Old-Time Ballads of West Virginia’s Allegheny Highlands

This class is part of a new West Virginia Folklife & Old-Time Music Week at the Augusta Heritage Center at Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, WV. Click here to register. You save $40 on tuition by signing up before June!

In this week of eye-to-eye and knee-to-knee sharing of West Virginia ballads, we will teach the vocal techniques and styles learned firsthand from such legendary singers as Currence Hammonds, Maggie Hammons Parker, Phyllis Marks, Hazel Stover, Wavey Chappel and others. These ancient ballads, one of which dates to the time of Beowulf in the Ninth Century and passed down through the oral tradition over sixty generations, are vivid windows into life and love in earlier times. Interspersed between the songs we will recount stories of the singers themselves and tales from folkloric fieldwork. We will use traditional teaching methods through cultivated listening and absorption, rather than printed notes and texts. Students will be encouraged to use small recorders to document the songs and class discussions of contexts and meanings for further reference following the class.

No previous singing experience necessary; no solo singing will be required. These are full-throated, compelling songs of the heart and soul which will overtake you and change the way you feel and view the past.