Ken Mattsson has been a singer, dancer, instrumentalist, actor, promoter and instructor since he was a little boy. He’s performed in numerous genres and in venues as different as Club Passim and Boston’s Symphony Hall.
Ken has performed singing everything from a capella Scandinavian ballads to a chorus member with orchestra singing Bach. He has studied voice with Lauralyn Kolb and Todd Gordon, and has been a soloist with the Stow Festival Chorus, Christmas Revels, and numerous church services and weddings. He has performed as a duo with Lynn Noel, featuring boisterous Power Harmonies at venues small and large, including their annual performance at the New England Folk Festival. Larger ensembles have included the Masterworks Chorale, Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, Stämbandet, and Revels Singers. He’s also sung shape note music with Norumbega Harmony, West Gallery music with The West Gallery Quire, and other folk ensembles. Whether it’s Scandinavian, gospel, or any other genre, Ken’s probably at least tried it, and is known for his “vocal water skiing” ability to latch onto any song and harmonize with it.
Ken first picked up the fife as a boy to march with his Dad in the Assabet Village Minutemen during the time around the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Concord. Since then, he picked up clarinet and tenor saxophone in junior high school, and then tin whistle and recorder at various times. It wasn’t until he was in the crazy final days of graduate school that he finally purchased a hammered dulcimer and that started his bout with Acquired Musical Instrument Syndrome (AMIS) where he just wanted to learn to play more instruments. While the hammered dulcimer has been the main instrument in his life, he has recently been spending more time with his ukulele, as it’s the only instrument he can use to accompany his singing. Along the way, an autoharp, concertina, mountain dulcimer, guitar, and mandolin have found their way into his instrument collection.
Ken started dancing at age 9 in modern western square dancing, and spent most of his teenage years going from dance to dance. He started doing traditional New England contra dancing at the Concord Scout House in the 1980’s, and has been doing it ever since. Always looking for different ways to move, he also performed historical dance with Veronica McClure, as well as lessons in ballet, jazz, and modern dance at Hamilton College. He’s also a dancer with Recently Traditional Fictional Morris (RTFM) which celebrates the start of winter at sundown on October 31st every year in Somerville, MA. Along the way, he’s taken workshops and tried everything from tap to Scandinavian dance.
While not as broad as his other performances, Ken first stepped on the stage as Prince Dauntless in Once Upon a Mattress at Assabet Valley High School. Numerous community theatre performances in the Boston area followed, culminating with a role in Vokes Theater‘s production of Cabaret in 1983. Ken then took a break from acting until he returned in 2018 as a cast member, dancer and tenor soloist in the Nordic Christmas Revels, performing 18 shows to over 20,000 audience members. While not on the stage, Ken has performer with the Paper Bag Mummers, doing street theatre in the English mumming tradition since the late 2000’s.
Ken’s profession in adult learning has also spilled into his musical life where he was been a teacher, workshop leader, and curriculum designer. He studied modern western square dance calling with Don Beck and Gloria Rios Roth, and also has occasionally called contra dances for Lavender Country & Folk Dances. He’s taught waltz and hambo at LCFD and waltz at NEFFA with Emily Kovatch. He has also taught beginner hammered dulcimer lesson to local beginners.
Ken started out early in his organizing career by founding the New England Teen Association of Corresponding Square Dancers (NETACS) at the age of 14, to organize all the the Teen Western Square Dance Clubs in New England, where he was a monthly correspondent for the New England Caller magazine, and guest speaker to hundreds of organizers at the Eastern District Square & Round Dance Association (EDSARDA) meeting at the age of 16.
Later, after finding his passion for the hammered dulcimer, Ken produced the Bay Path Dulcimer Festival from 2001-2004 in Northborough and Princeton, Massachusetts, and also founded the Massachusetts Bay Dulcimer Society to promote new players of the hammered dulcimer.