Folk Arts Oxford aims to promote folk and traditional dance, music and song in the Oxfordshire region. In particular we are interested in improving access for those who might face barriers to participation in the arts.

Through our funded project work: children in Headington have learned about local lad William Kimber, and the musical legacy he has left; a new band called Iris has been formed, who accompany all their songs with Makaton signing; children from mainstream and special schools in Oxfordshire have the chance to create music together, and perform on the main stage at Folk Weekend: Oxford.

Alongside our own projects and events, FAO works collaboratively with other local organisations, forging links and creating opportunities for folk artists to work in education and community projects, as well as showcase their talent in local events. 

In 2017, we were approached by the Bodleian Library, who were looking for ways to raise awareness of their collection of broadside ballads, and if possible get more people singing them! Together we developed the 'Songs of Life and Love' project, in which local choir leader and composer Cat Kelly spent some time going through the archives and chose six songs, which she composed music for an arranged for community choirs.

The choirs involved in the project were Rising Voices, Chipping Norton Singers, Sounds Fun, and Towersey Village Voices. Each choir learnt a total of four songs - three that everyone was learning, and one of their own. The choirs came together for an introductory workshop to start learning the communal songs, and also visited the print room of the library to have a go at setting and printing a song.

We also did two sessions with adults with learning disabilities - one with a group from My Life My Choice, and another with Oxfordshire Adult Learning, who were able to bring a group to the print room at the Bodleian Library and have a go at setting the type and printing a poster.

On 22nd April 2018, as part of Folk Weekend: Oxford, all the choirs came together and performed the six songs to the festival audience. 

To purchase music from the project:

 
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The Ballad of Flora and James Composed by Cat Kelly. Folk. 5 pages. Published by Cat Kelly (S0.351789).

The Ballad of Flora and James is a re-working of a traditional broadside ballad, the original of which can be found in the archives at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The original tells the story of Flora, a young girl who dresses as a man in order to follow her boyfriend to sea - but this modern day version has roles reversed, and it's James who joins the war to be with Flora.

Cat Kelly's clever arrangement brings this story firmly in to the modern era, and affectionately pokes fun at the 'traditional' gender roles often featured in this type of song. It's a hearty song; funny, and fun to sing, and suitable for all ages.

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The Cabin with the roses at the door Composed by Cat Kelly. Folk. 4 pages. Published by Cat Kelly (S0.351793).

The Cabin with the roses at the door is based on an old broadside ballad, the lyrics of which were found in the collection at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Cat Kelly's beautiful melody and emotive harmonies are the perfect setting to the lyrics of love, reflection, and belonging.

The melody line moves between the voices in this arrangement, making it interesting to sing, and creating an ebb and flow to the performance.

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I'm Ninety Five Composed by Cat Kelly. Folk. 3 pages. Published by Cat Kelly (S0.351795).

If you've heard a military band you may find this melody familiar, as it's a very popular traditional tune. As part of the 'Songs of Life and Love' project in 2017/18, Cat Kelly found the original lyrics to the tune I'm Ninety Five in the archives of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and adapted them and arranged for community choir.

This is a cheerful, rebellious song with a feminist theme!

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She Lives with her own Granny Dear Composed by Cat Kelly. Folk. 4 pages. Published by Cat Kelly (S0.351801).

This (slightly silly) song is set to the melody of The British Grenadiers, and tells the story of a soldier coming home from war who mistakenly thinks his girlfriend has shacked up with another man. The lyrics to this song were found in the archives of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and adapted by Cat Kelly as part of the 'Songs of Live and Love' project in 2017/18.

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Sing On Composed by Cat Kelly. Folk. 5 pages. Published by Cat Kelly (S0.351805).

The lyrics to Sing On were discovered in the archives of the Bodleian Library, on an old broadsheet dating from the 1870s, and accompanied by lots of other popular songs from the day. Cat Kelly composed a new melody, and arranged the song for community choir, as part of the 'Songs of Life and Love' project in 2017/18.

If you look only at the lyrics you might assume this is a sad song, but in fact although it is poignant and reflective, it reminds us that whenever things get difficult in life, a good song with friends can lift our souls up from wallowing, and give us a new lease of life.

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Sweet Chiming Bells Composed by Cat Kelly. Folk. 4 pages. Published by Cat Kelly (S0.351807).

This whimsical song was first published in 1871, written by CF Shattuck and George Cooper. Sweet Chiming Bells is a sweet, reflective song, telling how the chimes of the church bells evoke memories of childhood. Cat Kelly found and arranged this song for choir as part of the 'Songs of Life and Love' project with the Bodleian Library in 2017/18.