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Music in Bass Hall

January 12 @ 7:30 pm

Music in Bass Hall opens the 2018 season with John Roberts and Debra Cowan on Friday, January 12 at 7:30 p.m. John Roberts and Debra Cowan have been presenting their eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary songs for the last five years. Audience participation is not required, but strongly encouraged and it’s immediately apparent that any reluctance to join in on choruses disappears at the sound of the first notes. A Roberts-Cowan performance is sure to bring a smile to the faces of all who attend, even after the last notes have long died away.

With their eloquent voices and expert musicianship, John Roberts and Debra Cowan bring to life songs seldom heard on TV or radio these days. Drawn from both the folk tradition and the work of contemporary songwriters, many of these songs tell of the timeless joys and sorrows of human experience. They offer windows into where we’ve come from and perhaps where we’re headed. Both John and Debra can spin a ripping good yarn and whether illuminating, inspiring, or laugh-out-loud funny, their stories convey their love of the songs and the people who’ve sung them over the years, decades — and in some cases centuries.

John, an English émigré, has been singing sea shanties, broadside ballads, pub tunes, and British traditional songs since the 1960s. Sometimes his bold voice stands alone; other times he accompanies himself on Anglo concertina or banjo. He is considered one of the foremost Anglo concertina players in the English-speaking world and uses the banjo for unique settings in many of the songs he sings. He can give the background of any song he performs, often telling the listener the circumstances from which it might have been written and from whom the song was collected.

“Stunning” is a word that is often used to describe Debra Cowan’s vocals. Debra’s nightingale soprano complements and contrasts with John’s rich baritone. Her repertoire focuses on traditional songs and on contemporary work that deserves a wider audience. Following a life-long desire to sing and perform, Debra went to live in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1997. There she learned the art of unaccompanied singing and upon her return to the USA began traveling and performing. Over the last 20 years, Debra has impressed listeners with her clarity, warmth, agility, all the while encouraging the audience to join in on choruses and refrains. Her four recordings have been met with high praise world-wide and in June 2015, she was featured in the UK folk music magazine, Living Tradition.

John and Debra firmly believe that folk music is not a spectator sport. They can turn any audience into a chorale by patiently teaching sometimes complicated and often tongue-tying choruses, along with familiar songs. Whether the venue is a coffeehouse, auditorium, or living room, listeners leave a Roberts-Cowan performance smiling and often singing, knowing that the song is the star, and singing is what keeps great songs alive.

Tickets: $18/members $20/public

Can be purchased by calling (603) 924-3235 or on the event link provided.


Monadnock Center for History and Culture
19 Grove Street
Peterborough, NH 03458 United States