My name is Margaret Nelson; I’m a folk singer. I perform both traditional and contemporary material, including some of my own compositions. I sing traditional story ballads, old and new love songs, lullabies, comic songs, gospel songs, childrens’ songs, peace songs, ecology songs, and political songs. I also lead music workshops. I can design concert sets and workshops suitable for particular audiences or occasions. I like to interact with concert hosts and audience members. I choose songs with singable melodies and rousing choruses, and encourage my audiences to sing along.
I’ve been a professional musician since 1982, when I teamed up with guitarist Phil Cooper. For twenty-eight years Phil and I toured and performed traditional songs and tunes from England, Scotland, and North America, along with more contemporary material. We recorded and traveled as Cooper & Nelson, Cooper, Nelson & Early, and The More The Merrier. We still perform together in The Bittersweet Christmas Band. Phil and I released twenty-four recordings on our own Porcupine Productions label.
I am now booking myself as a solo performer, as well as working with other musicians. My newest project is a lively and inspirational Peace Sing in collaboration with singer/guitarist Kristin Lems. Venues for my concerts and presentations include libraries, museums, college classes, folk festivals, folk society concert series, religious congregations, neighborhood celebrations, house concerts, camps, family reunions, birthday parties, Scout gatherings, peace marches and ecology fairs. For venues where it’s okay to be noisy, I bring with me a range of home made rhythm instruments for kids and adults to shake, bang, and clatter while we sing.
I love the old songs and ballads for their lively language, strong stories, and fine tunes. As a kid I read all the folk tales and fairy tales I could get my hands on. I sang little songs at home and bigger songs in church choir. I began to sing traditional ballads in my late teens, when one of my sisters came home with a Berea College Choir album with an unaccompanied solo of the gloriously grim old ballad “Earl o’ Bran.” I had to learn it. Forty-five years later, “Earl o’ Bran,” “Lord Gregory,” “Lord Thomas and Lady Margaret” and other big ballads remain the heart of my traditional repertoire.
As a song writer, I aim to match interesting content with easy melodies. It is my hope that listeners will be moved to learn my songs and pass them on. To my delight, two of my songs, “Let Peace Prevail” and “Call Down a Blessing,” have already escaped into the folk community and are being passed around.
At folk festivals and music camps I present or participate in a wide variety of workshops. I can lead two multi-session singing workshops: “Do It Yourself Harmony” (harmony singing for the hesitant) and “Love, Death and a Catchy Chorus” (a big ballad workshop). Some shorter workshops I’ve lead or participated in: “Pocket Percussion” (spoons and jinglesticks), “Bad Boys and Girls,” “Bawdy Songs,” “Toward a Better World.” Where there is interest, I can also present “On Your Own Nickel—How to Record without Going Broke” (an overview of the process by which Cooper & Nelson was able to release quality recordings on a limited budget).
To discuss performance or workshop possibilities, please contact me.