This was fun
‘Diddling’ Workshop with Rowan Rheingans: an introduction to singing dance tunes
Across Europe and elsewhere in the world, mouth music (singing wordless tunes) is a common part of folk traditions. The tradition of mouth music isn’t so well documented in England, but in Ireland and Scotland it is still very much alive. And down south in France or up north in Sweden, folk dances are still sometimes danced to a solo singer or a group of singers. It’s a great way to keep a dance moving if instruments aren’t available or to be able to join in with tunes if you don’t play an instrument!
In this workshop, Rowan will introduce you to using your voice as an instrument for dance tunes. There are vast possibilities beyond just humming a tune! After a vocal warm up, we’ll learn a dance tune by ear and explore how we might approach singing it in our own way. In the workshop, we’ll also listen to some examples of mouth music from different places and we’ll look at a few tools and techniques for singing in a way that is just as exciting as playing a tune on an instrument.
You don’t need any experience at all for this workshop – just an open mind. Everything will be taught by ear and you’ll be able to make recordings of anything we learn too.
Rowan Rheingans is an award-winning singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and theatre-maker. Best known for her work with acclaimed bands Lady Maisery, The Rheingans Sisters and Songs of Separation, Rowan has won two BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (‘Best Original Track’ in 2016 & ‘Best Album’ in 2017) and is a six-times nominee. Her duo The Rheingans Sisters were recent nominees for the prestigious ‘Best Duo/Band’ award at the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
Rowan’s interest in mouth music, or ‘diddling’ as it’s sometimes called in England, began when she was studying the fiddle in Sweden and for the first time came across solo singers holding captivated a whole floor of dancers or audience with tunes rather than songs. She is an experienced folk music educator, running popular singing courses and workshops as part of her trio Lady Maisery.
An underplayed aspect of Scots song is its mouth music, the lowland cousin to the puirt a beul of the Gaidhealtachd. Similarly, largely meaningless or comical lyrics are used to underpin the rhythm of a particular dance tune. This is separate from diddling, which uses vocables to sing a dance tune.