Merrimack College’s Voice Instructor, Cristi Catt, traveled to Arkansas to perform with Blue Thread and continue the work of tracking ballads that have traveled from Portugal to India, Africa, Greece, the Ozarks, and beyond. Ballads are songs that have a narrative. Typically passed on orally from one generation to the next ballads are known as part of folk culture. While in Arkansas, Catt had the opportunity to listen to “lost” field recordings of ballads and explore transcriptions from song collectors and examine notes and correspondences at the Special Collections in Mullins Library at the University of Arkansas. During her trip, she was also interviewed forOzark at Large, a local radio station. In the interview, Catt briefly discusses oral tradition and the impact it has on ballads and explains how Blue Thread came together.
Blue Thread is a musical group founded by Cristi Catt and Nickola Radan. With guests, they trace the migration of ballads. In today’s era of mass migration, Blue Thread celebrates what is created by the movement of peoples, countering a dominant narrative of loss and violence. By tracing ballads, Blue Thread seeks to foster understanding and appreciation of what is shared by diverse communities. Together they mix performance, cultural outreach, and research.
On August 14th, 2019 Blue Thread performed in the “Live at the Five & Dime” concert series in Bentonville, Arkansas as part of the J. William Fulbright Colleges of Arts & Sciences at the University of Arkansas. For this performance, Catt, a soprano, and Radan playing flutes, guitar, and percussion, were accompanied by Mahshid Iraniparast who played the santoor, and Carol Widder who played the accordion and cello. This performance, “All over the Map,” featured ballads from the Ozarks, as well as medieval love songs from Portugal and Spain. You can listen to this and more of Blue Thread’s work on their youtube channel.