Colleen is a bilingual songwriter who stirs listeners with her clear voice, collective spirit and rhythmic sensibility. Her music is informed by nature, social and environment movements, and Latin American progressive folk in a genre she likes to call “americaña” (TM) aka “gringa latin”. She’s a twice nominated Sammy nominee and has seven albums and three benefit compilations for antimilitarism and antifracking causes. Her latest release is Besos/Kisses (with one on the way). Her original song honoring the early feminist movement, “Dangerous women’ is now featured in the National Women’s History Museum in Seneca Falls NY. Here is a link for it:
Folk singers often try to one-up each other with obscure details and pastimes. No slouch in that regard, Kray Van Kirk, who will be playing our house concert series on Friday, May 19th, has not one but two obscure distinctions. First, he holds a Ph.D. in fisheries population dynamics modeling. If that’s not obscure enough, he does a spot-on impression of Japan’s nineteenth century blind swordsman, Zatoichi.
A fine finger-style guitarist with a precise baritone, Van Kirk obtained his doctorate from the University of Alaska. Coming off five years of living in his van and playing music across the US and Canada, he thought that a career in the sciences might be a bit more secure than playing music for a living, especially as a single parent. Eventually, however, he realized that healing the world was primarily a matter of the heart, not the head, and he put aside his computer, picked up his guitar, and set out again.
When Van Kirk reached Scotland and the prestigious Fringe Festival, the Daily Fringe Review wrote “The evening’s act was Kray Van Kirk, whose 12-string guitar and soaring vocals were spellbinding; the Alaskan singer-songwriter, in his Edinburgh debut, was not the reason I arrived early, but was certainly why I stayed late.”
Van Kirk, however, is not your average crying-in-your-coffee singer songwriter. “We need a renewal of myth and wonder and hope,” he says.
This is where the Zatoichi impression comes in handy. Shintaro Katsu played the blind but fictional wandering masseuse as a bumbling nobody in movies from 1962 to 1989. Prior to unleashing his unrivaled swordsmanship, he closes his eyes, cocks his head to one side and listens intently, as does Van Kirk. “We are driven by myth and the seasons of the heart. We need new stories and new myths so that everyone, absolutely everyone, regardless of creed, color, gender, sexuality or anything else, can listen and look and see themselves on the Hero’s Quest.”
Thus his songs: ‘Thunderbird’ resurrects the Phoenix in an empty desert diner in the American Southwest (yes, the Phoenix drives a Thunderbird), ‘The Queen of Elfland’ plucks Thomas the Rhymer from the English-Scottish border in 1250 and drops him and the Queen into a subway car, ‘The Library Song’ has Superman moonlighting as a librarian, and ‘The Midnight Commander’ celebrates an insane old man leading the city of New York to take up arms (and underwear) against hatred.
Of this charming, Quixotic, and decidedly eclectic performer, the Borderline Folk Club in New York wrote “it is what every singer-songwriter should aspire to.”
Kyla Tilley is a Canadian prog-folk singer-songwriter known for her emotionally turbulent live performances, her gymnastic guitar playing, and her fabulous shoe collection.
Using whatever words she likes, Kyla constructs tales true and tall of fantastic exploits, mundane tasks, and moderate misadventure which she delivers with a mix of vocal fusillades, chaotic finger-picking, and kaleidoscopic rhythms.
Twelve such songs can be found on Kyla’s sophomore album Bloom & Grow. A mercurial collection of songs about personal growth, self-acceptance, and the obstacles that get in the way of an individual’s desire to leave something of themselves for the ages.
Kyla lives in a small town in Newfoundland and Labrador where you will find her strolling on the beach, hiking in the woods, and broadcasting glimpses into her songwriting sessions live on Twitch, where her stalwart followers are encouraged to heckle, cheer, and distract, as Kyla wrestles words, cajoles melodies, and hammers out guitar parts.
Kyla’s endeavours over the years have ranged from country to metal with many digressions in-between. She appeared in the documentary “Water Street” with country/folk band Bareback; performed at the Sound Symposium with experimental music group Sound Circus; had a song recorded by Canadian Idol finalist Jenny Gear; played art galleries and events as a solo classical guitarist and with the bass and guitar duo Cat’s Paw; performed with violinist Ed Hudson in folk duo Tea & Bread, which melded Kyla’s original material with Ed’s love of British folk song. She’s composed cat-walk music and provided guitar solos for comedian and fashion diva Cara Winsor-Hehir, and is one half of progressive death metal duo Molt. As Mistress Pandemonium, she was the riff-generating half of Newfoundland heavy metal band Endearing Perversion. She spent a decade singing a mixture of folk and classical music in Montreal’s La Chorale Harmonia community choir including 2 stints on the board.
Kyla Tilley singer-songwriter began releasing music in 2018 with Whimseys, a 5 song EP of some of her more whimsical numbers performed simply with guitar and voice, and Loose Summer, a mostly instrumental composition for a fashion show featuring 5 short episodes of airy guitar, flute, bottles and found percussion. These were followed in the summer of 2019 with New Shoes, Kyla’s first full length album, then Vagarys in 2020, another 5 song EP of odder fare, this time with bass and drums thrown into the mix.
Alana is a Toronto-based fiddler specializing in combining Irish, Cape Breton and Scottish styles to create her own sound. She performs both solo and in a duo with her father, Leigh Cline.
Alana & Leigh Cline specialize in telling the history and stories behind tunes and musical styles, and many of their tunes are from the 1700s and 1800s. They also specialize in performances and workshops comparing different Celtic fiddle musical traditions. They include occasional Balkan tunes in their sets.
Having performed in Canada and the US, a small selection of performances include the Great American Irish Festival, Celtic Island Music Festival, Trenton Scottish Irish Festival, Irish Real Life Festival, Chris Langan Weekend, City of Toronto’s Canada Day Celebrations, The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Music Niagara, Toronto Public Library, Burlington Public Library, folk clubs, and at private corporate events for Tourism Ireland, Corus Entertainment, Enterprise Ireland, Maple Leaf Foods, and Discover Halifax. Alana & Leigh have a self-titled CD.
Alana first started playing at the age of 8 under the tutelage of Cape Breton fiddler Sandy MacIntyre. She studied privately with All-Ireland Fiddle Champion Maeve Donnelly over a period of two years, and also studied the North-East Scottish fiddle style with Paul Anderson, whose teaching lineage goes back directly to Niel Gow and the Golden Age of Scottish fiddle music.
Alana has augmented her playing style with private lessons from Irish fiddlers Kevin Burke, Liz Carroll, Tony DeMarco and Patrick Ourceau. In 2008 Alana became the first Canadian to be accepted to the auditioned Meitheal School of Irish Traditional Music in Limerick, Ireland with Paul O’Shaughnessy of Altan as one of her instructors. She has also studied fiddle at the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts in St. Ann’s, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
“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.
Erin McKeown is a musician, writer, and producer known internationally for her prolific disregard of stylistic boundaries. Her brash and clever electric guitar playing is something to see. Her singing voice is truly unique —clear, cool, and collected. Over the last 20 years, she has performed around the world, released 11 full length albums, and written for film, television, and theater, all the while refining her distinctive and challenging mix of American musical forms.
Her first musical, Miss You Like Hell, written with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes, opened Off-Broadway at The Public Theater in 2018. It was nominated for 5 Drama Desk Awards, including Best Lyrics, Best Music and Best Orchestrations, and The Wall Street Journal named it Best Musical of 2018.
Leading her own band, she has performed at Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, and the Newport Folk Festivals. A familiar presence on NPR and the BBC, McKeown’s songs have also appeared in numerous commercials and television shows.
While a student at Brown University, Erin was a resident artist at Providence, RI’s revolutionary community arts organization AS220. A 2011-2012 fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center For Internet & Society, she is also the recipient of a 2016 writing fellowship from The Studios of Key West and a 2018 residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. McKeown is currently a 2020-21 Professor of the Practice at Brown University.
Her latest album KISS OFF KISS is out now.
Robb Johannes (he/him/his) is currently currently channeling his 4-octave countertenor voice, composition, songwriting, multi-instrumental (guitar, bass, keyboards, lap steel, percussion), and multi-media (filmmaking, visual art, graphic design) skills into the newly-formed ensemble, a question of when (www.aquestionofwhen.com). Tagged as an “anonymous multi-media artistic collaboration between members of previously-established acts,” a question of when is in the process of producing its debut LP and accompanying visual immersions with funding support from the Ontario Arts Council.
Prior to a question of when, Robb fronted the Toronto/Vancouver rock band Paint (www.paintband.com) for over ten years. Over the course of four albums, two feature films, and over 300 performances from Pacific to Atlantic, Paint came to be referred to as “Picture perfect” (102.1 The Edge), “Best live act in the city” (Musica Mas), “One of the top acts of the year” (The Toronto Star), and “Intelligent people making incredible music” (The Examiner), bedazzling audiences with their multisensory stage show while delivering insightful social commentary through their music, art, and relationship with its dedicated fanbase; “rockstars with a sincere change-the-world-with-heart attitude… the next U2?” (Midnight Matinee).
While primarily focused on original compositions and contributing to the advancement of the art form for the past two decades, Robb has also used his voice for creative and ambitious tributes to Jeff Buckley, Chris Cornell, Radiohead, The Beatles, The Doors, The Tragically Hip, and The Who. He has also delivered keynote addresses about his work in the social justice sector, including published works about his experiences with mental health in the arts.
Singer, songwriter performing primarily for children and families. Perform and teach as artist in residence at schools, libraries, community centers and at private parties. Song leading at rallies and other political events, often with Occupella, a crew of singer/songleaders/songwiriters. Occasionally perform for adults, leftist events, usually unpaid. Play with women’s samba group, Sistah Boom. I’m 73 years old and semi-retired from paid work at this point.
A prolific and highly acclaimed singer-songwriter, Orit spent eleven years living on the road full-time, touring internationally. She has released eleven albums which have received rave reviews and international radio play. A multi-genre passionate singer, whose dedication to the craft and ability to connect to diverse audiences have won many hearts over. Orit’s Jewish and Israeli background informs much of her work, in particular a passion for humanitarianism and peace advocacy. You can also hear her harmonies on several recordings by other artists.
Singer/songwriter/fingerstyle Guitarist from the Canadian West Coast.
Musician, painter and educator Natalia Zukerman grew up in New York City, studied art at Oberlin, started her mural business Off The Wall in San Francisco, began her songwriting career in Boston, and now resides, writes, plays, teaches and paints in the Hudson Valley. Having released eight independent albums on Weasel Records and her own label Talisman Records, Zukerman has toured internationally as a solo performer since 2005. Her music can be heard on the soundtrack of several seasons of The L Word and ABC Family’s Chasing Life. She also created the score for The Arch of Titus, an independent film created for Yeshiva University and a Harvard online course called Poetry in America. Alongside her touring career, Zukerman continues to paint private and public murals as well as illustrate children’s books, design and paint sets for plays in New York City and paint private portrait commissions. In February, 2017, Natalia became a Cultural Diplomat for the US Department of State, playing concerts and conducting workshops with her trio, The Northern Lights throughout Africa. Alongside band Raining Jane in 2022, Natalia co-lead workshops virtually with social action musicians in Zimbabwe. Raining Jane and Natalia were selected to lead workshops again through American Music Abroad some time in 2023/24. Natalia teaches private songwriting lessons and has taught at various programs and festivals throughout the US and in Canada. In May 2018, she was the artist in residence at the cell theatre in New York City where she developed her multimedia one woman show, The Women Who Rode Away. In March, 2020, Natalia co-produced an online music festival called Shut In & Sing which ran for 8 weeks and provided immediate financial relief to hundreds of independent musicians at the beginning of the lockdown. Zukerman is also a 200 hour certified yoga teacher and is the artistic director for the conscious global community, SoulCall Global.
“Natalia’s voice could send an orchid into bloom while her guitar playing can open a beer bottle with its teeth.” –New Yorker
“a strutting brass band one minute, a sighing lover the next.” –The Boston Globe
“a wise mix of rootsy styles from torch blues to country swing. If you’re a fan of Madeleine Peyroux, Bonnie Raitt or even Amy Winehouse, you’ll find stuff to connect with here.” –Philadelphia Daily News