Folk wisdom: learning with Fara

Last week, the award-winning folk group, Fara, came to perform in Colyer-Fergusson Hall; before the gig, they held a workshop which several string-playing students attended, including third-year Law student and Music Scholarship violinist, Lydia Cheng. Here, Lydia reflects on the day…

When we were first invited to participate in an Orkney folk music workshop, I think it’s safe to say we were all more than a little bit skeptical. It certainly didn’t help that when we showed up, being a group of classically-trained violinists, we were told that we wouldn’t be getting any sort of sheet music and that we would be learning it all by ear.

Once the workshop began though, I began to fully appreciate the art that is folk music. The members of Fara took us through four eight-counts of a jig and while it was no easy feat to remember it all, I’d like to think we did it at least some justice. I loved that we were able to move past the routine of reading sheet music and playing whatever was put in front of you and become more creative with our music-making, from just swinging rhythms to adding ornamentation. Never in a million years did I think something I learned in a folk workshop could be applied to classical playing. But yet I found myself making notes of how to improve my playing using folk techniques.

All too soon, the workshop was over and while we still couldn’t play with Fara up to speed, I think we all enjoyed the process immensely. Many Sinfonia members and I talked about the possibility of learning the jig and getting it concert-ready (stay tuned for that!).

We then got to enjoy (after our typical string-players evening meal, of course!)  a full two-hour set from Fara. We got the full experience as they played, sang, and talked us through their own compositions as well as tunes they’d picked up over the years. I think I speak for all of us when I say that I have a newfound appreciation for Orkney folk and more than a couple of us have had Fara’s album looping on Spotify in the days since.

Sign of the times…

To be able to learn from and then enjoy a delightful concert from Fara was truly inspiring and something I would jump at the chance to do again.

Lydia Cheng

Thanks to Fara for leading the workshop with the students, and for a terrific gig afterwards! Our best wishes as you continue on your 2018 tour…

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