Saturday May 18th, 2024 @ 08:00 PM

Tim Eriksen – Acclaimed Performer, Ethnomusicologist, Sacred Harp Singing, Multi-Instrumentalist Music Adventurer, and Punk-Folk Pioneer

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Ticket Price: $25.50 ADVANCE | $30.50 DAY OF SHOW

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Apart from being the coolest-looking man in folk song, Eriksen is an uncompromising performer, ethnomusicologist, Sacred Harp singing master, musical adventurer and punk-folk pioneer, who seems to play every instrument under the sun and has shared a stage with both Kurt Cobain and Doc Watson.

-The Guardian, UK

Dr. Tim Eriksen is a musician, ethnomusicologist, and instructor who last played Godfrey Daniels with Tony Trischka’s Holiday Show in December 2023, along with Jared Engel, Hannah Read, and Sean Trischka.

His punk-folk band, Cordelia‘s Dad, played Godfrey Daniels in 1997.

We are absolutely thrilled down to our music nerd toes to have him coming for his solo show debut on Godfreys’ stage!

Tim Eriksen is acclaimed for transforming American tradition with his startling interpretations of old ballads, love songs, shape-note gospel, and dance tunes from New England and Southern Appalachia. He combines hair-raising vocals with inventive accompaniment on banjo, fiddle, guitar, and bajo sexto – a twelve string Mexican acoustic bass – creating a distinctive hardcore Americana sound.

There are very few artists in the same league as Eriksen and fewer who possess the credentials and praise. Known for his interpretations of American traditional music from New England to Southern Appalachia, Eriksen embodies the music he studies. An ethnomusicologist and teacher, he has researched music in New England, and the Sacred Harp tradition. He has also taught courses ranging from American Balladry to Bollywood at prestigious institutions like Dartmouth College, Amherst College, and Smith College just to name a few; however, Eriksen is better known for his work in films like Billy Bob Thornton’s Chrystal and his contributions to the 2004’s Cold Mountain.

Combining his haunting vocals with instruments like the banjo, fiddle, guitar, and bajo sexto (a twelve-string Mexican acoustic bass), Eriksen creates distinct and inspired music while remaining familiar yet foreign. His ability to play and utilize these instruments and his incredible knowledge of world music produce the essence that is the melting pot of American music.

As a consultant and performer for the soundtrack of the award-winning soundtrack of film Cold Mountain Eriksen was enlisted to teach Sacred Harp singing to the cast by T-Bone Burnett, the producer of the Cold Mountain Soundtrack. Eriksen performed on the soundtrack, singing with Riley Baugus on traditional songs such as “I Wish My Baby Was Born” and “The Cuckoo”, and his solo track of “Am I Born to Die?”. He was then part of The Great High Mountain Tour, which celebrated the traditional music of Cold Mountain and O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Eriksen successfully defended his PhD in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University in May 2015, having received an M.A. in the same discipline from Wesleyan in 1993, and has served as a visiting music professor at Dartmouth College, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Minnesota. 

His PhD dissertation “Old Folks’ Concerts: The Meaning and Mushrooming of an Antiquarian Music Craze, 1853-1856”, was inspired by the annotated music book of Northampton resident Amelia Clark (1850-1944).  His essay, “Old Folk’s Singing and Utopia: How Abolitionist Musical Antiquarianism and Calvinist Eschatology Gave Birth to Science Fiction on the Banks of the Connecticut River” was published in the Massachusetts Review in 2016.

Eriksen has taught college courses including American Balladry, Global Sounds, Film Music from Hollywood to Bollywood, American Music, and Songwriting at Smith College, Amherst College, Hampshire College, Dartmouth College, The University of Minnesota and Wesleyan University. He has also taught in Poland and The Czech Republic and has conducted extensive research on traditional Yugoslavian music.  Eriksen also taught a history of shape-note singing “Topics in Popular Music: The Sacred Harp: A 19th Century American “Shapenote” Tunebook” at Smith College.

Eriksen has released seven solo albums: Tim Eriksen; Every Sound Below; Northern Roots Live In Namest; Soul Of The January Hills; Star in the East; Banjo, Fiddle And Voice; and Josh Billings Voyage or, Cosmopolite on the Cotton Road. The Pop Matters review of Every Sound Below describes it as a “stunning mixture of traditional hymns, songs from the American Civil War, and Eriksen’s own compositions”.

Along with his solo albums, Eriksen, with the folk/punk-rock band, Cordelia’s Dad released another nine albums. Eriksen was one of the founding members of Cordelia’s Dad – a band from Northampton, Mass which was active until 1998, along with Peter Irvine, and Tom King. They played festivals such as The Newport Folk Festival, and toured with Nirvana, Uncle Tupelo, and Weezer. 

The Sacred Harp documentary Awake, My Soul’s accompanying soundtrack Help Me to Sing: Songs of the Sacred Harp features a song by Eriksen and one by Cordelia’s Dad. Paste Magazine describes Eriksen’s performance of Sacred Harp songs at an Atlanta concert as “stand-out” and said Eriksen “was best at adapting the raw power of Sacred Harp to his own arrangements.”

Eriksen has also been a guest on the radio show A Prairie Home Companion, where he performed the traditional folk song “O, Death” on October 29, 2005. He also played Bosnian Pop music with the band Zabe I Babe. In 2018, his arrangement, including an original tune, of the song “I Wish the Wars Were All Over” was recorded by Joan Baez on her album Whistle Down the Wind.

Visit his website: timeriksenmusic.com


What is Shape Note/Sacred Harp Singing?

From an article on the Library of Congress website:
Nineteenth-century American song books that used notes in different shapes to aid singers and teach singing came to be known as “shape-note hymnals” and the style of singing from these “shape-note singing.” Christian hymnals using this system were among the most enduring uses of this notation. Among the most popular was The Sacred Harp by B. F. White, first published in Georgia in 1844. As a result of this popularity, the style of singing is also sometimes called “sacred harp.”

… Congregations divided the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass singers in groups forming a square with the conductor at the center. This is called the “hollow square.” This was another means of assisting the singers, so that they could stay on pitch by singing with the people in their quarter of the square…As singers begin to sing, they often first sing the notes, “fa, sol, la, mi,” to learn or practice the tune (in its entirety before returning to the beginning and singing with the lyrics).

…Shape-note singing originated in New England, but became extremely popular in the South. Singing was a community and social event as well as a religious gathering. Various church choirs often came together formally or informally to sing outside of church services. While the use of this system of learning and singing hymns declined in the early to mid- twentieth century, there were some communities where it remained strong, and it has enjoyed a revival today, especially in the North.


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Pennsylvania Council of the Arts