Cornell Folk Song Society Concert
Saturday, 30 April, 8 pm
Community School of Music and Arts,
330 E. State St., downtown Ithaca
Edinburgh-born, but at home on both sides of the Atlantic, Jean Redpath is the foremost interpreter of the songs of Robert Burns, and for more than 50 years has sung traditional and contemporary Scottish songs and ballads like no other. Her voice has depth, tenderness, grit, and no small measure of wit: she sings and laughs as easily as breathing. “To call Jean Redpath a Scottish folk singer is a bit like calling Michelangelo an Italian interior decorator,”declares the Edinburgh Evening News. The Cornell Folk Song Society is honored that she has agreed to return to Ithaca; her concert is truly a “Don’t miss!” event.
Raised in Fife, Ms. Redpath found her life’s focus while studying oral tradition at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Scottish Studies. In 1961, she made her way to the United States; arriving with $11 to her name, she fell in with Rambling Jack Elliot, Bob Dylan, and others of the Greenwich Village folk revival. She was quickly “discovered,” with raves from the NY Times and recording offers. Since then, she’s toured world-round, from coffeehouses and festivals to the Sydney Opera House and Avery Fisher Hall, and has made over 40 superb recordings, including definitive collections of Robert Burns. For years, she has been a dedicated teacher of Scottish folklore and music at all levels, from elementary school to universities (artist-in-residence at both Wesleyan in Connecticut and Stirling in Scotland), summer programs, and workshops. Her honors are numerous: four honorary doctorates, command performances for Queen Elizabeth, M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire), Kentucky Colonel, Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame, and a portrait in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Although she’s considered a living legend, Jean Redpath has remained unpretentious: direct, spontaneous, and funny. In performance, she is a stand-up comic and ethnomusicologist, as well as a sublime singer. Her voice is “a mezzo soprano that classically trained art singers might envy; no one interprets the Scottish tradition more beautifully or with more affection” (New York Times). She sings with operatic resonance, yet is down-to-earth: a rare gift. “Her deep, sandy voice is a marvelous ballad instrument, its naturalness concealing awesome control,” writes a Boston Globe reviewer. “When she takes a breath, she blows beauty into the very soul” (The Scotsman). Because she brings passion and understanding to traditional Scottish songs, they are not musty fossils, but very much alive and with full meaning today.
At the Chelsea House in Brattleboro, Vermont, where she made numerous fine recordings for Philo, I first heard Jean Redpath live in 1975. When she performed Song of the Seals, she held us as fully spellbound as the seals. I have never heard anything finer.
Jean Redpath is familiar to radio listeners of the late Robert J. Lurtsema’s Morning Pro Musica program out of Boston, and has been a regular on Prairie Home Companion, where Garrison Keillor said of her, “She has a fierce devotion to the music, as a Scot and as an artist. Everything she most deeply feels and believes in–about death and love and country and womanhood–comes out in these songs. The songs aren’t pictures. They’re rocks. They are the mountain itself.” Get yourself to the mountain: Jean Redpath was last in Ithaca in 1986!
Concert tickets are available at Ludgate Farms, Ithaca Guitar Works, GreenStar, Autumn Leaves Bookstore, and online at www.cornellfolksong.org/. $15 advance/$17 door; $3 rebate for members, seniors, teens; children 12 & under free. Students $10/$12. Info: 607-279-2027 or website.
Jean Redpath Vocal Workshop
Sunday, May 1, 1:00-3:00 pm
Hollis Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall,
Cornell Arts Quad on East Ave.
In this master class, Jean Redpath is likely to cover traditional Scottish song (from lullabies and child’s play songs to love songs, ballads, and laments), Robert Burns, and perhaps a bit of gospel. She’ll help with pronunciation and translation of Scottish dialect (“essentially a foreign language”) and with conveying the essence of a song. Whatever the material, Jean Redpath is bound to be wise and funny, and will encourage participants to shed self-consciousness for love of singing. All levels of singers are welcome.
Please pre-register (so we’ll know how many to expect) by contacting Margaret Shepard (firstname.lastname@example.org). Cost is $15, payable at the door.