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.

March 9, 2019: Joel Mabus

Joel Mabus is a maverick in the folk music world. He defies any easy pigeonhole. By turns, he picks a mountain banjo to accompany an ancient ballad, sings a witty song about modern life while plucking on a ukulele, plays a sweet Irish melody on guitar, swings a hot jazz number, and then reaches deep for a soulful expression of values in a troubled world. He tops it all with a fiddle tune or an old Carter family song – all skillfully blended into a seamless flow, accompanied by insightful commentary about the music.

Simply put, Joel Mabus is a consummate picker and poet.

Joel last graced the Branford stage in 2005 with his impeccable musicianship, warm humor and storytelling and fine songwriting. Now he's back for a return concert after a sudden illness forced cancellation of an earlier visit in the fall of 2017. We couldn't be happier because from coast to coast over the past 40-plus years this Midwesterner has brought audiences to their feet, wanting more.

He's the son of a 1930's old time fiddle champ and a banjo-pickin' farm girl. His performing career began in college during the Vietnam Era, where he studied anthropology and literature by day and played coffeehouses by night. One critic writes, "Joel Mabus knows his way around the English language and American culture just as well as he knows his way around a fretboard."

His roots may be in American old-time music, yet his music speaks to the times we live in. Born in 1953 in the southern Illinois town of Belleville, Joel has recorded 27 albums of original and traditional music since his recording career began in 1978 on a small, start-up bluegrass label. His latest effort is "Time & Truth", released in January, which features 10 tracks of mostly original music and includes a musical setting of Robert Frost's fabled poem, "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening".

"Performing Songwriter" magazine describes Joel this way: "His sharp writing and soft singing have an amused and gently knowing quality that suggests Garrison Keillor or Jean Shepherd. In fact, Mabus might've simply become a storyteller, had he not wielded such a rock-solid guitar pick, versatile among several traditional genres."

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

Joel Mabus
Photo: Jeff Mitchell

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. Announcement of the concert at our first concert of the year in mid-September elicited "oohs and ahhs" from the audience, so make it a priority to be with us for this spring night of heavenly harmonies.

The Connecticut Yankee Chorus are members of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA) 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, Village Voices presents a magnificent side of this vocal repertoire that is unfortunately no longer often 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 musicianship bring stellar arrangements to life and leave the listener being anything but "blue". Their 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.

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 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 this demanding style of 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.

House Hoot March 15

Dear Pickers and Singers and Whatnot,

The next House Hoot will be at 7:30 on Friday, March 15, at Amy Novick and Tom Stio's house. The theme for the first round is Beware the "eyes" of March! -- songs that mention eyes. Second round and beyond . . . anything goes.

Please come prepared with a couple of songs to sing or to lead the rest of us in singing. Those not prepared or too shy to sing are welcome to enjoy the music. Also, please bring a snack or drinks to share during the break.

The address is 95 Jackson Road, Hamden.


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