Upcoming Classes Celebrate Irish Music & Dance

Irish Set Dancing in Open House near the Folk School Vegetable Garden

Do you love the sounds of Irish music? Do you dream of playing a reel or dancing a jig? We have some great upcoming classes to immerse you in the spirit of Ireland! Gain confidence to join in the fun of traditional Irish music and dance in your community and abroad.

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day is the wildly fun weekend class, Irish Set Dancing. If you are familiar with American square dancing, Irish set dancing is like the Celtic cousin waving from across the Atlantic. Both Irish set dancing and square dancing are descendants of quadrilles, so they are a little similar. Jim Morrison is an excellent teacher who will break down the moves and figures patiently and clearly. The music is jumpin’ and lively and will keep you in the St. Patty’s spirit for the rest of March.

Anglo concertina (left), bodhrán (right)

Two upcoming music classes,  Get a Good Start on Concertina! and Bodhrán: Intro to Irish Drumming will introduce you to an Irish instrument, even if you are a complete beginner. Like an accordion, a concertina is a bellow-driven, free reed instrument. The Anglo concertina (which is shaped like a hexagonal box with buttons) is the specific instrument Aaron Olwell will be teaching in his class. Students will learn to play melodies and chords and to learn tunes by ear. A bodhrán (pronounced bow-rawn) is a handheld drum beaten with a tipper, a short wooden stick. The bodhrán is always played vertically, resting on the musician’s knee. Instructor Andrew Kruspe will focus on instrument background and practical application, giving student a good balance of historical and cultural, along with lots of playing time. Both classes cover fundamentals, Irish rhythms, and will give you the confidence to join in a beginning Irish music session in your town.

Fiddling in the Music Studio

Already play the fiddle and looking to expand your repertoire to include Irish tunes and rhythms? Tom Morley’s intermediate weekend class, Irish Fiddle: Intro to Fun Irish Trad Tunes, will provide the tools, skills, and tip to play Irish-style music. We also have a Folk Harp Gathering week-long class led by Lorinda Jones & Sue Richards geared toward continuing and intermediate harpists who want to gather, share, play and learn together. This class is during Scottish Heritage Week, but this beautiful, fairytale-like sounding instrument has its roots in ancient Celtic culture, trickling down to both Scottish and Irish cultures.

Continue reading Upcoming Classes Celebrate Irish Music & Dance

Puddle Jumpers Bring the Tunes

Come on down to the Folk School this weekend for some puddle jumpin’ fun! The Puddle Jumpers are coming to town to play Friday night concert and to play music for the Saturday night dance.
The Puddle Jumpers
The Puddle Jumpers

The concert this Friday, January 24, starts at 7 p.m. and goes until 8 o’clock in the Keith House Commuity Room. The Puddle Jumpers are Emolyn Liden on fiddle and Marcus Morton on guitar. I will be joining on banjo, banjo uke and voice. Come on out for some good music. Admission is Free. Donations Welcome!

Come warm yourself with good dancing and community cheer this Saturday, January 25, from 8-11 p.m. Expect a lovely evening of contras, squares, and circle dances to live music by the Puddle Jumpers and calling by Walter Daves. Walter Daves is one of the forces behind the very successful contra dances in Sautee, GA. An old time musician for many years, he began calling six years ago and regularly calls the “beginner friendly” Tuesday night dances in Sautee. The Puddle Jumpers contra dance band includes Emolyn Liden on the fiddle, David Liden and Martha Owen (Dog Branch Cats) on guitar and banjo, and Geraud Barralon on stand-up bass. Truly – a family affair!

We Welcome Annie Fain Liden-Barralon as the Folk School Music and Dance Program Coordinator

The Folk School is so happy to welcome Annie Fain Liden-Barralon to the position of Music and Dance Coordinator! I sat down with Annie Fain to find out about her experience growing up in the Folk School community and what it’s like to return as the Music and Dance Coordinator.

Annie Fain with her banjo

Cory Marie: What’s is like returning to the Folk School Community as a full time resident and employee?

Annie Fain: It feels good in a deep down way.  Many things are the same as they were when I was young, from the student name tags to the feel of the wooden dance floor in the Community room to the warmth of the community that surrounds the school.

Cory Marie: So, this isn’t the first time you’ve worked for the Folk School?

Annie Fain: In 2002, I came back from studying abroad at a folk school in Denmark and was awarded an upcoming craftsperson scholarship through the Southern Highland Craft Guild to take a class at Penland in Book Arts and Papermaking. I worked in the office at the Folk School as an Administrative Assistant to save for the class. It was during that time that Karen asked me to be the coordinator for Little/Middle Folk School.

I was 22 at the time and had participated in Little/Middle myself from the ages of 7-17.  I was honored and eager for the challenge. Folk School people have always been very supportive and have taught me much. Later, I developed an awareness of marketing through eight years of self-employment as an artist, musician, and dancer.  I took business and accounting classes, and realized the importance of being organized, marketing and networking.

Cory Marie: Are you going to stick with Bob’s plan or are you going to shake things up?

Annie Fain:  Maybe a little of both! Since classes are booked a year in advance, I have the luxury of observing how 2014 develops. It gives me time to get my feet on the ground, and  to get to know our audience.  I plan to introduce new things within the context of how things have traditionally been done at the Folk School.

I’ve taken many classes at the Folk School in the past such as Cape Breton step dancing. Enrollment for dance classes has been down these last few years. I want to reassess and think about, not only bringing classes like those back, but how to fill them. I would also like to start a Cajun music and dance weekend!

Cory Marie: When did you start teaching at the Folk School?

Annie Fain: In 2004, I taught my first Book Arts class and then Bob Dalsemer hired me to teach clawhammer banjo and then Appalachian Clogging with my sister, Emolyn Liden. My father, David Liden, also a local musician, was usually my assistant for the banjo classes and it was great fun. I taught at least one banjo and book arts class every year from that time on.

Martha, David and Annie Fain play Morningsong
Martha, David and Annie Fain play Morningsong

Cory Marie: I have been part of the Folk School community for only 2 years, so I’d like to hear about your story. Tell me about yourself.

Annie Fain: I was born in Charleston, West Virginia. Dad was there as part of a land study project for people who had sold their mineral rights to coal companies. The way my parents tell the story is that after my brother (Lindsey) was born, mom (Martha Owen) said “I’m going home to Murphy.” Dad said, “Well, she had the kids and she had the check book,” so he went with her!

Continue reading We Welcome Annie Fain Liden-Barralon as the Folk School Music and Dance Program Coordinator

Dance Musicians’ Week at the John C. Campbell Folk School

Dance Musicians’ Week is for the musician who is comfortable playing a few tunes on his or her instrument and wants to play for traditional contra, square, and couple dancing. It is a week of breaking out of shells, letting the “inner-musician” flourish, improving techniques of playing and arranging music, and being part of a band. It comes around once a year, in July, and I can say from experience that the larger the class, the more the fun.

Emolyn Liden and the "Mothership Band" Play On the Dining Hall Porch (2007).

In addition to the music, there are up to one hundred students at the school in fifteen other art mediums. It is a special time when music and art coincide. According to Dance Musicians’ instructor Peter Siegel, “[The week] is fed by more than music and dance but also by visual arts and crafts and it creates an atmosphere that you may not find in a setting that is solely for music.”

There are many reasons to be a part of this week. In my case, I struggled with being a quiet musician, one who had learned numerous tunes, but didn’t have enough confidence. My experience gave me the nudge I needed and by Wednesday, my new band mates and I were playing for one of the nightly dances. “5, 6, 7, 8!”

Dancers Cut a Rug at a Dance Musicians' Week Nightly Dance (2007).

Sunday, I arrived early to tour campus before the sun went down. The trees stood heavy with bright green leaves, flowers bloomed everywhere I looked, and the sky shone crimson and yellow over the freshly cut hay fields. Finally one week I didn’t have to worry about cell phones or emails! That night we met for orientation in the Keith House and I was filled in about meals, morning song – a Folk School tradition of singing and storytelling, instructor demos, and other activities on campus.

My class was held in Davidson Hall Music Studio and it soon became my home away from home. It is a large, well-lit, open room with a smooth wooden floor and windows on all sides. Each morning, the class and our four instructors played a warm-up tune and then we devoted the next hour to dance – from the musician’s perspective. The friendly and talented instructors David Kaynor, Naomi Morse, Peter Siegel, and Sue Songer serenaded us with contra dance tunes. While I danced and listened to their beautiful music, I longed for that kind of sound to come from my instrument. I had come to the right place.

After dancing, we separated into sections – a group of fiddlers with Kaynor and Morse, stringed accompaniment with Siegel, and piano and bass players with Songer. If you are interested in coming to this week with a lap dulcimer, hammer dulcimer, harp, harmonica, and accordion, even kazoo – don’t worry! There is a spot for you. In Kaynor’s fiddle class we learned jigs, reels, waltzes, and some of his original compositions.

Class Time in Davidson Hall (2007).

Then we broke for lunch – but don’t jump to the conclusion that lunch just meant eating. Mealtime was a chance for everyone to lift their heads above the stream of new, exciting information and to get to know people from the other classes. The musicians were hard to miss because every day our “Mothership Band,” a.k.a our entire class played in procession to the dining hall and then performed for the hungry students while they filed inside.

David Kaynor leads "The Mothership Band" for the Daily Dining Porch Lunch Ritual (2010).

After lunch we reconvened and played warm-up, or in this case wake-up, tunes. Then we discussed topics like how to effectively play for dances, how to choose tunes and tempos, arrange music, work with a caller, use a sound system, and enhance a community dance. And throughout the afternoon each student had one-on-one lessons to address individual needs.

Then the instructors formed us into bands. The fun-meter went up a notch as the entity known as “The Band” with all its up’s and down’s came into being. The first practice felt like what I imagine being in a teen garage band would be like, but without a nagging parent telling us to keep it down. Kaynor, Siegle, Songer, and Morse were wonderful enablers instead! If my band rehearsals were any indication, then I am sure as they went from band to band they were met with enthusiasm. There are three practice rooms in Davidson Hall, the spacious dance room and the wrap-around porch. There are also fields spanning in three directions, a timber frame arbor in the herb garden, a gazebo in the vegetable garden, and the Open House with a large dance floor and four “open” walls to the outside. Bands rehearsed in all these spaces and what followed was beautiful – music could be heard everywhere.

"Princess Leah and the Stormtroopers" Serenades the Quilting Class (2011).

At the nightly dances, each one of the bands got to try out what we worked on during the day. Three or four bands divided up the three-hour dance. Some bands played medleys with all animal titles. Some wore costumes. Others included singing and foot stomping and one added a kazoo – see, they do come in handy. Every night was creative, fun and silly.

We loved those students who are taking photography, pottery, quilting, woodturning and woodcarving because they were our accomplices. They were our “trial-run” dancers. If there were a few glitches in the music, they kept dancing and we kept playing. If a band ran off the tracks, then so be it because it was a safe learning environment. After my group played, I took a break on the back porch and listened to the melodies coming from the dance hall and the chirps and ribbits from the starry evening. It had been a day that couldn’t be beat.

Charlotte Calls a Dance with a Newly Formed Band at a Nightly Dance (2007).

Having such a good time at the dances usually lent itself to jamming afterwards. The cool nights were best spent on the porch at Davidson Hall. People played or just listened – but whatever they chose, there were rocking chairs and benches and stories to tell and songs to share.

As the week progressed, we played morning tunes more boldly, infiltrated the mid-morning instructor band, played medleys and changed keys during group lessons, talked louder during forums, and hooted with laughter at band rehearsals. At lunch, during the band procession students from other classes danced jigs and started saving seats for us musicians, when in the beginning we were left to pack up our instruments and get in the end of the line.

David Kaynor Calls a Dance

Music adds an element of fun to everything. Add to that the other students, the great instructors, and the beauty of a mountain summer and you have an unforgettable experience.

** Instruction is oriented toward students who can play at least some tunes (or accompany some tunes) on their instruments and who are familiar with some of the styles of music played at contra dances. Levels 3 & 4-Intermediate (can play 10 or more tunes, not quite up to tempo) and Advanced (you feel comfortable with the instrument.)

Register for the 2012 Dance Musicians’ Week Class