The annual Northern Roots Festival is a celebrated opportunity for Brattleboro’s vibrant community of traditional musicians to come together to share their music with each other and the community at large. The festival also draws on the richness of talent in the broader region, with players from throughout New England coming to perform, teach and participate in informal sessions.
“Among other traditional styles, this year’s festival will have a strong and exciting Scottish component in the fiddling of Katie McNally, Edinburgh-born Jerry Bell in the family concert, and our own local Scottish piper Dan Houghton,” says festival director Keith Murphy.
The Northern Roots Festival is a day-long event featuring participatory workshops, performances, pub sessions, a dance band, and a family dance, all of which culminate in an evening performance honoring the best of the northern musical traditions.
Among the musicians featured this year are the Boston based duo of Scottish fiddler McNally and guitarist Eric McDonald; Connecticut-based traditional singer Ellen Cohn; Massachusetts-based New England fiddler David Kaynor; and local Vermont musicians fiddler Laurie Indenbam, accordionist Andy Davis, and pianist Arthur Davis.
Also returning is the ever-changing, crowd-pleasing Traddleboro ensemble. With a name reflecting the rich presence of traditional players in Brattleboro, Traddleboro is a shifting conglomeration of local musicians who each year create and perform a set of music specifically for the Northern Roots Festival. This year’s Traddleboro ensemble includes Scottish piper Dan Houghton, singer Charity Houghton, New England fiddler Lissa Schneckenburger, and French-Canadian guitar-mandolin-piano player and foot percussionist Keith Murphy.
Among the other musicians participating are the Scottish and Irish husband and wife storytelling team of Jerry and Nancy Bell; Irish flute and whistle player Dan Restivo; traditional English folk singer Tony Barrand; pianist, accordionist Mary Cay Brass; and Irish and French Canadian fiddler Becky Tracy.
The Bell family will present a concert that promises to engage the youngest followers of traditional music and their counterparts of all ages. The family concert will be followed by a family dance, led by Andy Davis and Mary Cay Brass, featuring an exciting dance band that will evolve in a workshop earlier in the afternoon.
Since its inception the Northern Roots Festival has provided vehicles for engaging youth. This year’s festival continues to showcase youth talent throughout the day and with the BMC’s Celtic youth group in the evening concert. Performing in the daytime youth showcase are Scottish fiddler Katie Bell; New England fiddler Emma Snope, piper Andrew Dickinson, fiddler Aiden Murphy, whistle player Alden Witman, guitarist Everest Witman, and fiddlers Madeleine Stewart and Fiona Shea.
The majority of the festival events happen at the New England Youth Theatre, a state-of-the-art downtown venue, with multiple teaching sessions occurring simultaneously throughout the building along with performances in the main theater and a family dance on the stage. McNeill’s Brewery, only a couple of blocks away from NEYT, provides the perfect setting for a rollicking afternoon of jam sessions.
Tickets for the Northern Roots Festival (combination day and evening $35, daytime only $20, evening only $20; youth combination day and evening $15, youth day only $10, youth evening only $10) are available from the Brattleboro Music Center at www.bmcvt.org or (802) 257-4523). Advance ticket purchase is recommended; seating for the evening performance is limited. Admission at 3 pm, for the family concert and family dance only, is $5 per person at the door.
On Saturday, during the festival, tickets can be purchased at New England Youth Theatre, 100 Flat Street, Brattleboro, with doors opening at 11:30 am. For directions and the complete festival schedule of events visit the Brattleboro Music Center website at www.bmcvt.org or call (802) 257-4523.