[feather_share] March 28, 2015
Nineteen years after its first concert - Dar Williams at Peterborough Unitarian Church – the Peterborough Folk Music Society continues to bring popular and up-and-coming acts to the Monadnock Region.
The Peterborough Folk Music Society was formed in 1996 when the Folkway coffeehouse, which for 20 years was a popular venue for folk musicians and fans, closed its doors. Deb McWethy was a major force in keeping the tradition of the Folkway going, and is the Society’s current Chair. After a few years of holding performances at the Unitarian Church, the PFMS now holds its concerts at the Peterborough Players Theater. “The people who had played at the Folkway were becoming bigger over the years and if we didn’t have a bigger venue, it probably wouldn’t have worked out for them to be playing here now. The theater is more comfortable than a church and this works really well for us”
Folk music is very popular in the Monadnock region, and many of the shows sell out in the 230-seat Peterborough Players Theater. “It’s because of the Folkway,” explained Deb, “people have told me this is why they moved to this region. It’s a compelling reason for continuing on with the Folk Music Society.” The shows have a big draw, not only for people in this area, but audiences come from as far north as Canada and down from southern New England. And just as folk music is evolving, PFMS is looking at future directions on several fronts.
One goal is to reach out to younger audiences and find younger acts. “Popular artists like Cheryl Wheeler, Bill Gorka and Jonathan Edwards are getting older and eventually won’t be performing” said Deb. “Each series I bring in new performers that I have met at festivals and invite them to play.” Since new acts tend to bring smaller audiences, they will often share a bill or perform as an opener for a headlining artist. PFMS is considering offering concerts with bigger names to see if audiences would be interested in paying higher ticket costs for more popular acts. And new artists break into the Monadnock folk scene by playing at Deb’s House Concerts.
Deb holds house concerts in her living room for audiences up to 50 people. “I started this about 12 years ago for the younger, lesser known acts and people love them! The idea is to bring them to this smaller venue and eventually book them for the PFMS concerts. There is a potluck ahead of time and most people come for that. Sometimes artists will call me asking to play at my house, and so I have had Sara Lee Guthrie, Aztec Two Step, Vance Gilbert and Bill Morrissey right in my living room! And this started out as a venue for unknown artists!” Some now popular musicians who started at house concerts include Mark Erelli, Lori McKenna, and Peter Mulvey.
The 2014-2015 season ends in April.
Red Molly returns to the PFMS stage on April 3 with special guest Lucy Wainwright Roche (yes, of the musical Wainwright and Roche families!). Red Molly started playing in the area at Deb’s House Concerts and now they sell out at the Peterborough Players venue.
The Peterborough Folk Music Society is run by a board that includes folk music fans, a musician, and those with administration and non-profit backgrounds. Bill Goodwin, the Treasurer, has been on the board with Deb since the beginning. Everything is done on a volunteer basis except for the sound engineer who is hired for the shows. Volunteers bake goods for sale at intermission and help with parking in exchange for seeing the show. Help is always needed with getting the word out; supporting the annual fund drive, joining the mailing list, and attending concerts. For more information about Peterborough Folk Music Society and upcoming shows, visit the website.
Note: This article was updated from its original published date of March 3, 2015.