The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #45987   Message #683330
Posted By: Don Firth
04-Apr-02 - 08:56 PM
Thread Name: Your Musical Influences
Subject: RE: Your Musical Influences
I'm spooked! I know I did not type "Wilma" while writing up that post. The scary part is that a woman named Wilma, who passed away a couple of years ago, had been a good friend of mine since high school. Although she didn't really perform, she did sing some, and she was fairly prominent around Seattle's folk scene all along. So Wilma was pretty musical. It would be very characteristic of her to haunt my computer!

I found the following blurb on Richard (yup, Richard) Dyer-Bennet on an obscure website:—

Born in Leicester, October 6th, 1913; died in Monterey, Mass, USA in 1991. This British-born American tenor and guitarist helped to revive the popularity of folk music through his concert performances, recordings, compositions, and teaching. Though born in England, Dyer-Bennet grew up in Canada and California and attended the University of California at Berkeley (1932-35), where he studied English and music. (He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1935). After visiting Swedish folklorist Sven Scholander in 1935, Dyer-Bennet adopted Scholander's trinity of song interpretation - poetry, melody, and lute accompaniment. In 1944, though, he switched to the Spanish guitar and gave the first of what would become annual solo concerts at New York City's Town Hall; the impresario Sol Hurok signed him for national and foreign tours for many years. He gained a cult following with his approximately 800 songs (including about 100 of his own composition) that ranged through British and French ballads, European medieval songs, Swedish shepherd tunes, and American cowboy songs. Curiously, though identified as a folk singer, he preferred the label minstrel or troubadour. Dyer-Bennet stopped giving concerts after a stroke in 1972 limited use of his left hand. From 1970 to 1983 he taught at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

The tradition Dyer-Bennet was following was Sven Scholander's. This involved a trained, professional singer performing a wide variety of traditional songs in concert halls. That's was what he was all about. As the above blurb implies, he never at any time claimed to be a "folk singer." In fact, he vociferously denied it, reserving the term for what we now call "source singers."

It's okay not to like Richard Dyer-Bennet's singing. After all, taste is taste, and not everybody's is the same. But I've noted that most American folk music enthusiasts who don't like him because they feel he doesn't sound "rustic" enough. But they simple don't understand where he was coming from. He was highly successful at becoming what he fully intended to be: a trained, self-accompanied concert singer of traditional songs. A modern day minstrel. Not a folk singer.

Like him or dislike him, ya gotta admit, he was one helluva singer!

Don Firth

(Wilma? Are you in there?)