Old Adam Workshops

There will be a number of practical workshops, discussions, sessions etc going on across the weekend. To find out more about the artists and workshop leaders take a look here. To book onto our Old Adam Singing Weekend, simply fill in this booking form.

Working with Tunes – Cohen Braithwaite Kilcoyne

Melody can be crucial in portraying a song’s narrative yet often we find songs set to tunes that don’t quite feel right. In this workshop, Cohen will explore the ways in which traditional melodies can be used to support the narrative of a song and how to select the best melody from several variants. We will also explore some of the characteristics of traditional melodies and how these can be used to compose in a traditional style. Some knowledge of music theory and ability to read and write music is recommended.

Constructing Songs from Fragments – Cohen Braithwaite Kilcoyne

The nature of working with an oral tradition means that we often need to approach incomplete material. Whether it be texts without tunes or tunes with incomplete texts, there is a huge wealth of fragmented material, so what can we do with it? Using examples from his own repertoire, Cohen will discuss his approach to using verses and texts from various sources, how to write new text for a song and how this fits within the remit of performing traditional material. Come prepared to do a little singing and a little writing.

Exploring Accompaniment – Cohen Braithwaite Kilcoyne

All folk musicians have their own approach to accompaniment and in this in this session Cohen will be exploring his. In the first half, Cohen will discuss and demonstrate his technique for accompanying songs, focusing on issues such as how to approach harmonisation and choose chords, what to do with instrumental fills, how to approach ‘word painting’ and how to achieve this without overshadowing the song. In the second half, you will be invited to share a song to be discussed by the group. Please bring a song and your instrument or voice.

Concertina Special – Cohen Braithwaite Kilcoyne

A look into some of the unexpected capabilities of the humble anglo concertina. In this workshop, Cohen will discuss the differing demands of playing the concertina for instrumental music and for accompaniment. Cohen will share his approach to singing with the concertina and how to get the most from the accidentals on a standard 30 key c/g anglo concertina to facilitate playing in keys to suit various singers.

Songs of Empowerment – Nancy Kerr and Gill Loomes

How can music be used to represent those who are marginalised?

This presentation will explore how songs can comment on contemporary social issues and be used to represent marginalized identities. It draws on the expertise and experience of both Nancy and Gill to highlight and question the fascinating topic of representation in song. Nancy’s perspective as a contemporary singer-songwriter who uses traditional material to comment on contemporary issues and Gill’s experience as a singer of primarily traditional songs and as a researcher of the role of narrative in the current context of the Mental Capacity Act promises this session to be a fascinating and provocative choice. This session is about exploring what traditional songs can offer to help us understand ourselves, and question how we represent others – particularly in the context of disability.

Expressions of Gender Fluidity and Sexuality – Nancy Kerr

How can traditional songs connect to our sense of identity and sexuality?

In this presentation, originally conceived for “Crossing Boundaries: Diverse Voices in Traditional Culture” (Scottish Storytelling Centre, May 2016) Nancy draws on her repertoire and beyond to ask: how have we historically used, and how can we now interact with traditional songs to retell narratives that connect to gender identity and sexuality? With sung examples and plenty of opportunity for discussion.

Investigating the ballads in the Carpenter Collection – Julia Bishop

Delve into one of the most extensive but least-known British collections of traditional music – made by James Madison Carpenter in 1929-35, and soon to become available as part of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library’s digital archive. The Carpenter Collection abounds in ballads – songs that tell stories. We will explore the ballads in the collection and discover how to locate them. What is the (hi)story of these songs, how does this impact on the way we hear them, and how can this act as a resource for their performance today?

Songs on a Theme – Ben Nicholls

Using the ‘Kings of The South Seas’ project as an example, a group of traditional songs from the British South Seas whaling trade, Ben will discuss the techniques used in researching a themed muscial project. Approaches to adapting and rewriting traditional material will be explored as well as ways of using resources such as the Full English and the British Library. There will be hands on research where you will  create your own thematically linked group of songs as we explore the issues this reveals – so bring your own tablet/laptop if possible.

When is Folk not Folk? -Ben Nicholls

We will examine our perceptions of what folk music is, what it has been historically and whether this should concern the musician performing in the current era. Has our perception of what it is shifted and is it something that was an issue to musicians historically? Have changes in the context in which the music is performed had an effect on our views? You will be invited to contribute your own ideas and experiences.

Standing in the path of the song or beside it? – Gavin Davenport

Should a song be untouched by the singer or should the singer shape the song – how much is enough and how much is too much?  a look at active and passive narrative voice, working with your natural voice, accent and making choices to tailor a song for your own style. Supported by recordings of traditional and revival singers with very different approaches, this session will cover issues of dramatization, performance style, changing words, addition, omission and more. There’ll be some consideration of the singer as ‘director’ and their editorial choices to tell a story your own way.

Singing the Unsingable – Gavin Davenport

Looking at broadsides, dialect songs and other awkward beasts. We consider how they can be tamed without losing their essence. Themes will include: rewriting, fixing rhythm, translation, dealing with doggerel, political incorrectness, Lallans for non-scots, and possibly even Robin Hood! This will be both discursive and practical with examples and material to rewrite and contributions invited.

Leaning on the gate – Gavin Davenport

A look at adding accompaniment for all instruments – focused on solo accompaniment but applicable to group arrangement this will consider the basic tools of the trade – rhythm, drone, melody, chords and harmony and how you can sympathetically scaffold a song with what are often melodically simple forms. This will also look at how less confident instrumentalists or singers can begin to join simple accompaniments to voice to strengthen both.

Digital Folk – Lucy Wright & Simon Keegan Phipps

The Digital Folk project at the University of Sheffield has been looking at the ways in which a wide range of people make use of digital technologies and resources to learn, collaborate, interpret and create material, as well as exploring the impact of these new digital practices and platforms on the contemporary folk movement. To what extent does digital media enhance or undermine the oral tradition? This workshop will provide an overview of the project’s findings and you will be invited to participate in the research, by contributing your own experiences and views of digital folk.

Understanding Old Adam – Fay Hield & Sarah Price

How do listeners make sense of folk songs?

Fay and Sarah share findings of an audience research project that traced the reactions of eight listeners to Old Adam. We will discuss how listeners developed connections to the new album and concerts, tracing the process of familiarisation from first impressions to songs becoming emotional resources in their lives. We will share how listeners made sense of ambiguity and consider how ideas of truth and morality in stories help us to understand what it means to be human.

What is it like to listen? - Fay Hield & Sarah Price

How do you listen?

In this interactive session, Fay and Sarah will guide you through an exploration of your own listening to gain insight into how audiences engage with folk songs. We will invite you to recall Saturday night’s concert, and play recordings to help us think about what it’s like for audiences. We will ask you to reflect on the experience of hearing a song for the first time and the process of familiarisation that takes place with repeated listenings exploring how this fits into a tradition with all its variants and connections.

Making your own kind of sense – Fay Hield

How do you approach a new song and make it your own? 

We find traditional songs in all sorts of places, but what makes us want to sing them? This session explores what makes us connect with a song, and how we might need to shape it to make our rendition a unique chink in the chain of tradition. What elements do we need to consider to make a song our own? Fay considers how she approached character, moral message, context and vernacular language in songs included on Old Adam and explores how you might borrow those ideas. Bring your own song to work on in an interactive workshop where we discuss and explore own individual relationships to song.

Dialect, Place and Performance  – Jane Hodson

Folk singers of previous centuries performed in their own regional dialects, even if those dialects were not always captured on the page when songs were recorded for posterity. Eighteenth century writer-performer Joseph Mather is a case in point, as the collection of his songs published after his death make little attempt to represent the Sheffield dialect which must have been an integral part of his performance. In this session, we will consider the role of dialect in song writing and performance. How can dialect features enhance the sense of authentic ‘voice’ when telling a story? And what are the risks?

Inside Your Voice – Harriet Johnson & Kate Thompson

Explore your voice and enjoy your singing

This session is dedicated to getting to know your voice and learning how to get the most out of it for your song. Voice specialists Harriet Johnson and Kate Thompson will lead you through an exploration of your voice, how it works and how to achieve the sound you want. Following a quick tour of the mechanics behind the voice, the session will be full of practical tips and ideas for you to explore and enjoy in your singing.

Using Ancient Stories to Write New Songs – Casey Strine

Our culture is saturated with references to the Bible, Homer’s epic poems, and many other ancient stories and myths. Casey will introduce some well known and other more obscure examples and explore the role references to such familiar texts and images play in folk songs and other forms of storytelling. The workshop will include opportunity to take a biblical or Homeric text as the starting point to write a new song or poetic lyric, specifically exploring how the ‘folk knowledge’ of the ancient text can provide a powerful vehicle for crafting a new story.

Walk to Stoneface

Get out of the classroom and stretch your legs while you’re in the most fabulous part of the world.  Join us on a gentle walk around the footpaths of the Loxley valley and enjoy some space to consolidate your ideas from the weekend.  We will stop for a song or two along the way and there will be woodfired pizza available at our destination  – a wonderland of sculptures created by local craftsman, Stoneface.

Between the Lines – Karine Polwart

How are stories portrayed in contemporary folk song?

The conjuring of story in song often depends as much upon the listener as it does the songwriter or singer. And contemporary folk song, unlike traditional narrative ballads, is often non-linear in its construction. Through active listening to songs and group discussion, explore the contemporary songwriter’s craft in leaving space between the lines for an audience to piece together backstory and do their own imaginative work.

Small Details, Big Stories – Karine Polwart

A hands-on songwriting workshop

As humans, we have an innate drive to make meaning and story out of what we witness in the world. And our own experiences, memories and interests shape what we find and create. Bring your own unique inner worlds to a practical, hands-on writing workshop that will pull big stories from small, everyday objects and still images. Writing experience is not necessary but a willingness to share is.

Old Stories, Fresh Meanings -Karine Polwart

How can we breathe new life into old stories?

What makes a centuries old song or story relevant to us now as tellers or listeners? And how can a singer alter the ways they might be understood? This workshop involves Karine’s take on how you can enliven florid eighteenth century song, ancient bird lore and traditional creation myth.

Telling a Story Together -Kate  Thompson

How choirs can portray a story

Community choirs are very popular, but how can a group create the intimacy needed to move beyond the sound and tell a story? Kate will guide you through a ballad community-choir style exploring how groups of singers can work together to get a story across – you’ll be exploring the intricacies of group singing including blending and expressive techniques – and doing a lot of singing.