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Cathy Barton and Dave Para give dynamic performances acclaimed for their variety and expertise in both vocal and instrumental styles. Their repertoire and informal audience rapport are marked by a special affection for traditional music.
Their more than 35 years of playing together have taken them to festivals, clubs, concert halls, schools and recording and media studios across the United States and five European tours. Their audiences are as diverse as their repertoire.
A versatile duo, Dave and Cathy perform and conduct workshops with hammered and fretted dulcimers, banjo, guitars and Autoharp, as well as “found” instruments like bones, spoons, mouthbow and leaf. Their music ranges from driving string band music to contemplative ballads and airs. They have a knack for finding unusual, rarely heard songs from traditional and contemporary sources in their home region, but also from elsewhere in the US and Europe. They have conducted many topical workshops on songs from the Carter family, the Civil War, river lore, gospel, children’s songs, Christmas music and Ozark ballads.

What We’ve Been Up To

Making music and friends on the river, on the road and at home has been most of the recent itinerary for Cathy Barton and Dave Para and the inspiration for their repertoire for decades.

Early last year the duo were guest performers with the Columbia Civic Orchestra in an evening concert program featuring Missouri river songs and compositions. Two of Cathy’s original songs and Bob Dyer’s “River of the Big Canoes” were set to orchestral arrangement by Missouri University music student Ben Colagiovanni. To hear the rich sounds and textures an orchestra brings to their music is a rare and treasured experience. The couple returned to folk festivals in Albuquerque and Texas and also joined the Pinewoods program in Rhode Island featuring songs of the Golden Ring, a consortium of musicians who recorded projects for Folk-Legacy Records, projects that greatly inspired Cathy and Dave when they started playing together. Folk-Legacy ceased operations last fall, and the label and catalog will be preserved and continued by the Smithsonian Folkways catalog.

Cathy’s health issues kept much of the winter and early spring quieter than normal, but included their 33rd school year performing an assembly program on Missouri cultural history for Kansas City area schools. The couple also gratefully returned to the rivers of America playing on the American Queen, Queen of the Mississippi, America and the American Duchess on the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee rivers. The vagaries of high water on the Mississippi also afforded them an unplanned trip up the Illinois.

Dave and Cathy also returned to their beloved Carp Camp at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kan., where they played hard and laughed often. They had done their homework and subsequently shared some of their new repertoire at dances and concerts around the state. They plan to do the same this September.

April 2019 marks the 28th Big Muddy Folk Festival which they started with their late friend Bob Dyer to bring good friends and great music to historic Thespian Hall in their Boonville hometown.