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Mary Benson’s Biography

Mary Benson has been at the forefront of the Celtic Music revival in the Northwest since 1974 when she began singing with the widely popular Howling Gael. From lilting Irish ballads to the saltiest of sea chanteys, to the songs of the English Music Hall, Mary has delighted audiences with her voluptuous voice and her saucy attitude.

After leaving the Howling Gael, Mary sang with Sheer Audacity and Bridget’s Fire, and is one of the original members of the famed St. Elmo’s Choir, and of Runcible Spoons, an Early English Music Hall band.

In addition to performing with Spinnaker, she currently sings with Broadside, an all woman sea chanty. Occasionally, Mary is invited to sing with the exotic and eclectic band Vivid Curve, branching out into the jazz, blues, and even rock and roll rhythms, that have fascinated her fantasies for years.

Mary has recently begun writing songs in the traditional style, including the much requested "Sail Away", "Big Sails", and "Me and the Bairnies At Home", which came in second at the Commencement Bay Maritime Festival Songwriting contest.

Mary has performed in festivals, pubs, restaurants, concerts, coffee houses, television, and radio from Victoria, B.C., to San Francisco, including the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, the Tumbleweed Folk Festival, the San Francisco Maritime Festivals, Islands Folk Festival, the Heritage Festival and Boats Afloat, the Portland Work Songs of the Sea concerts, as well as The Northwest Folklife Festival, having missed only one Folklife since 1975. She has also performed numerous times aboard the Wawona in festivals, concerts, and singalongs. Mary has several recordings to her credit, with the Howling Gael, St. Elmo’s Choir, and with the Seattle and San Francisco Maritime Festivals. She has also done back up vocals on many other recordings with several local artists and has sung in Folk clubs in England, Ireland and Scotland.

 

Tony Sciola’s Biography

With songs of shipwreck, pirates on the high seas, whaling and wayward sailors, Tony Sciola seeks to preserve nautical songs, legends and lore used aboard ship for hundreds of years.

Born in the clipper ship building city of Boston, Mass., Tony has spent a lifetime connected to the sea. As a child he was forced by unrelenting parents to learn polkas on the accordion, a skill for which he is now grateful. Tony has spent most of his adult life at sea, including a tour of duty in the U.S. Navy aboard a nuclear submarine, and voyaging the oceans as the skipper of his own 50’ sailing yacht. He has recorded two albums for Third Stone Studios as a pivotal member of the popular sea chantey group Three Sheets To the Wind.

In addition to performing with Spinnaker, Tony currently performs with the band Vivid Curve and with Tom Varley.

With his engaging and interactive style, Tony entices audiences to participate in song and story. Blending powerful vocals with dynamic and skillful accordion, mandolin or guitar accompaniment, Tony has delighted audiences up and down the West Coast, including The Oregon Coast Maritime Festival, the Dana Point Tall Ships Festival, the Morrow Bay Harbor Festival, the Live Oak Music Festival, the Winchester Bay Ocean Fest, and the Bandon Cranberry Festival.

A U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain with sea water running in his veins, Tony is a font of nautical lore and practical wisdom. Most of all, he is a seasoned and enlightened artist, able to communicate the true wonder of the sea.

 

Jonathan Lay’s Biography

Jonathan Lay has performed as a professional musician since 1992. He has been making music, or at least making lots of noise, all of his life.

Jonathan has powerful and supple baritone voice that can do justice to a gentle ballad or a rough-and-tumble sea chantey. He also plays guitar, tin whistle, harmonica, djembe, and a rollicking bodhran (Irish drum). Much of his repertoire is drawn from the traditional music of America and the British Isles, with a few tasty songs of more recent vintage. He is an occasional songwriter, having written a handful of songs including "When Carissa Came Ashore," a tongue-in-cheek ballad of the 1999 wreck and salvage of the cargo ship New Carissa on the Oregon coast.

In addition to performing with Spinnaker, Jonathan performs regularly with Shanghaied on the Willamette, a lively duo with singer and multi-instrumentalist Gordy Euler. Shanghaied on the Willamette features vocal harmonies and a small fleet of acoustic instruments. They perform songs "plundered from land and sea," specializing in traditional music of the sea and waterways.

Jonathan has entertained in concerts, outdoor markets, and festivals in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. With Shanghaied on the Willamette, he has performed at Saltwater Maritime Music & Arts Festival (Sidney, BC, Canada), Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, Northwest Folklife Festival, Portland Wooden Boat Show, Oregon Folklife Festival, Tumbleweed Music Festival, the Oregon State Fair, and at farmers markets in Hillsboro, Beaverton, Corvallis and Gresham Oregon. He has played with the Celtic band The Nettles at the Oregon Bach Festival’s "Earport" concert, and has performed with the Portland Shanty Singers in the annual "Work Songs of the Sea" concert since 1992.

Jonathan’s recordings include Shanghaied on the Willamette’s "Weighing Anchor" (1997) and "Tasting the Salt Air" (1999), and his CD-single "When Carissa Came Ashore."

Jonathan is an active member of the Portland Folklore Society, of which he is a past president. He is a volunteer radio host for KBOO community radio in Portland, part of a team producing two early-morning folk music shows, "Folk Espresso" and "Rise When the Rooster Crows." Besides music, Jonathan is employed in software, audio, electronic, and acoustic engineering and consulting.

 

Dan Gicker’s Biography

Dan Gicker has been playing music since grade school and has played in a variety of different instruments and musical styles. With Spinnaker, Dan is the as the electric and acoustic bassist and a harmony vocalist. Dan brings jazz, rock, blues and classical styles to the Spinnaker blend.

He began as a trumpet player in school band and switched to bass as a teenager. He played bass with a series of "new wave" and "alternative" bands in the eighties, most notably the Freudian Slips which worked regularly in the Mid-Atlantic region in the late 80's and early 90's. He has also performed as a cornet player in a German band, a Classical Brass Ensemble and performed as an intermediate classical pianist in Bellingham, Washington. Dan formerly was involved in three swing/jazz bands in the Roseburg, OR area as lead vocalist, cornet and acoustic bassist, and performed frequently at various festivals and venues in the Southern Oregon region.