Martin and Shan Graebe

What a wonderful day with Martin and Shan Graebe on the Kodály Spring Course 2016.

Our first lecture was from Martin, who took us entertainingly through the story of English traditional song from medieval times to the present day. We heard about the people who sang them, and the men and women who collected and published them. The story was illustrated with pictures, videos and sound – including a few songs from Martin and Shan.

Martin talked about some of the main collectors, Sabine Baring-Gould and Cecil Sharp. They had two crucial characteristics in common – an interest in people and the ability to get on with them. Both qualities that Sam Lee displayed last night in his session on the songs of the travelling communities of the British Isles.

I was fascinated by the role of the Broadside Broadsheets in the introduction of apparent folk songs into the repertoire of the country singers. Did they start as compositions for the Broadsheets and then become adopted into the folk repertoire or were they taken from the community in the first place. It was fascinating to hear that songs that the singers thought had been passed down through many generations of their families were in fact much more recent compositions. Of course, they have since been passed down and kept alive through singing because the flimsy broadsheets are long destroyed.

After a short break it was Shan’s turn to entertain us by teaching us some folk songs, including a wonderfully encouraging improvisation session which became the accompaniment for another of her beautifully performed songs. It was interactive, open, creative and an encouraging environment to experiment with our own harmonies.

Finally after dinner they performed some of their favourite songs. Each one accompanied with an engaging story about its origin and meaning.

Spring Course 2016 – Thoughts on Day 1

Some of our attendees have been posting their thoughts on the Kodály Spring Course 2016 on Facebook and Twitter.

Here are the comments on Day 1 – remember to use #BKA2016

“A few minutes in and we are singing a Machaut virelai, switching between solfa and letter names (with some body percussion thrown in for good measure) then singing harmonic accompaniment before singing the melody while playing… ‪#‎bka2016‬” Ben Westley

“I was moved up to the level 7/8 musicianship group and I was shocked that I actually coped quite well. Today I have been doing modal transformations and singing in canon with myself playing… All thanks to some amazing teachers. ‪#‎BKA2016‬” Ed Jones

“Intervals add up to 9! Light bulb! ‪#‎BKA2016‬” Emma Ede presented marvellous concert of gypsy songs at tonight. Fab” Rebecca Berkley

“In Telford for four days Spring Course. Sharing expertise, singing and learning together. ” Will Green

“Tonight was a wonderful reminder that singing in it’s essence is just story telling. Music should never be separated from its meaning.” Rebecca Willson

And how about some informal music making to finish the night off?


Concert: Sam Lee

An incredible evening with BBC Folk Award Nominee Sam Lee.

We were expecting a performance of the traveller songs he has collected over the past decade. However we received so much more. An accomplished story teller, Sam told the fascinating story of how he, a boy from Camden, has conserved so much of the fading singing culture of the different traveller communities in the British Isles. In addition to bringing so many of the songs to live by explaining their history and the story told by the song.

“Tonight was a wonderful reminder that singing in its essence is just story telling. Music should never be separated from it’s meaning.” Rebecca Willson

Here are some wonderful clips of the evening.

Explaining the story and origin of the folk song Georgie, including some idea of the variety of versions.

Teaching us one of the Gypsy Traveller folk songs.

Once we had got the hang of it.

The final song with our assistance with an effective drone.


The Role of Folk Song in the Kodály Approach

What better way to launch the Kodály Spring Course 2016 than a lecture on the Role of Folk Song in the Kodály Approach by Dr László Norbert Nemes.

After getting us all moving with a fun Hungarian folk dance he explained Kodály’s views on folk music and their place in the pathway to understanding past, present and future Classical art music.

“In traditional songs the emotions of centuries are immortalised in a form polished to perfection…. No masterpiece can replace tradition.” Kodály, Selected Writings p145

Historically the children’s life would have been filled with music.

“Natural village life [was] saturated with music…” Kodály, The Role of Authentic Folksong in Musical Education.

The role of schools and music education in schools is to

“supply the lost natural evolution” Kodály, The Role of Authentic Folksong in Musical Education

Always thinking ahead, in addition to teaching us a beautiful song, László was also preparing us for our Choir session that evening where we revisited the song as our warm up with some great body percussion to get our blood pumping.