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Updated February 15, 2014

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Musical History

The group
Gingerthistle , consisting of husband and wife team Ben Seymour and Becky Cleland, draws its repertoire from the rich well of traditional Celtic and Appalachian folk music. Employing a cappella and instrumental approaches (primarily Appalachian mountain dulcimer, bones and acoustic guitar) Ben and Becky trace the musical threads of traditional folk music from the Blue Ridge mountains back to their Celtic roots. The two have been performing since 1980 and have produced four recordings. The first, self-titled Gingerthistle (no longer produced), consisted of vocal and instrumental Celtic music; the second, Grandad’s Porch, is a collection of traditional Appalachian music, plus a couple of gems gleaned from family members (some of whom are present on the recording.) Ben and Becky are joined by Ben's brother Wayne on their third recording, Down in the Valley to Pray, a rich collection of traditional hymns played on dulcimers and guitars.  The latest is a recording of the Live performance given March 17, 2005 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland.

Gingerthistle has performed at:
  • The Blythwood Dulcimores' Annual Fall Dulcimer Workshop, Blythewood, SC - 2013
  • Charlie Poole Festival, Eden, NC 2012 (the pair won First Place in Duet Vocal, and Ben won Third Place in Other Instruments!)
  • Festifall at Walnut Grove, SC (each autumn, 1996 to 2011)
  • Appalachian Folk Festival at Virginia's Explore Park Roanoke, VA) - 2007
  • Dulcimer Daze dulcimer festival (West Dover, VT) - 2005, 2006
  • Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland (College Park, MD) - 2005
  • Mountain Dulcimer Festival at Western Carolina U. (Cullowhee, NC) - 2003 
  • King Pup Radio Theatre with Phil & Gaye Johnson (syndicated radio show)
  • Pangaea World Music Festival at Jonesborough, TN -2002, 2003
  • East Tennessee State University, for the Appalachian Folk Studies Department
  • John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC
  • Mountain Heritage Museum at Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, NC)
  • Loch Norman Highland Games (Lake Norman, NC)
      and many other festivals and events in several states in the Southeast.

The pair wrote a musical score for, and performed in, the play Raney in Tryon, NC in the early 1990's. Performers with whom Ben and Becky have shared the stage include David Holt, Sheila Kay Adams, Betty Smith, Wayne Seymour, Charles DeLint, and storytellers Jack Doyle and Buford Mabry, among others.

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Critical Acclaim Concert for Dulcimer Daze 2006:

"Ben and Becky delivered to a delighted audience a marvelous, varied performance of tunes, songs and dulcimer duets, ranging from a minor-mode fiddle tune through O'Carolan's "Blind Mary," old-time banjo numbers, gospel tunes featuring soaring duet vocals, and comedy tunes, one of which was highlighted by Becky's method-acting performance as the wife from hell (you had to be there). Ben's amusing patter made for seamless transition between numbers, and Becky embodied professional perseverance by playing through a wrist injury, making her debut as a left-handed bones player."

-- Bill Collins

Biographical History

Ben Seymour was born in Albemarle, North Carolina, and lived in several Southeastern states during his childhood, due to the habit of his father, a UCC minister, of changing churches every five or six years. (He said, by then, the congregation had heard all he had to offer.) Although Ben’s parents never seemed to have any particular musical gifts, his three older siblings were strongly musical, and exposed him to a wide variety of music over the years. One of those is Wayne Seymour (photo), nationally-known folk musician and exceptional dulcimer player. Today, Ben performs and enjoys listening to Appalachian, traditional Celtic, and other forms of folk music. Ben also builds lap dulcimers and other instruments at home (see Kudzu Patch Productions page), teaches the playing of the lap dulcimer, and engineers and produces sound recordings for Gingerthistle and local artists. Ben spent nine years as a volunteer at WNCW (88.7 FM) co-hosting the popular "Celtic Winds" show on Sunday afternoons.

Becky Clelandfirst learned to harmonize when her parents sang favorite tunes to pass the time on long trips with the family. During her Knoxville high school years, she was often found playing contemporary folk music on her guitar before and after school. Through her college years, Becky gained experience and developed an appreciation for diverse forms of music by studying voice at the University of Tennessee and by singing in college and church choirs. She loves all forms of folk music, and is especially inspired by medieval and Renaissance music, particularly the Christmas music of those periods. Becky comments, “I find hanging a harmony onto a tune a most joyful pursuit." In 1984, Becky received a Master's degree in Library Science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and currently holds the position of Librarian at Isothermal Community College, where she has been employed since 1989.

Ben and Becky met during Fall Quarter 1979 in a Philosophy of Aesthetics class at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, immediately recognized each other as soulmates, and were married during the following Spring break. Since then, the two lived briefly in Asheville and Hendersonville, NC until December of 1988, when they finally settled in the Green Creek area of Polk County, NC, where they live with their cats.

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Photos (click thumbnails for larger pictures)


"Where did the name 'Gingerthistle' come from?"

People are often curious about that, so here's the explanation:

Many years ago, when Ben and I felt ready to share our music with the public, we tried at length, with no luck, to come up with a name that fit and inspired us both.  So I sat down one day and begin to write combinations of words that sounded nice and had positive connotations.  When I tried ginger and thistle together, I liked the combination very much --- the soft sound of the spoken words suggest the trickling of a brook, or a whispering breeze bearing, perhaps, a hint of wildflowers...   

So Gingerthistle we became.  Ginger, a country spice, and thistle, a country flower --- worthy symbols of the folk music we love.  


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A Note About Hiring Musicians

Asking a musician to perform for your event?

What you think you're paying for:
Someone to perform some music.

What you are paying for:
Someone to perform some music, plus:
Equipment and instruments,
Hours of rehearsal time,
Transportation to and from the venue,
The amount of time and training spent to become the musicians they are,
Promotion and website costs,
and the percentage that goes to income taxes.

Still think that offering "exposure" is a fair price?

You wouldn't expect a plumber, hairdresser, doctor, dentist, optician, electrician, chef, mechanic, dressmaker or shop owner to work for free, would you?

Thank you for respecting our profession.

Contact Us

c/o Ben Seymour 
2142 Coxe Road   
Tryon, NC  28782-7773

Telephone: (828) 863-4384

Recordings Schedule
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