It’s encouraging to see a new generation of musicians taking hold. I suppose the term “new” is only relevant to those of us who are coming to represent the “older” generation, but not much we can do about that.
Annalivia did a fantastic performance in the Nelson Town Hall on February 5th. Their eclectic mix of Scottish tunes and American ballads, technically brilliant musicianship, entertaining stage presence – all around good time. Looking up on the stage there’s Brendan Carey-Block, fiddler extraordinaire, who was a pre-school classmate of my daughter. The band’s singer, Liz Simmons, is the daughter of Leslie Vogel (an accomplished musician in her own right, who’s recent new recording was reviewed here). Leslie was a classmate of mine at High Mowing School back in the late 1960’s. Stuart Kenney, the bass and banjo player (it takes a lot of courage to play two such teased instruments), was just outgrowing teenager-hood when I first met him some decades ago, and now his son Matthew is getting his own reputation (at the age of 12) as an incredible percussionist. Annalivia’s other fiddler, Emerald Rae (who is about the same age as Brendan) noted that she went to Berklee with all of the members of Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers, who are performing in Nelson on March 19th.
On February 21 MFS presents a concert with Windborne, which includes Will Thomas Rowan, the son of Bill and Anne Thomas who are both well known in dance and Morris circles in the area. Will, along with Lynn Mahoney Rowan and Lauren Breunig, perform incredible harmony singing representing vocal traditions from all over the world.
There are lots of ways for young people to get into music, and while parental support is usually a factor, having a broader nurturing community is helpful as well. Some years ago Bob McQuillen (who spent some decades as a school teacher, and who is possibly the region’s most youthfully-spirited octogenarian), approached the Monadnock Folklore Society with the idea of providing a scholarship for young people to study traditional music. The result was the Johnny Trombley Memorial Scholarship (read more details here), which provides an annual scholarship to a person 18 years or younger. Last year’s recipient of this award, Perin Ellsworth-Heller, was able to spend a week at Ashokan fiddle and dance. Perin can often be heard playing a set or two at the Monday night dance in Nelson.
The point being that the kinds of music that are important to the Monadnock Folklore Society and its audience has been embraced with vigor and creativity by the younger generation. And if there is any doubt about the interest in contra dancing, just come by Nelson on a Monday night to see how many young folks are stepping up.
It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that I was part of the younger generation, working at The Folkway Restaurant and Coffeehouse in Peterborough, and while there were many long-established musicians that came through there, many were my contemporaries. Among them, Lui Collins, who endeared herself to Folkway audiences, and whose career took some inspiring turns because of it. As the Peterborough Historical Society continues it’s celebration of the 38th anniversary of the founding of the Folkway, it is a pleasure to have Lui back in the area, with a concert on Friday February 26th (note: she is also performing the next night with David Mallett, but that concert has already sold out). For tickets and more information about the whole Folkway concert series, and exhibit, visit the PHS web site.