Folksinger, storyteller, autoharp virtuoso Adam Miller at Ida Public Library April 12

Online Staff Report

BELVIDERE, Ill. — Legendary folksinger, storyteller and autoharp virtuoso Adam Miller will perform a free concert of traditional folk songs, stories and autoharp instrumentals at 2 p.m., Saturday, April 12, at the Ida Public Library, 320 N. State St., Belvidere, Ill.

One of the premier autoharpists in the world, Miller is a renowned American folksinger and natural-born storyteller. An accomplished folklorist, historian, musicologist and song-collector, he has amassed a remarkable repertoire of more than 5,000 songs. Miller accompanies his rich, resonant baritone voice with lively finger-picking acoustic guitar and stunningly beautiful autoharp melodies. A masterful entertainer who never fails to get his audience singing along, he has distinguished himself as one of the great interpreters of American folktales and folksongs, and as a performer who appeals to audiences of all ages.

George Winston says, “Adam Miller is one of the great autoharpists and folksingers of our times.” One reviewer wrote of his performance, “It will charm even the most die-hard iPod-loving kids or reluctant significant-others.” Frank Hamilton, a former member of The Weavers, says, “He’s doing a real service for folk music: defending the Treasury of American Tradition.”

In a contemporary musical landscape peopled with singer-songwriters and their often short-lived offerings, Miller’s time-honored traditional folksongs and ballads are a breath of fresh air. His songs evoke a bygone time when entertainment was homemade. Spellbinding his audience with his mastery of the art of storytelling, he skillfully interweaves folksongs and the stories behind them with the elegance of a documentary filmmaker.

Traveling 70,000 miles each year, this 21st-century troubadour has performed in concert halls from the Everglades to the Arctic Circle. More than 1 million students have attended his “Singing Through History” school assembly programs. “There’s nobody else out there doing what he’s doing,” said Bob Redford of the Walnut Valley Festival. Pete Daigle, editor of Autoharp Quarterly magazine, calls him “the best autoharp player on the planet.”

The San Francisco “folknik” describes his autoharp playing as, “superb and imaginative.” Maine Public Radio calls him, “a master of the autoharp.” Fellow folksingers and traditional musicians call him “a national treasure.”

Miller’s folksongs and ballads are the songs of America’s heritage; a window into the soul of our nation in its youth. “I have always had a great interest in how folksongs travel through history, and how history travels through folksongs,” he explains.

A performer who enlightens as well as entertains, Miller points out fascinating connections between events in history and the songs that survived them. And like radio’s Paul Harvey, he manages to give you “the rest of the story” — providing the often surprising provenance of seemingly innocuous folksongs. His numerous appearances at the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival, the Tumbleweed Music Festival, the California Traditional Music Society’s Summer Solstice Festival, and the Kentucky Music Weekend have made him a national favorite.

Immersed in the Oral Tradition, Miller is mostly self-taught, and learns just about everything by ear. He began his lifelong pursuit of collecting old songs while still in grade school. Armed with an audio-graphic memory and an uncommonly good ear for melody, his childhood ambition was to learn every song he heard. Now, he is a walking encyclopedia of American history and American folksongs. Throughout his long career, Miller has documented and kept alive the thousands of songs and stories he has collected in his travels. Some of these folksongs (like “The Frog Song”) are so obscure that no one else sings them anymore.

Miller has recorded six CDs that receive airplay across North America and Europe: Bare Fingers — The Solo Autoharp Artistry of Adam Miller, The Orphan Train and other Reminiscences, Wild Birds, Along Came a Giant — Traditional American Folk Songs for Young People, Buttercup Joe — Timeless Ballads and Folksongs, and When the River Ran Backwards — Adventures in Folksong.

Posted April 9, 2014

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