Celtic sounds from the plains
The Tulsa-based Vintage Wildflowers share their traditional Celtic music with audiences around the United States and internationally.
Dana Fitzgerald Maher, Abby Bozarth and Melissa Schiavone of Vintage Wildflowers
The artists call Tulsa and the Oklahoma plains home, but the Celtic music of Melissa Schiavone, Dana Fitzgerald Maher and Abby Bozarth (aka Vintage Wildflowers) can be heard as far away as Alaska and the British Isles, on public radio across the U.S. and on the Armed Forces Network.
Formed in 2009, Vintage Wildflowers gave a June standing-room-only performance at the prestigious Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The group also performed at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis on the way to D.C.
TulsaPeople caught up with Schiavone, Maher and Bozarth via e-mail while they were on the road again, en route to an on-air performance on the “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour” in Lexington, Ky.
Where did you come up with the name Vintage Wildflowers?
Vintage is our way of referencing the traditional music we play, some of which is hundreds of years old. Wildflowers are untamed and natural. We make a point of putting our own stamp on the music that we play. Our music is a reflection of our wide-ranging musical backgrounds, and we try to be a little bit unconventional in the way we mix those influences.
What were the biggest highlights of your recent summer tour to the East Coast and Tennessee?
We were honored with an invitation to perform on the Millennium Stage Series at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The crowd that turned out for our concert overflowed the seating area; people sat on the stairs and the floor and stood several rows deep at the back to hear us. We also knew that so many of our friends and family from home were watching the concert stream live on the Kennedy Center website. It was a tremendous experience.
While in D.C., we also had the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian Folkways offices and were given a private tour of the archives by head archivist Jeff Place. For musicians like us, that is the treasure trove of artifacts and information about American folk and traditional music. It was fascinating and humbling to find ourselves seeing (and sometimes even holding) these treasures of American musical history. We also were invited to do a concert for the patients and families at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. That was very moving, and we were glad to be part of St. Jude, even in that small way. It is truly a wonderful place.
Do you have any tour plans for the rest of the United States?
Our plans are to go wherever our music will take us. Our music is now playing on radio stations from Alaska to the British Isles and we performed on the “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour” in August, which goes out to PBS stations across America and radio stations worldwide, as well as the Armed Forces Network. Each new opportunity leads to more new opportunities, and we are excited to see where things are headed.
Why do you think Celtic music is so popular?
Because it’s fun — but also because the songs we sing touch on universal themes that resonate across cultures and years. The fact that the people in the songs lived a long time ago doesn’t really matter; the themes that they deal with are the same for people today — love, loss, celebration, death, jealousy, etc. These are profound themes that we all deal with in our daily lives, so that makes the music relevant even though it may be from so long ago.
Do you have a favorite song? Are you learning new songs over time?
Yes, but it’s hard to narrow it down to one answer; we love all the music that we do. We tend to have a group of songs from our current album that we do a lot, but we are also constantly working on new things. We each have a list of favorite traditional tunes and songs that we would like to do.
What would an audience member expect to experience during one of your concerts?
To kick back and have a good time. Traditional music, whether it’s from the Celtic or American end of the spectrum, was originally meant as a way for people to socialize. It was played informally, often in people’s homes, as a way of unwinding at the end of a long day. Our concerts are not so much a performance as a get-together. We hope that at the end of the evening, the audience feels that they’ve gotten to know us. It’s about making connections and finding those things we all have in common.
What is next on your performing agenda? Are you recording?
We are in the early stages of recording our third album and lining up festival performances for 2012.