Johnson Girls
The Johnson Girls (Joy Bennett, Alison Kelley, Bonnie Milner, and Deirdre Murtha) are renowned international performers of maritime music: powerful chanteys, hair-raising harmonies, lilting ballads and laments. Each member of the group brings a specialty and style to the ensemble.

Joy Bennett has been involved in folk music for most of her life. As a member of the quartet Water Sign for 13 years and the all female a capella group, The Johnson Girls, for the past 15 years, she has explored the close-knit harmonies of both traditional and contemporary folk music. Joy has performed solo, with Water Sign, the Johnson Girls, with Chris Koldewey, and with guest artists in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and across Europe. She served on the board of FMSNY for many years, ten of them as president. Joy is a member of The Johnson Girls.

Alison Kelley
grew up singing traditional music as a chantey brat at South Street Seaport. Bitten by the music bug, she joined her elementary, junior high and high school choruses and hasn’t stopped singing since. Alison’s diverse repertoire includes sea chanties and maritime music, worksongs, gospel, blues, Ladino, troubadour and medieval music, ballads, English, Irish, and Scottish songs, rock, American roots music and whatever else inspires her. She occasionally accompanies herself with “The Banshee”, her claw hammer banjo. Alison is committed to keeping traditional music alive. She leads the open sing in Brooklyn, N.Y. on the first Wednesday of each month. Alison is a member of The Johnson Girls.

Bonnie Milner has a lifetime interest in folk music that began with songs from Sandburg’s American Song Bag. Her interest in sea songs was sparked by hearing chanteys at South Street and Mystic Seaports, and grew with her friendship with the last working chanteyman, Stan Hugill, and collector William Main Doerflinger. Founding an all-woman group in this genre was a particular dream of hers. Bonnie has put together presentations on maritime music for students of all ages. Another interest is unaccompanied ballads, through field recordings, trips abroad, and her in-house source, husband Dan Milner. She loves and respects the old singers and cherishes their enduring styles. Bonnie dances with N.Y.-based Ring o’Bells Morris team and is a member of The Johnson Girls.

Deirdre Murtha has been singing all her life. In her musical family, singalongs were a normal part of family gatherings. From choirs, madrigal groups, musicals, and folk genres, she learned the joys of harmonizing with others and prefers it to singing solo. She sang in school groups, a folk rock band, the NYC Irish sessions, and an Irish band. She performed in Revels, where she met other members of The Johnson Girls and N.Y. Packet, with whom she’s been singing for 15 years. She and husband Sean play as a duo, Strange Potatoes, performing Irish traditional, old-time American and Appalachian, Colonial, Revolutionary, and Civil War songs. Deirdre hosts a monthly Chantey Sing in Connecticut, and is pleased that it is drawing out new singers. She also loves to sing jazz standards, and aspires to be in a jazz band someday. By day she is a preschool music teacher. Deirdre is a member of The Johnson Girls.

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