Aunt Freddie


The world of folk music mourns the premature passing of Freyda Epstein.  Freyda was killed in a car accident early Saturday morning, May 17 on her way to a music retreat in Charlottesville, Virginia.  She was driving south on US 29 from Dulles Airport at 1am.  Authorities say her death happened around 2-3 am.  A man had just stabbed his wife and was fleeing from the scene, driving up Highway 29 on the wrong side of the road.  He hit Freyda's car head on killing her.

I knew Freyda for over 20 years.  She was one of the nicest, most sincere people I've had the pleasure of knowing.  I considered her voice one of finest in the folk genre.  Her tenure with Trapezoid contributed to one of the best musical groupings I have heard in my 35 years in radio.  I doubt you could find anyone who could say a negative word about Freyda, she was that kind of person.  She left actively performing music and touring for a living because she wanted to make more of a contribution to humanity.  Having achieved some of her goals she recently agreed to perform occasionally with Paul Reisler in a resurrected Trapezoid.  She also had asked me to recommend songs for a new CD.  (As she had asked many others as well.)  We are cheated that this wonderful person with her glorious voice will no longer bring songs to life.  I will pay tribute to her memory on the May 24 Midnight Special.  -Rich Warren


Freyda I was greatly saddened today to hear of the death of Freyda Epstein, the wonderful singer and violinist who most knew from her work with the seminal folk group Trapezoid.  Only 46, Freyda's death from a senseless car accident will affect many in the folk community.  Back in my days in the music business I had dealt with Freyda and she was a lovely and very warm woman.

These words on Freyda from Paul Reisler, her partner in Trapezoid:

"Freyda had a great gift.  Her gift was song and she shared it with audiences throughout the world as a performer and as a teacher.  She built community from song.  She could take a crowd of people and turn them into a choir.  She had one of the most remarkable voices in folk music.

"Freyda will be remembered for many things-her voice, her fiddle playing, her sharp sardonic sense of humor, her teaching, and her many friendships.  And most of all, she will be remembered for the vibrant community she created wherever she went.  That was her gift and song was her medium and art."

From Sing Swing & String Week Staff List

Freyda FREYDA EPSTEIN  Since her days in the seminal art-folk group Trapezoid, Freyda Epstein has long been one of the finest voices in American folk music and one of its best interpreters of lyric.  More than a voice, she is a fine violinist, violist and guitarist whose playing style blends classical technique with organic folk textures.  After leaving Trapezoid, she formed her own band, Freyda and Acoustic Attatude, called “the best group currently on the acoustic circuit” by Dirty Linen.  Their debut CD, Midnight at Cabell Hall won the silver medal for Best Folk Album of the Year from NAIRD (National Association of Independent Record Distributors). 

In addition to her performance credits, Freyda is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, and a skilled voice and violin instructor.  Over the past 15 years, Freyda has taught at the Omega Institute, Augusta, Pinewoods, Sierra Swing, SAMW, California Coast Music Camp and The Telluride Song School, and her students have included John McCutcheon, Robin & Linda Williams, Dan Crary and Mike Seeger.  Freyda is currently director of The World Harmony Choir in San Francisco.  She and her choir recently attended the International Choir Festival in Santiago de Cuba where they received numerous standing ovations during their final concert with the National Choir de Cuba.  This will be her fifth year at Swannanoa.

Renowned folk singer Epstein remembered for talent, wit

By Reed Williams, The Daily Progress, Charlottesville

May 19, 2003 Freyda Epstein, a nationally known folk musician and former resident of Charlottesville, died over the weekend in an auto accident.  She was 46.  Friends and family remembered Epstein on Monday for her rich alto singing voice, her success as a music instructor and her sense of humor.

"Freyda made an enormous contribution to our community and to communities across the country," said Laura Light, a fellow musician and longtime friend.  "She's one of those musicians who makes other people sound really good."

Before moving to Charlottesville, Epstein was a member of Trapezoid, a group based in Elkins, W.Va.  She played violin and sang in the band from 1980 to 1988.

"During that time, we did probably over 1,000 concerts and made three albums together," said Paul Riesler, leader of the group.  "She was a remarkable singer."

In the '90s, while living in Charlottesville, Epstein played with Freyda & Acoustic AttaTude, which won an award for producing the second-best folk recording of the year.  The award was given by the Independent Record Manufacturers and Distributors.

Light, who met Epstein at a music festival in Elkins three decades ago, said Epstein moved to California a few years ago and was a lead choral director for the World Harmony Chorus.  Epstein also taught singing, violin and Alexander Technique, a method of body movement musicians use.

She was driving from Washington Dulles International Airport to Charlottesville when she was killed in a car accident, Light said. Light said she and Epstein visited musicians in South Africa in December as part of a cultural exchange program, and the two friends planned to play together on tour this summer.

"We're all just hurting so bad," Light said. She said she will remember Epstein's unmistakable voice and her "really wacky" sense of humor.

Epstein grew up in a musical family in the Boston area.  Her sister, Deborah Lakin, said their mother used to compose music on her piano at home.  Lakin praised her sister's musical talent, noting that Epstein played with some of the nation's leading folk musicians over the years, including Doc Watson and Patty Larkin.

"She was somebody who loved life, who absolutely loved her music - a warm, loving, caring person," Lakin said.  "People warmed up to her and would be her friend."

A memorial service for Epstein will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church on Rugby Road.

Freyda Epstein - Berkeley-based folk musician

By Jim Herron Zamora, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer  Wednesday, May 21, 2003

A well-known Berkeley-based folk musician was killed in a small Virginia town after a freak head-on crash with a car driven by a man who had just allegedly beaten and stabbed his girlfriend, authorities said.

Freyda Epstein, 46, who recorded five of her own CDs and appeared on dozens of others, was killed early Saturday on U.S. 29 near Madison, Va. -- about 100 miles southwest of Washington, D.C.

Ms. Epstein, who recorded and toured with the group Trapezoid from 1980 to 1988, died on her way to attend a Musicalia -- a weeklong gathering of folk musicians held every year in nearby Charlottesville.

She had arrived at Dulles Airport from the Bay Area, rented a car and begun driving south to Charlottesville, where she lived before moving to Berkeley about four years ago.

A car driven by Richard Eugene Brock, 41, crossed the road and hit Ms. Epstein's car head-on, killing both of them.  Police believe that Brock had just stabbed his girlfriend and left her for dead outside a convenience store in rural Stanardsville, according to Capt. Scott Haas of the Greene County Sheriff's Department.

The girlfriend remains in critical condition. Investigators said Brock may have intentionally struck Ms. Epstein's car to commit suicide.

"It's a tragic end to a life that touched thousands of people," said Laura Light, a close friend of Ms. Epstein's in Virginia.  "She was a very talented performer and very talented teacher.  She has a huge community of people that she's reached through her music."

A native of Boston who quit college to play folk music, Ms. Epstein moved to West Virginia in the 1970s.

There she sang and played violin with a wide range of artists involved in the revival of Appalachian folk music.  In 1980, she joined Trapezoid, which critics have called a seminal group on the art-folk acoustic scene.

"During that time, we did probably over 1,000 concerts and made three albums together," said Paul Riesler, leader of Trapezoid.  "She was a remarkable singer."

After leaving Trapezoid she moved to Charlottesville and formed her own group Freyda and Acoustic Attatude, called "the best group currently on the acoustic circuit" by Dirty Linen magazine.

Their debut CD, "Midnight at Cabell Hall," won the silver medal for Best Folk Album of the Year from the National Association of Independent Record Distributors.  She also recorded a well-known children's CD "Global Lullabyes," which draws on folk traditions from around the world.

On moving to Berkeley, Ms. Epstein immersed herself in choral work as a teacher and director.  She was a lead choral director for the World Harmony Chorus, which has toured Cuba and South Africa in the past year.

Ms. Epstein is survived by her sister Deborah Lakin of Boston and brother Paul Epstein of Jupiter, Fla.

A memorial service is scheduled for Wednesday at Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church in Charlottesville.  Services are tentatively planned for her in the Bay Area on June 14.

Folk Singer Freyda Epstein Dies at 46

From Washington Post News Services, May 22, 2003

Freyda Epstein, 46, a Berkeley, Calif., folksinger who recorded and toured with the group Trapezoid in the 1980s, was killed May 17 near Madison, Va., when a vehicle hit her rental car head-on on Route 29.

A spokesman for the Greene County sheriff's department said the other driver, Richard E. Brock, 41, had earlier beaten and stabbed his girlfriend in Standardsville, Va., and may have intentionally crossed into Ms. Epstein's path.  Brock was killed in the crash.

Ms. Epstein, a Boston native who quit college to play folk music, formerly lived in Charlottesville.  She was on her way there to attend a gathering of folk musicians.

In the 1970s, while living in Elkins, W.Va., Ms. Epstein sang and played violin with a wide range of artists involved in the revival of Appalachian folk music.  In 1980, she joined Trapezoid, which critics have called a seminal folk group.

In Charlotte, she formed the group Freyda and Acoustic Attatude.  The group's debut CD, "Midnight at Cabell Hall," won the silver medal for Best Folk Album of the Year from the National Association of Independent Record Distributors.

She recorded a well-known children's CD, "Globalullabies," drawing on folk traditions from around the world.  In Berkeley, Ms. Epstein was a choral teacher and director.  She was a director for the World Harmony Chorus, which toured Cuba and South Africa in the past year.

Survivors include a brother and sister.

Freyda Epstein has died.

By Waldo Janquith, May 21st, 2003

Charlottesville musician Freyda Epstein died this week. On Monday night, her car was hit head-on by an escaping criminal, and she was killed in the crash.  We were merely acquainted, and I couldn't bring myself to go to the memorial service that was held this evening.  Though she was a great musician on many fronts, I most admired her vocal work.  Her performance with Brady Earnhart on his wonderful 1997 solo release, After You, is my favorite.  (It's one of my favorite albums.  I listen to it constantly, even now, six years after it was released.)  All of her work on the album is understated, to the point that a listener could easily miss her on a first listen.  "Stephen Crane" is a good example.  Sure, the song would would have worked without her, but it would have been weakened fatally.  Instead of making herself look good, she labored quietly, in the background, helping others shine.

I'm not so sad at the thought of Freyda's death as I am at the thought of all of the good friends that she's leaving behind, left to sift through her life, learning to talk about her using a entirely new tense of verb.  Was.  Did.  Loved.

Link to Instant Harmony Memorium

I was returning from a hike in the White Mountains with Freyda's niece and some friends, when she had the feeling she should check in with her parents.  Sadness.  She went to the memorial service and the kindness of the hundreds of artists who attended healed her.  -emr