Traditional Ballads
Sadie Damascus

The traditional British ballads are very old, and not widely sung. They are of unknown origin, but resemble stories told or sung all over the world. The jealous sister, the poisoned lover, the battling brothers, royalty in disguise, magical transformations, and love and trickery are familiar themes, as well as hunting and ghosts and doomed romance, kings and queens, sailors and shepherds; they are simple story songs, usually sung by one person. There are hundreds of ballads and many versions of most, some no longer heard in Britain but kept alive in the rich musical heritage of Appalachia.

In this workshop, we will talk about the Scots accent/language, common in the Ballads, with a few guidelines for understanding and pronunciation. We will hear or sing one version each of as many ballads as we can manage, with preference given to experienced singers and NO repeats.

Sadie Damascus grew up hearing ballads on records, mainly, in rural Vermont. She collects new and different versions of lots of ballads, and delights in synopsizing the story before singing it, to enhance understanding. She lives on the Russian River, where she copy-edits, grows herbs, and reads stories Sunday nights on Radio KGGV (streaming at