On Saturday, Oct. 10, Simple Gifts gave a performance at Olin Hall. The trio played spirited interpretations of traditional European and American folk music, as well as a couple of original pieces inspired by various world music traditions.
Equal parts learning experience and entertainment, the musicians stopped between each song to tell personal anecdotes and explain the various instruments they played. The instruments were numerous and exotic. Indeed, the slogan on the poster, “Three women plus 12 instruments equals one good time,” proved to be accurate.
The audience, which was composed predominantly of senior citizens, benefitted greatly from the intimate nature of the auditorium at Olin Hall. Every plucked, bowed, or hammered string rang clearly through the acoustically warm space. The performance had a living room feeling, which, given the traditional nature of the music, felt very appropriate.
The members of the group, Linda Littleton, Karen Hirshon, and Rachel Hall, had very natural on-stage chemistry, bantering back in forth between songs and telling stories related to their instruments. The three women, all of whom hail from Pennsylvania, have been performing together as Simple Gifts since 1995, though the band has existed with different personnel since 1989. The trio has been playing long enough to be comfortable on stage, but they’ve also managed to maintain a very rare level of engagement with their music and their audience. They play with all of the energy of a recently-formed group, but with all of the professionalism of a band of seasoned professionals.
Though the show was outstanding, the low student turnout was something of a disappointment. It is worth noting that these concerts at Olin Hall are almost always free for students, so all students have to lose by going to a concert is a little bit of time. While as a college student, time can be scarce, if the choice is mindless Netflix or a potentially fascinating evening of free music, I can’t imagine choosing the former option over the latter.