Traditional Song Week Classes - July 9-15, 2017

(Unless otherwise indicated, all classes have a limit of 15)

Western North Carolina has a long history of shape note singing. From the haunting melodies of William Walker’s Christian Harmony to the complex, moving parts of Stamps-Baxter Conventional Hymn Books, this class will be an exploration of the evolution of shape note. You will be able to hear the differences through group singing. We will discuss a variety of singing styles that are most effective for each hymn and above all, have fun! Gospel harmony has always been an important part of traditional singing and you’ll get the chance to hear where Josh, along with many others, got their start in music. We will begin by learning the shapes, so no prior experience is required. Get ready to have lots of fun hearing some amazing harmony and experiencing it with a full group in four parts. (No class limit)

MUSIC THEORY (Josh Goforth)
Ever hear a song and wonder why it’s so pleasing to your ear? Have you always wanted to be able to sing in harmony without approaching it like a math problem? Have you tried to learn theory before and just didn’t find it interesting in the least or just way too difficult? Perhaps you are thinking, “Why do I need music theory as a traditional singer, shouldn’t it just come naturally?” Well, this class is for you! We will explore the advantages of visual and aural learning in traditional music. No experience or formal music training necessary! This is a good way to get pleasantly thrown into the deep end of music theory and ear training basics.

This class will be all about the singing and the song. This will be an opportunity for you to learn what you need to know to unleash the power of song in your community. Matt will share his experience as a song leader and community performer by teaching and leading a wide variety of songs in a wide variety of styles. After learning song leading and community sing organizational techniques, participants will be encouraged to bring in songs and try out their song-leading talents on the class. You will sing everyday and leave on Friday inspired to take what you’ve learned back into your community. (No class limit)

Bringing traditional songs alive is all about choices. In this interactive class, Matt Watroba will show you the choices great singers make to get the most out of a song. Participants will then be encouraged to apply what they’ve learned to the songs they choose to sing. This workshop promises to be a safe, friendly place where beginners and professionals alike will benefit from the wisdom of the instructor and the group. Phrasing, style and performance techniques are just a few of the areas this class will explore on the way to wowing any audience with the power of traditional music.

A focus on proper breathing, body alignment, and mouth position is paramount to healthy singing. We’ll spend the week focusing on that and alleviating tension that is detrimental to free and easy singing. Please bring pieces you’re passionate about to work on.

We’ll be spending the week on learning to trust that while on stage we are enough, and that the simpler we can keep our approach the clearer our storytelling can be. Please bring pieces you’re passionate about to work on.

Len has a large repertoire of happy songs on many themes – a symphony of jingles, tongue-twisters, lilts, nonsense verses, songs of ceremony and humour galore! This class is suitable for ALL ages, 7-107. Most of the songs have rhythm and thus will lend themselves to instrumental arrangement. However, this class will be unaccompanied and will be taught by repetition and ear with song lyrics provided. Participants are encouraged to bring an audio recording device. (No class limit)

This class will explore some of the many songs which turn up in the Appalachian tradition, with Len teaching their Irish counterparts with song subjects covering many themes. As an oral tradition these songs will be taught by repetition and ear with lyrics provided. Participants are encouraged to bring an audio recording device. (No class limit)

Songs have been the backbone that has stabilized the cause for freedom and fueled the quest for civil and human rights here in the U.S. and around the world. From the spirituals and shouts of the Underground Railroad to the freedom songs of the Modern Civil Rights Movement, songs have been and remain a marvelous vehicle for inspiring awareness and change. In conveying information, inviting collaboration, participating in direct action, and experiencing and inspiring personal transformation, this is a legacy to be continued. With Reggie Harris leading, the group will explore the depth of this tradition from its roots in the African American slave experience to the present day. (No class limit)

How might you describe a “traditional song”? They originate among the people of a particular country or area, are passed by oral tradition from one generation of singers to the next, often exist in several versions, and frequently are marked by simple, modal melody and narrative verse. For our purposes this week let’s call this “Songwriting 101” and roll up our sleeves together to build a new wave of songs that will carry on long after we’re here. We’ll work simply and sequentially by brainstorming compelling themes, shaping lyrics, adding melodies in creative ways, and putting them all together with an eye on the qualities that make great traditional songs endure. We’ll also use one session to do a complete group co-write of a custom-made song for a sick child and his/her family for the Songs of Love Foundation in New York... very meaningful, long-lasting, and powerful. We’ll also have fun in a safe, playful, supportive, permissive, all levels, and powerful environment.

The Carter family is one the most influential groups in music history. In this class we’ll learn the melodies of songs that have become standards in folk, old-time, country and bluegrass, and will learn a few that you may not have heard. We’ll also look at the unique way that Maybelle and A.P. Carter treated harmony and will learn their parts.

Harmonies in bluegrass are rooted in the gospel music that Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley and others grew up with. Bluegrass sounds earthy, with a touch of old-time, but the harmonies are very tight with very little unison or notes that are not in perfect harmony. We’ll look at how harmonies are created in bluegrass and how great bluegrass harmony singers use simple chord extensions to create interest. Some basic theory offered, but we will spend most of our time finding harmony parts and singing standard bluegrass classics.

This class will study various country vocal styles that emerged in the South after 1945. We will discuss the styles and techniques of several influential country music voices and learn a batch of classic songs by the likes of Hank Williams, Lefty Frizell, Wanda Jackson, Buck Owens, Leona Williams and George Jones. Special attention will be paid to phrasing, pitching your voice, ornamentation, and feeling and communicating a song. We will also spend some time creating an actual honky-tonk band with which to put all this knowledge to practice. Maybe even put on some harmony! Sounds fun to me! Guitars and basic knowledge of chords are encouraged. Let’s go honky-tonkin’!

Back by popular demand, Find Your Voice will help you to do just that. Find out how the voice works and how to use it to its full potential. We will look at care of the voice and vocal warm-ups as well as how to pitch and project your voice without straining or damaging your vocal cords. You will learn about resonance and tone and how to achieve them. Students are advised to bring a song you may find challenging to sing so we can look at how to improve your performance of it. Recording devices are recommended.

Theres nothing like a good story and in this class you will learn great stories told through song on all sorts of topics from murder to romance, from drinking to emigration. Ireland has an abundance of these beautiful ballads that should be in any singer’s repertoire. Some of these songs made their way across the Atlantic, where they took on another life and were altered in the folk process to suit their new surroundings. By all means bring recording devices.

DUET HARMONY SINGING (Mark Weems & Julee Glaub Weems)
Learn some of the specific techniques and nuances of duet singing. We will work at choosing keys, finding parts, exploring different types of harmony, building harmony mathematically, blending voices, feeling and phrasing, learning to sing with different partners and developing listening skills. We will learn how to adapt harmonies to different songs and various genres such as Appalachian, Irish, gospel, and country. The initial classes will focus on singing with instruments, to hear the chord structures of the harmonies, consider how they affect the overall harmonic sound, and discuss the creation of tasteful arrangements. As the week progresses, we will work towards freedom from chordal structure in order to encourage experimentation with more diverse kinds of harmony. It is not necessary to read music, as we will be learning by ear. Bring a partner or find one in the class! Note: students should come to this class with some experience in singing melody. (Class limit: 14)

(Sheila Kay Adams)
I started learning what my family called ‘them old love songs’ as a five-year- old. No one said I had to learn them, or pressured me to listen to and sing back, one at a time, twenty-seven verses. First, as a child I loved the stories of knights and ladies riding on snow-white steeds, or what all could take place in “her father’s great hall,” or why a bird perched in a willow tree would speak to a woman who had “just murdered your own true love.” I could go on and on but the stories were fantastic, mysterious, believable and I heard them every day. The people I learned from were born in the 1890s and early 1900s and had learned them from their parents and grandparents – generation after generation after generation had learned them and passed them on. The words aren’t a problem. They’re written down in more collections than you can shake a stick at. But, if the story was the initial reason my mind chose to learn, it was the way they sang that took my heart over fifty years ago: the odd phrasing, the choice of words and the way they put those words together. This is what I hope to share with you in this class. I promise you, the songs are wonderful, but what will keep you singing is the way I’m going to teach you to do it. I’ll provide you with the words; the rest I’ll help you with, and those that really “get it” by the end of the week will help me carry this beautiful, ancient tradition a bit further down the road.

This class is all about singing the many “meeting-house” gospel songs – mostly by ear and full-voiced, “off-the-porch-strong” as Aunt Inez would say – that I grew up hearing in the churches in and around Sodom, NC. You’ll be familiar with most of ’em; ones like “I’ll Fly Away,” “Where the Soul Never Dies,” and “Build Me A Cabin,” to name a few. We’ll also work together on some shape-note songs, but the majority can be found in The Baptist Hymnal. Please bring a copy if you have your own, but handouts will be provided as needed. And don’t go worrying about harmonies; trust me, you’ll find the one that works for you. These old hymns really do rock right along, and there’s a power to them that’ll grab your heart and spirit from the get-go ... no collection plate needed. But don’t expect to sit or even stand in one place as these old hymns will, quite literally, move you.

The blues is a style that represents the backbone of American popular music. It is a music that is both traditional and, at the same time, improvisational. This is a class that will focus on both the roots and branches of the blues. We will explore spirituals, work songs, field hollers and chants as components that led to the creation of the blues style. We will then look at regional singing styles, phrasing, and the blues aesthetic. Finally, we will explore using the “blues template” as a way to create new music in the style and genre. All are welcome, just come prepared to sing and to participate.

In this class we will explore the idea of accompanying oneself or another singer on the blues guitar. We will explore the fundamentals of traditional blues fingerpicking, chord organization, tempo and the blues guitar aesthetic. We will also touch on the individual styles of influential guitarists such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Rev. Gary Davis, Son House, Robert Johnson, Lightnin’ Hopkins and others. This is an intermediate level class; a basic knowledge of first position chords is highly recommended. (No class limit)

Explore some of the song traditions of Scotland as you learn about song origins and have fun singing in Scots! We will sing everything from old ballads to more recent Scottish songs and you’ll return home with a new appreciation of Auld Lang Syne, singing all the verses to their original melody. We will also listen to some old recordings that reveal many connections between Scottish and American songs that flow through the music of Robert Burns, Woody Guthrie, Jean Ritchie, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan. In this class we will learn by ear and sing together unaccompanied. Lyric sheets provided. (No class limit)

IF YOU TALK, YOU SING (Kathy Bullock)
African and Caribbean Songs! From South African freedom songs, to Ghanaian praise and worship, to Jamaican folk songs and games, we will celebrate music from various areas of the African diaspora. Covering both traditional and popular forms, we will sing songs, learn the accompanying movements, and share the stories as we enjoy the musical and cultural connections. (No class limit)

GOSPEL CHOIR (Kathy Bullock)
Come Share the Joy! Join us as we sing gospel and spirituals in the African American tradition. From nineteenth century folk spirituals through twentieth and twenty-first century traditional and contemporary gospel songs, we will celebrate music of the African American sacred tradition. This experience is a joyful, inspiring, celebration of life, spirit and community. (No class limit)

FIDDLE AND A SONG (Brian & Nicole Christianson)
Musically supporting a singer is one of the most difficult and rewarding joys of a fiddler. A good instrumentalist that listens will complement and support a vocalist, driving her to sing differently, pushing her musical creativity. It’s all about working together! The fiddle lends itself well as a supporting instrument while also presenting the challenge of its bowed nature; it is the nearest-sounding stringed instrument to the human singing voice. This class is open to singers and fiddlers alike. In this class we will focus on learning traditional songs. Ear training for fiddlers will include mastering melodies, harmony voicings, double-stops and counter-melodies. Singers will focus on good vocal techniques, dynamics and emotion. Students will also have opportunities to break into smaller ensembles to put their hard work into practice. Everyone is welcome but please be aware that the majority of this class will focus on ear training which some may find a challenge.

MANDOLIN ACCOMPANIMENT(Brian & Nicole Christianson)
This class will focus on accompanying a singer on the mandolin. Much like the Fiddle And A Song class, both singers and instrumentalists are welcome. We will spend the week learning traditional old-time and bluegrass songs and having fun with different rhythmic strums, chord voicing and background fills. For those wishing to focus on the mandolin side of things, a basic beginner level playing ability is required.

Community Gathering Time

Note: A highlight of the day's schedule is when we gather together each day after lunch for these special events. No advance registration necessary.

Huddie Ledbetter, aka Lead Belly, was the self-proclaimed “King Of The Twelve String Guitar”. He was incarcerated four times, and escaped once, and sang his way out of prison twice. He wrote such American classics as “Midnight Special”, “Rock Island Line”, “On The Western Plain”, and “Goodnight, Irene,” and was a mentor to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. Rev. Robert Jones gives a first-person depiction of this iconic musician in words and music.

Join broadcaster Fiona Ritchie for a conversational musical encounter with the Irish singer, songwriter and lead vocalist of the band Dervish. Songs and stories will flow through their chat and audience members will be invited to ask Cathy some questions to round out the session. Portions of the interview will be broadcast on NPR’s The Thistle & Shamrock.

Come watch a new Carter family documentary with discussion afterwards.

Join broadcaster Fiona Ritchie for a conversational musical encounter with traditional singer and song collector Len Graham of Northern Ireland. They will explore the connections between the songs of Scotland, Ulster and Appalachia and audience members will be invited to ask Len some questions to round out the session. Portions of the interview will be broadcast on NPR’s The Thistle & Shamrock.

One of the things that distinguishes the American Civil Rights Movement from other historic fights for dignity and justice was the importance of music and singing. Born out of the black spirituals of the South and the coded songs of the Underground Railroad, the American Civil Rights movement gave the world such great songs as “We Shall Overcome”, “Keep Your Eyes On The Prize” and “We Shall Not Be Moved”, but it also pioneered the concept of using song as a weapon of change and transformation. Join Dr. Kathy Bullock, Rev. Robert Jones, Reggie Harris, and Matt Watroba for a panel discussion on the power of song to effect change.

Children's Program

We offer a full-day program, taught by Melissa Hyman, for children ages 6-12. Children must have turned 6 by July 1st to participate. No exceptions please. Evening childcare for ages 3-12 will be provided at no additional cost.

This summer, we will enter the fascinating ancient world of DINOSAURS. You are cordially invited to join our crack team of Swannanoa’s preeminent paleontologists. Our mission: to discover the world of those “terrible lizards” who walked the Earth millions of years ago. Be sure to bring your curiosity and creativity... and don’t forget to pack any fossils you have lying around the house! We’ll learn about the ancient world of the gentle Triceratops, Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus – and, of course, dreaded carnivores like Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus Rex – through crafts, music, games and stories. We’ll make new friends, play our favorite messy games, and dress up in crazy clothes. We’ll write our own original dino-themed songs with the help of our very talented music teacher, Jane Kramer. At the end of the week parents will get to hear us sing and see the crafts we’ve made at our big performance at the Student Showcase. As a special treat, we will be visited throughout the week by wandering musicians and artists (Gathering staff) who will perform just for our kids. We will, of course, continue our beloved traditions of shaving cream hairdos, movie night, crazy contests and the Gathering Scavenger Hunt. It’ll be a journey you won’t soon forget! There is a $30 art/craft materials fee for this class; fee is payable by cash or check to Melissa Hyman, the Children’s Program coordinator, on arrival.