May 11, 1938|
New York City, NY, U.S.
|Origin||Greenwich Village, New York City|
|1956 - 1960s, 1981, 2002-2003|
|Erik Darling, Tony Saletan|
|Members||Irene Saletan, Ellen Christenson (born Irene and Ellen Kossoy)|
The Kossoy Sisters are identical twin sisters (Irene Saletan and Ellen Christenson ) who performed American folk and old time music. In their music, Irene sang mezzo-soprano vocal, and Ellen supplied soprano harmony, with Irene on guitar and Ellen played the 5-string banjo in a traditional up-picking technique. Their performances were notable examples of close harmonies singing. They began performing professionally in their mid teens and are esteemed as a significant part of the popular folk music movement that started in the mid-1950s.
The sisters were born on May 11, 1938 in New York City, United States. The twins began singing together at about the age of six, in imitation of harmonies created in the home by their mother and aunt. At fifteen they attended a summer camp at which Pete Seeger and other well-known folk singers often performed, and they developed a lifelong attachment to the genre. They quickly discovered the bustling folk music scene in the Greenwich Village section of New York City and mingled with the people who congregated in Washington Square Park.
When they were seventeen, they recorded the album Bowling Green which features the sisters' close harmonies and accompaniment by Erik Darling. The duo were introduced to a new audience when their version of "I'll Fly Away" from this album was used in the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Another song from the same album, the Kossoys' version of "Single Girl, Married Girl," is heard on the soundtrack of the 2014 film release Obvious Child.
They performed in the first Newport Folk Festival in 1959 and returned to Newport to perform again in 2012, over 50 years later. They also were in the original stage production of Woody Guthrie's "Bound for Glory" and at the Fox Hollow Folk Festival in Petersburgh, NY. They toured California in 1981 and have appeared in the Boston area, Washington DC, New York, Pinewoods Camp, various venues in the St. Louis area and numerous other locations.
A second CD, "Hop on Pretty Girls," appeared in 2002 on the Living Folk label. A non-commercial CD, "Kossoy Sisters," is available from Public Radio Station WBUR in Boston. It is a recording of an interview with the twins on February 23, 2003, during their promotional tour for "Hop on Pretty Girls."
Irene and Ellen attended local schools in New York and went on to graduate from Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois. Soon after completion of their formal studies, the sisters married. Ellen moved to St. Louis and Irene settled in the Boston area. Irene and her former husband Anthony D. ("Tony") Saletan performed together for some time, during their marriage, as Tony and Irene Saletan. They released an album together, Folk Songs and Ballads, in 1970 on Folk-Legacy Records. Over the years the sisters have continued to perform live while also immersing themselves in the responsibilities of family life. Ellen has a son and a daughter, and Irene has a son and a daughter.