BAY VIEW - John Roberts and Debra Cowan will perform in concert at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 5, at the Beulah Brinton House, 2590 S. Superior St., Milwaukee.

The performers, called "two of the finest voices in folk music" by Sing Out! magazine, is the latest act in a concert series sponsored the the Bay View Historical Society at its home base, itself a historic structure.

Life songs

With their eloquent voices and expert musicianship, John Roberts and Debra Cowan bring to life songs seldom heard these days on TV or radio, according to the historical society.

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, according to the duo. They offer windows into where we’ve come from and perhaps where we’re headed. Both Roberts and Cowan can tell a good story and whether illuminating, inspiring, or laugh-out-loud funny, their introductions convey their love of the songs and the people who’ve sung them over the years, decades, and in some cases centuries.

"John and Debra firmly believe that folk music is not a spectator sport," a press release from the Bay View Historical Society states. "They can turn any audience into a chorale by patiently teaching sometimes complicated and often tongue-tying choruses, along with familiar songs."

With concertina and banjo, John Roberts sings the traditional folksongs of his native Britain in a manner that is at once authentic and authoritative, yet highly engaging and entertaining. His solo CD of sea songs, "Sea Fever," was released in 2007 to critical acclaim.

Debra Cowan’s captivating warm alto carries each folk song she chooses with such emotion that you’ll forget that they were written by others. She performs a cappella and with guitar in the great tradition of folk singers like Joan Baez and Judy Collins, with a clear vocal that calls forth the ghosts of long past but can also offer a more modern urban landscape. In her newest release Fond Desire Farewell, she’s taken contemporary and time-honored public domain songs and put them in a modern setting.

Concert details

The cost of the concert is $15 at the door, and reservations are recommended. Email or call H. David Drake at 414-702-6053.

For more information, go online to or

Read or Share this story: