Happy Traum: Solo with Friends

Featuring multi-instrumentalist
David Amram and cellist Abby Newton

Saturday, September 6, 2014: 8 pm


The program will be announced from the stage
There will be an intermission




Final concert of the 2014 season

Sunday, September 7, 4 pm

A Concert for the Friends of Maverick

American String Quartet
Music of Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Brahms

Regular Maverick tickets not valid for this event.
A donation of $50 receives an invitation to
the concert and reception; a donation of $100 or more receives two invitations.


Program Notes © 2014 by Miriam Villchur Berg*


Happy Traum was smitten by American folk music as a teenager, and began playing guitar and five-string banjo. He was an active participant of the legendary Washington Square/Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1950s and 60s, and studied guitar with the famed blues master Brownie McGhee. Over the past five decades he has performed extensively throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Japan, both as a soloist and as a member of various groups. His avid interest in traditional and contemporary music has brought him recognition as a performer, writer, editor, session musician, folklorist, teacher, and recording artist.

Happy's first appearance in a recording studio was at a historic session in 1963 when a group of young folk musicians, including Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, Peter La Farge, and the Freedom Singers gathered in Folkways Records’ (now Smithsonian Folkways) studio for an album called Broadsides. Along with his group, the New World Singers (Happy, Bob Cohen, and Gil Turner), he cut the first recorded version of Bob Dylan’s anthem “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

The New World Singers soon recorded an album for Atlantic Records, with liner notes by Bob Dylan, and toured folk clubs throughout the US and Canada, including several stints at Gerde’s Folk City and the Bitter End in the Village, the Riverboat in Toronto, and the Gate of Horn in Chicago.

In 1965, Happy wrote his best-selling Fingerpicking Styles for Guitar, the first of more than a dozen instruction books that documented the playing of the great traditional guitarists. The book was recently updated and re-released. Happy also wrote for Sing Out! magazine, and served as its editor from 1967 to 1970. He has also written articles and instructional columns for Rolling Stone, Acoustic Guitar, Guitar Player, and other music publications.

In 1967 Happy, his wife Jane, and their three children moved to Woodstock, and Happy and his brother, the late Artie Traum, formed a duet that, according to Rolling Stone, “defined the Northeast folk music style.” Their performances at the 1968 and 1969 Newport Folk Festivals helped to gain them an avid following and a contract with famed manager Albert Grossman. In 1970 Happy and Artie recorded their first album for Capitol Records, Happy and Artie Traum, which The New York Times called “one of the best records in any field of pop music.” For four years they hosted a popular live radio show, Bring it on Home, which was broadcast monthly from the performance studio at NPR affiliate WAMC in Albany, NY. They produced the classic folk album Mud Acres: Music Among Friends, which became a best seller for Rounder Records, and in 1974 cut Hard Times in the Country, their third duet album, with liner notes by Allen Ginsberg.


In 1971 Happy once again joined Bob Dylan in the studio, playing guitar, banjo, and bass and singing harmony on three songs (“You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” “Down in the Flood,” and “I Shall be Released,”) which appeared on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.
Later that year, Dylan invited Happy to participate in a famous session with poet Allen Ginsberg, which resulted in the boxed set Holy Soul Jelly Roll. The legendary John Hammond produced the recording, which also included Dylan, David Amram, Jon Scholl, Ed Sanders, Gregory Corso, and several other well-known musicians and beat poets. The session resulted in a long friendship and musical association between Happy and Allen Ginsberg.

They subsequently produced and played on three more albums featuring top folk and rock musicians under the collective title The Woodstock Mountains Revue. The core group, comprised of Bill Keith, Jim Rooney, John Herald, Roly Salley, Larry Campbell, Pat Alger, Happy, and Artie, toured the Northeast, Europe, and Japan. Other members who appeared on the recordings included John Sebastian, Eric Andersen, Rory Block, Paul Butterfield, Eric Kaz, Lee Berg, Maria Muldaur, Arlen Roth, Caroline Dutton, and many others. The strong musical partnership of Happy and Artie lasted until Artie’s untimely death in 2008.

Happy recorded his first solo album, Relax Your Mind, in 1975 and embarked on the first of many European tours, bringing him to England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Scandinavia. Many other albums followed, all receiving critical acclaim.

Happy and Jane founded Homespun Tapes in 1967. This dynamic and growing company has a catalog of more than five hundred music lessons on DVDs and CDs, in books, and for download, and their products are distributed and sold around the globe. Taught by top professional performing musicians, the lessons cover a wide variety of instruments and musical styles. Happy produces all of the lessons, and brings to Homespun over forty years of experience as a guitarist, performer, writer, teacher, and popular member of the music community.

In 2011, David Amram was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and given their Jay McShann Lifetime Achievement Award for his sixty-year career as a multi-instrumentalist, a pioneer of world music, a scat singer, the creator with Jack Kerouac of Jazz Poetry in 1957, one of the first jazz French hornists, and one of the first conductors to bring the worlds of jazz and classical music together.

As a classical composer and performer, his integration of jazz, folkloric, and world music has led him to work with Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Willie Nelson, Langston Hughes, Charles Mingus, Leonard Bernstein, Sir James Galway, Tito Puente, Mary Lou Williams, Joseph Papp, Arthur Miller, Stan Getz, Pete Seeger, Elia Kazan, Christopher Plummer, Ingrid Bergman, Odetta, Lord Buckley, Dustin Hoffman, Steve Allen, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Allen Ginsberg, Nina Simone, Gregory Corso, Bob Dylan, Steve Goodman, Gerry Mulligan, Johnny Depp, and Levon Helm. Amram continues to compose music while traveling the world as a conductor, soloist, bandleader, visiting scholar, and narrator in five languages.

In addition to French horn, David plays piano, numerous flutes and whistles, percussion, and dozens of folkloric instruments from twenty-five countries, and he is an improvisational lyricist. Since working with Leonard Bernstein, (who chose him as the New York Philharmonic’s first composer-in-residence in 1966), he has been one of BMI’s twenty most performed composers of concert music of the last thirty years.

David has composed more than one hundred orchestral and chamber music works. His film scores include Splendor in the Grass, The Manchurian Candidate, and the 1959 film Pull My Daisy, narrated by Jack Kerouac. He has composed two operas, The Final Ingredient: An Opera of the Holocaust, and Twelfth Night, based on Shakespeare's play and with a libretto by Joseph Papp. He is also the author of three books: Vibrations: A Memoir; Offbeat: Collaborating With Kerouac; and Upbeat: Nine Lives of a Musical Cat. He is currently writing his fourth book, David Amram: The Next 80 Years, to be published in 2014.

Amram is working on a new orchestral piece, a new chamber work, and a new series of CDs of his orchestral chamber music and jazz compositions. The feature film David Amram: The First 80 Years, directed by Lawrence Kraman, came out in 2011, documenting the many facets of David’s creativity. He also appears in Andrew Zuckerman’s book and new feature documentary film Wisdom: The Greatest Gift One Generation Can Give To Another, as one of the world’s fifty Elder Thinkers and Doers.





Abby Newton is a classically trained cellist who has been in the forefront of the movement to restore the unique richness of the cello to traditional music. She co-founded the Putnam String County Band together with Lyn Hardy, John Cohen (of the New Lost City Ramblers) and Jay Ungar (the Ulster County fiddler whose “Ashokan Farewell” became the theme song of Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War). The group has toured extensively and performed at most of the major festivals including Mariposa, Binghamton, and the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

As music editor of Sing Out! magazine in the 1970s, Abby transcribed songs from nueva canción, the New Song movement of Latin America. She met many of the composers of this new South American music and performed with various ensembles in New York and Chile. She continues her involvement with the ensemble El Grupo.

Today the cello is usually considered a classical instrument, but from the late seventeenth to early nineteenth centuries it was used in folk ensembles to provide low, driving rhythms for dance tunes and to render haunting Scottish airs. In those days, “folk” and “classical” music were often performed by the same musicians. Instrumentation was shared too, with violin and cello figuring prominently in both contexts. Many indigenous Scottish tunes were given formal arrangements by the great composers of the period, including Haydn, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn.

Abby’s deep involvement with the music of Scotland began with her introduction to Scottish singer Jean Redpath. Their musical friendship spawned seventeen CDs and many tours in Scotland and the US. On their first tour, Abby met legendary Shetland fiddler Tom Anderson. Abby, Tom, and Jean performed throughout the highlands of Scotland and at the first Shetland Folk Festival.

Her CD Castles, Kirks, and Caves, recorded in ancient spaces of Scotland, was a culmination of this discovery and research, and after recording it Abby formed the band Ferintosh, a group dedicated to playing traditional Scottish music in a “chamber folk” setting.

Abby has produced and performed on over one hundred folk recordings. Her solo CDs Crossing to Scotland and Castles, Kirks, and Caves have earned critical acclaim in the US and abroad. She has made several appearances on Prairie Home Companion, and in 2001, Fiona Ritchie, of the syndicated NPR program The Thistle & Shamrock, did a feature program on Abby and her influence on the folk cello movement.

Widely respected as an instructor and performer in both the US and Scotland, Abby performs and conducts numerous workshops, where she promotes the use of the cello as both a melodic lead and a rhythmic backup in traditional music. In her Ulster County music studio, Abby hosts cello retreats called Crossing to Scotland in the Catskills. Mel Bay has published two books of Abby’s transcriptions of Celtic tunes for the cello.

All program notes are copyright Miriam Villchur Berg. It is permissible to quote short excerpts for reviews. For permission to quote more extensive portions, or to copy,  publish, or make other use of these program notes, please contact her at miriam@hvc.rr.com. Program Notes © 2014 by Miriam Villchur Berg