Talking about dialect, place and identity in folk song

Fay Hield June 22, 2012

As a solo performer, Dr Fay Hield has recorded two albums, namely, Looking Glass (2010) and Orfeo (2012), the first of which was nominated for a Horizon Award at the 2010 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. In both albums, Hield draws on songs from a dazzling variety of sources, including ‘Kemp Owen’ (on Looking Glass), a Scottish song that she adapted from a text in the Oxford Book of Ballads (1910), ‘Serpent’s Tail’, an eighteenth-century American song (on Orfeo) and ‘The Old ’Arris Mill’, a traditional song in Lancashire dialect (also on Orfeo). Fay has also intimated that, on Sunday the 24th, she will play a comic song in the Yorkshire dialect, entitled ‘The Cat, the Mouse and the Cask of Ale’ , which she has not to date recorded, and which, she has intriguingly suggested, contrasts in an interesting way with her better-known work.

Hield’s work as a professional performer feeds into and is fed by her work as a teacher and researcher in Ethnomusicology at the University of Sheffield. Her research encompasses the ways in which folk clubs and circles define themselves as communities and the formal elements of the folk singing style. She is interested in the points where these two topics meet: namely, the relationship between the style of a singer (including their accent) and the networks to which they belong. One of her areas of specialism lies in the prevalence of regionalism in folk music, and the role that accent plays in this. For that reason, along with the regional eclecticism of her repertoire, it is difficult to think of anyone better suited to shed light on the subject of folk song and dialect.

For more information about Fay Hield, see the link to her homepage in the right-hand column.


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