Chantelle Smith

Ballads in the Borders and Beyond

Wednesday, 5th July, 2017

I sit here typing this blog post in a gorgeous arts centre on the edge of the Galloway Forest (CatStrand in New Galloway in case you’re passing by) with the words of a Child Ballad scribbled out on a piece of paper beside me (resting on volume one of Bronson’s “Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads). I’m on holiday in the south of Scotland while my partner walks the Southern Upland Way (I’m the support crew of one) and, not content with ‘merely’ relaxing I thought I would give myself a little project to do so as to keep myself busy.


It goes without saying that Border Ballads have a connection with, yes you’ve guessed it, the Scottish borders but there are other ballads such as the Child ballads which also have connections locations in the Scottish Borders and westwards into Dumfries and Galloway.


I’ve been struggling to learn new songs recently due to a lack of time and energy (most of my creative energy has been channelled the eponymous ‘Brighid’s Flame’ show which was premiered at the end of last month) so when better to learn some new ballads than when holidaying in an area of the British Isles that has such a deep connection with them.


There are some Child ballads I’ve wanted to learn for a while that don’t have direct connections to locations so I’m going to learn a few of them, too, allowing myself to be inspired by the landscape I find myself in when choosing them.


Not only am I learning the songs; I am also recording myself singing them either in situ or in places in southern Scotland that inspired me to learn and sing them. Having done this a couple of times last year, I’ve found singing songs in situ a very powerful experience so even if I’m not word perfect I still want to record songs in the places and landscapes they’re connected with.



Recording on the shores of Loch Ryan


I’ll be posting the videos to my youTube account as and when I have good internet access to upload them (and, of course, when I actually do the recording). Here’s a little video I put together explaining what I’m up to:



On the list so far is:


* Fair Annie of Lochroyan (done)
* The Unquiet Grave (done)
* The Two Sisters
* King Orfeo
* The Three Ravens
* Fair Helen of Kirconnell Lea
* Dowie Dens of Yarrow
* The Lament of the Border Widow
* Tam Lin


Possible others:


* Annan Water
* The Flowers of the Forest

Watch all my videos on the Ballads in the Borders playlist on my youTube channel.

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