The Johnson Girls are Joy Bennett, Alison Kelley, Bonnie Milner, and Deirdre Murtha. Widely acclaimed for their powerhouse performances of rousing work songs, haunting ballads and laments, and hair-raising harmonies, The Johnson Girls have performed at major festivals, clubs, coffeehouses, and more across the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Europe, have performed live on Oscar Brand’s radio show, France Bleu radio and appeared on French TV.
The Johnson Girls is an energetic all-woman a cappella ensemble, performing traditional and contemporary music with an emphasis on songs of the sea and shore. With a sound that has been called “exciting,” “haunting,” and “uplifting,” the Johnson Girls give powerhouse performances that bring audiences to their feet wherever they go.
Each of The Johnson Girls brings a specialty and style to the ensemble. Their extensive repertoire includes songs with an Afro-Caribbean influence, of the inland waterways, of fishing, mining, Irish, Anglo-American, Italian, French, and Canadian ballads and work songs, and much more. The Johnson Girls bring a unique interpretation to their repertoire while preserving the traditional roots of their music.
Sea music may well have been the first “world music.” Ships were often melting pots, with crew members from many countries who were heavily influenced by the music they heard while traveling around the world and from other crew members. These sailors incorporated into their work songs and other shipboard music the different rhythms and styles from their own often diverse cultures as well as those they encountered during their voyages. Each of The Johnson Girls was captivated by this music at different times in their lives, and came together in 1997 following the Mystic Seaport Sea Music festival to burst through the barrier of this previously male dominated genre.
“The Johnson Girls, shanty singers from America, took the place by storm….Those who thought a shanty singer had to be male, bearded and with a beer gut, had better think again.”
– Cornwall Guardian
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Opening the evening will be Rick Nestler. A Coast Guard licensed Master with a 100 ton ticket, an actor, a singer and a songwriter, Rick can truly bring the songs of the sailor (both traditional and contemporary) to life. He has learned the arts of the chantyman working aboard large traditionally rigged vessels such as the sloop Clearwater, the schooner Voyager and the square rigged ship HMAV Bounty. He has appeared at folk festivals and coffeehouses throughout the Northeast as well as Mystic Seaport and South Street Seaport Museums. Rick’s song “The River That Flows Both Ways” has been recorded by both Joe Heukerott and the late Pete Seeger and has become an anthem for those who care about the Hudson River.
“The Terror of the River, raffish Rick Nestler”
- Pete Seeger