Blog

Breaking the Bias: Challenging Gender Stereotypes in Trad Song

by Jennie Higgins...

Whose Auld Lang Syne is it Anyway

Whilst it is accepted that “Auld Lang Syne” is attributed to Robert Burns and is recognised far and wide, you...

The Treehouse Festival

This week’s guest blogger for our theme of Traditional Skills is Colin Hynson. He helps to organise the Treehouse Festival...

'Hark, Hark’ – A Paradigm of the Sheffield Carol Tradition

Ian Russell...

Street Cries as Musicological Phenomena By Liz Sheppard

Liz holds an MA in Traditional Music of the British Isles from the University of Sheffield. Her dissertation focused on...

Online singing - Covid Sings

Covid sings is an online singaround that currently takes place on the first Tuesday of each month. Hosted by Fay...

Singing through the dark times

Like most people, the current pandemic has tilted the world I have been living in and given an opportunity for...

Teaching folk music online

When the Covid pandemic hit, I think many music teachers were wary of what was coming a few weeks before...

Online Singing – The Soundpost Singing Days

The Soundpost Singing Weekends have become legendary in the folk world as a source of inspiration, knowledge, friendships and confidence...

COVID SINGS 1st June

The latest online Covid Sings session is on Tuesday 1st June 2021 and is live streamed to the Soundpost Facebook...

TST Website - What would you like to see?

We have lots of things planned for the Trad Song Tuesday website including blogs, special features, interviews and more, but...

TST Very Special Guest - KARINE POLWART

We are so excited that Karine Polwart https://twitter.com/IAMKP has agreed to be our very special TradSongTues guest on Tuesday 18th...

Meet the Team

Once Fay had the brilliant idea to echo the @FolkloreThurs group with a weekly Twitter event exploring folk songs she...

May Day

May Day is a day to celebrate. Across the world there are many different celebrations held on this day; pagan...

Online Singing – The Soundpost Singing Days

The Soundpost Singing Weekends have become legendary in the folk world as a source of inspiration, knowledge, friendships and confidence for those wishing to explore folk song and music and their own performance context.

In May 2020 I was happily organizing what was to be a bumper weekend, and the first I had project managed after attending several as a participant. By July, Covid had taken hold and the weekend had to be cancelled. There was such a feeling of sadness as this was just one event amongst many that was falling by the wayside. Eager participants would not get to sing and artists would not get to run the workshops and would thus miss out on much needed income.

I had watched the amazing Folk On Foot Front Room Festival earlier in May and was struck by how strong my emotional response was to the online event. I had also successfully transferred my teaching practice to Zoom (much as Nic describes in her blog) and wondered if we could run a successful singing day instead of the weekend. A phone call with Fay later and we had a plan for an Online Singing Day for October, approved by the Soundpost board and off we went into the then uncharted world of Zoom online events.

The main problem with Zoom is the time lag which means that people are not able to sing together. We already had experience of running the Covid Sings singaround sessions, every week since the beginning of lockdown on a Tuesday, and knew that just being together in a virtual space to sing was enough to create a warm and supportive atmosphere for people to perform. The workshops for the singing day would need to be able to do the same without participants actually being able to hear each other s they sang.

The tutors and their ability to hold attention and create enthusiasm would be a vital part of the success of the day. We approached singing teacher Kate Thompson, folk fiddle singer Nancy Kerr and singer, fiddler and choir leader Jess Arrowsmith. We had no idea whether this would work and if people would be interested in giving it a go so each workshop leader was guaranteed a flat fee regardless of participant numbers and a share of the ‘profits’ once Soundpost had covered it’s costs.

We started at 10am and Kate Thompson enlisted the help of fellow singer and teacher Harriet Johnson and delivered a fascinating and challenging workshop on vocal technique and breathing exercises. One of the highlights of the day for me, watching all the workshops from my computer, was seeing everyone disappear from their little Zoom square to do breathing exercises on the floor and the silent giggles when people tried to sing down a straw into a glass of water. The format worked. People were engaged and enthusiastic and the ‘coffee break’ session for questions at the end had to be brought to a close to give time for a rest from the screen before the next session.

Next up was Nancy’s workshop on ornamentation. She delivered a really interesting and enlightening experience of how practicing different ornamentation techniques can personalise the delivery of an old song and provided examples that she talked through. Again, the participants were engaged and the over-riding feeling at the end of these two workshops was of just how much control can be had over the sound we produce. Sometimes singing seems to be one of those dark arts – some people open their mouths and something wonderful comes out, and some people don’t. Feedback from these first two workshops indicated that participants had been given the confidence to work with their voice to explore what they were able to do with it.

After a break for lunch and a rest from the screen Jess Arrowsmith took the group through the harmonies for two Sheffield carols. This was potentially the most challenging part of the day as the magic of singing in harmony comes from hearing the voices together, something that couldn’t happen on Zoom. Jess had made recordings of all the various parts together in all combinations so that, as each part was learned participants could sing along with her recording giving some idea of how the harmonies worked together. Once all parts had been learned Jess played a recording of all the parts and participants chose their harmony and sang along. The joy of this singing was evident on people’s faces and was a very moving experience. Again, feedback indicated how much people enjoyed this experience and how many, in the privacy of their own homes, had felt the confidence to sing out in a way that they perhaps wouldn’t in a face to face situation.

One of the joys of the physical weekend is being able to chat and swap ideas with other participants and tutors in the breaks between workshops. We brought this element to the online singing day through the coffee breaks between sessions and also through the Question and Answer session which was chaired by Fay with all three tutors. They discussed where to find material, how to adjust it to make it personal or to fit the format they are performing in and how to create meaning from the material. The meeting was then opened out to participants and various topics were discussed ranging from ‘technique vs freedom’ within performance, song writing and writers block and much loved songs that aren’t suitable for public performance and why.

The finale of the day was created to echo the tutor’s concert that happens in Dungworth on the Saturday night of the weekend. Online, each of the tutors gave a 20 minute performance and then the floor was open for participants to engage in a singaround. As the online day had been very successful in terms of numbers, we split into 3 groups (breakout rooms on Zoom), each with a tutor and sang to each other before coming back together for the final 15 minutes of the day.

The first workshop started at 10am and the Singaround finished at 10pm – a very long day of Zooming. Whilst that amount of screentime provided problems for some, the overwhelming majority had only positive feedback. The day succeeded in its aims. We got people singing and thinking about singing. We facilitated conversations about folk song and context and emotional responses to material. The most surprising aspect for me was that we created a community and friendships that I know have continued on past the day. The participation in the day was so successful that we were able to pay the artists almost 3 times what they were guaranteed at the start of the process and provided support for them in this very difficult time for those working in the arts. A similarly successful day was held in April with Kate Thompson, Paul Sartin and Bryony Griffith with the same success. We are hoping to return to the physical format in some way this October but that doesn’t rule out future online events.

Whilst the day was no substitute for meeting face to face it certainly proved an important experience to combat the isolation and lack of opportunity for music making during lockdown.

Jenna