The Nick Hart Ballad School -9th-13th September 2024

The ballad is one of the most ancient and most enduring narrative forms we have. If you're reading this, chances are you will have experienced for yourself the rare power these songs have to ensnare and transport the listener to other times and places, both real and imaginary.

Why do these songs still hold this power over us? What can they tell us about ourselves? How can we be better custodians of them, and most importantly, how can we learn to animate them so they spark the imagination of the listener? 

For the past decade and a half, Nick has been fascinated and obsessed by these questions. Over this 5-day residential course he will be sharing his findings, giving participants the opportunity to immerse themselves in the nuances of traditional narrative song within a supportive group of likeminded singers.

Together, we will investigate what makes the performance of ballads different to that of other songs, look at the history of the form and its notable exponents, examine the scope of the traditional material available to us in the 21st century and most importantly, explore techniques to better communicate the song to the listener.

Who's it for?

This course is aimed at those with some experience of singing traditional songs. You do not have to have performed in public before, nor do you need to have a large repertoire. While some understanding of music theory will be helpful, almost all teaching will be done by ear and an ability to read music is absolutely not a requirement. 

Where is it?

The course will take place at Fivepenny Farm near Bridport, Dorset, with teaching happening upstairs in the beautiful timber framed barn. There is a large catering kitchen onsite, as well as a sauna and campfire. 

Where will we stay?

There is room for tents in the orchard, there is also a small amount of space for live-in vehicles and there are two guest bedrooms available at the farm. Facilities are limited on site, with compost toilets and a very small number of showers (the farm's owner is hoping to have more showers finished by the time the course starts but there's no guarantee of this). 

If you would like more luxurious accommodation, there are a number of options for B&Bs etc. locally.

What will we eat?

The course will be fully catered and participants will be provided with three meals a day (those staying off site can opt out of breakfast if they wish). Please let us know any dietary requirements you may have. We will be eating very well. 

What will happen in the evenings?

There will be opportunities for singing and tunes sessions, campfires, a sauna, and we are about 3 miles away from the sea. 

How will the teaching be structured?

Ballad singing is, in essence, a solo tradition, so it's always a challenge to teach it in a group context. I find that the key to making it work is striking a balance between activities that can take place in a group setting and ones where I'm working with an individual singer, albeit sometimes in the presence of the group. 

Activities throughout the week will include:

-Group warmups, learning a few songs to get us all singing together

-Talks about the history of the form

-Listening/analysis sessions

-How to find repertoire/assembling a new version of a song together

-'Masterclass' style sessions

-Vocal technique (both in a group and individually) 

-'Breakout' sessions, giving participants the opportunity to work on aspects of your singing before returning to the group to share.

How much does it cost?

The cost of the course is £450. This includes three meals a day, space to camp and access to the facilities on site. 

The two rooms at the farm are available for £125 each (first come first served).

Those wishing to stay offsite who will not require breakfast can deduct £15 from the overall fee. 

There are a couple of concessionary places available for £300. If you would like to obtain one of these, please get in touch. 

How long does the course last?

There will be five full days of teaching Monday 9th-Friday 13th. Participants are encouraged to arrive on the Sunday evening and leave on the Saturday morning. Teaching will take place between 10am and 5pm each day (roughly). 

How do I book?

Get in touch using the contact form. Please include a little bit about yourself and which accommodation option you would like. 

Some comments from participants on the 8 week 'Bristol Ballad School', January-March 2024

Nick’s warmth, enthusiasm and his teasing out of the unique nuances of each of our voices was gorgeous to behold.”

I’ve quite radically changed the way I sing this type of music so the course has had a big impact.”

Nick was careful to nurture and encourage every participant, and did so in a very inclusive and sympathetic way.

It is worth every penny! I don't know where else you would go to develop your skills in this way.

Nick so kindly helped us all improve with his constructive criticism. Not only have I become more aware of better pronunciation whilst singing but also how to strip back a song to its essential bare bones only to rebuild it in my own way to make a unique version. Thank you Nick for sharing your knowledge.”