INTERVIEW: Janice Burns & Jon Doran | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Showcasing artists from across the musical spectrum, Newcastle bar The Globe has found a means of thriving while others lie dormant thanks to its comprehensive livestream calendar. “The Globe is a real hub and I think the livestreams are amazing for community,” says Janice Burns, whose duo performance with Jon Doran will be broadcast on the evening of Friday 26th March. “Along with the music itself, you end up with lots of dialogue in the comment sections, and I think it helps people feel connected at a time when that’s missing from everybody’s lives.”

“Our last stream even had two listeners from Germany!” Jon recounts. “They exchanged postcodes, and it turned out they lived just a couple of blocks from each other. We still have no idea how either of them knew about us!”

Originating from differing musical backgrounds as well as opposite ends of the UK (Janice, from classical stock, joins our Zoom call from her native Glasgow; traditionally reared Jon from back home in Gloucestershire) the pair’s paths converged in Newcastle, where they remain based. “We met while studying folk music at the university,” Janice recalls. “One day I heard Jon do a number called Sir Richard’s Song… it’s the most beautiful song, and I remember thinking I’d love to sing harmonies. Eventually we went to the studio and sang it together at about 11pm after a night at The Cumberland Arms, and that was the beginning of it all!”

Greeted enthusiastically by the local folk circuit, the duo performed together for three years before collecting five of their finest for last September’s self-titled EP. A “no bells or whistles” exhibit of their chemistry, the release amply exhibits a gift for vivid and compelling storytelling, together with a capacity to convey their own identities via the medium of traditional song.

People place a lot of importance on regional areas and where songs come from, but as we’re an Anglo/Scottish duo we tend to juggle both sides of the border

“People place a lot of importance on regional areas and where songs come from, but as we’re an Anglo/Scottish duo we tend to juggle both sides of the border,” Jon says. “We’re drawn to songs from our own areas, but often we simply use region as a means of breaking into those vast, endless archives of source recordings.”

“I like a song to have that initial connection to where I’m from, but I’m more concerned with whether it’s relevant towards things I care about today,” Janice concurs. “A good example is Song of the Fishgutters. The reason I particularly like that song is that it’s about women who were hard working, gritty and independent at a time – the 1950s – when folk songs were generally centred around men. A lot was and still is written about the working-class experiences of men, and women are too often left out of that conversation.”

Together with performances for The Globe and others, the duo have further reason for optimism having secured a slot at next year’s Celtic Connections festival. The show follows their nomination as finalists at the Danny Kyle Open Stage showcase; material reward following a year which – despite refusing to place pressure upon themselves – has proved improbably productive. “There’s a lot of folk specific organisations who have been doing great stuff,” Jon acknowledges. “It’s been rough for everyone, but we’re lucky to have the set-up we do and such a supportive demographic to play to.”

Janice Burns & Jon Doran play The Globe, Newcastle at 8pm on Friday 26th March

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