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Explore tunes that celebrate joy and embrace sorrow within the charismatic Eastern European and Balkan music traditions. Suitable for instruments of any tuning and shape capable of producing melodies. Intermediate to advanced levels, no prior experience required.


Resident: £412 Non-Resident: £302 (25% off for under 27s) Code: 24/231

Booking for Members opens at 11am on Monday 20 November 2023.

Non-Member and online booking opens at 11am on Monday 11 December 2023.

For details on how to become a Member to take advantage of early booking, see here.

What is the course about?

Weddings and funerals are typically the happiest and saddest occasions in life across all cultures. Music is a common tool for celebrating joy and helping to cope with sadness, transforming these emotions into balance and spirituality. Additionally, there are many songs and dances with ritualistic functions and characteristics. The Balkans, in particular, are renowned for their charismatic music, which seamlessly combines happiness and melancholy.

The first session on Friday evening will start with a performance by the Magic Violin Trio, led by Gundula Stojanova Gruen. The group will play some of the repertoire covered in the workshop as well as other songs and pieces fitting the theme.

This course is suitable for any pitched instrument including guitars, mandolins, ouds, bowed and plugged strings and wind instruments from any tradition. If your instrument is unusual, please provide your notation needs and possibly the range of your instrument beforehand. The level is intermediate to advanced. No previous experience in this style is necessary.

Tutor website: www.magicviolin.co.uk

What will we cover?

In this course, we will explore instrumental pieces commonly found at weddings and funerals from various regions, starting in Hungary and spanning across Romania, Moldova, former Yugoslavian regions, all the way to Turkey. We will learn how happiness and sadness are expressed, which musical modes are predominant, and the embellishments that traditionally contribute to the expression and charisma of these pieces.

As in previous years, we will primarily learn the tunes by ear. However, sheet music for all pieces will be distributed to aid our musical memory and note-taking.

In addition to learning the tunes, we will study chords, embellishments, and harmony lines. In later sessions, we will combine all parts into performance arrangements, which will be recorded and distributed among the group. This way, you can take away a ready-made arrangement for your band back home. If there is interest and a piece calls for it, we may also delve into improvisation.

What will we accomplish? By the end of this course you will be able to…

By the end of this course, you will be able to confidently play several Balkan and Eastern European tunes with accompaniments. You will be familiar with the appropriate ornamentation and phrasing, although achieving performance speed may require additional practice on your part. Additionally, you will have developed a simple band arrangement for all the pieces, which you can take back and perform with your own band.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

The course is suitable for a range of playing levels, from intermediate to advanced, as the tunes without ornamentation are often quite straightforward. They only become real virtuoso performance pieces when ornamentation is added. It is also suitable for both musicians who read music and those who prefer learning by ear. No previous experience in Balkan music is required.

How will the course be taught, and will any preparation be required?

No specific preparation is needed for this course. The initial teaching is primarily done by ear; however, you will receive the sheet music during the course. Ornamentation is mostly not notated, as classical signs only fit in some cases – we will add them together.

Will music be provided in advance of the course?

Sheet music and other teaching materials are provided by the tutors during the course. There are no advance preparations required.

Is there anything I need to bring?

Bring your instrument(s) in good working order, a pencil and recording equipment (a phone or voice recorder will do).

What previous participants said about this course…

“Great varied programme. Very challenging for me! But encouraging.”

“Tuition was excellent with attention to personal needs.”

“I am just DELIGHTED that I have overcome my fear of learning by ear instead of notation. I loved playing through the music we learned and finding I could remember most of it.”