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Classic Banjo Resource

Recent Classic Banjo Performers

Today, there is a renewed interest in classic banjo. Many performers around the world are keeping this nearly extinct musical genre alive by playing the old pieces in front of audiences. Below are a few of the performers who have produced CDs of their music. You can obtain copies of their music by contacting them.

New Criterion Banjo Orchestra

NCBO CD cover

Based in the Pacific Northwest, the New Criterion Banjo Orchestra has been performing orchestrated classic banjo pieces for 15 years. The group had reached the staggering number of five members and was able to perform pieces specifically written for five different banjos. Mixing classic banjo trio numbers with pop culture lectures and medicine pitches of the day, the NCBO has performed at the American Banjo Fraternity 50th Anniversary in Pennsylvania as well as the Pacific Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle.
Incorporating standard banjo, banjeurine, cello banjo, and zither banjo into their vast repertoire, the group is helping to keep alive the tradition of classic banjo orchestras from the turn of the 20th Century. A Banjo Oddity is the group's first CD. Click here for a playlist and ordering information.

Black-Tie Banjo

Black-Tie Banjo CD cover

Black-Tie Banjo is a New-England based banjo and piano duo that was formed in 1993, consisting of Geoff Freed on five-string banjo and Ann Frenkel on piano.
They have released three recordings, A Summer Night, At Home, Centennial Souvenir, These recordings feature traditional works by Alfred D. Cammeyer (including pieces for the zither banjo) Joe Morley, Emile Grimshaw and others, as well as contemporary works by West Virginia composer, Tim Mainland.
Click here for a playlist and ordering information.

Douglas Back

Douglas Back CD Cover

Trained as a classical guitarist and considered one of the foremost authorities and interpreters of 19th Century American guitar music, Douglas Back took up the classic banjo in 1998 in an effort to help recreate the early 20th Century American fretted instrument ensemble known as The Big Trio.
The Big Trio was the name newspapers of the time gave to three stellar fretted instrument soloists, Frederick Bacon(1871-1948) on classic 5-string banjo, William Foden (1860-1947) on classic guitar, and Giuseppe Pettine (1874-1966) on mandolin, who joined forces and toured the United States and British Columbia in 1911-1912. Though Doug originally intended to recreate the guitar position of William (whose guitar music he had previously recorded and published), finding an available banjoist who could play in the style of Frederick Bacon proved to be futile. Taking up the instrument, primarily, just to fill this role, he soon became fascinated with the nearly forgotten 19th and early 20th Century virtuoso classic banjo tradiition and began to devote himself to its mastery.
The Banjo Goes Highbrow is a delightfully entertaining and unique program featuring classical music for banjo and classical guitar, as it would have been performed on those instruments at the turn of the last Century (1900).
The Big Trio Reprise recreates those rare concerts in 1911-1912, bringing an almost forgotten segment of the Classic Banjo history to new audiences.

Click here for a playlist and ordering information.

William J. Ball

William J. Ball photo

Though William J. Ball of Bristol, England has passed on, he was considered one of the pre-eminent banjoists of this century. He began performing in the 1920s and made at least two vinyl LP's in the 1970s: A Banjo Galaxy and Banjo Highlights,both out of print at this time. He released two privately-issued cassette recordings in 1991. Mr. Ball is considered one of the finest interpreters of Joe Morley's compositions. He had attended and performed at several rallies held by The American Banjo Fraternity.
Fred Determann, Mr. Ball's son, has issued a 2 CD set of his father's vinyl recordings. Pompadour, features 18 Joe Morley compositions. Humoresque, contains 17 solos by various composers. These 2 CDs contain all the recordings from Banjo Classics, Banjo Galaxy, and Banjo Highlights.
Click here for a playlist and ordering information.

Clarke Buehling

The Skirtlifters CD Cover

A Blend of African and Anglo-Celtic musical cultures developed on the riverboats, minstrel stages and under the Big Top. Clarke presents the music and humor of those times. Performing to hungry masses since the 1970s, his repertoire includes rags, marches, galops, jigs, reels, and old-time songs. Clarke's program reflects his interest in the origins of American popular music. He has recorded many classic banjo pieces with his group, The Skirtlifters, and is also featured on several recordings, including Minstrel Banjo Style; Out of His Gourd, tunes played on gourd banjo; Banjo Gems: An Anthology of Classical Banjo, with Steve Moore and Hank Sapoznik, and Buehling Banjos, duets and trios with Bill Morris and Mike Rubin. Clarke continues recording with Their latest recording, A Ragtime Episode, includes some classic banjo gems.
Click here for a playlist and ordering information.

Titanic String Band

The Titanic String Band CD Cover

Since discovering the Classic Style banjo in the early 1980's, Peter LaBau fell in love with the virtuosic banjo compositions of the late 19th and early 20th Century. Peter formed The New Boston Ideals in Boston, MA with Mitch Nelin, John McGann, and Kevin McDermott as the vocalist. The band performed widely through the mid-1980's until it disbanded but Peter and Mitch Nellin still perform today. As the Titanic String Band, the duo of banjo and mandocello, perform the compositions of a number of American and English banjoists from the glory days of the Classic Style. You can see a YouTube video of the Titanic String Band here.
Click here for a playlist and ordering information.

Chris Sands & Patrick Sykes

Chris Sands Portrait

Chris Sands and Patrick Sykes (1980-2005) were an English banjo-and-piano duo, together since 1980. Chris is a former student of R. Tarrant Bailey, Jr., one of the finest English classic banjoists of the past century. In addition to arrangements of ragtime and light classics, they also performed Chris' own arrangements of tunes by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Andrew Lloyd Webber and others.
They issued four cassette recordings showcasing their broad repertoire: By Popular Request, Tell Me Pretty Maiden, The Concert Collection and Chris Sands & Patrick Sykes at the Theatre in the Forest.
More recently,Chris has recorded two CD's with notation book for Mel Bay, Banjo Classics(out of print), and Tarrant Bailey Jr. Banjo Solos: His Life and Works

Chris also sells his own line of high quality nylon banjo strings. Contact Chris Sands at:
Chris Sands, Bee Boles, Far Sawrey, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0LQ, ENGLAND

Elias Sibley

Elias Sibley performing

Probably one of the youngest classic banjo performers in the world today is Elias Sibley, who started having lessons with James Allgrove when he was ten years old. Elias has attended many banjo rallies since he first started playing the banjo; he has also performed at the Reading International Banjo Festival several times, and at the Bath International Banjo Festival, as well as many other venues.
In 2000, the Millennium year, he made a recording of some of the classic banjo music he performed during that year. Entitled The Millenium Classical Banjo Collection, the CD of this recording is available now. Elias also composes music for the classic banjo; some of these compositions can be found at his website.
Click here for a playlist and ordering information.

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