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Deborah Rose gets an Artist Page on Bob Harris’s here to view

Deborah Rose inspired by Eva Cassidy to follow her dream

Midland singer Deborah Rose tells Zoe Chamberlain how she ended up friends with the family of her tragic heroine.

, Birmingham Post

Midland singer Deborah Rose tells Zoe Chamberlain how she ended up friends with the family of her tragic heroine.

An unrecorded Eva Cassidy poem is being exclusively released by a Midland singer.

Deborah Rose was a businesswoman who dreamt of singing and song-writing.

She took a giant leap of faith in 2009, leaving the safety of a steady job as external relations manager at Birmingham’s NEC to pursue her burning ambition, inspired by her heroine Eva Cassidy.

It paid off.

Within months she was singing at the Isle of Wight Festival then, by a strange twist of fate, Eva Cassidy’s brother, Dan, ended up jamming with her in her kitchen in Droitwich, Worcestershire.

As a result, Deborah met Eva’s parents and sought their blessing to put one of their daughter’s unknown poems to music.

“I had always wanted to be a singer-songwriter,” said Deborah, 33.

“I sang from a very early age but it was only when I did a song-writing degree at Bath University that I discovered I was able to write songs as well.

“It was a really exciting journey to not only be able to sing songs I love by artists such as Judy Collins and Joan Baez but to be writing my own material, too.”

Almost overnight, her lifestyle changed and she found herself playing at the Isle of Wight Festival and subsequently being invited to a party at Tennyson’s former home to celebrate his 200th anniversary.

“It was there that I met a harpist from America and we talked of our love of Eva Cassidy.

“He told me about Eva’s brother Dan, who is a violinist.

“I decided there and then I wanted to go and hear him because I knew it would have as much soul and beauty as Eva’s voice.

“But, by some strange coincidence, I got an email from my agent saying ‘I don’t know if this is of interest but Dan Cassidy is coming to the Isle of Wight to perform and I’m having coffee with him?’

“Even more amazing was that he wanted to perform in Worcester and Birmingham and was looking for someone to help promote his shows.

“Having done a lot of commercial and PR work, I jumped at the chance to help him.

“Soon after, he came over from Iceland (where he lived), drove to my house in Droitwich and we jammed in my kitchen with his friend playing the banjo!”

It wasn’t long before Deborah met Eva and Dan’s parents, who had come over from America.

She said: “To hear stories about Eva and what her inspirations were was an amazing, magical experience.”

Dan Cassidy has played violin on Deborah’s debut album, which is due to be released later this year.

They recorded together at a studio in Tenbury Wells.

“The working title is Song Be My Soul, which takes some of its lyrics from a Welsh song meaning ‘sing all day and sing all night’, which is basically what I do,” smiled Deborah.

“I’m really excited to be singing Eva Cassidy’s poem Springtime.

“I found the poem in a CD sleeve and sought the blessing of her parents to set it to music.

“It’s the first time one of her poems has been set to music.

“It captures the essence of her, being all about the beauty of flowers and the simple things in life.

“A local composer, Ian King, wrote the music and I sang the song.”

Upon my request for lyrics, Deborah began to sing them down the phone to me. Her voice is simply mesmerising.

“I think people are looking at me thinking why is that crazy woman singing into her phone?” she laughed.

Deborah’s life has changed considerably over the past few years but she says everything has come together well.

“Being a professional singer-songwriter is very different to what I was doing before.

“But in many ways the work I did in collaborating with people in the music industry has been invaluable to what I’m doing now.”

Inspired by a Masters degree she is completing at Worcester University, Deborah is also recording an album featuring the works of Shakespeare, Tennyson, Dickens, Blake and Christina Rossetti.

“I’m very passionate about poetry and Pre-Raphaelites,” she said.

“This album will be released alongside my debut album.

“I have set Lady of Shallot by Tennyson to music, which really brings it alive.”

Deborah is opening a show by Raghu Dixit at Birmingham Town Hall on Wednesday.

Raghu is a one-time scientist who gave up a highly successful career in Europe to return to India and create a new style of his own, which he describes as ‘Indian folk-rock, with world rhythms creeping in.’

Deborah said: “I’m really excited about the show. His voice is otherworldly.

“It’s a wonderful privilege to work with him. We might even sing a song together on the evening.”

* For information on Deborah Rose and Raghu Dixit’s concert, visit

Songbird Eva found fame after her death

Award-winning singer Eva Cassidy was virtually unknown outside America when she sadly died of skin cancer in 1996, aged just 33.

It was only when DJ Terry Wogan played her version of Over the Rainbow on BBC Radio 2 four years later that UK audiences became aware of the Washington DC vocalist.

The airing received an overwhelming response and a camcorder recording of her performing the song, taken at Blues Alley in Washington, was shown on BBC2’s Top of the Pops 2.

As a result, her compilation album Songbird, featuring Eva’s unique versions of Fields of Gold and People Get Ready, climbed to the top of the UK album charts.

This led to global recognition and Eva’s posthumously released recordings, including three UK number ones and have sold more than ten million copies.

Eva learned guitar from her father Hugh who, at one point, put together a family folk act featuring himself on bass, Eva on guitar and vocals and her brother Dan on fiddle.

Deborah Rose – “Song Be My Soul” Album Review

An impressive body of work with typically immaculate singing from Rose and sympathetic support from a diverse and well chosen cast of musicians.

“Song Be My Soul”

Welsh born, Worcestershire based singer, guitarist and songwriter Deborah Rose has been a frequent presence on the Jazzmann web pages, sometimes under her previous name of Deborah Hodgson. I’ve always been impressed by the purity of her voice which draws from the British and American folk traditions and she has issued a number of successful self released EPs in this vein. However her singing has recently taken a jazzier turn thanks in part to her collaboration with the exceptional young gypsy jazz guitarist Remi Harris as part of his Gypsy Jazz Project group.

Rose is also a great organiser and has helped to promote and facilitate many memorable musical events in her local area, including a concert by folk legend Judy Collins in the beautiful environs of Worcester Cathedral. The self released “Song Be My Soul” represents Roses’s first full length album and was partly financed by a crowd funding campaign as Rose again drew on her entrepreneurial talents, behind the elfin charm there lies an astute business woman.

“Song Be My Soul” draws upon Rose’s love of poetry and literature, besides her original songs there are adapted settings of words by Tennyson, Shakespeare, Dickens, Blake and Christina Rossetti. Rose describes these songs as celebrations of the works of these artists , adding her own words to those of the poets involved but losing nothing of the spirit of the originals. The music owes more to the folk than the jazz tradition but there is an arrangement of the standard “Autumn Leaves” inspired by the version recorded by the late Eva Cassidy, like Judy Collins a great source inspiration for Rose.

I’ve seen Rose perform much of this material live on a number of occasions and can confirm that it is highly effective and often very beautiful. The album features many of the musicians who have supported her at these events including pianists Martin Riley and Ian King, cellist Catherine Harper and guitarist Simon Othen, all locally based and all very fine players. Riley and King are also co-writers with involvement in many of the original compositions. Other contributors include violinists Leighton Hargreaves and Dan Cassidy plus Mendi Singh on tabla and Praful Mystic on flute.

The album commences with the Rose/Riley composed title track featuring strings orchestrated by Riley. A paean to the power of words and music the Welsh language lyric of the chorus, derived from the folk tune “Calon Lan”, represents a salute to Rose’s roots. The strings add depth and lushness to this voice and piano piece but it’s the purity of Rose’s well enunciated vocals that impresses most.

Another Rose/Riley composition, written in conjunction with Daniel Hodgson, “Taigh Alainn” has long been a popular item at Roses’s live shows and has been recorded previously on EP. The title is Scots Gaelic for “Beautiful House” and the lyric celebrates idyllic holidays spent in the Hebrides. It’s a beautiful tune and is obviously a personal favourite of the singer – it’s one of mine too. With its arresting chorus and descriptive, evocative lyrics the song has the potential for considerable popular appeal if heard in the right quarters. The latest arrangement includes violin, keyboards and Roses’s own acoustic guitar.

“Springtime” is an adaptation of an unfinished poem by the late Eva Cassidy with music by Ian King and with Eva’s words tidied up and slightly amended by Rose and Dan Cassidy. Dan, Eva’s brother, adds his haunting violin playing to the arrangement.  Dan Cassidy is a highly accomplished violinist who can play in both folk and jazz styles. Born in the US but now resident in Iceland he is a regular visitor to the UK where he is a popular figure on the live music circuit through his folk duo with vocalist/guitarist James Hickman and his own Swing Quartet which plays jazz in the Django Reinhardt / Stephane Grapelli style. His playing here enhances Rose’s beautiful vocal performance and his sister’s direct and evocative poetic imagery and this is another piece capable of a broad appeal, particularly among Eva Cassidy’s legion of fans.

The Rose/King collaboration “Lady Of Shallott” draws its inspiration not only from Tennyson’s words but also J.W.Waterhouse’s painting, the latter also influencing the album art work. Roses’s typically poised vocal combines effectively with King’s piano and Cassidy’s violin in this latest evocation of Tennyson’s tragic heroine.

Similarly the Rose / King collaboration “Little Boat” seems to draw upon the same source with the distinctive sound of Mystic’s bansuri flute greatly enriching the arrangement.

Rose and Riley then combine on an original song that draws upon the words of Shakespeare’s sonnet “Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day” . The sparse voice and piano arrangement emphasises the beauty of Roses’s voice,  a quality frequently referred to by other commentators as “timeless”.  A word too for her main accompanists, both Riley and King play lyrically and with great sensitivity throughout the album, perfectly attuned to Roses’s voice and poetic vision.

A similarly sympathetic Rose / Riley arrangement graces a setting of Dickens’ “A Child’s Hymn” with Rose’s soaring vocal often combining her characteristic purity with an unexpected power.

There’s a Kate Bush like quirkiness about the arrangement of “Tyger Tyger”, an adaptation of the words of William Blake. Rose’s voice is complemented by a full band arrangement including the exotic sounds of flute and tabla.

The wistful “The First Day” adapts the words of Christina Rosetti in a guitar led arrangement by Dave Hamill that also features the beautiful but haunting cello sound of Catherine Harper. It’s my assumption that the guitar is played in this instance by Simon Othen.

I’m particularly partial to Roses’s interpretation of the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves”. Her version is inspired by that of Eva Cassidy and is delivered in a folk style that emphasises the true beauty and poetic quality of Johnny Mercer’s lyrics. Harper’s cello is again prominent in the arrangement, her sound rich and dark and appropriately Autumnal. Alongside Othen’s guitar it is the perfect accompaniment to Rose’s beautifully controlled and nuanced vocal performance.

The album also includes a “bonus track”, an arrangement of the song “The Rose”, written by Amanda McBroom and made famous by Bette Midler. It’s a song that Rose has performed effectively live in a an intimate small group situation but this version honours both McBroom’s song and Roses’s heritage by supplementing her voice with the sounds of the Aber Valley Male Voice Choir. It’s a stirring rendition of McBroom’s paean to the power of love but avoids teetering into excess. Like all of Roses’s work it exudes poetic sensibility and good taste.

“Song Be My Soul” is emphatically not a jazz album but it still represents an impressive body of work with typically immaculate singing from Rose and sympathetic support from a diverse and well chosen cast. Some listeners may find it a little twee but there’s no doubting the purity of Roses’s voice and for my money she’s a real talent with the ability to deliver consistently in a live situation.

“Song Be My Soul” is a concept album of sorts and its poetic and literary links may discourage some listeners. I’d like to see Rose record an album of favourite songs with no overall theme other than quality. She’s an adept selector of outside material right across the folk, jazz and pop sectors and an excellent interpreter of other people’s songs. In the meantime she continues to work consistently in a variety of musical contexts while remaining a talent deserving of far wider national recognition.

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Welsh singer Deborah Rose heading for Hepworth

She sings songs made famous by the late great Eva Cassidy

Singer Deborah Rose who performs many of the songs made famous by the late Eva Cassidy will be performing at Hepworth Village Hall tomorrow evening.

Deborah is the latest in the series of Hepworth Live gigs and organiser Paul Drury is especially pleased to have brought her to the village.

Deborah is a Welsh singer songwriter whose emotive timeless voice has been described by folk legend Judy Collins as “one of the finest I have heard.”

Paul added: “In February 2013 I was out in the car on a Sunday morning when I heard a young woman chatting on the Wogan show. My ears pricked up when I heard her talking about having recorded with Eva Cassidy’s brother and having the blessing of Eva’s parents to sing her songs.

“When this young woman started to sing live on the show I was just absolutely bowled over by her exquisite voice. I discovered her name and by the following day had been in touch and this concert was booked. She is coming to Hepworth with her quintet, including brilliant gypsy jazz guitarist Remi Harris, performinwg a jazz, folk fusion.”

Tickets are £12, doors open at 7.30pm and the concert starts at 8pm.

Review by Andrew Hirst, The Huddersfield Daily Examiner

Review of Poetic Music with Deborah Rose

If you were invited to a concert by an “Emotive Songstress” you might expect something sickly sweet or, perhaps worse, something nerve janglingly overpowering. Nothing could be further from the truth when spending a couple of hours in the company of Deborah Rose, her sister and an eclectic group of like minded musicians.

Billed as an evening of Poetry Inspired Music, you might also have expected the sort of disjointed match of lyric and music which has sometimes been the outcome of attempts to combine great poetry with good tunes.

In this case the combinations were indeed greater than the parts; verse from Tennyson, Blake, Rossetti, Dickens and even Shakespeare. The success of these offerings was in the flexibility which the writers had in their use of the words and the sensitivity of the musical arrangements.

The next worry is, how synthetic emotions can be. Reality TV shows lead us to expect extreme public outpourings. In Deborah’s case, I trust her emotions. She is feeling what she sings…and I did too.

I trust her choice of poetry. I trust her choice of collaborators and musicians. And most of all I trust her capacity to move me.

Good music moves me more than most other art forms and this Welsh born songstress came up trumps.

The other thing you might not expect from the “star of the show” is her generosity in letting her sister, Louise, open the evening and join her in a favourite number, and her willingness to give credit to her main collaborator Martin Riley, who led the ensemble.

I first heard Deborah at a charity concert for “Funny Blood”. There she sang solo and I was worried that extra musicians might dilute the experience. The opposite was the reality.

If Deborah Rose has flown “under your radar” thus far, you’re missing a treat. If you can’t catch up with her live, buy the album which this concert launched – “Song Be My Soul”. It’s almost as good as the real thing.

Review by Humph Hack,

Deborah Rose sings live for Weekend Wogan

On the weekend that Eva Cassidy would have turned fifty, the singer Deborah Rose joins Sir Terry and performs Songbird live in the studio….


Tarc Gallery, Stanford Bridge, Worcs – Review by Ian Mann, The Jazz Mann

Deborah Rose with Martin Riley & Catherine Harper, Tarc Gallery, Stanford Bridge, Worcs., 16/02/2013

With her stunningly pure voice I’ve always considered Rose to be a talent worthy of greater recognition. This was an excellent trio performance with the singer well supported by her colleagues.

Welsh born, Worcestershire based, singer, songwriter and guitarist Deborah Rose has been a regular figure on the Jazzmann web-pages in recent years albeit with some of the other entries published under her former name of Deborah Hodgson. With her stunningly pure voice I’ve always considered Rose to be a talent worthy of greater recognition and tonight there were encouraging signs that her reputation is starting to grow with a number of audience members seeing her for the first time following Rose’s appearances on both local and national radio (of which more later).

To date Rose’s recorded output has consisted of a number of self financed EP’s, all of which have been highly accomplished and have acted as good calling cards but I think it’s fair to say that a full length album release is long overdue. This situation should be rectified later in 2013 with the release of “Song Be My Soul”, a collection of original songs and settings of poetry with Rose often blurring the distinctions between the two by adding her own words to established texts. A singer raised in the folk and art song traditions she draws much of her inspiration from the poetry and visual art of the Romantic movement.

As well as being a talented vocalist and songwriter Rose is also a tireless organiser and is the musical co-ordinator of the successful supper and music evenings that have been taking place at the Tarc Gallery in the heart of the Worcestershire countryside over the course of the last eighteen months or so. I have attended several of these popular and enjoyable events in recent months and as well as hosting the evenings Rose has usually delivered a brief twenty to thirty minute supporting set as well as making cameo appearances with headline artists such as the duo State Of The Union (Boo Hewerdine and Brooks Williams), rising star singer songwriter Stephen Langstaff, and, in a rather different context, Tom Hill’s Blues Trio.

After seeing Rose as a support artist on many occasions (she’s also appeared opposite New Yorker singer songwriter Kenny White and supported folk legend Judy Collins at Worcester Cathedral) it was good to see her playing a full two sets as a headliner for the first time. Being so close to Valentine’s Day tonight’s event had a loose “romantic” theme and although most of the tunes weren’t “love songs” per se Rose’s material was nevertheless Romantic with a capital ‘R’. She was joined by two of her favourite and most trusted accompanists, pianist and songwriting partner Martin Riley and cellist Catherine Harper, the latter returning to musical activity following twelve months off which culminated in the birth of her young son Charlie. Welcome back, Catherine.

The evening began with Rose’s original song “Taigh Allain”, one of her most beautiful melodies and a tune that has been recorded more than once on her EP’s. The title is Scots Gaelic and means “beautiful house”, the inspiration for the piece coming from timeless holidays spent on the islands of the Hebrides. The tune not only demonstrated the purity of Rose’s voice but also the skills of her accompanists. Riley conjured a wonderful sound from his Roland Fantom G8 electric piano and Harper’s cello was suitably warm and rich on this evocative picture of the summer tranquillity of the Scottish Islands.

Rose’s “Lady Of Shallot” was inspired both by Tennyson’s poem and Waterhouse’s painting. She and Riley performed the tune at Birmingham Art Gallery when Waterhouse’s picture was exhibited there as part of a larger exhibition of Victorian art. Rose’s haunting depiction of Tennyson’s epic tale was written in conjunction with Worcester based pianist and composer Ian King who had accompanied her on her recent Tarc appearance opposite Kenny White.

Following the solemnity of “Lady Of Shallot” a little light relief occurred when the alarm on somebody’s mobile phone went off. The members of the audience had all diligently turned theirs off before the show, of course it was Deborah’s! She temporarily dashed off stage to switch it off and returned looking suitably embarrassed. As a regular gig goer I can pretty much guarantee that when a phone goes off in the middle of a performance it always belongs to one of the musos.

Rose recently gained some exposure on national radio when she was interviewed by Sir Terry Wogan. Among the subjects under discussion were Rose’s settings of poetry, the forthcoming album, and her admiration for the music of the late Eva Cassidy whose fiftieth birthday it would have been in 2013. Some of tonight’s audience were here as the result of hearing that interview.
In conjunction with Ian King Rose has set Cassidy’s poem “Springtime” to music and the piece is to be released as a single. An arresting melody allied to Cassidy’s simple but direct, evocative and poetic words may even result in a surprise hit. Rose has strong connections with Cassidy’s violin playing brother Dan who will be featured on the new album. Born in the US but now based in Iceland Dan Cassidy is a frequent visitor to the UK and recently played at the Tarc Gallery as part of his regular duo with Shrewsbury based guitarist and vocalist James Hickman.

If tonight’s version of “Springtime” was good then Rose’s arrangement of Sandy Denny’s classic “Who Knows Where The Times Goes?” was even better. The tune was originally recorded by Fairport Convention and remains one of that long running group’s most popular songs. It was also a US hit for Rose’s mentor Judy Collins, but I’ve never heard it done before quite as it was tonight, a haunting slowed down arrangement that wrung the maximum degree of emotion out of Denny’s appropriately timeless lyric – Denny died tragically at the age of thirty three, how could somebody so young write such a mature song? Tonight’s arrangement was enhanced by the melancholic timbres of Harper’s cello which granted the song an additional haunting quality.

The Rose/Riley song “It Gives Life To Thee” expanded upon the famous lines of the Shakespearian sonnet “Shall I Compare With Thee With A Summer’s Day”, “Darling Bids Of May” and all. Rose then took up her acoustic guitar for the first time as she and Riley performed a duo version of the traditional Irish folk tune “Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Hair” with Rose apparently drawing inspiration from Paul Weller’s version of the song (the thought of Weller covering this is a good deal less improbable than it might once have been). Riley impressed at the piano with a rare instrumental solo.

Rose now invited young singer Portia Reed to the stage to sing with Riley and Harper. The fourteen year old is a precocious and highly promising talent who also writes her own material and has already gathered enough material for a putative album. Tonight she chose to sing a version of Santana’s “Black Magic Woman”  ( your rather long in the tooth correspondent would like to point out that the song was composed by Brit guitarist Peter Green and originally recorded by the first edition of Fleetwood Mac). I’d seen Reed perform some of her own songs at the Tarc’s music & poetry evening in October 2012 and if I’m honest preferred hearing the original material to this cover. Tonight Riley provided sympathetic accompaniment and Harper added pizzicato cello to Reed’s soulful vocals but overall I found Reed more convincing when singing her own words. She’s a talent, that’s for sure and she should certainly persevere with her song writing.

Thanking Portia Deborah Rose returned to the stage to conclude the first set with the heart felt “Song Be My Soul” which borrows from the Welsh hymn tune “Calon Lan” (an acknowledgement of Rose’s roots) and includes the chorus “sing all day and sing all night”, a reflection of Rose’s love of words, songs and singing and pretty much a personal philosophy or mission statement.

A shorter second set began with Rose/Riley composed “Breathe In”, a contemplative piece with the lyrics inspired by the words of a Native American poem but acting as paean to nature that also seemed to embrace other philosophies from Zen Buddhism to the Gaia hypothesis. “We Are Made Of All Things” as the chorus had it.

Another Rose/Riley setting added additional lyrics to a rare Charles Dickens poem “A Child’s Hymn” (Dickens was primarily a writer of prose). This was another beautiful setting with Rose adding real beauty to the simple homespun wisdom of Dickens’ words. The singer told us that she had recently met a descendant of Dickens who had expressed her approval of Rose’s adaptation.

Previous appearances by Rose have always contained elements from the American folk tradition and beyond. Although the sources of inspiration for the majority of tonight’s performance were predominately British Rose turned to her mentor Judy Collins for a dash of Americana with a good natured performance of Collins’ folk/country classic “Someday Soon”.

Next came a return to Albion and another Rose/Riley setting, this time of the much loved William Blake poem “Tiger Tiger” with the sombre arrangement emphasising the genuine menace and inherent spirituality of Blake’s words. The poem is sometimes presented as an innocent children’s piece but as Rose emphasised here it’s far deeper than that. The recorded arrangement is to feature flute, violin (presumably played by Dan Cassidy) and a chorus of tree frogs!

The trio concluded an excellent evening’s music with their version of the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves”. Although Rose is not a jazz singer as such she placed her own stamp on the song by slowing down the arrangement and singing it in her own distinctive, well enunciated crystal tones. She actually invested the words with far more emotion than the average jazz singer with the melancholy ring of Harper’s cello adding to the fragile mood. Rose, Riley and Harper actually managed to bring something new to a piece that has become somewhat hackneyed in jazz circles.

Speaking to Deborah afterwards I asked if she’d heard the settings of poetry by the late jazz pianist, bandleader and composer Michael Garrick (1933-2011) but it seems that she hadn’t. Garrick’s last album “Home Thoughts”, released posthumously in 2012, includes settings of Shakespeare and Blake but it would seem that Rose and Garrick, essentially musicians from different generations and traditions have converged at a broadly similar point through their shared love of poetry and literature. Interesting.

This had been another hugely enjoyable and successful evening at the Tarc Gallery with a sell out audience. Deborah Rose can always be relied upon to deliver and she was well supported here by her two sympathetic and highly accomplished colleagues. 2013 promises to be a big year for Deborah Rose with the release of “Song Be My Soul”. Here at the Jazzmann we wish her well as she continues to develop her already very promising career.

Deborah Rose with Martin Riley & Catherine Harper, Tarc Gallery, Stanford Bridge, Worcs., 16/02/2013

Reviewed by: Ian Mann