I must admit that I have fallen behind on my blog, but have been to see Ellen a few times since I last wrote and I think things are going well. I have been on an exploration into musicology – specifically Women’s Songs of defiance and social change and I have been doing a course through the University of the West of Scotland to get a handle on musicology and the types of research which could apply to my interest and have found the whole process very interesting and inspiring – both in terms of looking at how I approach songs as a singer and my interest in their historical context.
Ellen is fantastic to speak to about both these sides of a song. She has strong opinions on performance and on understanding a song in order to perform it emotionally but she is also very reassuring in that she doesn’t believe in freezing a song to a particular place or time, so a singer’s own interpretation is very important. She gave the example of the song Waly Waly, which she had heard many times in folk clubs when she was younger and hadn’t felt much connection to it – but one day she heard a version which clicked, and she now loves it, sings it and is teaching it to me. The melody is really challenging, but Ellen is guiding me through supporting the long phrases and attempting to keep a stronger tone throughout the song, so that the expression comes from the words rather than a dictation of the weaknesses in my singing. I feel Ellen is very honest with me, but is also encouraging and I would like to thank Simon for suggesting Ellen as my mentor.