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Arts & Culture

Music Milestone: The Folk Show With Kate McNally Marks 25 Years


When Kate McNally was emceeing a Dar Williams show at the former Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction to air on NHPR in 2012, she missed the step off the stage and landed with a thud.

Dar Williams didn’t miss a beat.

“That was a perfect TEN,” Williams announced to the audience.

McNally has something of a knack for landing well, actually, since becoming host of The Folk Show on New Hampshire Public Radio 25 years ago last week. On one of her first nights as host, she got locked out of the station — while on air. To her great relief, she found a dime in her pocket and was able to call the station to let her back in to play another album.

McNally shared the above memories as NHPR celebrates this music show host’s milestone, a silver jubilee. In her own words below, she recalls some of the many moments sharing stage and studio space with musicians like Jonathan Edwards, Tom Rush, John Gorka, Cheryl Wheeler, and Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck (who https://youtu.be/TsYzzL5Y7bk">performed live in studio in 2014).

The Folk Show with Kate McNally airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on NHPR.

There are many highlights from the past 25 years. In terms of interviews, I can't even begin to guess. It would be safe to say hundreds. Some of my favorite interviews were the interview I did with Arlo Guthrie at the Guthrie Center, the site of Alice's Restaurant, and the couple of times Bill Morrissey visited. I also enjoyed the time Christine Lavin painted my fingernails. She and Don White visited together, each with a new book in tow and they were a hoot! Lucy Kaplansky, John Gorka and Eliza Gilkyson came by with their trio Redhorse. They were incredible, yet quite unassuming and treated me like one of the gang! A wonderful singer/songwriter Meg Hutchinson stopped by with her dog who licked my feet throughout the entire interview. Joe Crookston made his way to the station one Sunday when most of the highways were backed up or closed down due to a severe ice storm. One of the tunes he played, Seven Seconds, could have been written about seconds you experience when spinning on ice in your car or the few seconds when lightning strikes nearby in a windstorm. It seemed like a fitting tune for a dramatic weather day. At the risk of leaving someone out I should say I have been so incredibly starstruck at times with visits from Jonathan Edwards, Tom Rush, Tim O'Brien, the Mammals, Cheryl Wheeler, Richie Havens, Si Kahn, John McCutcheon, Garnet Rogers, David Bromberg, Guy Davis and Bela Fleck. I've been wowed by new bands and local talent and pushed to the brink of tears by songwriting so delicate and real that it was all I could do to carry on with decorum. Another highlight was meeting Pete Seeger with his grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger and Guy Davis at a show in Brattleboro where they kindly recorded a station liner for me. I have had the great honor of emceeing many festivals around the state. It's so much fun to meet listeners and hang out in an environment where the creative genius of musicians grabs ahold of audiences and lifts them up! You can't get that from a record or the radio! Kudos to the people who bring in the music and all the volunteers that park the cars and serve up the food! Thank you for always welcoming me. One of the first nights I got locked out of the station while I was on the air. I fortunately had a dime in my pocket and ran to a gas station on North Main Street and got a call in to Carl Watanabe, the Music Director. I thought for sure I'd be fired, but they kept me, dead air and all! And then, there was the year our apartment burned down with our pets and all of our belongings. The Folk Community rallied behind us as we "rose from the ashes." I will forever be indebted to the musicians and listeners who supported us with donations of clothing, music, support and benefit concerts to help get us through. NHPR's folk community is a really special community. I'm the luckiest radio host in the world and I'm ready for at least another 25!

Kate McNally invites you to join the NHPR Folk group on Facebook

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