LOW LILY SATURDAY, MARCH 11TH AT 3 PM AT THE FORT HUNTER CENTENNIAL BARN. ALSO! Folk Music 101 workshop at 2:15 followed by a folk instrument “Petting Zoo”

The string and vocal trio Low Lily, which explores the roots and branches of American folk music with traditional influences and modern inspiration, comes to the Fort Hunter Barn located at 5300 N. Front Street in Harrisburg for a matinee concert at 3 PM on March 11th.

The concert will be preceded by a fun and interactive Folk Music 101 workshop at 2:15 followed by a folk instrument “petting zoo” (both free).

This would be a perfect event to invite those family members, neighbors and co-workers who may not be familiar with folk music! Low Lily members include Liz Simmons on vocals and guitar, Flynn Cohen on vocals, guitar, and mandolin, and Lissa Schneckenburger on vocals and fiddle. They are all masterful musicians and vocalists with deep relationships to traditional music styles ranging from bluegrass to Irish, Scottish, New England, and Old Time Appalachian sounds.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22, with a maximum family fee for parents and children under age 23 of $25. Advance tickets are available toll-free at (800) 838-3006 or online at www.brownpapertickets.com. For info visit www.sfmsfolk.org

This event is made possible with an “Art for All Grant” from the Foundation for Enhancing Communities and the Cultural Enrichment Fund. Additional funding by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

We had a chance to speak to Liz Simmons who spoke to us about the band and their upcoming engagement in Harrisburg.

 

FOLKMAMA: We’re really looking forward to Low Lily’s appearance in Harrisburg and thrilled that you will be doing this special workshop to introduce “newbies” to folk music (and maybe teach the rest of us a thing or too also!).

LIZ: Yes, we’re excited too! We’ve been kicking around some ideas about the workshop and we’ve settled on a few things. First off I think we’ll talk about the backgrounds of the different members of Low Lily. Each one of us has a different way of how we came to music and there are some good stories there. For example, I started playing music because my dad put a ukulele in my hands when I was 4. Also, my parents are musicians so I was going to gigs from the time I was a baby.

We’ll definitely sing some songs together. We’ll hit on some from different regions in the country so that everyone can get a taste of the wide variety of folk styles there are in the United States. Lissa will do a traditional song from the state of Main where she is from and Flynn has done a lot of work in Appalachian traditional song, so most likely will do a song from that region. And I most likely will try a English or an Irish song so we can hear where a lot of American folk traditions are rooted.

We’ll introduce the instruments that we play and give some background about each. In general we’ll respond to the group that is in front of us, and go in what direction seems to make sense depending on how old or how young our audience is.

FOLKMAMA: And what about the concert? What should people expect to hear?

LIZ: We’ll do some traditional songs—you know songs that are so old that no one knows who wrote them but have been passed from generation to generation. We take these old songs and arrange them in a way that we feel is fresh; that presents the sounds that we like to make musically.

We also write songs, sometimes separately, sometimes together. There will also be some instrumental numbers. Flynn is a wonderful flat picker on the mandolin and guitar and Lissa, of course plays beautiful fiddle. So they’ll get to hear some of that beautiful melody playing. It will be a mix of up-tempo with some slightly slower stuff.

We do a lot of three part harmony, that’s a big feature of what we do, so that’s part of the sound as well. So audiences that like harmonies and choruses will be happy to hear us as well.

FOLKMAMA: I’ve followed Lissa Schneckenburger for a long time and love her fiddling [Lissa has appeared twice for the Susquehanna Folk Music Society, as the Lissa Schneckenburger Trio and as the Lissa Schneckenburger Duo). I’ve heard her style described as “New England Fiddling.” What does that mean?

LIZ: It’s a style that, like all American folk styles is made up of a whole slew of influences. When you think of where New England is—you can kind of guess where the influences come from. You have the Quebec and the Cape Breton influences which of course is French and Scottish, and then you have coming up from the South old-time and Appalachian music influences filtering in. Then you have the Irish and the Scottish through the Boston channel. You might even hear a touch of bluegrass because Bluegrass is big in Boston area.

FOLKMAMA: Do you have CDs that you are planning to sell?

LIZ: Since it’s our first time in Harrisburg, our 2015 CD will be a new recording to audiences there. It’s our only Low Lily title so far, but are working on the next one. Before we were Low Lily, we had a previous incarnation and were known as Annalivia. This was before Lissa joined. We have a title that we sell from that era as well as solo albums.

FOLKMAMA: Have you been to any interesting venues lately?

LIZ: We just did a tour out to Folk Alliance International–which I always explain to people is a trade show for folk musicians. So we turned that into a Midwest tour. We did five cities on the way out, which was really fun.

We hit Rochester, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Fairfield, Iowa, and Columbia, Missouri. We did many of the Northeast’s folk festivals last summer, which of course is such a rich place for New England and American folk music. And we often run into a lot of pals too, and get a chance to listen to and hear new music. So even though it’s a gig, it’s still a lot of fun.

And this summer we’re traveling a little further afield and will do a tour in England and in California in the fall. So lots of great traveling coming up!

Cassie and Maggie MacDonald perform in Harrisburg, November 13th

With a level of talent surpassed only by the joy they show in sharing music from Nova Scotia, siblings Cassie and Maggie MacDonald appear in a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 13, at Appalachian Brewing Company’s Abbey Bar, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg. Celtic fiddle, piano, vocals and step dance will be featured. This is a sit-down concert in a listening-room cassie-maggie-promo-2014environment.

Born to a Nova Scotia family with a rich musical heritage, the MacDonald sisters have used their upbringing as a springboard for their own brand of Celtic roots music. Among their honors are 2015 Live Ireland Radio New Group of the Year, 2015 Chicago Irish-American News Emerging Artist Album of the Year, Independent Music Awards nominee for World Song of the Year, Canadian Folk Music Award nominees for Young Performers of the Year, two-time East Coast Music Award nominees for traditional album and trad/roots group album, and double Music Nova Scotia Award nominees for new artist and roots album of the year.

Their newest CD is called “The Willow Collection”.

Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

I got a chance to speak to Cassie MacDonald about their music, which in a large part has been passed down through family traditions, and their efforts to preserve and keep vital the Celtic music from their region.

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FOLKMAMA: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what audiences should expect when they come to a Cassie and Maggie MacDonald concert.

CASSIE: Maggie and I are sisters and we come from a small town in Nova Scotia that was populated by Scottish people who came over in the 1700s. Northern Nova Scotia, where we come from, is still very much entrenched in that heritage although the music has really taken on a life of its own after it was brought over from Scotland.

There are a lot of young people, ourselves included, who are really taking those traditions and bringing something fresh to it. I play the fiddle and Maggie plays piano and guitar and we both sing as well. We are also both [step] dancers, which we think of as another element of percussion—an instrument almost.

So there will be the instrumentals that we are really known for across the globe and also vocals in both English and the Gaelic language that we have in Nova Scotia. It’s sort of an interesting dialect; kind of between the Scottish Gaelic and the Irish Gaelic. It’s really grown and evolved in its own way. Especially in the music, there are a lot of beautiful songs that use this special dialect.

Visually it’s just the two of us but we bring a lot to the table with Maggie’s instrumentalist background on piano and guitar and the fiddle playing and of course the dancing. There is never a dull moment! We have a lot of fun.

FOLKMAMA: Tell us about the repertoire. How much of it is traditional and how much contemporary?

CASSIE: Everything that we do is based in tradition –that provides the bedrock of what we do. But we have really taken it to a new place. We try to balance the traditional tunes with contemporary arrangements. Of course we are doing a lot from our newest album which is more contemporary. So we try to maintain a balance with old music, but present it in a fresh way.

FOLKMAMA: I’m really impressed with how BIG your sound is! It’s a bit unexpected for a duo.

CASSIE: We actually get that comment quite a bit. It just comes of out the kind of music that we play. It’s naturally very energetic. Maggie’s style of accompaniment is very, very full. She almost takes the place of a percussionist and a bass player. So she’s really covering a lot of bases with her accompaniment. And my style of playing is quite bold, not aggressive but very full I would say.

Our style of music, what we grew up with, was always playing for dances. And most of the time there wasn’t a really reliable sound system. But the dancers were still there wanting to give it their all, so you had to find a way to really fill up that sound so they could hear the beat and the rhythm in the tune and it wouldn’t get lost in the big dance hall.

FOLKMAMA: How does the music that you play differ from the Acadian and Quebecois music also found in Canada?

CASSIE: These traditions all have a lot of Scottish influences, and even in the Cape Breton music that we pay there is also a lot of French influence. The boundaries are kind of blurred and we’re always trading ideas back and forth.

I think if you wanted to understand the differences, it really would come down to the style of dancing. That’s what really drives traditional music from Nova Scotia—the dancing. Also, the foot percussion that is a defining feature of Acadian and Quebecois music isn’t really found so much in the Cape Breton style.

FOLKMAMA: I’ve visited Nova Scotia and it seems like in many families there are family members playing music together. How important has family connection been to you?

CASSIE: In our case what has really driven our whole career is that history of family music. When we play we always play a least a couple of set that our grandfather had recorded and would have played himself. And we always try to keep his personal sound alive because it was very unique and very special and we’re so lucky to have that legacy.

Both Maggie and I feel this intense responsibility to keep our family music alive, although we do play a lot of contemporary music and we’ve been honing our own individual sound.

FOLKMAMA: Do you feel that you sing together better because you are siblings?

CASSIE: Actually, singing is relativity new to us. We grew up in such a rich instrumental tradition with so many fiddle players in our family; singing wasn’t really part of the equation. So we’ve been on a journey ourselves to really discover, with our vocals, what we want to bring to the tradition ourselves.

FOLKMAMA: Why is the style of music so distinctive in Nova Scotia?

CASSIE: A lot of people have looked into that. Not just in Nova Scotia but in all the Maritime Provinces.  It was a very isolated but we also had a lot of people traveling on the sea; a lot of fishermen. So we did have influences from different cultures who may have planted little seeds here and there. For the most part the isolation has been a big part of keeping the traditions very pure.

A lot of the first settlers that came from Scotland weren’t concert musicians, they were farmers or fishermen. If they were musicians they weren’t necessarily classically trained, but they were there to provide entertainment and they were there for dancing. Because it’s dance music it has that intrinsic rhythm. You can’t keep your feet still!