Monday, March 31, 2008

Ballads, Ballads, Ballads

I'm almost ready for my workshop this weekend at the first-ever Mountain State Storytelling Institute at Fairmont State University.

This is a new workshop for me. I had a choice: storytelling with puppets or a ballad workshop. I decided I needed a challenge and chose to do the ballad one. There were times in the past few months I sorely regretted my choice, but now that the research and planning is done, I'm glad I decided to do it.

Because I learned so much in the process. I've listened to variations of ballads that came from the British Isles and Ireland to the Appalachian mountains, discovered singers I like, learned about ballad-singing families, read arguments about the sources of some ballads and the theories about what makes a ballad and what makes a folk song. And a lot more.

There is so much more to learn. Ballad scholarship goes back centuries, and today there are hundreds of learned people out there with vast knowledge of the topic. I'm a piker by comparison. But I am fascinated and will continue to study and learn as long as I can sing, probably.

The reason ballads draw me is two-fold: first, ballads tell stories, and I'm a storyteller. I'm intrigued by the storylines, the drama, and the imagery of ballads. Second, the melodies are generally easy for me to sing. My vocal range seems well-suited to these old songs; they feel comfortable in my mouth.

This weekend I hope I can share my love of ballads with those who take my workshop. We'll explore variations, learn a little history and I hope there will be a few singers in the group willing to share their favorites with us.

The dread is gone. Excitement and anticipation have replaced it!

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