JAM - NSW Folk Federation
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House Concert with Brian Peters
A review

By Mary-Jane Field
Posted Sunday, May 15, 2005

Folk music, presented to all and sundry and in the home as opposed to on stage, is part of the business of keeping folk music alive. And what better place than a lovely home near a national park, surrounded by trees and fresh air, with good food, nice people and a great atmosphere – and, of course, a consumate and commited performer of folk music.

This is what I encountered at Margaret Bradford’s house concert on Palm Sunday, 2005, with Brian Peters. Having been a bit removed from folk activities recently I thought it would be a good place to start getting involved again. And, what a start! I was just bowled over by the whole afternoon.

Brian Peters and audience at house party

Brian Peters is my idea of the perfect folk performer. Whether singing a cappella or accompanying himself with guitar or various types of accordions/melodions/concertinas (it’s been a few weeks and I’m no longer sure exactly what the “squeeze boxes” were) he puts the idea of selling the story first. Everything is subordinate to that, although the accompaniments he comes up with are incredibly sensitive and musical.

accompaniments more complicated than one might think

In fact, the accompaniments are more complicated than one might think. Interesting chord progressions and melodic touches and “vamps” pull the melodies together to emphasize a mood or lyric. At one point - during the fantastic supper provided by Allan Deane - I just had to approach him to say how much I appreciated those aspects. They seemed so effortless, just thrown in, never dominating or detracting from the main theme of the song. “Oh, you noticed . . .,” he said, an aside that was a testament to the musicality he brings to his work.

Another thing that impressed me was the obvious time and interest he takes in researching his songs. I can just imagine him spending wonderful hours pouring over his sources – there is more to it than that, of course (and one does have to make a living), but a mental picture of him sitting on a stool in a library or at his computer, surrounded by notes and scraps of paper, kept flitting in and out of my mind as I listened to his music and his stories about the songs.

Australian connection

Among the songs he has researched is that great favourite, “All Around My Hat,” which he sang in a much more measured manner than we usually hear at singing sessions. The Australian connection was explained, which lent special interest to his version.

So, thanks to Brian, Margaret and Allan for a wonderful afternoon, affirming my own commitment to folk music and spreading the music most effectively to those who were lucky enough to be present.