Our concerts usually include a good bit of background on the songs and instruments,
and of course when Marcia calls a dance she teaches you everything you need to know.
But we can also provide separate workshops on the following topics:

Catching British and American Folk Songs
Why is there music at all? How do we define “folk” and “folk song”?  What does it mean to “catch” a song?  Which songs get caught, and why? We look at the background of some common folk songs and trace the preservation, popularization and commercialization of folk song from pre-printing-press British Isles to early twentieth century America.

The Folk Process in Song Writing
People have been putting new words to old melodies ever since the birth of song. Some melodies are so familiar they just seem to have been around forever, and it is only natural that we would use them again and again to write new songs. We provide plenty of examples from the folk tradition as well as some songs we’ve written ourselves to existing melodies. You will even have the chance to write your own song, individually or as a group.

The Fiddle and Banjo: Uniquely American Dance Partners
The traditional music of Appalachia has taken many forms. The early settlers played whatever instruments they had, but we focus on the two most common: the fiddle and the banjo. Neither instrument is native to America, but their coming together here resulted in a uniquely American form of music. While much of our focus here is on dance music, we include tunes that also have words, so we invite you to sing along!

The Musical Hit Parade of the Nineteenth Century
This study grew out of our need to better understand why songs become popular and then persist in the culture. Knowing the setting for many of the traditional songs and tunes we play helps us to better understand why they are still performed. We look at songs from a variety of categories frequently referenced in our readings and discuss some major criteria for determining the strength of a popular song. 

Minstrel Songs: First American Pop Music?
What is pop music, and what do we mean by American pop music?  Who was Daddy Rice? What was a typical minstrel show comprised of, and what were the essential instruments? Where did the black face tradition come from? Who were the most popular composers of the era?  These are some of the questions we explore as we sing along to Minstrel Era favorites.

Community Dances for Beginners
“Community dances” includes traditional circles, squares, whole set and contra dances, and also some newer dances based on this tradition. Whenever we call dances for an event we assume no prior experience and teach you everything you need to know. But we can also offer a separate workshop on each type of dance or on these dances as a group and the differences between them. Instruction is provided on how to dance the most common figures. For some additional information on this type of dance, click here

Clogging comes from a mix of Irish, African American and Native American influences. We have been members of two different old-time clogging groups and would be happy to share what we know to get you shuffling and flat-footing out on the dance floor!

Music Jams and Sing-Alongs
Over the years we have hosted many a music jam at our house or at festivals. We feel music is best when shared and invite all skill-levels to join us in whatever way you feel comfortable. Sit the center of the circle, lurk on the edges, or just watch and listen. Be warned, though – we like to include a healthy dose of sing-alongs, so you may find yourself irresistibly drawn to join in!

Beginning Fiddle and Beginning Banjo Instruction
We can get you started on playing fiddle or banjo or even the way they fit together. Basics will be covered, such as tuning, how to hold the instrument, bowing or strumming technique, playing both rhythm and melody, and a few simple tunes.

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© The McKenzies 2014