Songs of Trial and Triumph is a solo performance by Brian Peters of some of the greatest of the ‘Child Ballads’, the crown jewels of British traditional song. Collected together in the 19th century by Harvard professor F. J. Child, drawing on the published editions and unpublished manuscripts of Thomas Percy, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and others, these centuries-old ballads are packed with murder and magic, love and lust, trickery, tomfoolery and The Devil himself. Brian Peters is one of the best interpreters of this repertoire: a singer who brings passion and storytelling skills to his vocal performance, and a multi-instrumentalist whose proficiency on guitar, concertina and melodeon allows him to create a variety of musical textures. He’s also a researcher who has dug out unique versions of the ballads, and whose knowledge of the work of F. J. Child and of the singers who carried the old songs down to us - from Anna Brown in 18th Century Aberdeenshire to a gypsy community camped under a flyover in 1970s London - allows him to set the ballads themselves against an informative account of their background.
The ballads presented in Songs of Trial and Triumph vary from one performance to the next, but often include such titles as:
Lay the Bent to the Bonny Broom (Child 1, Riddles Wisely Expounded)
Scarborough Fair (2, The Elfin Knight)
The Outlandish Knight (3, Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight)
Hind Horn (17)
Kemp Owyne (34)
Sir Aldingar (59)
False Foudrage (89)
The Demon Lover (243, James Harris)
Henry Martin (250)
Six Nights Drunk (274, Our Goodman)
The Farmer’s Curst Wife (278)
The Golden Vanity (286, The Sweet Trinity)
"Brian Peters' presentation on Child Ballads at Augusta Vocal Week was a riveting vocal concert. He gave the ballads new life, with fascinating insights into the songs and their collectors, and he supported the songs with some of the tastiest guitar, accordion, and concertina accompaniment we've heard on this side of the pond in some time!"
Flawn Williams, director, Vocal Week, Augusta Heritage Center, West Virginia, USA
“The event with Brian Peters was one of the highlights of the 2009 Festival for me. Brian delivered a fascinating, erudite and amusing insight into the history and traditions of the Child Ballads. His playing of instruments and his singing was first class. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and, judging from the audience feedback, everyone else did too.”
Lesley Webster, Director, Off the Shelf Literary Festival, Sheffield
““I have a new ballad hero - Brian Peters, a man who sings them as though he read them in this morning's headlines. His performance brought home every nuance of the stories he sang, whether Grand Guignol or cheeky humour. He entranced his audience via his passionate and totally engaged delivery, spot-on vocals, varied and immaculately played backings.”
Roy Harris, The Living Tradition
“Brian Peters has long been one of the very best performers in the field of English traditional song and music. He sings and plays with consummate skill, breathing life into unusual ballads such as Sir Aldingar and False Foudrage, which shimmer with magic and murder. Peters’ Child ballads embody trial and triumph, but also tragedy, action, excitement, and humour.”
Steve Winick, Dirty Linen (USA)
“It was a great pleasure to hear The Child Ballads brought to life and put into context all in one concert. Brian not only sings the ballads with sensitivity and passion but his linking narrative demonstrates his understanding of the collection. He does not treat the songs as museum pieces and he uses appropriate accompaniments on various instruments to provide variety. A very enjoyable experience.”
Doug Bailey, Wildgoose Records, UK
"I really enjoyed it - a lot of information packed in around the songs but presented in an accessible way.... a great way to whet people's appetite for the ballads."
Peta Webb, ballad singer and archivist
"A brilliant talk - a succinct and well-crafted presentation of some hefty subjects, with real economy and no loss of substance. Everyone enjoyed it thoroughly."
Sam Lee, English Folk Dance & Song Society
Brian cast a glamour over us… He uses dramatic vocal, instrumental and physical skills to engage the audience and, with passion, analogies and jokes, this presentation is never dry. He is standing on the shoulders of giants, and he is certainly amongst their company. A great night.”
Mike Wild, Stirrings
Brian's extensive experience as a singer, musician and researcher shone through in his refreshing and genuinely knowledgeable presentation. He’s a fine singer indeed, with an intense presence and supreme command of expressive nuance. A resounding and thoroughly entertaining triumph. Don't miss this show.”
David Kidman, Tykes News
Songs of Trial and Triumph is a presentation that encompasses drama, emotion, accomplished musicianship, education, humour and, above all, entertainment. It brings the old ballads vividly to life in a form that can entrance even those with no previous experience of this kind of song. The normal running time is 90 minutes, although it can be edited to an hour if preferred.