Margaret MacArthur

Margaret MacArthur
Marlboro, VT, 1928-2006

Born in Chicago in 1928, Margaret was weaned on nursery rhymes by her mother, and could sing before she could talk. Music nourished her, drove her, buoyed her, and anchored her. She was particularly drawn to the traditional ballad, but she sampled many traditions and styles. Once she settled and put roots down in Vermont, Margaret poured over original sources and sought out a number of traditional singers. Over the years Margaret has done far more than preserve songs she has rescued them, recorded them, and sung them, captivating others with this music, stimulating them to both sing and play the songs. Not least of whom are her own children three frequently accompanied her with fiddle, guitar and voice. Whenever the MacArthurs would celebrate or have fun, they'd sing and play music together. Many of her children and grandchildren still live on the farm and as Margaret explained, "the glue of the family has been work on the place, and singing has been the fun." Margaret's dedication and devotion to the lyrical ballad led to her role as a seminal figure in Vermont's traditional music scene, participating as collector, as teacher, and as performer.


Margaret talks about the importance of music in the life of her family.

Margaret and her children, Gary and Megan perform the traditinal ballad, "Reynardine" as Margaret learned it from Fred Atwood of West Dover, VT in the 1950s.
"On the Mountains High (Reynardine)" [Laws P15] — Margaret, Gary and Megan MacArthur, Willmington, VT 2002.

As with the performers of the past, Margaret also wrote songs in the ballad form about current events. This song recounts a truck accident in Brattleboro, VT in 1984.
"Stephen Johnson " — Margaret, Gary and Megan MacArthur, Willmington, VT 2002.

A broadside ballad written in 1787, and learned by Margaret from the original manuscript given to her by Elsie Newton Howe of Newfane, VT.
"Marlboro Medley" — Vermont Ballads and Broadsides, Whetstone 01

A striking song of Vermont pride and indomitability written in the 1830s. Margaret learned the song from the work of ballad collector, Helen Hartness Flanders.
"The Song of the Vermonters" — Vermont Ballads and Broadsides, Whetsone 01