Biography



Photograph taken by Doc Rowe during session at English Country Music Weekend, Ampthill, 2009



Singing has always been an important part of my life. I was a member of a choir at primary school and eventually graduated to every possible choir going at the next school I later attended in Guildford, where I was lucky enough to receive a very good grounding  in singing technique and sight reading.

Choral singing
I later became a member of various other choirs,large and small, but as a member of Guildford Choral Society I had the privilege of performing many stunning choral works, and making a number of commercial recordings as part of their semi-chorus. (These included works by Vaughan Williams, Holst and Parry for Hyperion Records) . Singing with them under the direction of their conductor, Hilary Davan Wetton, I was introduced to many classical masterpieces  and received many musical opportunities - singing on concert stages at the Royal Festival Hall, at the Royal Albert Hall, in Hyde Park on a blisteringly hot day with a choir of 1000 for  VE day celebrations in 1989, in the deep dark recesses of the pit at Sadlers Wells (providing live music for Ballet du Nord, a visiting ballet company from Paris) and recording for BBC Radios 2 and 3 and Classic FM.

Traditional Song
Running in tandem with all that, however, was my principal and life-long musical passion - English traditional song and music.
I have absolutely no idea where this love sprang from, but I can remember
buying a copy of the Penguin Book of English Folksong with my pocket money when I was not much more than 9 years old! After that I sang for my own pleasure for many years, mostly using a guitar as accompaniment, but, although I was invited to, I never had the courage to stand up and sing on my own in public until shortly after I attended my first folk festival in 1991.-,and more importantly a harmony workshop run by the late Sarah Morgan, who was later to become a friend, and the group Bread and Roses.

As a result of that workshop I fell into  a harmony singing partnership with Jane Ravenhill who was one of the organisers of the Ram Club which I had been attending regularly. Jane can take the credit for unexpectedly forcing me up on stage to sing on my own one week when we had  run out of new material. Scarey at the time, but things eventually got better! The partnership ran for a couple of years, but there was then a long gap with no singing in public at all , although I continued going to folk festivals such as Towersey, and the much missed National Folk Music Festival  at Sutton Bonington . After a number of years I took my courage in both hands and entered the song competition at the National, and
having given a rendition of the broadside ballad "The Bloody Gardener" , became the holder of the respected title of "Singer of the National 2000", and gained an engraved pewter mug! (My only concession to the stereotype of a traditional folksinger).

I was then lucky enough to receive masterclass tuition and guidance from Eddie Upton and Shirley Collins at Folk South West's "In the Tradition" Easter schools in Bath in 2001 and 2002, where I met Mike Bosworth from Cornwall.  Mike and I eventually went on to produce two shows in Guildford about the folksong collectors, the Rev Sabine Baring-Gould and Lucy Broadwood. I am  indebted to both Eddie and Shirley for the encouragement that they showed both of us after the 2002 Easter School, and also to Lawrence Heath for giving me the opportunity to present the shows at the Electric Theatre in Guildford in 2004 under the banner of his Electric Voices organisation..


Research - Lucy Broadwood and Talks


Following those two shows, in what little spare time I have, I have took up further research into the life and work of Lucy Broadwood, the Victorian/Edwardian folksong collector and researcher, and as a result of this  I was eventually asked to give a talk to a local organisation on the lady in late 2005. Since then I have been giving public talks on Lucy to local history societies, local organisations (such as retirement organisations), folk festivals and events (most notably at Sidmouth and Whitby festivals during the 150th anniversary year of Lucy's death).More recently there have been talks at Broadstairs Folk Festival, the English Country Music Weekend in Derbyshire,and in Ampthill, Whitby Folk Week's 50th anniversary year,and the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust's Folk Day in Suffolk.Currently I am looking forward to the prospect of giving a talk in Rusper, the Sussex village that Lucy had many associations with (including being the choir mistress and organist in the church from the age of 14!)

I consider I can now call myself an experienced public performer of unaccompanied traditional song, and I really enjoy sharing  the songs that I love with others. I have sung at various festivals and folk clubs, and have now  been one of the resident singers at the Music Institute Club in Guildford, Surrey for 11 years.

In 2008-2010 I had the pleasure of presenting the show "Listen and You Shall Hear" (an examination in words and song of the life and work of Lucy Broadwood) both as a solo performer, and with my friend, the talented multi-instrumentalist and arranger, Ralph Jordan. We  performed the show in a range of venues and for a number of different organisers - the Surrey History Centre in Woking, Surrey (where many of Lucy Broadwood's personal papers and diaries are held); a fund-raising event for Guildford Choral Society; performances at the English Country Music Weekend, the Traditions Festival in Preston, the Bradfield Traditional Music Weekend; and at the Black Diamond and Royal Oak Folk Clubs in Birmingham and Lewes, Sussex respectively, to name just a few. We had been in conversation about producing a CD of the work we had covered in the show, but sadly, due to Ralph's death early in 2014, this was not to be. He is greatly missed by many.

As a result of his  influence I  embarked on the long and rocky road of learning how to play the Maccann duet concertina - who knows, at some point I may even get to the stage where I can accompany myself !
After a break in my research due to family and health problems, I intend to return to further research with a view to producing a book about Lucy Broadwood in due course, and I have started  work on a couple of  new talks based more recent research into her correspondence, and her singers, not to mention possible collaborations involving recordings and concerts.

I am always happy to present a talk, or an extended talk/song event about this interesting and important lady, or indeed an evening of unaccompanied folksongs (both traditional and more modern in nature, and not necessarily related to Lucy !) . (See the contact page for details).
 






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