Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hilt Kelly's Long-Awaited CD Available December 3

This weekend at the Roxbury Arts Group's Holiday Arts Market, Catskills Folk Connection will offer for purchase the CD that Hilt Kelly and his wife Stella created before Hilt passed away in 2015. It includes ten tunes, reels, jigs and quadrilles that Hilt learned from his dad, Carson Kelly.  .Jim Kimball, music professor at SUNY Geneseo, identified tunes and provided many of the photos for the CD, which premiered at RAG's Fiddlers!23 in October.

Here's how you can obtain your own copy:

At the Holiday Arts Market, December 3, 11 am - 5 pm:

The Roxbury Arts Center
5025 Vega Mountain Road
Roxbury, NY  12474

Or by mail from Catskills Folk Connection:

Send $15 plus $2 postage to:
Catskills Folk Connection
761 County Highway 2
Delancey, NY  13752

Or  from the shop at:

The Delaware County Historical Association
46549 County Highway 10
Delhi, NY  13753

For more information, call or write Ginny Scheer, Folklorist at Catskills Folk Connection, 761 County Highway 2, Delancey, NY  13752, 607-746-3521, or

Tuesday, November 29 on WIOX

The next edition of Catskills Folk will feature a century old collection of folklore from Schoharie County at 7 pm on Tuesday, November 29, on WIOX, broadcast on 91.3 FM and streaming at,  You've heard of this collection before if you tuned into Know Your Watershed on October 18 and November 1, just before Catskills Folk.  On their radio program, the father and son team of Harold and Alex Bartholomew presented ghost stories and ballads collected in the book Folklore From The Schoharie Hills New York,  published in 1937 by University of Michigan Press.and written by Emelyn E. Gardner, recognized scholar, author and professor at Wayne University in Detroit Michigan.

Schoharie Valley with the hill country in the background.
 Photo from SALT by C. Jacobus.
Gardner's collection includes examples of beliefs such as witchcraft, ghost stories, folk tales, songs and ballads, rhymes, riddles and superstitions gathered from 1912 to about 1917 in southern Schoharie County, in the hill country of Gilboa, Conesville, Jefferson, Summit, and surrounding towns.  I am among those who believe that this area is part of the Northern Catskills, not only because of its hilly topography but because part of it is included in the Catskills watershed.

Tuesday's radio program will be an introduction to this rich collection and may give some hints about where the cultural boundary of the Catskills ends on the north.  Does Gardner's collection contribute to our sense of a Catskills regional identity?  I don't promise that this introduction will settle the matter, but it will certainly raise some interesting questions.  --Ginny Scheer, Folklorist, Catskills Folk Connection and host of Catskills Folk, alternate Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on WIOX 91.3 FM or

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Vernacular Architecture in Folk Art

Tonight at 7 p.m. on WIOX Catskills Folk will focus on vernacular or folk architecture as portrayed in folk art.  Catskills Folk Connection's recent exhibit "Growing Up To Brush" has just closed at the Roxbury Art Center.  It featured two artists, Nellie Bly Ballard and Don Strausser, whose works documented the change in the Catskills landscape in the second half of the 20th century.  Their paintings also document the vernacular architecture of the Catskills, shown in its natural context.

Here are two of the paintings I will discuss tonight, but for technical reasons the rest of them cannot be shown in time for Catskills Folk.  I will post them as soon as I resolve the issue.

1) Nellie Bly Ballard, The Denver Store [detail]

2) Don Strausser, [Stone House with Abandoned Pasture]


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tonight on WIOX 91.3 FM and

Tonight folklorist Ginny Scheer will join Howard and Alex Bartholomew on their 6 p.m. program, Know Your Watershed, then continue with her usual 7 p.m. offering, Catskills Folk.  

Know Your Watershed's 
topic is  "'Folk Tunes of the Northern Catskills and Their Origins." The Bartholomews will discuss the ethnic background of the original folk song source material based on Emelyn Gardner's book Folklore from the Schoharie Hills, while Ginny will present similar material for the Catskills from Camp Woodland's Folk Songs of the Catskills.   Ginny, Alex and Howard will consider many types of music including dance tunes as well as ballads. There will be demonstrations of some of the musical instruments used by region's residents: fiddle, fife, Jew's harp, bones, piano, and guitar, as well as recordings of some of the songs included in Gardner's book.

At 7 p.m. Catskills Folk will continue the theme, offering several more songs from Folk Songs of the Catskills and will take time to share some of the origins of these songs more than has been possible on Catskills Folk in the past.  

This is a first in collaborative programming between Know Your Watershed and Catskills Folk, but hopefully not the last.   Tune in at 6 p.m. and stay tuned in at 7 p.m. to hear both programs at 91.3 FM or streaming live at 

Folklorist To Receive Award on November 6

The public is invited to the ceremony at Delaware County Historical Association at which Catskills Folk Connection's folklorist, Virginia Scheer will join three others to receive an Award of Merit from the Association.  The ceremony will take place at DCHA, 46549 Route 10, Delhi, NY  13753, on Sunday, November 6 following a pot luck lunch and including a program offered by Bill Birns.  The pot luck lunch begins at 1 p.m. (please bring a dish to pass), followed by the award ceremony and then Mr. Birns's talk.  All are welcome.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Folk Art and Folk Music Speakers

presented by
at the
Catskills Folk Lyceum

Saturday, October 22, 2 p.m.

 Roxbury Arts Center, 5025 Vega Mountain Road, Roxbury 12474

Jim Kimball, Ethnomusicologist SUNY Geneseo

Speaking on "Old-Time Tunes and Dances

in Rural New York

Varick Chittenden, Director Emeritus of

 Traditional Arts in Upstate New York

Speaking on "Folklore is in Our Nature"

Also on view, an exhibit of folk art landscapes

 "Growing Up To Brush"

Featuring artists Nellie Bly Ballard and Don Strausser

What gives Catskills folk art, music and dance their Catskills flavor?  Are they distinct or are they about the same as folk art, music and dance in other regions of New York State?

On October 22, at 2 p.m. at the Roxbury Arts Center, Catskills Folk Connection introduces the Catskills Folk Lyceum, a set of talks by renowned New York State specialists who will address folk expression in painting, sculpture, fiddling and square dancing in their regions and in the Catskills. 
Varick Chittenden’s talk,  “Folklore is in Our Nature,” will explore the relationship between folk art and the natural environment, with examples from the North Country/Adirondacks as well as the Catskills, showing “common ground shared by our regions, [and] continuities and changes over time in local folk life and folk art.”  Chittenden, a folklorist, is the founding director, now emeritus, of Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, and emeritus professor at SUNY Canton.
Jim Kimball’s talk “Old Time Tunes and Dances in Rural New York”  will offer “stories and comparisons about round, square and contra dancing from different regions of New York” including the Catskills.   Kimball is an ethnomusicologist who teaches at SUNY Geneseo and who specializes in old-time music, plays the fiddle, and calls square dances.
Kimball contributed important information and photographs to Catskills Folk Connection’s recent publication of the CD “Tunes I Learned From My Dad” featuring the late Hilt Kelly on the fiddle and his wife Stella Kelly on the piano.  The CD will be available for purchase at the Catskills Folk Lyceum on Saturday, October 22, 2 p.m., at the Roxbury Arts Center, 5025 Vega Mountain Road, Roxbury, NY  12474.
Catskills Folk Connection is sponsored by the Roxbury Arts Group and is funded in part by the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York Council for the Humanities, Gov. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the O’Connor Foundation.  Contact: 607-746-3521.  For more information:

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Catskills Folk Connection


A New CD from Hilt Kelly

Catskills Folk Connection is proud to present a new CD of fiddle tunes from the late Hilt Kelly, accompanied by his wife Stella on the piano.   In 2010 Hilt and Stella recorded these tunes at Dry Hill Studios in Oneonta, accompanied by CFC folklorist, Karyl Eaglefeathers.  The CD from that session will have its official release at Roxbury Arts Group's Fiddlers!23 next weekend, on Sunday, October 9.    Tonight's Catskills Folk radio program at 7 p.m. on WIOX 91.3 FM will preview the ten recordings on the album. which will be on sale for the first time at Fiddlers!

Jim Kimball, long-time emcee for past Fiddlers! concerts and an ethnomusicologist at SUNY Geneseo, reviewed the mostly nameless album tracks.  He was able to name a few more than were already known, and to explain why the rest had no names.  

"Quadrilles, a common older term for square dances, were published in great numbers especially in the mid to late 19th century, usually in sets of three to five tunes, the whole set haviang one title.  The first and second tune were most often in 6/8 time and had two or three sections which changed keys (e.g., the A part in D, the B part in A, sometimes a C part in G or D).  The last tune in a set was generally in 2/4 and in the style of a reel or quick hornpipe.  In folk practice musicians would replace the published last tune with some familiar reel or breakdown-like tune.  The first and second figures were someitmes termed first or second "change" and the last figure was often called a "jig" - as in a lively dance, but not usually a 6/8 tune.  Since individual tunes within the published quadrille sets had no specific titles, they have often survived as namel;ess tunes."

Toward the end of a square dance Hilt would say, "Here's a tune I learned from my Dad, Carson Kelly.  I don't know the name of it and I don't think he did either."  Sometimes there was an unnamed dance that went with the tune; together they harked back to the house dances here in the Catskill Mountains where people gathered to entertain themselves with family, friends and neighbors.

Here are the tunes on the CD.  You will hear them tonight on WIOX at 7 p.m. 

1. Quadrille in D & A (No.1)
2. The Girl I Left Behind Me
3. Off She Goes
4. Quadrille in D & A (No. 2)
5. Quadrille in D & B Minor
6. Chassez By Your Partner (also Delaware County Reel)
7. Quadrille in G & D
8. Apple Brewer's Reel
9. Reel in D
10. Fred Wilson's Clog (also Harvest Home)

The publication of "Tunes I Learned From My Dad" is the first in a new initiative by Catskills Folk Connection.  With support from the Manhattan Country School, Roxbury Arts Group and the New York State Council on the Arts, CFC will publish or re-publish recordings and/or texts of Catskills traditional music and dance.  Sales from the first CDs will create a rolling fund to support the next publication project.  These projects may include  HIlt Kelly and the Sidekick's square dance cassette, a recording of Hilt Kelly playing samples of tunes at the New York Old Tyme Fiddlers Association in Osceola, a 1980s recording plus booket of Hilt Kelly and other 20th century square dance callers called "The Hardwood Floor" from Peter Blue and Tom Buckner, and possibly Dances from Woodland: Music and Calls by Norman Cazden, a compendium of tunes and calls collected by campers and staff at Camp Woodland in the mid-20th century.

Catskills Folk Connection is sponsored by Roxbury Arts Group and is funded in part by the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York Council for the Humanities, Governor Cuomo and the NYS Legislature, and the A. Lindsay and Olive B. O'Connor Foundation.