Program Information

Number of Artists: 1

Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12, Family

Program Length: 45-60 minutes

Ideal Audience Size: Flexible

Maximum Audience Size: 300

Setup Time: 15 minutes

Breakdown Time: 15 minutes

Technical Requirements: An intimate setting is best

SOL Connections

Music: HS.1, HS.5, HS.6, HS.8, HS.9, MS.1, MS.5, MS.6, MS.7, MS.8, MS.9

English: 6.2, 6.5, 6.6, 6.7, 7.5, 7.6, 7.7, 8.3, 8.4, 9.3, 10.3, 11.3, 11.5, 12.5

History and Social Science: USII.3, VUS.1, VUS.6, VUS.8, WG.3, WG.4, WHII.6, WHII.8

Artists Fees

Single Fee: $350 - $550 plus travel

Back to Back Fee: $450 - $650 plus travel

Full Day Fee: $550 - 750 plus travel


.55 per mile from Berryville, VA

Melissa Weaver Dunning

Old Songs



Program Type

Community Festivals, Curriculum Materials, Family Concerts, High School Assemblies, Middle School Assemblies, Workshops

Subject Areas

Culture Studies, Folktales, Geography, Music, Poetry, US History, World History

The old songs and ballads are a living voice of history, and the words of these songs form a resonant poetry of common people's lives. This is a program of old songs and tales from Ireland, England and Scotland that have survived to the present day by word of mouth. Far more than just entertainment or social expression, songs and ballads delivered the news of the day in a time when news traveled at the speed of a horse.

Passed from person to person for generations, the old songs tell us of significant and sensational events as well as the common tales of daily life. They tell us what it felt like to be alive in the 18th and 19th centuries. They show us that we share some of the same problems and emotions and they tell the stories that people loved to hear over and over again. They give us a real connection to history on a personal level.

Melissa Weaver Dunning sings ballads and songs from the Anglo and Celtic traditions of England, Ireland, Scotland and America. Performing in period costume, Melissa also plays tunes on the English concertina, a 19th century instrument. Performing as a ballad singer for over 35 years, Melissa has performed with Vermont's Word of Mouth Chorus, the Boston Camerata and at the Smithsonian Institution.

Far From Home (6-12) Tales of emigrants, transported convicts, sailors, soldiers, slavers and pirates. Includes songs from the Australian Transportation, the Battle of Waterloo and the American Civil War--roughly 1780 to 1860.

From Cottage to Factory (6-12) Songs and tales of spinning, weaving and other trades from before and after the Industrial Revolution--18th and 19th century.

Old Songs programs can be designed to complement specific literature, poetry and history curricula. Choral workshops in American Shape Note Singing are also available.

The Good Old Way (6-12) Songs about daily life, work and love from the Irish village to the northern England colliery (coal mine)-17th, 18th and 19th century.