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PENDRAGON: Bio

Pendragon - Music in the Celtic Tradition

New England has long had a rich tradition of Celtic-inspired music. Having celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2013, Pendragon has embraced that tradition and created a timeless sound of its own, performing roots music with an unmistakable contemporary edge. Pendragon's music celebrates the lives and lore of generations of New Englanders who brought traditions from Ireland, Scotland, French Canada and other distant shores to the banks of the Blackstone River.

March 16 was the CD release of "Live at Blackstone River Theatre" which was recorded last September at Pendragon's 30th anniversary concert. The CD contains some new material and also serves as a career retrospective including performances by former Pendragon members Doug Brunelle, Phil Edmonds, and Ken Lyon.

While drawing on the ethnic music of the Blackstone River Valley, Pendragon fashions the music of tradition into the music of tomorrow. The band seamlessly blends lively jigs and reels with Mary Lee Partington's original songs depicting the experiences of the immigrants who settled here. Pendragon performs their original songs and dance tunes on a combination of fiddle, flute, bouzouki, concertina, banjo, guitar, whistle, and percussion. In performance, the group elaborates on the cultural and historical context of the music while projecting a humorous stage presence that comes from 30 years of performance together.

Pendragon is comprised of step dancer and percussionist Kevin Doyle, Bob Drouin on fiddle, bouzouki and tenor banjo; Russell Gusetti on guitar and concertinas; Josh Kane on flute and whistles; and Mary Lee Partington on vocals.

Past tributes include three straight Boston Music Award nominations for Outstanding Celtic Act and a Governor's Tourism Award. Pendragon was voted Rhode Island's Best Celtic Act in the 2013, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 and 2005 MOTIF Magazine Best Music Polls. They have also been voted Best Local Folk Act of the Year in the Providence Phoenix' Best Music Poll eight times.

Since 1995, members of Pendragon have been the driving force behind the Blackstone River Theatre, bringing traditional and ethnic music to the Blackstone Valley.

Kevin Doyle - step dance, percussion

Kevin has been bringing an exciting visual component to Pendragon’s live shows since 1996 while also adding driving percussion to their tunes. A lifelong dancer, Kevin was a U.S. Champion Irish step dancer in his early competitive years and has been entertaining audiences ever since. His very traditional style of dancing features complex and exhilarating footwork in a manner that maintains a very close relationship with the earth. In 2014, Doyle was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the nation's highest honors in the folk and traditional arts. Kevin first learned traditional Irish dance from his mother who was a step dancer in Co. Rosscommon, Ireland. He also received American tap education from Theresa Landry with whom he explored the different styles of some of the tap greats such as George M. Cohan and Bo-Jangles Robinson. During those years, he performed throughout New England with USO shows; for six consecutive summers he entertained audiences at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. Kevin’s unique and dynamic style comes from the integration of traditional Irish step dance with these American tap dance forms. In 2004, 2008 and 2011, Kevin starred in the Boston-based "A Christmas Celtic Sojourn," produced by WGBH's Brian O'Donovan. In 2010, Kevin was named a Master Artist as part of the Southern New England Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, a collaboration among the Cultural Heritage Arts Program of the Institute for Community Research in Connecticut, the Traditional and Community Arts Program of RI State Council on the Arts; and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Kevin is also part of a remarkable documentary, "Secrets of the Sole," released in 2008 by dancer/ choreographer, Kieran Jordan (www.kieranjordan.com)

Bob Drouin - fiddle, tenor banjo, bouzouki

Multi-instrumentalist Bob Drouin’s music evokes not only his love for traditional Irish tunes but also his own Franco-American roots in the Blackstone River Valley. Drouin is a founding member of Pendragon and a prolific writer of tunes in the Celtic tradition. Bob has anchored the traditional Irish session held at Patrick's Pub in Providence, RI, since the mid-'90s and led the five-piece Broad Street Ceili Band that plays at Irish set and ceili dances held at Blackstone River Theatre and beyond. Drouin is also often in demand as an accompanist having performed with Paddy Keenan, Skip Healy and others. In 1992, Drouin received a grant from the RI State Council on the Arts to learn the playing style and repertoire of the late French-Canadian fiddler, Conrad Depot. Drouin keeps Conrad's music alive with Fleur de Lis, the band he formed with Conrad's daughter, Marianne. Drouin is a co-founder of Cumberland's Blackstone River Theatre where he serves on the Board of Directors.

Russell Gusetti - guitar, concertina

Russell is a founding member of Pendragon and also serves as the group's manager. Gusetti combines his artful eye as a visual artist with a musician’s ear; his creative arrangements for guitar and concertina paint a musical landscape for many of Pendragon’s songs and tunes. His off-beat humor, a perfect foil to Mary Lee’s historical and educational introductions, is balanced on one hand by his quick-step rhythms, and on the other by graceful guitar and concertina accompaniment. He is a freelance graphic designer and also works part-time at The Valley Breeze. A co-founder of Cumberland's Blackstone River Theatre, Gusetti serves as Executive Director. He is also a founding member and Board member of the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame.

Josh Kane - flute, whistles

Joining Pendragon in late 2002, Josh Kane is the youngest member of the group at age 26. Also schooled in step dancing, Josh has been playing Irish music for 12 years having studied flute under Skip Healy and being a member of the Broad Street Ceili Band since 2001. He is the great nephew of legendary Irish fiddler Michael Coleman and is also in the bloodline of other well-known Irish musicians such as Andy McGann and Lad O'Beirne. A dynamic player, he has also been strongly influenced by John Skelton, Josie McDermott, and Matt Molloy. Josh has competed at the All-Ireland fleadh twice; in 2006, he took 3rd place for flute in Pearl River, New York and went on to take 5th in the All-Ireland competition in Letterkenny, Co. Donnegal. In 2007, Josh took 2nd place with flute in Pearl River and 4th place for tin whistle; he was awarded 3rd place for flute in Tullamore, Co. Meath.

Mary Lee Partington - vocals, bodhran

Mary Lee Partington is a founding member of Pendragon and has gained her reputation creating original songs based on stories of the Blackstone River Valley. Immigrants and exiles take center stage in musical dramas that tell the story of the making of America. Partington twice gained “Best Female Vocalist” honors in the Providence Phoenix Best Music Poll identifying her voice as a powerful vehicle for songs old and new that represent tradition in the making. She was honored in 2002 by the National Council of Teachers of English as one of the top 12 secondary school English teachers.