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Lorraine Hammond

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Biography

The traditional sounds of New England are resurrected through the playing of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Lorraine (Lee) Hammond. A self-trained dulcimer player, Hammond was called "the Jimi Hendrix of the Appalachian Dulcimer" by the Harvard Crimson, while the German music magazine Musikblatt referred to her as "the finest of all Appalachian dulcimer players." An old-timey-style banjo player, Hammond placed third in a fiddle and banjo contest in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1994. Hammond is equally skilled at the Celtic harp, which she has studied during extensive trips to Scotland. Hammond's musical approach was crafted during her childhood when she was befriended by neighbor Oscar Degrenia, a world-renowned folklorist. Another neighbor, Ed Canby, guided her towards the folk music of influential mountain dulcimer player Jean Ritchie. After encouraging a roommate at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont to mail-order a dulcimer, Hammond taught herself to play. Her musical knowledge was expanded when she was exposed to bluegrass and traditional folk music while working for the Peace Action Center in Washington, D.C. A turning point in Hammond's musical growth came in 1962 when she organized the Yelping Hills Folk Festival in Connecticut. During the weekend-long event, she met several Boston-area musicians including banjo player and keyboardist Rick Lee, whom she fell in love with and married a year later. Hammond continued to grow as a musician. Working at a day care center in 1969, she was inspired to return to Goddard College to study early childhood. When an adviser suggested that she pursue an education in music instead, she convinced a music professor, Dennis Murphy, to accept her as an apprentice. One of her first projects was to design and build a dulcimer of her own. Together with Rick Lee, Hammond made her recording debut with a duo album, Living in the Tree, in 1975. After the release of two additional duo albums, Hammond and Lee joined with whistle player Sarah Bauhan and fiddler Jane Orzechowski to form a band, Solomon's Seal. In the late 1980s, Hammond and Lee began to experience marital problems. Following their divorce, Hammond joined with virtuousic guitar player Bennett Hammond, who she later married, to form a new duo. Lorraine and Bennett Hammond, who live in Brookline, Massachusetts with Bennett's daughter, Alaina, continue to collaborate. In October 1977, they released a duo album, Cape and Island Ways, their instrumental soundtrack from their video issued by Site Productions. Lorraine Hammond's solo album, Love Has a Life of Its Own, featured instrumental support by her husband. Lorraine Hammond has had a long involvement with the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. In addition to teaching Appalachian dulcimer, five-string banjo, folk harp, songwriting, and basic music theory, Hammond has organized the center's two annual music festivals -- the Blacksmith House Folk Festival in October and the Blacksmith House Dulcimer Festival in May. Hammond has penned two songbooks, Barley Break, Elizabethan Music for Appalachian Dulcimer and The Magic Dulcimer, and has been featured on a six-cassette set of music instruction released by Homespun Tapes. ~ Craig Harris