Library/History Museum Programs (and other like venues)

New Book, New Program:

Jefferson's Dream--the Ballad of the Declaration of Independence


Based on his recent book and CD of the same title published by Hobblebush Books, the program celebrates in story and song eight great Americans—women and men—who carried the values of the Declaration forward into our lives.  Through the medium of ballads, John traces Jefferson’s vision as it dramatically broadens with Lincoln’s reading, and gives impetus to abolitionism and women’s rights.

Beginning with Thomas Jefferson, John presents an overview of the evolution of the fundamental ideals of the Republic with commentary and ballads on Jefferson, Harriet Tubman, Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Thoreau, Ida B. Wells, and Eleanor Roosevelt.  He shows how each of these figures overcome monumental obstacles in the pursuit of liberty and equality.

"John Perrault has a great passion for history and a wonderful insight into the American experience.

Theses stories and songs reflect an outstanding dedication to that passion." --Bill Staines

"John--I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your CD, Jefferson's Dream.  Fantastic!!! 

...Your lyrics are wonderful.  I love how you incorporated 'America the Beautiful' into the title

song....I think this could be a very fine resource for teachers, schools and musicians..."  --Catherine O'Brian,

Coordinator, Arts Education Grants & Programs, NH State Council on the Arts.

"John takes the timeless essence of Jefferson's words and links them to the 21st century with

original music and fascinating biographical anecdotes of those who have worked tirelessly for

freedom and equality.  Our audience loved his program."  --Ellen Knowlton, Head of Reference

& Adult Services, Merrimack (NH) Public Library.

"John--Your presentation was a great pleasure, as always.  Each time that you come to present

your work in Effingham, listeners appreciate your style of telling stories and reading your poetry

and always want to listen a little longer.  Your 'Jefferson Dream' presentation lived up to our high

expectations.  It provided insight into the historical characters, weaving the events of history with

stories and songs in a way that brought them to life.  I hope to get the word out to other organizations--

this is a great program, of interest  to all ages."  --Katie McCarthy, Coordinator, Writers' Night,

Effingham (NH) Public Library.


To book this program contact John at 603-964-8358 or e-mail:


Other Programs:

Offered with grants through the New Hampshire Humanities Council in NH --
and the New England Foundation for the Arts outside NH --


(These may also be directly booked through John Perrault--e-mail:  Tel:  603-964-8358)

1. The Ballad Lives! Singing the Roots of Narrative Art
The medieval folk ballad emerged from the unconscious need of people to express its identity. Simple in form, straightforward in content, it sang a story that, however tragic, affirmed the community's values while satisfying its deep need for dramatic narrative in rhythmic form. Later the ballad was transplanted in the New World and has been carried forward by American balladeers such as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. New England culture--its history, legends, and myths--continues to be preserved, celebrated, and reinvigorated by this genre. John Perrault, author of The Ballad of Louis Wagner and other New England Stories in Verse , reviews and demonstrates the evolution of the ballad with vocals and guitar. Program includes songs of the New England woods, waters, fields and towns.

2. Crime & Punishment on the Isles of Shoals
Lawyer and balladeer John Perrault examines the life, times, and trial of Louis Wagner. Wagner was convicted of and executed for murdering Anethe Christensen on Smuttynose Island , Isles of Shoals, in March of 1873. Although sentiment against Wagner was at a fever pitch immediately following the murders of Anethe and Karen Christensen, time and reflection have generated an ongoing debate as to the fairness of the trial and the validity of the verdict. But what does the evidence show? Drawing from the trial transcript, media reports, and the cultural milieu in which the trial took place, this program takes a fresh look at the law's judgment of Louis Wagner. Was he killer or victim? And why does this question continue to disturb us some one hundred and thirty years after his death? The program concludes with John singing his haunting "Ballad of Louis Wagner."

Further Interactive Programs Booked Directly through John Perrault :

3. The Poetry of Song--Ballad and Lyrics, Barbara Allen to Blackbird
Poetry and song rise from the same root--music. The tree grows strong until the Renaissance when it branches into poetry and song. In this workshop style program, we'll prune a few limbs, peel back the bark, and examine the curl of the grain. Maybe risk a new graft. We'll take up the folk ballads "Barbara Allen" and "The Wife of Usher's Well" and ask ourselves why these song-poems have survived. What is it about their integration of subject matter and image, form and content, sound and sense, that keeps them alive? We'll look at the old love poem "The Water Is Wide" and, focusing on melody and metaphor, ask why it keeps flowing back to us generation after generation. We'll sample works from Burns to Dylan and pay attention to their overall architecture. Through a process of dialogue, analysis of hand-outs, and experimentation with lines and stanzas, our goals are to discover what makes ballads and songs stand as poems, and to write song-poems that will last. (This workshop is oriented toward the beginning and intermediate writer and is especially appropriate for library writing and reading groups. An abridged version is also available for middle and high school students.)

4. What Is a Poem Anyway?
Portsmouth Poet Laureate John Perrault presents a program examining the question of what exactly constitutes a poem. Formal verse, free verse, prose poem, anti-poem-- what are we to make of it all? Engaging participants in a discussion of what diction, syntax, images and figures do to make a poem, John explores the question by way of singing/reciting and discussing ballads, song-poems, and lyric poems. He will encourage discussion about the poetic essence of a few Scots/English ballads and selected poems of Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Langston Hughes, among others. John will also read and sing selections from his recent book : The Ballad of Louis Wagner and other New England Stories in Verse. (This program is also appropriate for library writing groups. A version modified to fit the class room for middle school and high school students is also available.)


School Programs with grants available from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the New England Foundation for the Arts:


5. Lincoln & Liberty Too
Freedom vs. Slavery, North vs. South, Brother vs. Brother--The Civil War was and is the national tragedy that hibernates in the cool corners of the American Mind only to wake and make for crises when thoughts heat up.

Working within the historic framework of principle vs. compromise--(and after engaging students in a discussion about the first Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Compromise of 1850, the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, and the issues arising out of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s), Attorney/balladeer John Perrault augments the conversation with songs that ask the questions: Who do we think we are? Who do we want to be? Just what are our values? What does freedom mean? What is the relationship between liberty and equality? With songs from the days of Lincoln to those of the Civil Rights era and of our own time, John illustrates the political, legal and moral issues that continue to arise from the history of slavery in America . (This program is geared toward middle school and high school students. Ideally it is incorporated into a week-long unit on the Civil War and/or Civil Rights. An abridged version is available for individual class sessions.)

6. The Role of the River in New England
Bangor , Biddeford , Kittery -- Berlin , Dover , Manchester -- Lowell , Lawrence , Boston --

Brattleboro , Providence Hartford--and the list goes on. What do each of these cities and towns have in common? A river runs through it! Made it what it was and what it has become. The history of New England is a story of running water.

Balladeer John Perrault navigates the role of the river in New England through story and song. Focusing on the native peoples who fished and farmed by the banks of the rivers, the early settlers who dammed them and built water wheels, the woodsmen who floated logs to the sawmills, and the industrialists who erected the brick textile mills that still cast their shadows over our rivers, John illustrates the panorama of New England river history and culture with songs such as "Jam on Gerry's Rocks," "Canada-I-O," "Manchester Heartbreak," and "Piscataqua." He encourages students to think about how water flooded the immigrant fathers' hopes and the immigrant mothers' dreams to make them land here, settle here, build this city, this culture, this way of seeing the world. And how do they see it now? Now that so much has changed, and the logs are gone, and the mills closed, and the shops shuttered along main street? What does the water make possible now? With the white water roaring in April and the snows of January calling skiers north from the big cities? And the silence of the woods still surrounding places of such quiet banks, that even the fox and the deer come to a still stand--in wonder. (This program is geared to middle school and high school students, and is designed to be presented in one class session.)

7. The Ballad of the Squalus
On May 23, 1939, The Squalus Submarine sank in 240 feet of water off the Isles of Shoals. Built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the Squalus was making a test dive when the main induction valve failed to close and flooded the sub. Fifty-nine men were aboard, thirty-three were rescued. For the first time in naval history, a diving bell was used to extricate the men. Balladeer John Perrault narrates the story as told to him by Gerald McLees, one of the survivors. This riveting story of disaster at sea and a remarkable rescue operation culminates with John singing his "Ballad of the Squalus," which is celebrated as a classic artistic rendition of a major piece of New England history. To listen to the ballad, click on "Recordings" above, then click on the selection from Country Matters.  For lyrics, please visit , click on "Arts," click on "Ballad of the Squalus." (This program is appropriate for grade levels 4 through 12 and is designed to be presented in one class session.)

8. What Is a Poem Anyway?
A classroom version of Program # 4 above, suitable for grades 5 through 12, geared for a single class presentation.


For NH State Council on the Arts grant information and applications, go to: and click on "grants"; for information on John Perrault click on "arts and artists" and follow links.


For sponsors outside New Hampshire, go to, click on "Find an Artist" and type in "John Perrault."  Sponsors may apply for grants for these programs through the New England Foundation for the Arts as John is on the New England States Touring Roster (NEST).  Please contact the Foundation in Boston at 617-951-0010 for assistance in grant application, or visit its web site at .

These school programs may also be booked directly through John Perrault at