Traditional Song Week Classes – July 1-7, 2018


(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.

Our focus will be on proper breathing and body alignment, and overcoming tongue and neck tension which is paramount for free and easy singing. Bring music you’d like to work on.

We’ll be spending the week helping each other be better musical storytellers. With very simple interpretation tools and text exploration we can feel more confident in what we are communicating, and with calm acceptance of our fears and mistakes we can become genuine performers! 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)

In this class, Len will share songs from his extensive collection of songs found in the Irish tradition in the English language. Many themes will be covered including classic and broadside ballads, songs of love, politics, emigration and much more. Each song will be put in context, giving historical and social background. 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)

ANYONE CAN SING (George Grove)
While it’s true that anyone can sing, it’s also true that anyone can lift weights.  But you wouldn’t want to do either without having a rudimentary understanding of how to use the muscles that control each of those activities.  In this class you’ll learn how the voice works and how to easily activate and correctly use the muscles that control the vocal cords.  You’ll also learn how to determine your vocal range, find the correct key of a song for your voice, and discover what intervals are (some simple music theory) and why they make the melodies of our favorite songs so appealing — and how you can easily sing those intervals.

Learn their songs and history from a 40+ year member of this seminal folk group. The class will cover early songs from the original Kingston Trio (Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds, Dave Guard), the evolution of Dave Guard as arranger & instrumentalist, Dave’s departure and John Stewart’s contribution, the “Secret Instrumentalists” and songs from the latest years. (No class limit)

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.

BANJO SONGS (Mark Weems)
In the current Old-Time scene, banjos are most often used to accompany a fiddle in a string band. But there also exists a tradition of the solo banjo song, and a body of songs that were written either on the banjo, or expressly for it. These songs usually reflect and represent the unique rhythmic and drone-like qualities of the instrument. We will examine and learn, with the use of tablature, to play and sing some of these songs, starting with one of the earliest published banjo songs from 1840, passing through a Stephen Foster song or two and moving forward into the repertoire of what we now call old-time banjo music. This is not a class in learning how to play the banjo, so a basic working knowledge of claw hammer or finger-style banjo is recommended. Tab will be for clawhammer style but can be easily adapted to fingerstyle as well.

This will be a fun class for everyone. So many Irish songs don’t have a chorus but in this class we’ll be focusing on the ones that do. It’s always lovely to be able to join in the chorus of any song and with these songs you’ll be able to do just that. These songs are great for for sing-along nights, parties, get-togethers and singing sessions. All topics will be covered from love songs to battle hymns. Before each class we’ll have nice easy warm-ups and we’ll learn how best to look after your voice and keep it in good health while you sing your heart out. (No class limit)

We’ll journey to far-off lands in this class and learn of the many adventures of our Sailormen while they trawled the high seas, perhaps fishing, trading or heading into battle. And where there are Sailormen, the Servant Maid is never far away, getting them into or out of trouble. We’ll throw in a few sea shanties also which are great for harmony singing. Haul away! Warm-ups and cool-downs also included.

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)

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. (No class limit)

SONGS OF THE SEA (Ed Trickett)
This course will provide an image of the sea from various perspectives as reflected in traditional and contemporary songs. We will learn songs of work, including shanties, songs of returning home, tales of pirates, traditional ballads, and tales of life on board. Participants will be asked to bring to class at least one song relating to the sea. Song lyrics/chords, etc. will be provided for everyone and those bringing instruments will be taught the chords. (No class limit)

This course will be for relatively advanced guitar players who want to enhance their use the instrument as an accompanying “voice” to the songs they are singing. This will include the use of bass runs, playing harmonies to sung melodies, and creating moods or feelings on the guitar that reflect the songs being sung. Participants will be asked to prepare a song of their choosing for us to reflect on, and I will provide my own set of songs and accompaniments as the week proceeds.

Join me for a journey through some of the song traditions of Scotland. We will warm-up with easy-to-learn verses, mouth music and fun ditties, also singing our way through a number of old ballads, songs from working communities, Burns songs and more recent compositions. Along the way, we will also uncover song origins and the true meanings underlying “Auld Lang Syne,” “Loch Lomond,” “Both Sides the Tweed” and other well-known Scottish songs. As time allows, we will listen to some old recordings that reveal connections between Scottish and American songs and by the end of the week you will be singing confidently in Scots! Lyric sheets are provided but we will learn by ear and sing together unaccompanied. For those returning from last year there will be new material. (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)

This repertoire and technique singing class will focus on songs that made the journey from the Appalachians to the Ozarks, plus some numbers that were home grown in both locations. Selections include ballads, play-party songs, topical songs, and new songs that sound old. For intermediates and above.

This repertoire-based singing class will feature songs from the Watson Family, Roscoe Holcomb, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Cousin Emmy, Ola Belle Reed, and Grandpa Jones, among others. Come prepared to sing, and to add some fine numbers from the American songbag to your repertoire! For intermediates and above.



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.

Explore some connections between Celtic, African-American and Appalachian songs and uncover what unites different musical traditions on an emotional level. Join broadcaster Fiona Ritchie for a conversational musical encounter with Irish singer and songwriter Cathy Jordan, educator and choral director Dr. Kathy Bullock, and ballad singer, storyteller and musician Sheila Kay Adams. Portions of the interview will be broadcast on NPR’s The Thistle & Shamrock.

Join The Kingston Trio’s George Grove as he traces the history of the group from “Tom Dooley” to TomFoolery, with a Q&A period at the end.

Join us for an interview and special performance with Tony Ellis as he recounts life on the road with Bill Monroe and his band, to Tony’s influence on fiddlers such as Seamus Connolly and banjo players like Steve Martin. We will hear his timeless tunes and songs and learn the ins and outs of how to create in many genres including Celtic, bluegrass, old-time, and Americana.

Western North Carolina has a wealth of musical history and heritage passed down through generations of phenomenal musicians. Laura Boosinger and Josh Goforth breathe new life into the songs and stories of these pioneers of traditional mountain music. From old-time fiddle tunes and ballads to heartfelt songs and mountain swing, come experience the full breadth of Western NC traditional music at its finest.

Find out how to spread the joy of singing for pleasure rather than performance, hear songs that are guaranteed to get people of all backgrounds to join in, and learn secrets to overcome your own inhibitions in singing sessions. Join broadcaster Fiona Ritchie for a conversational musical encounter with traditional singer and song collector Len Graham of Northern Ireland and teacher, performer and radio broadcaster Matt Watroba. Portions of the interview will be broadcast on NPR’s The Thistle & Shamrock.



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’ve got an especially dreamy theme picked out: it’s all about DREAMS! The Swannanoa Gathering Children’s Program Dream Team will journey together into a world limited only by our own wild imaginations. We’ll make our own dreamcatchers, and learn about the Native American traditions and tales behind these beautiful crafts. We’ll learn about and even make our own surrealist art, with the wacky dreamscapes of Magritte and Dalí – among others – as our inspiration. We’ll explore and talk about what happens in our brains while we’re asleep, to create all those crazy scenarios we half-remember in the morning. Why did you dream about your teacher frying an egg while tap-dancing to Beyoncé songs and standing on her head?? We’ll sing, craft, play games and read stories in our classroom (which will be transformed into a beautiful dreamscape, of course) and even talk about ways to make our most fabulous dreams come true. We’ll write our own original songs on our Dream Theme, with the help of our talented and imaginative music teacher and some extra-dreamy-sounding instruments. We’ll make new friends, play our favorite messy games, and dress up in crazy clothes. 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. Get ready to dream away the week with your friends at the SGCP! 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.