Traditional Song Week Staff - July 1-7, 2018
Karl Scully was a member for six years of the famous international group, The Irish Tenors, with whom he performed in hundreds of venues in Europe and the USA as well as recorded two albums which went to #1 on Billboard’s charts. On TV, Karl hosted the 10-part TV show The Irish Tenors and Friends which aired on PBS and Ireland’s RTE networks. Acting credits include Count John McCormack in the indie hit film Nora with Ewan McGregor, and Bartel D’Arcy in the Irish Repertory Theatre’s The Dead 1904. Karl is classically trained and has performed as a soloist in numerous venues all over the world including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fischer/David Geffen Hall in Lincoln Center, Wolftrap Mainstage in Virginia, Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa Italy, Hôtel de Ville in Paris, and The National Concert Hall, Ireland. He holds a Masters degree from the Manhattan School of Music, and some of his operatic roles include: Don José in Carmen by Bizet; Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly; The Duke in Rigoletto; The Witch in Hansel and Gretel; MacHeath in Beggars Opera; Albert in Albert Herring; King Ouf in L’etoile; Paolino in Il Matrimonio Segreto; Ferrando in Cosi Fan Tutte; and Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor. Karl has been a recipient of the prestigious Liberace Scholarship and the Mae Zenke Orvis Endowed Opera Scholarship.
George Grove began his musical career at the age of four, sitting at the piano and playing by ear what his older sister had just struggled with. Bad for sibling harmony, great for musical harmony. In high school in Hickory, NC, he formed a folk group to sing the songs of The Kingston Trio, Peter Paul & Mary, and The Chad Mitchell Trio, and in college they began including songs of The Association and The Mamas & The Papas. After college, a stint in the Army Band, and a few years in Nashville’s country music scene, he joined The Kingston Trio in 1976, succeeding Dave Guard and John Stewart as the banjo player of the group, a position he held until the Trio’s final performance last year in Asheville’s Diana Wortham Theatre. During his time in The Kingston Trio, George utilized his Master of Music degree to write the orchestral scores used in the performance of Pops Concerts with most of the major symphony orchestras in America. The group also recorded ten albums and numerous videos, including five PBS specials. In March of 2015, Lonesome Traveler, a play for which George had orchestrated the music, was performed off-Broadway in New York City and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award, eventually losing out to Hamilton. The joy of that experience was exceeded only by the bitter cold of NYC in March. George lives in Las Vegas with his wife Cindy, several animals, and a room full of banjos and guitars. He considers his major accomplishment to be the life-long friends he has collected through his forty-one years of travel with The Kingston Trio.
Broadcasting each week for three and a half decades, Fiona Ritchie’s radio program, The Thistle & Shamrock has become one of NPR’s most widely heard and best-loved music programs in the US. Fiona spent her childhood in Gourock, a ferry town on the banks of the busy River Clyde. In a household where broadcasts of Scottish country dance music soundtracked her early memories and a youth choir was an important influence, she developed an appreciation for music and a love of radio. While working at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the early 1980s, she became involved with NPR station WFAE-FM and in 1983, The Thistle & Shamrock began national distribution on public radio stations across the country. In 1990, Fiona moved program production back to her native Scotland and from there has supplied NPR each week while she presented numerous programs for BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio 2, guested on BBC Radio 6 Music, and produced and hosted many live concert performances and broadcasts, including a musical event for HRH Prince Charles at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. Fiona has acted in an advisory capacity for U.S. and U.K. arts organizations, including the Scottish Advisory Committee for the British Council and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and is a trustee of the Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust. In 2015, her book, Wayfaring Strangers, the New York Times best-seller co-written with WWC President Emeritus Doug Orr, won the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. Fiona’s other honors include four World Medals from the NY Festivals’ International Competition for Radio Programming, a Flora MacDonald Award and honorary doctorate from St. Andrew’s University in North Carolina, the Gathering’s Master Music Maker Award for Lifetime Achievement and an MBE from HM the Queen. Fiona is also a recipient of the Hamish Henderson Services to Traditional Music Award and was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame. ThistleRadio, Fiona’s music channel on SomaFM, was voted “Best Music Show: Country/Folk/Blues” in the 2017 Online Music Awards.
County Antrim’s Len Graham has been a full-time professional traditional singer since 1982. After he won the All-Ireland Traditional Singing competion in 1971, his passion for the songs of his native Ulster began to grow with his reputation. Len sought out and recorded older singers, and published a book, Here I Am Amongst You, on the songs, dance music and traditions of Joe Holmes. He was a founding member of the group Skylark, with whom he toured extensively for ten years and recorded four albums. In 1993, he released his book and field recording collection, It’s Of My Rambles. Over the years, Len has collaborated and worked with numerous musicians, poets and storytellers. His association with the late John Campbell brought storytelling and song to a world audience, and their work together over twenty years made a significant contribution toward creating a deeper cross-community understanding of shared cultural traditions during many years of conflict in the north of Ireland. Len has recorded numerous albums, performed at many Irish and international folk, literary and storytelling festivals, and appeared on many radio and television programs. In 1992, he received the Seán O’Boyle Cultural Traditions Award in recognition of his work in Ireland as a song collector and singer. In 2002, he was honoured as the first recipient of the Irish television TG4 National Music Award for “Traditional Singer Of the Year.” In 2008, he was awarded “Keeper of the Tradition” from the Tommy Makem Festival of Traditional Song, and the US Irish Music Award in the “Sean-Nós Singing” category. In 2011, he was awarded the Gradam na mBard CCÉ (CCÉ Bardic Award) at the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.
Julee Glaub Weems, the Coordinator of Traditional Song Week, is a North Carolina native who studied literature and music at Wake Forest University before following her longstanding interest in Irish culture to work with the poor in Dublin. For nearly seven years, she continued her work in Dublin while sitting at the feet of master players and singers, absorbing all she could. She credits the combination of material from older singers and from the Traditional Music Archive, and her experiences in working with poor and working people in Dublin as the major inspirations for her ballad singing. Upon returning home, she became involved in the Irish music scene here in the states and has become recognized as a leading interpreter of Irish songs in America. She lived in the northeast for seven years in order to be closer to the heartbeat of Irish music in the major Irish-American enclaves in Boston and New York, and performed with the band Séad (Brian Conway, Brendan Dolan, and Jerry O’Sullivan) with whom she still performs from time to time, as well as with Pete Sutherland, Dáithí Sproule, and Tony Ellis. Her latest solo release, Blue Waltz, explores her interest in the connections between Irish and Appalachian song and has been featured on NPR’s Thistle and Shamrock. Now based in Durham, NC, she and her husband, Mark Weems, tour as a duo called Little Windows, which blends Irish, Appalachian, and old-time gospel with a focus on tight harmonies in unaccompanied singing. Julee has been on staff at the Irish Arts Week in N.Y., Alaska Fiddle Camp, Schloss Mittersill Arts Conference in Austria, the Swannanoa Gathering’s Celtic Week, Camp Little Windows and various camps and festivals throughout the US. Julee’s approach to music goes beyond its entertainment aspect to focus on the spiritual and emotional wealth that traditional music has to offer to the world. For her, Traditional Song Week is a long-awaited dream come true.
County Roscommon-born Cathy Jordan has been a professional singer with the Irish traditional group Dervish for over 23 years now. She is also a self-taught guitar, bouzouki, bodhrán and bones player. She has led Dervish as front-woman through thousands of concerts in hundreds of cities in nearly 40 countries. The most notable perhaps were performances at the Great Wall of China, and the biggest rock music festival in the world – Rock in Rio, to over 250,000 people. Cathy is also a successful songwriter and has co-written with the likes of Brendan Graham, best known for the smash hit “You Raise Me Up.” Recently, Cathy has taken up the role of TV presenter and has presented the award-winning Fleadh TV for the last four years.
Mark Weems is a multi-instrumental music teacher and professional performer of traditional music. He hails from Alabama, but currently lives in Durham, NC. A well-known figure on the North Carolina traditional country and old-time scene, he has been singing and studying the nuances of all types of country music for twenty-five years as a veteran of the The Stillhouse Bottom Band, and his own honky-tonk band, the Cave Dwellers. Sing Out! magazine called him “an exceptionally talented interpreter of old-time vocal and instrumental tunes” and “a gifted composer of timeless music.” Since 2005, he has toured with his wife, Julee Glaub Weems, as the duo Little Windows, which performs a mix of Irish, Old-Time, Country, and Gospel. In 2009, he created the North Carolina School of Traditional Music, which facilitates the local dissemination of the Celtic, Piedmont, and Appalachian musical traditions of the state. In 2013, he co-founded the Old Jonny Booker Band which re-creates Early American music popular between 1820 and 1865 on period instruments and in period dress. His music has been heard at Merlefest and highlighted on NPR’s The Thistle & Shamrock, and The State of Things. He has performed with former Bluegrass Boy Tony Ellis, Daithi Sproule (Altan), Pete Sutherland (Metamora), Alice Gerrard (Hazel and Alice), and Ranger Doug (Riders in the Sky).
Matt Watroba is first and foremost a community singer. As a performer, writer, radio host and educator, he has devoted his life to spreading the word about the power of American roots music. Matt has been recognized by the Detroit Music Awards as Folk Performer of the Year, as well as being selected as the Artist in Residence for the Farmington area of Oakland County, MI. Matt is a founding member of the National Folk Alliance and a charter member of the Board of Directors for Ann Arbor’s The Ark, both non-profit organizations formed to promote and preserve folk music. Matt is a published writer, having penned dozens of articles and reviews for Sing Out!, the national magazine of American folk and roots music founded by Pete Seeger in 1950. His love of folk music led him to his position as the host and creator of the popular Folks Like Us radio program, a position he held for over 20 years on WDET-FM In Detroit. He also produced and hosted the syndicated, Sing Out! Radio Magazine heard on the XM Satellite network as well as the internet service Folk Alley. Matt is currently the host of Folk With Matt Watroba on Michigan State Public Media.
Dr. Kathy Bullock is a professor of music at Berea College, in Berea, KY where she has worked for the past twenty-four years. She earned a Ph.D. and M.A. in Music Theory from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and a B.A. in Music from Brandeis University, MA. She teaches Music Theory, African-American Music, Ethnomusicology, General Studies courses, directs the Black Music Ensemble, (an eighty-voice choir that specializes in performance of African-American sacred music) and has designed and completed new study abroad programs for Berea College students traveling to Zimbabwe, Ghana and Jamaica. She gives numerous presentations, performances, lectures and workshops on such subjects as “Singing in the Spirit,” “From Negro Spirituals to Jamaican Revival Songs,” “African-American Sacred Music” and “African-American and Appalachian Musical Connections.” She also conducts workshops and other music programs in gospel music and gospel piano at schools, camps, churches and civic organizations in the United States, Europe and Africa.
Josh learned to play fiddle from legendary fiddlers Gordon and Arvil Freeman in his native Madison County, NC. A highly accomplished oldtime, bluegrass, and swing musician, he attended East Tennessee State University to study music education, and to be a part of ETSU’s famous Bluegrass & Country Music Program. His fiddling was featured in the movie Songcatcher, both onscreen and on the soundtrack, and he has toured extensively with a variety of ensembles, including the ETSU bluegrass band, with David Holt and Laura Boosinger, and with several bluegrass bands including Appalachian Trail, the Josh Goforth Trio, and Josh Goforth and the New Direction. He has shared stages with Ricky Skaggs, Bryan Sutton, The Yonder Mountain String Band, Open Road, and The Steep Canyon Rangers, performed throughout the US, Europe, and in Japan. In 2000, 2003, and 2005, he was named Fiddler of the Festival at Fiddler’s Grove and, after winning his third title, was designated “Master Fiddler” and retired from that competition. He was nominated for a Grammy for his 2009 release with David Holt, entitled Cutting Loose.
Known around the world for his banjo playing, Joe Newberry is also a powerful guitarist, singer and IBMA Award-winning songwriter. A frequent guest on A Prairie Home Companion, he was recently a featured singer on the Transatlantic Sessions tour of the United Kingdom and at their debut at Merlefest in 2017. In addition to solo work and teaching, he plays in a duo with mandolin icon Mike Compton, holds the banjo chair with old-time music legends Mike Craver, Bill Hicks, and Jim Watson, and also performs with the dynamic fiddler and stepdancer April Verch. Joe has taught banjo, guitar, singing, and songwriting at numerous camps and festivals, and was for many years the coordinator of Old-Time Week at the Augusta Heritage Center.
Sheila Kay Adams | www.sheilakayadams.com
A seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller, and musician, Sheila Kay Adams was born and raised in the Sodom Laurel community of Madison County, North Carolina, an area renowned for its unbroken tradition of unaccompanied ballad singing dating back to the early Scottish, Scots/Irish and English settlers in the mid-17th century. In September, 2013, she received the nation’s highest award for the arts, The National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship Award which recognizes folk and traditional artists for their artistic excellence and efforts to conserve America’s culture for future generations. In 2016, Sheila received the North Carolina Heritage Award, the state’s highest award for the arts.
Ed has been collecting and performing folk songs for over 45 years. He learned from and sang with a number of extraordinary musicians who taught him that it’s the song, not the singer, that’s important. As a song finder and a song crafter he learned hundreds of songs, and says he’s “probably forgotten as many as I now know.” His repertoire includes traditional ballads, songs of the sea, labor songs, songs of love, and parodies accompanied on 6- and 12-string guitar, hammered dulcimer, and piano. From his first album, 1964’s The Golden Ring, Ed has been a part of several ensemble recordings on Folk Legacy Records, and made four solo albums, but he’s probably best known for his 26-year partnership with Gordon Bok and Ann Mayo Muir which produced ten albums. He’s also had the privilege of accompanying a number of wonderful musicians on their recordings, including Don McLean, Rosalie Sorrels, Mark Spoelstra, Sara Grey, Sally Rogers, Cathy Barton & Dave Para, Joe Hickerson, Joan Sprung, Helen Schneyer, Bob Zentz and Harry Tuft. He describes his greatest musical disappointment as “going to Woodstock in 1969 with David Bromberg and Rosalie Sorrels, getting flown to the site by helicopter at dawn and seeing all those people, but, in the final analysis, not getting to play on what admittedly was going to be one of the more minor stages.”
Flatpicking guitarist Tim May has been working in the Nashville area for over 30 years as a sideman, session player, band member and performer. He has toured with Patty Loveless, John Cowan, Eddie Rabbitt and Rodney Dillard and regularly performs with Mike Snider on the Grand Ole Opry. Tim was the solo guitarist on Charlie Daniels’ recording of “I’ll Fly Away,” which was nominated for the Best Country Instrumental Performance Grammy in 2005. The Nashville Scene selected Tim as Best Instrumentalist in their 2012 Reader’s Chxoice Poll. He is co-author of the eight-volume book/CD course, Flatpicking Essentials, The Guitar Player’s Practical Guide to Scales and Arpeggios, The Mandolin Player’s Practical Guide to Scales and Arpeggios, The Flatpicker’s Guide to Old-Time Music and The Flatpicker’s Guide to Irish Music. He and his wife Gretchen are owners’ of the Musical Heritage Center of Middle Tennessee.
Laura Boosinger has been performing traditional Southern Appalachian music since she was a student at Warren Wilson College in the 1970’s, where she learned clawhammer banjo, how to call southern mountain square dances, and shape-note singing with North Carolina Folk Heritage Award winner Quay Smathers. For 13 years she performed with the Luke Smathers Swing Band. Laura performs solo, with her duet partner Josh Goforth, with David Holt’s Lightning Bolts, and with The Midnight Plowboys. In 2017, Laura was inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame.
Dubbed “The Backwoods Bach,” Tony is a banjo and fiddle player of astounding skill and innovation whose style unites two overarching streams of banjo playing through the use of old-time tunings with bluegrass right-hand rolls. Tony’s career began as banjo player for Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, with whom he played from 1960 to 1962. His tenure with Monroe included national tours, regular appearances at the Grand Ole Opry, and more than two dozen recordings. In 1962, Tony received a standing ovation at Carnegie Hall when playing with Mac Wiseman as part of the Johnny Cash revue. Tony later played at the 1986 Statue of Liberty Celebration in New York City, opened the Folk Master Series at Wolf Trap in 1994, and played at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He has toured Japan (Ohio Arts Council), Latin America (USIA), Cuba and Belarus (both for the State Department), Australia, New Zealand, and (multiple times) the British Isles. He has also performed nationally at many folk festivals and colleges and, in 2011, was a featured artist at The Kennedy Center and The Library of Congress. Tony’s music has been used in a number of film and television programs, from SpongeBob SquarePants to four PBS productions by acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns. Tony has also been the subject of his own documentary, Tony Ellis’s Quest, and has been featured in other banjo docs, notably the BBC film, Echoes of America, and, more recently, Give Me the Banjo. He has been interviewed by the BBC, by Pulitzer Prize winner Studs Terkel, by Noah Adams on NPR’s All Things Considered, and by avowed fan, actor/musician Steve Martin for The Banjo Newsletter. Tony has been the recipient of the prestigious Ohioana Music Citation and received the inaugural Ohio Heritage Fellowship award in the Performing Arts.
Children’s Program coordinator Melissa Hyman is involved with kids and music in all the many facets of her working life. She has taught music to elementary-aged students at Asheville charter schools and coordinated children’s programming at regional music conferences. Her main gig is as a musician on the folk/indie circuit, working full-time as a touring and recording artist, cellist, singer and songwriter. When not on the road she works on the pediatric unit at Mission Hospital in Asheville as a Music Teacher for Arts for Life (www.aflnc.org), a non-profit organization providing art and music programming for patients in NC’s major children’s hospitals. This year Melissa spearheaded the launch of an exciting new endeavor at AFL called the Heartbeat Project, in collaboration with Echo Mountain Studios and many talented members of the Asheville music community. Melissa looks forward to many more unforgettable summers in Swannanoa, leading a ragtag crew of amazing kids and counselors on adventures through space and time. She feels right at home in this world of messy games, silly songs, amazing crafts and fast friendships.