‘Simple Gifts’ of Music presented at Upper Macungie park
Simple Gifts, billed as “two women playing 12 instruments,” provided lessons on one of them before the afternoon concert sponsored by Parkland Community Library at Independent Park, Upper Macungie.
Multi-instrumentalists Linda Littleton and Karen Hirshon taught several adult students ukulele basics and asked them to perform as their opening act later in the day.
Littleton and Hirshon played old time, Cajun, Irish polkas, Romanian music, Bulgarian tunes, and other world music on mandolin, guitar, hammered dulcimer, spoons, and twin fiddles.
They also played “Suo Gân,” a Welsh lullaby, together on Littleton’s unique large bowed psaltery.
Smaller soprano and alto psalteries are more common.
“The psaltery itself, it’s mentioned in the Bible as a plucked psaltery. The addition of a bow was about one hundred years ago in Western Europe,” Littleton said.
Littleton and Hirshon sang some of their own original material such as “Crossing the Plains,” about an 1851 trip west by wagon train to Oregon taken by Karen Hirshon’s great-great grandmother Belle Walker Cooke.
The 16-year-old pioneer wrote a poem about her experience and Hirshon set it to music.
They also played the Shaker hymn, “Simple Gift,” the name their duo is named after.
Littleton was classically trained in violin as an elementary school student in Philadelphia.
She met Hirshon after moving to State College.
Hirshon was raised in a church music environment and, as with her musical partner, studied violin as a child.
As a teen, she became fascinated with blues and American folk music.
Littleton asked her to join Simple Gifts 22 years ago, back when the band had been a trio.
“We are now pretty much a duo,” Littleton remarked.
Simple Gifts play and teach in a 10-state area, bringing their music programs to schools, colleges and the public.
“We have been doing this ‘Senior Month’ for the past couple of years and always ending it with some sort of a big event, big concert,” Becky Wanamaker, programming librarian at Parkland Community Library said.
Wanamaker was asked about booking Simple Gifts.
“It seemed like a perfect fit,” she explained.
For information, visit parklandlibrary.org or simplegiftsmusic.com.