Tom and Barbara Brown

 Tom & Barbara Brown

Barbara was raised in a musical family in North Wiltshire and found folk music through teachers at school in Calne and the Ballad & Blues Club in Swindon, before moving to Bristol and encountering the Bristol Troubadour and the Folk Tradition club.  She trained as a teacher at Bath, specialising in music and drama.

Tom’s family were also singers and musicians, on both sides through several generations. Born of a Scottish father and a London mother, and raised in Sussex, he escaped school and went to work on the land in Cornwall where he encountered the extant Cornish song and music tradition through people such as Charlie Bate, Mervyn Vincent and Bob Cann together with innumerable other singers who met regularly in pubs or at home and sang for the joy of it. There was also a thriving folk revival in Cornwall in the Sixties.  It is this background in both the tradition and the fledgling folk revival that has deeply influenced both Tom and Barbara’s interest, approach and attitude to the material.

Tom and Barbara discovered each other as kindred spirits over the course of Mayday in Padstow in 1969 and married in 1970. They have been singing and organising together ever since. Although their speciality is songs of the West Country, their repertoire draws from a huge range of traditional and, to a lesser extent, modern songs. Barbara rapidly gave up playing guitar once she had Tom’s instrumental ability on guitar, mandola, concertina and melodeon to accompany her. They both enjoy working with other singers and musicians and, in 1971 formed the vocal/instrumental group Culpepper (while Barbara was working for an auctioneer firm and Tom was working at a special school for disturbed adolescent boys). After moving from North Devon to Exeter in 1980, when Tom succeeded Bill Rutter as Regional Development Officer, for the English Folk Dance and Song Society, they teamed up with Charley Yarwood to form the a capella trio Regalia. By this time they had two daughters to raise, and when Tom was made redundant they moved to London to get work – Tom in Local Government Arts and Barbara in Community Transport.Pressures of work, raising the daughters and Tom enrolling as an Arts Management  student at City University all but halted their performance work for several years but in 1998, after 15 years in London, they escaped (in Tom’s case for a second time) from the South-East and settled again back home in North Devon. Tom now has a PhD to his name, to add to his MA, and they are now working full-time at the singing (and in Tom’s case calling), with gigs all over the UK.  And they’re loving every minute of it!       


Find out more about Tom & Barbara at Umber Music

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