Biography

Sarah Blair is simply a great fiddler. Her combination of grit and control makes for music with drive, life, and a compelling earthiness. –Fiddler Magazine

Sarah Blair is one of Vermont’s finest fiddlers – her playing is a rare combination of heart and soul that balances with technique and an intimate knowledge of the culture behind the music. “Flower of the Red Mill” finally gives Sarah a chance to show her stuff on some of her own favorite material, and finally gives us a chance to hear how truly talented she is on CD! –Robert Resnik, WVPR

… a powerful and soulful player …” –Times-Argus

Sarah began playing Irish music in Rhode Island’s thriving traditional music community and honed her playing as a sought-after session leader in Boston and in the world of American contra dancing. She has played at festivals, concerts, and dances from Alaska to Quebec to Florida, as well as performing at the US Embassy in Dublin as a member of a mission led by Senator Patrick Leahy. Her most unusual gig was filling in for fiddler Liz Carroll on tour with The Eagles’ singer Don Henley. She has been featured in a Fiddler Magazine cover story and is included in “Handy with the Stick: Fiddler Magazine’s Best of Irish Fiddling,” a Mel Bay book profiling top Irish fiddlers. With The Sevens, Long Time Courting, and other ensembles, Sarah has played at such festivals as Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, The Dance Flurry, The Philadelphia Folk Festival, Festival Memoires et Racines, The Philadelphia Ceili Festival, Old Songs, The Champlain Valley Festival, The Anchorage Folk Festival, the Lake Eden Arts Festival, and numerous dance weekends across the country.

Sarah is a member of contradance favorites The Sevens with flute and banjo player Mark Roberts, guitarist Owen Marshall, percussionist Mark “Pokey” Hellenberg, and bassist Stuart Kenney. In 2001, the evens were featured on NPR in an interview with Noah Adams. They have released two CDs: “Celtic Groove Brand” and “Valiant.” The Sevens may be found online at www.thesevens.org.

Sarah spends much of her time teaching fiddle privately in Montpelier, Vermont, and at workshops and camps, including Northern Week at Ashokan, Groove Camp, the Floating Bridge Music Camp, and The Summit School. For over twenty years, teaching has been a tremendous privilege for her, as she strives to bring her students to an understanding not simply of the sound, style, and techniques of traditional Irish fiddle playing — although that is of course a huge undertaking — but also the context of the music: the background of players and tunes, repertoire, important recordings, dancing, and singing. She has been a recipient of a Vermont Folklife Center grant to serve as a master teacher.

Sarah’s debut solo fiddle recording, “Flower of the Red Mill,” features duets and trios with some of her closest musical cronies: Paul Groff on concertina and guitar, Ben Power on flute, Benedict Koehler on uilleann pipes, Hilari Farrington on harp, and Colin McCaffrey on guitar. She plays tunes with special associations for her — tunes learned from recordings of heroes such as Andy McGann and Matt Cranitch, from influential friends such as Jimmy Devine and David “Papper” Papazian, and tunes that call to mind particularly memorable sessions of music. There are three original tunes on the recording: Sarah composed “The Hope Jig” while awaiting the arrival from India of her younger son, Adam. Paul Groff composed “Jimmy on the Liner” in honor of his friend, flute and whistle player Jimmy Hogan. Sarah is particularly happy to have been able to include “Lament for the Yew Trees,” an air composed by piper Chris Langan (RIP) that she learned from David Papazian. This beautiful air has not been recorded until now and should become part of the repertoire of slow airs.