Tomorrow evening, Friday, Aug. 5, the Waterfront Concert Series in Gardiner will play host to the Gawler Family Band. The talented group will entertain with their trademark vocal stylings, instrumental prowess and easy-going acoustic folk magic. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with Ellen Gawler, so it was with a lot of fun reconnecting once more recently as I reached her at her Belgrade home as she was busy processing garlic scapes. I began our conversation by asking her what kind of configuration folks going to the show could expect.

Gawler: Well, it’ll be the entire Gawler family — that is Molly, Edith, Elsie, John, Ellen and Edith’s husband, Bennett Konesni. So that will be a treat.

Q: I know in the past there have been shows where one or two of your daughters have been away at school or touring; that’s why I asked about the configuration. This sounds like a special performance with the whole clan together.

Gawler: Yeah, it’ll be fun; it will be special. And we love playing sort of close to home, although most of them now are living in the Belfast area.

Q: Is it hard with your children living far away like that?

Gawler: Actually, it’s sort of close. I mean, they’re close to each other, and they do quite a lot of gigs as the Gawler Sisters with Bennett. He’s a fabulous musician and songwriter, and they do some of his compositions.


Q: Now, is there something new coming out album-wise from the Gawler Family?

Gawler: (Laughter) How did you know?

Q: I didn’t. I was kind of hoping that there would be!

Gawler: Yeah, we’re actually putting the finishing touches on our newest album.

Q: What number release is this for you folks?

Gawler: For the Gawler Family/Sisters, it’ll be three, not counting Molly’s lullaby CD. And Edith and Bennett put out a CD of just the two of them. So, if you count all of the Gawler family recordings, this would be five.


Q: When will it be coming out?

Gawler: Well, hopefully within the next couple of months. One thing I should mention to you about some of the material on it, it just happens to have some Maine and farming songs.

Q: Are they originals?

Gawler: No, but one song in particular is half-original. Elsie took a Holman Day poem — Holman Day was a poet from the early 1900s from Vassalboro and he wrote about life in Maine. It’s wonderful, wonderful poetry written in the vernacular; very funny and sometimes very poignant. Anyway, she took one of the poems called “The Song of the Farrow and the Plow” and she put it to music, a beautiful melody with a chorus, and it mentions a lot of the counties in the state of Maine. It kind of talks about preparing the land for springtime planting — it’s a really beautiful piece. In fact, they had us up to Vassalboro Historical Society doing some other renditions of Holman Day’s poetry last year.

Q: Is Elsie working on a project that would include more of Day’s work?

Gawler: Not at this time. There are others in the works, but this is the only one that will be on the album.


Q: Is there a tentative title for this recording you’re finishing up?

Gawler: Well, there are several ideas in the running, so I’d rather not say right yet. A good question, but no.

Q: I understand completely, just curiosity on my part. Is there anything new happening in your life nowadays?

Gawler: Well, I think it might be nice to mention that Molly Gawler is home from a seven-year run with Pilobolous, the dance company, and she’s been traveling all over the world as the principle dancer for their Shadowland production. And, she’s coming home to create a one-woman show that includes dance, circus and Pilobolous acrobatics. She’s been doing this at small theaters with the help of her family providing live music.

Q: Will a sampling of that show be a part of the live show in Gardiner?

Gawler: Umm, possibly. We haven’t made the set lists yet for that performance; sometimes they sneak in these things (laughter).


Q: What is the word “pilobolous”? Does it have a meaning, or is it just a made-up name?

Gawler: It’s the name of a type of mushroom that has very explosive spores (laughter) — for what that’s worth!

Q: Is there anything, Ellen, that you’d like to have passed on to the folks reading this article?

Gawler: I think it might be nice to say that the person that introduced us to Holman Day was Benny Reehl, and it’s really a kind of honor to be at the Waterfront in Gardiner and to include doing pieces of Holman Day. Benny used to do recitations of Holman Day, and he thought that John would be good at it. In fact, John may do a recitation that night. John has a couple of recitations he does that are just hysterically funny.

Lucky Clark has spent 47 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.

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