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Abby 2015


"Newton plays with sensitivity and soul..."


"Abby was wonderful. Her music filled the room...an uplifting spiritual exposure to traditional music."
"I just heard some of your music and interviews on NPR's Thistle & Shamrock. This was without a doubt some of the best and most enjoyable music I have ever heard."

Abby with cello photo

Abby Newton
is well known for her groundbreaking work in the revival of the cello in American and Scottish traditional music. As part of the folk music revival of the past many decades there has been a movement to restore the unique richness of the cello to traditional music. Abby has been on the forefront of that movement since meeting Jay Ungar (Ashokan Farewell), Lyn Hardy, and John Cohen (New Lost City Ramblers). The four formed the Putnam String County Band, toured extensively, and performed at most of the major festivals including Mariposa, Binghamton, and the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Although classically trained, she improvised cello parts to their arrangements of traditional American music.

At this time, as music editor of Sing Out! Magazine, Abby, transcribed songs from the New Song Movement of Latin America. She met many of the composers of this new South American music eventually joining an ensemble in NYC called El Grupo. Through Sing Out! she met the members of two New Song movement groups; Quilapayun and Inti-Illimani of Chile and performed with both groups at various halls including Avery Fisher, Carnegie, and Karl Marx Theater in Cuba.

Scottish Music
Abby's deep involvement with the music of Scotland began with her introduction to Scottish singer, Jean Redpath. Their musical friendship spanned seventeen CDs and many tours in Scotland and the US. Through Jean Abby met Tom Anderson, legendary Shetland fiddler which led to performances with Tom and Jean throughout the highlands of Scotland and the first Shetland Folk Festival. It was through these tours with Jean that Abby discovered the rich history of the cello in Scottish music. (See Abby's article on the history of the cello on the Thistle and Shamrock website).

CDs and Bands
The band Celtic Crossing evolve out of Abby's first solo CD "Crossing to Scotland."
Her second CD "Castles, Kirks and Caves," recorded live in ancient spaces of Scotland, was a culmination of discovery and research through touring with Jean Redpath. It was after recording this CD that she formed the band Ferintosh, and produced the CD Ferintosh. The group is dedicated to playing traditional Scottish music in a "chamber folk" setting. These CDs have earned critical acclaim both in the U.S. and abroad.

Abby has an active and continuing recording career. She has produced and performed on over one hundred folk recordings including 17 CDs with Jean Redpath. Abby has made several appearances on Prairie Home Companion, and The Thistle and Shamrock, where Fiona Ritchie produced a feature program on Abby and her influence on the folk cello movement

Performing and Teaching Artist
Abby has appeared with various groups including Ferintosh, Crossing to Scotland, and the Fiddletree Band at Celtic Colours Festival in Cape Breton, Gaelic Roots, and Celtic Connections, in Scotland. Widely respected as an instructor and performer in both the USA and Scotland, she performs and conducts numerous workshops where she promotes the use of the cello both as a melodic and rhythmic back up instrument in traditional music, among them Ashokan Fiddle Camp, Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp, Swannanoa Gathering, and Crossing to Scotland in the Catskills. This is a cello retreat Abby created and currently holds at her studio in New York State.

Mel Bay has published two books of Abby's transcriptions of Celtic tunes for the cello: Crossing to Scotland and Castles Kirks and Caves. The combination of her teaching, performing and publishing have inspired many amateurs and professionals to play traditional music on the cello.

The Cello
Today the cello is usually considered a classical instrument, but from the late 17th to early 19th centuries it was used in folk ensembles to provide low, driving rhythms for dance tunes and to render haunting Scottish airs. In those days, "folk" and "classical" music were often performed by the same musicians. Instrumentation was shared too, with violin and cello figuring prominently in both contexts. Many indigenous Scottish tunes were given formal arrangements by the great composers of the period. Haydn, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn all composed settings.

To be added to Abby's mailing list or to receive news of upcoming concerts,
Contact: abby@abbynewton.com or Abby Newton, PO Box 67, Shokan, NY 12481