Interview: The Folk Foragers

Violinist Helen Morriss discusses how The Folk Foragers are playing an important role in the breaking down of musical barriers

feature (adelaide) | Read in About 4 minutes
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The Folk Foragers image courtesy of Helen Morriss
Published 07 Feb 2024

After graduating with a Bachelor of Music Performance from the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide, violinist Helen Morriss did what many artists do: took a break. It is a perpetual state for many creatives; to seek occupational freedom and then feel confined by the expectations accompanying that freedom. For Morriss, it is an important part of her creation to remind herself and her audience that music is to be enjoyed and participated in, and not seen as a chore.

“I picked up the violin when I was five years old. My parents didn’t think I’d keep going with it but I’m 26 now and going strong. I played all through school, and then I studied it at university. After that I took a little bit of a break from music because I actually found it a little bit intense and I just needed to have a breather from it.

“Then I got back together with some people that I went to the Conservatorium with and we all started playing, and it was a magic moment because we all just wanted to enjoy music again. We just wanted to play for people without the pressure of having to get it absolutely, 100 percent right all of the time, which is a pressure instilled in you when you study music at that level.”

Using music to break down traditional barriers is not only a goal of Morriss’, but also of her group The Folk Foragers. The group comprises Morriss and Nadia Paine on violin, Rachel Hicks on viola and Sally McLoughlin on cello. Together, the four use their traditional instruments to play modern genres and cross musical margins. Their show Dancing Through The Ages bends time and place by journeying through music with their unique folk sound.

The show takes the audience on a chronological ride, exploring genres like traditional European, classical, Western 60s pop, and songs from the present day, with the goal of examining “music from different decades, and see how that music is significant in terms of historical events, and look at the way society has progressed.

“We’re taking our audience on a journey by looking at different life events and looking at how that related to music at the time. Most of the folk music we focus on is European, so in that respect it already has a repertoire prepared, and I think that’s where a lot of our folk tradition comes from.”

The show also encourages the audience to expand their music consumption, using song exploration to showcase the importance of accessibility in art.

“The reason we don’t focus on classical music so much is because it's a very hierarchical way of playing. That ties in with the folk culture of our music as well. We’re kind of like, ‘Hey, I'm passing the tune to you now. You can play what you want to play,’ and that’s what’s at the centre of the pieces we choose to play.”

Morriss also recognises how this notion applies to those listening to the show – just as the tune is being passed between band members, and they play what they want to play, audiences are encouraged to listen to what they want to listen to and expand music tastes as diversely as one would the shows watched on Netflix.

“We don’t want to always put ourselves in that concert context where it’s an exclusive experience. Our focus is really on getting our music out there in the community and getting it out in a way that is accessible for everyone to be a part of and enjoy.”


Dancing through the ages, The Jade, 2 & 10 Mar