Author Archive

Author: Margaret
• Thursday, January 02nd, 2014

Celebrated Annual Contra Dance and Dessert Potluck
Saturday, Jan. 18, 7:00pm-11:30pm
CSMA (Community School of Music and Arts)
330 E. State St./Martin Luther King Boulevard

A feast of music, dancing, friends, and fabulous desserts are all part of the Eleventh Annual “Dance and Dessert Potluck” hosted by Hands Four Dancers of Ithaca. Nationally renowned fiddler and dance caller David Kaynor from Massachusetts will be joined by some terrific local musicians, including Andrea Katz on fiddle, Tim Ball on guitar, and Nancy Spero on bass, for some sublime and whimsical tunes. Together, they make the sweet music that grows from well-attuned friendships. Contra dancing (7:30-10:30 pm) will be followed by a dessert potluck and schottisches, hambos, and waltzes, 10:30-11:30 pm. Step lively and you just might balance your caloric intake and output!

Beginners of all ages are always welcome at contra dances. A workshop at 7:00 pm will teach the simple moves, and experienced dancers are supportive. No need to bring a partner, but please bring clean, soft-soled shoes and something yummy to share for the grand dessert finale. Hot beverages will be provided. Info: 607-539-3174 Admission: $8 members; $10 nonmembers. Join HFDI at the dance for discounts on all dances for the year.

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Author: Margaret
• Saturday, November 09th, 2013

Saturday, November 23, 8 pm

CSMA, 330 E. State St., Ithaca

AltEscape is made up of Tim Ball on fiddle, Gail Blake on guitar, and Peter Blue on button accordion, nyckelharpa, percussion, and everything else. As they say on their website, “We play cool music for contra dancing.” Sarah VanNorstrand will teach and call each dance. Beginners are welcomed and encouraged! No partners needed. Please bring clean, soft-soled shoes. Sponsored by Hands Four Dancers of Ithaca. $8 members/$10 nonmembers. Info at or 607-539-3174.

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Author: Margaret
• Saturday, November 09th, 2013

Cosy Sheridan


8:00 - 10:30 PM


(on Central Ave. near Johnson Museum)

For more than 20 years, singer and song crafter Cosy Sheridan has captivated audiences with wicked satire, charm, and unbridled, joyous energy. She has a serious side as well, and is foremost among contemporary songwriters in giving voice to the lives of women. Uniquely, she fuses myth with modern culture, Persephone with Botox and Hades the Biker: all the excess, fear, wry humor, simple wisdom, beauty, and love that make up contemporary life. She is frank, feisty, fragile, sublimely and devilishly funny, and at home everywhere from the wilds of Utah to the Dr. Demento show to Carnegie Hall.

She’s widely respected for her well-rounded musical chops: a solid blues- and gospel-infused dynamic guitar style, tunes that stick, thoughtful and mirthful lyrics, and a flexible, communicative voice. In 1992, she won both the New Folk Award at Kerrville (joining the ranks of previous winners Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Michelle Shocked, and John Gorka) and the Telluride Bluegrass Troubadour Award. This New Hampshire native, who’s now based in Utah, had early vocal training at The Berklee School of Music and guitar training with the likes of Guy Van Duser and Eric Schoenberg, but she has developed her own distinctive style through years of touring, recording (10 CDs), and living. Most important, she has something real to say, shaped as music. And she helps others to find their voice by teaching at numerous camps coast to coast, including the Moab Folk Camp, which she co-founded in 2008.

It has been six years since the Cornell Folk Song Society last brought her to Ithaca. Heed the advice of fellow-musician Catie Curtis: “Somewhere in the uncharted territory of Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Dr. Ruth, and Deepak Chopra is YOU at a Cosy Sheridan concert–laughing and crying, laughing and crying. Go there.”

Tickets: Ithaca Guitar Works, Autumn Leaves Books, GreenStar, Bound for Glory, online $15 adv/$17 door; $3 rebate for members, seniors, teens. Cornell students $10/$12. Children free. Info: 607-351-1845 or website.

–Margaret Shepard

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Author: Margaret
• Saturday, October 26th, 2013

John Roberts and Tony Barrand in Concert

Saturday, November 9, 8:00 PM
Hollis Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall, Cornell Arts Quad

John Roberts and Tony Barrand, born on the other side of “the Pond” but long-time Vermonters, are past presidents of the Cornell Folk Song Society. These jolly old Brits met as graduate students at Cornell in 1968 and discovered a mutual passion for English and Anglo-American songs and ballads, sea shanties, story songs of life both rural and industrial, pub songs, and bawdy music-hall pieces. Their voices were a perfect fit for the robust a cappella harmonies of this traditional music. After becoming stars in Ithaca and revitalizing the Cornell Folk Song Society (for which we thank them!), they moved on to academic careers, combining music and ritual dance (morris and clogging) with research in social psychology. For over four decades, they have continued to perform throughout the States, Canada, and England, separately, as a duo, and as members of the beloved Nowell Sing We Clear. They’ve produced many classic recordings of English traditional folk songs, and also have collaborated to record the songs of Percy Grainger and of fellow Brattleboro ex-pat resident Rudyard Kipling. Roberts, a frequent emcee at the Old Songs Festival, is known for songs of the sea and sailing ships, as well as fine ballads, with accompaniment on Anglo and English concertina, hurdy-gurdy, banjo, and guitar. Professor Barrand, in addition to serious music-making and research in folklore and dance, is a master of comic recitations and a quick hand at drums, bones, and spoons. His turn as Nancy Pelosi in a mummers’ play a few years back was inspired and side-splitting. But it is the mix of their powerful, unaccompanied voices, whimsy, and durable friendship that sets Roberts and Barrand apart. They were last in Ithaca in 2002, so this concert is a rare treat!

Tickets: Ithaca Guitar Works, Autumn Leaves Books, GreenStar, Bound for Glory, online at, and by mail (SASE to CFSS, PO Box 481, Ithaca, NY 14851). $15 advance/$17 door; $3 rebate for members, seniors, teens. Cornell students $10/$12. Children free. Info: 607-351-1845 or website.

–Margaret Shepard

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Author: Margaret
• Friday, October 25th, 2013

Sunday, 3 November, 2 pm

Appel Commons 303, Cornell North Campus


Fabulous New England-based band Elixir (Ethan
Hazzard-Watkins on fiddle, Anna Patton on clarinet and vocals, Jesse Readlynn
on trumpet and flugelhorn, Owen Morrison on guitar and foot percussion, Nils
Fredland on trombone and vocals), will perform in a Cornell Folk Song Society
concert as part of a double feature: Saturday night contra dance (sponsored by
the Cornell Contra Dance Club) and Sunday afternoon concert! A creative fusion
- with joy and finesse - of big-band, traditional Celtic and French Canadian,
Dixieland jazz, swing, reggae, singing squares, rock, and originals. Exquisite
harmonies, high energy from a premier band.


This venue has the advantage of a nice dance floor behind
the chairs (for those who can’t stay in their seats for this exuberant music),
as well as a large adjacent parking lot, open to the public.


Tickets: Ithaca Guitar Works, Autumn Leaves Books,
GreenStar, Bound for Glory, online at
$15 advance/$17 door; $3 rebate for members, seniors, teens. $5 for student
members of Cornell Folk Song Society (membership is free to CU students).
Children free. Info: 607-351-1845 or website.


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Author: Margaret
• Tuesday, October 01st, 2013

The New England-based Clayfoot Strutters with caller George Marshall are returning to Ithaca after a too-long absence for a Hands Four double-header dance, 4-11 pm, Saturday, October 19, Beverly Martin School, 302 W. Buffalo St., Ithaca.Clayfoot StruttersIn the contra dance world, this band is a standout for “groove.” The Strutters draw inspiration from the far corners of the roots music galaxy to deliver an exciting fusion of traditional New England, Appalachian, and Quebecois music, progressive harmonies from pop and modal jazz, and hot dance-floor rhythms from the Afropop, swing, Latin, Cajun, and zydeco worlds. They’re prolific composers of dance tunes and songs as well. Core members are fiddler, songwriter, and producer Pete Sutherland, Jeremiah McLane on accordion and keyboards, and drummer, vocalist, and guitarist Lee Blackwell. Special guests include: Peter Davis, who plays clarinet, sax, piano, and guitar, bassist Harry Aceto (our hometown lad), and banjo and flute player Mark Roberts. George Marshall, with his suave, concise style and a deep repertoire of fun dances, will teach each dance.

There’s a session for experienced dancers, 4-6 pm, and an evening dance for all, 8-11 pm, with a potluck supper at 6:15 pm in the cafeteria between sessions. Please bring a generous dish to share! Beginners are most welcome: steps are simple and each dance is taught; there’s pre-dance instruction for newcomers at 7:30 pm. No need to bring a partner, but please bring clean, soft-soled shoes to protect the floor!

Prices (Hands Four member/nonmember): both sessions $16/20; afternoon only $8/10; evening only $10/12. Join or renew at the dance and receive the discounted admission. Info: 607-539-3174 or

– Margaret Shepard, for Hands Four Dancers

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Author: Margaret
• Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Saturday, 5 October 2013, 8:00 pm

165 McGraw Hall, Cornell Arts Quad, Ithaca, NY

Cornell Folk Song Society Concert

Old friends Sally Rogers and Claudia Schmidt, each with productive and storied solo careers, relish joining forces to make glorious music. Between them, they have over 30 fine recordings, but only three as a duo, most recently Evidence of Happiness in 2012. Radio stations across the country voted their 1987 collaboration, Closing the Distance, in the top 10 most popular albums of the year. Their separate home bases (Rogers in Connecticut, Schmidt in Minnesota) and full teaching, composing, and touring schedules make it challenging to converge. This Ithaca concert is a rare chance to hear them create magic together, with the synergy that comes from shared musicality and a gift for lyrics, instinctive harmonies, passion for social justice, education, and the environment, and radiant joy in the “Tree of Life.” These are energetic, powerful women who revitalize their audiences with a mix of humor, poignancy, and fire. Both drew attention decades back as regulars on A Prairie Home Companion, and have traveled far and wide since then.

Free-ranging and unclassifiable, Claudia Schmidt is fluent in folk, jazz, blues, and world music styles, a prolific composer and great wordsmith, and a soulful player of 12-string guitar and mountain dulcimer. In addition to taking the stage at festivals, big arenas, and house concerts across North America and Europe, she writes and performs in film, television, and theater. She’s an inimitable force. “When Claudia sings a song, it stays sung,” declares Garrison Keillor. A reviewer in the San Francisco Bay Guardian wrote, “Schmidt’s shows are a lot like falling in love. You never know what’s going to happen next, chances are it’s going to be wonderful, every moment is burned into your memory, and you know you’ll never be the same again.”

Sally Rogers is firmly grounded in traditional folk, old-timey, and children’s music, graced with a pure voice and accomplished playing of guitar, banjo, and dulcimer. In her hands, songs, whether original, contemporary, or hundreds of years old, have a timeless quality. Once heard, audiences remember them and take them home to sing in the kitchen, car, or at gatherings. As a born, and now professional, teacher, Sally Rogers’ successful mission is to set the world singing. When she’s not in a schoolroom, she’s likely to be touring across the States, Europe, or China, recording, creating books and videos for children, composing songs for Unitarian and Quaker hymnals, and quilting. She has won numerous awards, including Best Folk Album of 1982 (Circle of the Sun), Parents’ Choice Gold of 1990 (Piggyback Planet: Songs for a Whole Earth), Best Children’s Recording in 1993 (What Can One Little Person Do?) and in 1994 (At Quiet O’Clock). Her eagerly awaited recording for adults, We’ll Pass Them On, was recently released on Red House Records. She can tackle serious subjects in a way that uplifts rather than numbs. Writes Peggy Seeger, “Sally Rogers has a clear, fluid, and remarkably agile voice, a keen sense of drama, and a most refreshing sense of fun.”

Rogers and Schmidt tore up the stage at last June’s Old Songs Festival, and are sure to delight and inspire when they make their first duo appearance in Ithaca. Seating is limited, so it would be wise to get tickets in advance.

Tickets: Ithaca Guitar Works, Autumn Leaves Books, GreenStar, Bound for Glory, online at, and by mail (SASE to CFSS, PO Box 481, Ithaca, NY 14851). $15 advance/$17 door; $3 rebate for members, seniors, teens. Cornell students $10/$12. Children free. Info: 607-351-1845 or website.

–Margaret Shepard

Claudia Schmidt and Sally Rogers

Claudia Schmidt and Sally Rogers

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Author: Margaret
• Wednesday, September 04th, 2013

Bill Staines. Cornell Folk Song Society concert, Saturday, September 21, 2013, 8 pm, Hollis Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall, Cornell Arts Quad

For more than 40 years, Bill Staines has roamed from Alaska to New Hampshire and most points between, crafting timeless, singable songs as he goes. He so convincingly evokes the West, small towns, and open spaces that one might think was a once a cowboy (he is a champion yodeler). Many of his beloved songs, such as “All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir” and “Roseville Fair,” are sung from summer camps to Carnegie Hall, fill the pages of Rise Up Singing, and are often miscredited to “Trad.” Staine’s 27 recordings, three songbooks, and indefatigable touring (over 200 concerts a year) ensure that his music will be embraced for generations as part of the folk lexicon.

“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” –  Sandy PatonFolk Legacy Records

Tickets: Ithaca Guitar Works, Autumn Leaves Books, GreenStar, Bound for Glory, online at $15 advance/$17 door; $3 rebate for members, seniors, teens. Cornell students $10/$12. Children free. Info: 607-351-1845 or website.

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Author: Margaret
• Friday, August 16th, 2013

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Contra Dance with George Wilson, Selma Kaplan, and Casey Carr
CSMA, 330 East State Street, Ithaca
Beginner’s workshop: 7:30 pm; dancing 8:00-11:00 pm
Sponsor: Hands Four Dancers of Ithaca

A talented, multi-instrumentalist and singer, George Wilson’s repertoire samples a wide variety of traditional and folk styles. As a fiddler, he has over 500 tunes for dancing and listening tunes from New England, Quebec, Cape Breton, Scotland, Ireland, and the Shetlands. His dynamic fiddling has been popular with contra dancers and concert goers since the late 1970s. Selma Kaplan is an accomplished pianist, composer, and arranger, and plays the ultimate sensitive and inventive piano accompaniment with rock solid rhythm and swing. She is one of the East Coast’s foremost requested dance musicians, and was renowned as one of the Rude Girls. She is a great harmony singer and teacher. One of our gifted local callers, Casey Carr, will teach each dance; complete beginners will find it easy to pick up, and are always welcome. The CSMA space is air-conditioned and has a special floor, so bring clean, soft-soled shoes for dancing. Admission $8 members/$10 nonmembers. Info: 607-539-3174 or

For those who can’t get enough of these musicians, Wilson and Kaplan are doing a contra tunes workshop at 2:00 pm (also Aug. 24) at the Canaan Institute outside Slaterville. $20, limited seating: RSVP:

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Author: Margaret
• Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Sixth Fiddlehead Frolic: Moving Violations with Gaye Fifer

Saturday, 27 April 2013, noon to 11 pm

Beverly J. Martin School, 302 W. Buffalo St., Ithaca, NY

Ticket info and schedule

Fortunately, March did not present us this year with the 90-degree days that spelled disaster for fruit trees

Moving Violations in the Woodpile, and coming to a dance floor NEAR YOU!

and messed with ecological timetables last year. Still, spring has been slow in coming, and what better way to celebrate it than with nearly 12 hours of dancing among superb, playful musicians and excellent company from near and far? The Sixth Fiddlehead Frolic, sponsored by member-run Hands Four Dancers of Ithaca, features the renowned Moving Violations from Western Massachusetts (we’ve been trying to bring them to Ithaca for years), polished caller Gayle Fife, from Pittsburg by way of Missouri and Virginia, as well as a regional favorite band, Escape, and beloved local callers.

Beverly Martin School has locations for simultaneous activities appealing to dancers, jammers, singers, silent auction aficionados, plus an instrumental workshop with Moving Violations and a waltz workshop with Gaye Fifer (her specialty). A waltz jam (open band) with makings for sandwiches kicks off the fun at noon; contra dancing, with Moving Violations and Escape alternating, goes from 1 to 6 pm, ending with the wildly popular contra medley (an ever-evolving non-stop dance with different callers taking turns). A potluck supper (6:15-7:15 pm; bring a generous dish to share!) at the school will supply the needed fuel for the evening session of couples dances taught by Gaye Fifer (7:30-8:00 pm) and contra dancing with the Moving Violations (8:00-11:00 pm).

And who are the Moving Violations? They’re veterans of the Fourgone Conclusions, Swallowtail, Big Bandemonium, and other fine dance bands. For many years, MV have been the backbone of the Greenfield and Amherst contra dances, but now they’re really on the move across the country, where dancers can hear for themselves why Ralph Sweet and Tom Hodgson consider them the consummate contra dance musicians. They made a big splash at the Dance Flurry a few years back, where their diversity of styles and pacing, intricate but always rhythmic and lyrical arrangements, and self-described “affectionate abandon and occasional silliness” won the crowd. The Moving Violations are: Van Kaynor (from the fine line of Kaynor musicians), fiddle and limberjack; Ron Grosslein, fiddle and mandolin; Chuck Corman, bass, guitar, and percussion; and Eric Eid-Reiner, piano. With decades of experience in classical and dance music, they have the skill, energy, and imagination to respect and transmute a wide range of music: Celtic, Swedish, Eastern European, Klezmer, original compositions, Vivaldi, and a few Handel Bars. Their spontaneity also encourages dancers to improvise. Listen for the exquisite double fiddles, traveling harmonic lines, and creative percussion that make them stand-outs.

Caller Gaye Fifer

Guest caller Gaye Fifer has been dancing for 30 years, so she knows how to create and teach dances that will delight dancers of all levels. She has a reputation for clear, concise, and friendly calling. Her forte is instruction in “folk waltzes,” which she has taught for years. She’s committed to the preservation of traditional dance and song as a board member of CDSS.

We’re also delighted to bring the decidedly “cool” but accessible Escape to town: Tim Ball on sublime fiddle, Jodi Austin on keys, synthesizer, and cowbell, and Peter Blue on button accordion, nyckelharpa, percussion, and everything else.

This 11-hour festival has something for people of all ages and experience levels. The dance community always welcomes and assists newcomers. Beginners will find that the few simple steps are easy to learn, and that each dance is taught. Please bring (1) clean, soft-soled shoes to protect the dance floor, and (2) food to share at the fabulous potluck supper. You are encouraged to bring your own place settings, but there will be extras on hand.

There’s a discount if you register for both afternoon and evening sessions by 6 April ($20 members/$25 nonmembers). At the door, the cost for both sessions is $24/$30, and for either the afternoon or evening session alone, admission is $12/$15. You can join Hands Four when you register early or at the door, for reduced admission to all HFDI dances. Jammers and singers who do not dance or take a workshop are admitted free. For a full schedule, downloadable registration, and other details, visit or call 607-539-3174. The web site also provides contact info. for volunteering, for donating to a silent auction, or for out-of-towners who need a place to stay overnight.

Bring on the Fiddleheads!

– Margaret Shepard, for Hands Four Dancers of Ithaca

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Author: Margaret
• Friday, April 05th, 2013

Larry Hanks and Deborah Robins

Larry Hanks and Deborah Robins

Larry Hanks and Deborah Robins in Concert

165 McGraw Hall, Cornell Arts Quad

Saturday, April 20, 8 pm

Berkeley, California-based Larry Hanks and Deborah Robins sing unadorned, true “brand spankin’ OLD” songs. Known as a “folksinger’s folksinger,” Hanks has been performing to delighted festival and club audiences for over 50 years, solo and with folks such as Janis Joplin, Utah Phillips, Mike Seeger, and Geoff Muldaur. He’s still remembered fondly from the glory days of Fox Hollow, and with Deborah Robins, his wife and musical partner, he has charmed the Old Songs Festival for the last several years. Hanks gained “legendary” status in the 60s while playing with the likes of a young Mac Benford, in-her-prime Malvina Reynolds, and then-emerging songwriter Bill Steele when they all were based in the San Francisco Bay area. After his move to Bellingham, Washington, Hanks seemed to “disappear” for a few decades, with little touring, especially in the east. Thankfully, Deborah Robins persuaded him a few years ago to return to full-time performing. They’ve been touring regularly and have put out two great CDs together (No Hiding Place and OLD DAYS) since then.

Larry Hanks and Deborah Robins aren’t flashy or over-the-top. Instead, they are warm and unpretentious. Hanks is a master of spare 6- and 12-string guitar accompaniments and a virtuosic Jew’s harp player. His bass-baritone voice has been called mellifluous as well as rough-hewn; it combines well in earthy and unearthly close harmony with Robins’ resonant alto. They do some originals (such as Hanks’ widely-sung “Apple Picker’s Reel”) but like to keep the traditional songs alive. Influenced by the music of Sam Hinton, Leadbelly, and Woody Guthrie, they range lovingly across cowboy songs both sad and funny, rousing work songs, political and topical songs, and old ballads.

The Cornell Folk Song Society is pleased to welcome Larry Hanks and Deborah Robins at last. Find out what caused another veteran folk musician Michael Cooney to say of Hanks, “This is why I got into folk music to begin with.”

Tickets: Ithaca Guitar Works, GreenStar Market, Autumn Leaves Books, Bound for Glory, online at, or at the door. $15 advance, $17 at door: rebates of $3 for CFSS members, seniors, teens; children under 13 free. Students $10/12. Info: website or (607) 351-1845.

– Margaret Shepard and John Henderson

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Author: Margaret
• Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Andrew Calhoun in Concert

Saturday, April 6, 8 pm

165 McGraw Hall, Cornell Arts Quad

Andrew Cohen is a quietly powerful wizard of music-making, master of songs both traditional and new. Interspersing his own compositions with African-American spirituals, hymns, songs of liberation, poetry of Robert Frost and Mary Oliver, ancient Scots ballads (which he has translated from medieval dialect), early American folk music, and songs from friends such as Dave Carter, Annie Gallup, and Kate MacLeod, he spins a lyrical web of a concert. His original songs range widely; some tell stories, others are impressionistic; some are topical, others autobiographical. They may be dark, frankly challenging, or side-splitting funny. He can write a beautiful love song. His work is both grounded and full of restless curiosity. “Andrew Calhoun tells the truth; … there is no better songwriter alive,” said Dave Carter.

Raised in Chicago by parents who took their Jewish and Christian faiths, poetry, and union/civil rights politics seriously, Calhoun also credits as early influences W. B. Yeats, John Prine, Elizabeth Cotton, Bessie Jones, Mississippi John Hurt, Joni Mitchell, Joseph Conrad, Leonard Cohen, and Martin Carthy. He began to make music professionally in his teens, and 40 years later is still fresh, performing world-round, making superb recordings, exploring new terrain in music as ritual, and mentoring other musicians. As founder of the cooperative Waterbug Records, he has helped to launch the careers of many folk luminaries, including Dar Williams, Lui Collins, Cosy Sheridan, and Anais Mitchell. These days, he’s also been performing with his daughter, Casey Calhoun, and with their band Zozo.

Few contemporary folk musicians can rival the power of Calhoun’s imagery, the warmth of his baritone, his deft fingerpicking, and sly humor. He mystifies, inspires, and delights. Writes Lui Collins, “Andrew’s music goes straight to the soul.” His concerts are an always-surprising fusion of energetic intellect, deep humanity, and pure magic.

Tickets: Ithaca Guitar Works, GreenStar, Autumn Leaves Bookstore, Bound for Glory, and online at $15 advance/$17 door; $3 rebate for members, seniors, teens; children 12 & under free. Cornell students $10/$12. Info: 607-351-1845 or website. Performer website:

– Margaret Shepard and John Henderson

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