From the “liberty songs” of the Revolutionary War to the stirring ballads of the Civil War, Anne and Ridley Enslow recreate the music of American history—as moving in its own way as standing on windswept battlefields or reading the journals of those who lived through these tumultuous times.
Dressed in historically accurate clothing, we perform at historic fairs and galas, entertain at 18th-century tavern nights, play for historic dance performances and candlelit balls, and give concerts on historic themes—for example, The Real Music of Alexander Hamilton, Colonial Drinking Songs, Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, Gilded Age Glory (political campaign songs of the 1880s, songs of the women’s suffrage and temperance movements, and more!), and seasonally themed performances geared to spring, Independence Day, the harvest, and Christmas.
We play instruments appropriate to the period—an 18th-century violin for Ridley and hammered dulcimer for Anne (though you might also hear a mandolin, mountain dulcimer, jaw harp, or pennywhistle, depending on the show). We sing in harmony and tell stories of the times that gave rise to the music. Most of all, we try to have fun. As we’ve discovered, if we’re having fun, the audience will have fun, too.
On this page, you will find occasional news items. Please check our calendar on this site for upcoming events. And feel free to reach out to us through our contact page.
We’ve wanted to do a Halloween show for a long time, but could never figure out how to do it, since modern Halloween dates only to 1870, and we usually present songs of an earlier era. Then we started exploring the roots of Halloween, which reach back centuries into our past—to All Hallows’ Eve and to ancient holidays, rituals, superstitions, and folklore. That’s when we started uncovering a trove of music. For at its core, the beliefs and observances that preceded Halloween are about the deepest mysteries of life–about life and death, things seen and unseen, and occurrences we can’t explain. Whether you call it le Jour des Morts, Dia de los Muertos, or Samhain, this is a holiday for the ages. We bring these ancient mysteries to life with a new program of music–fiddle, hammered dulcimer, and vocals–spanning several centuries.
We are delighted to announce that we received the 2022 Oratam Award from the Bergen County Historical Society for research, interpretation, and performance of historic music. The awards dinner was held at the historic 1776 House in Tappan, NY, where, during the American Revolution, the British Major John Andre was held captive before his execution as a spy, having received from Benedict Arnold the plans to West Point. In addition to being an officer, Andre was a poet and musician. We play some of his music in our show “George Washington and His Spies”—one of the shows that the awards committee specifically mentioned.
We’re always pleased to roll out a new show, and there are few with more fun stories than this one. There were many spies on both sides of the Revolutionary War. Some were officially spies—others were just people who saw what was happening and made it their mission to get word to George Washington. Spies helped Washington win the war. And some of these missions were even documented in poems and songs (the unsuccessful episodes, of course, because the successful ones remained secret at the time). From Nathan Hale to Benedict Arnold and the British Major John Andre, we celebrate colonial spy craft in story and song. (Photo: Ridley with our friend Dave Emerson as Washington.)
While we love 18th-century songs and dances and the opportunity to craft new shows around period themes–most recently, “The Real Music of Alexander Hamilton,” “Music for the Marquis de LaFayette,” and “Colonial Spies”–we also love getting the chance to play music of different eras. Most recent was Victorian Christmas, which occasioned the creation of an 1870s-style gown, complete with a bustle. And once we had the clothes, well, we had to start working on non-seasonal songs to go with them. The Victorian parlor songs we’ve learned as a result have opened up a new musical world to us–rich, melodious, deeply moving. Soon to be announced, our first concert to incorporate some of these songs: “Music Through American History,” beginning with the colonial era and extending through World War I.
There is perhaps no better instrument for Christmas music than the hammered dulcimer. “It just sounds like the angels,” said one recent audience member. People have been asking us for years for a Christmas CD, and now we are pleased to announce that we have one! “To Hear the Angels Sing” includes festive carols new and old (mainly old) from many lands–with dulcimer, violin, mandolin, and vocal harmonies–to put you in touch with the true spirit of the holidays.
In April of 1865, Lincoln’s funeral train stopped in Albany on its way from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Illinois. The president’s body lay in state at the New York state capitol from 1 am until 2 pm on April 26, 1865. During that time, an estimated 50,000 people filed past, with thousands more still waiting in line outside when the coffin had to be taken back to the train to continue its long journey home. Anne and Ridley played at the capitol to help commemorate that event.
Anne and Ridley Enslow performing in the War Room of the New York State capitol. Photo by Michael Joyce (OGS)
We are pleased to announced that our fifth CD, Brandy O! Music from the Parlors of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, is finally out! It’s a spirited selection from the vast archives of music in the households of our First and Third Presidents, distilled and refined for your most excellent diversion.
Writes one reviewer: “From the first grab of the violinist’s bow, this is a CD that draws in the listener in a warm embrace and creates an intimate sound space, a virtual 18th-century parlor populated by superb musicians and engaging vocalists.”
Cokie B. Roberts, journalist and author of Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty, calls it “lively, tuneful, and fun!” We hope you agree!