Hilary Dirlam & Mary Gordon - Bios
Hilary loved music from very early childhood, and started figuring out tunes on the piano when she was seven. She got a ukulele when she was ten, and a guitar when she was thirteen, after being entranced by hearing Pete and Mike Seeger’s music in a high school concert. Managing to acquire other instruments along the way, she learned a lot about country blues (taking lessons from Stephan Grossman), played for contras and squares, and eventually toured with the Vermont-based Arm and Hammer String Band. (Venues include the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Carter Fold.) After moving to western North Carolina, she played with the Luke Smathers Swing Band and the Carroll Best Band, both North Carolina Heritage Award winners.
She continued to play old time music while making forays into jazz and classical music, getting a BA in music from UNCA in 1980, with a concentration in modern classical composition. She also studied Nepali folk music and toured the eastern US twice with Nepali musicians. She has recorded eight CDs of Tibetan ritual music on site in Kathmandu which are sold worldwide. She helped to found the Old-Time Herald and has been the program director of the Blue Ridge Old-Time Music Week at Mars Hill University for over twenty years. Hilary taught music at Mary & Lo Gordon’s store in Brevard, Celestial Mountain Music, for close to five years. She has continued to perform, record, and work on a variety of music projects with Mary ever since.
Mary grew up in a household of singers. She began playing piano at 10, and later, in high school, developed a strong interest in folk music. This led to her first guitar and rapid assimilation of many of the folk songs of the day. After college, she abandoned music for several years, and then later became involved in church choirs and studied classical voice. After marriage to Lo Gordon (who was just building his first banjo) in 1986, the pair started singing & performing with others in the South Florida area.
A trip to the Galax Fiddlers Convention that year awakened an interest in old time music, especially after son Tim Gardner (age 7) took up the fiddle and progressed rapidly. Mary started learning fiddle a few months later, and son Matt (8) started on cello. A family band was born! After moving to Brevard, NC in ’93, Lo began building banjos (Cedar Mtn. Banjos) and Mary opened Celestial Mountain Music and Art; teaching, giving advice, and hosting a weekly Tuesday night jam, which has continued for over 20 years. Mary enjoyed running a remote music store at the Blue Ridge Old-Time Music Week every June, and sitting in as the house fiddler with Hilary’s various banjo, bass, and guitar classes. This collaboration led them to start doing fiddle/banjo/guitar workshops for various jam groups in the eastern US and the UK. Together they have published three combination fiddle & banjo repertoire books, the All-in-One Old Time series. They have performed together since 2004.