An Appreciation of Mary Lee Partington

Mary Lee Partington  passed away on April 21, 2024 after a long battle with cancer. Her strength and optimism throughout the past several years was inspiring to everyone who knew her. 

Mary Lee was a co-founder,  voice, songwriter and tunesmith for the internationally acclaimed New England-based group Pendragon starting in 1983.  The repertoire included traditional American Folk and Irish music, contemporary material and original songs inspired by regional stories.  In addition Mary Lee was an award-winning English teacher at Burrillville High School. 

Mary Lee was one of the founders of the Blackstone River Theatre in 1994. She was a dedicated champion of the Rhode Island CounciI for the Humanities for decades. Mary Lee worked tirelessly to promote cultural heritage, traditional music, and the stories of the people who settled in the Blackstone River Valley. 

In later years Mary Lee worked with NEA Fellow Kevin Doyle to create and produce Roscommon Soles, an Irish step & American tap show connecting hornpipes and reels from 1930s Ireland to historic tap, old steps, stories & tunes. 

In December of 2023 Mary Lee  was honored with the John H. Chafee Heritage Award from the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. 

In December of 2016, Mary Lee and I were part of a Christmas variety show at the Blackstone River Theatre. We had known of each other as artists for years but this was the first time we had an opportunity to be on the same stage. We had so much fun learning how to create music together. We decided it should continue after the 2017 Christmas show. 

Throughout  2018 we created a musical and personal friendship. I made lunch for us every week as we arranged and rehearsed songs together.  In 2018,  new leadership at the non-profit where I worked decided it was time for me to leave after 14 years. Mary Lee's friendship and experiences helped me cope with the transition.    

In 2020 Partington & Sweeney released Commonplaces, a recording that told stories of immigrants, farmers and factory workers during 19th & 20th century America, where self-educated mill girls earn their own keep, an orphan endures to tell her tale, where old ballads take root and where migrants go farther west. 

I hope you enjoy our work together.  I have gathered these videos we created over the past few years.  I invite you to keep her memory alive with a free download of Commonplaces (see below). 

She will truly be missed. 

Commonplaces

Mary Lee Partingon & Ed Sweeney

Commonplaces is inspired by the centuries-old practice of commonplacing or recording wisdom and ideas for later recollection in notebooks that bear the name “commonplace.”

Mary Lee Partington & Ed Sweeney tell stories of migrants, farmers and factory workers during 19th & 20th century America, where self-educated mill girls earn their own

Commonplaces is inspired by the centuries-old practice of commonplacing or recording wisdom and ideas for later recollection in notebooks that bear the name “commonplace.”

Mary Lee Partington & Ed Sweeney tell stories of migrants, farmers and factory workers during 19th & 20th century America, where self-educated mill girls earn their own keep, an orphan endures to tell her tale, where old ballads have taken root and where migrants go further west.

Read more…
I just listened to this and I loved it! This old New Englander's ears perked up hearing these gorgeous songs” - Wanda Adams Fisher - Hudson River Sampler WAMC

Videos

I just listened to this 3 times back2back this afternoon through 3 different sound sources. This is the Christmas stocking stuffer you are going to want to get...early...one for you now and one for someone later. Such very rich sounds both instrumentally and vocally, it will instantly place you in a vibration of euphoria and keep you suspended there, your mind tracing all the words of the lyrical stories, and pondering how you feel every sense of your mind, body, and soul elevating. THIS is a must have. Dang this is stellar indeed. Finally some freakin real music coming out of the ashes of Summer to move the mings & spirit forward. We are so lucky. Thank you kind Sir and very finely kept company” - Josephine Elle

— Heart2SoulRadio - Portland Oregon