Saturday, May 6, 2017

Grant Rogers Website Unveiled

Two recent WIOX programs feature
the new Grant Rogers website

Grant Rogers, the "Catskill Mountain Songmaker"

On April 18 and May 2 on WIOX Community Radio, Catskills Folk presented a preview and a review of the new website about Grant Rogers, the Delaware county resident known as the "Catskill Mountain Songmaker."  Grant was a well-known musician - both instrumentalist and singer - in the mid-20th century in the Catskills.  The website is the collaborative program of a committee of  the Ogden Free Library in Walton and Music on the Delaware, who together unveiled the website at an informative reception at the Library on April 22.  The committee gathered resources about Grant Rogers and designed the website to make the materials available to the public in ways not possible before.  The materials include informative essays, audio recordings of interviews and music, video recordings, interview transcripts, and images, plus a biographical essay.

The focus of the website is, of course, Grant Rogers (  There are historic images of him, his family and his home, audio recordings of his instrumental tunes and his songs drawn from many sources, including his CD still available from Folk Legacy records and a rare recording from the Smithsonian made by Norman Studer, the director of Camp Woodland.  The video section includes black and white recording of Pete Seeger's TV show, on which Grant was a guest.

The audio section also includes tunes from Rogers's contemporaries, and interviews of family members and contemporary musicians as well as musicians he inspired.  Stories from Robert Gregory, tunes from Frank Fisher and Edwin St. Onge, plus interviews with Bob Moss and Bruce Hoyt enlarge the focus of the website to include the 20th century context for Grant Rogers's work. Interviews with Jay Ungar, Wes St. Onge, and Kathy Shimberg (and eventually with Ira and Laurie McIntosh) reveal the current influence of Grant Rogers.

The video section begins with a purpose-made video by Jessica Vecchione featuring the family history in interviews with Rogers's nieces, plus the Pete Seeger TV show,  followed by music videos from Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, and a performance by Mile Twelve, a blue grass band.

The archives section contains important essays in a sub-section entitled "Music Genealogy." One essay called "Roots" explores Grant Rogers's musical inheritance from his family; a second essay called "Contemporaries of Grant Rogers" provides the context for his relationship to other contemporary musicians; and a third essay called "Legacy of Grant Rogers" reveals his influence on current musicians.   But this is not all.   "Archives" is where you will find all the images of family, contemporary musicians, and current musicians.  It also includes transcripts of all the interviews filed in the audio section.

The new Grant Rogers website greatly expands the amount of Catskills material available, especially audio recordings of his instrumentals and songs.  Beyond this, the unexpected addition of little known recordings by contemporary musicians and square dance callers, plus both audio and transcript version of each interview shows the thorough work of the committee.  They certainly have met their goal of documenting and preserving important aspects of Catskill Mountain culture by creating a treasure of a website about Grant Rogers.  They intend to keep adding to it, with contributions from the community, and eventually to create a performance of the "legacy" musicians.  Now it is up to folklorists, regional and local historians, and Catskills art centers to do the same for other Catskills musicians and artists.

-- Ginny Scheer, Folklorist, Catskills Folk Connection        


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Catskills Folk on WIOX: Seasonal Celebrations

Tuesday at 7 p.m. my radio program, Catskills Folk, will feature two ways of celebrating the holidays in the Catskills. You can hear the program on WIOX, broadcast at 91.3 FM in the central Catskills or streaming live at One way of celebrating is an old craft of making holiday decorations and the other is a new twist on a traditional event, the holiday parade.

I've just encountered the tradition bearers for these expressions of holiday cheer and hope to be able to undertake a full study of Catskills holiday traditions and/or a study of Catskills parades in the future.  But I just couldn't wait to share my somewhat fuzzy photos of the parade and a picture of greens decorating one of the floats.

Here are the greens decorating the float.

This float maker also produces wreaths from greens such as these.

And here are links to some videos of the lighted floats in the Downsville Christmas parade which took place just this past Saturday, December 10.

This is Butch's Garage's Float "The Grinch That Went Overboard", 
winner of the Christmas Theme First Prize

This is the Gardner Family's Float that won First Prize for Christmas Spirit

This is the Downsville Ambulance, followed by a fire truck, all decked out for the parade.

Some floats featured music, such as this one from the Delaware County Fair, 
playing the Santa Claus Boogie.

After the parade the many prizes were given by Bill Reichert, parade chair, and Stacy Matteson, parade co-chair, assisted by Grand Marshals Sarah Hood and Kathryn Matteson.  Then amidst festive and colorful cookies and hot chocolate, Santa appeared to visit with the youngsters, some of whom who were sleepy from the cold.

Many community people and organizations contributed time, effort and prize money to the parade, including Amanda Reichert, who did all the printing, David Jay Doig and Kevin Doig, brothers who lined up the floats at each end of the parade, the community and student chorus who sang carols as the parade lined up, the Victoria Rose that provided sheltered space for the judges and announcer, and the Downsville Fire Department, who combined their annual visit by Santa with the culmination of the parade in its award ceremony.  This is such a strong community event, I'm sure I've neglected to mention other parade volunteers who make the Downsville parade possible. 

Don't miss this parade next year.  I'll be there with a better camera and hopefully will be planning a project for 2018 to document both of these Catskills traditions. Meanwhile, join me on Tuesday at 7 pm on WIOX to hear about these exciting folk expressions.  And don't forget the final square dance of the year, this Saturday (see below).  - Ginny Scheer, Folklorist

Festive Square Dance December 18

Presents a

Festive Holiday Square Dance


John Jacobson & the Tremperskill Boys
  Sunday, December 18, 1-4 p.m.

Bovina Community Hall

1866 County Highway 6, Bovina NY 13740

Hilt & Stella Kelly's new CD “Tunes I Learned From My Dad”
for sale at dance $15. Proceeds will fund the next Hilt Kelly CD.

                    Catskills Folk Connection is sponsored by Roxbury Arts Group and is funded in part
                    by the New York State Council on the Arts, Gov. Cuomo, the NYS Legislature and
                    the O’Connor Foundation. Contact Catskills Folk Connection:,

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