A summer week of ballad singing with the fantastic Pete Coe, Brian Peters and Emily Portman. With practical singing workshops interspersed with presentations.
Pete Coe will explore the performance, sourcing and history of storytelling songs from the last four centuries. Pete, whose pedigree as a performer in the folk scene has few equals, will be joined by leading performer of traditional ballads Brian Peters, and BBC Folk Singer of the Year nominee Emily Portman.
We’ll explore the Child ballads, which include some of the most demanding and rewarding material for the performer in the folksong canon. We’ll sing some some of the ‘big songs’ that F. J. Child missed. We’ll also look at the broadside trade, once looked down on by collectors and archivists, but more recently acknowledged to be a source of many great ballads and wider song repertoire.
There will be classes on performance: how to approach the songs to best get the story across – including phrasing, diction, expression, etc. – and how to make the most of the melodies. Well hear some classic recordings to hear what can be learned from some of the great traditional singers of the past. and be offering advice on searching out new material to so you can develop your own interpretations and versions for performance. For those wanting to find out more about the background to the ballads and their collectors, we’ll have sessions describing Professor Child’s work, and the heyday of the broadside printers like Catnach and Harkness.
There will be a lot of singing! accompanied and unaccompanied. We’ll bring ballads and songs to add to your repertoire. For those who play an instrument there will be opportunity to prepare accompaniments that serve the song.
In addition to the classes they’ll be opportunity to raise your voice in song at evening sessions in the bar, to which we hope you might like to bring ballads of your own to share.
Who’s it For?
The weekend is aimed at singers and singer / instrumentalists with an interest in ballads – by which we mean songs with a substantive story to tell, including pieces from the classic collection of F. J. Child, the broadside industry, and the wider folk tradition.
Singers of all levels of experience, unaccompanied or otherwise, are welcome.
Musicians bringing instruments will need a good degree of competency as we will be working on song accompaniments on a variety of instruments (our tutors cover melodeon, concertina, guitar, banjo, bouzouki, dulcimer, etc) rather than teaching basic technique.
Pete Coe is a singer, multi-instrumentalist and song collector, and has been a professional touring and recording folk musician since 1971. He’s played in iconic bands including The New Victory Band and Bandoggs, but he’s best known for the variety of his solo performances. Pete has also researched and given illustrated presentations on broadside ballads.
“an impressive singer, songwriter and instrumentalist who switches from bouzouki to melodeon, banjo or dulcimer, and can handle anything from traditional ballads to comic material.” The Guardian
Brian Peters is an experienced singer of traditional songs with a wide repertoire but a particularly strong reputation as an interpreter of the ‘Child Ballads’. He’s a multi-instrumental accompanist proficient on guitar, anglo-concertina and melodeon, has given classes on ballad repertoire and interpretation in the UK, USA and Canada, and devised the ‘Songs of Trial and Triumph’ presentation and CD, devoted to the Child Ballads.
“He sings and plays with consummate skill, breathing life into unusual ballads which shimmer with magic and murder, tragedy, action, excitement, and humour.” Steven Winick of the Library of Congress, Washington DC
Emily Portman (Furrow Collective, and Emily Portman Trio) is folk singer, writer and concertina player with nominations for folk singer of the year and holder of the 2013 BBC Radio 2 folk album of the year. As well as being a performer and lecturer at Newcastle University, Emily has presented BBC Radio Merseyside’s folk show ‘Folkscene’, written articles for the acclaimed roots and world music magazine fROOTS and has given talks on ballads at Cecil Sharp House and The International Ballad Conference. At the time of writing she is touring and recording a new album as a duo with Rob Harbron.
“her album Coracle is, without doubt, one of the folk albums of the year” Songlines.
Dark, dark is the considerable beauty of Emily Portman’s work” fROOTS