Annual Calais folk concert celebrates women fiddlers


One of the foremost musical events of the summer season, now in its 20th year, is the concert held at the Old West Church in Calais. This venerable house of worship, which has retained its early 19th century look and feel with wood heat, old-fashioned pews and no electricity, will host a 4 p.m. Sunday concert July 22. The force behind these concerts is singer Deb Flanders. She has consistently brought fine folk musicians to the church to entertain in this most unique of musical venues. This year is no different. Flanders has gathered a group of performers, some returning along with newcomers, who will put on a show that will highlight fiddling and singing from three countries. This year’s concert celebrates female folk musicians. Performing will be fiddlers Andrea Beaton from Cape Breton, Véronique Plasse from Quebec, and Jane Oxnard from England, along with Franco-American singer Michèle Choinière and her daughter Isabella Rottler. They will be joined by Flanders, fiddlers Pete Sutherland and Oliver Scanlon who are two-thirds of the band Pete’s Posse, cellist John Dunlop and violinist/fiddler Laura Markowitz. In all, this is a powerful combination of talents. One of Cape Breton's finest fiddlers, Beaton grew up in the tradition and is the youngest of generations of Beaton musicians. Her father, Kinnon Beaton, is one of today's most influential Cape Breton fiddlers, while her mother, Betty Beaton, is one of the great piano accompanists of her generation. Andrea Beaton's paternal grandfather, Donald Angus Beaton, was one of the strongest and most popular players of his generation. Her first CD, "License to Drive 'Er," led to a nomination as roots traditional solo artist of the year at the East Coast Music Awards. Originally from Montréal, Plasse has been active on behalf of Québec musical traditions for more than a decade. She began her classical musical training on violin, studied at the Montréal Conservatory, and the Cegep Marie-Victorin. She’s performed with numerous traditional groups (Barbo, Hurlevent, La part du quêteux), and performs regularly at folk festivals and in concerts in Canada and in the United States. Oxnard is a native of Northumberland, England. She is a member of Last Night’s Rain with her sister Ailsa, the Sage Gateshead’s Folkestra and was a member of the Northumbrian Ranters, made up of talented young traditional musicians from schools across Northumberland. Oxnard will be teaching fiddle at Vermont’s Young Tradition Trad Camp this year. Choinière is an award-winning Smithsonian Folkways recording artist. She was born into a musical Franco-American family in northern Vermont and began performing traditional Franco-American music at an early age with her late father Fabio, an accomplished harmonica player. She writes and composes her own songs and has performed for audiences throughout New England, Quebec and France. She is a recognized master artist, having been awarded the prestigious and competitive Governor's Heritage Award in 2007. Choinière’s daughter Isabella Rottler has been playing fiddle for two and a half years. This past April, she received the Vermont Maple Festival Fiddlers Scholarship. She enjoys singing traditional Franco-American songs with her mother and playing energetic fiddle tunes. Fiddlers Sutherland and Scanlon are exciting performers who were featured in the Shetland Folk Festival this spring. Dunlop was recently featured in Seven Days under the headline, “John Dunlop Is Vermont’s Busiest Cellist.” He is the principal cellist in the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. Violinist/fiddler Markowitz performs with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and the Burlington Chamber Orchestra. Flanders has organized the annual folk concert in honor of her great-aunt Helen Hartness Flanders, an internationally recognized ballad collector and authority on folk music found in New England and in the British Isles.   Old West Church The 20th annual “Folk Concert at the Old West Church” will be presented at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 22, in Calais. Admission is $20 at the door (a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Vermont Folklife Center); for information, call Deb Flanders, 802-233-1015, or email

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