Concerts, Workshops & Residencies
"The world is divided into people who think they are right"....
A hearty round of laughter surges up onto the stage. Peggy is introducing the song she is about to sing. The above quote (anonymous) is in Peggy's Fact and Fantasy Book, a collection of outrageous, tragic, frightening, hilarious cuttings, clippings and quotes with which she lards her concerts.
She doesn't call herself a folksinger but rather a singer of traditional and contemporary songs. She has one foot in the past and another in the present and is always walking towards the future. You may disagree with some of the politics but you won't be bored. An average concert contains both traditional and contemporary materials, the latter encompassing both male and female politics. An unaverage concert (which may be specified by the organiser) might consist of any one of the following:
1. Traditional Anglo-American ballads
2. Traditional Anglo-American songs and ballads
3. Mixed traditional and contemporary songs
4. Contemporary songs
5. Songs about gender issues, nature, ecology …
RESIDENCIES and SUMMER SCHOOLS
She often combines residencies with Judith Tick, who wrote the biography of her mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger. A solo Peggy Seeger residency of two to four days can include a full concert, brown bag lunches, class visits, and workshops. Her songs and experience qualify her to speak to many English, Womens' Studies, Drama and Music Departments. The subjects below may be taken in isolation or mixed, depending upon curriculum requirements.
(expanded version of the single workshop, below)
2. Performance Techniques
Of course, just singing the song is an art, a conglomeration of techniques. And appearing on stage takes a lot of courage and planning. Thinking of what to say and what not to say between songs, how to stand, how to dress, to do deal with the UMMMM syndrome, the etcetera that make a concert entertaining as well as informative. The use of humour in a serious situation (and vice versa), the use of alienation techniques in arranging a set list or devising a song introduction … these are fascinating classes, for they reveal my own learning stages and comfort zones as well as the developmental progress of those who have come to 'learn'. We all learn at once.
3. Ballad Singing
The long, traditional story-songs are very different from other songs. For a start, they're loooooong. Their language is more basic, they lack qualifying items like adjectives, adverbs, three-syllable words, long poetic lines. Their bones lack flesh - this is their strength for they allow the listeners to provide that flesh from their own rich store of experience and imaginations. How to let the listener DO that without interposing the singer's ego and too much of the singer's interpretation is mainly what we tackle in these workshops. Although it's preferably to already sing one or two of these magnificent pieces, the workshops are also geared for those who listen, who want to listen more creatively.
4. Choosing Your Repertoire
This involves the THEORY OF EFFORTS and understanding how your choice of repertoire often hinges on your whole personality - the way you move, the way you socialise, dress, speak, your sense of self-esteem or lack of it, and so on. Singers usually choose songs that are within their comfort zone, not only vocally but psychologically. A 'repertoire', if you're going to sing for more than 15 minutes at a time, should really include songs of different types, songs with variation of speed, meter, pitch, mode, subject, and so on. Often just by realising what the basic nature of a song is will help in expanding the capability of the singer. This class is aimed at singers with a reasonable repertoire and singing capability.
Of course it's a grand idea to learn a lot of instruments just so as to provide variety - but it would seem that sometimes a song dictates its own accompaniment. Shanties don't go well with guitars, are often best sung unaccompanied (as are many traditional ballads). Banjos can be overbearing sometimes - but can be used delicately on love-songs and lyrical songs. New ideas on old instruments, old ideas on different instruments. This workshop is for beginners and advanced - if it's a one-off long session, don't bring instruments. If it is a several-session 'class', bring the strings, buttons, keyboards, etc. But bring a voice as your priority - it's the most important of all.
These sessions are really meant for songwriters (or would-be songwriters) but they are suitable for anyone who is interested in how songs are crafted. As Peggy's songs are generally created within a folk idiom it should be noted that these workshops are more suitable for those who want to work in that genre. Depending on who comes and how workaholic they are, the workshop can last anywhere from two hours to a week. This class is for beginners as well as seasoned songmakers.
The goal is to understand the role of folkmusic as a means of conditioning women to accept and pass on the status quo. The roles that women play in our folktales and songs are part of the long story of oppression of women. These roles are expressed both subtly and blatantly and singers often disseminate messages in song that they would not dream of passing on in conversation or prose. This workshop is best given over a three hour period with two breaks. It appeals to both sexes and is very entertaining. This workshop is for anyone who wants to come.