Branford Folk Music Society

Previous Concerts at the Branford Folk Coffeehouse

September 15, 2007: The Short Sisters

October 13, 2007: Phil Cooper and Margaret Nelson

November 10, 2007: John Roberts and Tony Barrand

December 8, 2007: Ash Creek String Band

January 12, 2008: Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen

February 9, 2008: Last Fair Deal

March 8, 2008: Notorious

April 12, 2008: Gordon Bok

April 26, 2008: Tom Lewis

May 10, 2008: Inca Son

September 13, 2008: Cliff Haslam with the Ancient Mariners

October 11, 2008: Watersign

November 8, 2008: Ed Miller

December 13, 2008: The Paton Family (Founders, Folk Legacy Records)

February 14, 2009: P.V. O'Donnell and Dan and Bonnie Milner

March 14, 2009: Brian Peters

April 11, 2009: Cindy Kallet and Grey Larsen

May 9, 2009: Bill Staines

May 16, 2009: Bob Zentz

September 12, 2009: CornBread

October 10, 2009: Orrin Star and the Sultans of String Trio

November 14, 2009: Patrick Ball

December 12, 2009: Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys

January 9, 2010: Bruce Molsky and Darol Anger

February 13, 2010: Gerard Edery

March 13, 2010: John Whelan & Friends

April 10, 2010: Sparky and Rhonda Rucker

May 8, 2010: Lorraine and Bennett Hammond

September 11, 2010: Gloucester Hornpipe and Clog Society

October 9, 2010: Hanneke Cassel Trio

November 13, 2010: Finest Kind

December 11, 2010: Stacy Phillips and Paul Howard

February 12, 2011: Ed Trickett

March 12, 2011: Jerry Bryant

March 19, 2011: Mike Kachuba

April 9, 2011: The Johnson Girls

May 14, 2011: Debra Cowan with John Roberts

September 10, 2011: The Strauss / Warschauer Duo

October 15, 2011: Sara Grey and Kieron Means

November 12, 2011: Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem

December 3, 2011: Donna Hebert & Mist Covered Mountains

January 14, 2012: The Zu Zazz String Orkestra

February 11, 2012: Van Norstrand Brothers

March 10, 2012: Chris Koldewey and John Kirk

April 14, 2012: Dan Milner and Jeff Davis with Jeanne Freeman and Ben Gagliardi

May 12, 2012: Forebitter

September 8, 2012: Keith Murphy and Tony Barrand

Renowned folk musicians Tony Barrand and Keith Murphy will kick off the 39th season of coffeehouse concerts at the Branford Folk Music Society on Saturday, Sept. 8 with a special program highlighted by music from an archive of songs collected in Vermont that have a Connecticut connection.

Much of the music Barrand and Murphy will offer during the concert will be from their first album collaboration together, On the Banks of the Coldbrook: Atwood Family Songs. Barrand first learned of the collection of songs written by Dover, Vermont resident James K. Atwood when Barrand was a professor at Marlboro College in Vermont in the 1960s. The legendary folk musician and archivist Margaret MacArthur shared with him a volume of the songs originally published in 1919 titled "Songs From The Hills Of Vermont" and field recordings she made of Atwood's son, Fred, singing them.

In 1964, MacArthur had found Atwood's son Fred living in Connecticut and he came to her Vermont house and sang for three days into a tape recorder. Atwood knew most of his father's songs and MacArthur later recorded five of the pieces he sang for her on her own albums. In 1980 and 1981, in a journal of the Country Dance and Song Society, Barrand reprinted the combined set of songs from both Atwoods, and a few from Atwoods' second wife, Mary, and a good friend, "Aunt Jenny" Knapp.

An accomplished vocalist, Tony Barrand has recorded a host of albums of traditional folk music with long-time singing partner John Roberts, including Twiddlum Twaddlum, Spencer The Rover Is Alive and Well, and Live At Holstein's. He and Roberts are also part of the four-person group, Nowell Sing We Clear, which performs an annual yuletide, midwinter concert series. Barrand retired a few years ago as a professor of anthropology at Boston University.

Newfoundland-born Keith Murphy began absorbing his native musical languages – folksongs, ballads and dance music – from an early age. A proficient multi-instrumentalist, he has long applied much of his considerable energy to the rhythmic side, becoming a valued band member and sought-after sideman on guitar, mandolin and foot percussion. At the same time, Murphy's natural and lyrical singing and piano playing add a complementary dimension to his music, a thoughtful, well-crafted and ever-respectful take on tradition. He is well known as a member of the former Vermont musical ensemble Nightingale.

The Barrand and Murphy concert highlights a 2012-13 season of nine concerts the society will present, ranging from old-time string and jug bands to world music to cutting edge fusion music that melds old and new world sounds. Here's the remainder of the season:

Murphy and Barrand

Ralph Bodington

October 13, 2012: Ralph Bodington

This will be a Branford Folk debut not to be missed. Ralph Bodington may not necessarily be a household name to most, but he's one fine player of old-time banjo – and a fine ballad singer to boot. Hailing from the "hills" of nearby Rhode Island, Bodington has been building a sizeable audience and a ton of respect from traditional folk music fans since he retired a few years back and began performing more fully.

Ralph plays in a laid back, easy Southern mountain style and in his music you'll hear the influences of mountain music greats such as Tommy Jarrell and Dwight Diller. He's recorded an album titled Old Paint for Minstrel Records and in 2009 he enjoyed a very successful tour of England (his first) with traditional ballad singer and concertina player Jerry Epstein. More recently, Ralph's appeared at the Eisteddfod in New York State and the New England Folk Festival.

Mark this one on your calendar, especially if you're a picker, so we can properly welcome Ralph to the audience friendly confines of the Branford Folk Music Society.

November 10, 2012: Red Hen Stringband

This foursome actually met more than 20 years ago, but it wasn't until 2006, after nine days of woodshedding at Clifftop Appalachian Mountain Music Festival and winning the prize for "Best Original Tune", that they decided to form a stringband. And what a stringband it is. This is an innovative acoustic quartet that delves into the deeper roots of American traditional music, playing songs with great harmonies and hot tunes from Appalachian old-time and Celtic sources. Their authenticity is enhanced when mixed with award-winning music and songs written by band members.

The Red Hen Stringband is master fiddler Jane Rothfield (fiddle, banjo and vocals), Linda Schrade (guitar, vocals), Scottish native Allan Carr (guitar, acoustic bass, vocals) and Dave Kiphuth (banjo, banjo-dobro, vocals), who many Branford Folk Music Society members will remember from years back as a member of the classic Connecticut band Apple Country that also featured Phil Rosenthal.

Boasting distinctive lead voices and superb instrumentals, and great performance chops, Red Hen Stringband is acoustic Americana at its best - true roots or roost music! Since forming, Red Hen, which takes its name from another of Jane Rothfield's award-winning tunes, the group has played at numerous festivals including the Old Songs Festival outside Albany, the Champlain Valley Folk Festival, New Bedford's Summerfest, Clifftop, the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and the Common Ground Festival in Maryland.

Red Hen's debut CD, Crossing, received rave reviews while their newest recording, Birds of a Feather (on Wepecket Island Records), showcases the band's exploration of traditional music as it relates to newly composed tunes and songs including featuring the 16th century English folk song "Martin Said to His Man", played and sung in an old time setting!

Workshops in Intermediate Fiddle & Banjo

In conjunction with the November 10 concert by the Red Hen Stringband, two members of the band - Jane Rothfield and David Kiphuth - will offer afternoon workshops in intermediate fiddle and clawhammer banjo, respectively. David will offer the clawhammer banjo workshop from 12 noon to 2 p.m. and Jane will lead a fiddle intensive workshop from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Baymont Inn Hotel, 3 Business Park Drive, Branford, CT 06405.

Red Hen String Band

December 8, 2012: Washboard Slim and the Bluelights

The Grateful Dead's Bob Weir put it very simply: "For me jug band music is the mud my toes are planted in. Honor it!" Washboard Slim and the Bluelights is one of the few genuine roots bands that can captivate an audience under 30. Their recent performances at the legendary Toad's Place in New Haven with Shakedown demonstrate the all-age appeal of their music. The 21st century jug band revival is in full swing and the Bluelights, representing Connecticut, are the first band of its genre to appear at the renowned International Blues Challenge in Memphis.

The Bluelights are the real deal, using only the jug and washtub bass to provide the foundation of this energetic music. The late legendary folk/blues artist Eric von Schmidt called the Bluelights: "Absolutely the best since Kweskin's Jug Band in the Sixties. Traditional music in overdrive."

Founding members Howard Horn and Peter Menta started as the Ten Years Late Jug Band in 1976 and the band's basic lineup has been in place since 1986. Powerhouse vocalist and chanteuse, Cynthia Fabian, joined in 2003. The band draws on a wide variety of traditional music to create a new style infused with the energy of the rock 'n' roll music of our own generation. In addition to jug band music, the Bluelights perform roots rock 'n' roll, early jazz, blues, swing and standards. With the return of fiddle and mandolin player Johnny Pendergast the group has now also returned to old-time mountain, bluegrass and quartet gospel music with a touch of Cajun and Zydeco along the way.

January 12, 2013: Stacy Phillips and Joe Gerhard

To kick off this New Year, we welcome back to Branford our old friends, Grammy Award-winning Dobroist and renowned fiddler Stacy Phillips and Joe Gerhard, fiddler extraordinaire of Irish traditional music. They will perform a special concert of American and Irish traditional fiddle music and will be accompanied by Ellen Cohn and Phil Zimmerman. It will be a night of two masters of these styles trading tunes and insights into the relationship between the music of America and Ireland and touching on the origins and evolution from Celtic roots music to versions from the American South. Not to be missed!

No stranger to Branford Folk Music Society audiences, Stacy Phillips has recorded or performed with Judy Collins, David Bromberg, Bela Fleck, Mark O'Connor, Leon Redbone, Peter Rowan, Eileen Ivers, Hazel Dickens, Andy Statman, Tony Trishka, Kenny Kosek, Skip Gorman, and many more! Stacy has three solo albums and is a featured artist on the 1995 Grammy and International Bluegrass Music Association award-winning album, "The Great Dobro Sessions". Stacy's playing is celebrated for its uniqueness, eclecticism and humor. He is a regular contributor to several music magazines including Strings, Sing Out! and Guitar Player. He is also the author of over 20 books dealing with various aspects of violin and Dobro playing. Acknowledged as standards in their fields, they are published by Music Sales Corporation and Mel Bay Publishing.

Joe Gerhard has been playing Irish traditional music on fiddle for nearly 30 years. Though largely self-taught, he had the opportunity to play with and learn from many great Irish fiddlers in Boston and New York, including Paddy Cronin, Andy McGann and Seamus Connolly. In 2003, he was featured on the Irish TV program "Geantrai", as part of the series on Irish traditional music in America. For the past seven years, Joe has hosted a twice-weekly Irish music session at Anna Liffey's in New Haven.

Both musicians live and met in New Haven. They met at a jam session where the silence is painted by tunes and ornaments, licks, slides, and cat sneezes, chat and craic, Irish and Appalachian musical traditions. It was there with their fiddles and a few shots of good Irish whiskey that they hit it off and decided to play together. Being familiar with the tales of the migration of the folk tradition across the Western Ocean playing together in special programs came to be an ideal way for the two musicians to illustrate the connection and evolution of melodies born in Ireland and continued in America.

This concert is made possible with support from the Connecticut Office of the Arts.

Stacy Phillips and Joe Gerhard

March 9, 2013: Cliff Haslam and His Jovial Crew

In 1983, Folk-Legacy Records in Sharon released "The Clockwinder", an album by Cliff Haslam that immediately became a classic in traditional folk music. Despite that success, it took Cliff nearly three decades to record another album and he's done it up in fine fashion with not one new recording but two - "Leaning In The Wind" and "The Happy Man." Join us on March 9 for a celebration of the new albums and of Cliff's musical prowess.

Cliff's one of the best friends of the Branford Folk Music Society as a regular performer in our concert series and the leader of our most recent pub sing at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven. For this concert, Cliff will be accompanied by His Jovial Crew of Tim Marth and Joseph Morneault for a night of songs of the sea, the pub, and drinking. And make sure to bring your full voice for you'll find yourself singing along with the guys the whole night, reminiscent of Cliff's regular pub sings at The Griswold Inn in Essex.

A resident of Madison, Cliff is regarded as one of the world's foremost interpreters of the traditional music of his native British Isles. He's a native of Warrington, Cheshire, England - about 16 miles up the Mersey from Liverpool. He moved to the U.S. in 1966 after serving an apprenticeship in the manufacturing trade and worked as a manufacturing engineer for decades. His songs display a fine sense of humor, a bit of the British bawdy along with great vocal artistry. His booming bass-baritone shakes the walls as he breathes new life into an old chantey and in the next moment renders a ballad so tender it would bring tears to the eyes of an executioner.

Through the decades, Cliff has appeared on countless recordings of other artists and several anthologies, including albums on Folk-Legacy, Smithsonian Folkways, Living Folk and National Geographic Society Recordings.

Cliff Haslam

April 13, 2013: Annalivia

Boston-based Annalivia will bring their cutting-edge "Celtic Americana" string band music to the Branford Folk Music Society's monthly concert series on Saturday, April 13 at 8 p.m. in the auditorium of the First Congregational Church of Branford, 1009 Main St., on the Branford Green.

Annalivia fuses traditional Celtic and American roots music with contemporary folk influences to create an authentic new sound , steeped both in tradition and alive with new energy, innovation and originality.

The group, which will be appearing in a trio format, features Liz Simmons on lead vocals and guitar, Flynn Cohen on vocals, guitar and mandolin and newest member Duncan Wickel on fiddle. All three are world-class musicians and enjoy long histories in playing traditional music, ranging from bluegrass to Irish and Scottish to old-time Appalachian. These styles play a large role in the interpretations of their material, which include inventive, quirky fiddle tunes as well as lushly arranged songs. The members of Annalivia have toured and performed with such notable acts as the John Whelan Band, Aoife Clancy, Cathie Ryan, Adrienne Young, Halali and Ruth Moody.

This concert is funded in part by the New England States Touring Program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program and the six New England state arts agencies.

NEFA logo

Liz Simmons grew up in New Hampshire listening to her mother sing traditional songs from Ireland, Scotland, England and Appalachia, as well as the New Orleans brass music her father plays. Since then, she has developed a unique vocal and guitar style that incorporates the sounds of traditional and contemporary music. She also performs with Long Time Courting and her singing will be featured in the soon-to-be-released film "Time and Charges", written and directed by Grammy and Emmy award winner Ernest Thompson.

Acoustic guitarist and mandolinist Flynn Cohen, originally of Cleveland, Ohio, has performed all over the world with many notable acts in Irish, Scottish, old time, bluegrass and contemporary folk music. When he is not on the road with Annalivia he performs with the John Whelan Band and his solo project The Deadstring Ensemble. His extensive performing credits range from playing with Aoife Clancy, Cathie Ryan, Skip Healy, Joe Derrane and Frank Ferrel to the Vancouver Symphony and the Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble.

Fiddler Duncan Wickel is a native of Asheville, N.C., now living and working in the heart of Boston's thriving music scene. Duncan's reputation has been growing quickly on a national level as a wildly diverse and highly accomplished improviser and composer. He is sought after for his stylistic mastery of jazz, Irish, old time and bluegrass music, captivating audiences and fellow musicians with his creativity as well as the subtle authenticity and chameleon-like ease in which he blends and changes styles. Among many others, he has performed and toured with the Duhks, Ruth Moody, John Doyle, and the Cathie Ryan band.

Annalivia has recorded three albums, the most recent being "The Same Way Down", produced by Jake Amerding and featuring Crooked Still's Aoife O'Donovan and Corey DiMario as guest musicians.


May 11, 2013: Patrick Ball

Renowned Celtic harpist and storyteller Patrick Ball makes a return visit to the folk society after the overwhelming success with us in 2009 of his critically-acclaimed solo musical theater piece, "O'Carolan's Farewell to Music". This time Branford listeners will get to hear Patrick in a concert of harp music and storytelling.

Patrick has long been considered one of the premier Celtic harp players in the world and a captivating spoken word artist. He hails from California and recorded nine instrumental and three spoken word albums which have sold well over one-half million copies internationally. He has been awarded grants for his work by the Zellerbach Family Fund and the California Arts Council and is the recipient of the Circle of Excellence Award from the National Storytelling Association.

His Branford Folk debut in 2009 packed the auditorium of the First Congregational Church and this show, no doubt, will provide a high note for ending our successful 2012-2013 concert season. Mark it on your calendar with a big Celtic green circle.

Music critics characterize Patrick as "a rare artist." For in playing the ancient, legendary brass-strung harp of Ireland with its crystalline, bell-like voice and performing marvelous tales of wit and enchantment, he not only brings new life to two cherished traditions, but blends them in concert to create "a richly theatrical and hauntingly beautiful performance."

He was born and raised in California and gave little thought to such things as where his ancestors came from. He went to school and supposed, when he thought about it at all, that he would one day be a lawyer, like his father. But he studied music from time to time and over the years developed a nodding acquaintance with the piano and the guitar. At university he continued his flirtatious relationship with music by playing the tin whistle, principally to annoy his roommate. But at this time he found that he was irresistibly drawn to words, to the music of words, to writers who made words sing, to writers from Ireland.

Then, when he began to study history to fulfill his academic requirements, he was not surprised to find that it was the lyrical, turbulent history of Ireland that engaged him. He enrolled in graduate school and soon made his way to Ireland. There he fell in love with the eloquence and fire of the Irish oral tradition. There he fell in love with the Celtic harp. And there a few pieces of his life fell into place. For he came to know that marvelous unity of Irish words, music and history that would become his passion and, eventually, his livelihood.

Patrick returned to California, was awarded a Master's Degree in History by Dominican College, and soon discovered that jobs in the field of Irish scholarship were not to be had for love or money. So after laboring in various unrewarding lines of work he set off hitchhiking around the country and finally fetched up at Penland School of Crafts in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where he lived for two years and worked as a groundsman. There he encountered a branch of that living oral tradition that had captivated him in Ireland. And there for him, among the Appalachian storytellers, his love of the spoken word was rekindled. He returned to Ireland and listened, then made his way back to California, determined to put his scholarship, his love of words and his neglected musicianship to some use, to carve out for himself an occupation from the things that he loved. He sought out a maker of the rare wire-strung Celtic harp and taught himself to play. He then gathered the stories he had heard and the history he had learned and blended them with the music that had so often been their companion.

Patrick Ball

September 21, 2013: Last Fair Deal

This season opening concert is a later start than usual for the Branford Folk Music Society because of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, but the wait, as they say, will be more than worth your while. Last Fair Deal's eclecticism is matched only by the band's virtuoso musical skills and unbounded creativity. This renowned Connecticut band redraws the map of American roots music, tapping a deep reservoir of folk music, old time mountain music, swing, jug band, bluegrass, rock, and other roots styles, with additional blues, jazz and Celtic influences. They feature their own original songs as well as imprinting their own unique style on music from artists as diverse as Bill Monroe, Lennon & McCartney, Bob Dylan and Nat King Cole.

Last Fair Deal features Paul Howard on vocals, guitar, and harmonica; Tom Hagymasi on vocals, fiddle, bouzouki and accordion, and Phil Zimmerman on vocals, mandolin, banjo and autoharp. Last Fair Deal's stellar musicians have shared the stage with the likes of John Hartford, Doc Watson, Jonathan Edwards, Aztec Two-Step, and Stephane Grappelli and have performed up and down the Northeast including such festivals as Musikfest in Bethlehem, Pa., Falcon Ridge in Hillsdale, N.Y., and the Connecticut Folk Festival in New Haven. They've recorded four albums, the latest entitled "True Tales" featuring 12 original and three re-grooved traditional tunes.

It's been more than five years since their last appearance at Branford Folk, so join us on Sept. 21 and hear and see why Last Fair Deal through the years continuously earns praise, as the Farmington Valley Post aptly noted, for its "...instrumental prowess, impressive vocals... and a blend of genres bringing something truly unique to the acoustic roots scene."

Last Fair Deal

North Sea Gas

October 12, 2013: North Sea Gas

This concert offers a Branford Folk Music Society debut. We've been trying to book this trio for years and our schedules never coincided. This year the schedules are in sync and we're happy to present one of Scotland's most popular folk bands that incorporate great vocals and awe-inspiring three-part harmonies. They've been a band for 34 years and they're stronger than ever! Ronnie MacDonald, Grant Simpson and Dave Gilfillan comprise North Sea Gas and in concert they bring along guitars, mandolins, fiddles, bouzoukis, whistles, bodhrans, banjos and cracking senses of humor.

North Sea Gas has received Gold and Silver disc awards from the Scottish Music Industry Association and regularly sells out shows at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival Fringe. They've recorded 15 albums that have garnered critical acclaim, including for their latest effort, "Tak a dram afore ye go." "The album is offered in the spirit of enjoyment, and in that it succeeds superbly" wrote Alasdair Maclean in The Scots Magazine. Their previous album "Rosslyn" received favorable reviews from folk magazines and newspapers such as Dirty Linen in the U.S., The Scots Magazine, and The Living Tradition.

Their show, in the same way as their albums, consists of traditional, contemporary and self-penned material all put together in a style of their own. They regularly tour Scotland, America, Canada, Germany and Austria with TV and radio appearances both sides of the Atlantic. In 2008, they recorded for Chinese television with an estimated audience of 800 million!

November 9, 2013: Toby Walker

Here's another Branford Folk Music Society first appearance. Internationally acclaimed Toby Walker has been hailed as a roots music fingerstyle guitar virtuoso. He combines the styles of blues, ragtime, country, bluegrass, rock and old time jazz into his own unique style. Jorma Kaukonen of Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane says, "Flat out... you have to hear this great musician... I'm blown away" and has employed Walker to teach at his famous Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp for the past six years. In 2010 Toby won the New York Music Award for "Best Instrumental CD," sharing honors with Mariah Carey, Rufus Wainwright and Judy Collins among others.

Toby has toured America, England, Wales, France, Germany, Belgium and Holland and he's been the subject of profiles in The New York Times, the London Sunday Times, on the London BBC and on Sirius-XM radio. Most significant, he's a first place recipient of the International Blues Challenge Award given by the Blues Foundation in Memphis, Tennessee.

At a young age, Toby's passion for blues, rags, folk, and other traditional American music drove him to leave an apartment crammed full of recordings, books and instruments for the Mississippi Delta, Virginia and the Carolinas where he tracked down some of the more obscure – but immensely talented – music makers of an earlier era. He learned directly from Eugene Powell, James "Son" Thomas, Etta Baker and R.L Burnside, among others.

He comes to Branford Folk just as his latest album is being released, "What You See Is What You Get".

Renowned singer-songwriter David Massengill succinctly summed up Toby Walker: "[He] is that rare performer that takes your breath away. In my book he's in a class by himself. Standards and originals are played with flawless blues guitar technique and sung with gutsy panache. A showstopper and ringtail roarer."

Toby Walker

The December 14, 2013 concert was cancelled because of the weather.

January 11, 2014: Mestizo Manta

Connecticut-based Mestizo Manta is a group of Peruvian aficionado musicians joined to cultivate Andean music from Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and other neighboring countries of South America. The group was formed in 1994 and most of its founding members still play together.

Using traditional native instruments as well as European guitars, the ensemble members continue to share their ancient melodies with the modern world. They enjoy performing almost anywhere they are invited because they love what they do – musica!

Mestizo Manta interprets different styles of music and dance from each Andean nation. San Juanitos from Ecuador, huaynos from Peru, cumbias from Colombia, sikuris and tinkus from Bolivia as well as many other Latin American folk styles.

Their melodies are performed on native instruments such as the quena (Indian flute), the zamponas (panpipes), bombo/tinya (drums), shacshas (seeds) and palo de lluvia (rain sticks). They also utilize the charango, a small guitar with five double strings born in the Andes, blended with European instruments such as the acoustic guitar, mandolin and violin.

Performances are enhanced with explanations of Latin-American culture and traditions. It will be not only a night of soaring music, but also an edifying evening.

Mestizo Manta

Bill Staines

February 8, 2014: Bill Staines

In this 40th anniversary year of the Branford Folk Music Society, it is only fitting to bring back one of the most popular performers to ever appear at the society's coffeehouse. In fact, singer-songwriter Bill Staines provided major support in the formative years of the society as it sought to gain a permanent foothold as a venue and increase its audience size. Bill performed here for 18 consecutive years from 1974 to 1991. His last appearance at the society was in 2009 and we welcome him back this year.

Now, well into his fifth decade as a folk performer, Bill has rightly gained an international reputation as a gifted songwriter and performer. Singing mostly his own songs, he has become one of the most popular and durable singers on the folk music scene today, performing nearly 200 concerts a year and driving over 65,000 miles annually.

Bill, who hails from New Hampshire, weaves a magical blend of wit and gentle humor into his performances, and as one reviewer wrote, "He has a sense of timing to match the best stand-up comic." His music is a pure slice of Americana, reflecting with the same ease, his feelings about the prairie people of the Midwest or the adventurers of the Yukon. He may even do a yodeling tune or two, having won the National Yodeling Championship in 1975 at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville, Texas.

He has recorded 26 albums and there are three published collections of his songwriting which remain in print. His songs have been recorded by scores of artists, including performers as diverse as Nanci Griffith, the Grand Ol' Opry's Grandpa Jones, Peter, Paul and Mary, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, and Mason Williams. Griffith says that Staines has been her hero since 1977. "He carries on where Woody left off – carrying on the tradition of stories and characters you wish you knew."

Bill's radio and TV appearances have included Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" and "Mountain Stage" and a host of local programs on PBS and network TV. He continues to drive all those miles each year doing what he loves – bringing music to people. The late Sandy Paton of Folk-Legacy Records once characterized Bill's music so aptly: "Any new song that can live comfortably beside the well-worn songs of folk tradition has a good chance of surviving the test of time. Such, we believe, are the songs of Bill Staines."

March 8, 2014: A Franco-American Soirée

Circle the calendar. This is a concert not to be missed. Renowned French-Canadian chanteuse Josée Vachon and fiddler extraordinaire Donna Hébert continue the vibrant association of performing together that they forged more than 20 years ago when they founded the famed folk group Chanterelle.

Born in Québec and raised in Maine, Josée has been sharing her Franco-American upbringing for over 25 years through traditional and contemporary folksongs from Québec and Acadia and through her own compositions. Likewise, Donna Hébert, a celebrated teacher and master fiddler, is steeped in Franco-American music. Society members will recall the vibrant concert she performed for us in December, 2011.

Donna is the author of the contemporary classic "Fiddling Demystified", a book/CD/DVD set for violinists, violists and cellists that grew out of her fiddling classes and her method for teaching by ear and playing in multiple fiddle styles. Certified as a Creative Teaching Partner, she has trained seven fiddling apprentices under National Endowment for the Arts sponsorship in her native Franco-American style. She's an adjunct fiddle instructor at Amherst College, and in 2008 won a prestigious Massachusetts Fellowship in the Folk Arts.

Josée Vachon began singing publicly with the support of the Franco-American Center at the University of Maine, where she discovered others who shared her rich heritage. After receiving her BA in Romance Languages in 1984, she continued to perform, quickly gaining recognition as a new Franco-American voice through early performances at state festivals in Maine and at schools and parish soirées. In 1999 she received the National Culture through the Arts Award from the New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers, and was inducted into the French-Canadian Hall of Fame Class of 2007 for the American-French Genealogical Society.

Serving as a Franco-American ambassadrice, she has presented her music at hundreds of venues throughout the world ranging from Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.; to the Congrès Mondial du Conseil International d'Etudes Francophones in Martinique, to the Festival été indien in St-Etienne, France. Josée's vast international television appearances include "Bonjour!" on which she made over 500 tapings from March 1987 to April 1998 of what became the most widely seen French-language television show in the United States.

Her music is included in "La Bolduc", a documentary made for Canada's History Channel; Microsoft's AutoMap Trip Planner software; and the Smithsonian Folkways CD, "Mademoiselle voulez-vous danser: Franco-American music from the New England Borderlands." Josée also has 12 solo recordings to her credit.

Chanterelle bassist and accordionist Alan Bradbury and Max Cohen, Donna's guitar accompanist, will join the women for the concert.

Josee Vachon Josée Vachon

Donna Hebert Donna Hébert

Sparky and Rhonda Rucker

Photo by Pam Zappardino

April 12, 2014: Sparky and Rhonda Rucker

Branford Folk Music Society favorites Sparky and Rhonda Rucker from Tennessee will make a return visit to the coffeehouse on April 12, bringing their musical performances steeped in American history and tradition.

For more than 40 years, Sparky and Rhonda Rucker have performed throughout the U.S. as well as overseas, singing songs and telling stories from the American folk tradition. Sparky is internationally recognized as a leading American folklorist, musician, historian, storyteller, and children's author. He accompanies himself with fingerstyle picking and bottleneck blues guitar, banjo, and spoons. Rhonda, a medical doctor and also an author with a lengthy list of published articles and a recently released historical novel set in the Civil War, is an accomplished harmonica, piano, banjo, and bones player, and also adds vocal harmonies to their songs.

Together they take their audience on an educational and emotional journey that ranges from poignant stories of slavery and war to an amusing rendition of a traditional tale or witty commentaries on current events. Their music includes a variety of old-time blues, slave songs, Appalachian ballads, spirituals, work songs, Civil War music, cowboy music, railroad songs, and their own original compositions.

The Ruckers have been featured tellers at the International Storytelling Center and Festival. Sparky is a natural storyteller, having grown up hearing his father, uncles, and other family members endlessly telling tales. Sparky and Rhonda each tell solo stories, but they also tell stories together (in tandem), always adding life and humor to the characters and tricksters in their Brer Rabbit tales, Jack tales, High John the Conqueror stories, preacher tales, and family stories.

Their special passion for the American Civil War inspired the development of "The Blue and Gray in Black and White", a historical program that tells stories from the war in music and narrative.

The couple has performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as well as on nationally syndicated radio shows such as "Prairie Home Companion", "Mountain Stage" and NPR's "Morning Edition".

They've recorded numerous albums, and their 1991 release, Treasures and Tears, was nominated for the W.C. Handy Award for Best Traditional Recording. The duo contributed to the 2009 anthology tribute CD dedicated to the late Bruce "Utah" Phillips entitled Singing Through the Hard Times which was a finalist for a GRAMMY in the Best Traditional Folk category.


SUNDAY, APRIL 27, 2014
5:00 p.m.

40 Hamre Lane
Branford, CT 06405

(Wheelchair accessible)

Gourmet Grazing Buffet Catered by Bistro Mediterranean of East Haven

Beer donated by Thimble Island Brewing company of Branford

Call or email to reserve your tickets for a gathering of friends,
great performances, delicious food and



WRY BRED: Julie Sorcek, flute; Mickey Koth, fiddle; Robert Messore, guitar

Good Music No Matter How You Slice It!

Experience the complete bluegrass esthetic!
Stacy Phillips and His Bluegrass Characters

GRAMMY winning Dobro and fiddle virtuoso with Phil Zimmerman, mandolin and Andy Bromage, guitar

Cliff Haslam leads the pub sing with Sea Chanteys, Irish songs, drinking songs and
nonsense songs that don't hesitate to make joyful use of innuendo, euphemism, and puns!

Reservations by phone or email accepted until April 23

Tickets will be sold until seating capacity is reached.
Be sure to reserve yours today!

gets you all of the above and more!
Great raffle prizes too!

Contact: or call 203-488-7715

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May 10, 2014: Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen

The society closes its 40th Anniversary season on a high note and style with the dynamic musical duo of Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen on May 10.

Although the husband-and-wife team of Steve and Cindy carry separate reputations and musical histories, they are pure magic when they perform together. Cindy has been described as one of the finest pure ballad singers in folk music today, while Steve has been acknowledged for decades as one of America's finest songwriters.

He's been crafting songs for more than 50 years. Since Ian and Sylvia first recorded his "Darcy Farrow" in 1965, Steve's songs have been covered by the likes of John Denver, Garth Brooks, Linda Ronstadt, Tammy Wynette, Waylon Jennings, Josh Ritter, and hundreds of others. "Darcy Farrow" alone has been recorded by more than 100 artists. In fact, John Denver recorded it three separate times on albums that sold millions of copies! Quite literally, Steve also wrote the book on songwriting: "Songwriting and the Creative Process" (Sing Out Press) is a standard text in songwriting classes across the country.

But, he's also recognized as a superb fingerpicking guitarist whose skills have been compared to Doc Watson.

Cindy is renowned not only for her voice but also for her songkeeping. She is a master interpreter of traditional ballads, rich in myth and legend, accompanying herself on guitar, banjo, concertina, or mountain dulcimer. She possesses a compelling voice, aptly described by one critic as a voice that "can warm a New England winter."

The newest album from the Vermont duo, released earlier this year, is titled "Berrymania" and is a tribute to their madcap friends and talented musicians, Peter and Lou Berryman of Wisconsin. Alone, together and with others Steve and Cindy have recorded more than 15 albums.

Steve and Cindy

Photo by Kathryn Mann

September 13, 2014: The Johnson Girls

The Johnson Girls, an all-woman, mostly a cappella folk music group whose specialty is maritime music, will kick off the 2014-15 concert season of the Branford Folk Music Society this Saturday (Sept. 13) at 8 p.m. in the auditorium of the First Congregational Church of Branford, 1009 Main Street on the Branford Green.

The Johnson Girls are a last-minute replacement for the Canadian trio Finest Kind. The trio was forced to cancel their Northeast tour Wednesday because of an illness to member Shelley Posen.

The Johnson Girls, formed in 1997 at the close of the annual Sea Music Festival at Mystic Seaport, are unique in that they have burst through the barrier of a previously male-dominated musical genre. Each member of the group – Joy Bennett, Alison Kelley, Bonnie Milner and Deirdre Murtha – brings a specialty and style to the ensemble, including songs with Afro-Caribbean influence and songs of the inland waterways and fishing, along with Irish, Scottish, American, English, Italian and French ballads and work songs. The group's music is infused with vitality and gorgeous harmonies and encourages plenty of singing from the audience.

The ensemble has performed at major festivals, clubs and coffeehouses across the United States, in Canada, England, Wales, the Netherlands, and Portugal, including the Mystic Seaport's prestigious annual Sea Music Festival. This will be their fourth appearance at the Branford Folk Music Society and they have just released their fourth album, "On Deck & Below", on Folk-Legacy Records in Sharon.

Sea music, as perhaps the first "world music," captured the imagination of these women singers many years ago and several participate in other maritime music groups as well. Sailors were heavily influenced by the music they heard while traveling around the world. Ships were often melting pots with crewmembers who introduced their cultures to the rest of their shipmates, and who incorporated the different rhythms and styles into the work songs and other music aboard ship.

The music of The Johnson Girls has been described as "exciting", "haunting", "uplifting", and "full of harmony" and their performances have been characterized as "hair-raising". One newspaper account of a Johnson Girls appearance at the Wadebridge Festival in Cornwall, United Kingdom, put it aptly: "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."

Johnson Girls

Diane Taraz

October 11, 2014: Diane Taraz

October will also bring the return of Diane Taraz to the Branford Coffeehouse Stage. Diane previously performed a split bill for the society with Judy Cook and was part of another concert with the Gloucester Hornpipe & Clog Society. She is an artist who loves to write songs and loves to interpret traditional music. Variety is the spice of life, and Diane enjoys singing not just folk but blues, standards, the classic singer-songwriter repertoire, plus Renaissance music of the 1500s. Her latest album is a collection of jazz standards.

Voice is her main instrument, although she delights in playing her three guitars and her mountain dulcimer. She's performed in hundreds of venues including coffeehouses, schools, concert halls, churches, libraries, museums, restaurants, historical societies, and private houses. She's director of the Lexington Historical Society Colonial Singers and is a member of Vox Lucens, a 12-voice Renaissance choir who are artists-in-residence at the Church of Our Saviour in Arlington, Mass. She also sings with the UUlations, an eight-woman a cappella group.

Diane's songs draw much inspiration from traditional folk and many of her songs celebrate weird and wonderful events of the past. To wit: "The Sea-Serpent of Cape Ann" tells the story of that mythical New England beastie while "Les Filles du Roi" looks back at her great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother's leap into the unknown as one of the young women who sailed to New France in the 1600s to marry the settlers in Quebec. And one of her favorite creations is "Let's Go Canoeing on Lake Chargoggagoggmanchaugagoggchaubunagungamogg," which sings the praises of this actual body of water in central Massachusetts, also known (thank goodness) as Webster Lake.

November 8, 2014: The Honey Dewdrops

A severe snowstorm last December cancelled the Branford debut of the Virginia-based Honey Dewdrops but we worked quickly to make sure they graced our stage as part of our 40th Anniversary Celebration. There is a high lonesome quality to the way the voices of Laura Wortman and her spouse Kagey Parrish blend that is familiar, yet the mixture is unique. Their music covers the ground between hand-crafted folk songs, Appalachian fiddle tunes, and a cappella spirituals.

The musical career of Laura and Kagey has been on an upward curve since they captured the "Prairie Home Companion" Talent Contest in 2008, besting five other groups in the finals of the national radio show competition hosted by Garrison Keillor. Up to that time, Kagey and Laura were teachers who performed music on the side but who desired to ultimately make music a full-time occupation. "Winning the contest really inspired us to keep on going and writing at the time," Kagey says. A year later, they recorded their first CD, let their teaching contracts expire and they hit the road performing.

Since then they've crisscrossed America with their blend of new Americana and traditional folk music, building up loyal audiences along the way. They create inspired songs that are rooted in the experience and lives of people. The songs they write shine with energy and emotion through intimate performances with a handful of acoustic instruments and tightly layered harmonies. In fact, their song "One Kind Word" is covered by the San Francisco Bay area band Front Country on their brand new album, "Sake of Sound." On stage, the Honey Dewdrops focus on dynamically blending the sounds of instruments and voices by singing and playing into a single microphone.

Today this duet is in the vanguard of a new generation of young performers bringing contemporary folk into the American mainstream. The Honey Dewdrops have recorded three albums and are now gathering material for a fourth. Their latest offering, "Silver Lining", ranked fourth in 2012 in folk music radio play monitored by FolkDJ. It's no wonder that Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine said this about the duo: "Their talent is such that it's quite possible that a new band recording in the year 2020 might cite The Honey Dewdrops as a prime influence."

Honey Dewdrops

Pete Rushefsky

December 13, 2014: Pete Rushefsky & The Ternovka Ensemble

Join us on Dec. 13 for a special Hanukkah concert and dance party with internationally renowned klezmer musician and composer Pete Rushefsky and his Ternovka Ensemble. In addition, Branford Folk's own renowned dance leader (and president) Willa Horowitz will teach dance steps at the end of the concert, turning the event into a rollicking party.

Pete Rushefsky is recognized as a leading performer of the tsimbl (cimbalom), the traditional hammered dulcimer of klezmer music. Rushefsky and bandmates will provide a musical tour of the shtetls and cities of Eastern Europe that formed klezmer's wellspring and trace its evolution to the New World.

A resident of New York City, Rushefsky is currently touring with violinist Itzhak Perlman in a program/recording titled "Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul", featuring the leading cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, as well as klezmer revival legends Hankus Netsky and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.

He serves as executive director of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance in New York City, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and nurturing the performing arts traditions of the city's immigrant communities. He has been featured on PBS's Great Performances, National Public Radio's Prairie Home Companion, All Things Considered and American Routes, as well as Radio One France.

A popular instructor at Yiddish folk arts camps internationally, Rushefsky authored a pioneering instructional book on adapting the American 5-string banjo for klezmer, and an upcoming book on klezmer performance for hammered dulcimer. He is a well-known lecturer on klezmer and other traditional music with a number of published articles to his credit.

He regularly concertizes and records with many of the leading contemporary performers of Yiddish music, including clarinetist Joel Rubin, violinists Steven Greenman, Lisa Gutkin, Jake Shulman-Ment and Alicia Svigals, flutist Adrianne Greenbaum and vocalists Michael Alpert, Ethel Raim and Rebecca Kaplan.

January 10, 2015: Karen Ashbrook and Paul Oorts

Multi-instrumentalists Karen Ashbrook and Paul Oorts will be making their Branford Folk Music Society debut with this concert after being "snowed out" of a scheduled debut last February. For Branford listeners it will be a musically warming treat in the midst of winter because both are master musicians. Karen performs mainly on the hammered dulcimer and her husband Paul on harp guitar, 10-string cittern, mandolin, and musette accordion.

Known as KA/PO, Karen and Paul started playing as a duo featuring Celtic, Belgian and French music with the critically-acclaimed recording "Celtic Café" on the Maggie's Music label.

Karen Ashbrook built her first dulcimer in 1976 as a high school project. For five years she lived overseas in pursuit of Irish music and learned her craft in the pubs of England and Ireland, while taking time to travel in Europe and Asia. She subsequently wrote the first book for intermediate/advanced dulcimer playing in the United States, "Playing the Hammered Dulcimer in the Irish Tradition," which was published by Oak Publications.

Karen plays a wide variety of musical styles including Appalachian, Belgian, English, classical and Jewish. She teaches at numerous festivals and music camps around America, and is now central in bringing instruction to the revival of hakkebord (the Flemish hammered dulcimer) in Belgium! With her delicate touch, trademark shimmering lilt and ear for authentic ornamentation, Karen is considered one of the finest Irish hammered dulcimer players. Add her wooden flute and pennywhistle playing, and you have the consummate Irish musician. Irish music reviewer John O'Regan calls her recordings "Celtic music for the mind and body."

Based in the Washington, D.C., area, Karen teaches and performs Celtic, contra dance, and Jewish music and works teaching Irish music and culture to children. She has several recordings both solo and with the group Ceoltoiri, on the Maggie's Music label. Performance highlights include RTE 1-Irish National Television, the Smithsonian Institution, National Geographic, and playing at the White House for President Bill Clinton.

Belgian-born Paul Oorts is also a multi-instrumentalist and is very active in the world of English, Contra, and Vintage dances in the Washington-Baltimore area. With the group Goldcrest he has performed at dance events all over the United States and on tour in Scotland. He also plays with Trio con Brio, Tympanon, Ensemble Carillon and the Rigatoni Brothers.

As a teacher or staff musician, he has been on faculty at the Augusta Heritage Center (WV), the Swannanoa Gathering (NC), Common Ground on the Hill (MD), Kentucky Music Week, Pinewoods (MA), Timber Ridge (WV), Hill County Acoustic Music Camp (TX), and the Volksmuziekstage in Gooik (Belgium).

During the academic year, Dr. Oorts teaches Italian and French at the Peabody Institute and Loyola University in Baltimore.

Ashbrook and Oorts

Beppe Gambetta

March 14, 2015: Beppe Gambetta and Rushad Eggleston

This will be a night of high musical energy. The Branford Folk Music Society is proud to present a rare joint appearance by two master musicians – acclaimed guitarist Beppe Gambetta and Grammy Award-nominated cellist Rushad Eggleston. The duo will present a program called "The Old and The New World", a musical odyssey of folk songs from Beppe's native Italy to American roots music, as well as new instrumental compositions composed for cello and guitar. The program promises plenty of virtuoso musical ability, a lot of humor and a dash of whimsy.

For this special concert, admission is $20 for non-members, $15 for members and $5 for children 12 and under.

Beppe and Rushad first performed together in Italy last year and so enjoyed the result that they decided to offer a few select concerts in the U.S. this month. Their Branford Folk appearance is their only New England concert during this brief tour.

This will be Beppe's third appearance at Branford Folk, where he's performed to SRO audiences while showcasing his inimitable and award-winning guitar stylings. Hailing from Genoa, Italy, Beppe is respected on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean as one of today's most distinctive and accomplished acoustic guitarists. He possesses a broad stylistic range that mixes flatpicking and fingerstyle guitar in a variety of unusual and unique tunings. He's also a fine, understated vocalist who sings in Italian and English.

Likewise, Rushad is a wackily inventive cellist and composer who electrifies audiences wherever he displays his virtuosic technique, infectious showmanship and musical passion. Grounded in classical music but highly influenced by rock, bluegrass, hip-hop and a myriad of other alternative styles, he has taken his chosen instrument to new levels of creativity and accomplishment.

With the horizon's line as a challenge and attraction, Beppe is continually composing his personal mosaic of sounds and flavours. From his unique background as an Italian musician in love with both American roots music as well as the music of his native country, Beppe has travelled the world and even crossed the former "Iron Curtain" to dazzle and charm music enthusiasts everywhere. After 11 CDs, DVDs, teaching books and collaborations with many other top-flight musicians, Beppe is increasingly known as one of the true live master innovators of the acoustic guitar.

For his part, Rushad stands in the vanguard of the younger generation of virtuosic cellists who are bringing this relatively unwieldy instrument into the folk and acoustic music spotlight. It's anyone's guess what may happen when Rushad takes the stage, but we do guarantee one thing: a night of fabulously inventive, supremely accomplished, endlessly surprising music. Rushad never fails to knock his listeners' socks off as he ushers them in a joyful, eccentric alternate reality. He challenges the fundamental ideas about musical genres, rules, and boundaries – not to mention appropriate footwear.

April 18, 2015: Gordon Bok

Renowned folksinger Gordon Bok, characterized by Time magazine as the "poet laureate of those who go down to the sea," returns to Branford Folk in April during a swing through the Northeast as Gordon winds up his touring career this spring. He says that while there will still be the occasional concert, he has decided it's time to retire from official performance tours. Admission to what can be described as a truly bittersweet event for us all is $20 for the general public, $15 for members, and $5 for children age 12 and under.

Gordon hails from Camden, Maine, and has been preserving the musical traditions of the sea for five decades as a performer. His music is largely self-taught and a Bok trademark remains his rich, resonant, mahogany bass-baritone voice. He accompanies himself on 6- and 12-string guitars as well as the "cellamba" – a cross between a cello and a bass viol de gamba – which he designed.

His repertoire consists of a rich trove of well-crafted ballads of Maine and the Maritimes, songs and dances from abroad, contemporary songs, stories of boats and sailors and tales of supernatural seal-folk. He is also renowned as a superb storyteller.

Gordon has recorded over two dozen albums, both solo and with other musicians, and is part of the fabled folk trio of Bok, Muir and Trickett. His solo and trio albums appear on Folk-Legacy Records of Sharon and his own Timberhead label. He has appeared in concert with artists as diverse as the Paul Winter Consort and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and he has been a guest on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" public radio show.

Gordon is a longtime favorite with the 41-year-old Branford Folk Music Society audiences, with his appearances at the society dating back to the early 1970s.

In the words of one music critic, "If the sea had a voice with which to sing, it would be the voice of Gordon Bok."

Gordon Bok
John and Tony

May 9, 2015: John Roberts and Tony Barrand

It has been simply too long – would you believe nearly seven years! – since the Branford Folk Music Society presented John Roberts and Tony Barrand, the duo that has been widely acclaimed for nearly five decades as among the primary exponents living in the United States of traditional English folksong.

For those who might not be familiar with this duo (and we believe that's a very few), they are known for their lively, humorous and entertaining presentations and exquisite unaccompanied two-part harmony singing. John and Tony perform the ballads and songs of the sea, of rural pursuits, of social and sociable situations and of industrial toil and strife. They typically arrange their material thematically to emphasize the stories, history and folklore behind the songs. They draw at times upon a variety of instrumentation to accompany their singing, including Anglo and English concertinas, guitar, banjo and percussion.

John and Tony, both English born and raised, have been singing together since 1969, when serendipity brought them together as graduate students in psychology at Cornell University. In their many years together as a professional team, they've recorded with a number of companies including Swallowtail Records, Front Hall, Folk-Legacy Records, National Geographic, and most recently, Golden Hind Music.

These recordings include a critically-acclaimed album of authentic sea shanties, an album of drinking songs recorded live in a Chicago tavern, "An Evening at the English Music Hall", and a host of albums of songs from their celebrated Christmas pageant, Nowell Sing We Clear. They have also recorded a selection of the songs that the composer Percy Grainger collected in Lincolnshire during the early years of last century and a collection of songs by Rudyard Kipling.

Their latest duo recording is "Twiddlum Twaddlum", a live performance CD that celebrated their 35th anniversary as performers. John has released a solo album of sea music called "Sea Fever" on Golden Hind Records and Tony recently collaborated with Keith Murphy on the album entitled "On the Banks of the Coldbrook: Atwood Family Songs", a collection of songs written by Dover, Vermont resident James K. Atwood.

September 12, 2015: Jay Ungar and Molly Mason

It is with great excitement and anticipation that the Branford Folk Music Society kicks off its 2015-16 concert series with Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, a duo that exemplifies the heart and soul of American folk and acoustic music. Jay and Molly achieved international fame when their performance of Jay's composition "Ashokan Farewell" became the musical hallmark of Ken Burns' acclaimed PBS documentary The Civil War. Their work on the series' soundtrack won a Grammy and "Ashokan Farewell" was nominated for an Emmy. The evocative and haunting lament, originally inspired by the couple's Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camps in New York's Catskill Mountains, has been heard by tens of millions of people and is now considered an American folk "classic", played by folk fiddlers as well as classical musicians around the world.

However, Jay and Molly take their music far beyond soundtracks for documentaries. The couple draws on a wide range of musical styles and traditions, including Appalachian, bluegrass, Cajun, Canadian, Celtic, Scandinavian and jazz. In recent years, they've also stretched their music to a new orchestral fusion of classical and folk music.

Their musical resume is lengthy. In addition to a steady flow of albums and their continuing work on documentaries and films, they are frequent guests on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion", NPR's "All Things Considered", PBS's "Great Performances" and the BBC's "Transatlantic Sessions." They've produced several musical specials for Public Radio International and have performed at the White House for two sitting presidents.

Mixing consummate musicianship, incomparable warmth and wit and a deep respect for and knowledge of the music they play, Jay and Molly offer audiences an evening of music not easily forgotten and a concert experience that appeals to all ages. Join us for this special night as Branford Folk begins its 42nd season of music making.

Jay and Molly

Brian and Jeff

October 10, 2015: Brian Peters and Jeff Davis

England's Brian Peters and America's Jeff Davis have both graced the stage of the Branford Folk Music Society coffeehouse in the past and now they return together for Sharp's Appalachian Harvest, a special multimedia show devoted to the astounding collection of folk songs and music gathered by Cecil Sharp and his collaborator Maud Karpeles in the Southern Appalachians over three summers in 1916, 1917 and 1918. The two English folklorists ventured into the heart of the mountains to seek out old British ballads still being sung in remote mountain settlements, and their haul of over 1,600 pieces is one of the greatest folk song collections ever made.

In their presentation, Jeff and Brian, two respected performers and researchers of traditional folk song and music, sing and play some of the musical highlights of Sharp's Harvest, accompanied by readings from his diaries describing vividly the hardships and triumphs of song collecting, and a display of his terrific photographs of the singers and of mountain life. The music chosen ranges from old ballads to American breakdowns, dance tunes, children's songs and gospel.

Brian and Jeff have been performing together on both sides of the Atlantic on and off for 16 years. Although Brian's music is essentially English folk, while Jeff's is often categorized as American old-time, the two share a love for old songs in general, and the folk music of one another's countries, so that they work together intuitively as a duo. To Brian's multi-instrumental skills on concertina, melodeon and guitar are added Jeff's mighty talents on fiddle, banjo, mandocello and guitar, while their voices blend beautifully in harmony.

Brian and Jeff have performed together at venues such as the venerable Old Songs Festival in New York State, the Mystic Seaport Festival, the Champlain Valley Festival, the Lunenburg Folk Festival in Nova Scotia, the Cecil Sharp House in London and the Bromyard, Derby, Fylde, Warwick and Whitby Folk Festivals in the U.K. They presented Sharp's Appalachian Harvest in July at the American Folklife Center in Washington, D.C. and during a tour of United Kingdom venues in May.

As a solo performer, Jeff Davis possesses a towering reputation for performing traditional songs and music with a rare touch of authenticity. Jeff's admirers range from England's Copper Family to Tim O'Brien of American bluegrass fame. He also has a following amongst the British old-time music community. Likewise, Brian Peters is one of the world's leading solo performers of English songs and music. He is well-known for seeking out unusual traditional repertoire. His presentation on the Child Ballads, "Songs of Trial and Triumph" has been critically acclaimed.

November 14, 2015: Simple Gifts

Two women plus twelve instruments equals one good time when Simple Gifts takes the stage. Drawing on an impressive variety of ethnic folk styles, this award-winning duo plays everything from lively Irish jigs and down-home American reels to hard-driving Klezmer frailachs and haunting Gypsy melodies, spicing the mix with the distinctive rhythms of Balkan dance music, the lush sounds of Scandinavian twin fiddling, and original compositions written in a traditional style.

Combining tradition with innovation, Simple Gifts creates some of the finest arrangements in folk music today: swing fiddle creeps into a Romanian dance, spoons show up in an Irish reel, and a blues lick introduces a Klezmer melody. Based in the hills of central Pennsylvania, these women play an amazing array of instruments. Linda Littleton and Karen Hirshon switch with ease among fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, guitjo, recorders, bowed psaltery, hammered dulcimer, baritone fiddle, guitar, and percussion.

Simple Gifts is frequently complimented on their stage presence, which is warm, personal, and accented with humor. These women deliver their music with rare intensity and contagious enthusiasm. It's obvious that Simple Gifts loves the music they play and knows how to share their excitement with the audience. This is an act not to be missed!

Simple Gifts



December 12, 2015: Lissa Schneckenburger and Bethany Waickman

Are you ready for a night of dynamic fiddling and melodious singing from New Englander Lissa Schneckenburger, accompanied by the inventive stylings of guitarist Bethany Waickman? It will be a holiday treat. A snowstorm cancelled this duo's Branford Folk Music Society debut last February, but we're thrilled that Lissa and Bethany were able to work with us to secure this December appearance.

The traditional music of New England can be as warm and comforting as a winter fire or as potent and exhilarating as a summer thunderstorm. Lissa is a master of both moods, a winsome, sweet-voiced singer who brings new life to old ballads and a skillful fiddler who captures the driving rhythm and carefree joy of dance tunes old and new. Raised in a small town in Maine, Lissa grew up with music. She began playing fiddle at the age of six, inspired by her mother's interest in folk music and a family friend who was a professional violinist. Soon she was studying with influential Maine fiddler Greg Boardman and sitting in with the Maine Country Dance Orchestra. By the time she reached high school she was playing concerts on her own, specializing in the sprightly New England dance tunes that combine influences from the British Isles and Quebec with homegrown twists that have been evolving since Colonial days.

Another of her major influences was the diverse musical community that she found at fiddle camps, where she had a chance to play with and learn from a wide variety of musicians including noted Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser. She graduated in 2001 from the New England Conservatory of Music with a degree in contemporary improvisation, and since then has been performing around the U.S. and internationally for a growing audience of enthusiastic listeners.

Early in her professional career, Lissa began closely studying the roots of the Downeast traditional music that she first heard as a young girl. The study resulted in a pair of albums dedicated to reintroducing some wonderful but largely forgotten songs and tunes from New England that she uncovered through archival research. "Song" contains ten timeless ballads that go back as far as the 18th century that she set to carefully crafted modern arrangements, while "Dance" features fiddle tunes.

Lissa has also performed with several ensembles, including Childsplay and Halali.

For this concert, Lissa will be joined by longtime accompanist guitarist Bethany Waickman, who is well known in contradance, square dance and Irish music circles. Bethany, who is Maine-based, also plays with the groups Firefly and Anadama.

January 16, 2016: Fiesta del Norte (Note: This is a 3rd Saturday)

What an exciting way to open the New Year! Fiesta del Norte is an exciting and versatile Connecticut-based Mariachi band that performs traditional Mexican folk and popular music on authentic instruments. The ensemble dresses in customary charro outfits and weaves together songs, translations, storytelling, joyful gritos and cultural insights. Their repertoire spans from the mariachis of Jalisco, nortenas of Chihuahua, the harp music of Vera Cruz and the marimba music of Chiapas. Fiesta del Norte takes their music and cultural message across the state at festivals, schools, libraries, town greens, and senior facilities and it's a true pleasure for the Branford Folk Music Society to present them in concert.

The group is led by Dave Giardina, an award recipient of the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. He received his B.A. degree from St. Anselm College and also studied at Longy School of Music. Although his musical roots extend to the 1960s folk-rock culture, Dave studied classical guitar with Sharon Isbin and Philip Defremery, jazz with Sal Salvador and Bob Kobus and flamenco with Mario Escudero and Paco Pena (Spain). He also played in master classes for John Williams, Manuel Barrueco, Ben Verdery, Abel Carlevaro, and Oscar Ghiglia. He has been teaching for many years on the faculties of Trinity and St. Joseph colleges and Manchester Community College, as well as privately. His compositions are featured on two releases by the CT Classical Guitar Society, of which he is a founding member. His latest release, Fiesta Grande, features music of Mexico.

Fiesta del Norte


February 13, 2016: Notorious

The dynamic musical duo known as Notorious returns to Branford Folk after a seven year absence to present a thrilling musical experience in genres that span many continents. Master musicians Eden MacAdam-Somer and Larry Unger comprise Notorious and they are renowned for bringing together traditional and contemporary acoustic music sure to get the audience on their feet and dancing.

With Eden on fiddle and vocals and Larry on guitar and banjo, their music is full of rhythmic drive and melodic candor. Music critics have employed terms such as "sparkling" and "exhilarating" to describe their performances which present a panoply of music from traditional American and Celtic fiddle tunes to jazz, blues, klezmer and Gypsy as well as the duo's vast repertoire of original compositions.

Eden is one of the most exciting and versatile young musicians performing and teaching today. Her music transcends genre through soaring violin and fiddling, vocals, and percussive dance. She has been a featured soloist with symphony and chamber orchestras, jazz and swing bands, and Eastern European and American folk ensembles.

As an educator and composer/improviser, Eden has been a guest artist at such institutions as the Afghanistan National Institute of Music and the Dundalk Institute of Technology, and a featured performer at the Eastborne and Beijing International Music Festivals. She maintains a full-time studio at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where she joined the faculty of the Contemporary Improvisation Department in 2012.

Larry has been a full time musician since 1984 and has presented a diverse range of musical performances at dances, festivals, and concerts across the United States, Canada, France, Scotland, Denmark, and Sweden. He's one of the busiest musicians around, playing for more than 150 dances every year. He has played with many top contra dance bands, including Reckless Abandon, Uncle Gizmo, Big Table, and the Reckless Ramblers, and has accompanied such fiddlers as Judy Hyman, Alasdair Fraser, Elke Baker, Rodney Miller, Matt Glaser, Ralph Blizard, and Vermont's Lissa Schneckenburger who made her debut at Branford Folk in December.

His solo concerts include a wide variety of music, including fingerstyle blues and slide guitar, rags, and old time banjo tunes as well as melodies played on a handful of unusual instruments including banjo-guitar, fretless banjo, and piano-harp. Larry's original waltzes and fiddle tunes have been played and recorded by musicians around the world. He has a great breadth of understanding of traditional music to complement his considerable technical proficiency and enjoys telling stories about the origins of his music and the people who taught him.

He's written more than 600 fiddle tunes and waltzes, many of which have been recorded by one of his bands or by other bands. His tunes are widely played at contra dances everywhere. He has published two books of original tunes.

March 12, 2016: John Kirk and Trish Miller

John Kirk and Trish Miller present fiery fiddle tunes, folksongs and fancy footwork in concert so bring your dancing shoes to this concert which will mark the Branford Folk Music Society debut of this married couple. Determined, as they aptly put it, "to changing the world one tune at a time," they've been performing together since 1988 and have toured throughout the world, from the Grand Canyon to Barbados, from New York City's Carnegie Hall to the Academy of Culture in St. Petersburg, Russia, playing music and singing in concerts, festivals, and schools, and calling contra and square dances. Much of their music is rooted in the local lore of the Northeast woodlands. They have a love of traditional tunes and witty songs.

John's lyric voice, good sense of humor and versatile instrumental skills (fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo, keyboard and ukulele) have earned him widespread recognition in folk and traditional music circles, while Trish is especially known for her clogging and guitar and banjo work. Both call square dances and have taught folk music and dance programs. In 2011, the U.S. State Department selected John and Trish (along with Sara Milonovich and Greg Anderson as Mountain Quickstep) to be touring music ambassadors in Eastern Europe and Turkey.

Both John and Trish teach at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and John has been on the music faculty at Bennington College in Vermont since 1998. Working as a teaching artist in public school music and dance residences has been an important part of John's career. Branford Folk audiences will surely remember him for the 2012 zany and fun-packed concert at the coffeehouse when he was accompanist for balladeer Chris Koldeway.

In addition to his group, Quickstep, John continues touring with the Susquehanna String Band. He is on staff at several music camps and has theatrical experience as a composer, musician and actor. The Dixie Chicks recorded his song, "Long Roads" and John has worked for many years in recording studios as a musician and producer. He has been known do some fancy quicksteppin'.

Trish plays guitar, banjo, dances and sings traditional and original music. She teaches banjo at Skidmore and is also a dance caller and country dance choreographer. She has a diverse repertoire of circle, square, contra and mixer dances. As a member of the Green Grass Cloggers, from Asheville, N.C., Trish learned ensemble footwork and toured extensively. Her rhythmic stepping style is rooted in the Southern mountains with a mix of traditional clogging and more modern percussive steps.

John and Trish

Stacy Phillips

April 9, 2016: Stacy Phillips and His Bluegrass Characters

New Haven's own Grammy Award-winning musician Stacy Phillips returns to Branford Folk for this first concert of spring and it is bound to be a memorable one. Stacy has assembled a select group of bluegrass pickers for this night of "folk music in overdrive" including members of his regular "Bluegrass Characters" band as well as legendary bluegrass and klezmer fiddler Kenny Kosek and banjo master Marty Cutler.

Stacy, a New Haven fixture who's graced the Branford Folk stage many times throughout the society's 42 years, is an internationally renowned fiddler and Dobro player who in 1995 won a Grammy and an International Bluegrass Music Association Award for his featured work on "The Great Dobro Sessions" album.

Stacy is the author of more than 25 books and DVDs on resonator guitars and fiddling, with several of his works considered standard classic texts in their fields. In addition, he's recorded three solo CDs and has released an album, "Neo-Urban Traditions" with longtime musical partner Paul Howard that ranges from Brazilian and Hawaiian to klezmer and swing styles. It's indicative of his wide-ranging and inventive musicianship that has earned him accolades throughout the world.

Kenny Kosek and Marty Cutler will augment Stacy's regular group of "Bluegrass Characters" that includes Phil Zimmerman on mandolin and banjo; Andy Bromage on guitar, and Pete Kelly on bass. Together for four years, the band hosts a monthly bluegrass jam at the Outer Space in Hamden. As Stacy puts it, "We accent the traditional part of the bluegrass spectrum, adding traditional pieces to the repertoire."

Like Stacy, Kenny Kosek has enjoyed a lengthy professional career not only as a multi-talented musician but also as a musical educator. He's recorded as an accompanist on hundreds of albums, soundtracks and television and radio commercials and appeared with artists as diverse as Jerry Garcia, James Taylor, Boy George, Leonard Cohen and Paul Schafer's Late Night Band on the former Late Night with David Letterman Show.

Kenny's distinctive roots-music-inspired sound has been part of the soundtracks of many cinematic and television documentaries. In addition to performing music, Kenny has appeared in many dramatic productions both on and off Broadway and as a humorist has written for the National Lampoon and radio humor shows.

He and Stacy co-authored Bluegrass Fiddle Styles, sometimes called the "yellow Bible" of bluegrass. He is also part of Margot Leverett's fusion quintet The Klezmer Mountains Boys, who have appeared twice at Branford Folk.

Marty Cutler is renowned as an innovator of bluegrass banjo and is also known for his work in midi production and synthesizer programming. He is a teacher and sound designer and has worked with Kenny in New York's Wretched Refuse String Band and the duo Chef of the Pasture. He has also appeared as a back-up musician on a host of albums in addition to his own solo albums.

May 14, 2016: David Littlefield

The Branford Folk Music Society concert season will close on May 14, 2016 with David Littlefield, a Mystic Seaport chanteyman and a member of the highly-regarded sea music quartet, Forebitter. Littlefield is a lifelong resident of the Old Lyme area. He has performed traditional and contemporary maritime music in Canada, England, Wales and all across the U.S. David credits Cliff Haslam as being a major influence on his music. David is a mandolin and guitar wizard, an outstanding songwriter of the Northeast coast, and a fine interpreter of the songs of the late Canadian singer-songwriter Stan Rogers. David began writing songs in the late 70's. The songs he writes address the concerns and attitudes of those who live and work on and around the sea, ballads with stories and tunes that stay with you long after the song has ended. These songs have gained critical acclaim among those who follow maritime music. Bring your voice because there no doubt will be plenty of choruses to be sung during this night's performance!

David Littlefield

Old Howard Troupe

September 10, 2016: The Old Howard Troupe

The society starts its 2016-2017 concert season with what we fully know will be a raucous night featuring The Old Howard Troupe, an ensemble of veteran artists devoted to bringing the experience of the Old English Music Hall right to our Branford stage. Members of the troupe wear Victorian-style stage costumes typical of the era and perform the hits of the music hall stage, with and without accompaniment.

Roll up, roll up, and hear the entertainment! This is not a dry lecture or a workshop, it's a full-out show! The troupe's vintage ensemble style features some old favorites of the music hall stage: rousing chorus songs, songs that might make you blush, and bittersweet but tender songs that tug at the heartstrings. There's literally something for everyone in the group's fast-paced and fun performance. And have no fear that the entertainment will lapse because the troupe's steadfast chairman will keep things moving along smoothly with his keen wit and saucy comments.

The Old Howard Troupe is a group of singers with big voices and includes: Lynn Feingold, Anabel Graetz, April Grant, Jeff Keller, Angela Kessler, Jeremy Kessler, Jean Monroe, Phillip Nimerskern and Lynn Noel. All have extensive performance experience, both as solo performers and group performers, throughout New England and beyond.

Curious? Come out and join us for what will be a bang-up start to a glorious Branford Folk Music Society concert season.

October 8, 2016: Calan

Fiddles, guitar, Welsh harp, accordion, bagpipes and step dancing explode into life when Welsh group Calan takes the stage. We're delighted to have them with us this fall for their Connecticut concert debut. It will also be a bit of history-making for the folk society: This is the first time in our 43 years that we've welcomed a Welsh group to our stage.

Branford is the group's next-to-last stop on a tour of the United States and Canada that has spanned three months including appearances at the famed Celtic Classic festival in Bethlehem, Pa., the Milwaukee Irish Festival and the Great Lakes Folk Festival in Michigan.

Calan gathers together the remarkable talents of five young musicians who give a fresh and vibrant sound to traditional Welsh music. With a contemporary and lively approach they breathe new life into the old traditions through their sparkling melodies, foot tapping tunes and spirited and energetic performances of Welsh step dancing. They blast their way through some of the old favorite reels, jigs and hornpipes with fast paced and uplifting arrangements before melting into some of the most beautiful and haunting songs.

Following release of their 2008 debut album Bling, which attracted four star responses from the critics, the five-piece band has been playing to large audiences and rave reviews at concerts and festivals around Britain and Europe, including the coveted Cambridge Festival and Celtic Connections soirees. Concert tours have taken them to Italy, Austria, Brittany and Belgium. They released their second album Dinas last year.

The group has raised some eyebrows with a deliberate policy of eye-catching clothes and presentation in their concerts. Despite the ancient roots of their music, they envision themselves as a new generation of ambassadors, striving to take their new sound to new audiences, while raising the profile of Welsh traditional music on an international level.

With their unique instrumental blend and the percussive sound of the Welsh clogs, Calan is certainly finding their musical niche. As the BBC Wales put it, "Calan has it all. Energy, attitude, freshness, a sense of fun and above all real talent."


Elias Ladino Ensemble

November 12, 2016: Elias Ladino Ensemble

Since 1976, the Elias Ladino Ensemble has performed the songs of the Sephardic Jews in venues all over the world. Though Ladino is on the verge of extinction, in the hands of this ensemble the music remains as vibrant as the community once was. There is a "Ladino soundtrack" for every aspect of life. Many of the songs date back to ancient Spain while some reveal melodies and rhythms of the Balkan and Middle Eastern communities where Sephardic groups lived in exile.

The Elias Ladino Ensemble – Daniel Elias, musical director and clarinet; Maurice Sedacca, guitar and oud; and Casey Bond on doumbek – is one of the very few Sephardic groups whose vocalists are native speakers of Ladino. They are the real thing, having been born and raised in the musical tradition of the Spanish Jews, descendants of the Jews who left the Iberian Peninsula in the late 15th century. Their instrumentalists have mastered "A la Turka" ensemble playing as well as world class solo virtuosity.

The group has performed together since their debut at the Smithsonian Institution's Festival of American Folklife in 1976. Since then they have performed and collected material in every corner of the Ladino-speaking world, including Istanbul, Izmir, Bat Yam, Safed, San Juan, Miami, Toronto, Barcelona, Zaragoza, and at folk festivals, universities, Hispanic institutes, and congregations of many religious denominations. They have appeared at the renowned Sephardic Music Festival in New York City. In performance, they will explain each song and how it fits into Ladino culture, which has grown to encompass the entire Mediterranean rim, and the origin of the songs.

December 10, 2016: Bruce Molsky

He's coming baaaack! It's been six long years since his last Branford appearance, so we are overjoyed that Bruce Molsky, one of the most revered "multi-hyphenated career" ambassadors for America's old-time mountain music, will be with as we close out our 2016 concerts.

Without doubt, Bruce is one of the most influential American folk fiddlers of this generation, not only renowned throughout the world as a master fiddler, but also as a remarkable guitarist, banjo player and vocalist. His high-spirited music melds the archaic mountain sounds of Appalachia, the power of blues and the rhythmic intricacies of traditional African music. A Minneapolis Star-Tribune music critic called him "old-time music's answer to Ry Cooder – a commanding musician with a voracious appetite for traditional music styles."

He's a self-described "street kid" from the Bronx who bailed on college and big city life for a cold-water cabin in Virginia in the 1970s. His mission? To soak up the passion that was dramatically upending his parent's life plan for him – authentic Appalachian mountain music – at the feet of its legendary pioneers, old masters who are now long gone.

For decades, he's been a globetrotting performer, ethnomusicologist and educator, a recording artist with an expansive discography including seven solo albums, well over a dozen collaborations and two Grammy nominations. He's also the classic "musician's musician" – a man who's received high praise from diverse fans and collaborators like Linda Ronstadt, Mark Knopfler, Celtic giants Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine, jazz artist Bill Frisell and Dobro master Jerry Douglas. In short he's a true country gentleman aptly dubbed "the Rembrandt of Appalachian fiddlers" by virtuoso violinist and sometimes bandmate Darol Anger.

Even this year, Molsky continues to pioneer new ground. The debut disc by Molsky's Mountain Drifters, the first band the legendary fiddler has fronted, was just released. In addition, another new release, "Can't Stay Here This a-Way", is a unique CD/DVD collection recorded in Los Angeles for Dave Bragger's Tiki Parlour series. Not a recording session in the traditional sense, Bruce just showed up, sat on a couch while the camera and recording device rolled – capturing all the spontaneity as he casually reeled off and provided insightful comments on traditional favorites and some new offerings. Also on the slate is "Rauland Rambles" from Molsky and Norwegian collaborators, Arto Järvelä and Anon Egeland. This recording, which fuses traditional American roots with Scandinavian folk, comes from an impromptu session set after Bruce performed at this year's Rauland International Winter Festival in Norway.

"Performing and teaching traditional music is the biggest thing in my world," Bruce has said. "For me, being a musician isn't a standalone thing; it informs everything I do in my life. It's always been about being creative and being a part of something much bigger than myself, a link in the musical chain and part of the community of people who play it and love it."

Bruce Molsky

April Verch

January 14, 2017: April Verch Band

And even more good news if you love old-time music. Branford Folk will kick the new year of 2017 into high gear on Jan. 14 when it presents dynamic Canadian fiddler, singer and step dancer April Verch in concert.

April knows how relevant an old tune can be. She was raised surrounded by living, breathing roots music – her father's country band rehearsing; the lively music at church and at community dances; the tunes she rocked out to win fiddle competitions. She thought every little girl learned to step dance at the age of three and fiddle at the age of six. She knew nothing else and decided early on that she wanted to be a professional musician.

She took that leap, and for over two decades has been recording and captivating audiences worldwide, exploring new and nuanced places each step of the way. In February, she will release The April Verch Anthology (Slab Town Records), an 18-track collection celebrating her life's work. She hand-picked the songs on this compilation which offer an enchanting mix of regional Canadian, American old-time, bluegrass, country and Americana tracks.

The April Verch Anthology is a testament to the many chapters in April's musical journey: Moving from exuberant stepdancer to fiddle wunderkind and silver-voiced singer; from upstart prodigy to mature and reflective songwriter, interpreter, and storyteller. The compilation is an excursion through April's 1998-2015 recordings, featuring tunes and songs dear to her as well as a healthy dose of fan favorites and two newly recorded tracks.

"Through this anthology, I am reminded of the inspirations with which I began and of the hopes I hold for the future. I take a moment to reflect and to celebrate," she says.

While April is perhaps best known for playing traditional fiddle styles from her native Ottawa Valley, Canada, her performances extend into old-time American and Appalachian styles and far beyond, for a well-rounded tour-de-force of North Americana sounds. She and her fellow trio members pare down their arrangements, highlighting the simple pleasures of upright bass, guitar, clawhammer banjo, voices, fiddle, and stepping in intimate conversation. At the heart lie April's delicate voice, energetic footwork, and stunning playing. Sometimes she sings, steps and fiddles all at once, with apparent ease and precision. She is – as they say – a triple threat in performance.

February 11, 2017: Coracree

Philadelphia based Coracree, plays roots music from the heart, melding a mixture of Celtic, Old time, European and Original music with an old and contemporary sound. Coracree combines the talents of four great musicians with a lifetime of playing traditional music who also write new melodies and songs in the traditional style.

Featuring the playing of award winning fiddler, clawhammer banjo player Janie Rothfield, the silver throated singing (and bass playing) of Scotsman, Allan Carr, multi-instrumentalist extra-ordinaire, Bill Quern, and the inventive and driving guitar of clog dancer Sarah Gowan, Coracree sets the house on fire! With lively fiddle tunes, soulful Scottish and Appalachian ballads, great singing and harmonies, a bit of raucus southern Old Time and an occasional clog dance by guitarist Sarah Gowan, an evening with Coracree equals a fun evening of music, dance and humor!

Since 2010, Coracree has played at contra dances, concerts and festivals throughout the American East, spreading their unique and entertaining brand of Old and New folk music to audiences of all ages.


Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem

March 11, 2017: Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem

With a deep repertoire that spans 200 years of American music, Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem will offer listeners sublime lead singing, great harmonies, wicked grooves and sparkling original songs when they return to Branford Folk on March 11. Now in its 15th year, the ensemble has played from the Newport Folk Festival to the California World Music Festival and beyond, dishing out a steadfast brew of wit, camaraderie, and musicality and leaving audiences humming and hopeful, spirits renewed.

This will be a one-of-a-kind performance of the band as a trio featuring Rani on fiddle and guitar, Anand Nayak on electric and acoustic guitars and Scott Kessel on percussion. Unfortunately, longtime band member Andrew Kinsey, who plays bass, banjo and ukulele, cannot make the gig because of a family commitment.

At the band's helm is Rani "blessed with an unmistakable voice, both light and sultry, with a hint of tremolo and smoke" (Acoustic Guitar) and a fiddle that is sweet and sinewy. Anand's guitar stretches across genre lines while Scott's homemade percussion kit – always a favorite – is a truly funky collection of cardboard boxes, tin cans, caulk tubes, packing-tape tambourines, bottle-cap rattles, Mongolian jaw harps, and a vinyl suitcase.

In the lineage of string bands who blur the boundaries of American roots music, Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem have always been standard-bearers, with as one Boston Globe music reviewer aptly put it, "a grand knack for pumping new blood into old music".

Imagine, for example, a pre-Civil War song from the Georgia Sea Islands sung over a New Orleans-style groove. Or, an old Irish fiddle tune with new lyrics, capped with a solo on a South American box drum. An original Unitarian funk gospel song? You begin to get the idea of what Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem is all about. And their original songs fit seamlessly aside artful re-workings of artists such as Hank Williams, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen – just a few of the many places this band is willing to go.

The band has released six albums on Signature Sounds Records, their latest being the holiday release of "Wintersong", a baker's dozen of works that skip over the holiday canon and dig up the power, beauty and the celebration of the roots of Christmas and the turning of the year.

April 8, 2017: Lou and Peter Berryman

There will be a bit of musical mayhem when Lou and Peter Berryman, two of the most humorous and creative songwriters in today's world of folk and acoustic music, invade Branford Folk this spring. Lou and Peter are originals, blending Midwestern culture with intelligent observation in a whimsical and wonderfully accessible performance.

Hailing from Wisconsin, Lou and Peter – whose friendship survived a brief marriage – have delighted audiences across the country for more than 35 years post-marriage. They have produced 18 albums and four songbooks of their original and hilarious yet oddly profound songs. Berryman songs are being sung around the world, by a legion of professional musicians from Peggy Seeger to Garrison Keillor to a recent "all Berryman" album by Cindy Mangsen and Steve Gillette, as well as shower singers everywhere.

Their songwriting takes life's mundane moments and turns them into musical magic. Subject matter ranges from the Thanksgiving grace of a politically-correct uncle to a service industry for older people that specializes in forgetting things. The late Pete Seeger characterized their classic, hit song, "A Chat With Your Mother" (a.k.a. "The F-Word Song") as "one of the great American folksongs of the 20th century."

Lou and Peter began their musical partnership in high school in Appleton, Wisconsin, in the 1960s. By the late '70s they had established themselves as a prominent feature of the songwriting subculture of Wisconsin's capital, playing their original material every week for almost ten years in the run-down but trendy music room of Madison's Club de Wash. Gradually expanding their circuit, they began crisscrossing the continent and gaining national attention with appearances on such radio programs as "A Prairie Home Companion" and "Weekend Edition".

This could be a final opportunity to see and hear Lou and Peter, as they are retiring from national touring and, sadly, they say this will be their final tour in the Northeast.

Lou and Peter Berryman

Tom Lewis

May 20, 2017 (third Saturday): Tom Lewis

Without doubt, Tom Lewis is one of North America's foremost exponents of contemporary sea songs. His 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. Long a Branford Folk audience favorite, this will be Tom's sixth appearance at the coffeehouse.

Tom is a 24-year veteran of the Her Majesty's Royal Naval diesel submarines, although now he's comfortably located on dry land and we're all better off for it musically. His musical career began in 1960 when he was posted to a naval station in Scotland and began frequenting local folk clubs. He retired from the Navy in 1983.

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."

With songs that have become folk standards; known and sung wherever great choruses ring out; Tom accompanies himself on button accordion and ukulele – but it's his powerful vocal style and infectious humor – that quality of entertaining – which keeps audiences coming back again ... and again.

As winner of the inaugural "Trophée Stan Hugill", French fans dub Tom "The Springsteen of Sea Chanteys". The Old Songs Festival in New York declares "This man knows the sea ... from the bottom up!", whilst Living Tradition magazine (in the UK) says "Although I always knew he was good, I was not quite prepared for HOW good." Because of his naval background, he brings a rare authenticity to the realm of nautical song.

September 9, 2017: North Sea Gas

We're kicking off our 44th season of concerts in super-high gear with a return visit from North Sea Gas, one of Scotland's most popular folk bands. Ronnie MacDonald, Grant Simpson and Dave Gilfillan comprise North Sea Gas and in concert they bring along guitars, mandolins, fiddles, bouzoukis, whistles, bodhrans, banjos and cracking senses of humor. They last visited Branford Folk in 2013 and it was standing room only!

North Sea Gas is known for their energetic repertoire that incorporates lively vocals and awe-inspiring three-part harmonies. The trio has been together for more than 35 years and has recorded 20 albums, the latest entitled "When We Go Rolling Home" released just this summer.

In the same way as their albums, their show features traditional, contemporary and self-penned material. North Sea Gas is a hard touring band with regular swings through Scotland, America, Canada, Germany and Austria, and occasional extended tours that take them around the globe. In 2008, they recorded for Chinese television with an estimated audience of 800 million! Their Branford appearance is part of a six-week tour in the U.S.

The group has received numerous Gold and Silver disc awards from the Scottish Music Industry Association and regularly sells out shows at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Their album "The Fire and The Passion of Scotland" won the 2013 Album of the Year bestowed by the Celtic Radio Music Awards in the U.S. as well as a first place in the "Jigs and Reels" category for a set of tunes on the album.

As Irish music journalist and broadcaster John O'Regan put it ".....they inherit the mantle vacated by The Corries and The McCalmans with tight vocal harmonies and well-chosen material.... most commendable about North Sea Gas is their ability to balance up tempo material with quieter more thoughtful moments and treat each with commitment and professionalism."

North Sea Gas

The Hammonds

October 14, 2017: Lorraine and Bennett Hammond

Lorraine, renowned master of the Appalachian dulcimer, also plays banjo, mandolin and Celtic harp and is an expressive singer and songwriter. Bennett, a superb finger-style guitarist and recent convert to the five string banjo, names "the three Bs", Bach, the blues and Buddy Holly, as major influences.

Together, The Hammonds are versatile musicians and engaging entertainers. Their warm stage presence is punctuated with wry humor, and their command of their instruments and musical genres is without flaw. The Boston Globe calls them "a dazzling, witty, eclectic, delightful duo."

The duo's repertoire ranges in style from classical through Celtic, blues and contemporary. They sing both traditional and original songs and can be heard on over thirty recordings as featured artists, or enhancing the work of performers including Archie Fisher, Lui Collins and Bob Franke. Christine Lavin and Heidi Mueller are among the artists who have covered Hammond originals.

The couple live in Brookline, Massachusetts and their most recent releases, all on the independent folk label Snowy Egret Music are Jingalo Gypsy featuring the duo, Bennett's Rockafolky Banjo Tapes and Lorraine's Muddy River Suite.

"Jingalo Gypsy is a warm, enveloping, well-thought-out recording...beautiful CD." - Dirty Linen Folk Magazine.

"More than just good pickers, Lorraine and Bennett are singers with an ear for traditional and contemporary songs. They work seamlessly together, blending instruments and voices." - Golden Link Folk Society.

November 11, 2017: Bob Zentz

Beloved performer Bob Zentz, who has been described as a one-man minstrel show, brings his smorgasbord of contemporary, traditional and original songs and stories to Branford Folk in November.

From schools to concert halls, festivals to fairs, museums to libraries, and everywhere in between, Bob is dedicated to a life of presenting, performing and introducing traditional music and its derivatives to those who are already fans – and those unaware of its existence.

Bob has been described in many ways, all of them right on and to the point:

  • A singer of songs, old and new, about people, places and times gone by
  • A player of dozens of the usual (and unusual!) "unplugged" folk instruments
  • A collector of stories in verse
  • A teller of "the tales behind the songs"
  • A commentator on the ecology of the human spirit
  • A scholar of the evolution of "homemade music"

Bob, who hails from the Tidewater region of Virginia, has been performing for more than five decades and offers up a program that is a unique testimony to his vast repertoire and varied personal interests. Concertgoers can expect to hear a concert that includes traditional Celtic tunes and ballads, science fiction songs, sea chanteys, tales of "old timers and old rhymers", and poetry set to music.

Two of the most storied songwriters of the 20th century praised Bob's work, each in his own way. Upon hearing Bob's first recorded release, "Mirrors and Changes" (on Connecticut's Folk-Legacy Records) country music legend Johnny Cash was moved to send the young artist an encouraging letter, saying, "Mirrors and Changes ... is one of the finest works I've heard by any artist." And in 2007, at a symposium at the Library of Congress American Folklife Center honoring members of the Seeger family for their contributions to American music, music legend and humanitarian Pete Seeger asked Bob, "Are you still writing those good songs? Your songs get around!"

In February of this year, Bob became the first folk artist ever honored by a star in the Virginia "Legends of Music Walk of Fame" in his hometown of Norfolk.

Bob Zentz

Bob Zentz instruments

Bob Zentz Walk of Fame

December 9, 2017: Concert cancelled because of snow.

January 13, 2018: Debra Cowan & John Roberts

What a high and joyous note on which to start the New Year! Internationally renowned and respected balladeers Debra Cowan and John Roberts make a return visit to Branford Folk with their ever-expanding sack of songs and ballads.

With their eloquent voices and expert musicianship, John and Debra bring to life songs seldom heard on TV or radio these days. Drawn from both the folk tradition and the work of contemporary songwriters, many of these songs tell of the timeless joys and sorrows of human experience. They offer windows into where we've come from and perhaps where we're headed. Both musicians can also spin a ripping good yarn and whether illuminating, inspiring, or laugh-out-loud funny, their stories convey their love of the songs and the people who've sung them over the years, decades and, in some cases, centuries.

From the minute she begins to sing, Debra grabs her audience and doesn't let go. Her ability to communicate the story within the song is a rare art. It's agreed by music presenters and radio programmers alike that she possesses one of the best voices in folk music today. Her rich nightingale soprano conjures images of stony-grey Celtic castles, green and rolling English landscapes and humorous American scenes as she moves through a repertoire full of traditional balladry with a sprinkling of sea music, contemporary songs and outrageously comic songs.

John is the proverbial "walking encyclopedia" of folk songs and folklore. For over 45 years, John, a British expatriate, has been singing and playing old songs, meaning that many of the songs and tunes in his extensive repertoire can be traced back at least 100 years. He is also considered one of the foremost Anglo concertina players in the English-speaking world and uses the banjo for unique settings in many of the songs he sings. He can give the background of any song he performs, often telling the listener the circumstances from which it might have been written and from whom the song was collected. John and his long-time music partner, Tony Barrand, are often cited as influences and mentors to many listeners, singers and musicians when it comes to traditional folk music of the English-speaking world.

John and Debra's musical partnership began in 2009 with a simple question: "How are you getting to Chacago?" And with that, they decided to team up for a series of small concerts in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois before arriving as separately booked artists at the Fox Valley Folklore Society's annual festival. The combination of car-pool and mini-tour was successful enough that they continue to do more performing together both in the U.S. and in 2011, with a successful tour in the United Kingdom. They've recorded one album in 2015, "Ballads Long and Short" on Golden Hind Music that has already become a classic.

John and Debra firmly believe that folk music is not a spectator sport. They can turn any audience into a chorale by patiently teaching sometimes complicated and often tongue-tying choruses, along with familiar songs. Join us on Jan. 13 and we promise that you'll leave the performance smiling and often singing, knowing that, as Debra and John say, the song is the star, and singing is what keeps great songs alive.

Debra Cowan and John Roberts

Toby Walker

February 10, 2018: Toby Walker

Here's the perfect solution to fighting the wintertime blahs. Join us for a return visit to Branford Folk by Toby Walker, winner of the prestigious International Blues Challenge Award who's been hailed as a finger style guitar virtuoso. If you were with us in 2013 when he made his Branford debut you know exactly what we're talking about.

Toby combines the styles of blues, ragtime, country, bluegrass, rock and old time jazz into his own unique style. Jorma Kaukonen of Hot Tuna and the Jefferson Airplane says, "Flat out... you have to hear this great musician... I'm blown away". Jorma has employed Toby to teach at his internationally famous Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp for more than a decade.

In 2014, Toby was recognized as a "Master Blues Artist" by the New York Blues Hall of Fame and four years previous won the New York Music Award for "Best Instrumental CD," sharing honors on stage with Mariah Carey, Rufus Wainwright and Judy Collins among other award winners. His crowning achievement, however, was winning first place in the International Blues Challenge Award given by the Blues Foundation in Memphis, Tennessee.

He has toured America, England, Wales, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland and, most recently, Cyprus, and he's been the subject of profiles in The New York Times and the London Sunday Times and has appeared on the London BBC and on Sirius-XM radio.

At a young age, Toby's passion for blues, rags, folk, and other traditional American music forms drove him to leave an apartment crammed full of recordings, books and instruments for the Mississippi Delta, Virginia and the Carolinas where he tracked down some of the more obscure – but immensely talented – music makers of an earlier era. He learned directly from Eugene Powell, James "Son" Thomas, Etta Baker and R. L Burnside, among others.

Toby recently released several instructional guitar DVDs for the respected Homespun Tapes which have been garnering rave reviews and he just released a new album of traditional blues entitled "From The Ground Up" that is already receiving rave reviews from critics and fans alike. Carnegie Hall recently acknowledged his talent and hired him to augment and teach in their "American Roots" program aimed at honor level middle school students.

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