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Article published Dec 15, 2005

Danby singer captures folk tradition
Special to The Journal
Pamela Goddard by Ithaca Journal photographer Matthew Hinton
Pamela Goddard, by Ithaca Journal photographer Matthew Hinton
Pamela Goddard is a musician who plays the dulcimer and has just released a CD featuring the instrument. Goddard is also a poet and a writer.

DANBY — Pamela Goddard has been passionate about folk songs ever since she sang along with her father as a 6-year-old.

This month, all her years of study, collecting, attending folk festivals and “singing about...forever” will come together at 3 p.m. Sunday when she releases her first CD entitled “As Time Draws Near, Traditional Songs from the North and South.”

The public is invited to share in this musical celebration at the Danby Town Hall. Admission will be free.

Pamela came to Ithaca in 1987, but her roots are in the Hudson Valley.

In the '60s and '70s, when folk music enjoyed boom years, her high school acquired a collection of American folk songs recorded by the Smithsonian Institution.

“I have been captivated by source singers since my days in high school,” she says, “when I would cut classes to spend time listening to those records in the library.”

She believes a turning point in her life was the discovery of numerous versions of the plaintive Scots ballad “Barbara Allen” in that collection, and she sings a combination of those versions on her recording.

“I am grateful,” she writes in the jacket notes, “for the efforts of song collectors who went into rural places during the last century and recorded the voices of traditional singers. Many of the songs would have been lost without these collections.”

Thrilled to let voices long dead still sing to her, she has mined historic recordings from the libraries at Middlebury College and Cornell University to add songs to her repertoire.

“As Time Draws Near” includes many of the better-known traditional songs from Kentucky, Tennessee and the southern mountains, but there are also less familiar ones collected in New England and New York state.

Goddard can actually trace the lineage of the “Hills of Glenshee,” written by a shoemaker in Perth, Scotland, transported across the Atlantic and through logging camps and finally collected in 1956 from Ezra “Fizzy” Barhight, age 78, in Hornell.

Folk songs are historic documents that describe the peculiar quality of the land and the life of the people who live there. Goddard, who has worked for Historic Hudson Valley and the Tioga County Historical Soc iety, chose to record these particular songs because they are her heritage.

“They water my roots,” she says, “and are dedicated to my grandparents from coastal New England, from the coal fields of Pennsylvania, and from the hills of Tennessee: Historians and music lovers all.”

The singer, her auburn hair plaited in a long braid that lies across one shoulder, performs most of these ballads in typical folk fashion, either a cappella or by accompanying herself on a lap dulcimer.

On a few selections Jim and Glenda Blake contribute vocal harmony, and Jennifer Dotson and Gail Blake, a duo known as Kitchen Chair, complete the CD's instrumentation with fiddle and guitar.

Pamela's vocal talents expanded during her years of attendance at folk festivals and the Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camps, and since 1989 she has added contra dance calling to her repertoire.

Similar to square dancing, contra dance is performed in parallel rows instead of squares.

Along with husband Ted Crane, she can be found “calling” every Friday night from 8-11 p.m. at the Bethel Grove Community Center.

Shepherding this recording from start to finish has left less time for Goddard's other pursuits as a potter and freelance writer.

Her pinch pots and other art can be found at Spirit and Kitsch on The Commons — another facet of this versatile Danby artist.