Jewett Auditorium will host the talented Maine-based quartet Ladies of the Lake on March 15. The group is made up of Ellen Gawler (fiddle, vocals); Maggie Ericson (button accordion, guitar, vocals); Julia Lane (Celtic harp, vocals); and Sharon Pyne (wooden flute, tin whistle, bodhran, vocals), this foursome performs Irish and Scottish music with solid musicianship and heavenly vocals and has been thrilling audiences for quite some time now, and the folks who travel to Augusta this coming Sunday night will undoubtedly be treated to a similar event. In a recent interview, I chatted with Pyne to get a little more information about that upcoming show.

Q: Where am I calling this afternoon?

Pyne: I’m in Woolwich near Bath … the Ladies are from three corners of the state, it never seems to change, we always have a big triangle we have to make when we have to practice but, yeah, it works out.

Q: How long have you been with this group?

Pyne: Gosh, I have a feeling it’s been 20 years, anyway, I would say. And you know, we’ve known each other even before that — we all moved to the area in our 20s, probably. I think I met Ellen first and I may have met Maggie when she was teaching at Tufts down in Boston because they have Irish festivals down there. So, yeah, we’ve met each other over the years and played together at different sessions, parties and weddings, but I think the band officially got together probably about close to 20 years ago, I’d say. And you know, we haven’t been playing steadily — we all have different family obligations and sometimes it’s hard to get four people on the calendar for certain dates in the future, and all the practices that it takes to get ready for those dates.

Q: Now, I believe — if I remember correctly — you have had other members over those years, correct?

Pyne: Well, I think it was maybe Ellen, Julia and I at first, then Maggie came on and then we lost Julia … we had another harp player come on but she moved and we had Surya Mitchell, who played piano with us when we made our album (“Follow Me Down,” which came out in 2006). Mostly it’s been Maggie and I and Ellen and then different accompanists. So we have different combinations but we usually play as a foursome. We all sing so we have a lot of fun working out arrangements for songs. That’s probably everyone’s favorite thing to do — to present a song and then have three wonderful musicians backing them up — it’s so easy to make a song come alive.

Q: Is that your personal favorite part of being in the Ladies of the Lake?

Pyne: I would say that that is my favorite part … the tunes were always my sort of number-one passion when I’m on my own, but if you get together with a band that actually practices the songs, it is incredible.

Q: Well, for me it’s always been vocal harmonies — that’s probably my biggest passion, musically speaking.

Pyne: It’s traditional in Irish music to not have a lot of harmonies, so while our dance tunes are pretty traditional — Scottish and Irish — our singing is a broader range of things. And singing is so personal, Maggie and Ellen are incredible harmonizers — they can find harmonies without even trying — and I think Julia is pretty much that way, too. I’m always sort of grounded in the melody — I enjoy singing the melody — but I enjoy their harmonies and enjoy watching them weave around the melody. I don’t know how they do it, but they can. It’s wonderful to work with people who are so good at things that I don’t really know a lot about.

Q: Have the Ladies performed at Jewett Auditorium before?

Pyne: Yeah, we have a couple of times over the years…it’s been a while. I think it’s been a few years anyways since we’ve performed but we do enjoy that venue a lot. I live on the coast but each time I perform at Jewett I always meet one of my mother’s many Maine cousins after the show — she has about 70 cousins from Aroostook County that are spread out all over the state … some of them live in the central Maine area. It’s so much fun to have them come.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the readers of this article?

Pyne: Well, one of the big inspirations for Ellen, Maggie and I — when we first started to play Irish music — was a man named Seamus Connolly who immigrated here in the 70s. When we started learning music he was living in Boston and teaching. Recently, in the past five years or so, he moved to the mid-coast of Maine so he’s back again amongst us and sitting next to us at sessions playing and he’s such an incredible inspiration, a wonderful teacher and there are a few tunes that we’ll be doing at the concert that were tunes that were inspired by Seamus and the great people that he learned with.

Lucky Clark has spent more than 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.