Photo by Laura Darcy - Philip Spaeth

Photo by Laura Darcy – Philip Spaeth

NORTHVILLE, NY — On Saturday, February 23rd at 2:00 pm, upstate New York composer, Philip Spaeth will present the first public reading of a new piece of chamber music that draws upon Adirondack folk traditions as well as his training in the Western classical music style. With a stellar ensemble assembled for this specific event, the new composition—titled Adirondack Sketches: Five Mountain Dances—will be performed in a concert setting. In addition, the composer will talk about his research to compose for the various instruments and a “roundtable” discussion with the players with questions encouraged from the audience. This special event will take place at the Mayfield Presbyterian Church located at 22 North Main Street in Mayfield, NY. The program is open to the public with no admission charge. Donations are also welcomed at the door.

About 10 months ago, through the assistance of Saratoga Arts with an Artist Grant funded by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, Philip Spaeth began researching the nuances of the folk music of the Adirondacks with the aim of writing a new work. He envisioned the piece would incorporate musical ideas and concepts found in Adirondack traditional music, but one which also utilized traditional instruments in a manner consistent with what the classically trained performer would expect in a Western “chamber music” context. Throughout his ethnomusicological journey in the Adirondacks, Spaeth shared many of his findings and insights in a blog via his website (

In his research, Philip Spaeth interviewed a number of musicians in the extended lower Adirondack Region. Spaeth consulted the versatile musician John Kirk, a classically trained vocalist and instrumentalist who is more known for his work in the realm of folk and fiddle music. Adirondack folk musician and songwriter Dan Berggren and Dan Duggan, who is acknowledged as one of the finest dulcimer players and composers in the country, were also interviewed. To learn about the Native American music traditions of the Adirondacks, Spaeth spent time with Joe Bruchac and his son Jesse Bruchac at their Ndakinna Education Center near Saratoga Springs. They provided insight into some percussion instruments in addition to the Native American flute, which is making its way into jazz as well as other American genres and demonstrating it is a versatile and adaptable instrument.

The new composition, Adirondack Sketches: Five Mountain Dances, is the result of Philip Spaeth’s exploration into the musical traditions of the Adirondack. It is a suite of five dances:

I. Reel
II. Lonesome Song
III. Jig
IV. Waltz
V. Hornpipe

Perhaps a double musical cross-over, Adirondack Sketches is written for Native American flute, hammered dulcimer, fiddle, banjo, and piano. It is a piece requiring performers who are both excellent “traditional” players and who are comfortable reading music in standard notation in a concert music, or “classical,” setting. The five musicians who are eager to launch this piece are:

John Kirk, fiddle
Scott Hopkins, banjo
Werner John, Native American flute
Dan Duggan, hammered dulcimer
Kara Pitkin, piano

The composer comments that he “could not be more pleased with the players assembled for this first concert reading and is so delighted with their enthusiasm for the work!”

The Saturday afternoon program, which begins at 2:00 pm, at the Mayfield Presbyterian Church will include an introductory talk by the composer, a reading of Adirondack Sketches: Five Mountain Dances, and conclude with a “Q&A” type, roundtable conversation between the players and composer, encouraging questions and observations from the audience to provide the composer with feedback from players and audience alike. A reception of Adirondack- themed treats, coordinated by local historian Maria Spaeth, will follow. In addition to the Individual Artist Grant Philip Spaeth received from Saratoga Arts, this event is also made possible with support of the Sacandaga Valley Arts Network. In the event there are questions about the venue or performance, one should call (518) 221-3485.