Working with medieval and traditional ballads and their melodies poses particular challenges.
The melodies have often been transmitted in oral tradition, which means they have been influenced by many musical styles fashions and fancies.
What we have today are notations, often from the 19th and earlier part of the 20th century of both lyrics and music, with roots back to medieval times.
This is a challenge I relly like. I usually start just with the notation and play the tune on my flute to try to get a feel for it. There is often a choice of many variants and the selection process can be daunting. However I usually fall for a few variants that speak to me.
What I like is that I often can hear snippets of several musical styles and influences in one melody.
There are many excellent early music artists who with expert knowledge recreate old sounds and tunes.
I do not pretend to have this kind of knowledge; instead I play around with the tune and play it to Scott who then creates arrangements on electric guitar or bass for the song. Eventually we come up with something that we believe conveys the right feeling.
Where I come from (Swedish speaking Finland) ballads were mostly sung a cappella by one singer. However going further back in time the ballads were sung while dancing. A lead singer would sing the main lyrics and the other dancers would join in on the refrain. This structure can still be found in most Scandinavian ballads that have a “omkväde”, a refrain that comes back in each verse. This also lends itself to arranging harmonies which I usually perform live using on a sound-on-sound looper pedal.
Right now we are preparing a big show on May 29, at the Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque, produced by AMP Concerts.
For this occasion we have invited a number of other musicians to join us. I have always loved cultural clashes while creating, and playing with musicians with different style backgrounds allows for a real feast of different interpretations of these age old melodies. We are still working on the final line up, so if you live in Albuquerque, take a look at our calendar page for updates and come to the show! (Get Tickets Here)
If not, have a listen to some of our songs on our latest CD on our recordings page.