Martin Carthy & John Doyle April 28th in Harrisburg!

Two legends of English and Irish traditional music—Martin Carthy and John Doyle—combine forces for an unforgettable Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Saturday, April 28, 2018, at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. The 7:30 p.m. concert will be preceded by a free 5 p.m. ballad singing workshop and a free 6 p.m. potluck dinner.


Former member of STEELEYE SPAN, one of folk music’s greatest innovators!

Carty, who received a BBC 2 Folk Award Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, has long been known as one of folk music’s greatest innovators and one of its best-loved, most enthusiastic, and at times quietly controversial figures. Trailblazing musical partnerships with, amongst others, Steeleye Span, Dave Swarbrick and his award-winning wife (Norma Waterson) and daughter Eliza Carthy have resulted in more than 40 albums.

He is a ballad singer, a ground-breaking acoustic and electric guitarist, and an authoritative importer of newly composed material. Carthy prefers to follow an insatiable musical curiosity rather than cash in on his unrivaled position. Perhaps most significant of all are his settings of traditional songs with guitar that have influenced a generation of artists, including Bob Dylan and Paul Simon.


Former member of SOLAS, one of Ireland’s greatest guitarists!

John Doyle has worked with many of the most notable Irish music performers. From a musical family in Dublin, he went on the road at age 16 with the group Chanting House, which he formed with Susan McKeown and which eventually included Irish music greats like Seamus Egan, Eileen Ivers, and Donough Hennessy. Doyle went on to form the highly acclaimed super group Solas with Egan, John Williams, Karan Casey, and Winifred Horan that took the folk and Celtic music worlds by storm, due in large measure to Doyle’s powerhouse rhythmic guitar style and innovative arrangements.

Solas appeared on The Today Show, A Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, E-town, and World Café. The group received three NAIRD awards and a Grammy nomination. After leaving Solas, Doyle performed and toured with many other greats in the folk, Celtic, and bluegrass worlds. There are few artists more respected in the genre or more in demand in the studio, as a songwriter, and as a performer. In recent years, Doyle has focused primarily on writing songs based on the varied experiences of Irish emigrants.

Before the concert, come to a free workshop on ballad singing with Carthy and Doyle at 5 p.m. and then the free 6 p.m. potluck dinner. Bring a covered dish to share. Drinks and place settings will be provided.

Concert tickets are $26 General Admission, $22 for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available online at or by calling toll-free (800) 838-3006. This concert is presented with support from Your Name In Lights sponsors Steve and Nancy Wennberg and i cooperation with Dauphin County Parks and Recreation. Funding for Susquehanna Folk Music Society concerts is provided by the Cultural Enrichment Fund and by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, administered locally by the Cultural Alliance of York County. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at



Tėada, from Sligo, Ireland to appear March 18th in Harrisburg (tunes, music + dancing)

“One of the most exciting traditional groups to emerge in recent years” Irish World

Coming from Sligo, Ireland the band Tėada (the word means “strings” in the Irish language) has achieved worldwide acclaim for its ability to stay true to the timeless, expressive force of traditional tunes inherited from previous generations of great Irish musicians.

Midstaters can experience Tėada in a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Sunday, March 18, 2018, at 7:30 p.m., at Appalachian Brewing Company, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg. The five-piece band expands to seven for this event with champion step-dancer Samantha Harvey and legendary singer and musician Séamus (SHAY-mus) Begley.

Tickets are available at

Téada first appeared in 2001 on Irish television, led by County Sligo fiddler Oisin Mac Diarmada. Though still in their teens, the young musicians were driven by the timeless, expressive force of music inherited from previous generations.

The band was quickly cheered for “keeping the traditional flag flying at full mast” (The Irish Times). “A fresh force in Irish music” said Earle Hitchner in the Irish Echo, and Irish Music Magazine described them as “the strings that bind…a young band with a deeply authentic sound [at] the cutting edge of the next generation.”

“We try to capture some of the rawness and individuality of the solo artist tradition, within the dynamic of a full band,” says Mac Diarmada.

The original quartet is now often a septet with Seamus Begley, the elder statesmen of the group. From a famous musical family in County Kerry, named 2013’s Traditional Singer of the Year (Irish TV TG4), Begley brings a deep trove of songs as well as fiery accordion playing and wit.

Téada’s most recent release, In Spite of the Storm (Gael Linn, 2013), follows a string of acclaimed albums on the Green Linnet and Compass labels, and the first to feature Begley. “One of the outstanding releases in recent memory,” raved Daniel Neely in The Irish Echo. “Another typically thoughtful and thought-provoking excursion from a band still hungry for tunes– and, belatedly, for songs,” added Siobhan Long in The Irish Times.

The American tour is supported in part by Culture Ireland, a branch of the Irish government promoting Irish arts worldwide. For more information on the band visit their website at

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available online at or by calling toll-free (800) 838-3006.

To listen/watch Teada visit these sites:


In Spite of the Storm:


Song with Seamus Begley

Pride of New York (Irish music w/ Joanie Madden, Billy McComiskey, Brian Conway + Brendan Dolan) coming to York, PA January 15. Read about the members!

As our first concert of 2017 the Susquehanna Folk Music Society offers the very rare opportunity to hear an Irish-American super-group with some of the best-known players on this side of the Atlantic Ocean!  Described as “a killer ceili band,” Pride of New York has members who have won pride-of-new-yorkfour all-Ireland championship awards, recorded multiple solo albums, and logged countless miles touring across the U.S. and abroad.

The concert will be at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 15, 2017, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George Street, York, PA.

Concert tickets are $27 General Admission, $23 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. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at

Read below to learn about these fantastic musicians and their impressive accomplishments!


Joanie Madden

Joanie Madden is the award winning whistle and flute player who, aside from playing in The Pride of New York, is the leader of Cherish the Ladies. Joanie is the first American to win the Senior All-Ireland championship on the tin whistle and is the youngest member to be inducted into the Irish-American Musicians Hall of Fame. Committed to promoting and preserving Irish culture in America, she was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor; an award that pays homage to the immigrant experience. Joanie has played on hundreds of albums and is the top selling whistle player in history having sold over 500,000 solo albums. Joanie Madden is online at Cherish the

Billy McComiskey

Billy McComiskey has been called the finest and most influential Irish button accordion players to ever emerge from the United States. A Brooklyn native, he started studying accordion with the late Sean McGlynn from Galway and in 1986 won the All-Ireland Senior title. Billy has played with Greenfields of America, Irish Tradition and the internationally acclaimed Trian. In June of 2016 he was named a NEA National Heritage Fellow, the highest honor bestowed to a traditional musician in the United States. Billy McComiskey is online at Compass

Brian Conway

A New York born fiddler, Brian is a leading exponent of the tastefully ornamented Sligo fiddling style. The winner of two All- Ireland junior titles in 1973 and 1974 and the All-Ireland senior championship of 1986, he has been called one of the best fiddlers of his generation. His latest CD, First through the Gate, is a long-awaited and stunning solo debut which exemplifies the versatility that characterizes his concert performances and festival appearances. Visit Brian Conway at his website.

Brendan Dolan

Brendan Dolan is one of the most respected and inventive keyboardists in Irish music today. He has worked with accordionist John Whelan, singer/songwriter Cathie Ryan, Andy Statman and Itzhak Perlman, and can be heard on the latest recordings of Billy McComiskey, Brian Conway and The Green Fields of America. Brendan has recently completed a Master’s degree in Irish and Irish-American Studies at NYU, where he currently works as an archivist on the Mick Moloney Irish-American Music and Popular Culture Collection.


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 or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at

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.


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!


De Temps Antan (from Quebec!) , March 6th, Harrisburg

Dear Folk Music Fans,

I wanted to draw a little special attention to the upcoming De Temps Antan concert (this comingSunday, March 6th at 4 PM).

I’ve been making a lot of forays to festival in Quebec during the last dozen or so years, and have just fallen in love with the music there—it’s a refreshing and spirited blend of French and Irish, and so many of the bands (De Temps Antan especially) are very, very captivating on stage.

Additionally, De Temps Antan has one of the very best fiddle players that you’ll ever want to see. Andre Brunet. He is a pretty incredible force on stage, so unbelievably powerful and the music just flows right out of him!

I hope to see you on Sunday afternoon for a very special concert. I know that you won’t be disappointed!

Jess Hayden, Susquehanna Folk Executive Director

De Temps AntanDe Temps Antan, hailed as Quebec’s most powerful trad trio, brings its high-powered rendition of time-honored melodies from the stomping grounds of the province’s musical past to Harrisburg on Sunday, March 6, for a 4 p.m. Susquehanna Folk Music Society matinee concert at the Appalachian Brewing Company’s Abbey Bar, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg.

The group’s three members, vivirtuoss on fiddle, accordion, harmonica, guitar, bouzouki, and a number of other instruments, make enough music and enthusiasm for six players. Their success has brought them to play more than 600 concerts worldwide, including tours in Russia, Europe, Malaysia, and America. Each of the three members was a leader in the massive, multi-platinum, Quebec folk band La Bottine Souriante and have toured the world on some of the biggest stages. They’re now taking the energy they brought to arena performances and channeling it into a powerful trio.

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 or toll-free (800) 838-3006.

Interview w/RUNA who will perform in York, PA on February 13, 2016

The five-person Celtic band Runa, which interweaves the haunting melodies and exuberant tunes of Ireland and Scotland with the lush harmonies and intoxicating rhythms of bluegrass, flamenco, blues, and jazz, comes to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York on Saturday, February 13, 2016, for a 7:30 p.m. concert sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society.

The band includes vocalist and step-dancer Shannon Lambert-Ryan of Philadelphia; Dublin-born guitarist Fionán de Barra; Cheryl Prashker of Canada on percussion; Dave Curley of Galway on mandolin, vocals, bodhrán, and step-dancing; and Maggie Estes White of Kentucky on the fiddle. Runa members have played with Solas, Riverdance, Slide, Clannad, Fiddlers’ Bid, Moya Brennan, Eileen Ivers, Hazel O’Conner, Keith & Kristyn Getty, Barcó, Téada, Jonathan Edwards, and the Guy Mendilow Band.

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

I got the chance to chat with Shannon Lambert-Ryan, lead singer and step dancer with the band.


FOLKMAMA: Tell me some things about how the band formed and how long you’ve been together.

SHANNON: The band has been together for about 7 and ½ years. It started with what was supposed to be a side recording project. Fionán (who I had met at the Philadelphia Folk Festival) and Cheryl (who I had met around the same time) and I decided to record an album together at Fionán’s studio in Dublin. At the time we were all working with other bands, but we just looked at each other after the record was done and said “This is really special, we should do this more often.”

So at first we did most of our gigs as a trio, occasionally bringing in some really terrific guest musicians that helped us to stretch out beyond the “only traditional” music world. So we were able to add some jazz and bluegrass elements to our sound.

FOLKMAMA: So when did the other members of your current line-up join?

SHANNON: Maggie and Dave came a bit later. We met Dave through Fionán’s brother Eamon, who is in a band called Slide. A little bit later when the jazz fiddle player that we had been working with was moving on her way, we asked Maggie to join. It all just kind of fell into place.

FOLKMAMA: The band has some really lovely CDs. Have you recorded with this current composition?

SHANNON: We’ve done four CDs in total, the last two are really representative of that quintet sound. The full line up is on the fourth CD.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about yourself. How did you get your start in music and dance?

SHANNON: I started as a step dancer when I was about 5 or 6 in Philadelphia. I had gone with my parents to a festival and I had seen a bunch of people step dancing and I said, “That’s what I really want to do!” Both of my parents were Appalachian Cloggers and loved folk music so I grew up surrounded by traditional and cultural music from around the world.

I love lots of different kinds of music from all different time periods, but there is just something about Irish music that has been home for me in many ways.

I majored in history and theater and music, and everyone told me that I really had to choose one, although I didn’t really want to. I feel though that I’m really lucky because I’ve found a way to really incorporate all three of them into what I do with the band. Obviously I’ve incorporated music, but history too because lot of research goes into the music, whether it’s the songs or the tunes.

Then the performance aspect—there is a lot drama in all of the songs. The theater and the acting have really come in handy in terms of conveying that to the audience. People often look to me and they say, “You’re the singer. You’re the one that is presenting the story,”and the truth is that it’s a story that the whole band is telling.

FOLKMAMA: Musicians have the opportunity to go to some unusual places. What are some of the experiences that have really stood out for your?

SHANNON: Well, lots of things. We got a chance to do a cameo appearance at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville for a St Patrick’s Day Celebration and we’ve had musicians like Ron Block for Alison Krauss and Union Station and Ricky Skaggs on stage with us.

We’ve also gotten to play the National Anthem at a couple of different baseball stadiums; twice for The Phillies and once for the Diamondbacks out in Arizona. And a couple of years ago we recorded a music video out at the Grand Canyon—literally about a foot or two from the drop off!

FOLKMAMA: And the band has won some pretty impressive awards too, right?

SHANNON: Yes, we won Top Group and Top Traditional Group in the Irish Music Awards and an Independent Music Award for Best World/Traditional Song. Were just totally honored and floored to be recognized like that. You know you play music because you love playing music, not really to go after the glory. But when those special moments come along it really validates whet you are doing.

FOLKMAMA: What would audiences expect to see when they come to one of your concerts?

SHANNON: We like think of our shows as opening up our living room to everyone so that we can all join in for that session, in for that party.

At the end of performances people always say, “You look like you are having so music fun up there!”RUNA Promo Photo 2013

Photo Credi

Photo Credit Bob Yahn

Photo credit Bob Yahn

Photo credit Bob Yahn

Legendary Musicians from Quebec to Perform in Harrisburg, PA March 27th

Legendary Quebec traditional musicians Lisa Ornstein, Normand Miron, and André Marchand, appearing together as Le Bruit Court dans la Ville (The Buzz Around Town), come to Harrisburg for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Friday, March 27, 2015, at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. The 7:30 p.m. concert will be preceded by a free workshop on Quebec music at 5:30 and a 6 p.m. potluck dinner.

Ornstein and Marchand first met as bandmates in La Bottine Souriante, the iconoc trad super group that kickstarted Quebec’s folk music revival. Miron is a singer and button accordionist who grew up surrounded by family musicians in Lanaudière, the epicenter of Quebec’s folk music scene. As a trio, Le Bruit Court dans la Ville produces music that is at once deeply rooted, innovative, nuanced, and spontaneous.

Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $16 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.

Join us for a free potluck supper before the concert. Bring a covered dish to share. Drinks and place settings will be provided. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at


Because these three legendary musicians were so important in the revival of traditional music and dance in Quebec some 40 years ago, I wanted to speak to the group’s fiddler LISA ORNSTEIN (who is a folklorist) about changes in Quebec’s cultural climate and also how she and her band mates were able to plant some of the seeds that have allowed Quebeoise music and dance to grow in popularity and flourish.

FOLKMAMA: Can you tell me some things about the members in your trio? I know that all three of you are considered legendary in Quebec’s trad music scene.

LISA: Well we’ll begin first with André Marchand. He’s from Jolliet, he’s lived here all his life. His father played violin but it was classical violin, a hobbyist. He got his start playing guitar in the early 1960s. He was listening to Bob Dylan because at that time there wasn’t really a “Quebecoise” tradition of guitar playing. He kind of invented an approach to backing up this music with the kind of guitar playing that you hear with the guitar tuned in standard tuning.

FOLKMAMA: I understand during the time when Andre was growing up that it was difficult to find traditional Quebecoise music because the French Canadian culture had been repressed. What were the politics in Quebec like at the time?

LISA: The 1960s in Quebec began what we call the Quiet Revolution. The Prime Minister who had been quite conservative died, and a liberal, Jean Lesage took his place and he had a completely different vision. The saying during that time was “Masters in Our own Country” because the Quebecoise since 1759 had really been second citizens here. All the administrators and the owners of industry in the province were Anglo-Canadians who had come from British forefathers. The Quebecoise were basically told that they were going to be water carriers.

So Jean Lesage came in and one of the first things that he did was to nationalize electricity. Which was huge in this province—there is hydro-electric power to sell to all of North America. That gave the government the capacity to create all kinds of social services, vocational training, and higher education opportunities. So by the 1970s there was a whole generation of Quebecoise who were beginning to be well educated.

FOLKMAMA: How did Quebecoise trad music and dance play a role in the Quiet Revolution?

LISA: The music got pulled into the equation very much in the same way that music got pulled in with the Civil Rights Movement. The folk and traditional music often had an ideological and political content –especially by some of the singer/ songwriters who became involved in the Quebec Sovereignty Movement. It was a time of Quebecoise pride when the Quebecoise were proud to be Quebecoise.

FOLKMAMA: Did Quebecoise Trad music start to become more widespread?

LISA: In Montreal a group of young university graduates organized a folk festival where they brought in elders. Nothing like this had ever happened– it changed the lives of a whole generation of young musicians who for the first time could hear and learn from the older generation of musicians. So you have this coming together of very traditional musicians who are being brought onto the stage, very much like the Newport Folk Festival, and you have these young urban Quebecoise who are just thirsty for music that looks and sounds like them.

FOLKMAMA: I know that the group La Bottine Souriante was one of most important groups to form during this era.

LISA: Yes, La Bottine Souriante formed as a direct result of this festival. The group was made up of all young musicians, including André Marchand who was an original member and now of course plays in Le Bruit Court dans la Ville. The group was so influential because it not only helped to increase the popularity of Quebecoise music in Quebec, but also brought it to France, the United States and around the world.

FOLKMAMA: So, I know that you are an American fiddler verse in both old-time and Quebecoise fiddling. I understand that you also played in La Bottine Souriante. How did that come about?

LISA: I had been playing fiddle from the time I was 13 or 14. I grew up in a musical family; my mother was a harpsichordist who played Renaissance music. My idea of what music was as a very small child was small ensembles who were improvising on dance melodies. I think that’s why I was attracted to traditional music rather than classical music; it was the social aspect of it and the way that music was made in these small groups. I appreciate orchestral music but I’ve always be interested in how much music can be made with the smallest, the most frugal means. And I think that traditional music is all about that. It’s about the frugality of the means with great creativity in the hands of exceptional artists with immense amount of virtuosity and depth of understanding.

Even though I really wanted to just play fiddle, my parents wanted me to go to college so I went to Oberlin.  In my last year the college asked me if I was interested in the Watson Scholarship which would allow me to study something outside of the country. By then I was so interested in Quebecoise music because of a friendship I had with a Franco-American fiddler Louis Beaudoin.

So I got this grant to come to Quebec and I didn’t know anybody. I went to Université Laval because I knew that they had a folklore archives, but the only Quebecoise musician I could find was a button accordion player names Albert who played on the streets for the tourists. So I played with him sometimes, and during the summer I went to this great summer festival and there he was on stage and he made me get up and play with him.

Afterwards we decided we’d go to this great bar that was right across from the stage that had an outdoor terrace and as we sat there I heard a tune that I thought I knew from my friend Louis Beaudoin, and then one of the members of the band who had heard me play approached me and he said, “Come join us.” And it was La Bottine Souriante. I couldn’t believe these young guys were there playing traditional music.

So we played together all night and then we lost track of each other but next night they invited me to play in their show in front of 20,000 people. Soon after they left for a tour in France, but on the way back some of the musicians couldn’t return because of an airline strike, so I filled in for their fiddler at the band’s next gig. Soon after they asked me to join the band. So I went to Jolliet and played in the band for about 8 years so.

FOLKMAMA: Was that what you were doing full time?

LISA: When I was in Quebec I worked for this traditional arts advocacy group and was really involved in promoting Quebecoise culture and heritage.

Although it’s taken 30 years, Quebec just this past year passed its law recognizing intangible traditional arts. We were working on that dossier in the 1980s. We had a center where there were classes for young people who didn’t come out of singing and playing families. These were young kids who loved the music and dance but didn’t have other chances to learn it. At the time there was no money available in the Quebec government to fund this kind of program. It’s changed now, although the law is in place and there is no budget to enact it. So our organization became more and more politically motivated because we realized that the traditional arts weren’t getting the government support that it should have gotten.

FOLKMAMA: It doesn’t seem like you are intimidated by working on the governmental level to promote traditional music.

LISA: I had worked at the Library of Congress. My mother in law was Bess Lomax Hawes. She created the National Endowment for the Arts Folk Arts program and was Curator of Folk Songs at the Library of Congress. She’s Alan Lomax’s sister.

So I had connections with Alan Jabbour at the Library of Congress and folks at the Smithsonian. We brought people from the Government of Quebec’s Minister of Cultural Affairs to visit in Washington to show them that there can be a different vision.  The United States government has acknowledged that not only is this worthy but it’s necessary to support the celebration and transmission of traditional cultural heritage.

FOLKMAMA: So what your third member?

LISA: Normand Miron is from a small village just outside of Joliette. He’s from a very traditional family of singers and instrumentalists. His uncle was an accordion player and his grandfather was apparently an extraordinary singer. The whole area around Jolliet is known in Quebec as being one of the strongholds of traditional singing and particularly especially song and response songs. Norman is the real stuff, he’s straight out of the tradition. Normand Miron was the go-to guy for many of the songs that La Bottine  Souriante was doing because his repertoire was so huge, although was never in the band.

FOLKMAMA: So I believe you have been playing with Andre and Norman informally for many years. Why have you chosen now to tour as a group?

LISA: My children are almost grown and Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer (the latest group that Andre and Norman performed in together) is on hiatus so the three of us just looked at each other and said, “This is our chance.”


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