The Festival offers a series of workshops at which you can learn something, including how to play an instrument, dance in a particular dance style, write songs or sing in a group. We run a series of dance workshops for those who love to dance and another series specifically for the kids – to help our performers of the future develop and grow. Here’s a list of the workshops we have planned for this year.
Arranging Songs for a bluegrass band – Wires & Wood
The band will discuss and demonstrate the techniques used to make playing a song more satisfying than a tight jam session, for both the musicians and the listeners, covering the essential parts of any song – beginnings, middles and endings, expanding each section to cover harmonic and rhythmic structures. There will be discussion on the roles taken by instruments of vastly differing tonal characteristics and how they are used in solos and in backup.
Although Wires and Wood are a bluegrass band, the discussion will be more general and will be applicable to most forms of ensemble music.
Songwriters’ Forum – hosted by Pat Higgins and featuring several local songwriters, plus festival guest AJ Clarke
Each member of the panel will talk about why they write songs, what it means to them and the creative process they go through and then demonstrate with one of their songs.
We’ve put together four guitarists from our guest list, to examine what their different styles of playing have in common and how their styles differ. Bob Cooper-Grundy (of Hard Candy) Graham McLeod (of the String Contingent), Neil Finlay and Dave Warren (of Wires & Wood) will take a detailed look at some of the various styles of music which make up “folk” as shown in one or two tunes.
Getting the hang of singing with friends – Dave Barnes
Dave loves to sing – especially with friends, no matter what their level of experience. Here he will give you a gentle introduction to why the songs we know as “trad” have lasted so long and still work so well for social singing, and how to sing them, and some newer songs, with your friends.
How to unleash your bass player and survive
At this unique workshop for all musicians, you will meet bass players Peter Parnham, Holly Downes and Gary Trotman, each from guest bands performing at the festival. In the first part of the workshop they will reveal how to unleash your bass player’s potential to transform your pedestrian ditties into catchy entertainment or drag your tune down to dullsville. That’s the serious bit. Then there will be a short practical demonstration of a completely new genre of entertainment ¬– bass clef theatre sports.
Stage Fright or Stagecraft – AJ Clarke
No matter how talented you are as a musician, communicating with your audience can be a challenge. AJ Clarke will take us through how to connect with your audience, how to present yourself on stage, how to construct a set and other key ingredients to being successful on stage, from a master performer and entertainer.
Ancestors of the blues – Neil Finlay
The beginnings of blues music coincided with the beginnings of the recording industry but how did blues music itself come about? This workshop looks at some of the music and musicians that were around in the very early 1920s, and before, that influenced the development of the blues.
Songs of the Cajuns – Le Blanc Bros Cajun Band
You may know what Cajun music sounds like – accordions, fiddles, triangle, a lot of passion. But what makes the music like that? Where does it come from and how did it develop into the style that we know today? Cajun music is living, popular dance music in Southern Louisiana. Cajun French songs range from soulful waltzes and blues to lively two-steps. Le Blanc Bros Cajun Band repertoire tells of good times and hard times – a clear reflection of the Cajun people.
Drum Making – Wayne Morris
This is a hands-on workshop where participants will construct their very own drum. Materials will be provided but are limited so participants will be working in groups rather than alone.
The Devil’s in the Detail – The Festival Fiddlers’ Workshop/Concert
Join Chris Stone, Richard Klein, Anna Bowen, Nicola Stratton and Liz Merton for an in depth look at the finer detail of fiddle styles including Scottish, Irish, Swedish, Cajun, Jazz, Eastern European, and maybe even Classical! Join us for a concert/workshop that will explore what makes these fiddlers and fiddle styles tick, and how to go about practising these styles for yourself. Bring all your questions: we promise no question will be too hard, too easy, or too obscure! Non players actively encouraged to come along: this is a rare chance to learn about what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ in the fiddle world.
Old American Country Music – Peter Dyer
A late addition to the programme. Peter will run a workshop with an emphasis on Jimmy Rodgers, the Carter Family, Bob Wills, Ernest Tubbs, Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell , Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash and the like.
International Dance – Cashy Yates
Cashy has been involved in international folkdance for approximately 20 years, running regular classes in Wellington and at the Festival. The dances she teaches are quite different from the regular ceilidh or bush dance styles, so come and try something new: learn to dance in something other than waltz, jig or reel time!
Belly Dance – Verdant and Big Yellow Caravan
Something completely new for the Festival. Modern belly dance developed from Middle Eastern village and gypsy dances that were adapted to satisfy the Victorian tourist industry. In the twentieth century, the movie industry (both Hollywood and Egyptian) popularised and standardised the exotic image of the belly dancer including the classic bra, belt and skirt costume (bedlah). This workshop will cover foundational belly dance moves and combinations.
Accompanied throughout by live music from Big Yellow Caravan, we’ll finish up with a surprise treat from Verdant and fellow dancer, Ziva.
Irish Set Dance – Noel Armstrong
Noel is a regular workshop presenter at the Festival. Set dances are normally danced in sets of four couples (the same formation as square dancing) and have predefined movements for each named set. This year, Noel is teaching the Castle Set which originates from the Sliabh Luachra region. This Set features the lively jigs and polka characteristic of the area. Non grip shoes recommended. (Leave your wellies behind!)
Scottish Ceilidh Dance – Graham McLeod and The String Contingent
Join Graham McLeod from The String Contingent for a workshop in Scottish Ceilidh dance which is still a popular way to party in Scotland.
Graham is a highly experienced dance caller from Aberdeenshire, Scotland and will delight dancers with his enthusiastic approach. The steps are easy to learn and often invite integration with other dancers through progression (partner changing).
No previous experience of ceilidh dancing, or indeed any form of dancing is needed to take part, only a willingness to move in a semi energetic manner and to have fun!
This workshop will also give everyone a chance to practice for Sunday night’s Ceilidh.
Morris Dance – White Rose Morris
Morris as a dance form has been around for over 500 years. It employs figures that can be found in many folk dance traditions. The characteristics distinguishing it from others are that it is principally a display dance and the music will vary markedly in its timing to accommodate different phases of the dance.
White Rose is an all-women team specialising in North West Morris ¬– the second most popular form of Morris after Cotswold.
North West Morris is normally performed in a set of at least eight dancers arranged in two files. The dances consist of a number of figures each preceded by a chorus. The chorus normally includes some form of stepping up before moving back to the original position. This is said to be the remnant of the processional (and less energetic) part of the dance during which the side would move from one stand (pub) to the next.
One of the features of the Festival is the active programme teaching music to the next generation. Because of this tradition, we are now seeing the children and even grandchildren of the early folkies playing ¬– and many are much better musicians than their parents!
This year we have the usual programme of six workshops and a concert – all for the kids – plus a couple of extra sessions on string games and stories for both the little kids and the not-so-little ones.
Sanchia Paterson and Georgia Nott will teach tunes for the kids to play. Bring your mandolins, fiddles, whistles, recorders, guitars or whatever and learn a new tune or three.
Elle’s Incredibells is a percussion workshop for children aged 4 and up. Children will decorate instruments made from recycled materials and get to make lots of noise.
Meghan Glue, who is now an experienced singer/songwriter at the ancient age of 18 or thereabouts, will teach new songs and how to sing them.
String Games & Stories
Dunedin’s dynamic duo Kat Anna Fiddle, will entertain, entangle and enchant folk, both young and old, with stories and string tricks. We’ll tie you up with tales and knotty gnarliness, all materials provided. Come along, both young and old for a stringing good time!