20 Aug 2014
73° Clear
Patch Instagram photo by patch

maritime singing group The Johnson Girls in Woods Hole

maritime singing group The Johnson Girls in Woods Hole

The Woods
Hole Folk Music Society's 42nd season will continue on Sunday, February 16,
2014 with a concert by maritime singing group The Johnson Girls. The concert
takes place at 7:30 PM in Community Hall, 68 Water Street, in Woods Hole. Doors
open at 7 PM. Admission is $15 with discounts for members, seniors, youth and
children. Community Hall is handicapped accessible; street parking is free
after 6 PM. 

The Johnson Girls are a powerful
and energetic all-female singing group based in New York. They
specialize in maritime music and perform songs in tight vocal harmony from a
variety of traditions, from English, Scottish, Irish and American to Caribbean,
Quebecois and Italian. Named after a traditional African-American sea chantey,
or work song, The Johnson Girls formed as a quintet in 1997 but now generally
perform as a quartet or trio. Appearing in Woods Hole are original members Joy
Bennett, Bonnie Milner, and Dierdre Murtha. Each of The Johnson Girls is also a
member of the official singing group for New York’s South Street Seaport
Museum, The New York Packet. The Johnson Girls record for
Folk-Legacy Records; their three CDs have received considerable public acclaim
and solid reviews in folk music publications in the USA and Europe.

The core of The Johnson Girls'
repertoire are sea chanteys and other maritime work songs. These were sung on
ships during the age of sail, to keep rhythm during communal work and to make
it more pleasant. Songs typically told of a hard life: backbreaking labor,
difficult conditions, and a longing for dry land and female company. Sea music
may well have been the first “world music.”  Ships were often melting
pots, with crew from many countries who were heavily influenced by the music
they heard while traveling around the world and from other crew members. 

These sailors incorporated into their work songs and other shipboard music the

different rhythms and styles from their own cultures as well as those they

encountered during their voyages.  The Johnson Girls were all captivated

by this music at different times in their lives; the group came together

following the 1997 Mystic Seaport Sea Music festival, bursting through the barrier
of a previously male dominated genre.

Twelve years ago, folksong legend Pete
Seeger first heard The Johnson Girls and exclaimed, "You are first
rate! I didn't know women could sing like that." The group has since
appeared at major festivals in the United States, Canada and Europe. They have
been welcomed as refreshing set of new voices within the traditionally male
community of singers who come together at festivals and gatherings to sing
maritime songs. Their audiences often become part of the show, encouraged to
sing along with many of these rousing songs. Says Craig Edwards, of the Mystic
Seaport Museum: “Their repertoire ranges from driving chanteys to ballads and
laments, all rendered with rich harmonies in their own inimitable style.
Whether leading a sing-along … or firing up a festival stage,this group is a

Upcoming performances in Woods Hole
include:  March 2, Amy Gallatin and

Stillwater; March 16, Anne Hills; March 30, Finest Kind; and April 13, The

Honey Dewdrops. 

The Woods Hole Folk Music Society is a
nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering enjoyment of folk music in all
its forms. Concerts are generally held on the first and third Sunday of each
month from October to May. They are made possible by support from its members,
season subscribers, volunteers, and performers. More information is available

at www.arts-cape.com/whfolkmusic or by calling 508-540-0320.


Share This Article