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Singing the News: Create a Broadside Ballad
Be a Renaissance Newscaster!

Dr. Tina Chancey
3706 North 17th Street, Arlington, VA 22207
(703) 525-7550
E-mail: /

Art Form  

Target Audience
Classroom/Social Studies/Language Arts/Music Students grades 4-12


  • Creating broadside ballads as a means to understanding how information is disseminated in non-literate societies today
  •    Looking at the broadside ballad as an indicator of the social and political climate of 17th  c. England, and in the American Colonies during the same period

Workshop length
50’-1 hour 

The workshop leader will:

  • Demonstrate how people shared news in renaissance Europe and the American Colonies, by writing a poem about an event and setting it to a popular tune.
  • Discuss familiar ‘broadside ballads’ such as the Star Spangled Banner
  • Help students find an appropriate news story from their weekly reader, and then help them choose a compatible tune such as Yankee Doodle.
  • Act as a facilitator while students create a poem about the news story- breaking the story down to its component information, organizing that information by precedence, writing a verse for each component that works with the tune.
  • Organize and present an informal performance of the student ballad.

Results for Students
Students will:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the personal nature of the past by re-creating a 15th-18th century musical form
  • Make music without needing to read it or play an instrument.
  • Learn how to work cooperatively as they match words to music, giving them a first-hand understanding of poetic form and scansion.

In teaching the English renaissance or the period of Colonial expansion, it is often difficult to know how to coordinate contributing elements to enhance understanding without compromising the integrity of any of the disciplines. In this workshop, the creative process of ballad writing is used as a bridge between those disciplines. While it is helpful if classroom teachers have musical training, this workshop is designed for all classroom teachers regardless of their musical background.  By asking students to compose their own song texts and to set them to familiar tunes, musical scores are unnecessary and public presentation of the finished product is uncomplicated and informal. The non-music teacher can use this process with a high comfort level to support the curriculum in the classroom. At the same time, music teachers can use these activities on a more technically demanding level in music classes.

Workshop Requirements: Limit—20-40 students

Masking tape, flip chart and markers, or blackboard
CD player with extension cord
Copies of a student weekly reader or other newspaper for each participant

Musical References
Food of Love: HESPERUS, Dorian 90290 (English Renaissance Music)
Early American Roots: HESPERUS, Maggie’s Music MMCD216/ Mel Bay publication of the same name. (Contains much English Renaissance Music).

Workshop Leader’s Background
          Tina Chancey is a performer, educator and scholar. A former chair of the Early Music America Education Committee, Dr. Chancey has been a presenter at Orff-Schulwerk, ASTA, MENC, and Chamber Music America national conferences. For the past two decades, she has given workshops and assemblies in the DC public schools through the Washington Performing Arts Society’s “Concerts in Schools” program. A participant in the Kennedy Center Education Department’s seminar, Artists as Educators: Creating Teachers’ Workshops, Dr. Chancey recently presented a day-long teachers’ workshop integrating music, literature and art on Fame and Folly with Rebecca Arkenberg at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is presently developing workshops and accompanying resource materials to complement each of Hesperus’ fifteen recordings. In March 2003 she was selected to represent the Smithsonian Institution in a week-long educational residency in Long Beach, CA.

          A founding member and director of HESPERUS, an early/traditional music ensemble that tours nationally and internationally, she is also a former member of the Folger Consort and the Ensemble for Early Music. A multi-instrumentalist, she plays early and traditional bowed strings and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts to support debut performances on the French baroque pardessus de viole at the Kennedy Center and Weil Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. With her husband Scott Reiss, she has been the recipient of a two-year grant from Earthwatch for research on Irish music.

          Dr. Chancey has received Masters degrees from Queens College and New York University, and a PhD from the Union Institute. Her articles on early and traditional music appear in scholarly and popular publications (including Early Music America Magazine for which she is book review editor),and she has recorded for a score of labels from Arabesque to Windham Hill. She also works as an independent recording producer, and directs “What’s That Note, Inc.” and “SoundCatcher: Play by Ear,” classes and workshops designed to teach musical skills: sight singing, ear training, music reading, and playing music by ear.

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