For most young singers, if their voice teacher handed them three books of folk music and told them to record a C.D., they may dismiss their suggestion with an air of disbelief… and question their teacher’s sanity. However, this was not the case with singer Adrienne Findlay when her voice teacher, Heather Johnson, made such a statement. Instead, Findlay felt another dominant emotion at the prospect of recording a C.D.: excitement.
In addition to being a Cantilon Choirs chorister for many years, Findlay was also a private voice student of Johnson’s. Findlay cycled through the typical song genres of many budding singers, but when Johnson began introducing folk songs, Findlay realized that folk music was her niche. Findlay reveals Johnson’s role in inspiring the production of this album.
“She was at the very beginning of it. From me learning how to sing in the first place and introducing me to this type of music and then to get this project started. Nothing of this would have come close to happening without her help and guidance,” she states.
Thus, after receiving those songbooks from Johnson last September, Findlay began learning folk songs leading up to December. At the start of this year, Findlay met Jia Jia Yong, a long-time student of local harpist Keri Lynn Zwicker, to begin rehearsing the songs with harp accompaniment. Findlay describes a musically generative relationship with Yong.
“We can just be sitting there and she can just play something and it works. She comes up with amazing accompaniment. She’s a great person to play with as a singer. She can tell if I’m going to be slowing down, or holding notes longer, and she can tell that with my body language and breathing. She’s as much as wrapped up in the song as I am.”
Findlay’s love of folk singing is due to the malleable nature of folk music.
“Every time I sing one of the songs it’s different than the time before. You can add little ornamentations and have different musical arrangements. And it can be changing and evolving but it’s so personal. A lot of the songs are about real-life and it’s easy to put yourself in that place. I really feel it. I can then play with the songs in the way that they speak to me. And I would do that differently from anybody else. Anybody can take these songs and put their special mark on them. It makes our version different than anybody else’s version. You get this beautiful, basic, melody and you get to make it completely your song,” she reveals.
Some of the tracks on the album particularly close to Findlay’s heart are “Rich and Rare,” one of the first traditional folk songs she has performed, and “Leaving of Liverpool,” which is one of two a cappella songs on the album, “Lagan Love” being the other. It was important for Findlay to include a cappella recordings because this is how she first began performing her folk repertoire. While she notes that it is more exposed, and naturally, more scary, she loves the vocal freedom to experiment with the song.
As for the future, Findlay realizes that the most important thing right now is to just keep performing and moving forwards. She does reveal a future aspiration of performing at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. However, she humbly balances her expectations: “If it’s something that moves forward, great, if not, it’s an awesome project that we’ve done together and a great learning experience.”
Their C.D release party will be an opportunity for audiences to hear Findlay and Yong make their official live music debut in Edmonton. Their CD release will be a casual drop-in music event complete with food, wine, and short musical sets throughout the evening. Upon taking a preliminary listen to Findlay and Yong’s refreshing interpretations of this folk music repertoire, I am certain this C.D. is bound to be more than just another learning experience.
—This entry is cross-posted on The Choir Girl Blog—
C.D’s will be available at the release party, future Cantilon Choirs concerts, and on iTunes in mid-December.
Singer: Adrienne Findlay
Harpist: Jia Jia Yong
Recording Engineer: Corey Haberstock
She moved through the fair
Leaving of Liverpool
Rocky road to Dublin
The wind that shakes the barley
Dear Irish boy
Rich & rare
The parting glass