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Music in Bass Hall: Lui Collins

October 19, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

Free – $15

Folk singer/songwriter Lui Collins has been performing, writing and recording since the 1970s, earning international acclaim for her music. A native Vermonter, Collins’ early music education included classical studies on piano, violin and French horn, followed by a major in music theory at the University of Connecticut. Lui abandoned formal music studies after three years of college, in favor of the vibrant folk music scene of northeast Connecticut. From there she made a connection with the Folkway Restaurant and Coffeehouse in Peterborough, which nutured her career, while the success of her career in turn elevated the profile of the Folkway. She remained a favorite performer for the life of the Folkway (which closed in 1995), and is even still known as the Queen of the Folkway.

Following her graduation with a degree in sociology, Collins devoted herself full-time to music. In the late seventies and early eighties, Lui recorded Made in New England, followed by Baptism of Fire, and There’s a Light. These releases on the Philo and Green Linnet labels established her in the Northeast folk community.

With the release of her 4th CD, Moondancer in 1993, Collins founded her own label: Molly Gamblin Music. Moondancer was followed by North of Mars, a collection of songs for children, in 1995. Lui now has 8 solo CD’s to her credit, the most recent, Closer, released in 2006 on the Waterbug Records label. Her collection of poetry, Moon of Ripe Berries, published in 2001, is now in its third printing.

The Boston Globe has described Lui as “one of New England’s first and brightest stars,” and Sing Out! Magazine calls her “incomparable.” Renowned guitarist Dave van Ronk called her “one of the best guitarist-arrangers I have heard in years.” Michael Devlin of Music Matters Review wrote: “… there are relatively few artists who are bringing a traditional sensibility to modern songwriting, and in the process creating new traditional music. Lui Collins is among the barefoot royalty of this group…”

An accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and banjo player, Lui has geared most of her recordings toward the “grown-ups” who have frequented her concerts on the folk circuit. But alongside that work, Collins has been performing for and working with children since her own three were young, including collaborations with the Grumbling Gryphons Children’s Theater in 1992 and 1993.

In 1997 Collins relocated to the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts, immersing herself in music. In addition to her solo performances in concerts, festivals and schools, Collins has performed extensively with singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dana Robinson. Together they released two limited edition collaborative recordings, Paired Down and Paired Down Vol. 2, in 1998 and 1999 respectively.

Lui took up clawhammer banjo in 1999, and has continued to delve deeply into southern Appalachian music. This traditional influence is evident on her 2000 solo recording Leaving Fort Knox. Dirty Linen‘s assessment, “Quite simply, this is the best Lui Collins recording, ever,” is a clear affirmation of the continuing vitality, after 30 years, of Collins’ art. This vitality expresses itself in her live performances, as Lui blends her original songs, dynamic readings of her poetry, and traditional banjo tunes, in an intimate conversation with her audience.

Lui playing banjo at a Hilltown Music Together class-photo by Debbie Lusignan

In recent years, Lui has gradually shifted the focus of her work from touring to teaching in her community. In 2002, Collins trained with early childhood music program Music Together of Princeton, NJ, and founded Hilltown Music Together. In 2007 Collins began research and development on Kids’ Jam, an educational program for 5-7 year-olds, for which she has since adapted, written and recorded 10 seasonal collections of songs.

As of 2011, Hilltown Music Together and Kids’ Jam, along with Lui’s newest venture, Kids’ Jam Curriculum, combined to form Lui Collins’ Upside-Up Music. Kids’ Jam Curriculum makes Lui’s innovative and entertaining Kids’ Jam music available to homeschoolers and music and classroom teachers.

Besides Kids’ Jam, her other current creative focus is learning bossa nova guitar and brushing up on her Portuguese – she lived in Brazil for a year in the late 60’s and has been enamored with the music and the language ever since.

Lui’s concerts have become less numerous, but they’re as memorable as ever. Whether you’ve enjoyed her recordings for years or you’ve just been introduced, there’s no better way to experience Lui’s music than at a live concert. Lui’s concerts are intimate affairs. She interlaces her songs with stories about their background, her life, the weather – like a conversation with an old friend…with music.

Andrew Calhoun of Waterbug Records says, “Lui Collins sings the way people did a great long time ago, before most of us forgot how to breathe.” And as guitarist/folksinger/songwriter Geoff Bartley says, “Lui’s got the juju!”


October 19, 2013
7:30 pm
Free – $15
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Bass Hall: Monadnock Center for History and Culture
19 Grove St
Peterborough, NH 03458 United States