The Copper Family traces its roots back to 1593 in the Sussex village of Rottingdean where an entry in the first extant Parish register records a marriage.
The Family singing tradition can be traced back at least to the 18th Century. The Coppers were always renowned as singers in the village and the Copper menfolk, largely comprising farm labourers, carters, ploughmen and shepherds were always in demand at sing-songs, pubs, harvest suppers and seasonal celebratory events around the farms and villages. The womenfolk sang too but social conditions dictated that their contributions did not stray as far as licensed premises and theirs was rather a domestic stage with Christmas being the central point for ‘party pieces’.
The land and specifically the Sussex Downland was always the backdrop to the family music and a deep love of the surrounding countryside is never far away from many songs in the repertoire – these were songs in celebration of their everyday work and the pride taken in it; they were were treasured and handed down purely through the oral tradition.
The Coppers have been renowned for their harmony singing, unusual in the English Tradition and possibly church-derived; this fact was noted when the Brothers Tom and James (Brasser) Copper were first ‘collected’ by noted classical singer and musicologist Mrs Kate Lee in 1898. The two were made founder members of the Folk Song Society in 1899 (later to become the English Folk Dance and Song Society) – a fact of which they remained blissfully ignorant!