Nowell Sing We Clear

nown for their lively and entertaining presentations of English folk songs, John Roberts and Tony Barrand have performed at important festivals, colleges, and coffee houses throughout the United States, Canada, and their native England. Accomplished self-taught folklorists, they typically sing ballads and songs of the sea, of drinking situations, of industrial strife and much more, arranging the material thematically to illustrate the social history and the lives of the people who made up the songs. Performing in unaccompanied two-part harmony, they regularly draw upon a variety of instruments including Anglo-German and English concertinas, button accordion, banjo, guitar, and a variety of rhythm instruments such as bones and spoons. They met at Cornell University in 1968 while studying for Ph.D's in Psychology. After a number of years teaching at Marlboro College in southern Vermont, John Roberts is now a full-time musician; Dr. Tony Barrand teaches psychology, folklore and aesthetics through the University Professors at Boston University, recently co-edited a revised and expanded fourth edition of the shape-note hymnal Northern Harmony: Plain Tunes, Fuging Tunes and Anthems from the Early and Contemporary New England Singing Tradition and authored a major book on seasonal dance customs, Six Fools and a Dancer: The Timeless Way of the Morris and a compilation of sword dance notations, Longsword Compiled by Ivor Allsop(All available from Carriage House Books).

In thirty-one years as a professional team, they have recorded with a number of companies, including Front Hall, Folk Legacy, Swallowtail, and National Geographic. Their most recent production is Heartoutbursts: English Folksongs Collected by Percy Grainger. They recently presented a concert of songs inspired by an exhibit of Maxfield Parrishís paintings at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Brooklyn Musuem of Art. They have also performed settings of Rudyard Kiplingís verse at his restored house, Naulakha, in Dummerston, VT. It is recorded as Naulakha Redux: Songs of Rudyard Kipling (available from Golden Hind Records). Both John and Tony were founding members of the celebrated Marlboro Morris and Sword dance teams which perform the seasonal display dances in communities in Windham County, Vermont. John lives in Schenectady, NY, and Tony in Brattleboro, VT.

Fred Breunig is one of the most influential leaders of the New England contra dance movement and a major resource for the increasingly large following atttracted to the English Playford-style country dances. He has taught workshops and called dances throughout the U.S. and Canada and is a well-known figure leading dances to the accompaniment of his own fiddle playing. A printer by trade, he makes his home and runs his business, Press On! in Putney, VT, and maintains his regular community dance in East Putney on the last friday of each month. Fred has recorded with John and Tony on Front Hall and Folk-Legacy, and was a contributing musician to the influential F&W String Band albums of New England contra dance tunes.

Andy Davis is known nationally as one of the finest piano accompanists for contra dance music and is an outstanding performer on piano accordion and banjo. He teaches music in several schools in Brattleboro where he makes his home and runs the successful operation of New England Dancing Masters, with recordings and publications which make New England dance forms available for use in schools. Andy is a much-loved music teacher in local elementary schools and a leader of popular community dances. In addition to the Nowell recordings, he and guiitarist, Sandy Bradley are the accompanists on Laurie Andresí widely praised accordion, Fantastic Hornpipe.

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