The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #105162 Message #4023032
Posted By: Jim Carroll
09-Dec-19 - 12:55 PM
Thread Name: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
Harker got that wrong along with a load of other things
Ennough of this
You wanrt to discuss MacColl's politics get someone to open one on the below the line section where this sort of thing can be discussed - it has no place here
MacColl's politics were his own business - he had a right to believe what he wished - last time I looked Britain still goes though the motions of being a free and democratic State which seldom allows witch-hunts such as this
MacColl was an important and highly respected creative artist - that is what he is remembered and respected for
If you don't wish to discuss that, make room for those who do please
This has gone far enough
A reminder of what MacColl and Seeger dedicated their lives to
Citation for the award of the Gold Badge of the English Folk Dance and Song Society to Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger
Today the English Folk Song and Dance Society honours a Scot and an American, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. This should cause no surprise-, the historical links between this Society7, Scotland and the United States of America are strong and go back a long way. The Folk Song Society, the older partner in what became the EFDSS, never envisaged that its work would be restricted to England and some of its members, including Lucy Broadwood and Gavin Grieg made important collections of material in Scotland. When we hearEw'an perform, as only he can, some of the great ballads from the Aberdeenshire collection of Gavin Grieg we can feel some pleasure at the role this Society played in the preservation of this unique and wonderful material.
Similarly the transatlantic links between members of this Society and North America should not be underestimated. The story of how Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles journeyed to the Southern Appalachians during the dark years of World War I is well known, as is the rich harvest of material they preserved in English Folk Songs’from the Southern Appalachians. Sharp’s work was an important stimulus in getting Americans to look seriously at their native musical culture and many collectors followed in his footsteps. As a girl Peggy Seeger was brought up in a house filled with the sounds of recordings of traditional musicians then being amassed by collectors for the archive of the Library of Congress.
Peggy’s mother was the brilliant avant garde composer turned folk music transcriber, Ruth Crawford Seeger and her father was the musicologist Charles Seeger, a towering giant in his field, a man of great scholarship and vision who saw that traditional music had an important and valuable role to play in modem society. Brother Pete first became famous with the Weavers in the 1940s, then as a solo performer with ability to move an audience to song. Brother Mike became an expert performer of old timey music as a soloist and with The New Lost City Ramblers’. In such a talented household it is hard to see how a young musician could find her own voice and style. Perhaps that was the impetus behind Peggy's travellings which in the mid 1950s brought this 'scruffy' (the word is Ewan’s description) young woman to England where she met Ewan and formed a partnership that has lasted over thirty years.
Ewan’s background was very different, early life in Salford, in the very streets that Friedrich Engels had described in his classic book of the 1840s The Conditions of the Working Class in England. Transplanted to one of the English heartlands of the Industrial Revolution MacColl’s family may have been, but his parents brought with them some of the treasures of a rich oral culture that stretched back for generations.
That was one part of the MacColl inheritance, the other part was cultural and political a tradition of working class self- education that took its motivation from the injustices and inadequacies of industrial society. This tradition, which stretches back to the radicals of the eighteenth centuiy, the Chartists and the early trade union and labour movements, is as important in the making of Ewan MacColl as that other tradition of songs, ballads and stories he also inherited from his parents.
Although he wrote songs from early on his first area of concern was the theatre. Not the matinee idol theatre of the West End in the ’30s, but an attempt to make a theatre that spoke to the vital social and political concerns of the day. and tried to make people think, understand and act. Ultimately his work found expression in Theatre Workshop which was such an important influence on post-war British theatre.
In the 1950s. having spent years mastering the techniques of acting, production and play-writing, MacColl switched his energies to singing and songwriting. The influence of his family tradition, the inspiration and friendship of such people as Alan Lomax and Bert Lloyd, his collecting, the ideas of such people as the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok, all fused in the profoundly creative and productive partnership with Peggy, who contributed a deep understanding of American traditional music and an outstanding musical ability. Together, the work of these two intensely committed people formed a cornerstone of the post-war folk revival in Britain and beyond.
The rest of the story, 1 am sure, has touched people here in one way or another. The high artistic quality of the enduring musical partnership, the records ranging from ballad collections to modem songs, the
Singers Club and concert performances which always stressed by careful juxtaposition the contemporary relevance of traditional song, the Festival of Fools, the radio broadcasts especially the ground breaking radio ballads made with Charles Parker, the films, the collecting activity which bore fruit in gramophone records, archive recordings and books, but perhaps most of all the songs they composed, at once fresh and modern yet rooted in a tradition that unites the past, present and future.
Strong, positive and energetic people are bound to challenge and upset some others along the way and Ewan and Peggy have not been without both defenders and critics. The important question seems to me to be in the realm of what some historians call the counterfactual: can we imagine what the post-war folk song revival would have been like without Ewan and Peggy? Would it have happened at all? Probably, yes. But would it have been the same without them? Definitely no. It would have been a poorer, less interesting, less challenging movement. It is a notable fact that many who have disagreed with Ewan and Peggy’s approach have not been able to resist singing their songs.
Today we honour two people who have greatly enriched the cultural, social and political life of this country and the world. Ewan and Peggy. I am pleased to ask the Vice President of the Society, Ursula Vaughan Williams to award you each the Gold Badge of the English Folk Dance and Song Society for your outstanding artistic achievement and your past and continuing contribution to the enrichment of the lives of millions of people.
English Dance & Song, Vol 49, No 3 Christmas ’87