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At the heart of English folk

Living Song 2014

Folk song and composition project

“I had never heard the true sound of folk music before. Not only did it help me experience folk music in a new way, it opened my eyes to new ways of understanding and appreciating music in general.” RCMJD student


Founded in 2008, Living Song was a folk song and composition project created and delivered by the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) in partnership with the Royal College of Music Junior Department (RCMJD) which ran until 2014. It introduced young singers and composers to English folk song as a living, evolving tradition; introducing them to new music and new ways of performing.

The project went from strength to strength, and continued to run every year with a new group of students, leading to some beautiful and moving new choral compositions based on English folk songs.

In the autumn of each year a group of students from RCMJD attended a folk song workshop at Cecil Sharp House, led by folk artist Sam Lee. Following this three young composers worked with guidance from RCMJD Head of Composition and Musicianship, David Sutton-Anderson, to create new choral compositions based on traditional folk songs; these were then performed later in the year by the RCMJD Chamber Choir, led by its director, Joy Hill.


“Living Song... has been an eye-opener for all involved. The students go back to original source material, learning folksongs by ear, and then our composers produce their own versions, very much in the spirit of Vaughan Williams... I think that this cross fertilisation – whether it’s dance, folksong, jazz, early or world music – is part of what makes this place [the RCMJD] so exceptional. It’s opening up possibilities and freeing up the creative musical mind.” Peter Hewitt, former director of RCMJD, writing in Upbeat, the magazine for the Royal College of Music, Spring 2013


The project focussed on the folk songs collected by some of the most important collectors of the early 20th century - Ralph Vaughan Williams, Cecil Sharp and Percy Grainger - as well as those used as source material in the work of other composers.

RCMJD Chamber Choir showcased Living Song compositions in various performances around the country, which included the musiclearninglive!, the UK’s national music education conference, at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow 2011 and the Tapping the Source (part of The Rest is Noise series) at the Southbank Centre, London, February 2013, as well as at the Royal College of Music itself.


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