Acoustic duo Robinson & Rohe play in Ripton
Liam Robinson and Jean Rohe have known each other for over a decade, developing a friendship as they pursued their separate careers — spanning everything from playing Brazilian jazz gigs to composing orchestral scores.
Over those years, the two grew into powerhouse performers. Robinson honed his wide-ranging skills as an original cast member of the Tony Award winning play “Warhorse,” as musical director of Anaïs Mitchell’s Off-Broadway folk opera “Hadestown,” as a composer in the Red Light New Music collective, and as a member of the Becca Stevens Band.
Meanwhile, Rohe began touring and recording with her band, Jean Rohe & the End of the World Show, perfecting her honeyed, far-ranging voice and collecting accolades along the way. Rohe also garnered attention for her unflinching alternative anthem for the United States, “National Anthem: Arise! Arise!” which continues to be performed and recorded by choirs and bands across the country, and was published in the “Rise Up Singing” songbook sequel.
Despite separately flourishing careers, the two found themselves with a musical itch they hadn’t yet scratched. One afternoon, they sat at Robinson’s kitchen table, swapping harmonies as they sang some of the old folk songs both of them had grown up with. At the end of one song, Rohe said, “we just both sat there in silence.” Stripped down to their two voices, they could hear the potential for something big.
“It’s a magical thing to phrase with someone like that,” said Robinson, “to breathe together and land language in time, in tune, even pushing and pulling tempo together.”
They started exchanging lyrics and music — Robinson taking a fragment of writing from Rohe and delivering it back to her married to a melody. The collaborative process was the start of what would become their debut record, “Hunger.” It was also the start of their love story.
Robinson recalls writing a love song about Rohe early on in their relationship. He knew it didn’t belong on any other instrument but the banjo. The only problem was that he wasn’t a proficient enough banjo player for the music he had written. For him, the solution was simple: “I had to learn how to play it for those songs,” he said. “It took a while.” Rohe echoes this uncompromising drive to deliver whatever the songs demanded of them, saying that over the past few years, her guitar-playing has entered a new realm: “It all came from this necessity of expressing these songs the way they need to be expressed.”
The duo will share their musical talents at the Ripton Community Coffee House on Saturday, April 7, 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m., with open mic before the featured performers. $15 generous admission, $10 general admission and $3 for children. For more information call (802) 388-9782 or visit robinsonandrohe.com.
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