Traditional Scottish & English Ballads
Sharyn Dimmick and Sadie Damascus

Although ballads are sung throughout Europe, Australia and the Americas, this year's traditional ballad workshop features narrative songs from the oral traditions of Scotland and England. These songs often exist in multiple versions -- both tunes and words may vary: what binds a particular ballad together is its story. Sadie Damascus and Sharyn Dimmick, who have sung ballads since childhood, will talk briefly about these songs, sing a couple of them for you and then listen avidly as you share your ballads with us. Attendees may come prepared to sing a traditional ballad, chime in on refrains or just listen as the stories unfold. We welcome ballads with refrains so that everybody gets a chance to sing. Dust off your version of "Fennario" or "Lord Randal," or wow us all with the rarely heard "Gil Brenton."

If a two-hour ballad workshop is not enough for you, please consider joining our ballad group. The group meets once a month in Berkeley for the purpose of singing ballads and covers a wider scope of material than this workshop. While we limit our singing to traditional material (songs with no known author), members of the ballad group have been known to sing in Yiddish and German and to belt out Afro-American blues ballads. Email us about the next meeting at

Sharyn Dimmick founded the ballad group in Berkeley too many years ago to count. Her 2009 CD "Paris" includes the classic ballad "Barbara Allen" sung to a well-known North Carolinian tune, and the murder ballad "Little Sadie." She learned much of her large repertory of ballads from phonographic recordings, but is delighted to sing them live with other singers.

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