Folk College's host band, Simple Gifts, is three women (Linda Littleton, Karen Hirshon & Rachel Hall) playing twelve instruments, with styles that range from old time to Celtic to Klezmer and beyond. Karen Hirshon plays fiddle, mandolin, guitar, 6-string banjo, bowed psaltery, doumbek, and spoons. Linda Littleton plays fiddle, hammered dulcimer, recorders, and bowed psaltery, and she's starting to learn banjo. Rachel Hall is recognized as one of the leading English concertina players in the U.S., and she also performs on piano, accordion, and tabla.
Based in State College and Philadelphia, PA, Simple Gifts members designed Folk College and work with the Huntingdon County Arts Council to make it a reality. They have a strong philosophy that everyone can play music, that music is best when shared, and that above all, music is about communication, not competition.
Individually, Simple Gifts’ members are outstanding musicians in their own rights. For Linda Littleton music has been part of her life’s journey. She has a strong background as a classical violinist, having studied with the likes of Joanne Zagst Feldman, Ray Montoni, and Geoffrey Michaels. In addition to violin, Linda plays hammered dulcimer, bowed psaltery, 5-string banjo, and recorders.
Karen Hirshon had an early start at the age of 10 and has explored American and folk music ever since. From ragtime to string band, gospel to jazz, Karen brings a depth of sound and experience to her music environment. She toured nationally with the bluegrass band Whetstone Run and helped found the American old-time group, Rustical Quality String Band, with which she has released two albums.
Rachel Hall grew up in a musical family and began at age 6 on the piano. Following college, she was awarded a Watson Fellowship to spend a year studying and collecting traditional music in Scandinavia and the British Isles. She is recognized as a leading English concertina player in the U.S., both for her outstanding technique and innovative approach to the instrument.