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Northern Roots Traditional Music Festival

25 January 2020 - 26 January 2020
All day
various locations in Brattleboro

Saturday & Sunday, January 25-26, 2020

Now a cornerstone of the traditional music calendar in New England, the Northern Roots Traditional Music Festival returns to Brattleboro Jan. 25-26.

The popular event, directed by Keith Murphy, continues to offer a unique showcase of a variety of northern musical traditions including Irish, Scottish, English and French Canadian. The festival musters the considerable local talent in the Brattleboro area as well as a select roster of regional guests.

The festival begins Saturday, Jan. 25, with a full slate of daytime participation and performance activities at the Brattleboro Music Center, including workshops, panels, mini-concerts, a dance band class, and more. Saturday also has a special “family track,” which includes a concert and dance for all ages. The day concludes with a gala evening performance.

Sunday, Jan. 26, a series of boisterous participatory sessions — pub singing, French Canadian and Irish tune jamming, and more! – will take place at Brattleboro’s local pub, McNeill’s Brewery.

This year’s Saturday performers include John Roberts, who plays concertina and banjo, and sings the traditional folksongs of his native Britain in a manner that is at once authentic and authoritative, yet highly engaging and entertaining. He appears with Debra Cowan, who performs a cappella and with guitar in the great tradition of folk singers like Joan Baez and Judy Collins.

Northern Roots welcomes lydia levins, who plays nyckelharpa and five-string fiddle for Scandinavian and English Country dancing. As an avid dancer, she infuses her playing with rhythmic clarity and sensitive phrasing to produce irresistible dance music.

Katie McNally and Neil Pearlman also will take to the stage. McNally made waves in both the American folk music scene and abroad since the release of her debut album, Flourish, in 2013. Her latest project synthesizes her elegant and powerful fiddle playing with the talents of genre-crossing pianist Neil Pearlman. Multi-instrumentalist, stepdancer and host of podcast TradCafe, Pearlman is a vital and distinctive voice in contemporary traditional music.

Also on the schedule are Boston-based piper Joey Abarta and fiddler Nathan Gourley, two of America’s great young trad musicians, who have been playing music together daily since 2013. Their debut duo album, Copley Street, featuring Owen Marshall on Greek bouzouki, has an undeniable chemistry and demonstrates a nuanced understanding of each the other’s playing. Their music includes offbeat settings of well-known tunes and beautiful pieces that seem to languish in obscurity.