This Month's Show
A HURDY GURDY NOTEWORTHY NIGHT CO-BILL CONCERT
Debra Cowan and John Roberts
February 7, 2015
It all started with a question in 2009: "How are you getting to Chicago?"
And with that, folk musicians John Roberts and Debra Cowan decided to team up for a series of small concerts in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois before arriving as separately booked artists at the Fox Valley Folklore Society's annual festival. The combination of car-pool and mini-tour was successful enough that John and Debra decided to do more performing together both in the USA and the United Kingdom.
John and Debra met for the first time at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in 1999 where John and his long-time musical partner, Tony Barrand were performing a concert of Maritime Songs. Afterwards, they continued to meet at various folk music events in New England and became friends, often appearing on stage together at New England folk festivals.
As a young girl Debra idolized Julie Andrews and in her teens discovered Jethro Tull and Steeleye Span. At the age of 21 she needed escape out of a small Midwestern town so she threw darts at a map and ended up in northern California where she attended college, sang in bars, and eventually worked as a middle school math teacher. She continued her discovery of folk with English singers like Sandy Denny and Scottish singers like Ray Fisher. Debra started performing in California 35 years ago and began touring in 1998, with frequent stops in the US and UK.
John Roberts has been singing English folk songs since the early 1960s, when he joined a local folk club in his native Worcestershire. Coming to the U.S. as a graduate student in 1968, he soon joined with Tony Barrand to form a duo which has lasted ever since. While continuing to work with Tony, and with the seasonal performances of Nowell Sing We Clear, John has continued to work as a solo performer, accompanying a broad repertoire of British Isles songs on concertina and banjo.
John and Debra both share an enthusiasm and passion for the old songs and ballads that have been handed down through the oral tradition in the English-speaking world. Even though a John Roberts and Debra Cowan evening will certainly include many traditional songs, there will be contemporary songs as well, some by writers personally known to both performers. Be prepared to join in and sing along!