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Folk songs: A living history we must cherish and protect.

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Folk songs: A living history we must cherish and protect.

Folk songs: A living history we must cherish and protect.
Caitlin Grey

I have a deep affection for folk songs. As a devoted enthusiast, I can't help but acknowledge my love for these musical gems that have woven through my life since childhood.

Growing up, my mother, hailing from Ireland, shared her rich repertoire of Irish songs with me, expanding my musical horizons to include melodies from Scotland and America.

School introduced me to a diverse array of tunes from Spain, Israel, Hungary, and even Australia. My early years were immersed in a tapestry of musical heritage that I truly cherished.

Folk songs represent a shared history, transcending geographical boundaries. They persist as a living history, continuously performed and evolving. New voices and songwriters contribute to this tradition, adding layers to the already intricate fabric of songs, stories, and melodies.

The themes within folk songs are timeless and universal, addressing matters of love, death, war, poverty, politics, and more. They offer a profound connection to the past through the oral tradition, where songs are passed down through generations, often undergoing transformations in melody while retaining their essence.

Everyone can sing folk songs, regardless of musical prowess. They provide an accessible entry point to music, offering repetitive structures, simple melodies, and a limited vocal range. Folk songs, with their inclusive nature, emphasise the power of storytelling, making singing ability optional.

Encouraging exploration, I invite you to discover folk songs from your own heritage. The internet serves as a vast repository of these timeless tunes, allowing you to reconnect with melodies from the past.

Intriguingly, many popular songs and film soundtracks draw inspiration from traditional folk melodies. A notable example is Simple Minds' "Belfast Child," borrowing heavily from the traditional Irish lament "She Moved Through The Fair."

To embark on your own folk song journey, consider exploring playlists tailored to different regions, such as American folk or traditional folk from the United Kingdom and Ireland. The internet has made this exploration easier than ever, enabling you to delve into various folk music traditions from around the world.

Folk music, with its deep roots and diverse traditions, enriches our understanding of different cultures. The internet has facilitated this exploration, eliminating the need for extensive visits to physical libraries or record shops. Now is the opportune time to immerse yourself in this musical tradition and enhance your knowledge.

Folk songs, as the music of the people, resonate with real-life experiences. They capture the essence of everyday struggles, joys, and narratives, providing a canvas for reinterpretation. Folk music evolves, allowing for infinite variations and personal expressions.

In my own journey, performing and creating original folk material has been a source of immense enrichment. The recognition by the British Sound Library in 2019 affirmed the significance of new, original folk contributions. I encourage you to make your own songs, telling your stories and those of your community through this powerful and timeless medium.

Folk songs are not just a part of history; they are a part of us. Sing them, play them, write them, and share them. They belong to you.

In love and music,


Ps. Explore my folk song recordings, both original and traditional on YouTube here.

About the author:

Caitlin Grey is an award-winning singer and songwriter in the Celtic folk tradition. Her debut Celtic/folk album, "Siren’s Song," won the 2013 Best Celtic Album award at the Ladylake Independent Music Awards in the US. In 2018, Caitlin and Neil Harvey had their back catalogue honoured at the British Sound Library for their contribution to British Folk Music.

Caitlin also teaches voice and co-manages Harvey/Grey Music, a songwriting and production company. She holds a BA Hons. (First Class) in Music & English Literature and a Masters in Music & Performance.


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