Bob Whitley is a Poole-based songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer who has been delighting audiences across the Dorset folk scene for over 20 years. Playing a wide range of instruments, including guitar, bouzouki and mandola, he writes songs inspired by history, politics and the events of his own life. Throughout his two decades at the heart of the local folk scene, Bob has played at virtually every folk club and festival in Dorset and many in the surrounding area, and has also supported some of the genre’s most beloved artists, including Pete Moreton, Faustus, Nancy Kerr and James Fagin, John Tams and Barry Coope, Jez Lowe, Roy Bailey.and John Kirkpatrick.
Whilst Bob has produced beautiful arrangements of traditional songs over the years, it is his self-penned material that is most loved by his audiences. From beautiful love songs, heart-warming choruses, humorous songs, to songs of uncompromising political commentary – Bob has the ability to take stories of people and places and turn them into songs that are not easily forgotten.
Bob has been working on several musicals for stage performance for a number of years including ‘Magellan Circumnavigation’ and ‘Ophelia’. He completed his Magellan project in 2017 and Bob and cellist Lee MacKenzie performed preview concerts in 2018 and went into full production of the musical story in 2019 and 2020 at the start of the 500th anniversary of the voyage. The concerts for 2020 were unfortunately postponed due to the Covid pandemic but the first post lock down concert took place at the Lighthouse Poole theatre on 2 October 2020.
During the lock down period Bob has completed and arranged the 'Ophelia' musical and written a new musical story 'Anne Boleyn - Wolf at the Door' inspired by the reading of 'Wolf Hall' by Hilary Mantel and research into Tudor history with a series of lock down biographies of Anne Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More.
Bob and Lee will be working on these productions in Autumn 2020 and into 2021 during the likely set back to live music performance and music venues for the foreseeable future.
Testimonials and Reviews:
‘A talented writer, performer and musician’ Roy Bailey
‘Bob writes songs on a vast range of contemporary, historical and humorous themes telling stories that draw you in’ Paul Burke Bournemouth Folk Club and Purbeck Valley Folk Festival
‘Dad has been one of the main inspirations behind the formation of Ninebarrow and we are proud to have covered one of his amazing songs ‘Coming Home’ from his Magellan musical.’ Jon Whitley, Ninebarrow (BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Nominees 2017)
Bob Whitley is an inspirational folk singer/songwriter. His passion for storytelling through his lyrics and his knowledge of subject matter are beyond impressive and he carries a song with emotion and a sense of journey that becomes a melody in not just the ears but the heart. I'm truly delighted to have found a folk musician in this country who has such a depth of talent and can touch his audience with his superb voice and presence.' Tracy Newman, member of the audience Wimborne Minster Folk Festival - 5* Review posted to Bob Whitley Music Facebook Page
Jeremy Miles Bournemouth Echo 3 October 2020
REVIEW: Magellan Circumnavigation at the Lighthouse in Poole
'This performance of Magellan Circumnavigation was pure joy, not least because it marked the return of theatre and musical story-telling to Lighthouse. What’s more this two man show - the first theatre production to grace the Lighthouse stage in more than six months - was beautifully performed.
Conceived and written by Poole folk singer-songwriter Bob Whitley, it told in words and song the extraordinary tale of Ferdinand Magellan’s 16th century mission to find a passage through the South American continent and circumnavigate the world.
And what a tale it was. With Bob on guitar and mandolas accompanied by brilliant cellist-vocalist Lee Mackenzie, we heard how Magellan and his men took to the high-seas determined to prove that the world was round. Not easy at a time when many people believed the earth was flat and that if you sailed too far you’d drop straight off the edge of the sea.......
Sitting on a simply dressed stage, Bob and Lee performing in costume, delivered a thoughtful and perfectly nuanced performance of carefully crafted songs evoking the fear, excitement and desperately gruelling lives of the sailors and the hopes and heartaches of the loves they had left behind.'
Review from Mark Tattersall Artistic Director Dorchester Arts:
'Magellan Circumnavigation is a musical journey in time and space which was tremendously well-received by the audience here in Dorchester. Musically it's sublime. Bob's songs are beautifully crafted to both please the ear and also tell the fascinating and moving story of this incredible adventure, with all its excitement and wonder as well as its horrors and misdeeds. Lee's voice is a perfect foil to Bob's and their musicianship is outstanding: Lee's cello perfectly balances Bob's various guitars and mandolas to provide a soundscape that will please both folk fans and those who just love good music in general. Add to that a great story and it makes for an evening of high-quality music and storytelling with really broad appeal.'
Magellan - 'Bob’s songs tell of this epic undertaking – exotic places visited, the life, trials and tribulations of the crew. The songs are sublime, the lyrics and melodies beautifully penned, bringing each episode to life when sung and played by Bob and Lee. Coming Home is surely one of the greatest love songs ever written and could be sung about any couple in any century, separated by war or adventure.' Caroline Ellis Milford on Sea Folk Club