John Roberts, Aoife Clancy, Norman Kennedy, and Bobby McMillon


Ferrum College - Sale Auditorium

200 Wiley Drive, Ferrum VA

Crooked Road Concerts


7:00 PM

This concert truly brings “The Year We Sang” 2017 Homecoming theme to life through outstanding interpreters of ballad and traditional songs from four countries – England, Ireland, Scotland and America. The rich sources and the preservation of the ballads that are part of the Appalachian musical heritage will be fully appreciated when these great tradition bearers share their stories and songs.

Norman Kennedy was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, into a family with roots in that port city dating to the 13th century. The Kennedys had been shipbuilders and merchant seamen for generations. While learning songs, stories, and lore from family members and neighbors, Kennedy befriended the local handweavers. During the 1950s, he made annual trips to Scotland’s Outer Hebrides to learn the local weaving, Gaelic songs, and cultural practices. In 1965, he was invited to perform at the Newport Folk Festival to represent Scotland in a program on the origins of the American ballad tradition. A year later, he returned to the United States to co-found Country Roads, a shop and organization intended to support traditional crafts. From 1967 to 1972, he served as the master weaver at Colonial Williamsburg. In 1976 Kennedy founded the Marshfield School of Weaving in Marshfield, Vermont, where he taught until the school closed in 1995. Residing in Planfield, Vermont, Kennedy travels the country performing the old songs and ballads, telling stories, and instructing people in traditional weaving techniques, including the rarely practiced community method of waulking (shrinking) cloth accompanied by group song. He is a frequent instructor at the John C. Campbell Folk School.

Aoife Clancy (pronounced “Eefa”) brings a wide-ranging repertoire to her concerts, including traditional Irish songs, ballads, and contemporary folk. Aoife hails from Carrick-on-Suir, in County Tipperary, Ireland, where her musical career began at an early age. By the age of 14 she was performing in pubs with her father, Bobby Clancy of the legendary Clancy Brothers. Aoife Clancy later moved to Dublin, where she studied drama at the Gaiety School of Acting. Soon she was invited on a tour of Australia, during which time she performed at festivals and concerts, sharing the stage with such Irish masters as Christy Moore and the Furey Brothers. In 1995 Clancy was asked to join Cherish the Ladies, and she was part of that acclaimed group when it collaborated with the Boston Pops on that orchestra’s Grammy-nominated Celtic album. As a soloist, she has performed with the Cincinnati Pops, has participated in Caribbean cruises with the Clancy Brothers, and has appeared in the Milwaukee Irish Festival and the renowned Paddy Noonan Show. Aoife Clancy has recorded two albums for Rego Records, It’s About Time and Soldiers and Dreams, and her latest album, for Appleseed Records, is Silvery Moon.

Born and raised in Worcestershire, England, of a Welsh family, John Roberts is one of the foremost interpreters of traditional English songs and ballads. Now based in Schenectady, New York, he sings songs and ballads with banjo or concertina accompaniment as well as a cappella. He is best-known for being part of a duo with Tony Barrand, another expatriate from England who likewise lives in the USA. Roberts and Barrand have sung at folk festivals, recorded several classic albums of duets, and performed and recorded as part of an annual Christmas show known as Nowell Sing We Clear. Roberts has performed music and danced with a Morris dance team as well as with an English Country Dancing community. With Barrand and on his own, Roberts has taught folk singing at various camps and summer schools, including Pinewoods, Mendocino, and Augusta. As a solo act specializing in sea songs he has performed at various folk festivals, including the Mystic Sea Music Festival, the Newfoundland Folk Festival, New Bedford’s Summerfest and Working Waterfront Festivals, and the San Francisco Sea Music Festival. He has recorded one solo album of sea songs and another album of similar material with Barrand. While occasionally performing with Barrand, Roberts today mostly performs solo or in tandem with folksinger Debra Cowan, with whom he has toured and recorded an album of traditional ballads.

Robert Lynn "Bobby" McMillon, a North Carolina Folk Heritage Award recipient, was heir to numerous strands of Appalachian culture. From his father's family in Cocke County, Tennessee, he learned Primitive Baptist hymns and traditional stories and ballads. From his mother's people in Yancey and Mitchell Counties, North Carolina, he heard booger tales, haint tales, and legends about the murder of a relative named Charlie Silver. In Caldwell County, McMillon went to school with relatives of Tom Dula, learned their family stories, and heard ballads, gospel songs, and Carter family recordings. Always drawn to old songs and stories, McMillon as a teenager discovered the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore and grew to appreciate the historical background and significance of the stories and ballads that he knew. This realization inspired in McMillon an enthusiasm for folklore documentation that has made him an invaluable resource to his community. By the age of seventeen, he had begun taping and interviewing family members, neighbors, and friends who knew old stories and songs. Even before that, he had begun to develop his skills as a performer through swapping stories and ballads with cousins. Bobby has appeared as a singer and songwriter across North Carolina. He has appeared at events such as the Smithsonian Foklife Festival, the A. P. Carter Memorial Festival, and national storytelling conferences. For a decade McMillon served in various North Carolina public schools as part of the Artist in the Schools and Visiting Artist programs. Filmmaker Tom Davenport produced a film, The Ballad of Frankie Silver, that features McMillon singing that ballad and telling stories passed down in his family and community about the murder. Because these songs and stories have deep roots in his own family and experience, he has a passion for them and for sharing them. "Eventually, I began to realize," he says "that if I didn't perform what I was learning, most of the repertories of the people I learned from would be lost because they didn't have family members of their own to hand them down to."