Bill was born and raised in Northland, New Zealand, spending his childhood on a dairy farm, and his youth on Auckland's North Shore. His Northland roots later led him to write a collection of great songs about the area. I grew up in Southern Ontario, Canada (where in my teens I was part of an all-girl trio that sang at fairs, etc.), and moved to Auckland in my early twenties. We both have long histories as folksingers and musicians, and both were involved in serious amateur drama groups in our early years, with Bill also attending acting school.
We first worked together in 1979, when we formed Auckland based Irish band "Napper Tandy". Bill was lead singer and played guitar, tenor banjo and bouzouki, and I sang and played piano-accordion.
In 1981 we moved to Sydney and joined a band as full time career musicians, playing school shows and barn dances. When the band broke up the next year, we decided to continue as a duo. We learned lots of Australian songs, learned to call barn dances, and did many and various gigs - concerts, dances, walkarounds, street fairs and kids shows. Friendships with other immigrant musicians in Sydney stimulated our interest in folk music from other parts of the world (especially Latin America and Eastern Europe), and eventually led us to develop the WORLD OF MUSIC show that we introduced to New Zealand schools in 1993.
Returning home to New Zealand in 1986, we continued to work as full time folk musicians, introducing barn dances, and developing a large concert repertoire of New Zealand folk songs, tunes and bush poetry. We took the stage name "Colonial Two-Step", (now phased out) which reflected our twin interests of dances and folk music of the old days, and launched the first of our music oriented school shows - the COLONIAL HERITAGE SHOW. Our theatrical training and experience proved invaluable when it came to writing and performing shows for schools.
In 1987, we formed the "Gumdiggers Bush Band" to play for barn dances and perform New Zealand folk songs with a "band" sound. The Gumdiggers played around the central North Island and were guests at various folk festivals over the next ten years, but our touring schedule eventually made it difficult to keep up the band, so it was "disbanded" in 1998.
In 1992, we started to dabble in medieval music, with Bill playing harp and lute, while I played recorders and bass viol. For a few years we played in "The Village Waites", a group playing a rather "folky" version of medieval and renaissance music. The musical legacy of this group is that we now have a duo medieval repertoire as fully costumed minstrels for medieval banquets and weddings, and another school show was born - the MEDIEVAL MINSTREL SHOW.
Since the mid 1990's we have continued to develop, broaden and refine our repertoire. Bill's boyhood interest in magic (conjuring, not occult!) re-surfaced and added a new dimension to our childrens' shows, as did my introduction of puppets and ventriloquism. This led to the addition of our latest school show, BILL & KATH'S VARIETY ROAD SHOW, and also BILL & KATH'S FAMILY FUN SHOW. (One is a school show in the daytime for children only, the other is an evening variety show for the whole community.)
When Bill started writing songs in 1998 (with my help on some of the tunes) it gave our song programs a boost, and the new songs have been very well received in concerts, album reviews and childrens' shows.
One of the most distinctive things about our shows has always been the number and variety of musical instruments we use. Here are some of the instruments we play:
Bill is a plucked strings specialist, playing guitar, celtic lap harp, five string banjo, mandolin, Renaissance lute, cittern, Appalachian dulcimer, charango, Hawaiian guitar, rebec, and others. He also plays concertina, Scottish smallpipes, whistle, antara (pentatonic panpipes), koauau (Maori flute), pipe and tabor, mouth organ and bones, and doumbek (Arabic goblet drum).
I mainly play piano accordion, guitar and several sizes of recorders. I also play concert flute and various folk flutes, including quena (flute of the Andes), shawm, Ti (Chinese buzzing flute), bamboo clarinet, and assorted bamboo flutes. Other instruments I have turned my hand to are hurdy gurdy, bass viol, bowed psaltery, bodhran, and kalimba (African thumb piano).
With six successful school shows under our belts, plus family shows, barn dances and a varied and interesting concert repertoire, we're looking forward to broadening our base with overseas tours.
We've been booked performers at various folk and storytelling festivals in New Zealand over the years, and will be looking to be booked at overseas folk clubs and festivals in the next few years. We are currently working on recording our childrens' album, "Dancing in the Full Moonlight", and our third CD of New Zealand songs for adults - mostly Bill's own songs - both due to come out sometime soon.
To book a "Bill & Kath" show, contact us by email, phone or fax (details below) or check out the Bookings page.