Author Archive

Author: Margaret
• Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Hands Four Contra Dance with Wild Asparagus and George Marshall Calling

Saturday, 20 October

4-6 pm dance for experienced dancers;

6:15 pm potluck supper;

7:30 pm beginners’ workshop;

8-11 pm dancing for all

Beverly Martin Elementary School,

302 W. Buffalo St., Ithaca

Dance bliss is guaranteed with the return of renowned caller George Marshall and Wild Asparagus. Springing up in the heart of the Pioneer (aka Asparagus) Valley of Massachusetts in the 1980s, the acclaimed band WILD ASPARAGUS has been pivotal in the contra dance renaissance. Their monthly “first-Saturdays” at Greenfield are packed. Over the years, these first-rate musicians have put their individual stamp on traditional tunes from New England, Canada, the wider Celtic world, and beyond, recognized for their imaginative arrangements and dynamic pacing. Beyond skill, their playing is playful. After too long an absence, this fabulous band will bring its unique blend of instruments, creativity, and energy to Ithaca for a “Don’t miss!” event.

Ann Percival, on dazzling piano, guitar, and vocals, is the essential heartbeat of the band; David Cantieni, woodwind wizard, provides melody and joyous flow with flutes, tin whistle, oboe, saxophone, and bombard. George Marshall, gifted at English concertina, bodhran, and bones, brings drive and does double duty as a suave caller. Becky Tracy, of Nightingale fame, fiddles with a rare match of fire and beauty. Ithaca’s own Harry Aceto will build the solid bass foundation for the musical dynamics.

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. Beginners are most welcome: steps are simple and each dance is taught. No need to bring a partner. Please bring clean, soft-soled shoes to protect the floor! For more information, visit or call 607/539-3174.

Bookmark and Share
Category: Contra, Dancing  | Tags:  | Leave a Comment
Author: Margaret
• Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Anne Hills & Michael Smith

Saturday, 22 Sept., 8 pm

165 McGraw Hall, CU Arts Quad

Two astonishingly original songwriters and long-time musical partners make real magic onstage. With her warm, expressive soprano, Anne Hills reigns as a top folk vocalist. Michael Smith’s quirky, wonderful outlook makes him one of the most daring, inventive songwriters today. Both performers combine their lyrical gifts (beautiful,   memorable tunes and words) with wide-ranging, eye-opening literacy and heartfelt social values. As natural storytellers, they also shine as composers for theater, from Steinbeck   to Quilts. Many of their songs are folk classics (Michael’s “The Dutchman” and “Spoon River” and Anne’s “Silken Dreams” and “Follow That Road”). The synergy they create — songs historical, cutting-edge, funny, aching, loving — is electrifying.

“Michael Smith is the greatest songwriter in the English language.” — Rolling Stone

“Anne Hills’ writing…is as direct, melodic, and deep as any work being done today. One of my absolute favorites” — Tom Paxton

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. CU students $10/$12. Info: 607-351-1845 or website.

Bookmark and Share
Author: Margaret
• Tuesday, September 04th, 2012

Here’s a delectable Sunday mix: two superb Vermont-based, traditional but innovative musicians, glorious brunch supervised by a renowned cook, and sweet company! House concert at 124 Pine Tree Rd., Ithaca (Dave Jones and Lucia Sciore). Light brunch at 10 am, concert at 11 am, followed by more food,

ending around 1 pm. $15 admission includes brunch (but you’re welcome to bring a dish to share as well). Space is limited, so we askfor reservations. If you reserve and then discover you cannot come, please let us know; we expect a waiting list. Until Sept. 13, contact Margaret Shepard ( to reserve seats. Sept. 14-16, please call Lucia (607-351-0221).

Becky Tracy (fiddle) and Keith Murphy (guitar, mandolin, piano, and foot percussion) are dynamic performers of traditional music from Newfoundland, Quebec, Ireland, France, and beyond. Tracy’s fiddling pulses through tasteful arrangements of dance tunes and resonates with beauty on traditional slow airs. Keith’s gentle and expressive singing in English and French is balanced by the drive and power of his guitar playing and foot percussion. Combined, they produce a range and richness of sound that is striking for a duo. Their playing is seamless, the result of years of playing together and touring across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Their repertoire includes Keith’s original compositions (many included in the Black Isle Music tune collection). He’s a prolific tunesmith with a style strongly grounded in traditional dance music. Keith and Becky were two-thirds of the wildly popular Vermont trio Nightingale and are veterans of several other bands including Childsplay and Assembly (Keith) and Wild Asparagus (Becky). They’ve recorded with these bands and many others, and have fine solo recordings: Evergreen (Becky) and Bound For Canaan (Keith).

Those of you who’ve heard Nightingale in concert or on the dance floor know what a treat you’re in for as Keith and Becky make a return appearance in Ithaca. If you don’t know these musicians, you’ll want to. Don’t hesitate to make a reservation; seats will go fast!

Directions from downtown Ithaca: Take Route 79 East out of Ithaca to the flashing yellow light at Pine Tree Road. Turn oblique left onto Pine Tree. We are about a 1/4 mile from the turn.  House is 124 Pine Tree, on the left side as you are going up:  Gray house with blue steel roof.  Parking on right side/uphill side of road.  May park on left, on lawn but make sure you are totally off the road.  Venturesome people may park at East Hill Plaza and walk the mile to our house.

Bookmark and Share
Author: Margaret
• Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

TRUMANSBURG NY Sat Jun 30 - Casey Carr calling contra and square dances (she’s gifted at keeping beginners of all ages comfortable and experienced dancers entertained). Lively music (from Celtic to Quebecois to old-time, Scandinavian to French to Middle Eastern) by the amazing O’Shanigans: Tim Ball (fiddle), Phil Robinson (guitar), and Michael Ludgate (mandolin) Location: Trumansburg Conservatory of Fine Arts, Congress St. just off Main St., downtown T’burg Suggested donation $10; children under 13 free; discount for families.

Come celebrate the T’burg community and the area dance community together in a splendid historic building. Contra dances have been held for hundreds of years in small town halls such as the Conservatory. Help us revive this tradition in T’burg! The steps are simple, each dance is taught, and you can come without a partner. But please bring clean, soft-soled shoes to protect the lovely wooden floor! Sponsored by the board of the Trumansburg Conservatory of Fine Arts. For info., e-mail

Bookmark and Share
Author: Margaret
• Wednesday, April 18th, 2012


WORKSHOP: 3-5 pm, Willard Straight Hall

BRUCE MOLSKYMusic Room (Room 411), Cornell University

CONCERT: 8 pm, 165 McGraw Hall,

Central Ave., Cornell Arts Quad, Cornell University

Widely considered the premier old-time fiddler of his generation (by fellow virtuoso fiddlers including Alasdair Fraser, Jay Ungar, and Darol Anger, and by audiences worldwide), this Grammy-nominated musician is also outstanding on guitar, banjo, and vocals. Bruce Molsky is most closely identified with Appalachian music (Darol Anger calls him its “Rembrandt”), but over two decades he’s also absorbed and transmuted traditional music from many cultures—Celtic, Scandinavian, Eastern European, Delta blues—into his unique sound. He has “a mystical awareness of how to bring out the new in something that is old,” says composer Mark O’Connor, who credits Molsky’s spirit and drive as the inspiration for O’Connor’s remarkable String Quartet No. 3 and Concerto for Violin, Cello and Symphony Orchestra. Perhaps Molsky’s greatest influence is as a teacher. “Young people realize this is a guy who’s tapped into the real deep emotional wellsprings of this music. Young people are very hungry for something real. Bruce has that in spades,” writes Matt Glaser, director of the American Roots Program at Boston’s Berklee College, where Molsky is on the faculty this semester.

Bronx-born, Molsky encountered blues and jazz as a teen, but credits Cornell University with his introduction to old-time music. In his twenties, he moved to Virginia and began to learn from traditional players like Tommy Jarrell of Mt. Airy, North Carolina, for whom music was integrated into daily life as work, play, and an expression of regional culture. At age 40, in the thick of his career as a mechanical engineer, Bruce Molsky decided he did not want to wait until retirement to make music full-time. With full blessings from his wife, Audrey, he took a year off in 1997 to explore his passion and never looked back. We are all blessed by that choice.

Molsky’s approach to performing is without pretension: “I talk to an audience the way I talk to people in my house; and I play for them just like we’re all in the living room together. I want to present myself as who I am; and this music as what it is.” The songs he writes depict the strengths and hardships of communities, as in Peg and Awl, in which shoemakers lose their jobs to automation. An April 20, 2011 headline from Bloomberg News humorously shorthands Molsky: “Bronx Fiddle Master Designed Drainage System, Made Ronstadt Cry.” Peg and Awl made her weep, admits Linda Ronstadt, because of the honesty in Molsky’s singing: “It’s pared back to only the essential architecture of emotion.”

Whether performing solo or with a vast list of friends (including Mike Seeger, Liz Carroll & John Doyle, Dirk Powell, Kevin Burke, Mick Moloney, Bill Frisell, Donal Lunny, Darol Anger, Nikola Parov, Rens van der Zalm, Rafe Stefanini, Michael Doucet, Andy Irvine, Aly Bain, and Ale Möller), he’s a warm, compelling musician, equally at home on world tours, at Lincoln Center, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and backporch house concerts and jams. He’s made at least 16 recordings, including 6 solo, some with Big Hoedown, Mozaik, Fiddlers 4, and others, and some instructional. He’s in high demand as a teacher at Ashokan, Mark O’Connor’s camps (where he’s taught every year since 1990), and Berklee. To celebrate Bruce Molsky’s return to his alma mater, the Cornell Folk Song Society is sponsoring both a fiddle workshop and concert.

Concert Tickets: Ithaca Guitar Works, GreenStar, Autumn Leaves Bookstore, Bound for Glory, and online at $15 advance/$17 door; $3 rebate at the door for CFSS members, seniors, and teens; children 12 & under free. Cornell students $10 advance/$12 at door. [Discount for workshop participants, see below.] Info: 607-351-1845 or website. We anticipate a sell-out, so get tickets early.

Old-Time Fiddle Workshop (3-5 pm): Bruce describes the afternoon as follows: “The workshop takes a hands-on approach to old-time fiddle. Tunes are taught a phrase at a time, first melody, then bowing, and then piecing things together. We’ll dig into old-time music’s unique phrasing, rhythm and syncopation, intonation, etc. The tune is the vehicle, so mostly we’ll be playing! Suggested experience level: If you’re comfortable with the instrument and have at least a small repertoire of tunes, you’ll be fine. A recorder (minidisc, hard disk, tape, 78-rpm acetate cutter or wire recorder) is highly recommended.  Since developing ear training skills is one of the workshop goals, written music will not be provided.  *No video cameras, please.*”

Workshop limited to 25 participants; please pre-register to reserve a spot (E-mail Laura Taylor at Payment at the door is fine: $15 for students, $25 for non-students. Discount price for combined workshop plus concert: $20 students, $35 non-students (an amazing deal!).


– Margaret Shepard

Bookmark and Share
Author: Margaret
• Friday, March 16th, 2012


2:30-4:30 pm

Ground-floor Commons Room,

Flora Rose House,

Cornell’s West Campus Dorm Complex


7:30 pm, 165 McGraw Hall,

Cornell Arts Quad,

with Jun-Kyo Seo (Jumba) opening

As a youth, Andy Cohen was nurtured on piano, cornet, and Dixieland jazz records, but when, at age 16, he met Rev. Gary Davis, “his course was set.” He got himself to the “source” to learn directly from the old musicians. His many blues friends and profound influences also include Lead Belly, Big Bill Broonzy, Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band, Skip James, Washington Phillips, John Hurt, and Brownie McGee. Andy Cohen’s mission, over 50 years of making music, is to preserve and carry forward the style and spirit of these masters. He gladly mentors younger musicians who want to play authentic blues. Raised in Massachusetts, he’s really “a Southern boy at heart” who lives in Memphis when he isn’t on the road with his big Washburn and sweet dolceola. He lays down mean and fiery blues from Memphis and beyond, playful ragtime, and soul-felt spirituals and gospel. He’s a virtuoso on guitar and his singing is joyful and unrestrained. Andy Cohen is widely considered one of the finest living performers of African American blues from the Southeast, 1900-1950. A grand raconteur, he can expound with authority, fervor, and energetic humor on blues, the dolceola, and any number of musicological and anthropological topics. He’s a born teacher and self-described “guitar-picking fool.”

The concert starts early, with Cornell sophomore Jun-Kyo Seo (Jumba), president of the Cornell Folk Song Society, opening at 7:30 pm. He’ll show his mettle with blues and ragtime tunes in the style of southern blues guitarists from the early half of the twentieth century. His passion for the genres makes for mighty fine playing. It’s been 8 years since Andy did a gig for Cornell Folk Song Society, so you don’t want to miss him, or the chance to hear some solid young talent.

Concert 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: 607-279-2027 or website.

WORKSHOP (2:30-4:30 pm): Old pro Andy Cohen will give instruction in blues guitar in the Commons Room of Flora Rose House, West Campus Dorms, Cornell. This workshop is not to be missed by those who want to hone their chops while having a rollicking and mind-stretching good time. Here’s Andy’s description: “I call it ‘Cohen’s Law’, which is really the explicated consequences of striking the root of the chord with your thumb on the one beat. I will walk the guitarists through five pieces: Come Let Us March, Louis Collins, Freight Train, Rev. Davis’s Candyman, and Rev. Davis’s Buck Dance, progressively tricking the picking thumb into doing more and more, within the thumb-on-the-root-on-the-one framework.”

Limited to 12 participants, so pre-register, if possible, to reserve a spot (E-mail Jumba <> or Margaret <>). Payment at the door is acceptable (students $10/non-students $25). There’s a discount price for attending both workshop and concert: students $15/ others $35.

– Margaret Shepard

Bookmark and Share
Author: Margaret
• Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Dana & Susan Robinson in Concert

For the Cornell Folk Song Society

Saturday, March 3, 8 pm,

165 McGraw Hall, Cornell Arts Quad

Hailing nowadays from Asheville, North Carolina (by way of the Pacific Northwest and New England), Dana and Susan Robinson have the rare ability to write contemporary songs set deep within the American tradition and to transport their audience along on their journey through time and place. Their stories unfold through brilliant instrumentation (fingerstyle guitar, fiddle, clawhammer banjo, mandolin) and lovely, intimate vocal harmonies. They’re also acclaimed devotees and hot pickers of old-timey Appalachian music.

Dana’s a gifted song creator with something to say; he took a path to full-time touring (since 1994) after off-grid homesteading and running a bakery and folk music café in northern Vermont. Susan came to traditional music by way of environmental work and classical training in piano, oboe, and Scottish fiddle, which got tweaked when she learned from real old-timers in the North Carolina mountains. Because they love and breathe the songs, they can throw together Robert Johnson, Lui Collins, cowboys and farmers, Child ballads, a dash of Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, railroad hobos, Annie Dillard, and Bill Steele’s Griselda, and can evoke a Mississippi paddlewheeler, the Nebraska sandhills, or the Outer Hebrides while remaining cohesive and true to themselves.

Dirty Linen proclaims Dana and Susan Robinson worthy to wear Woody Guthrie’s mantle because they “embody the heart and soul of folk music.” They have “a poet’s perspective delivered in quietly spectacular musicianship… the music sounds laid back even while the guitar licks are knocking your socks off” (Music Matters Review). A reviewer for Music Upstream (Hartford, CT) describes their music as “physical and spiritual, contemporary and ancient, up to its eyeballs in mud and transcendent–in and of this world with a vengeance, but filled with brilliant epiphanies that throw narrow shafts of light into the corners of worlds barely imagined.” Come and hear for yourself!

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: 607-279-2027 or website.

– Margaret Shepard

Bookmark and Share
Author: Margaret
• Friday, January 27th, 2012

ARCHIE FISHER IN CONCERT, Saturday, February 11, 8 pm Archie Fisher

Hollis Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall, Cornell Arts Quad

Archie Fisher is a true legend in the world of Scottish folk music for songs both traditional and his own, which are considered classics. His warm, craggy voice and simple but masterful guitar have an inimitable spirit. Raised in Glasgow, he was influenced by his father’s broad love of ballads, vaudeville, and opera and by the lyrical music of the Outer Hebrides sung by his Gaelic-speaking mother. His attitudes toward music-making and politics were in part shaped by hearing the Weavers (Seeger, Gilbert, Hays, and Hellerman, not the Scottish tweed-makers). Moving to Edinburgh in the 1960s, he formed the Fisher Family band with his parents, sisters Ray and Cilla, and Artie Tresize; they made many treasured and influential recordings on the Folk Legacy label. Archie Fisher also hosted an Edinburgh music club where he played with the likes of Bert Jansch and Robin Williamson and penned songs performed by the nascent Incredible String Band and Steeleye Span. Involved in the Fringe Fest, he went on to run the Edinburgh Folk Festival (1988-1992) and hosted the beloved Travelling Folk traditional music program for BBC Radio Scotland (1983-2010).

It is no small sign of respect that the only songs the late great Stan Rogers recorded but did not write himself were written by Archie Fisher: Witch of the Westmerlands, Final Trawl, and Dark-eyed Molly. Archie Fisher’s discography since 1965 includes seven solo recordings and many with other performers, including Off the Map (1986) with Garnet Rogers. The two share a passion for open spaces, raising horses, and creating story songs with soul. The ballads on Fisher’s 2008 CD, Windward Away, breathe the wild beauty of the Scottish Borderlands.

In the early years, Archie Fisher collaborated and produced recordings with a fine roster, including Bert Jansch, Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, as well as Silly Wizard. The UK has been his regular performing turf, but since the late1980s, he has toured Canada (and rarely the States) both solo and with John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, James Keelaghan, and Garnet Rogers. Despite his many awards, including the Tradition Bearers, Scots Music Hall of Fame, and MBE bestowed by Elizabeth II, he seems happy to stay below the radar. He considers himself not a celebrity but a low-key journeyman musician, and accepts friend Christie Moore’s advice: “You’ll never be famous because everybody knows you!” Throughout a deeply respected career of making and fostering music, Archie Fisher has remained a quiet giant. Please make him welcome for the first time in Ithaca.

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: 607-279-2027 or website.

– Margaret Shepard

Bookmark and Share
Author: Margaret
• Saturday, January 07th, 2012

The Contradictions

The Contradictions

SATURDAY, 21 JANUARY 2012: CONTRADICTIONS Dance and Dessert (last contra at WCB!)

Beginner’s Workshop 7:00 pm, Dancing 7:30-11:30 pm, Dessert potluck 10:30 pm

Women’s Community Building, 100 W. Seneca Street, Ithaca

A feast of music, dancing, friends, and fabulous desserts are all part of the Ninth Annual “Dance and Dessert Potluck” hosted by Hands Four Dancers of Ithaca. 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! Music is by the witty, high-energy Contradictions: Laurie Hart on fiddle, Rick Manning on fiddle and mandolin, Tom Hodgson on guitar, Dave Davies on bass, and the sparkling Vikki Armstrong calling. Their irresistible fiddle harmonies and imaginative, hot rhythms will drive winter away, at least for one night. Having performed together for over a decade, they’re revered for tight playing; nary a contradictory note. Their peppy mix of Appalachian and Irish jigs and reels, bluegrass, driving French Canadian tunes, lilting Swedish dances, 1930s and Texas swing, and sophisticated tango-waltzes has brought joy to dancers from the Saratoga Dance Flurry, the Brattleboro Dawn Dance, and Ashokan, to the Finger Lakes, where the Contradictions reside.

Beginners of all ages are always welcome; a workshop at 7:00 pm will teach the basic moves. 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 or Admission: $8 HFDI members; $10 nonmembers.

Amid the sweetness, the evening will be a little bittersweet. The Women’s Community Building, which has been the site of many Hands Four dances, including the annual Contradictions dance, will be torn down for a new building that will not have a large space for events. On behalf of the contra dance community, Hands Four extends its thanks and fond farewell to the WCB staff for supporting such a diversity of fine events and programs over the years.

– Margaret Shepard

Bookmark and Share
Author: Margaret
• Friday, November 18th, 2011

Sarah VanNorstrand

Sarah VanNorstrand

Saturday, 3 Dec., 8-11 pm (beginners’ workshop 7:30 pm)

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

$8 HFDI members, $10 nonmembers

The members of Montage are true to their name; they fuse deep interests in dance music old and new: Breton, English, and Scottish country dance, Parisian café tunes, Renaissance bourrées, hot swing, and music rooted in Scandinavia, Canada, New England, and southern Appalachia. In the few years since Sarah VanNorstrand has been a dance caller, she’s proven her mastery and inventiveness and is in demand across the country at high-powered dance events. She’s also a mainstay organizer of the Syracuse Country Dancers.

Montage is a dynamic trio of well-attuned musicians. Jane Knoeck (piano, accordion), classically trained, discovered contra and other folk dance in the 80s and has performed on the dance circuit ever since; she also plays with the contra bands Riverbend and Groovemongers, where she is both focused and explosively energetic. Rachel Bell (accordion, wooden flute) is earning recognition as a fine composer of quirky, playful, and highly danceable tunes. She’s also a lively member of Tunescape and the Andrew and Noah VanNorstrand Band. Tom Santarsiero (guitar, mandolin, banjo, jaw harp, foot percussion) provides the rock-solid yet eclectic beat that anchors dancers while giving them space for expression; he also plays with Riverbend. The rich sound of Montage has been described as “chocolate cake,” so come hungry to dance!

Hands Four Dancers of Ithaca is pleased to sponsor this event. No need to bring a partner, but please DO bring clean, soft-soled shoes to protect the dance floor. People new to contra dancing or to this area are always made welcome by the dance community. There are just a few basic steps and patterns, easily learned, and every dance is briefly taught. You can join HFDI (a volunteer nonprofit organization) at the event and receive a discount on all our dances. For more info, visit or call 607-539-3174.

– Margaret Shepard


Bookmark and Share
Author: Margaret
• Saturday, November 05th, 2011

Mike Merenda and Ruthy Ungar Merenda

Saturday, 19 November, 8 pm

Hollis Cornell Auditorium,

Goldwin Smith Hall, Cornell Arts Quad

Theater in NYC drew them together, but it is music that has found sweet union in this couple. For seven years, Ruthy Ungar Merenda and Mike Merenda made an impressive worldwide splash as founders, with Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, of The Mammals, a “subversive” acoustic string band (who gave a riveting concert for the Cornell Folk Song Society back in 2004). They’ve played with Arlo Guthrie on his 40th Anniversary Alice’s Restaurant tour and for Pete Seeger’s 89th birthday appearance on Letterman. Mike & Ruthy tour with Jay Ungar (Ruthy’s father) and Molly Mason (of Ken Burns’ Civil War and contra and swing dance fame); this stellar Family Band did a great show for CFSS back in 2008. Ruthy also performs with her mother Lyn Hardy, Abby Newton, and Rosie Newton (local old-timey darling of the Pearly Snaps and Evil City) as the Mother Daughter String Band.

The birth of their son in 2008 did not slow their music-making, but gave Mike & Ruthy a new focus. Since then, they have performed mostly as a duo. And what a duo! Love infuses their instrumental give and take and the twining together of their voices. Says Ruthy, “I’ve always loved singing harmony. Mike’s voice is very breathy and mine is really strong, so it was a challenge at first. But I think that’s part of what makes us sound different than other duos.” Their interplay creates a “disarmingly laid-back yet tensile feel,” writes Jeff Rosenberg (Willamette Week).

In concert, Mike & Ruthy offer a no-limits repertoire from original to contemporary indie roots-rock, blues, stompin’ honky tonk, and traditional American folk delivered with passion and respect. They’re edgy, sensual, literate, political, and full of heart. Dazzling fiddle, banjo, guitar, and ukulele, and sweet, soulful harmony singing are alive with this young couple’s natural chemistry. Ruthy was raised on a diet of Ashokan folk music camps, swing, and contra dances (as a child, she created the wildly fun “Wizard’s Walk” dance), while Mike grew up honing his lyrical skills as a songwriter and playwright, and playing in alternative and ska bands. They’re willing to experiment, but are solidly planted; their songs have meaning and their music-making is organic, never copied. The Valley Voice declares that “Mike & Ruthy bravely and successfully bring folk music to a new place, while holding on to the timelessness of the of the genre, namely, the telling of a story.”

In addition to their recordings with The Mammals, Mike & Ruthy have produced seven CDs, including the ambitious Million to One in 2010. Of this most recent project, David Bromberg says, “The songwriting, singing, and production are all first rate.” Come hear for yourself the continuing evolution of this surprising and endearing duo. For sound clips and fun photos, check out

$15 advance/$17 door; $3 rebate for CFSS members, seniors, teens. Cornell students $10/$12. Children 12 and under free. Tickets: Ludgate’s, Ithaca Guitar Works, GreenStar, Autumn Leaves, Bound for Glory, and online at Info: website or 607-279-2027.

– Margaret Shepard

Bookmark and Share
Author: Margaret
• Friday, October 07th, 2011

Friday, October 21, 8 pm


Memorial Room,

Willard Straight Hall, Cornell

Fingers flying, this British musician from Glossop, UK is one top-notch squeezebox man (Anglo concertina, button accordion, melodeon), and he’s no slouch on guitar. Brian Peters’ intricate, energetic arrangements, combined with a fervent voice and sly humor, give life to old jigs and reels, traditional folk songs and ballads, wild sea songs, ragtime, blues, hillbilly rock, contemporary songs, and his own clever compositions. His passion for music of the past is evident, but he is hardly mired there: you can expect a surprising performance with forays in many directions, anchored by musicality and wit. A Dirty Linen reviewer describes Brian Peters as “a singer, guitarist and melodeon player of rare ability,…an unusual repertoire and unusual conviction in singing it.” And Rock’n'Reel puts him in fine company: “No singer outside Nic Jones and Martin Carthy has embraced the tradition and used its wellsprings in as vivid and ingenious a way.”

Where Brian Peters truly shines is as a world ambassador and guardian of centuries-old ballads: ghosts and dragons, the wise child and the devil, the beggar and king, the spells, the magic ring. He plunges deep into these ancient songs to find their mystery, evil, drollery, and courage, and brings them to us fresh. Some of the old Child ballads he has unearthed had no surviving tunes, so he has ably met the challenge of writing music that fits them beautifully. This is a fine gift. Roy Harris of The Living Tradition calls him “A ballad hero….a man who sings these vivid tales as though he read them in this morning’s headlines.” He’s not afraid to give some songs a shake-up.  Steve Winick ofDirty Linen praises his “folk-rock arrangement of Three Ravens worthy of Steeleye Span…. tragedy, action, excitement, and humor, to say nothing of sex, drugs, and even rock ‘n’ roll. You couldn’t ask for more.” Festival-goers at Mystic Seaport, Champlain Valley, Fox Valley, and Old Songs have thrilled to his Child Ballad show “Songs of Trial and Triumph.”

In concert, Brian Peters’ musical integrity, compelling energy, and easy rapport quickly draw in his audience. A fine teacher, he is in demand in Europe and the States for vocal and instrumental workshops. When he isn’t busy nosing out new old material, performing, and teaching, he’s likely to be found in a recording studio: 12 fine albums to date, with his latest, Gritstone Serenade earning rave reviews.

Local dancers take note: Brian composes traditional-style dance tunes as well as researching dances and songs from rare old manuscripts, and is a powerful force in the resurrection of dance music from Northern England; there will be room in the hall for you to leave your seats and dance as the music moves you.

It takes a volcano to stop this fellow. Last year, when the Iceland volcano grounded all trans-Atlantic flights, we had to cancel Brian Peters’ Ithaca concert. But the Cornell Folk Song Society rebooked him immediately for his next available trip ‘cross the Pond. With typical vigor, he’s made up for last year’s cancelled shows by doing five East and West Coast tours in 2011. Please make welcome this thoroughly grounded, well-rounded angular Anglo!

Tickets: $15 advance/$17 door; $3 rebates at door for members, seniors, teens; children free. CU students $10/$12. Tickets at Ithaca Guitar Works, GreenStar, Bound for Glory, Autumn Leaves Book Store, Ludgate Farms, and online <>. Info: website or 607-279-2027 or

– Margaret Shepard

Bookmark and Share