Carolyn Robson is a freelance performer, choral music director, teacher, workshop leader, composer and arranger. She has a deep love for, and knowledge of, the folk song tradition of the British Isles. But she ventures further afield in her performance repertoire and in the songs she teaches in her choirs and choral workshops.
Here you'll find...
At the beginning of her career Carolyn Robson was a rarity – a classically-trained musician performing on the folk club circuit in the UK. But that’s what has always made her distinctive. She combines a consummate musicality with a deep love and knowledge of traditional song from the British Isles and beyond.
From her native Northumberland she moved to London to study voice and piano at the Royal Academy of Music. She was a frequent visitor to Dingles Folk Club and the Half Moon at Putney where local musicians Ralph McTell and Bert Jansch would drop by.
Carolyn at a Folk South West
Easter School in Bath circa 2003
Introducing Carolyn Robson
photograph by Ellen Rothbottom
... on to Gipsy Hill College (now the performing arts department of Kingston University) to study for her Certificate of Education. Her music teaching career took her to Dorset, the Scottish Borders and Wales during the 1970s and 80s.
It was during her time in Dorset that she began freelance work with the BBC, first as presenter for
Radio 4’s Music Workshop – a music broadcast for schools.
Later, in the 1980s, and living back in the North East of England, she worked for Radio Newcastle, writing and presenting weekly folk music programmes for the station.
In 1990 Carolyn was appointed Education Officer for the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) where she developed learning resources for teachers and children, ran workshops in schools, days of song and dance at Cecil Sharp House and much more. Twenty-five years later, Carolyn was presented with a rare award from the English Folk Dance and Song Society. She was awarded its Gold Badge for outstanding services to folk music
The Society's Gold Badge was instituted in 1922 and in just over100 years there have been 150 awards. Carolyn joins a distinguished group of recipients that includes the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, folk song collector Cecil Sharp and performers Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger.
Carolyn is a great collaborator.
Too many connections to list. But here are a few.
Kathryn Tickell & Friends
Carolyn was vocal soloist on The Northumbrian Collection, together with the late Terry Conway, renowned singer and songwriter from the North East of England. And of course featuring Kathryn Tickell on pipes and fiddle.
This recording was HMV's album of the month when it was released in 1998. Carolyn solos on the songs Felton Lonnen, Bonny at Morn, Sair Fyel’d Hinny.
In the early 1970s Martyn Wyndham-Read devised Maypoles to Mistletoe -
a performance that portrays the seasons of the year through song, music, dance and verse. This show has been performed for the last 40 years and has become a tradition at Christmas time in and around the Sussex area. In 2011 Carolyn joined the cast and recorded an album with them -The Seasons of the Year. Here she met duet concertina player and accordionist, Iris Bishop. More about Iris below.
Craig Morgan Robson
The most notable collaboration in her performing career to date was the trio Craig Morgan Robson, an acapella group that formed in 2003 and which performed and recorded until Sarah Morgan’s untimely death in 2013.
Craig Morgan Robson performed throughout the UK and did several tours of the USA and Canada.
... an effortless range and variety unheard in folk music for many years
FOLK LONDON MAGAZINE
with Moira Craig
Carolyn continues in duet with Moira Craig, one of the finest female vocalists in the UK. Moira has collaborated with various people and currently also sings with Ron Taylor, another celebrated singer, formally a member of Regal Slip (with Graham and Eileen Pratt and Sue Burgess).
Moira and Carolyn started recording an album with Sarah Morgan just two weeks before her death in 2013.
The album, Both Sides the Tweed, has two tracks with Sarah, including the Scottish ballad Rowan Tree - 'the very last song we sang with her'.
The Rowan Tree
Now a' are gane! we meet nae mair
Aneath the Rowan Tree
Here's Crossing the Bar from Craig Morgan Robson's 2006 album Stranded .
'There are many musical settings of this very moving poem by Tennyson. The melody is by Rani Arbo. Her husband's 96 year old grandmother quoted the first line of this poem when she was nearing the end of her life. Rani looked it up, loved it, and as she says ‘the tune just came out of the air’. It is hard to envisage a more perfect marriage of words and music.' (CR)
Dempsey Robson Tweed
Carolyn has collaborated in recent years with singer-songwriter and guitarist Kevin Dempsey, and accordionist, Karen Tweed.
Dempsey Robson Tweed produced a CD of songs from the UK, US and Australia called Dirt Road.
When Karen left the group she was replaced by acclaimed accordionist, Paul Hutchinson who came up with the innovative name for the band of Makepeace.
Southern Girl's Reply is from the 2013 album Dirt Road that Carolyn recorded with Kevin Dempsey and Karen Tweed.
'A haunting tragic love song that I first heard sung by a great friend and consummate performer, Jeff Warner and recorded on his excellent CD Jolly Tinker. It was collected by his parents, Frank and Anne Warner from Eleazar Tillitt in North Carolina. A real gem! Thanks Jeff.' (CR)
with Iris Bishop
Her partnership with Iris has drawn rave reviews from folk club members across the south of England. Carolyn says, ‘Singing with Iris Bishop on duet concertina is like being accompanied by an orchestra, the sound so full and her tone so engaging. Iris is a performer with flawless technique and supreme musicality.’
Here's a sample track from Carolyn's 1999 album All the Fine Young Men
Carolyn writes, 'Bonny at Morn is probably Northumberland's best loved lullaby, I may have sung this to my dughters Anna and Freya when they were tiny, but here they join me in harmony.'
You can buy All the Fine Young Men as a digital album or CD in the Store.
Carolyn is music director of three community choirs and a chamber choir in Hampshire, involving over 200 singers. and is a frequent workshop leader at choral events across the UK, in North America and New Zealand.
Her teaching in her community choirs and workshops is sometimes about technique, the basics that an untrained, un-auditioned singer needs to know. It is always about meaning and communication, what the singer and their audience need to understand and feel.
To book Carolyn to lead a singing workshop, go to the Bookings page
Carolyn was founder music director of Alton Community Choir, started In 2000 with funding from TAPS - Traditional Arts Projects.
Alton Community Choir performing in Herborn, Germany]
She was appointed music director for Winchester Community Choir after Sarah Morgan’s death in 2013.
Winchester Community Choir singing carols
She took over as music director of Petersfield Community Choir from Sarah Morgan in 2008.
Petersfield Community Choir on their home turf
In late 2019, Carolyn started a Chamber Choir, TakeNOTE, with 16 singers drawn from all three community choirs.
TakeNOTE in Romsey Abbey