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At the heart of English folk
The Elizabethan Session artists at Halsway Manor

The Elizabethan Session

One week - eight artists. New music inspired by the Elizabethan Age

In March 2014 the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) teamed up with our friends at Folk by the Oak, an annual music festival based at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire (the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I) to create a new music commission inspired by the Elizabethan age.

You can purchase The Elizabethan Session music from our folk shop here

The Elizabethan Session album


"If you only buy one folk album this year, make it this one."
Clive Davis, The Times *****
Read the gig review

"This was an evening of unexpected songs ... I look forward to the album."
Robin Denselow, The Guardian ****
Read the review

"A bold triumph of imagination and musicianship.”
Martin Chilton, The Telegraph
Read the review

"An album of highlights ... A fine artefact of an inspired project."
Nick Churchill, Fatea Magazine
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"A fine exploration of a pivotal time in English history by some of the best musicians around."
Spiral Earth
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The artists

Martin Simpson, Nancy Kerrm, Jim Moray, Bella Hardy, John Smith, Hannah James, Rachel Newton and Emily Askew came together to create new music that has a resonance and relevance to the era.


The retreat

The artists lived together in a rural retreat for seven days, given free rein to explore the 16th century period. The Elizabethan Session drew inspiration from material and history, stories, myths, characters and legends relating to the the role that Hatfield House, home of Folk by the Oak, played in the Queen’s life. Legend has it that Elizabeth was told of her ascension to the throne underneath the large oak tree in the grounds where Folk by the Oak is now held each July.

They were helped along the way with expert advice and support from Dr Ian Mortimer (of the BBC’s Time Travellers’ Guide to Elizabethan England) who joined them at the start of the residential.



The shows

The commission premiered in a show at The Old Palace at Hatfield House (the very room Elizabeth held her first council of state), followed a couple of days later by a show at EFDSS’ HQ at Cecil Sharp House.

The artists then returned to Hatfield House to record an album in The Old Palace. The artists also reconvened for a performance at Folk by the Oak in July 2014, and at Celtic Connections in January 2015.


In the press

The shows and the music produced during the project have received glowing reviews across the board!


"Alchemy yielded gold from the very beginning... A stunning and unforgettable evening."
Clive Davis, The Times *****
Read the review


"This was an evening of unexpected songs... I look forward to the album."
Robin Denselow, The Guardian ****
Read the review


"An exciting project... It promises to be,  to borrow another phrase from the Bard, a 'concord of sweet sounds'."
Martin Chilton, The Telegraph
Read the feature

Follow the project on Twitter @elizabethansess



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