Branford Folk Music Society

The Branford Folk Music Society, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization recognized as tax exempt under the Internal Revenue Service Code section 501(c)(3). The Society sponsors the Branford Folk Coffeehouse, a monthly folk music concert series, September through May, at the First Congregational Church, on the green in Branford, Connecticut.

The group also produces a bimonthly newsletter with schedules and information on concerts and folk performers in Connecticut and the region. Branford Folk Music Society members receive a copy of the newsletter in the mail, as well as discounts in admission to our coffeehouse concerts. Become a member of the Branford Folk Music Society. Facebook members: Look us up on Facebook.

Branford Folk Coffeehouse

The Branford Folk Coffeehouse is in the auditorium of the First Congregational Church of Branford, 1009 Main Street, Branford, CT. Wheelchair accessible. Concerts begin at 8:00 p.m. Admission prices are listed for each concert. Please pay at the door – there are no advance sales.

Directions: Take I-95 Cedar Street exit #54, go south on Cedar Street to the end (crossing Route 1), turn left on Main Street. The Congregational Church is the brick church on the green (on the right). For more information, call 203-488-7715. Email:
If parking immediately next to the Church and the Green is full, there is additional parking nearby.

Please contact us if you are interested in helping the coffeehouse as a volunteer. In particular, refreshment donations will be welcomed.

If you are wondering if a concert will be held on an evening when the weather is bad, please call 203-488-7715. (There is no one at the church who can give out concert information.) Also, cancellations will be posted on WTNH Channel 8.

April 13, 2019: Battle of the Sexes in Harmony

In a bit of innovative programming (if we do say so), two harmony ensembles will be sharing our stage on this night: two quartets from the Connecticut Yankee Chorus, an award-winning a cappella barbershop group, and Village Voices, a New York-based female ensemble that will present Bulgarian village harmonies from the women's tradition of that region. For those looking for a night of heavenly harmonies that will confirm that spring has sprung, this is it.

The Connecticut Yankee Chorus male quartets are members of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA), a group that encourages the growth of the barbershop genre of singing which employs four-part a cappella harmony. Such singing consists of a lead, the vocal part which generally carries the tune/melody; a bass, the part which provides the bass line to the melody; a tenor, the part which harmonizes above the lead; and a baritone, the part that completes the chord with the note not being sung by the lead, bass, or tenor singers. The baritone can sing either above or below the lead singer.

Barbershop singing originated in the late 1800s and early 1900s of America, a hybrid of both black and white expressive cultural forms at the time. Popularity of the style faded in the 1920s but was revived in the mid-20th century with help by the SPEBSQSA, founded in 1938.

Likewise, the extraordinary music of Bulgaria is renowned for its remarkable vocal techniques, intricate ornamentation, uneven rhythms and, of course, exceptional harmonies. Learned during a lifetime of field research and study with master folk performers of traditional Bulgarian song, the women of Village Voices present a magnificent side of this vocal repertoire that is unfortunately seldom heard. These dedicated artists sing the complex two-voiced songs of the Pirin, Shope, and Velingrad regions of Bulgaria that feature dissonant drone harmonies juxtaposed against exquisitely beautiful and lushly embellished melodies, as they were sung for centuries by village women. Though somewhat similar in structure, the diaphonic songs of these three regions are stylistically different, which Village Voices conveys with impressive authenticity, skill, and heart.

These songs were sung as women worked in the fields, gathered in the evenings to spin, embroider, and weave, and marked rites of passage and calendar folk rituals, and by women and men who sat around a community table to pass the long winter nights. Singers used this uniquely beautiful artistic form to express their hopes and dreams as well as their fears and sorrows, and songs reference exceptional historical events, heartfelt expressions of both true and unrequited love, and fantastical and supernatural creatures who controlled the lives of young girls, as well as snapshots of daily life in the village.

Admission: $20 non-members, $17 members, $5 children 12 and under.

May 11, 2019: Too Blue

We close out the society's 45th Anniversary Year on a high, lonesome note with our region's own Too Blue. Traveling freely between the genres of bluegrass, swing, Celtic and jazz, a Too Blue performance is a dynamic dose of serious musical fun. Smooth harmonies and adventurous, high-powered musicianship bring stellar arrangements to life and leave the listener being anything but "blue" or lonesome. The group's latest release, "Trouble With the Grey", has received national radio airplay and enthusiastic reviews from Bluegrass Today and Bluegrass Unlimited magazines. This is a band that not only makes exciting bluegrass but also swings and entertains.

Recent performances include the main stage of the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival in Massachusetts, the renowned Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival and Daryl's House in Westchester County.

Meet the band members:

Joan Harrison on banjo and vocals: Joan's clear and compelling vocals bring new interpretations to standards from Patsy Cline to Bill Monroe, while creating new stylings for Too Blue's original songs. A student of the legendary Tony Trischka, her melodic banjo technique is creative, graceful and at home with the band's diverse repertoire. In 2010, Joan took first place in bluegrass banjo at the Pickin' and Fiddlin' Contest in Roxbury, CT. Her former bands include "Breakeven" and "Mike Burns and North Country".

Betsy Rome on guitar and vocals: Betsy's guitar playing has been featured in Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, and she is one of the few female performers in the demanding style of flatpicking incorporating rhythm and lead guitar. Singing together since 1995, Betsy's harmony vocals blend seamlessly with Joan's to create the signature sound of Too Blue. Betsy is well-known for her flatpicked guitar on the national bluegrass scene. Her playing blends bluegrass, old-time, Celtic, and swing. Betsy teaches bluegrass guitar and mandolin both privately and with The Bluegrass University at regional bluegrass festivals.

Jamie Doris on bass: Jamie lends his jazz background to Too Blue's sound. He attended the Jazz and Contemporary Music program at the New School in New York City, where he studied with jazz greats such as Reggie Workman, Buster Williams, Chico Hamilton, Junior Mance, Cecil McBee and Arnie Lawrence. Having supported a broad range of artists in the New York music scene during the late 1990s, Jamie has developed a reputation for a solid and dependable groove, whether playing jazz, Latin, R&B, avant-garde or bluegrass.

Michael Sassano on mandolin and vocals: For over 30 years, Michael has delighted audiences with his remarkable versatility and fun-loving stage presence. The guitar-slinging kid from Brooklyn reveled in the rock and folk scenes of the late 1960s and '70s. He went on to study mandolin with the renowned Jay Ungar and soon found himself smack dab in the middle of the New York City progressive bluegrass scene. As a founding member of the eclectic "Out to Lunch", Michael honed his harmony chops creating dynamic twin mandolin arrangements and solos with bandmate Wayne Fugate. An animated performer, Michael captivates audiences as a member of Too Blue as a powerhouse soloist, gifted arranger and clever tunesmith.

Admission: $20 non-members, $17 members, $5 children 12 and under.

Too Blue

In Memoriam: Caroline Paton

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Caroline Paton on March 18, 2019. Caroline, along with her spouse Sandy, who passed away in July 2009, were beloved "folk treasures" for us at the Branford Folk Music Society and, no doubt, for many, many others throughout the world of folk music.

A few descriptive words come swiftly to our minds in thinking about Caroline: loving, gentle, modest and gracious. She always had kind words for people and she excelled at "knitting" people together into community, even when they didn't know each other.

She possessed a beautiful, lilting voice and she embodied a genuine love for the songs she sang and, more important, the stories behind those songs.

"No paper dolls. No paper moons," she said on more than one occasion. "Just lyrics that say things straightforwardly."

The contributions to folk music of Caroline and Sandy — they formed an inseparable entity during their 52-plus years of marriage — cannot be understated.

Here in Connecticut they fostered the birth and development of both the Branford Folk Music Society and The Sounding Board in West Hartford during both organizations' early years, not only as frequent performers and boosters but also by referring artists who fit the traditional music mold the groups booked. As each group celebrated their increasing decades of existence, Caroline and Sandy were there to join in.

For the world beyond Connecticut, the Patons (with Lee Haggerty) gave us Folk-Legacy Records, their "labor-of-love" recording company located at their Sharon home that, as Caroline aptly stated, "offered traditional folk music a proper home."

It is fitting that Caroline decided last November to sell Folk-Legacy's vast inventory of recordings and memorabilia to the Smithsonian Institution. In announcing Caroline's passing, Linnea Paton, her granddaughter, said the sale will ensure that "the music will be kept in print and available in perpetuity. Caroline was thrilled that the music would be able to live on and really felt it was the right thing to do."

Let us rejoice in the life of Caroline Paton — mother and grandmother, but also musician, performer, song collector, sharer of songs and song knowledge, record company proprietor, and treasured resource to folk music.

[A memorial service celebrating Caroline's life is being planned by the Paton Family. When the service is scheduled we will post that information here.]

Previous concerts at the Branford Folk Coffeehouse

Branford Folk Photo Gallery


Branford Folk Coffeehouse performers are often provided overnight accommodations by volunteers in their homes. However, some performers are very sensitive to furry critters, so if you can provide overnight accommodations in a pet-free environment, please let us know, either at a concert or by email at Hosts receive complimentary admission to the show! Thank you!

Wanna be on our Board?

The all-volunteer Board of Directors of the Branford Folk Music Society is looking for new members with a passion for traditional and tradition-based folk music and the skills to help us bring the joy of that music to wider audiences. We are seeking interested people with the time and willingness to take an active role in creating awareness of Branford Folk Music Society events in Connecticut, particularly in the broader shoreline community, and with skills to complement those of members of the current Board. These could include experience in public relations, arts or events coordination (not necessarily in music), outreach or fundraising; or connections with media, historical and cultural organizations in the New Haven area and towns along the shoreline. Anyone interested should contact us at 203-488-7715 or

In memory of Stacy Phillips

The Branford Folk Music Society primarily books "traditional" and/or "traditions based" acoustic music, rooted in the Anglo-Celtic and/or American folk genres, and other traditional forms, such as Cajun, French Canadian, Klezmer, etc. We are also open to booking "traditions based" performers who write their own material provided their music demonstrates a knowledge and respect for these long established traditions.

The Branford Folk Music Society is a member of the Folk Alliance International, the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, and the Shoreline Chamber of Commerce.

Other folk music events in Connecticut and southern New England

Please send event listings to the editor at

Branford Folk Music Society
P.O. Box 441
Branford, CT 06405