Musician Brings Traditional Tunes to Life in Litchfield

August 15, 2014

by Tom Tollefson

More than 30 residents showed up on the front lawn of the Aaron Cutler Memorial Library to hear the traditional tunes and ballads of singer/musician Jeff Warner.  The Litchfield Historical Society and the Aaron Cutler Memorial Library sponsored the evening of music, “Banjos, Bones & Ballads” on August 6.  Warner sang traditional American folk songs, like New England and sailor hymns, from the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as a few Irish pieces, while playing various instruments.  He took turns switching between a banjo, concertina (similar to an accordion), and guitar at various points throughout the two-hour concert.

One of Warner’s motivations in his full-time professional musical career has been to enrich modern day audiences with the traditional sounds of early America that have often been set aside.  He hopes to help keep this music era alive through his performances.

“This old music doesn’t speak to everybody but if they open up and listen to it they’ll find it’s our tradition,” Warner said.

His songs included the classics such as “Farmer’s Curst Wife,” “Polly Wolly Doodle,” and the Irish song “Bonny Bay of Biscay” just to name a few.  In addition to performing, Warner also shared stories and the history behind the songs.

“I think it’s wonderful that we’re having outdoor concerts here at the library.  On this particular concert the background of the different musical instruments and the background of the songs were good,” said Carolyn Lambert, treasurer of the Litchfield Historical Society.

Warner also performed a few songs that combined nursery rhymes with his own witty and clever lyrics for the children.  The youngest audience members also enjoyed watching the musician’s old-fashioned wooden doll that moved as he bounced it along a thin wooden board.

“I really enjoyed this kind of music and the stories he shared,” said Litchfield resident Peggy Drew.  “It’s very relaxing and you couldn’t ask for a prettier evening.”

Prior to the concert, the historical society was open for residents to come in and look at some of their historical town mementos dating back to the 1800s.

“We thought we’d be open for about an hour to accommodate people who might want to have a look at our artifacts on their way to the concert,” said Steven Calawa, president of the Litchfield Historical Society.

Warner, a New York native who currently resides in Portsmouth, N.H., has been in the music field full time since the 1970s.  He has toured the world performing his music.  While growing up, Warner was influenced by his parents who were fans of traditional folk music.  His even edited his mother’s book, “Traditional American Folk Songs:  From the Anne and Fran Warner Collection.”