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In live performance, the musicians of Simple Gifts are all over the map—in a good way.

A concert by the Pennsylvania-based trio of instrumentalists can be a whirlwind tour that carries you from a Gypsy campfire to an Appalachian cabin; from a breath of the Scottish Highlands to a blast from the Russian steppes. You’ll hear Irish jigs and Klezmer frailachs; dances from a Mediterranean celebration and twin fiddling from a Scandinavian seaport. 

You’ll even hear original compositions that are as steeped in tradition—and the joy of storytelling—as songs that were crafted more than 500 years ago. All of it is put forth through the brilliantly simple formula of “three women plus twelve instruments equals one good time.” 

Those three women are stringed instrument specialists Linda Littleton and Karen Hirshon, with concertina innovator and mathematics professor Rachel Hall—and together they’ve accrued loyal new converts with every appearance, even while continuing to delightfully confound all attempts to summarize their sound.

Littleton and Hirshon, who often perform in a duo format, boast proficiency on some dozen or so instruments, including fiddles, guitar, banjos, mandolin, recorders, “banjolin,” and various percussive devices—to say nothing of hammered dulcimer and bowed psaltery, instruments that are rarely encountered in performance, let alone played with such virtuosic passion.

On the evening of Monday, November 21, the women of Simple Gifts visit Monmouth University for an intimate performance that takes place inside the historic Lauren K. Woods Theatre, at the eastern end of the school’s campus in West Long Branch.

Presented by the Center for the Arts at Monmouth University as part of the 2011-2012 Performing Arts Series, the 7:30 p.m. concert is expected to draw from the traditionalist trio’s five full-length, independently released recordings—all of which are readily available through such 21st-century outlets as iTunes and CD Baby.

Home to Monmouth University’s Department of Music and Theatre Arts— and scene of a celebrated Shadow Lawn Stage summer series—the Woods Theatre is a uniquely configured space, with wraparound tiered seating that affords a bird’s-eye view of the onstage performance. The beautifully renovated former carriage house of the fabled Guggenheim family summer estate offers an “up close and personal” ambience—the perfect way to experience the warmth and generosity of a concert by Simple Gifts. 

To purchase tickets, or for additional information on the 2011-2012 Performing Arts season, please contact the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online To schedule an interview, please contact Eileen Chapman at 732-571-3512.