1. Songs We Wrote In 5 Minutes/Songs We Wrote Over 5 Years Self explanatory, I think. Audiences are forever curious about ‘how long’ a song takes to write.
2. Indigenous Canada In Song In language and/or story.
3. “Conversation With Death” Named after the classic Southern Appalachian dirge, this workshop could include all manner of songs focusing on death: murder ballads, last words, overcoming grief, essential ideas, hymns…and neither does the mood have to be singular: many murder ballads in folk tradition are light and ironically filled with humour.
4. “Hard Hitting Songs For Hard Hit People” Inspired by the Seeger album title, this workshop could include union songs, workers’ songs, or, songs related to our current economic crisis.
5. ‘Do You Sing Any Happy Songs?’ We songwriters yearn for the day we are afforded the right to reply candidly to the audience on this one.
6. Occupy (insert festival town here)! The folk singer and the folk song tradition is inherently subversive. The folk song is the soundtrack to social change. We are here, first and foremost, as agents of justice and human improvement. Here is the workshop opportunity to unapologetically take pride in this sadly unfashionable idea. On the other hand, if you are happy with this world; if you feel you’re voice has been heard and listened to; if you’re family’s education has been taken care of; if you believe homelessness is a choice; if you’ve had the job you love for all and the rest of your adult life; if you believe people generally get what they deserve and that the entire world should one day be privatized; if you’re ideal of peace and justice has been met – do not come to this workshop.
7. Unsung Canadian Heroes Every Canadian songwriter has 3 tunes related to this.
8. Redemption Songs I stole this from the Edmonton Folk Festival; thank you, Terry. The redemptive character in song and/or the regenerative power of memory and song.
9. Exile, Home Sickness, and the Canadian Immigrant If we’re Canadian, we sing them.
10. “If I Had A Rocket Launcher” The pros and cons of protest, polemic, and prayer in song.
11. The Road How and why touring is crucial, not just for reaching audiences, but for mining inspiration.
12. The Songwriters’ 3 Laws Of The Universe 3 songwriters presenting 3 songs based on 3 rules they’ve established for themselves.
13. “Leave ‘Em Laughing When You Go” From Joni’s BOTH SIDES NOW, this could look at how laughter is the songwriter’s most powerful tool. Singing a funny song intensifies the emotion of every song that follows.
14. “Play Me A Rock ‘n’ Roll Song” I doubt Valdy was aware of how disconnected audiences and folksingers were to become 30 years later. Sadly, a folk singer becomes a pop singer when his audience refuses to accept their identity beyond certain ‘hits’ in their repertoire. For well known ‘names’ at festivals, this could be a straight up ‘request set’; for lesser known or ‘emerging’ artists, this could be an opportunity to offer up a cover – guilty pleasure or otherwise. Either way, a workshop with this thought in mind can work – maybe none better than as a simple gesture of gratitude to festival audiences.
15. “Boss Man” In an age that accepts CEOs making 24.5 million a year, where is the wind below? The absence of social protest today has yielded a generation of tentative artists and folk singers – however, now that we know ‘change’ will not come from the top, now more than ever, we need our emerging artists, our smaller festivals, folk clubs, and our community radio to lead the way. Play us your wage-earners’ songs, your union songs, your Joe Hill songs, your songs of love, conscience, and refusal!