Traditional Song Week Classes – July 2-8, 2023


This session will cover traditional ballads and songs, as well as the works of such latter-day songwriters as Ewan MacColl, and Dillon Bustin, to name a few. Included will be musical settings of poems by the Australian poet, Henry Lawson, Rudyard Kipling, and others. I will supply song sheets for some of the songs I will bring, and attendees are encouraged to bring a song that they would like to share. We will also talk about presentation, song selection, and building a repertoire. There will be plenty of singing, and songs with choruses will be encouraged, as will a cappella singing. (No class limit)

The English Music Hall began in coffee shops and taverns sometime in the 1840s, It rapidly gained in popularity, and the taverns were replaced by grand theaters where star performers had tremendous followings. Although the genre began to fade around the time of the First World War, the songs are still widely sung and enjoyed. Generally, the songs were about the pleasures and travails of working class life. Subjects included drink, domestic problems, and over the top patriotic songs, and, there were some grand recitations. We will listen to some of the legends of the Music Hall, i.e. Lily Morris who was a mighty singer and an accomplished clog dancer. One of her big hits was “Why Am I Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Blushing Bride?” Although Herman’s Hermits didn’t bother with the verses to their 60s hit remake of the Music Hall’s “Henry The 8th”, we will sing them. There will be plenty of singing for all. You don’t have to have a beautiful voice, just be able to sing on key, more or less. (No class limit)

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.

In 1916, the esteemed British collector and ethnomusicologist, Cecil Sharp and his assistant, Maude Karpales, spent nine weeks collecting what he referred to as English and Scottish folk songs in the southern Appalachians. During their time in Madison County, Sharp collected twenty-five traditional ballads from my great-great aunt, Mary Sands. In this class I’ll be reintroducing sixteen of these songs that have fallen out of the tradition! I’d like to offer you the words, tunes, some of the ornamentation and discussion about these lovely ballads and restore them to their rightful place within the singing tradition. We’ll work on the way my family members bent and held notes and the little ‘sigh’ they put on the last word at the end of certain lines. Please bring something to write on and with, a recorder of some kind and an open heart and mind for songs that haven’t been heard in over a hundred years! If you have questions you can email me at Hope to see you there! (No class limit)

These are the songs I grew up singing in the many different Baptist churches in Sodom, NC. You’ll recognize many of them: “I’ll Fly Away”, “Build Me a Cabin”, “Where the Soul Never Dies”, “Farther Along” and “Palms of Victory” are but a few. This class will ROCK! You can sing melody or find a harmony. I’ll provide the words and music but we’ll sing them without accompaniment. Come to this class ready to sing and sing some more! I love teaching this class! If you need to get in touch with me please email me at (No class limit)

Sea Shanties – Just What Did These Things Do? – Sure we love to belt them out at a modern day pub sing, but how were they used as a tool to help the sailor’s do their work?  A weeklong exploration of the specific uses of some of the Shanties, their potential origins, and applications used on board a square-rigged vessel of the mid-19th Century.  Participants will learn some of  the shanties with a deeper comprehension than your average “lubber.”

We’ll decipher ‘clues’ that were left for us in the work songs and ballads of 19th and early 20th century maritime trades and folksongs. We’ll look at singing the songs that might contain obscure, or confusing references and terms, and explore potential meanings and definitions in order to sing them with more intent and understanding. Although some chanteys may be used, the sources will be largely from the ‘non-work song’ maritime-themed ballads and songs. (No class limit)

(Matt Watroba)
Bringing your songs and performances alive is all about choices. In this interactive class, Matt will show you the choices great performers make to get the most out of their songs and time on stage. 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. stage fright, 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 your music. (Class limit: 12)

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, calling all guitars, banjos, fiddles, mandolins, ukuleles, dulcimers, whistles, drums etc. etc. to join together with voices to create beautiful arrangements of songs from diverse traditional song genres such as Old-Time Country, Celtic, Bluegrass, and Gospel. We will take a song, learn to sing it, maybe put on some harmony, and then experiment with various possibilities of instrumental accompaniment.  Note – this is not a class to learn how to play your individual instrument, but how to play and arrange your instrument and voice with others in a band setting.

DUET HARMONY SINGING (Kay Justice & Sam Gleaves)
This is a class for those who enjoy the spine-tingling harmonies of Southern singing. Repertoire will include songs by the Blue Sky Boys, Jean Ritchie, the Louvin Brothers, the Carter Family, the Stanley Brothers, and more. We will learn parts by ear using repetition, singing melody and harmony separately before putting parts together. Participants will work with different singing partners to experiment with harmony lines, match phrasing, and practice the stylistic elements of Southern singing. Lyrics will be provided. This class is beginner-friendly and open to everyone. No previous experience with harmony singing is needed. (Class limit: 14)

Cathie Ryan grew up in a home steeped in Irish music and storytelling and learned the rudiments of the oral tradition of sean nós (old style) singing from her father and his mother. In this course, we will explore songs in both Irish Gaelic and English which Cathie learned from family and from years of song collecting. Lyric sheets will be provided but we will learn by ear, so bring audio recorders with you to class. (No class limit)

Joan Baez, who is still singing beautifully at 81, uses regular vocal exercises and the support of a vocal coach to keep her voice strong and resonant. As she says, “At this stage, it constantly takes more tricks to hold it this way.” This class is designed to teach you some of the tricks and techniques that will help you sing well for a lifetime, including breathing exercises to help support the strength and tone of your voice, vocal exercises to help you develop your range and expression, simple vocal embellishments and stylistic techniques, how to take care of your voice, the rudiments of a singing practice, performance tips on how to be more comfortable when singing in front of an audience, and how to get the most out of using a microphone. By the end of the week, you will have a basic understanding of vocal training and the tools to sing with more freedom and confidence.

This class is designed for early intermediate level guitar players and will concentrate on learning to accompany songs rather than fiddle tunes. Each day will be devoted to a particular subject including various strumming patterns, the use of a flat pick, various strumming patterns, use of a capo, runs between chords and matching the accompaniment to the song. Students should be able to comfortably change chords in the keys of C, D, G and A prior to enrolling in the class. Please bring a playable acoustic guitar, flat pick, thumb and finger picks, if desired, capo and tuning device. A recording device may be helpful but not required. (Class limit: 12)

The variety of English folksongs cover the gamut of human feelings, attitudes and reactions through a wide range of personal and worldly circumstances. There are songs of the working man (or woman!), their pride in their work or the dissatisfaction of their underpaid labor. There are songs of love and seduction, of fidelity and betrayal. There are songs of outlaws and criminals, their exploits and punishments. Conversely, there are songs sung for pleasure, such as humorous songs, joke songs, and songs of conviviality. Then there are newer songs written in a similar traditional style by more recent composers. In this session we will explore all of these, and sing our way through this ‘tour’ of songs. Bring your voices and suggestions of songs to share, or songs you would like to know. (No class limit)

The ‘big’ ballads, particularly those in the Child collection, have fascinated literary scholars for centuries. Often taught as literature, they are but shadows until they are reunited with their tunes, and sung as they should be. We will look at some of these ballads, and consider some of their variants with regard to melody, text and style. Lyric sheets will be provided and tunes will be taught, so we may sing them. Practical approaches to ballad singing and interpretation will be discussed. The ancient ballads demonstrate human strength and frailty, the conflict of good and evil, and the striving for love and redemption. Quite often they involve the realm of the supernatural. These classic ballads have everything! (No class limit)

Many of us feel drawn to folk songs and ballads from England, Scotland and Appalachia. Yet so often, these songs tell stories in which women are victims in a world they can’t control. While these songs reflect important historical realities, there are also plenty of songs that flip the script: songs about women as witches, warriors, adventurers, survivors and justice-seekers. In this class, we’ll learn a mix of traditional ballads and folk songs in which women live fiercely, outwit assailants and use magic to achieve their ends. Lyric sheets will be provided. (No class limit)

Singing together brings joy, calms the nervous system, and releases oxytocin to generate feelings of trust and empathy. In this workshop participants will enjoy the sensations of sharing their voices together as Saro teaches work songs, hymns, rounds, hollers and more from a variety of American and North Atlantic Island traditions. Get ready to learn everything from sea chanteys and Shaker songs to Appalachian hymns, Catawba Indian songs and Scottish lullabies. Along the way, Saro will provide the historical background and context for each song. (No class limit)

For centuries, gospel music has been the center focus of musical expression within African American culture. No matter the denomination, gospel music is the thread that stitches together various religious experiences and expressions through the singing of spirituals, hymns, and songs spreading the gospel. Even in times of extreme difficulty, gospel music is the genre that helps bring people together to focus on the common good and promote positive changes within our communities. Gospel music is inspiring, uplifting, and encouraging. It creates a platform for musical expression, so no matter who you are or where you’re from, we can all sing the good news together in one voice. In this class, Pam will take you on a musical journey that highlights the beginning of gospel and takes you through its evolution to the present impact of its message and influence on current church culture. (No class limit)

There are important components buried deep in the mind of the singer that can aid them in performing beautiful music or hinder their best musical expression. This class will show you how important your mind is in the overall equation of what makes or breaks a great vocal performance. We will delve into the psyche of great singing and singers. We’ll share musical and mental strategies needed to execute your notes with precision and confidence. And we will provide essential information on vocal health and maintenance. This class has been curated to help vocal musicians understand how his/her instrument works in order to achieve pristine musicality.

TRADITIONAL GOSPEL CHOIR (Pamela English & Shirley Smith)
This class is all about singing some amazing and spirited music that will move your very soul. These songs are not only graced with great uplifting energy, but they will also encourage you to clap your hands, pat your feet, and sing with a joyful sound. This class will include two different styles of gospel music: the traditional style that includes hymns like “Precious Lord”, penned by the prolific composer, Thomas A. Dorsey and congregational style that includes songs like “Down Through the Years”. We encourage you to bring your passion and leave your inhibitions at the door. You will leave this class everyday humming and rocking with a song in your heart and soul. You won’t have to bring your hymnals because handouts will be provided. (No class limit)

CONTEMPORARY GOSPEL CHOIR (Pamela English & Shirley Smith)
The focus for this class is to share a varied style of gospel music that has been common since the early 1970s. This style infuses syncopated rhythms and fun harmonies to explore. We will teach songs made popular by some of gospel music’s most prolific composers and musicians, like Andrae Crouch, Walter Hawkins, and Hezekiah Walker. The songs and skills obtained in this class will certainly keep you inspired and encouraged. Opportunities to perform solos and duets come with this class, as well as encouragement to bring small hand instruments, like a tambourine. Don’t worry about having a perfect voice! Just bring your enthusiasm and we’ll bring our years of love for this great style of music for every student. Handouts will be provided. (No class limit)

We were all born with unique gifts but it takes courage and healing to truly set our voice free. Our audiences, whether they be one child or a packed house, deserve all that we truly can give to the moment and to the music. This is also true for our own personal relationship with music and life. This class will dig deep down to open up our hearts and loosen our musical spirits so that they may soar through to deliver the music we love unhindered. (Class limit: 12)

Everyone has a musical voice that is unique and comes from deep within. This is a class based around an ancient-voiced instrument that helps you to set that voice free and to use it as musical medicine for yourself and all whom you may share it with. Students will be required to purchase a Native American flute (around $100) specifically for this class so that all students will have the same type of flute, with the same tuning, and in the same key. Wade can provide a source for these.



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. Bathroom independence is a non-negotiable prerequisite. Maximum age is 12 on July 1. Some older children (age 12-16) may be able to work as junior counselors. Please email Melissa ASAP if interested in a junior counselor position, even if you’ve discussed it with her before: We are no longer able to provide evening childcare.

We are so excited for the return of the Children’s Program! This year, our theme is UNDER THE SEA!! Welcome to the Swannanoa Sea-Pod, where we explore the depths, biodiversity and magical legends of the briny deep. Together, our seafaring crew will set sail for an underwater world of arts & crafts, music and games. We’ll even meet some magical mer-folk, and read stories of sea creatures real and imagined. It’ll be another unforgettable summer of friendship, water balloon fights, scavenger hunts, and discovery… and we hope you’ll join us! With the help of a talented music teacher, we will write our own original song and perform for the whole Gathering at the student showcase on Friday. We’ll also have visits throughout the week from other Gathering staff, who will teach and perform just for our kids. Weather permitting we’ll continue our traditions of shaving cream hairdos and slip-n-slide madness; we’ll definitely have movie night, messy games, and other old favorites. Please bring at least one swimsuit with you, for cooling-down activities like running in the sprinkler. Get ready for a week celebrating curiosity, exploration and wacky fun! There will be a $30 art/craft materials fee for this class, payable to Melissa on arrival.



(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.)

In many ways, the Copper family was to England what the Carter Family was to America. We have several instructors steeped in both traditions. Join us to sing and explore this rich repertoire of songs.

Sam Gleaves & Saro Lynch Thomason will lead both the songs and the discussion surrounding this fascinating and relevant topic.

Led By John Roberts, David Jones & Chris Koldeway, this workshop will explore the vast tradition of songs of the sea.