Joel Simpson has been a self-employed musician since 2001. Growing up in a musical family, Joel started playing guitar as well as singing/songwriting at a young age. His passion for music led him to earn a music business degree from Elmhurst University, and found Randomosity Records in Downers Grove, Illinois. He splits his time between private instruction, music production, and music performance. Joel is proficient on voice and many string instruments. His production work focuses on folk and jazz. Joel has recorded with Lee Murdock, Ashley & Simpson, The Chancey Brothers and many more.
Sharon Abreu (“Ah-BRAY’oo”)
Sharon Abreu is a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, teacher, and student of life. She was singing harmony with her family around the dinner table by the age of 3. Sharon grew up with many musical influences, from classical and opera to Broadway to folk, pop and rock, and she enjoys mixing those up in her concerts. She performs as a solo artist and also as half of the acoustic Irthlingz Duo with her partner Michael Hurwicz. She has performed at venues as diverse as the Northwest Folklife Festival, the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, and the United Nations.
Sharon was studying classical singing in New York City when she attended a pumpkin festival in the West Village and ended up joining the sponsoring organization, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Through her work with Clearwater, she started using her voice and songs for environmental education and ended up singing in concert with legendary folksinger Pete Seeger.
Sharon has sung lead roles in operas including The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute. She’s been a soloist in performances of major choral works including Bach’s Magnificat and B Minor Mass and Mozart’s Requiem and Vespers. Sharon starred in a sold-out run of the musical The Taffetas at the Orcas Center and in summer stock at the Ferry Terminal in Bellingham, Washington. Sharon has provided music for major international Earth summits at the United Nations in New York and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa. And she was honored to sing for Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai in Berkeley, California in 2006.
In 2007, she prepared New York City high school students to perform her climate change musical revue Penguins on Thin Ice for the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development, receiving a standing ovation from a full auditorium of international delegates.
In 2016, Sharon performed her one-woman musical show The Climate Monologues in the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival, the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York, and for The MarshStream Theatre Festival online in 2021. She received the “Spirit of Nature, Ecology & Society” Environmental Justice Award for her performance of The Climate Monologues, at the Culture of Climate Change Colloquium at the City University of New York in 2011. Sharon composed and recorded the songs for Zero Waste Washington’s public school education program.
Sharon teaches voice, violin and piano, and she has been the vocal coach for musicals including Billy Elliot and Mamma Mia. For 2-1/2 years, she was a Musician-in-Residence with the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, bringing music and singing to local preschools. She is featured in Professor Mark Pedelty’s books, Ecomusicology (2012) and A Song to Save the Salish Sea: Environmentalist Musicians in the Pacific Northwest (2016).
Sharon has been a member of the Local 1000 North American Traveling Musicians Union, American Federation of Musicians, AFL-CIO since 1997.
“A quartet the likes of which I haven’t seen since… Coope, Boyes and Simpson, the Watersons, or The Voice Squad. Just absolutely phenomenal!” -BBC Traveling Folk
Windborne combines bold and innovative harmonies, styles from a variety of cultures with traditions of harmony singing, and a vocal blend that comes from longtime friendship and years of singing together. They also carry on the alliance of folk music and social activism, breathing new life into songs of change from the past that still ring true in modern times.
“The best musical discovery of the year…Stunningly powerful vocal harmony… Windborne sets a new bar for folk harmony singing today” -Brian O’Donovan, WGBH-NPR
Hear Windborne in action:
Song of the Lower Classes – a protest song from the Chartists in England in the 1840s, a grassroots movement for voting rights
Stabat Mater (Corsica) live in Mont-Saint-Michel – a traditional setting of the Stabat Mater text from southern Corsica. A clip of this video went viral on TikTok in 2021, getting over 2 million views!
The Song of Hard Times – Windborne’s arrangement and expansion of a song from the 1930s, found in the archives at the Library of Congress
Instagram / TikTok: @WindborneSingers
MORE ABOUT WINDBORNE:
Internationally acclaimed vocal ensemble Windborne is a group of vocal chameleons who specialize in close harmony singing, shifting effortlessly between drastically different styles of traditional music within the same concert. Their musical knowledge spans many cultures, but they remain deeply rooted in American folk singing traditions – a typical concert program includes music ranging from American labor anthems and English ballads to ancient Corsican polyphony and traditional Quebecois tunes.
Hailed as “the most exciting vocal group in a generation,” Lynn Mahoney Rowan, Will Thomas Rowan, Lauren Breunig, and Jeremy Carter-Gordon share a vibrant energy onstage – their connection to each other and to the music clearly evident. They educate as they entertain, telling stories about the music and explaining the characteristics and stylistic elements of the traditions in which they sing.
But there’s another, crucial dimension to Windborne. They are adherents to folk music’s longtime association with social activism, in particular its ties to the labor and civil rights movements and others that champion the poor, the working class, and the disenfranchised. Breathing new life into old songs, they seek out music from movements over the past 400 years and sing them for the struggles of today’s world. They believe deeply in the power of music to change hearts.
In addition to performing in New England and around the world, Windborne has taught workshops in schools, community centers, singing camps, and universities. Seasoned teachers and song-leaders, they delight groups young and old with enthusiastic, clear, and nuanced instruction for musicians of all levels of experience. Singers not only learn the notes of a song, but also work on the varied vocal styles, language pronunciation, and gain an understanding of the song in its original cultural context.
In 2014, Windborne was one of 10 groups selected by American Music Abroad and the US Department of State to tour as cultural ambassadors through music. They traveled to Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Angola, touring with internationally known artists, performing at sold-out national theaters, and collaborating with traditional musicians in each country. They also taught music and dance workshops to schoolchildren, English-language learners, dance schools, choirs, and music conservatories.
The award-winning and versatile Appalachian-indie-folk-country-fusion singer-songwriter, performance artist, and multi-generational arts program designer Ash Devine is based the Blue Ridge Mountains of Blacksburg, VA and Asheville, North Carolina. Devine, who is considered by some as one of the last ‘folk troubadours’ is also known for her unique finger-style ukulele and guitar sound, and for her participation in humanitarian efforts through music, education, and the arts.
In addition to producing several albums of original music, Ash has performed and studied along side Nobel peace prize nominee Patch Adams M.D., Heritage award winning ballad singer Sheila Kay Adams, Grammy award nominee and folklorist David Holt, and a number of other renowned folklorists and internationally acclaimed musicians. Her versatile Appalachian folk revival-fusion sound is bursting with stylistic variety, relatable story, and historical facts. Her music is influenced in style by Traditional Appalachian, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Jean Richie, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Maybelle Carter, Leslie Riddle, Ani Difranco, Kate Wolfe, Bob Dylan, and reggae/world music influences such as the Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, and west African traditional music.
In 2015 Ash Devine starred as the legendary Maybelle Carter and musically directed the play Esley: The Life and Music of Leslie Riddle. From 2016-2019 Ash Devine studied Appalachian traditional folk songs from the Western, NC area with Smithsonian Folkways Award winning ballad singer Sheila Kay Adams. In 2018, Devine was invited to perform with a group of WNC Appalachian song carriers at the Library of Congress at the American Folk Life Center in Washington, DC. Ash is award winning, in 2013 her original music was selected for 1st place at the Twin Rivers Media Festival in Asheville, NC, in 2008 she won 1st place for Brown Bag Songwriter’s Competition in Asheville, NC, and in 2001 Devine was awarded best composition for an original song at Roanoke, VA’s downtown Music Lab.
Devine performs all original concerts, blended traditional/contemporary/original variety style concerts, a one woman show about the legendary Carter Family and the influences and origins of the music they played, and Devine performs personalized therapeutic and formal concerts for the care setting.
Traditional and contemporary folksinger, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer
Chuck is a hubert humphrey democrat sensitive new age guy. He started singing in Detroit folk clubs and saloons back in the 1960’s. In Toronto, on his first out of town gig, he met a bony blonde Canadian songwriter named Joni Anderson. They married, and as a duo Chuck and Joni Mitchell played the coffeehouse circuit and gin rummy until she was 48,760 points and 50 home made songs ahead, and then they divorced.
In 2018, Chuck’s fellow FARM (Folk Alliance Regional Midwest) folk gave him the Lantern Bearer Award for “significant contribution to folk music in the Midwest”. He couldn’t have been more grateful, telling his fellow farmers that after fifty-some years glowing next to a floodlight, it was really nice to be recognized.
In his one man show, Mitchell plays 6 and 12 string guitar and sings cabaret songs, animal songs, story songs, and Mitchell songs. He weaves poetry by Sandburg-Frost-Brecht-Hopkins and others into his shows. He has appeared on the Merv Griffin show (once) and A Prairie Home Companion’ (thrice).
His acting credits include ‘The World of Carl Sandburg’ (in the USA and the UK), Harold Hill in ‘The Music Man’, Woody in ‘Woody Guthrie’s American Song’, and Stephen Foster in ‘Mr. Foster & Mr. Twain’. Ask Siri and Alexa and the other streamers to play Chuck’s music. On YouTube, enter “Chuck Mitchell Sings”.
Hey, you say, is Chuck a Renaissance Man? Well, he’s old enough.
Mountain Dulcimer Aficionado and Folk Music Educator
Erin Mae is a mountain dulcimer virtuosa who has taken an obscure American folk instrument, and with it has developed a high level of technical proficiency and musical expression. Erin has been playing traditional mountain dulcimer for over twenty years and chromatic mountain dulcimer for over ten years. In that time, she has developed a unique and progressive style. Carrying the rhythm section with her signature percussive chop and flat-picking fiddle tunes with impressive dexterity; audiences nationwide show amazement as they watch her fingers dance over her dulcimer strings.
Erin Mae is also a respected teacher who has taught at hundreds of dulcimer festivals and conferences around the world. She has pioneered online mountain dulcimer instruction and helped numerous festivals pivot to online events during the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, Erin Mae teaches kids folk music workshops at schools and libraries, and organizes kids camps at bluegrass and folk festivals.
From bluegrass and jazz to rock & roll and old-time fiddle, Vi the Fiddler exudes energy, passion, humor, and musical mastery in every performance.
Vi Wickam is an accomplished solo performer and also fronts his own band, cleverly named Vi Wickam and The Band. In addition, he’s a member of Fritto Misto, and Fiddle Whamdiddle. The latter’s albums Old School Old Time and Not My Monkey were honored by inclusion on the Grammy Ballot in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
In 2018, Vi had 2 albums chart in the top 5 of Folk DJ Radio. His album Armadillo on a Hot Tin Roof hit #4 in April and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas hit #5 in December. He’s a 4-time Colorado State Fiddling Champion, a finalist at the Grand Masters’ Fiddler Championship, and Runner Up in the National Fiddle Contest.
In addition to performing, Vi is a highly regarded music instructor. He’s a founder of the online music school myTalentForge.com, and is much in demand as a teacher at music workshops and camps around the US.
In 1983, while living in Seattle, John O’Connor sent a batch of his songs off to Flying Fish Records cold and–almost unheard of in the music business at that time–landed a contract to make an album of his powerful original songs. Songs For Our Times came out in 1984 and was named one of the best albums of the year by the Washington Post and several folk publications and radio stations.
Geoffrey Himes, in his Washington Post review said of John’s songs, “Mister, Slow It Down,” … is the best hitchhiking song since Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGree.” O’Connor’s “Missy and Me” is the best song about old age since John Prine’s “Hello in There.” “A Cold November,” an a cappella ballad about a poor man harassed by a Chicago cop, echoes Woody Guthrie’s hobo songs.
Almost 40 years later, having traveled the country, touring and working as a union organizer, John has gathered a treasure-trove of songs, stories and poems about the working class, war and peace, love and loss. Craig Harris has said, “…O’Connor has shaped his own acute observations of the working class into songs that beg to be sung along to…” Si Kahn calls his songs “wonderful: direct, simple, singable, powerful.” “Songwriting… right out of the same well that slaked Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger,” commented the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch.
John’s music has always been inseparable from his involvement in working class politics. He began his involvement in the labor movement right out of high school when he went to work in the factories of Waterloo, Iowa. His passion for American folk music led to a career as a folk singer and a cultural educator, performing in concerts, festivals, coffeehouses, schools and colleges, union education programs and political action events.
John recorded three albums with Flying Fish, one of them with the political quartet, ‘Shays Rebellion’, and a CD on the Chroma label. He also recorded a CD produced in conjunction with Collector Records called “We Ain’t Gonna Give It Back”, which is regarded by many as one of the best collections of original songs on the American labor movement. The late Joe Glazer said of John, “He writes the best songs about labor you are likely to hear.” Britain’s Southern Rag has said that “John O’Connor deserves to be numbered with the all-time greats of contemporary folk music.”
In 2017 John released his first CD in more than 20 years. Upon release, Rare Songs was ranked for several weeks in the top 50 albums on the US folk charts. John McCutcheon wrote, “John O’Connor’s wonderful new album, Rare Songs… is a welcome return of one of our best and most humane songwriters.”
Some 50 years after walking through the gates of his first factory job, John is still stalwart in his focus of fighting for the working class and inspiring them with his music and their music. John’s songs have been recorded by numerous singers from around the world. In 2009, the French topical singer, Renaud, adapted and recorded O’Connor’s song of deindustrialization, North by North, which went to number one on the French charts.
Also an accomplished poet, John has seen his poems published in dozens of literary magazines. He has won the Associated Writer’s Program’s Prague Prize and has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize. His book of poems, Half the Truth, won the Violet Reed Haas Poetry Award in 2015.
Arthur performs with The Celtic Rathskallions, a children’s musical theatre, Moore & McGregor, ( recording ‘Dream With Me’ ) a duo with my wife, Wendy, and McGregor and Lindsay with Graham Lindsay along with solo shows with a mix of my songs and others. I ran the Ottawa Folklore Centre for 34 years, and I’m currently the Canadian Vice-president of Local 1000. I’ve played and worked in folk music all my life…so far!
As a member of the women’s trio Belles of Hoboken in the early 80s (with Janet Stecher and Marcie Boyd), Susan performed throughout the New York City area and recorded numerous songs for the “Fast Folk” musician’s cooperative monthly musical “magazine.” When she moved to Seattle, Susan was a founding member of the quartet Shays’ Rebellion, along with fellow Local 1000 member John O’Connor (as well as Tim Hall and Janet Stecher). Their ‘songs of social movements past and present’ were shared with audiences across the United States and Canada. Their album “Daniel Shays’ Highway” was released on Flying Fish Records (FF427) in 1987.
Susan and Janet teamed up to form the duo Rebel Voices in 1989. They have released 3 albums together: “A Little Look Around”, “Warning: Women at Work”, and “A Piece of the Wall”. They have appeared in concert at coffeehouses, K-12 schoolrooms, colleges, festivals, living rooms, conventions, rallies, picket lines, and union halls across the U.S. and Canada, as well as in England and Portugal. The thousands of hours they’ve spent working together and the love of the material they sing are evident in their confident and inspiring performances. Their performances for organizations and events representing a broad spectrum of political and social causes have gained them enthusiastic fans wherever they go.
Most recently, Susan has begun to delve into musical theatre, as a cast member in the Vashon Repertory Theatre 2021 production of Woody Guthrie’s American Song.