Cold Mountain Workshop

The Cold Mountain workshop uses the book and film as a background for a presentation of the songs from the American Civil War. It looks at the power of song on a number levels, the power of song to convey news and information in a time when the only means of conveying these tragic events was by word of mouth. Song has the power to convey emotions and the depth of feelings at a time of division and conflict. It has the power to bring people together in times of trouble and to lift their spirits and give then a sense of belonging. Among the aspects of life addressed by the songs used in the workshop are the futility of war, the horror and tragedy of war, the role of women at a time when men were away fighting and often not returning, the strength of people facing insurmountable odds.
More songs have come out of the American Civil War than from any other conflict so there is a rich source of songs dealing with all aspects of life and death in that period of time.

The songs were sung and transmitted by ordinary folk living, quite often, in remote settlements. They were the bearers of news from one area to another and not only did the songs provide solace and comfort for the singers and listeners but they passed on details of the war, conditions on the battlefield, the thoughts of the soldiers etc. this was critical as this was the only form of communication in the Appalachians in the 1800s.

Students in these workshops have been struck by the effectiveness of this communication even after all the years since then. They have been exposed to the power of unaccompanied singing to get the message across and to accompaniment and singing together for solace and social enrichment.

Some comments from students following a presentation of the workshop at New Hall School, Chelmsford, Essex:-

"I feel she gave me a much greater understanding of the background and contexts of 'Cold Mountain'. Also, she helped me to know more about, and understand, and understand the relevance of the novel."

"I like the way she sang and played us many of the songs and tunes from the novel and the period as it gave me a much greater knowledge of the American culture - both then and now."

"Sara was extremely helpful in explaining how people lived at that time and how the Civil War changed everybody's (and America's) lives."

"Gave me a real insight into the depth of hardship of the history behind 'Cold Mountain' and made me understand how important the theme of music is in the novel - hearing her sing and play really brought it all to life."

"It was good to see a woman so passionate about her work."

"I found it really brought the novel to life. It made me realise that although the novel is about Inman and Ada on one level, it could also be about anywhere. It reminded me that the novel is so relevant to us all today and how little the world has really changed in terms of attitudes and women's history."

"Sara highlighted the social and historical authenticity of the novel."