Nov. 25, 2016 by Wesleyan Alumni Community
Anna Roberts-Gevalt ’06 is part of the folk duo Anna & Elizabeth with her collaborator, ballad singer Elizabeth Laprelle. The two consider themselves historians and storytellers as well as musicians, and aim to illustrate the stories that accompany their songs.
Singing and playing traditional music that has either been passed down to them by elders or gathered from archives, ethnography plays hugely into their art. Their performances have thus relied on telling stories with the visual aid of a scrolling picture show, moving panorama, or what is commonly known in this context as a “crankie.”
This tool helps to illustrate the old songs they sing. Roberts-Gevalt recounts first being introduced to a crankie while she was a student at Wesleyan University:
“It was so amazing. And then when I was finishing up at Wesleyan I got the costume designer lady to let me do an independent study for a credit called, like, ‘Visual Interpretations of Ballads,’ ” Roberts-Gevalt told me recently. “And then it just kind of sat in my closet for a couple years, before I met Elizabeth.”
In her conception, this apparatus helps to express what is lost when folk music is taken out of its traditional setting and put onstage:
“We’re basically taking this music out of context and presenting it. I think that’s totally OK to do. You can put it in a new context and that can be really exciting. But part of what I think the players are drawn to is the context. Part of what I loved about folk music at the beginning was, ‘Wow, here’s the type of music that people play for fun, with their friends, with their parents and grandparents.’ It’s a way of being, a social thing.”
Anna & Elizabeth are currently on tour in the United States, Canada and the UK through May 2017. Check out their tour stops here.
Image: c/o Cowan Creek Mountain Music School
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- Traditional musician and storyteller Anna Roberts-Gevalt ’09 blazes a modern trail
- Anna Roberts-Gevalt website
- Anna & Elizabeth website
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