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Sunday, January 26, 2020 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm


Call 508-754-3231 for wait list information.

Sugarloaf Mountain: An Appalachian Gathering

Jeannette Sorrell, conductor

Adult: $39, $49, $59
Student: $17.50
Youth: $7.50


Prologue: Farewell to the Isles
The Mountains of Rhùm
Crossing to the New World
Dark Mountain Home
Campfire Tales
Front Porch Fiddlin’
Love & Loss
Glory on the Mountain
Appalachian Home
Sugarloaf Mountain

Long ago, the sparkling fiddle tunes & haunting ballads of the British Isles came across the water – taking root in the hills of Virginia, mingling with southern hymns & African spirituals, creating the soulful music we call Appalachian. The people of the mountains raise their communal voices in celebration of daily life – love, singing, dancing, and prayer.

In this program we explore the communal journey of these Celtic immigrants, who left their island homes with sadness, but also with great hope. Their stories involve many young men who had to leave their sweethearts behind in Scotland or Ireland; many young women who had to face the choice of a dangerous and unknown life in the wilderness of the New World, or the seemingly certain poverty and hopelessness of remaining at home in Ireland; and many children who made joyful games for themselves amidst the hard-working poverty of their parents. The stories, the sorrows and the shared laughter of these immigrants are told in the ballads throughout the program.

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Brilliant fiddling … astonishingly lovely harmony …
It was riveting—and rare—to hear this mostly forgotten music.

—Mark Sebastian Jordan

Seen & Heard International

Crossing to the New World
The typical instrumental ensemble of early America was the Old-Time band, consisting of a fiddle and a banjo to start with, and maybe adding a guitar and a singer if available. Of course the Irish were among the most prominent groups of immigrants, and they brought their airs, jigs and reels with them. In our opening Prologue, the traditional Celtic air “Cuillens of Rhúm,” a young couple prepares to bid a sad farewell to the beautiful Scottish and Irish islands. This leads into a set I call “Crossing to the New World.” Here we evoke the last night at home before boarding the ship for the New World, with a lively ceìlì dance. Our version of the traditional British and Canadian sea shanty, “We’ll Rant and We’ll Roar,” evokes the hopes and fears of the men and women who made the crossing – sometimes by choice and sometimes in desperation. This erupts into a “barn dance” featuring the Irish reel “Farewell to Ireland” and the Appalachian version of the Scottish reel “Highlander’s Farewell.”
Dark Mountain Home
The large group of ballads from renaissance England and Scotland that made their way across the Atlantic and permeated the fabric of Appalachian culture are known as the Child Ballads—named for the ethnomusicologist James Frances Child who spent a lifetime collecting and cataloguing them. Many of these are dark, and we explore that aspect of the Appalachian psyche in the second set, “Dark Mountain Home.” This section includes the medieval ballad “Nottamun Town” which can still be heard today in the English Midlands, particularly in Nottinghamshire and Southern Yorkshire. It is much more popular in Appalachia though. Probably “Nottamun” is a corruption of Nottingham. The nonsensical lyrics describe an absurdly topsy-turvy world. The song may have been part of the Feast of Fools, a medieval festival where the hierarchy of the local clergy was flipped for a day, with the lower clergy elevated to power. The festival was frowned upon by the Church and repeatedly condemned in the 15th century. In the 20th century, Bob Dylan used the melody of “Nottamun Town” for his song, “Masters of War.”
The renaissance ballad The Cruel Sister or Two Sisters (Twa Sisters in the earliest sources). About 26 different versions of the text and about 5 different tunes can be found in New England and Appalachian folk music sources. This versio, created by Jeannette Sorrell, uses three different tunes, chosen to suit the character at different moments of the story. The text and tunes are drawn from amongst the versions in the Northumbrian Minstrelsy (an 1882 publication of much older ballads as theywere sung in North England and Scotland), and Cecil Sharp’s collection of English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1932).

Jeannette Sorrell

Artistic Director, harpsichord

René Schiffer


Amanda Powell

Soprano, vocals

Kathie Stewart

Wooden flutes & penny whistle

Tina Bergmann

Hammered dulcimer

Susanna Gilmore


Ross Hauck

Tenor, vocals

Brian Kay

Lute, guitar, banjo, long-necked dulcimer

Apollo’s Fire



Sunday, January 26, 2020
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Event Categories:


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