Adirondack Harper Raises Money for Flood Victims

Dennis and Martha Gallagher find a creative way to give back.

When Dennis and Martha Gallagher returned home from a national concert tour on August 29, 2012, they found their home ravaged by the flood of the day before. They saw the horrific damages suffered by the communities of Keene and Jay. After beginning repairs on their own home, they went to work on a fundraising device to help others in the same situation.

Water is Wide CD

Martha's CD, The Water is Wide, was released in record time. Every penny of the $15 sale price went directly to the Keene Flood Recovery Fund and the Jay Irene Flood Relief Fund at Adirondack Foundation, because all of the goods, services, time, talent and music were donated. Martha called upon the recording engineer she has worked with for more than 10 years on all five of her indie label CDs: Lane Gibson of Lane Gibson Recording and Mastering, Charlotte, Vt. Aware of the devastation in his own area, Lane donated the studio time and his recording engineering services. Nancy Battalgia donated the photos. Dennis designed the packaging. The manufacturers, Oasis CD, gave a steep discount, donated posters and got the CD out by Columbus Day Weekend, which every retailer in the Adirondacks knows is critical for shops that hope to make it through the winter. 

"I knew that we wouldn't be in the position to donate money, but I wanted to help our friends and neighbors by supporting the ongoing relief efforts," Martha says. "So, I gave what I have to give: music."

By the end of January 2012, the total raised from the sale of the CD reached $14,000.

Martha has been performing professionally for more than 30 years and has become an acclaimed singer, songwriter, harper, actress and storyteller. She tours her one-woman show nationally as well as performing extensively throughout the Adirondacks. Dennis plays an unusual nine-string guitar in a contemporary finger-style. He also designs custom software for clients on the MacIntosh Platform. Their daughter, Meaghan, is in her final year of law school at Syracuse University.

Dennis and hole under their house

Martha and Dennis were shocked by what they found on August 29, 2012. Six inches of flood waters had passed through their first floor. The basement held 3 feet of muddy muck that volunteers helped dig out. The heating system and all the ducts were completely destroyed. And the back wing that is their family room was dangling unsupported over a 20' by 20', 12-foot-deep hole that had been scoured out by the river. Two barns from their upstream neighbors had crashed into their house, damaging the foundation.

Gallagher house

Martha and Dennis began cleaning up and rebuilding right away.

"Our home has been here for over 200 years," Martha says.  "Being close to the river, it's seen floods before. The damage from Irene was way beyond any of that, though."

They applied for and immediately received grants from the Keene Flood Recovery Fund that are helping to cover the work that FEMA doesn't.

"The ease of the grant application with Adirondack Foundation, as well as the timely disbursement of grants, made it possible for us to move forward with clean-up and reconstruction with the speed necessary," Dennis says.  "We needed to clear out wet and damaged materials quickly, before mold got a strong hold. We also had to try to get the house livable again before winter." 

Martha's Adirondack Harper persona developed after a stint as a classical symphony flutist followed by singing in a jazz trio and in a rock band—late at night and in rough places. When their daughter Meaghan was born, Martha wanted more regular performance hours in more gentle settings. Having felt a strong attraction to harps since seeing a Celtic harpist play while in college, Martha found a design, made one, and taught herself to play it.

Gradually, Martha built a vibrant career around her harp. Her performances now take her to concert halls, festivals and theatres around the country. Her hallmark is playing music people don't expect to hear on the harp, including some of those jazz numbers from her days in the bands. Wherever she plays, she remembers the Adirondacks.

"For those who don't know this incredible place on the planet, I paint a picture through music, story and poetry," she says.

Martha performed in Keene Valley, Lake Placid, Jay, Upper Jay, and Indian Lake, to raise money to help Irene's victims. Dennis was by her side to perform his original piece, The Raindrop Song, as a duo.

"I fell in love with Dennis over this song many years ago," Martha says. "It seemed so right that we performed it together at these benefit concerts. It is a great part of our strength to be able to work together to recover from this disaster."

The Raindrop song is featured on The Water is Wide.