The Murder Ballad Project:
Reframing Songs of Violence
A Public Performance Pairing Murder Ballads with Songs of Empowerment by Women
On March 8th, 2020, International Women’s Day, we will hold a concert of solely women performers playing murder ballads, and also offering songs of empowerment and hope. The concert will take place at First Church, UCC in Middletown, CT. Murder ballads are part of the ballad tradition, and they typically involve a gruesome murder. Overwhelmingly, the victim in these songs is female. Many of these traditional ballads are based on true stories, with a man, who was usually either married or of a higher social status than the woman, killing his pregnant lover. Omie Wise and Pearl Bryan are famous examples of this narrative.
We wish to reframe these songs by having them sung by female voices and to bring awareness to the issues of violence that women all over the world regularly face. There is a detachment with which murder ballads are sung in modern day performance. With women knowing the threat of violence firsthand, the songs will be transformed into raw, immediate stories of lives lost. We seek to illustrate, through these songs, that the issues women such as Naomi Wise (the real woman that inspired Omie Wise) faced - the issues of autonomy over their bodies and safety - still resonate very strongly today.