Aubrey Atwater sings “Spanish Lady” on Mountain Dulcimer
Video courtesy of Paul Essenfeld
Aubrey Atwater sings “She Sits At Her Loom”
Video courtesy of Paul Essenfeld
Aubrey Atwater, simultaneous banjo and clogging
Video courtesy of Paul Essenfeld
In addition to Aubrey's work with her husband, Elwood Donnelly, Aubrey nurtures a solo career that includes performing, writing, dancing, and teaching.
Award-winning vocalist, Aubrey started playing music at the age of five when she tapped out "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush" on the piano. Her only formal musical training was the seven years of classical piano lessons that followed. Near the end of high school, she started to play the guitar and sing popular folk songs of the '60s and '70s. At Brown University, she studied psychology, history, and French, and played often in coffeehouses and campus rallies.
After Aubrey met her husband. Elwood Donnelly, at the Stone Soup Coffeehouse in Providence, her career developed dramatically. They formed a duo, Atwater~Donnelly, in the fall of 1987, which quickly gained regional and then national popularity. Atwater~Donnelly specializes in American and Celtic traditional folk music and dance as well as original material. Since 1987 Aubrey has learned to play the Irish tin whistle, Appalachian mountain dulcimer, old-time banjo, mandolin, a variety of small percussion instruments as well as Appalachian clogging (step-dancing). The duo performs widely in the United States in coffeehouses and concert series, festivals, radio stations, television, colleges, libraries, and other events and their recordings receive international air play.
Aubrey Atwater presents a captivating program of traditional and original folk music performed on guitar, Appalachian mountain dulcimer, Irish tin whistle, mandolin, feet, and old-time banjo. She entwines a moving explanation of the music with stories from her life and musical journey. Aubrey's love of music extends beyond the sound alone. Her pursuit is to understand folk music as an expression of human history and a glimpse into the lives of "ordinary" people. Because she has an extensive repertoire, Aubrey also offers special programs and workshops for the winter holidays, women's history, American heritage, Valentines Day, Mother's Day, and St. Patrick's Day, as well as children's and school programs, and instrument playing.
Songs & Poetry
In 1992, Aubrey released her first solo recording, Simple Sentences. The fourteen original songs on the album represent years of songwriting, influenced by Aubrey's relationships with friends and family, activism in women's and peace issues, travels, and her six years of work as a literacy teacher in low-income neighborhoods of Providence.
Simple Sentences has received excellent reviews from local to international critics, and has been played internationally on radio folk programs.
Other exciting solo releases include her books of poetry, entitled Be Careful, Don't Walk Barefoot on my Kitchen Floor and Don't Bother the Phoebe, as well as her song book, Song By Song.
Aubrey has traveled to Ireland six times since 1984 to research Irish culture, history, and music, as well as to perform. During her last trip she attended a folk song seminar in County Donegal. She has also traveled numerous times to Eastern Kentucky, Arkansas, and North Carolina to research and perform Appalachian and Ozark folk music.
During trips to the Hindman Settlement School, the Ozark Folk Center, The Swannanoa Gathering, and the John C. Campbell Folk School, she has taught dulcimer and ballad classes, studied with the legendary Jean Ritchie and other folklorists, played in square dance bands, appeared on television, and received standing ovations for her concerts.
Other travels have taken Aubrey to Prince Edward Island, England, and the Midwest to collect and perform folk music. In 1997 and 1998, Aubrey traveled to London to perform in schools and record a live children's CD entitled Daily Growing: Aubrey Atwater Live in the Classroomwhich was released in the Spring of 1999.
Folk Music Programs for Children & Adults
Aubrey Atwater and Atwater~Donnelly offer a variety of educational programs for children and adults. Choose from their programs listed on the Educational Programs page, then contact Aubrey at (401) 392-1909 or use the Contact Us form on this web site to schedule a program.
What People Are Saying
The legacy of Aubrey Atwater is truly remarkable. I don't think one can sit in her workshop and not be touched by her presence. --New Mexico Dulcimer Festival participant Kay Peterson, Quemado, NM
Aubrey is one of the most lovely, tasteful, and creatively exquisite singers I have seen yet.--Howie Mitchell, Lexington, VA, Folk Legacy Recording Artist
The Garden Sweetheart, this lovely lady with the beautiful voice returns to gracefully take us into the land of mountain dulcimer and Irish traditional music. We're proud to have her back!--The Garden Cafe, Gardner, MA
SIMPLE SENTENCES is an album to return to again and again. With its restrained arrangements, confident singing and articulate songwriting, it's a record guaranteed to give repeated pleasure...Aubrey is a highly talented and articulate writer...The lyrics are sensitive and well delivered in her strong and supple voice...Aubrey Atwater is a writer to keep a serious eye on for the future...SIMPLE SENTENCES is a quiet triumph. --John O'Regan, Broadcaster and Freelance Journalist, Limerick, IRELAND
...Atwater is a definite contender in the resurgence of folk music in the 90's, a trend that has made stars out of the likes of Tracy Chapman and the Indigo Girls.--Kim Craig, The Third Wave, Providence, RI
...What a pleasure it is to hear Rhode Island songwriter-guitarist Aubrey Atwater's solo debut...Atwater shines in 14 original songs...most are carefully crafted, stunning presentations that seethe with emotion and beauty, aided by Atwater's delicious soprano voice...--Stephen A. Ide, Dirty Linen, Baltimore, MD
Simple Sentences...contains 14 cuts each too refined to be favored over the others--more like the kind of 'best of' release artists produce after a series of albums... powerfully declarative...[Atwater has]...a discerning ear for storytelling, an instrumental mastery and a stylish soprano that render her original music spine-tingling to the ear.--Phyllis Ring, Rockingham County News, NH
...one of Rhode Island's best folk and traditional music practitioners ...a mainstay on New England's folk circuit...Atwater sings from the heart about people...--Lou Papino, Newport This Week, Newport, RI
What a beautiful afternoon it turned out to be -- you are wonderfully versatile and talented and the audience certainly agreed. I had nothing but rave reviews after the concert.--Maria Poirier, Cheshire Public Library, Cheshire, CT
So many positive comments about your performance! Every one wished you had played another hour or two. You are so talented and your stories are great. The instruments are fabulous.... You are special!--Martha Zink, Glastonbury Federated Women's Club, Glastonbury, CT
To schedule a performance or educational program,