Folksinger Margaret MacArthur dies

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(Host) Vermont Folksinger Margaret MacArthur died this week at her home in Marlboro.

She was a popular performer who was especially known for her dulcimer music.

She is credited for saving many rural New England songs from obscurity.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) Margaret MacArthur grew up listening to traditional music, first in the American southwest and later in Missouri, where she lived as a child.

She moved to Vermont in 1948 and eventually settled in a 200-year-old farm house in Marlboro with her husband John, a physics professor.

It was while she was raising her five children there that she began collecting traditional Vermont ballads. She also collected songs from Western Kentucky, where her parents settled.

MacArthur devoted her life to recording and performing simple songs of rural life. She produced ten albums.

She also wrote her own ballads about life on her family’s Marlboro homestead. Her children often performed and recorded with her.

MacArthur’s son Dan says his mother became ill about a month ago with a rare, incurable brain disorder.

(Dan MacArthur) “She was asked by one of the doctors who was checking her out in the hospital whether she was afraid to die and she said no, she’s had a wonderful life singing the songs that she loved. So I think the songs and her ability to make them live on for further generations was just a real source of pride and pleasure for her.”

(Keese) MacArthur was designated a New England Living Art Treasure by the University of Massachusetts in 1985. In 2002 the Vermont Arts Council presented her with a lifetime achievement award.

In 2005 she was invited to sing at the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center. She was 78 when she died.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

Note: A private memorial celebration for Margaret MacArthur will held on June 11th at the family farm in Marlboro.

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