Reservations are required: HouseConcerts@fssgb.org
Norman Kennedy is one of Scotland’s finest traditional singers with a unique repertoire of folk songs and ballads. Born and brought up in Aberdeen, he was a neighbor of the great ballad singer Jeanie Robertson and during the evolving folk scene of the 1960’s he picked up many songs from her and from other singers such as the bothy ballad singer Jimmy McBeath and the traveller and street singer Davie Stewart.
Norman is a “keeper of the old ways”, a master practitioner and teacher of textile arts as well as an unaccompanied singer of traditional Scottish Songs that he learned while growing up. In 1966 he moved to the USA after representing Scotland at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival where he was an immediate success with the “folkies” and the academic alike. The former loved his relaxed, easy style, while the latter recognized a deep knowledge and understanding of the songs, which went way beyond book learning. Here was a young man truly immersed in his tradition and culture. And all these years later he has lost none of that magnetism.
But there’s more to Norman than just singing and storytelling. He is an accomplished weaver, who cards, spins, and dyes his own wool in the “old ways”. It is a mark of his quest for perfection that he is as well-known in this field as for his singing. But he does not see them as separate entities – the songs help him to concentrate on his weaving and the weaving gives rhythm to his songs. When Norman sings as he weaves it seems the art and the craft were meant to be together.
In June 2003, Norman was awarded the highest honor in folk and traditional arts in the United States. This Master Artist was the recipient of one of eleven fellowships awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts. The award was presented in The Library of Congress by United States President George W Bush.
There has always been an intimacy in Norman’s performance, no matter how grand the setting or how large the audience. His songs and stories flow naturally as part of an extended conversation in which the attitudes of a contemporary creative artist are sublimated by a knowledge and continuing fascination with the lives and concerns of past generations.
Hearing Norman Kennedy sing today is unlike witnessing the performance of a singer who came to prominence as part of the Sixties folk revival. Unlike his contemporaries, he recast his whole lifestyle in a traditional mode around his work as a weaver, making the connection between life, work and song a seamless intermeshing where context is an established given. His way of life has brought him closer to the singers from which he learned as a young man and has helped form his understanding of them and the material they passed on. His own performance is thus enriched with strands of meaning that interpret the songs with verbal portraits of the old singers who sang them, giving them their due credit.