The Folk Voice Conference

A Conference to be held on 6 June 2020 at the
Humanities Research Institute, 34 Gell St., Sheffield, S3 7QY

This conference was cancelled due to the Covid-19 Situation. We hope that it will be possible to re-organise it for a date in 2021 with a very similar programme of events

The Traditional Song Forum is organising a conference, with the support of The University of Sheffield, and Soundpost, which will look at the way in which traditional songs have been and are performed and at the singers of tradition and the revival.

We know relatively little about the way in which folk singers performed their songs in the years before mechanical recording, though the Victorian and Edwardian collectors and other writers have given us some glimpses of performances they observed. Later collectors captured performances in sound recordings and, more recently, on film. Clues to past singing culture can also be discovered in survivals in the more isolated communities and in the work of the song collectors.

This is a rich theme for study and we anticipate that we will receive a wide range of proposals for talks. For guidance we have identified the following categories and examples that might form a basis for a presentation:

Singing styles – Singing styles of the past: how much do we know? Transmission of singing styles e.g. the singing family. The role of the audience in shaping style. 

Collecting – Approaches to transcription and stylistic analysis of performance. How have collecting methods and recording technologies affected perception of style?

Singers – Studies of traditional and revival singers and their performance. The influence of gender. Repertoire acquisition. Song carriers.

Social context – Community singing. Ceremonial song. Folk clubs and festivals. Professionalisation and broadcasting. Dialect performance. Song in the diaspora(s).

Special cases of performance – Work songs, children’s songs, street singers/traders, soldiers and sailors, etc.

Building on the tradition – Folk song as art song (or pop song), arrangement of songs, accompaniment of songs and use of instruments, new songs sung in new ways.

Learning from the past – What more could we know about the ‘old singers’? What can we learn from the Victorian/Edwardian collectors?

This list is not exhaustive, but the focus should be on singers, their performance, and on singing styles.

At present we are looking at a one day event, but it is possible that, if the number and quality of the papers submitted justifies it, we will extend this to a second day.

Proposals are invited for presentations (20 minutes + 10 minutes for discussion) that fall within this broad area. Please send a synopsis (maximum 200 words), together with a short biography, to

The deadline for submissions is 16 March 2020.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Steve RoudMartin Graebe
(TSF Chairman)(TSF Secretary)