About Ruth Barrett
Photo by Ursula Hoppe
Ruth Barrett is an internationally known mountain dulcimer artist and singer who began playing in 1971, and is recognized as a pioneering contributor to the California mountain dulcimer renaissance of the 1970s and 80s, and to the U.S. Goddess Spirituality Movement. Ruth is best known for her specialized genre of music – songs that focus on magically themed traditional folk songs inspired by folklore, goddess mythology, celebration of women, and the spirituality innate in the natural world. Ruth’s classical finger picking style on the mountain dulcimer, her arrangements of traditional Celtic folk music, combined with a powerful and beautiful voice, has enchanted audiences for over four decades.
Ruth's twenty-year musical collaboration with mountain dulcimer player Cyntia Smith produced five critically acclaimed recordings beginning in 1981 with their first critically acclaimed album, Aeolus. The duo introduced their listeners to distinctive vocal harmonies and their classical fingerpicking style duets for their original songs, Renaissance music, and arrangements of traditional Celtic and English folk music.
Ruth’s 1990 first solo release, Parthenogenesis, won an INDIE award from the National Association of Independent Record Distributors in the category of Women’s Music. Ruth went on to record five more recordings of traditional seasonal and original magical music. Ruth has been a featured performer at numerous festivals nationally including the Michigan Women’s Music Festival, the National Women’s Music Festival, Women In The Arts (Lansing), Pantheacon, Pagan Spirit Gathering, and The Glastonbury Goddess Festival, Michigan Framily Reunion, the Ohio Lesbian Festival, OreGaia, and Big Mouth Girl. Ruth was the director of the Candlelight Concert at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival every August since 1991 until the festival closed in 2015. At the National Women’s Music Festival, Ruth was presented with the 2011 Jane Schliessman Award for outstanding contributions to women’s music from Women in the Arts. In 2015 and 2021, Ruth was honored to give special concert performances as part of the Parliament of the Worlds Religions. Ruth has performed for the Cal Tech Folk Music Series, the Claremont Folk Music Festival, the Swannanoa Gathering, The Barrymore Theature (Madison, WI), Boulevard Music (Culver City, CA), and numerous concerts at McCabes in Santa Monica, California, including opening for The Ditty Bops, and folk legends Malvina Reynolds, Jean Redpath, Bert Jansch, and Jean Ritchie.
With dulcimer builder and player, Joellen Lapidus. Ruth transcribed Joni Mitchell’s dulcimer arrangements for the songbooks, Hits and Misses (Warner Bros. Pub.). Click here for the 1997 interview for jonimitchel.com.
In 2022 Ruth taught mountain dulcimer at Kentucky Music Week and at the Original Dulcimer Players FunFest in Evart, MI. In addition to teaching private lessons online, Ruth has lessons available at Kentucky Music Institute. In June 2022 Ruth's book, DULCIMER MUSE - Tunes & Songs From Far-flung Times & Places was published by Mel Bay Publishing.
Since relocating to Michigan in 2017, Ruth has been joined by Lansing musicians, cellist Rachel Alexander and percussionist Pele Yemaya. They regularly give special seasonal concert performances that celebrate the music, poetry, and lore of the Wheel of the Year holy days.
"... music that recreates eras so far bygone that it reaches into our psychic depths of myth and imagination, emotionally transporting us in ways nothing on the radio can."
- MUSIC CONNECTION MAGAZINE
"Honest and sensitive folk artistry." - FRETS MAGAZINE
"Carefully arranged and skillfully played... a wide range of color and expression."
- LOS ANGELES TIMES
Photo by Doug Cox from Goddess Temple of Orange County, 2014
Amazon Fest 2015. Photo by MJ Stephanson
Solstice Concert, Madison, WI 2010
Glastonbury Goddess Festival 2016. Photo by Karen Ciesar.
Cal Tech, International Women's Day, circa 1983
yes, that's me! Thirty three years between these two pictures taken....
With Amanda Barrett of The Ditty Bops, McCabes, 2007
Performance at McCabes with The Ditty Bops and Jesca Hoop, 2007
National Women's Music Festival 2009, with Judy Piazza's dulcitar.
Here's a link to a 1983 performance with Cyntia Smith on Soundboard: