1. A poem or song narrating a story in short stanzas.
2. A slow sentimental or romantic song.
Oxford English Dictionary
Cecil Sharp House will host performances of two unique commissions in February 2015 to celebrate and explore the ballad form of song.
The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) has invited two groups of folk musicians to delve into the ballad archives of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, for these special events.
The groups will take their findings along with their own collective research and material to present creative interpretations of ballads around the themes of borders and love in these two distinct shows.
Neil Pearson, Artist Development and Progamming Manager for EFDSS, said:
“The ballad has been around since the 15th century and is one of the richest sources of traditional song, telling a myriad of tales over the centuries.
“We are know there is a wealth of untapped ballads within the VWML library which are crying out to be heard. These commissions will bring together two groups of very talented musicians and songwriters who will be able to breathe new life to this art form.
“The brief gives the artists the flexibility to re-present well know material, unearth less well known songs, or even put together new material. Both commissions will be ‘must see’ performances.”
Broken Hearted Ballads will offer an alternative to the traditional Valentine’s Day celebrations on Saturday 14 February at 7.30pm. Featuring Emily Portman, Paul Sartin and James Fagan, it promises an evening of beautiful and, in some cases, unexpected ballads of love, loss and heartache.
Emily is an award winning singer and songwriter (BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Best Original Song 2013); Paul is a member of Bellowhead, Faustus and Belshazzar’s Feast, and James is one half of the award-winning musical duo with wife Nancy Kerr (BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Best Duo 2003 and 2011) and performs with the Melrose Quartet and The James Brothers.
The second installment in the series - Borderland Ballads on Friday 27 February at 7.30pm - will be a celebration of songs originating in the border regions of England and Scotland, from a time when cattle raids and family feuds were a part of everyday life.
The artists, representing both England and Scotland, will be Alasdair Roberts, Lisa Knapp, Kris Drever (Lau), and Naomi Bedford.
They will deliver a show inspired by their own knowledge of the tradition and supplemented by research from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library (VWML), creating interpretations of the ballads originating from the border regions. With their unique and standalone voices, their command of many instruments and individual take on folk song, this will be a one-off exploration into the meanings and origins of the tunes.