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Folk performer offers musical view of America Nov. 21

Jeff Warner
Jeff Warner

Folk performer Jeff Warner will bring his repertoire of Revolutionary War songs, African-American banjo ditties, Irish-American concertina tunes and more to MIT on Monday, Nov. 21, in a free concert/demonstration.

Warner is the fifth performer in a series of folk singers and musicians brought to campus this fall in conjunction with a class called Folk Music of North America and the British Isles. The class is co-taught by George Ruckert, lecturer in the music and theater arts section and Professor Ruth Perry of the literature section.

Something of an American folk tradition himself, Warner performs traditional American folk music connecting 21st century audiences with the music and everyday lives of 19th century people. His parents, Anne and Frank Warner, were pioneer collectors of songs from rural America from 1938 to 1969.

"Warner is a great folk musician and his concert/demonstration will be a mix of singing and playing folk music and talking about its collection and notation and the relation of 'revival' singers to 'source' singers," Perry said.

According to Briony Keith, administrative assistant in the literature section, Warner will perform, teach and demonstrate in his presentation. "If people want to bring their instruments and play along, we would love it," she said. "If it turns out to be a hootenanny, that would be fantastic."

Touring throughout the nation for the Smithsonian Institution's National Associate Program, Warner incorporates hands-on accessible rhythm instruments like bones and spoons as he performs everything from the work songs sung aboard wooden ships to the ballads of old New Hampshire.

Warner has worked to preserve the work of his parents, whom he accompanied on musical research trips when he was a child in the 1950s. He helped his mother produce her 1984 book, "Traditional American Folk Songs: From the Anne and Frank Warner Collection," and created a two-volume collection of his parents' recordings that features the actual voices of singers born between 1860 and 1900, recorded on early disc recorders.

Warner's 1995 recording "Two Little Boys: More Old Time Songs for Kids," received a Parents' Choice Award.

"This is a man who can sing and play wonderfully and also can talk about the music knowledgeably from a number of different angles," said Perry.

The event begins at 7:30 p.m. in Killian Hall.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 16, 2005 (download PDF).

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