Folksinger John McCutcheon to play in York, PA April 24th

Hailed as “folk music’s rustic Renaissance man” and acclaimed as “an incarnation of Pete Seeger and Mr. Rogers, Will Rogers and Bruce Spingsteen, and above all Everyman,” John McCutcheon brings his music on subjects small and great to a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Friday, April 24, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George Street, York.

Concert tickets are $25 General Admission, $21 for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at or toll-free (800) 838-3006. This concert is presented in cooperation with and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, with support from an anonymous Your Name in Lights sponsor.

For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at

Below is a conversation I had with John McCutcheon


FOLKMAMA: How long have you been performing professionally?


MCCUTCHEON:  It’s going on 40 years now. I started performing in 1972 and like many performers first starting out, I didn’t get paid very much.  And in those early years like a lot musicians I juggled a lot of things to get by. I gave lessons, I performed for school kids, I recorded, I wrote. I love to perform, but I’ve always loved those other kinds of things as well. At that particular time, I was 17 or 18 years old growing up in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, I would just take my recorder into the mountains and tape people playing and singing. They became my friends and mentors and I produced a lot of recordings of their music.


FOLKMAMA: Well you know that the Susquehanna Folk Music Society, the organization that you are playing for on April 24th presents concerts that showcase tradition- based music. How much of that Appalachian sound that you became familiar with as a young man can be found in your music today?


 MCCUTCHEON: Well, I mostly perform stuff that I write myself. But the song writing that I do and the performing that I do is all based in traditional music. It’s the bedrock of what I do. The themes tend to be themes that you might find in the traditional songs; things like home, family, work, and the everyday life. And I also perform some traditional songs as part of my repertoire. I think most people know me for my original songs. When they come into a concert I want them to see that no performer is just one thing.


FOLKMAMA: I remember you from the 70s and 80s and I think of the work that you did with the hammered dulcimer. How you really did a lot to forward that instrument and get it into the public eye. But I also think that you were doing some things to change the instrument mechanically, like adding dampening pedals and things like that.


MCCUTCHEON: Well I was kind of a guinea pig for the guy who builds my dulcimer, Sam Rizzetta ( I met Sam in the 70’s when a friend of mine built a hammered dulcimer under his tutelage which eventually became my first dulcimer. He’s a terrifically creative guy and a stunning craftsman.  I would go to him and say something like, “Man, it would be really good to have something that was really light and compact, but would still have a big sound. And could you add more notes to it? ” and he was always game. Sam and I had discussed how to create a dampening system, but it wasn’t until the mid-80’s after I returned from Central America where I had adapted my dulcimer to make the percussive sounds needed to play alongside marimba players by putting duct tape across the bridge that we got serious about making this revision. He really loved the sound, but of course was horrified about what I was doing to the instrument with duct tape!


FOLKMAMA:  So described the dulcimer that you are traveling with now. What does it look like? What does it weigh?


MCCUTCHEON:  It weighs about 12 or 13 pounds. And it has about three full chromatic octaves. It goes down about a fifth lower and a couple of steps higher than a typical dulcimer and it has a pick-up system built in. It has some very light telescoping legs, because I play standing. It has four bridges, the two standard treble and bass bridges and then some extra bridges that allow my instrument to go lower and higher. And it’s got a dampening system, of course. I can’t ever imagine now having an instrument without the contrasting sounds that dampers allow.


FOLKMAMA: And for someone coming to your concert who has never heard you before, what might they expect to hear?


MCCUTCHEON:  They’ll hear a lot of interesting stories. I like to tell stories about the songs and put them in context. They’ll hear hammered dulcimer, fiddle, banjo, autoharp, guitar and piano and a little hambone thrown in too. They’ll be some songs that I’ve written and some that are traditional. We’ll have a good time together!

John McCutcheon


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