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Bob Copper, Seamus Ennis, Marie Slocombe, Peter Kennedy and Brian George

Bob Copper: a look back

This Saturday we are delighted to be hosting the long-anticipated centenary celebration of the great Bob Copper at Cecil Sharp House. Laura Smyth, Director of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, writes about the history and importance of the Copper family.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a folk club or singaround in which someone didn’t stand up and sing a song from the Copper family repertoire. And for good reason – it is overflowing with beautiful and expressive songs which have stood the test of time and continue to resonate with singers today.

The Copper family has always been at the forefront of folk song singing and collecting. The songs of James (Brasser) and Thomas Copper were noted by Kate Lee and published in the first ever journal of the Folk Song Society in 1899. Later, Francis Collinson visited and collected songs from Jim Copper (Bob’s father and son of Brasser) and invited Jim and Bob to sing on the Country Magazine radio programmes (1950s), causing a flurry of interest and further appearances for the Coppers on As I Roved Out and the television series Song Hunter.

Song collectors and the media did much to raise awareness of these songs, but it is clear that the true force for longevity came from the love of the music that came from within the family. Bob Copper had always expressed a deep admiration for traditional music and was keen to learn the songs that his forefather’s sang. This passion led Bob to write a number of books, including the award-winning A Song for Every Season, and to collect other traditional songs in his home county of Sussex. By sharing his family's songs and experiences, Bob Copper enriched the lives of many people and continues to do so to this day. The recordings of Bob and Ron Copper with their sumptuous interweaving harmonies have the power to inspire and move, and his children and grandchildren continue to sing with the same admiration and enthusiasm for the songs.

The songs of the Coppers played an important part in inspiring the foundation of the Folk Song Society and so it is both apt and a great honour that we should celebrate the year of Bob Copper's centenary at the Society's headquarters, Cecil Sharp House.

To read more about Bob Copper, his family and the songs, see his books:

  • A Song for Every Season (1971)
  • Songs & Southern Breezes : country folk and country ways (1973)
  • Early to Rise (1976)
  • The Copper Family Songbook (1995)
  • A Man of No Consequence (2013)

Available to read in all good libraries and to purchase through the Copper Family website.

Please note that the Bob Copper Centenary event is SOLD OUT