Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh | www.mairead.ie
Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh was born and raised in the heartland of the Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore) Gaeltacht in northwest Co. Donegal. She is a native Gaelic speaker and learned her songs and tunes from her family and neighbours. Mairéad is internationally known as one of the most important fiddle players to play in the unique Donegal style and has toured throughout the world with her band Altan for more than 30 years. Mairéad learned her songs and tunes from her father Francie, one of the most important fiddle teachers in that part of the country, and she was influenced by the many musicians and singers who visited her home when she was growing up. She has presented numerous traditional music programs for both radio and television, and in addition to her work with Altan, has recorded with Enya, Aly Bain, Jerry Douglas, The Chieftains, Alison Krauss, The Afro-Celt Sound System, Dolly Parton, Bonnie Raitt and the String Sisters among many others. She was named Donegal Person of the Year in 2009, and in 2017 she was awarded TG4’s “Gradam Ceoil, Ceoltóir na Bliana” (Traditional Musician of the Year), the Irish language television station’s most prestigious traditional music award. www.mairead.ie
Reggie Harris is an insightful songwriter and performer who has been a vibrant part of the international folk and acoustic music scene for over 40 years. An innovative guitarist, storyteller and lecturer, Reggie travels extensively around the world using music and the spoken word to impact education, human and civil rights and the environment. He is a Woodrow Wilson Scholar and the Director of Music Education for the UU Living Legacy Project, leading civil rights pilgrimages in the southern US. He also averages over 250 performances a year in the US, Canada and Europe. A 30-plus year teaching artist in the John F Kennedy Center’s CETA program, Reggie has also taught songwriting, performance and music history workshops at the John F. Kennedy Center Summer Institute, Common Ground on the Hill, the WUMB Summer Acoustic Music Camp (SAMW) Summersongs and numerous other conferences and venues including several years at the Gathering. With the 2018 release of his chart-topping CD, Ready to Go, Reggie has greatly enhanced his role as a musical community builder with a passion for creativity, global peace and justice.
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, perform as the duo 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.
Roscommon born Cathy Jordan has been a professional singer with traditional group Dervish for nearly 30 years. She is a self-taught guitar, bouzouki, bodhrán and bones player and has led Dervish as front woman through thousands of concerts in hundreds of cities in nearly 40 countries and has 16 albums under her belt. Among the most notable performances were at The Great Wall of China and the biggest rock music festival in the world – ‘Rock in Rio’ to over 250,000 people. As a songwriter, she has written songs with internationally-renowned Brendan Graham, best known for the most successful song of the twentieth century, “You Raise Me Up”. More recently she has been a teacher providing vocal training and exercises to students in Ireland and abroad, as well as expanding her students’ traditional song repertoire. In 2014, she took up the role of presenter of Fleadh TV with TG4. Cathy has been an ambassador for Irish culture and music for over a quarter of a century, and has a deep understanding of traditional Irish songs and singing and has collected hundreds of songs which otherwise may have been forgotten. Cathy and Dervish have been invited to accompany the President and Taoiseach of Ireland as cultural ambassadors to China, Latvia and Lithuania. Dervish’ most recent album, The Great Irish Songbook, was released last year on Rounder records and features duets with Vince Gill, Steve Earle, Imelda May, David Gray and more. Over the years Cathy has picked up many awards for her contribution to traditional Irish music including BBC’s Lifetime Achievement Award 2019, Sligo Cultural Ambassador 2018, Annie McNulty Award 2014 and The Freedom of The City of Sligo in 2015.
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, Dáithí Sproule (Altan), Pete Sutherland (Metamora), Alice Gerrard (Hazel and Alice), and Ranger Doug (Riders in the Sky).
Matt Watroba has spent most of his adult life sharing his knowledge and passion for folk music with just about anyone who would listen. As a performer, Matt has delivered thousands of shows in just about every imaginable setting. As a song leader, he is committed to inspiring or facilitating at least 100 community sings every year somewhere in the country. In 2019, Matt was inducted into the Folk DJ Hall Of Fame as part of the Folk Alliance International conference in Montreal, honoring three decades of producing folk radio locally in Michigan, as well as in syndication all over the world. He currently hosts and produces the show Folk With Matt Watroba for Michigan State Public Media. In addition, Matt is a published writer, an inspiring teacher, and co-founder (along with Rev. Robert Jones) of the non-profit Common Chords – a company devoted to celebrating diversity and connecting community to music and the arts.
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.
John McCutcheon is one of our most respected and loved folksingers. As an instrumentalist, he is a master of a dozen different traditional instruments, most notably the rare and beautiful hammer dulcimer. His songwriting has been hailed by critics and singers around the globe. His thirty recordings have garnered every imaginable honor including seven Grammy nominations and the Gathering’s own Master Music Maker Award for lifetime achievement. He has produced over twenty albums of other artists, from traditional fiddlers to contemporary singer-songwriters to educational and documentary works. His books and instructional materials have introduced budding players to the joys of their own musicality. And his commitment to grassroots political organizations has put him on the front lines of many of the issues important to communities and workers.
Anne Hills is one of the most beloved voices of the contemporary folk music scene, receiving awards and recognition for her live performances, her unique solo and collaborative recording projects, and her overall artistry and benefit work. Her song “Follow That Road” was the title cut of the Martha’s Vineyard Songwriter Retreat and has been a certified folk classic since the late 1990s. Whether she is singing her own songs, the words of six-year-old Opal Whiteley, or her song settings of the Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley; accompanied with her guitar, banjo, or simply a Tibetan bell, she puts her whole heart and soul into the moment. The AllMusic Guide says, “A stunning soprano tone has made Anne Hills one of contemporary music’s premiere vocalists … Her knack for writing heartfelt songs [has] brought her to the upper echelon of her craft.” and Tom Paxton says, “Anne Hills is such an exquisite singer that it’s understandable that people might be swept up in the pure beauty of her voice and thereby overlook her writing. That would be a mistake. For me, Anne’s writing, in songs like ‘Follow That Road’ and many others, is as direct, melodic and deep as any work being done today. She is quite simply one of my absolute favorite songwriters.”
Aoife (pronounced “eefa”)was born in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. Her father, Bobby Clancy of the legendary Clancy Brothers, placed a guitar in her hands at age ten, and by age fourteen was playing with her father in nearby pubs. She later moved to Dublin, where she studied drama at the Gaiety School of Acting. After a season at the Gaiety, Aoife was invited to do a tour of Australia. There she performed at festivals and concerts sharing the stage with some of Ireland’s greatest performers, including Christy Moore and the Furey Brothers. Her performances also include Caribbean cruises with the Clancy Brothers, the Milwaukee Irish Festival and a seven week tour of the United States with the renowned Paddy Noonan Show. In 1995, Aoife was asked to join the acclaimed group, Cherish the Ladies, with whom she toured the world and made six recordings with the group, including the Grammy- nominated The Celtic Album. She also has recorded several solo CDs, and also plays with her cousins Robbie O’Connell and Donal Clancy.
A seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller, writer and musician, Sheila Kay Adams was born and raised in the Sodom Laurel community of Madison County, NC, 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 NC Heritage Award, the state’s highest award for the arts.
Guitarist Ranger Doug, “Governor of the Great State of Rhythm” and “Idol of American Youth” is best known as the lead singer with Riders in the Sky, the multiple Grammy-winning cowboy quartet and members of the Grand Ole Opry, the Western Music Association’s Hall of Fame, the Country Music Foundation’s Walkway of Stars, and the Walk of Western Stars. While remaining true to the integrity of Western music, they have themselves become modern-day icons by branding the genre with their own legendary wacky humor and way-out Western wit, and all along encouraging buckaroos and buckarettes to live life “The Cowboy Way!” A yodeler of breathtaking technique, Ranger Doug is also an award-winning Western music songwriter in his own right – and a distinguished music historian whose 2002 Vanderbilt University Press book, Singing in the Saddle, was the first comprehensive look at the singing cowboy phenomenon that swept the country in the 1930s. In 2006, Ranger Doug’s Classic Cowboy Corral debuted on XM Satellite Radio, still heard weekly on SiriusXM Channel 56. During thirty-six years with the Riders, he has chalked up over 6600 concert appearances in all 50 states and 10 countries, appearing in venues everywhere from the Nashville National Guard Armory to Carnegie Hall, and from the White House and county fairs to the Hollywood Bowl.
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 Choice 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.
Dáithí Sproule is a native of Derry in the north of Ireland, a renowned traditional singer in both Irish and English, and one of the world’s premier guitarists in the Irish tradition. He pioneered the use of DADGAD tuning in the accompaniment of Irish music, a style now used around the world, and is a member of the seminal Irish bands Skara Brae (with Mícheál Ó Domhnaill and Maighread & Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill), Trian (with Liz Carroll and Billy McComiskey) and Altan, with whom he continues to tour and record. He has worked with many other greats, including Tommy Peoples, James Kelly, Paddy O’Brien, Randal Bays, Seamus and Manus McGuire, Peter Ostroushko, James Keane and bluesman Dave Ray. Dáithí has also taught Old Irish language, Celtic mythology and Irish music at several universities in Ireland and the U.S., and is the author of a volume of short stories in Irish and several academic articles on early Irish poetry and legend. He currently teaches at the Center for Irish Music in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Josh learned to play fiddle from legendary fiddlers Gordon and Arvil Freeman in his native Madison County, NC. A highly ac- complished old-time, 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, and 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.
Fiona Ritchie has introduced Americans to Scottish, Irish and other Celtic music every week for more than three and a half decades via National Public Radio’s The Thistle & Shamrock. She presented numerous radio shows for the BBC, including launching the world music series Celtic Connections and advising the mammoth Glasgow festival of the same name. Fiona has been honored for her radio work, with a Master Music Maker lifetime achievement award from the Swannanoa Gathering, an honorary degree from St. Andrews University (North Carolina), and medals at the New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards. She has enjoyed critical acclaim for Wayfaring Strangers, the New York Times bestseller she co-wrote with Doug Orr, President Emeritus of Warren Wilson College, about how Scots and Irish immigrants brought their music to Appalachia and other regions of the United States. Queen Elizabeth honored Fiona with a MBE for Services to Broadcasting and Scottish Traditional Music and she is an inductee of both the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame and the Folk DJ Hall of Fame. ThistleRadio, her online music channel on SomaFM, was named “Best Music Show: Country/Folk/Blues” in the 2017 Online Radio Awards. Fiona is a trustee of the Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust which promotes and supports traditional music worldwide.
Janis Ian keeps a sign above her workspace that guides her after more than five decades as a revered songwriter who dares to say what no one else will. “Do not be held hostage by your legacy.” When you’ve written, starting at age 14, some of pop music’s most evergreen songs – “Society’s Child,” “At Seventeen,” “Jesse,” and “Stars,” among them – it’s no wonder she’d need a reminder to shake free of expectations. Now, at 71, Ian is embracing a new milestone: the art of the farewell. Calling The Light at the End of the Line her “last solo studio album”, it bookends a kaleidoscopic catalog that began with her 1967 self-titled debut. Her first album of new material in 15 years, Light also sets the stage for her final North American tour in 2022. These 12 new songs present intimate portraits of getting older but wiser: (“I’m Still Standing”), knowing when to stand up and not take any more crap: (“Resist”), celebrating life’s fleeting beauty: (“Swannanoa”), paying homage to a lifelong influence and that artist’s own demons: (“Nina,” as in Simone). Ian is at her most primal as a vocalist here. Every note, every cadence, every beat is in the perfect place. If The Light at the End of the Line ends up being Ian’s swan song, it’s as graceful an exit as fans could want. She’s always cut through to the heart of things, striking a universal chord as timely then as it is today. We’re still having the same conversations around race and racism that she ignited in 1966’s “Society’s Child,” her teenage ode to a white woman who brings home a black boyfriend. And in the age of social media, 1975’s “At Seventeen” is more resonant than ever as a meditation on feeling isolated and ostracized. She has been a regular columnist for two national magazines, and ringleader of a lively online fan community. She’s dabbled in science-fiction short stories and for the past thirty-plus years devoted much of her time and effort to her philanthropic endeavors, the Pearl Foundation and the Better Times Project. If there has been any common thread, it’s this: Ian has always been down for the ride. “The journey has always been more interesting to me than wherever I end up,” she says, which brings us back to that sign above her desk. “The idea of not being held hostage by your legacy lets you move forward. You have to acknowledge them, but you don’t have to stay there. And I never have.”