Folk Gathering's host band is two women (Linda Littleton and Karen Hirshon) playing twelve instruments, performing styles that range from old time to Celtic to Klezmer and beyond. Combining tradition with innovation, Simple Gifts creates some of the finest arrangements in folk music today: swing fiddle creeps into a Romanian dance, spoons show up in an Irish reel, and the concertina ventures far beyond styles considered traditional for that instrument. Based in the hills of central Pennsylvania, Simple Gifts switches with ease among two violins, concertina, mandolin, banjolin, recorders, bowed psaltery, hammered dulcimer, baritone fiddle, guitar, piano, and percussion.
The highly acclaimed husband-wife duo, Aubrey Atwater and Elwood Donnelly, present delightful programs of traditional American and Celtic folk songs, a capella pieces, old-time gospel songs, dance tunes, and original works. Elwood and Aubrey blend gorgeous and unusual harmonies and play guitar, Appalachian mountain dulcimer, mandolin, tin whistle, harmonica, banjo, bones, spoons, limberjacks, and other surprises including Appalachian clog dancing, French Canadian footwork, and Tap.
Atwater and Donnelly have performed and researched traditional folk music and dance in Appalachia, the Ozarks, New England, and other key places in the United States, as well as Ireland, England and Prince Edward Island. They have performed with or shared festival billing with folk legends Jean Ritchie, Pete Seeger, and Doc Watson.
The Early Mays “bring traditional and original material to spectacular life” (Cindy Howes, Folk Alley/WYEP) with Appalachian-inspired songs built on deep country sensibilities, masterful singing and a sweet old-time sound. They burst on to the scene with a #2 debut on the National Folk-DJ charts: an eponymous album where fiddle, banjo and guitar are the backdrop to heart-melting three part vocal harmonies.
Emily Pinkerton, Ellen Gozion and Rachel Eddy share songs based in a love of American tradition, while also exploring their own creative voices. All three are celebrated solo artists who bring their rich and carefully honed craft to The Early Mays. Emily weaves folk, classical and world music traditions together in her songwriting. She recently won a 2015 New Music USA grant to compose a song cycle for banjo and chamber ensemble. Ellen is an accomplished ballad singer and visual artist who has taught at the Augusta Heritage Center, and was an American Music Abroad finalist with the US State Department. Born and raised in West Virginia, Rachel is a prolific performer who has shared the stage with musical legends including Tim O’Brien, Uncle Earl and Bruce Molsky. She moved back to the US last year after 6 years of living and touring in Europe.
There is an unsurpassed magic that springs from entwined and entrancing vocal harmonies. The Early Mays love the camaraderie of the studio, the road, and rehearsals, and you can feel the gratitude radiate from whatever stage they are on. You’ll never leave a show without carrying a little bit of that warmth away with you.
Henry Koretzky is a mandolinist/ guitarist/singer from Harrisburg, PA, who has performed in a wide variety of styles and groups, from bluegrass with Cornerstone, Sweetwater Reunion, and High Strung, klezmer with The Old World Folk Band, old-time with the duo Rootbound, as well as swing, celtic, contemporary folk, and contradance music. He has taught at Folk College in previous years as part of The Keystone Rebels and as part of a duo with singer/songwriter/ guitarist Kevin Neidig, and has also been a staff regular at Greenwood Furnace Folk Gathering.
Ryan Thomson is a music and dance professional who tours with both the Traditional and Touring artist rosters of the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. He is a past winner of the North Eastern Regional awardof the National Fiddle Contest and has published numerous books on fiddle, banjo, accordion, flute, piano and more! See captainfiddle.com for more info and lots of videos!
Jerry grew up in Mississippi where he learned and played traditional music at an early age. He has a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in music performance (French horn). Jerry was a high school band director for several years, and he is now a professor in counselor education at Penn State. His current musical passions include playing, researching and building clawhammer and old-time banjos.
Diana Wagner is an acoustic musician and folksinger who collects and preserves folk music. Diana plays acoustic and classical guitar, mountain dulcimer, a bit of banjo and diddley-bow. She also plays multiple percussion hand instruments. Folk audiences know that her show-opening trademark is to begin without any instruments and an a capella mountain song or ballad. Whether singing Civil War songs, blues, Irish love ballads, or indie folk from contemporary backroads, Diana is committed to telling the personal stories and sharing the histories of the lives preserved in song. Diana is also a classical guitarist with a variety of musical interests. In addition, she directs the Maryland site of Guitars in the Classroom, an innovative program that brings guitars and music integration to classroom teachers across the country.
Carl Rahkonen is a Music Librarian and Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, as a member of the Library Faculty. Carl plays fiddle, mandolin or string bass with local musicians, with Finnish-American musicians, with the Irish band Aran, the Pennsylvania old-time band Keystone Rebels, Grist for the Mill and other musician friends. He was an ArtsPath artist from 2001-05 in fiddling for Western Pennsylvania.
His research interests include Finnish, Scandinavian, Baltic, Russian and Celtic folk music; folk instruments, especially the Finnish kantele; polka bands and fiddling, especially in Western Pennsylvania; and the history of ethnomusicology, especially its women pioneers.
Kelly e. Parker is founder and artistic director of ABAFASI. Her life’s roles include: sistah, mother, grandmother, drummer, drum-maker, student, teacher, social worker, composer, craftswoman, wordsmith, jewelry-maker, and welder. Kelly’s first drumming experience occurred in 1994, and it recharged her life, since then drumming has been the soundtrack of her path. The drum is in her walk, talk, hair, children and spirit. Her travel to Africa in 2005 affirmed the influence that West African drumming has had on all genres of music. That influence has informed her rhythmic expressions.
Ryck Kaiser has been playing the fiddle for more than three decades. His main interest has always been Appalachian string band music. A well-rounded musician, Ryck studied classical violin with Joyce Pollard, and played in the West Shore Symphony Orchestra in Harrisburg for over fifteen years. He has also played in a Cajun band, “The Yard Dawgz,” and a western swing band called “The Midtown Fiddlers.” Currently, Ryck performs with “Hot Club du Jour” a Gypsy jazz band from SE Pennsylvania. With all of these diverse experiences Ryck always thinks of old timey fiddle music as a touchstone.
Peggy Shutes is a music teacher in the State College Area School District where her middle school curriculum focuses on Pennsylvania, U.S.A. and World Folk Music. She has studied a variety of instruments including the Appalachian mountain dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, and piano and is a participant in several PA jam groups. She performs with fiddler Ryck Kaiser, playing the traditional dance music of Appalachia and with fiddler Bruce Young in Smash the Windows, specializing in traditional Irish and American dance music. An experienced clinician, Peggy has taught workshops at Folk College, The Greenwood Furnace Folk Gathering, HOTAfest, and the Pennsylvania Music Educator’s Annual Conference.
Scott Elkins is currently living in Lancaster PA, and is a singer/songwriter/instrumentalist. Most of his experience has been in a church setting, leading large groups, playing and singing in bands, etc. Formally of the WV based duo, Blue Willow, Scott has developed a love for old songs and old sounds. He has dabbled in songwriting, winning the Blair County Songwriter of the Year 2010. Scott is known for his high, powerful solos and harmonies, and while he is currently performing solo, he is hoping to join a band in his new town. Scott came to Folk College as a student several years ago, and now joins us for the first time on the faculty.
Traditional dance caller Joyce Rossbach was born and raised in a small farming community in the Upcountry of South Carolina known as the fertile crescent of country music. With rogue wit and southern charm, her winning personality inspires dancers of all levels to kick up their heels!
Joyce’s command of contra, square and traditional round dance figures reveals a deep love for a variety of traditional American dance styles. During a decade in Central New York State, she called for all of the major dance organizations of the region including the Syracuse Country Dancers, The Queen City Contra Dancers, The Southern Tier Country Dance Society, The Tompkins County Country Dancers, The Otsego Dance Society, The Cabin Fever Country Dancers, The Morrisville Dance, The Barneveld Country Dancers, The Country Dancers of Rochester, and the Contradance in Binghamton. She was a longtime member of the sword dancing performance team the Ribbon Steel Rappers.
In 2008, Joyce relocated to Elkins, West Virginia, as the Director of the prestigious Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College.
See Heritage Musicians for more information on her story and on past award recipients.