Branford Folk Music Society

The Branford Folk Music Society, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization recognized as tax exempt under the Internal Revenue Service Code section 501(c)(3). The Society sponsors the Branford Folk Coffeehouse, a monthly folk music concert series, September through May, at the First Congregational Church, on the green in Branford, Connecticut.

The group also holds monthly "House Hoots" at members' homes, open to all for informal singing and playing, and produces a monthly newsletter with schedules and information on concerts and folk performers in Connecticut and the region. Branford Folk Music Society members receive a copy of the newsletter in the mail, as well as discounts in admission to our coffeehouse concerts. Become a member of the Branford Folk Music Society. Facebook members: Look us up on Facebook.

Branford Folk Coffeehouse

The Branford Folk Coffeehouse is in the auditorium of the First Congregational Church of Branford, 1009 Main Street, Branford, CT. Wheelchair accessible. Concerts begin at 8:00 P.M. Unless otherwise specified, admission is $15 for nonmembers, $12 for members, and $5 for children 12 and under.

Admission policy for this season's great folk shows: Pay at the door. Thanks!

Directions: Take I-95 Cedar Street exit #54, go south on Cedar Street to the end (crossing Route 1), turn left on Main Street. The Congregational Church is the brick church on the green (on the right). For more information, call 203-488-7715. Email:
If parking immediately next to the Church and the Green is full, there is additional parking nearby.

Please contact us if you are interested in helping the coffeehouse as a volunteer. In particular, refreshment donations will be welcomed.

If you are wondering if a concert will be held on an evening when the weather is bad, please call 203-488-7715. (There is no one at the church who can give out concert information.) Also, cancellations will be posted on WTNH Channel 8.

January 10, 2015: Karen Ashbrook and Paul Oorts

Multi-instrumentalists Karen Ashbrook and Paul Oorts will be making their Branford Folk Music Society debut with this concert after being "snowed out" of a scheduled debut last February. For Branford listeners it will be a musically warming treat in the midst of winter because both are master musicians. Karen performs mainly on the hammered dulcimer and her husband Paul on harp guitar, 10-string cittern, mandolin, and musette accordion.

Known as KAPO, they started playing as a duo featuring Celtic, Belgian and French music with the critically-acclaimed recording "Celtic Café" on the Maggie's Music label.

Karen Ashbrook built her first dulcimer in 1976 as a high school project. For five years she lived overseas in pursuit of Irish music and learned her craft in the pubs of England and Ireland, while taking time to travel in Europe and Asia. She subsequently wrote the first book for intermediate/advanced dulcimer playing in the United States, "Playing the Hammered Dulcimer in the Irish Tradition," which was published by Oak Publications.

Karen plays a wide variety of musical styles including Appalachian, Belgian, English, classical and Jewish. She teaches at numerous festivals and music camps around America, and is now central in bringing instruction to the revival of hakkebord (the Flemish hammered dulcimer) in Belgium! With her delicate touch, trademark shimmering lilt and ear for authentic ornamentation, Karen is considered one of the finest Irish hammered dulcimer players. Add her wooden flute and pennywhistle playing, and you have the consummate Irish musician. Irish music reviewer John O'Regan calls her recordings "Celtic music for the mind and body."

Based in the Washington, D.C., area, Karen teaches and performs Celtic, contra dance, and Jewish music and works teaching Irish music and culture to children. She has several recordings both solo and with the group Ceoltoiri, on the Maggie's Music label. Performance highlights include RTE 1-Irish National Television, the Smithsonian Institution, National Geographic, and playing at the White House for President Bill Clinton.

Belgian-born Paul Oorts is also a multi-instrumentalist and is very active in the world of English, Contra, and Vintage dances in the Washington-Baltimore area. With the group Goldcrest he has performed at dance events all over the United States and on tour in Scotland. He also plays with Trio con Brio, Tympanon, Ensemble Carillon and the Rigatoni Brothers.

As a teacher or staff musician, he has been on faculty at the Augusta Heritage Center (WV), the Swannanoa Gathering (NC), Common Ground on the Hill (MD), Kentucky Music Week, Pinewoods (MA), Timber Ridge (WV), Hill County Acoustic Music Camp (TX), and the Volksmuziekstage in Gooik (Belgium).

During the academic year, Dr. Oorts teaches Italian and French at the Peabody Institute and Loyola University in Baltimore.

Workshops in Hammered Dulcimer and Guitar

In conjunction with the January 10th concert Karen Ashbrook and Paul Oorts will offer afternoon workshops for advanced beginner to intermediate hammered dulcimer, and guitar players.

Here are brief descriptions of each workshop:

Karen will teach a Hammered Dulcimer session of simple accompaniments and arrangements of a beautiful Manx tune (a Manx Milking Song), featuring pedal tones & descending bass lines in 3/4 and 4/4. Manx music is from the Isle of Man, one of the 7 Celtic nations. Sound and pdf files will be available in advance for the melodies.

Paul will teach a Guitar workshop on "Celtic Jig Accompaniment" in standard guitar tuning.  We'll work with right hand techniques (bring a light to medium pick) and also with modal accompaniment and chord substitutions for the left hand to get that contemporary Celtic flavor.

Workshops will be from 3:30 to 5:30 PM. The workshops will take place at the First Congregational Church of Branford, 1009 Main Street, Branford, CT.

The costs for the workshops are $25. Participants to the workshops will also be able to attend the evening’s concert at the Branford Folk Music Society’s member rate of $12.

A bit of background on our workshop leaders:

Karen is well known for her book/CD set “Playing the Hammered Dulcimer in the Irish Tradition” on Oak Publications and her numerous recordings on Maggie’s Music. Karen built her first dulcimer in 1976 and has been a leading advocate for the instrument ever since!

Paul is a multi-instrumentalist from Belgium and has become a fixture as a favorite accompanist for many a hammered dulcimer player at festivals! He also tours regularly with the dance band Goldcrest.

Based in the Washington, DC area, this dynamic duo performs together at many dulcimer festivals around the country. They have 2 recordings together- “Celtic Cafe” on the Maggie’s Music label and “Spring Will Come.”

For additional information or to register for any of the workshops by e-mail contact Karen at or visit her website at The deadline to register for the workshops is December 27, 2014.

February 14, 2015: Lissa Schneckenburger and Bethany Waickman

March 14, 2015: Beppe Gambetta and Rushad Eggleston

April 18, 2015: Gordon Bok

May 9, 2015: John Roberts and ...

House Hoot December 19th

Calling y’all musicians,

The December House Hoot will be at 7:30 on Friday, December 19th, at Sheldon Campbell’s house, 85 Heloise St., Hamden, 06517. The theme (for the first round only, and not enforced, merely encouraged) is a song about, by, for, or mentioning a child or children; after that, it’s every man and woman for themselves. Also bring a snack or drink(s) to share; if you’re a beer fan, please bring your own, I don’t know anything about beer and it’d be a big mistake to count on me for that.

The House Hoot, loosely associated with the Branford Folk Music Society, has been going since the 1950s. It’s an opportunity to get together and Sing Good Songs, mostly folk but occasionally wandering into other musical realms. All acoustic instruments and voices are welcome.

Sheldon Campbell

Previous concerts at the Branford Folk Coffeehouse

Branford Folk Photo Gallery

Restaurants in Branford

Lodging in Branford

Volunteers Needed!

The Branford Folk Music Society is looking for a volunteer to manage the signs that we put up at the church for each concert. This includes storing the signs at your home, bringing them to each concert and setting them up. If you are interested or would like more information, please let us know at a concert or by email at

New Board Members Sought

The Board of Directors is currently accepting nominations to fill at large positions on the Board.

  • Qualifications: enjoyment of traditional folk music and desire to see it continue in Branford. Skills in particular areas such as finances, grant writing, small business administration, etc. are welcome but not required. Must become a member of BFMS if not already a member.
  • Responsibilities: attend about eight board meetings a year, attend and help at most of the nine concerts of the season (September through May).
  • Benefits: free attendance when you help out at a concert, decision making contribution to the programming and other issues of the society, opportunity to get to know some wonderful people who are musicians.

Click here for the application form.

The Branford Folk Music Society is a member of the North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance,
and the Arts Council of Greater New Haven.

The Branford Folk Music Society primarily books "traditional" and/or "traditions based" acoustic music, rooted in the Anglo-Celtic and/or American folk genres, and other traditional forms, such as Cajun, French Canadian, Klezmer, etc. We are also open to booking "traditions based" performers who write their own material provided their music demonstrates a knowledge and respect for these long established traditions.

The Branford Folk Music Society posts monthly concert listings on the following web sites and blogs: at
Nonprofit Bulletin at

Other folk music events in Connecticut and southern New England

Branford Folk Music Society
P.O. Box 441
Branford, CT 06405