Forever Young: The 13th Annual Folk Music Month in Harvard Square
Richie Havens, Joni Mitchell and Dave Van Ronk - Photos by Bob Morey
Forever Young: The 13th Annual Folk Music Month in Harvard Square
Each November, The Harvard Square Business Association, in partnership with FOLK New England and Passim, celebrates Folk Music month in Harvard Square. The Square has long been an epicenter of critical thinking and social and political reform and nowhere was it more rampant than in the folk music scene that had its inception in the late 1950s at Club 47.
Located at 47 Mount Auburn Street, and later at 47 Palmer Street, Club 47 was a coffeehouse where students and residents first heard important socially conscious folk stars such as Joan Baez, Tom Rush, and Bob Dylan. In 1970, the 47 Palmer Street coffeehouse, now called Passim, was lauded as the most important venue in the post-revival folk world. Today, in addition to holding over 400 concerts a year, Passim also operates a thriving school of music, teaching classes and workshops in everything from songwriting to voice to numerous acoustic instruments.
Basic Folk 45: A Podcast with Betsy Siggins and Cindy Howe
Betsy Siggins is a folk boss in charge, and we’re beyond honored to welcome her as a guest on Basic Folk. Siggins has been an integral part of the folk music world since the late 1950’s when she and her roommate, Joan Baez, starting hanging around the Cambridge scene at Club 47. She’s work at the famous folk club until it closed in the 1960’s, where after that she worked with The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and also paved the way for homeless shelters catering to AIDs patients in New York City. After her tenure as Executive Director at Club Passim (formerly Club 47), Betsy worked on The New England Folk Archives that reside in Amherst, MA. Currently, Betsy is working on her memoirs that are bound to be packed with priceless stories about folk legends like Baez, Bob Dylan, Jim Kweskin, James Taylor and many more.
We hear some of these fascinating stories from Siggins during the conversation. We also get a glimpse into where Betsy came from in her roots with her family life, that did include some classical music influence as well as a love for early country radio. I honestly could have talked to her for days. Hope you enjoy!
CINDY HOWES is a radio professional passionately motivated to connect communities through meaningful music. She is based in Boston, with her cat Dottie. She enjoys yoga, hiking and playing the three chords she knows on a borrowed parlor guitar. She grew up in suburban Massachusetts playing clarinet in the high school band while belonging to both a sheep and rabbit 4H club.
She began broadcasting at just 14, at Walpole High School’s 10 watt radio station, which led her to seek a degree in Media Arts at Emerson College. Driven to secure a place on WERS’ hallowed airwaves, Cindy ended up hosting and running the station’s folk program, The Coffeehouse, for most of her tenure at Emerson. Her resume also includes WBOS, WBUR, WBZ, and WYEP. She spent ten years at WYEP hosting The Morning Mix and then The Evening Mix. Since 2014, she’s been hosting online at Folk Alley/WKSU, a radio station based out of Kent, OH, which has joyfully connected her with folk music again. Folk Alley, WYEP and WERS are public radio stations deeply involved in community and advocating for music fans and musicians alike. Cindy’s has thrived at this intersection and knows how to bring music fans and music creators together in many different ways. She currently is helping prepare the next generation of radio talent back at Emerson College's WERS.
A zealous folk music fan, she also worked briefly at the historic Club Passim in Harvard Square and was deeply immersed in Boston’s rich singer/songwriter and Americana community. In 2018 Cindy launched her own music podcast: Basic Folk, featuring honest conversations with under the radar folk musicians.
Bob Dylan and Betsy Siggins, photo by Dick Waterman
Appalachia: A Cultural Crossroads at Cambridge Forum
Come out and enjoy a much-needed musical respite at this upcoming forum.
This forum is a co-production with the Revels organization and will feature performances by musicians Jake Blount and Libby Weitnauer and interviews with the Revel’s creative team who will explore the history and roots of traditional music of Appalachia.
The Appalachian Mountains south of the Mason-Dixon Line, is one of the birthplaces of American music: the mountains of southern Appalachia, where Native American, African American, and European traditions combined to foster an astonishing wealth of artistic expression.
The forum will celebrate the quiet of the mountains in the songs passed on by Appalachian musicians from generation to generation, and examine the ideas that resonate in this music that speaks of the natural world, the hardship, the dark and light in human relationships.
Cambridge Forum, First Parish (UU), 1446 Massachusetts Avenue, (617) 495-2727,harvardsquare.com/cambridge-forum
Select November Concerts at Passim
Passim, 47 Palmer Street, passim.org, (617) 492-7679
Sunday, November 10th
Doors 7PM | Show 8PM
$30 / Members $28
Grammy-nominated, and “one of America’s premier fiddling talents” (Mother Jones), Bruce’s take on tradition has landed him in collaborations with some of the world’s most highly respected players from roots to rock. He is a special guest on legend rocker Mark Knopfler’s recent CD, “Tracker.” His 1865 Songs of Hope & Home with Anonymous 4, was on Billboard’s top 10 for weeks, the third record with Andy Irvine & Donal Lunny’s supergroup Mozaik is in the works, and you can see Bruce on the BBC TV Transatlantic Sessions Videos with Aly Bain and Jerry Douglas, and on “David Holt’s State of Music” airing nationally.
His new trio, Molsky’s Mountain Drifters includes banjo virtuoso Allison de Groot and genre-defying Stash Wyslouch on guitar. Their self-titled CD has been released to great acclaim and their new release this spring topped the Folk-DJ charts. Berklee College of Music has made Bruce their Visiting Scholar in the American Roots Music Program where Bruce is the go-to guy for the next generation of roots musicians.
Wednesday, November 13th
Anna Tivel & Maya De Vitry
Doors 7PM | Show 8PM
$20 / Members $18
Anna Tivel and Maya de Vitry are teaming up for two months of touring with dates spanning the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast. Tivel is touring behind her release The Question, which NPR called “one of the most ambitious folk albums of 2019.” Earlier this year, Maya de Vitry released her debut solo album Adaptations. Rolling Stone Country lauded the effort by saying, “de Vitry’s songwriting balances her intensely personal, microscopic style of storytelling with a straightforward, accessible delivery.”
Anna Tivel has spent some quality hours in a dodge caravan repeating lyrical lines over and over until the words fall in time with the windshield wipers, or until the gas light comes on.
A nationally touring artist with a deep love of quiet stories, Anna is beginning to carve a place for herself in the songwriting world. She was a winner at this year’s Kerrville Songwriting Contest, and has shared the stage with heroes and friends across the country.
MAYA DE VITRY
There’s a lot of freedom to be found in solitude. On her own, an artist is free to express her voice authentically and without reservation, can make art that reflects who she is at her core. But going it alone can be daunting sometimes, particularly after years spent collaborating with others.
For Maya de Vitry, striking out on her own to write her debut album Adaptations was a metamorphic experience marked by liberation, exploration and deep personal growth. A member of the acclaimed string band The Stray Birds, de Vitry had long wanted to release music under her own name, but, as she explains it, had to summon both the “patience” and the “determination” to put her music out into the world.
Friday, November 15th
Doors 7PM | Show 8PM
$25 / Members $23
For more than forty years, Bill has traveled back and forth across North America, singing his songs and delighting audiences at festivals, folksong societies, colleges, concerts, clubs, and coffeehouses.
A New England native, Bill became involved with the Boston-Cambridge folk scene in the early 1960’s and for a time, emceed the Sunday Hootenanny at the legendary Club 47 in Cambridge. Bill quickly became a popular performer in the Boston area. From the time in 1971 when a reviewer from the Boston Phoenix stated that he was “simply Boston’s best performer”, Bill has continually appeared on folk music radio listener polls as one of the top all time favorite folk artists. Now, well into his fifth decade as a folk performer, he has gained an international reputation as a gifted songwriter and performer.
Singing mostly his own songs, he has become one of the most popular and durable singers on the folk music scene today, performing nearly 200 concerts a year and driving over 65,000 miles annually. He weaves a blend of gentle wit and humor into his performances and one reviewer wrote, “He has a sense of timing to match the best standup comic.”
Sunday, November 17th
Peter Bradley Adams
2 Shows! 5:00PM and 8:00PM
$25 / Members $23
No matter the form, when it comes to art, there are a number of different tacks to take. Some artists continually push their work across new horizons. Neil Young, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Joni Mitchell come to mind, in that regard. Others — Claude Monet, Jason Isbell, and Bonnie Raitt, among them — stand a bit more still in order to continually refine the capturing of their vision. Singer/songwriter Peter Bradley Adams falls into the latter category of perfectionists chasing their own perfection. With A Face Like Mine, he may well have caught it.
There’s a confidence, a completeness in the song cycle that listeners have gleaned throughout Adams’ illustrious career, but A Face Like Mine, his sixth solo effort, brings it all into sharp focus. As Adams sees it, “On the long plod of finding my voice as a singer and a writer, the singing has slowly developed from the sound of a scared guy to someone who believes what he’s saying and the writing, I hope, has become less rigid — both in the lyrics and the phrasing.”
Less rigid, indeed. Adams’ brand of Americana nestles his often delicate, always heartfelt voice in the warm embrace of gentle guitar, tasteful dobro, subtle banjo, supportive bass, and unhurried percussion. The result is a sonic scape that, in turn, wraps itself around the listener like a soft blanket on a cold day. With A Face Like Mine, Adams further refines the simple musical sophistication that has become his trademark.
As a work of musical art, A Face Like Mine fulfills the promise of Peter Bradley Adams. And rarely has an artist’s standing still sounded so divine.
Joan Baez performing at Club 47
Saturday, November 23th
Noel Paul Stookey
Doors 6PM | Show 7PM
Singer/songwriter Noel Paul Stookey has been altering both the musical and ethical landscape of this country and the world for decades — both as the “Paul” of the legendary Peter, Paul and Mary and as an independent musician who passionately believes in bringing the spiritual into the practice of daily life.
Funny, irreverently reverent, thoughtful, compassionately passionate, Stookey’s voice is known all across this land: from the “Wedding Song” to “In These Times.” Most recently Noel’s musical political commentary entitled IMPEACHABLE (based on the familiar melody of UNFORGETTABLE) has reached viral status with the on-line community, yielding over a million facebook/youtube views.
While acknowledging his history and the meaningful association with Peter and Mary – the trio perhaps best known for its blend of modern folk music and social activism, rallying support for safe energy, peace and civil rights at some of the most iconic events in our history—including the 1963 March on Washington with Martin Luther King, Noel Paul has stepped beyond the nostalgia of the folk era.
Nearly $2 million, earned from Noel’s now-classic “Wedding Song,” were used to fund the work of other socially responsible artists, which inspired Noel, along with his daughter Liz Stookey Sunde, to launch MusicToLife in 2001. The nonprofit has introduced groundbreaking ways to bring music to life for social change through technology, entertainment, artist collaboration and education. Whether judged by the subject matter of his current concert and recorded repertoire or by virtue of his active involvement with the MusicToLife initiative (www.musictolife.org) linking music fans to the expression of contemporary concerns via many different artists and musical genres, Stookey’s current musical outlook continues to be fresh, optimistic and encouraging.
Jack "Jackie Washington" Landron at Club 47, photo by Stephen Fenerjian
More Folk Music Month events to be added soon.