffrage songs back to where they belong in American music—important documents of protest and rhetorical thought. We hear the suffragists’ voices, strong, persuasive, and determined to make a difference in the America of the future. Featuring a cast of nine singers and musicians: Greg Artzner, Terry Leonino, Peggy Lynn, Dan Duggan, Annie Rosen, Susan Trump, Bill Spence, Toby Stover, and George Wilson. Produced, directed, and compiled by Andy Spence.
Magpie is Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner, whose repertoire ranges from traditional and vintage Americana to contemporary and stirring original compositions. Terry is a gifted singer of jazz and blues, but is equally comfortable with the subtle beauty of traditional folk and contemporary songs. She is also an excellent player of the harmonica, mandolin, fretted dulcimer, and rhythm guitar. Greg is an outstanding guitarist, whose finger-style approach provides the solid basis of Magpie’s sound. His captivating vocal interpretation gives power and beauty to the full spectrum, from growling blues, to a Chilean lament, to a sweet croon.
Peggy Lynn, singer, songwriter and arts educator, brings an infectious enthusiasm to all her endeavors. With a sultry yet powerful alto voice, Peggy clearly conveys the passion underlying her songs. While her style and range give meaning and feeling to all her work, her most powerful message, her passion, is for the contributions and burdens of women. Peggy ranges from folksy to blues with equal ease, alone or harmonizing with others.
Dan Duggan, nationally touring performer and teacher, is rapidly gaining acknowledgment as one of the finest dulcimer players and composers in the country. In addition to his pioneering innovative compositional work for the dulcimer, Dan is also known for his renditions of traditional Irish and American tunes—renditions which reflect his understanding of their original context. Whether re-creating 18th-century harp pieces or vibrant 19th-century dance tunes, Dan engages audiences nationwide in an excursion of musical styles and moods.
Annie Rosen is a captivating singer and is recognized as a premier interpreter of the great female blues and jazz artists of the 1920’s-40’s as well as adept at multiple musical genres. When asked what inspires her musically she said, “it’s all about the raw emotion and rhythm”.
For years, Susan Trump has been winning fans with her singing; her outstanding instrumental skill on the mountain dulcimer, guitar, banjo, and fretless banjo; and her clear, relaxed teaching style. Susan’s magic stems from her ability to link the pastoral, tranquil images of traditional rural America to our contemporary life. Her songs touch the heart, recall the past, and inspire the times ahead, and her sense of humor always adds a fresh touch to her performances.
Bill Spence has been a musician for over 50 years now, playing the instrument he is best known for today, the hammered dulcimer. In 1970 he formed Fennig’s All-Star String Band in 1970 with his hammered dulcimer, a relatively unknown instrument at the time. Their four lively “feel good” recordings (1973-93) captured the fancy of a new generation of musicians, and became the source of inspiration for a new generation of hammered-dulcimer players and other string-band musicians here and abroad. Since 1975, the All-Stars are Bill Spence (hammered dulcimer, vocals), George Wilson (fiddle, banjo, vocals), and Toby Stover (piano, vocals).
Toby Stover is a pianist, singer, dancer, and more-than-35-year veteran of the music and theater arts. She is familiar with indigenous music styles and is an acknowledged master of New England style rhythm accompaniment. She performs and teaches African dance and drum and of course provides Fennig’s All-Stars with its rock-solid piano backbone. Toby has been a Fennig’s member since 1974.
A talented multi-instrumental virtuoso and singer, George Wilson samples a wide variety of traditional and folk styles. As a fiddler, he has over 500 tunes for dancing and listening—tunes from New England, Quebec, Cape Breton, Scotland, Ireland, and Shetland. His dynamic fiddling, strongly influenced by Cape Breton and French Canadian styles, has been popular with contra dancers and concert-goers since the late 1970s.