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Hartford, Connecticut, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2001 | SELF

Hartford, Connecticut, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2001
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter




"Polyhymnia: Review Kate Callahan"

I’m a big believer in seeing live music. Just the requisite act of achieving enough stillness of mind to listen is good for us. Or for me, at least. I noticed it last Thursday listening to Colin Currie and the Miro Quartet at the marvelous Garmany Chamber series at Hartt. The Miro starts out each set with an old school warhorse before jumping into the edgy new compositions. So they were halfway through a Schubert quartet before I had achieved any kind of focus. At the end of that set Currie — who is probably the best in the world at a certain kind of thing — blew our minds with “Mojave,” Michael Torke’s concerto for marimba. At the beginning of the second set, the Miro came back with Barber’s adagio, which people can and do say is overplayed. Except, no, in a live setting with major musicians, the piece has hues and emotions you just don’t soak up in an Oliver Stone soundtrack.

Speaking of overplayed, that’s a word I’ve been applying of late to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” It’s a great song but it’s so everywhere. But I saw the Great Leonard himself on Tuesday night — it has been a week! –at the Oakdale, and audience members kept screaming out the H-word until he did it. I’m not in any sense a Leonard fan, although I can reliably be moved to tears by Jennifer Warnes doing “Song of Bernadette.” But I felt privileged to see the Master anyway. He turns 79 this year, and it’s quite something to watch him, pliant as the Scarecrow, drop to his knees to croon or skip off the stage, twirling an arm in the air like a Gilbert and Sullivan character. And what a story he is of excess, monkishness, creating, financial ruin and renaissance! He’s a famous ascetic who pauses in his concert to lay out — with a wolfish hunger –his plan to take up cigarettes again when he turns 80. Cohen’s band contains four or five musicians you’d venture out, of an evening, to see in their own right.

Sitting elsewhere in the Cohen audience — next to Bill Curry, it turns out — were Michelle Begley and Cynthia Wolcott, two singers who would delight me later in the week, on the first night of the HartFolk Festival. They were backing up Kate Callahan, in what turned out to be the most heavenly 40 minutes of music to wash over me this year and maybe a lot longer than that. Our first glimpse of Kate came in this remarkable foundational story, (by Steve Metcalf, who curates the Garmany series and has special ties to Leonard and is therefore kind of a uniting thread) but much, much more has happened since then. At the risk of sounding a little batty, let me say that Kate Callahan is the only performer I’ve ever seen who occasionally seems to be channeling something vaster and far more ancient than herself, something more easily understood by Emerson than by any modern person. Emerson wrote that “poetry was all written before time was, and whenever we are so finely organized that we can penetrate into that region where the air is music, we hear those primal warblings, and attempt to write them down…[Wo]men of more delicate ear write down these cadences more faithfully, and these transcripts, though imperfect, become the songs of the nations. For nature is as truly beautiful as it is good, or as it is reasonable, and must as much appear, as it must be done, or be known. Words and deeds are quite indifferent modes of the divine energy.” All of that applies to Kate’s music at its best. Friday night, with Begley and Wolcott flanking her, with the superb Andre Balazs on piano and the exuberant Kaia Pazdersky on violin, there was a kind of giant, multi-pronged Emersonian celestial tuning fork onstage. It was a pretty thing to see, and it put light in one’s heart. And oh! They did a remarkable arrangement of “Hallelujah.” And I was forced to discard my reservations.

I was back at the Festival the next night, this time as emcee, for a round robin of three very different singer-songwriters, for Balazs’s stirring solo set, for The Sea, The Sea, a kind of Long Island Sound / Appalachia fusion duo. Here is a point I made from the stage: We live in this place, among people who make fine art. Callahan’s Friday night set was as fine as anything anybody did anywhere that night, and nobody could hear it in Denver or San Francisco or Nashville. It was only here, where you live. Heaven walks among us, said RWE. Maybe even right down the block. So you should go hear live music. - The Hartford Courant

"WNPR-Featured Kate Callahan to Perform in Plainville, Dec 1st"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 8:18 PM EST
PLAINVILLE — Nominated for a Connecticut Music Award, American singer-songwriter Kate Callahan will perform an intimate concert Dec. 1 at The Vital Life Center.

Callahan, a student at Central Connecticut State University, will perform original music from her three albums including her 2012 release “Two Doors,” which was featured on WNPR’s Where We Live.

She has opened shows at the legendary Iron Horse Music Hall and been featured as an emerging artist at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Folk legends Noel Paul Stookey (Peter, Paul & Mary), Judi Collins, Aztec Two-Step and the late Bill Morrissey have all welcomed Kate on-stage as an opening act. Stookey calls her “real” and says Kate’s music is “zen-like.” Kate’s moving performances once won her the Hartford Advocate’s “Best Solo Performer” Award three consecutive years.

WNPR host Colin McEnroe says,”Kate Callahan seems to be performing her own high-risk trapeze act, swinging out and away from influences into those spaces where original, startling music is made. Not many go there and those who do deserve to be called what they are — artists. Kate Callahan is an artist these days.”

Callahan’s new folk album, “Two Doors,” explores themes of spirituality, marriage, capitol punishment,and creativity through her deep and metaphorical lyrics. “Two Doors” was produced by Jim Chapdelaine, a Grammy-nominated and Emmy award-winning producer. The album is folk with adult contemporary flavors. “Two Doors” can be previewed at www.kate-callahan.com or on Spotify.

Kate and members of her band were featured on Better Connecticut talk show in August.

Kate Callahan plays at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at The Vital Life Center, 100 West Center St.

VLC is a comprehensive wellness center offering yoga, meditation, massage, nutrition, and spiritual, wellness and life coaching, all focused on encouraging individuals to live life founded in peace, happiness and vitality.
- The New Britain Herald

"Kate's Song: Music Drew Brain-Injured Woman Back from the Brink"

Author: Steve Metcalf
Start Page: A.1, Section: MAIN (A)

There are those who believe that music has the power to heal.

There are those who doubt this.

The Callahans of West Hartford are not among the doubters.
Kate Callahan, 23, has just released her first CD. The disc is called "The Influence of Red," a reference to her striking, flaming red hair, which she likes to think of as a metaphor for her spirit --sort of wild and colorful and uncontainable. The CD contains 12 songs, each written, arranged and produced by Kate. She also sings and plays guitar on all the tracks.

It's a remarkable, even brilliant album, and she conceived it and created it entirely from her head.

Her head, which had already been through so much.

1. `I Knew I Had Been Hurt.'
In the fall of 1996, Kate was a 19-year-old sophomore at Rutgers University in New Jersey, majoring in English and music. Like most 19-year-olds, she had no real idea what she wanted to do with her life. Her informal double major simply reflected that she liked to read and she liked to sing.

Some friends invited her to go skiing at Sugarbush in Warren, Vt., over the Thanksgiving holiday.

She hesitated at first, because she had been looking forward to spending the holiday break with her family - her mother, Marcia, father, Lee, and sister, Anna --at the family's trim West Hartford home near Wolcott Park.

But the trip wasn't going to be until Saturday, so she would at least get to have Thanksgiving dinner at home.

She said yes.

Saturday was a crisp, sunny day, a little cold for November, even in Vermont.

Kate made a couple of runs down an intermediate slope and went back up for one more run before lunch.

About halfway down the slope, she was struck from behind by a fast-moving skier. The collision threw her hard to the ground.

As in the slow-mo sensations of a dream, Kate perceived, as her head slammed into the hill and she tumbled and slid to a stop, that something bad had just happened to her.

"It was actually a funny double sensation," she says now. "On the one hand, I felt strangely peaceful and protected. But I was also instantly experiencing incredible pain that was nothing like anything I had ever felt or imagined. I knew I had been hurt."

Kate was taken down on a stretcher and driven by ambulance to a nearby hospital and examined.

The news seemed to be good. There were no broken bones. No visible injuries. She was released.

She and her friends headed home.

It was dark by the time the car pulled up to the Callahan house. Marcia was waiting, a little anxious but not panicked. Marcia had been given to understand on the phone that Kate had suffered, at worst, a nasty bump on the head when she hit the ground.

She was alarmed by the sight of her daughter as she staggered slowly and unsteadily into the house. Marcia
had to help Kate up the stairs to her room.

Almost immediately, Kate's symptoms began to worsen.
She started to vomit violently. She noticed that her sense of taste and smell were not working. She was having vision problems. Most worrisome of all, she seemed barely able to speak, and when she did, it was in a halting, inert monotone.

The next day, with no improvement, her parents drove her to St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, where she was given a battery of tests, including a brain scan. It revealed bleeding in the frontal lobe of Kate's brain. More generally, the doctors said Kate had suffered traumatic brain injury, a loose collective diagnosis that can mean anything from relatively mild temporary impairment to chronic profound disability.

The doctors who conveyed this news to Marcia did not offer comforting reassurances.

"They tried to be as upbeat as they could and say that things might turn out OK, but they also made it clear this was a very serious situation," says Marcia. "But I could already tell that by the concern on their faces."

Their concern proved to be well founded.

2. `I Just Couldn't Process The Sounds'
It took Kate and her family a few days to register the severity of what had happened.

But soon enough it became all too clear.

Kate Callahan, just days before a spirited teenager with a quick sense of humor and a lovely singing voice, was now a seriously damaged brain injury patient.

Instead of returning to Rutgers, she was now going to be taken by van each day to an Easter Seals rehabilitation facility in Windsor.

Instead of taking classes in modern poetry and Roman mythology (her favorites), she was going to be working on basic speaking and thinking, and how to put one foot in front of the other.

"The weird thing at first was I was too damaged to realize how damaged I was," Kate says. "But after awhile going to Easter Seals, it dawned on me, even in my messed-up condition, how incapacitated I really was."

The physical part was difficult enough, but the mental loss was torment.

"T - The Hartford Courant

"Local Folk Musician Kate Callahan Releases New Album"

June 23, 2012|By RYAN GILBERT, rlgilbert@courant.com, The Hartford Courant
Kate Callahan never intended to write a "message" album. Rather, as she puts it, she simply wanted to explore some of the "startling and awe-inspiring moments we face in a lifetime." But there's nothing quite that simple about Callahan or the music she makes.

"Two Doors," Callahan's first album in six years, was released on June 19, and it's an ambitious 13-track folk/jazz collection of songs that touch upon everything from casual acts of kindness ("Random Acts"), to the death penalty ("Two Doors"), to committed relationships ("Made For Love") and more. With this album, her third, Callahan is eager to shed light on the moments of choice, or "two door moments," that often come up in life.

"For the last few years, I've been writing all over the place," she says. "From the coast of Maine, where my mom lives, to the studio in my apartment, to the couch in my dad's house, I've been writing songs and trying to express what these moments mean to me." Callahan, 35, says musicians like Joni Mitchell, Natalie Merchant and Dar Williams, whom she started listening to when she was a teenager, continue to influence her music, as well as newer acts like Bon Iver.

"Two Doors" is evocative of fellow folk artist Jewel's debut album, "Pieces of You," which features the hit singles, "Who Will Save Your Soul," "You Were Meant For Me" and "Foolish Games." Not all of the songs on Callahan's album are autobiographical or even inspired by specific real events, but she acknowledges that personal experiences do echo the themes she tackles in her songwriting.

"I have this well of self-determination, and I'm living a life open to the presence of a greater consciousness, so some of that is going to be reflected in my music," she says. Callahan has been on the musical scene for over 10 years, and she believes she's become a more comfortable performer in that time. She released her first album, "The Influence of Red," when she was only 23 and she continues to perform her music across New England.

A CD release concert was held at First Baptist Church in West Hartford in celebration of "Two Doors." Callahan, with producer Jim Chapdelaine, spent the past year putting the finishing touches on the album.

"The first six months were just a lot of jam days. Jim and I would just play and laugh and have fun," she says. "We spent the second half of the year putting the songs together and actually recording." Callahan, along with Chapdelaine and guitarist Andre Balazs, showed off all of the work, blood, sweat and tears that went into making the album during the release party. Callahan has a natural and assured stage presence, her voice is affecting and her guitar-playing is solid.

When Callahan was 19 years old, she experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a skiing accident. Years of physical therapy and recovery followed, and Callahan says she feels like she was a given a second chance at life. After suffering through a whole host of physical and emotional impairments, including not being able to make or even listen to music, Callahan's making the most of this phase of her life by writing and recording powerful songs.

She's also encouraging teenagers to embrace art and life in the same way she has. As the artist-in-residence at William H. Hall High School in West Hartford, Callahan has been leading a creative writing workshop program for 11 years. "Of course, we work with poetry and fiction, but I want them to see that creative nonfiction can be just as fun and as imaginative while maintaining the integrity," she says. "I want them to become comfortable with telling the truth about themselves." - The Hartford Courant


The Influence of Red - LP (2001)

The Greatest of Ease - LP (2003)

Two Doors - LP (2012)



A 2015 New England Music Award nominee, Kate Callahan, Connecticut’s “Best Singer-Songwriter 2013” has three albums including her latest release Two Doors, which was featured on WNPR's Where We Live. The Boston Globe says, "Kate Callahan has garnered an appreciative audience with her easygoing vibe and inspirational, at times mystical lyrics."

Callahan’s music feels soulful and she’s unapologetically optimistic in concert. WNPR host Colin McEnroe praised a recent performance, saying, “Kate Callahan is the only performer I’ve ever seen who occasionally seems to be channeling something vaster and far more ancient than herself, something more easily understood by Emerson than by any modern person.”

A songwriting teacher (Center for Creative Youth since 2011), Kate began leading the Miracle of Melody workshop in 2014. She guides participants through vocal improvisation, circle singing, heart-centered sharing, sounding, and vocal grounding techniques.

Kate is a natural performer. Her stage credits include appearances at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artists Showcase, the New Haven Festival of Arts and Ideas, and the CT Folk Festival. She was a finalist in the South Florida Folk Festival Songwriting Competition 2014. In 2015 she studied vocal improvisation and Circlesongs with Bobby McFerrin and his incredible staff. She has opened shows for folk legends Judy Collins and Noel Paul Stookey (Peter, Paul, and Mary), troubadours Aztec Two-Step, John Gorka, Mustard’s Retreat, and the late Bill Morrissey. She has also shared stages with folk-rock artists Rachael Sage and Regina Spektor. Stookey calls Callahan "real" and says her lyrics are "Zen-like."

The Boston Globe calls Kate "An award-winning singer who rose from a calamitous injury to claim her creative life."  At the age of nineteen, she sustained traumatic brain injury in a skiing accident. She had to withdraw from college and rehabilitate five days a week for a year until her insurance ran out. Her doctors told her she had plateaued. Callahan knew she had more desire to heal than the doctors could see, so she took up acoustic guitar lessons. Her short-term memory was so impaired that she couldn’t remember that she was taking lessons from week to week. Over time, however, she began to remember and saw improvements in her coordination, eyesight, and guitar playing. She began writing songs soon after that and felt compelled to share them with small audiences at open mics. Open mics turned into features, opening sets, and headlining appearances at venues throughout the United States.

Callahan says she writes songs that “become conduits between heaven and earth.” Swing Low quotes the well-known African-American spiritual, surrounding its anthem with three short windows into climactic experiences of life and death.

Swing Low was produced by Jim Chapdelaine, a Grammy nominated and Emmy award-winning producer. The song features Callahan on vocals and acoustic guitar, Chapdelaine on electric guitar, drummer Lorne Entress (Lori McKenna, Catie Curtis, Mark Erelli), and bassist Paul Kochanski (Lori McKenna, The Shinolas).

Since the turn of the millennium, Kate has won the Hartford Advocate’s “Best Solo Performer” award three times. She was also awarded the Hartford Courant's "Woman of Character Award” for her involvement in schools and on stages and met Jane Fonda when she received that award.  The Greater Hartford Arts Council chose Kate as the prestigious United Arts Campaign’s Featured Music Artist of 2014.  She has appeared on WNPR ‘s The Colin McEnroe Show to talk about the rise of folk music, Connecticut’s Hartfolk Festival, and the her personal experience with the healing power of music.  She has also appeared on WNPR’s Where We Live discussing the music of Joni Mitchell, the Mitchell inspired book Gathered Light, and also in promotion of her album Two Doors.


Band Members