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How to handle criticism?

GUEST,Northerner 26 Jun 07 - 10:03 AM
The Fooles Troupe 25 Jun 07 - 09:39 AM
GUEST,Northerner 25 Jun 07 - 09:21 AM
Bert 23 Jun 07 - 03:18 PM
GUEST,AW 23 Jun 07 - 12:20 PM
GUEST,Northerner 23 Jun 07 - 09:42 AM
GUEST,Northerner 23 Jun 07 - 09:36 AM
GUEST,Northerner 23 Jun 07 - 09:31 AM
GUEST,.gargoyle 22 Jun 07 - 08:28 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 22 Jun 07 - 07:16 PM
GUEST,AW 22 Jun 07 - 02:40 PM
M.Ted 22 Jun 07 - 01:36 PM
GUEST,Northerner 22 Jun 07 - 11:45 AM
GUEST,Wendy 21 Jun 07 - 10:44 AM
GUEST,Northerner 21 Jun 07 - 07:15 AM
GUEST,Jim Carroll 20 Jun 07 - 01:43 PM
M.Ted 20 Jun 07 - 12:09 PM
GUEST,Northerner 20 Jun 07 - 09:37 AM
The Fooles Troupe 20 Jun 07 - 06:47 AM
GUEST,Unbiased Listener 20 Jun 07 - 03:17 AM
M.Ted 20 Jun 07 - 02:34 AM
Mike Miller 20 Jun 07 - 12:26 AM
The Fooles Troupe 19 Jun 07 - 10:46 PM
Genie 19 Jun 07 - 10:34 PM
The Fooles Troupe 19 Jun 07 - 09:56 PM
Mike Miller 19 Jun 07 - 08:34 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 19 Jun 07 - 07:49 PM
GUEST,Unbiased Listener 19 Jun 07 - 07:40 PM
GUEST,Unbiased Listener 19 Jun 07 - 07:27 PM
Bert 19 Jun 07 - 02:42 PM
GUEST 19 Jun 07 - 01:56 PM
M.Ted 19 Jun 07 - 12:37 PM
GUEST,Northerner 19 Jun 07 - 07:54 AM
GUEST 19 Jun 07 - 04:43 AM
GUEST,Wayne 18 Jun 07 - 01:22 PM
Mike Miller 18 Jun 07 - 12:16 PM
GUEST,Northerner 18 Jun 07 - 07:15 AM
Jim Lad 18 Jun 07 - 02:49 AM
GUEST 18 Jun 07 - 02:35 AM
GUEST,reggie miles 18 Jun 07 - 01:46 AM
mg 17 Jun 07 - 04:05 AM
M.Ted 17 Jun 07 - 02:08 AM
GUEST,Northerner 16 Jun 07 - 06:30 AM
reggie miles 16 Jun 07 - 02:53 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 15 Jun 07 - 08:30 PM
GUEST,mg 15 Jun 07 - 08:07 PM
M.Ted 15 Jun 07 - 07:53 PM
GUEST,Mr Impressed 15 Jun 07 - 07:22 PM
GUEST,Unbiased listener 15 Jun 07 - 07:15 PM
GUEST,mg 15 Jun 07 - 04:53 PM
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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Northerner
Date: 26 Jun 07 - 10:03 AM

Thank you Foolestroope. I was just pondering that very same thing. It's all the hard graft that is on just now. It's great at the beginning when you have been able to rejoice that you simply got up there and did your piece without falling totally flat on your face. Harder at this stage when the progress feels slower and the club has got used to you and and yet you haven't got up as far yet as you're aiming for. I have a number of workshops/events booked that should push me up a bit further over the next months. Patience, patience, is what is required.

I'm looking forward to my forthcoming storytelling festival. I've got brand-new wellies at the ready for it - yes, it's held in a field. Hurray for Beyond the Border!!!


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 25 Jun 07 - 09:39 AM

On Saturday I went to a 'Hippies on the Hill' thingie (Festival would be a bit strong...)

I haven't played for abouot 6 months, because of the Black Dog chewing at me, but I put Blondie (the 32 bass P/A) in the car, planning to just amuse myself while sitting at a friends stall - it also helps attract people.

Well, it was raining - but they had a large marquee there, with a stage and and a band and a PA, and a MC... so in a fit of madness I wandered up and asked if they wanted any extra musos.,,

To cut a long story short, I was on - a cod performance, totally unprepared... Some applause... well Me & Bobby Mcgee as a final went over well... :-)

The MC afterwards gave me his card and told me to keep in touch for any future events he would be at...

I defintely feel much better now... :-)

Not bragging, but when you can pull off technical things like that without panic (i.e. being able to draw on your capabilities), you must have done the proper hard yards in the past to be able to pluck out 'the goods'...

Just keep at it Northerner, till you get there...

You must do the hard yards - one day you will wonder why you worried that you were no good... :-)


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Northerner
Date: 25 Jun 07 - 09:21 AM

Thank you both. I guess I still have a lot to learn.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: Bert
Date: 23 Jun 07 - 03:18 PM

...It also takes time to learn the art of listening to stories...

Really it's up to the storyteller to hold the audience. You have to tell in such a way that they can't 'not listen'. Catch their attention and talk to THEM.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,AW
Date: 23 Jun 07 - 12:20 PM

Yes, but has anyone ever actually said that they were trying to follow the story but got lost? Or that they wished you'd go a bit slower? or that the ideas were too complex? Or have they just said, in answer to 'did you enjoy it? or some such question 'I don't know - I wasn't listening'. There's a world of difference between being unable to do something and choosing not to do it. And I'm guessing that the secret to engaging people in the first category is exactly the opposite to that of engaging the people in the second group.

I'm not trying to be mean here, but I think you are hoping for too much from the audience and worrying too much about the people who just 'sit back, smile and clap politely' (to quote your own post earlier in the thread). Just tell the stories to the people who look interested and the ones who look 'lost' might enjoy it despite themselves.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Northerner
Date: 23 Jun 07 - 09:42 AM

Thanks M.Ted. What you describe is basically how Sheila Stewart performs. The story is just an aside inserted into a conversation. I'm not sure that it is particularly easy to do - it's just that she makes it look easy. Certainly something to strive for. Of course we have largely lost the more informal settings that storytellers once had. Nowadays we have an MC who is anxiously watching the clock to check that we performers do not exceed our allotted time-slot. It's all a bit rigid.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Northerner
Date: 23 Jun 07 - 09:36 AM

Thanks Gargoye. You're basically talking about telling the story in a way that an audience can relate to. And drawing vivid pictures in people's minds. Yep, I can get that. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Northerner
Date: 23 Jun 07 - 09:31 AM

Hi AW.   People talk to me at a club after a story, and I get an idea of how well a story has been received. It takes a long time to develop as a storyteller so it is not surprising if I am not yet at master level!!! It also takes time to learn the art of listening to stories. And that shouldn't come as a surprise either. How many people could go to an opera or an evening of jazz, say, and really appreciate them when their experience of listening to them is limited/or of short duration? Knowledge of stories tends to increase with experience. I can listen to longer and more complex stories now than when I started four years ago. As one becomes more experienced one starts to recognise the different patterns in the stories that one is hearing. One starts to develop a sense of the larger picture of how stories relate to each other, and not just a sense of the invidual story. I do understand that someone who is unfamiliar with stories may find it difficult to understand the "rules" governing this artform initially.

It's definitely a two-way process. If I feel confident that everyone is with me, then I can stride forward confidently, improving breadth and depth in my storytelling. If I feel someone is a little lost then I have to backtrack a little and work out how to handle that.

Listening to stories is an active activity, not a passive one. Ideally when a story is being told a listener should be forming pictures in their imagination, visualizing it. It is harder than watching a soap-opera on television, say.

Some storytellers are able to remember a story from just one hearing. And be able to retell it. Some of us need more time than that.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 22 Jun 07 - 08:28 PM

Been washing, and brewing, and cooking, and pulling weeds.



It was under the "weed pulling" that your SOLUTION came to across the prairee like a jackalope pronged by a horn-twisted antelope.



You Need a HOOK!!!



Your audience NEEDS A REASON to LISTEN.



It is the "hook" the "lead-in" into the tale - EVERY member of your audience needs to have the experience that "you are talking directly to them, personally, one-on-one."



Think of the lead-in from Radio Drama.



Cremation of Sam Magee - "Think back, for most of you it will be far, far back into filtered fantoms of your mind, the kind of thoughts you hoped you left far, far, far behind....to a promise made....5 years, 10 years, 20 years, 40 years, 60 years.....a paper you you would turn in, 50 cents you forgot to return from the change, a message left undelivered.....dig, dig, dig, deep, I want you to bring up some small , minute trivia, a gas tank left unfilled, a Salvation Army Kettle passed with the promise to return....remember, feel it, Doctor Laura of the Radio would say, 'now go out and do right.' For those who have lived with guilt, Guilt, GUILT.....they KNOW it has a code of its own.....



Etc.



(interrupted) - to logo, no later,



Sincerely,

Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 22 Jun 07 - 07:16 PM

I believe that Guest A.W. and Mr. Ted have pretty well wrapped it up.

StoryTelling is a much finer "art" than being a singer/musician. The singer/musician is bounded by restraints (tune,lyrics, traditions, instrument or accompanyment.)

The "Story Teller" has a much more than a recitation-type-repoirtore-recorded-Cosby-1965-vinyl.

Switch change find a common core....TellyTubbys are OUT (of the closet) with today's eight year olds

You listen, you feel, and you sometimes even make figurative love with the live audience....you can even stop - explain "this ain't goin nowhere for you...and it ain't goin nowhere for me....so let us backtrack a little...you don't know....and its me fault for not telling you....remember Little-Sally-Nicey at the beginning....well she wern't so little,(smaller elephants have been seen in the circus) and she sure weren't nice....(once twenty pairs of cats (for those who can't count that's 40 were rescued tied tale to tale over the powerlines - like you throw wornout sneakers on the last day of school and her given name was Solomon....but after he/her butts was wipped 400 times, and lipstick whiped off her cheeks a thousand times....folks just began referring to Nicey as Sally. Now....hold onto that picture in your minds a few minutes we will return....and see what happens when she meets Pecos Bill's girlfriend."

Look just tell stories - any audience you can find - steps of the courthouse, don't file taxes and ask for a audience with the IRS......there are even practice threads in the MUDCAT.

It is not the audience's fault there is an aerialist overhead, a juggler with fire a six yards away, and the line to the privy is moving slow.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

Worst case scenario - small venue - ask the managment to eject the offenders and take their cover out of your fee.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,AW
Date: 22 Jun 07 - 02:40 PM

Hi Northerner. I'm just curious ... how do you decide that your audience has 'forgotten how to listen'? I don't remember anyone saying 'that was a great story, but I lost the thread/was bored/didn't like it/fell asleep because I've forgotten how to listen', so I'm wondering if there are other clues that you are picking up and I am missing?

I've always sort of assumed that if I make a decent job of singing a song, (or reciting a poem or telling a story) and the piece has something interesting to say and is suitable for the venue, then the audience will find listening quite easy and enjoyable. If they don't, I tend to conclude that there is fault either with my ability or my choice of material (and on many occasions, in my case, both! But that's another story!) It's never occured to me to wonder whether the audience has been the problem, so advice you can give me for clues to watch for would be much appreciated.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: M.Ted
Date: 22 Jun 07 - 01:36 PM

Story telling really isn't about the story. Storytelling is about the relationship between the storyteller and the audience. The best story tellers never let on that they are telling a story, and they never let on that their audience is an audience--


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Northerner
Date: 22 Jun 07 - 11:45 AM

Hi Wendy! No, I haven't dumbed down. I'm just trying to find ways of reaching those in the audience who have more difficulty with it. This could simply be by way of making sure that all my language is very evocative; making sure that I paint very clear pictures, for instance. And also by using clear gestures. And making sure that my telling is well-rehearsed and fluent. The big difficulty comes with adults who have forgotten how to listen, and how to use their imagination. How to spark their imagination, now that's a biggie.

I don't want to come across as a children's entertainer. I am quite an enthusiastic, fun person, who has already gone down well at a school where I did some voluntary work. I brought in props - I was wearing a green and black wig plus a witchy hat for a Halloween telling last year and the children were thrilled. All the signs are that I will do very well indeed with a children's audience, where my sense of fun and my imagination will really be appreciated. Most paid work is with children so this is very encouraging. However, I am a very intelligent person, with a large area of life experience behind me; some sad and some inspiring. I've beaten a rare and serious illness, for instance.   So I should eventually be able to add real depth to my tellings to an adult audience. But it probably takes time for this to come through in the stories. It may be that I have to look at the darker, more sensitive elements within stories when I tell them to an adult audience, and use them as well as the more fun elements that I have been showing more recently. The workshops that I attended this spring, led by Ruth Kirkpatrick may help in this regard, as we looked at existential dilemmas and mood maps.

The story that I am looking at at the moment has quite a dark heart to it, and was obviously intended for an adult audience initially. Even if I am not completely happy with my interpretation of it at present it could be a good choice to take with me to a workshop for further work. I think it would also work well with the addition of either a bodhran or a tin whistle at some stage.

Last night I simply sang a chorus song at one of the folk clubs. It got all the audience with me.

I'm also looking into more residential workshops to help me progress. Application forms for some more came in the post this morning. What complicated applications!! They are for Emerson College. One of my friends has attended the 10/12 week course there and has recommended it. Thought I'd give some of them a try.

Thank you for your interest and your comments.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Wendy
Date: 21 Jun 07 - 10:44 AM

Northerner - Firstly, well done for standing up for your belief that storytelling can be a regular part of a folk club evening It Can be! but you're worrying me slightly. I've always found it best to pitch to the brightest. That way they don't feel patronised and anyone left behind might feel prompted to read up on a subject, or ask questions. Playing to those you feel may be less able or interested will alienate those who are bored by over simplification and if your audience is an adult one I'll bet the newcomers will realise things have been 'dummed down' for their benefit and still feel patronised. Even those you know to be less able or experienced may feel they are your peers and will appreciate bing treated as such. Of course, you can still fit in pieces of information that are unique to you by virtue of your experience in the field, but it is possible to do this as if you're just sharing with like-minded, informed people.
To my mind Jim Carroll has made the most pertinent comments here as there is a world of difference between the traditional tellers (particularly the Irish) and todays generation of childrens entertainers. I guess the best at the job will be able to change character as well as repertoire to do both jobs. Good Luck in your endeavours. You're doing all the right things by attending courses and listening to other people's experiences.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Northerner
Date: 21 Jun 07 - 07:15 AM

Thank you Jim.

I now suspect that the person I mentioned orginally may have some current health issues, so I'll try to deal with this in a sensitive manner.   

I think a good part fo the problem is that modern audiences have forgotten part of the art of listening. So I have to find ways of making this easier for them. And I probably have a mixed audience - those who are struggling to listen to a story, and those who would prefer one that is more challenging.

Your experiences with the Irish storytellers sounds wonderful. I saw a number of them last year up in Edinburgh and was most impressed. Next month I am going to the Beyond the Border Festival down in Wales - I am looking forward to it. I will be seeing some more international storytellers.

I am working on another story. I've seen it performed a couple of times. It does have audience participation (which a folk club audience likes). There is quite a dark theme at the heart of it, so if I tell it in a way which shows its relevance to even modern issues, then it may have more appeal to an adult audience. The story is busy bubbling away inside me. The story does have a happy ending.

Thank you for your understanding.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Jun 07 - 01:43 PM

Northerner,
What is often forgotten is that traditional storytelling in the tradition was an adult activity and it really doesn't matter what the subject is.
MacColl used to tell of the time he and Peggy were recording Scots Travelling women in their home in Beckenham and when they started on ghost stories, the women wouldn't to go the few yards to the toilet on their own, they had so scared themselves with their tales.
We caught some of what must have been the last of the big storytellers here in Ireland and their stories ranged from a few minutes long to, in one case, two hours plus. These were Jack tales, ghost stories, wonder tales, trickster yarns, fairy stories and Fenian yarns.
The thing we noticed with all the tellers is their complete lack of self-conciousness and the ability to suspend their own logic while the story lasted, no matter what the subject.
None of them felt the need to put on funny voices or to use dynamics.
This, I believe, is the secret of good storytelling.   
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: M.Ted
Date: 20 Jun 07 - 12:09 PM

A person is not a "weirdo" because they don't like stories, a person is a "weirdo" because they corner the storyteller after each performance and then run through the same abuse litany of complaints.

I certainly don't mean to impugn anything against you, or the two clubs in question(which seem like wonderful places, really), or the Northern realms in general. My point is simply that there seems to be an individual who is undermining the clubs by harassing performers that he doesn't like.

You may admonish the performer to be less sensitive, but that, to my mind, is patronizing. You are likely to lose GUEST, Northerner, who is determined to perform, but sees no need to suffer slings and arrows.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Northerner
Date: 20 Jun 07 - 09:37 AM

Thank you for your thoughtful comments Jim. I've never seen Willie McPhee. I know Sheila Stewart though. I've seen her perform on a number of occasions. I'm not sure if she'd know my name but she would know my face as I was in her Conyach masterclass last year up in Edinburgh and also sang part of a song to her. She's a lady that I admire greatly.    Yes, there is a danger that some stories can sound twee. That's why I deliberately avoid telling stories with imps, elves and fairies in them to an adult audience - though it never seemed to do J R R Tolkein any harm...

My repertoire will become more adult in tone as I develop both my skills and my repertoire. In the meantime I am open to suggestions for finding/developing any stories for a themed evening or that will support another performer's work at one of the clubs. Storytellers quite often work in conjunction with both singers and musicians at events.

I am not blaming the clubs; the club organisers are very supportive of me. But private inviduals can be very damaging to what happens in a club.

I always loved folk tales alongside folk songs. I assumed that everybody else in a folk club would have that same connection. I assumed wrongly.

It may well be time to finish this thread as I don't see that it will progress contructively much further.   I have more workshops booked and will plod away at it.

Thank you all for your comments.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 20 Jun 07 - 06:47 AM

As I said...

"You first need to fake an external show of confidence.

From there, it's an easy step to fake an external show of sincerity..."

You need to be fairly senitive to be able to work out HOW to do these.... :-)


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Unbiased Listener
Date: 20 Jun 07 - 03:17 AM

MTed
You are so patronising.'What I am telling you is that. as a performer, the jerk that dumps on you makes a strong impression'

After 30+ years of singing and performing I dont need you to tell me that.

As to calling somebody a weirdo just because they dont like stories ........???

You sound more like the d..khead who is the cause of Northerners problems!

Garg is right - develop a hard skin & be prepared to bite back from UNFAIR criticism.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: M.Ted
Date: 20 Jun 07 - 02:34 AM

Unbiased Guest--chill. Nothing against your clubs. What I am telling you is that. as a performer, the jerk that dumps on you makes a strong impression --which is why venues should make an effort to protect their talent from their weirdo contingent--

And, Gargoyle notwithstanding, performers tend to be sensitive about certain things. At some point, people have been known to decide that one or another venue isn't really very much fun , and they walk. I've done it myself.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: Mike Miller
Date: 20 Jun 07 - 12:26 AM

Will someone buy Foolestroupe a sense of humor. Genie was kidding.
Well, wasn't she?


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 19 Jun 07 - 10:46 PM

"I'm afraid to post them here because someone might find fault with them"

That's just the whole point, Genie - "without a show of supreme confidence ... a performer, (is) doomed to failure"

:-)


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: Genie
Date: 19 Jun 07 - 10:34 PM

I have some ideas on how to handle criticism but I'm afraid to post them here because someone might find fault with them.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 19 Jun 07 - 09:56 PM

As Garg says - for being a performer

You first need to fake an external show of confidence.

From there, it's an easy step to fake an external show of sincerity...

then you're made!

:-)


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: Mike Miller
Date: 19 Jun 07 - 08:34 PM

The gargoyle is correct in one regard. A performer without a show of supreme confidense is a performer, doomed to failure. I was asked by a young, talented student if I thought he could make it as a professional folksinger. I told him that I doubted it and, when he asked why, I said "Because you asked." You can't doubt yourself or your talent because if you do, the audience will doubt you, too.

                        Mike


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 19 Jun 07 - 07:49 PM

Look kid I don't beleive You Have IT!!

You are too self-conscious.

You are too intro-spective.

You are too in-secure.

For a performer (STORY-TELLER) the only feedback you require ... is from your audience.

change


MORPH


CONFUSE!

Do it over and over and over again Thirty times a week for 50 weeks a year for ten-years

You will develope the non-chalant hide of a rinosaurous, the witty-ironic teeth of an aligotor, and the guile of an unsavory politician.

Keep at it...you might get there.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Unbiased Listener
Date: 19 Jun 07 - 07:40 PM

Sorry to 'rant' but one thing I must add.

One of the venues Northerner attends regularly puts on concerts featuring Vin Garbutt.
Ever heard / seen him?
Local lad - might tell a story or two - you never know !!


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Unbiased Listener
Date: 19 Jun 07 - 07:27 PM

MTed
And, Unbiased Listener, you should understand that, though a hundred may quietly approve, the one who vocally disapproves is the one who sets the tone for your venue.

I have not commented on her ability or the club in question.
But I take offence at YOUR patronising attitude towards me!
I take it you have not heard her story telling?
I have, many times!
I have not and will not comment on her performance. I have supported her in the clubs we are talking about!
Unless you are a regular member of the audience I do not see how you can comment on the 'tone' of the club. She is always listened to with no distractions and if some $%@t afterwards makes a private comment that does not mean the whole club should be condemned.
As was said by Guest 4:43 (NOT me) the two clubs are long established & respected ones and would continue without my, Northerners or your attendance. They are bigger than individuals.
Try keeping to the thread in future.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: Bert
Date: 19 Jun 07 - 02:42 PM

Regarding the line between a story and a song.

One time I had this idea for a song and no matter how hard I tried to write it, every time I added rhyme or rhythm to it, it sounded trite and contrived.

So I just gave up and told it as a story. A couple of weeks later someone came up to me and asked me about THAT SONG about the red rose.

Just goes to show ya!!!


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Jun 07 - 01:56 PM

Some of the best nights I ever spent at a club were the ones where you had a mix of singing and storytelling - particularly with guests like the Stewarts of Blair or Willie McFee. Some of the feature evenings around a theme worked superbly, with a thoughtful mix of song, story and poetry - 'Battle of the Sexes' 'Crime and Criminals' etc.
Having said this, traditional storytelling needs to be thought about - it can, and often is, extremely 'twee'. This is why, initially on this thread, I was pleased that somebody was thinking enough about it to actually comment on it.
Jim Carroll
PS Re. the narrative nature of song; here in the West of Ireland, some older singers used to talk about "telling" rather than singing a song.
    Please note that anonymous posting is no longer allowed at Mudcat. Use a consistent name [in the 'from' box] when you post, or your messages risk being deleted.
    Thanks.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: M.Ted
Date: 19 Jun 07 - 12:37 PM

I don't wonder at your hesitation at all, Northerner. As a performer, you must be sensitive to your audience, and it makes you vulnerable to those who make a point of discouraging any artist whose work is not to their taste--

And, Unbiased Listener, you should understand that, though a hundred may quietly approve, the one who vocally disapproves is the one who sets the tone for your venue.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Northerner
Date: 19 Jun 07 - 07:54 AM

Thank you Mike.

Yes, I'd say we do have a divide in some of our clubs, between song and spoken word. I do in fact try to personalise and/or localize some of my stories, where appropriate, so that they are more relevant for audiences. It's a sad fact that in England the art of storytelling had largely died out before a revival started to take place 10/20 years ago. I am extremely fortunate that I had a period of my life when I was a regular at a club with one of the storytellers from the oral tradition, so my experience is different from probably many of the other performers at the clubs in this area.

One of the performers at the local clubs told me that there was no place for spoken word at a folk club. This person is a relative newcomer, but it does indeed show that we have a task of education before us. We cannot assume that all newcomers will understand the fuller implications of the folk tradition. An old-fashioned ceilidh, what we often strive to emulate during singarounds, would have had not only songs and music, but also people reciting monologues, favourite poems, even their own poems, jokes, riddles, and of course the occasional story.   It would have been much more diverse than what is emerging as the modern folk club. What I find exhilerating about the Traveller performers is the ease with which they go between the different artforms. They just don't seem to have these divides.

Guest/Unbaised Listener, yes, these are both excellent clubs. Most people are very welcoming to me. We do, however, have a few individuals who have, shall I say this carefully? little tact in their handling of other performances. I make very little criticism of other performers and try to be positive of their performances.

I am not a novice now, but I am still a learner. It takes several years to be a really good storyteller - what you would also expect of a singer or a musician. We don't become good overnight. I am sorry if a particular performance doesn't always hit the mark, but I learn from every performance. All I ask for is a little bit more forbearance while I learn and improve. I would try to give that to another performer.

I am in the middle of arranging more workshops for myself. I have stories that I practically bled over during masterclasses earlier in the year, and which were praised highly by top, highly experienced storytellers. In them I had integrated song and music with my stories. But can you wonder if I am hesitant about doing them at a folk club?


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Jun 07 - 04:43 AM

Can I just defend the clubs we're talking about please, with no judgement on either Northerner or the other people who have contributed to this thread, but rather just as an impartial observer to the picture that is being portrayed.

The clubs in question are two of the most respected, well run and knowledgeable clubs in the North of England. Ballads (the traditional variety e.g. Child, border etc) are often sung and always well received. Poetry is a frequent and welcome addition to many evenings and there are also members who have put historical poems to music and others who perform recitations. Whilst many of the tips offered here are well meant, and very useful in other settings, I believe these clubs have audiences who generally have a mature outlook and a broad knowledge of the many manifestations of what may be loosely termed 'folk' - definately not 'chorus only' clubs or ones with members who need to be taught to listen.

I do not wish to criticise 'Northerner' or make a judgement on her choice of material and presentation style, but I would hate to think that a false impression of these clubs was gleaned from the postings. Please don't be put off from visiting us. Any meaningful item, however obscure/long/complex is likely to be well received if offered honestly in the spirit of sharing with peers. Unbiased Listener.
    Please note that anonymous posting is no longer allowed at Mudcat. Use a consistent name [in the 'from' box] when you post, or your messages risk being deleted.
    Thanks.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Wayne
Date: 18 Jun 07 - 01:22 PM

So often a "don't bore us, get to the chorus" mentality seems to pervade. Classic ballads get short shrift from many audiences however powerfully they're sung.

In this respect, storytelling might be an important tool in re-educating people in the art of listening (people bing generally less able to natter during a spoken word piece)>


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: Mike Miller
Date: 18 Jun 07 - 12:16 PM

I would like to reply to those who see a sharp divide between song and story. Song and spoken word have been integral in entertainment since, ay least, as far back as Greek theater. Shakespeare's plays include many musical interludes. Poets, in my time, were accompanied by jazz combos. In my youth, I had a job as a guitarist, playing for Beat poets in a coffeehouse. Is "Alice's Restaurant" a song with a story or a story with a song?
Northerner's problem, I believe, is that the modern "folk" audience is used to songs and blanches at the thought of stories. The trick, with these people, is to not announce that you are about to tell a story. Hold on to an instrument (You might, even, want to strum it now and then but that is not, strictly, neccesary) and, if you really want to grab their attention, tell the story as if it happened to you or to someone you know. That is called personalizing.
If it is a story from long ago (and if you can't change it to fit you or a friend), localize it with place names, something your listeners can identify with. I tell tales about my family, back in the shtet'l, not all of which, are true. OK, none of which are true.
Once, I was doing a show at a Jewish senior facility, telling very entertaining lies about my grandparents, when I spotted my aunt and uncle in the audience. They never gave me away and, in fact, they were laughing as hard as anyone.

                            Mike


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Northerner
Date: 18 Jun 07 - 07:15 AM

"Some folks are entertained by listening to somebody beating a drum" - I don't blame them. I'm in a drumming circle myself. It's great to see the enthusiasm of some of musicians from other countries. They seem so much less inhibited than Britons - sometimes they get up and dance spontaneously. They are so more connected with their roots than we are.

Well, I've enrolled for some more storytelling workshops. Looks like the best way for me to learn is by going to as many workshops as possible, particularly residential ones. One of them in the autumn is a 17-day one to celebrate Halloween. That should bring me on a bit... Hopefully these will not only improve my performing skills but also build up my confidence so that I become more resilient to criticism.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 18 Jun 07 - 02:49 AM

Nicely done, Jim.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Jun 07 - 02:35 AM

For the record,
In my opinion Reggie Miles is right, The English language tradition tends to be narrative - not just the ballads. During our work as collectors, singer after singer has told us that the most important thing about a song is its story and that the tune is a vehicle for that story and should be adapted to fit the words, not the other way round. Many have also emphasised that the songs should be sung so that, as near as possible, "the words should be pronounced as they would be spoken".
Nice quote from the jazz film 'Round Midnight' sums it up for me when the older musician asks the young one "Your notes are fine, but where's your story"?
Entertainment, while being an important aspect of singing, is by no means the only one. Singers have made, and have adapted existing songs to record events in their lives and to make statements about themselves and their communities. In the cases where the communities are under threat (eg Travellers), often the songs become an affirmation of those communities.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,reggie miles
Date: 18 Jun 07 - 01:46 AM

Entertainment is entertainment. You're either entertained by the method or style of a performer or you're not. As an entertainer you can please part of the people some of the time and some of the people part of the time, but you can't please some of them at all and you certainly can't please them all. That's just the way it is.

Some songs start out as just words, before they ever get joined with a tune. It may be a story, a poem, a rhyme, a thought, an idea, a question, a statement, a plea, a moan, a joke, a feeling, someone's pain, hurt, joy, tears, insanity, morality, cruelty, fantasy, ideology, spirituality…

Do we need tunes to express ourselves as entertainers? Nope. Tunes can help some of the messages we present become more palatable to listeners. We can dress our messages in many ways via music.

Does having musical accompaniment make our messages any more valid? Well, perhaps to those who feel strongly about tying messages to melodies, but again, not everyone agrees that this union is necessary to impart a message, thought, feeling, moan, angst, etc in the realm of entertainment.

There are many methods beyond music with which to present our messages, including this method we're using here, blogs, papers, letters, bumper stickers, fortune cookies, magazines, tv, radio, horoscopes, podcasts, newscasts, poetry slams, sitcoms, dramas, soaps, plays, stand up, improv, books, chat rooms, phone calls, IMs, PMs, emails, group therapy, infomercials, and yes, even stories. All of these methods and more are constantly being used every moment of every day to entertain and inform us. Music can also be a part of many of these mediums but the choice of whether to add it and to what extent is up to each individual entertainer, just as it's the choice of each listener to find what it is that is most pleasing to their ears.

Some folks are entertained by listening to somebody beating a drum. No words are needed, just rhythm. Some folks are in love with drama and the complexities of human emotion played out in a serious format. Some folks can't get enough comedy in any form. Some go gaga over the antics of world championship wrestling. Others won't be happy until they've slaughtered their neighbors and left their corpses to rot.

The choices that some folks make in this life are perplexing to me. How or why some can justify treating others with such cruelty and heartlessness is beyond me. They knowingly act out thoughtless and hurtful behavior toward others and then feign ignorance of their misdeeds while they celebrate their pointless petty victories. It is because these poor examples of humanity exist that our world is torn asunder by war and strife. They revel in the creation of this torment.

Is it any wonder why so many folks need to be entertained? To forget, if even for a moment, about the state of things today is such a release as to be worth the price of the ticket. Entertainment is an escape from the reality of life on the planet. As entertainers we sing, recite, rap, and speak in an endless procession of emotions, passionately, sweetly, angrily… to meet the needs of those listening and for our own sanity.

Can't we all just get along and be nice to one another? Sadly, I think not. Well, I guess that's just more job security for those folks who entertain. That'll be ten bucks in advance and fifteen at the door.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: mg
Date: 17 Jun 07 - 04:05 AM

folksongs have tunes. It's not a fine line..it is a quantum leap.   mg


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: M.Ted
Date: 17 Jun 07 - 02:08 AM

As Reggie Miles so compellingly points out, the line between story telling and singing folksongs is fine to nonexistant. Narrative ballads are stories, the jokes we tell between songs, the intros, the slightly exaggerated account of how we got lost on the way to the gig--all stories. As long as I can remember, a big part of every "folk/traditional music" performance consisted of storytelling, whether labelled as such, or not.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Northerner
Date: 16 Jun 07 - 06:30 AM

It's not all bad news. I've been well received up in Edinburgh, where I am going occasionally for workshops. The music pubs there have been really welcoming. I have played along with gentle percussion in a couple of them and was invited to tell a story in another. The one where I told a story was a fabulous experience - I was recognised and invited to tell a story. The audience were really attentive - they hung on every word - they were so longing to hear a story! Playing along quietly with an experienced ceilidh band, so polite and mature, was wonderful too. Well done Edinburgh!!!


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: reggie miles
Date: 16 Jun 07 - 02:53 AM

mg, are you aware that Utah has had some trouble with one of his hands and it's affected his ability to play guitar? The last time I saw him perform he still offered some songs, but without his guitar accompaniment. I heard he was going to get it operated on. That's been a couple of years ago. Perhaps you caught one of his performances when he was unable to play.

With regard to your comments about advertising properly the type or approach of a given performer's show, like songster or storyteller or some combination of the two, perhaps one could counter that in the hurried pace of our modern lives if we hope to spend our hard earned dollars wisely, we should all take more time to ask questions before opening our wallets.

Before I had ever heard Utah play I had some idea about what I was in for when I went to see his show. I had a close friend who was a fan of Utah and he let me in on what I was in for beforehand.

Our shows will all change as we grow as performance artists. What I sounded like ten years ago or even three years ago is similar but not the same as I sound today. I've incorporated many more ideas in my performances.

My playing has changed but so have other aspects of what I do when I'm entertaining. I've added many story-like attributes to my song introductions. Now, I enjoy some of the introductions more than the songs themselves. I've written story-like portions of songs that appear in the middle of a song and are spoken, not sung. I've also written story-like parts that I've added at the end of some of my songs. Many of my songs are more like stories with guitar accompaniment. I don't sing them as much as recite them. This idea is actually a very old one that I've enjoyed revamping in my own way.

I can recall trying to work in a band format years ago where the other members backing me in the combo didn't understand my interest in talking to the audience before a particular song. So, as I began to introduce it in this way the two other guys in the band stood around behind me, lit up a smoke and flirted with the female bass player that I had invited that evening.

During our break it occurred to me that perhaps their lack of focus wasn't as much their fault as my lack of directing them as to how to follow along on that part of the song that had no music or singing. They knew how to play along as I played and sang but didn't know what to do when I wasn't. The song was a spooky minor keyed double entendre about vampires. So, the next time we had the pleasure of playing it together I asked the others to try make some spooky sounds during my intro. It worked like a charm and transformed the song in a magical way. That opened my eyes.

I had already been a fan of good storytellers before I had the chance to hear Utah. I think he does a fabulous job of mixing stories and songs. Many songs are simply stories cloaked in melodies. I think that there are a lot of songs that can stand on their own without the accompaniment of instrumentation.


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 15 Jun 07 - 08:30 PM

dead right mg..

me & my mrs celebrated our wedding aniversary in a small victorian seaside town..

found a proper old fashioned woody kinda pub that served proper cider..

saw a poster advertisin "Folk Night" later that evening..

went out for a meal in a more modern pub

which on the same night was holding an 'acoustic night'

young local btec performance arts kids mainly doing grunge favourites
in an acoustic stylee..

So in the west country local public transport is non existant shite service..

last bus was befor 8 pm..

thought F@ck it.. its our anniversary...

theres a proper old victorian pub that serves real cider on draught
with a folk club tonoght..

f@ck it.. we'll go there and book an expensive taxi back home..


so went to 'traditional' pub folk night..

DISASTER ALERT !!!

there was one good old fella with a violin who managed to sneak in
the odd folk trad song

but mostly it was middle aged middle class twats in white shirts
with expensive acoustic guitars
poncifying away doing beatles songs..


so b@llocks.. i got cidered up..

and complained about hte lack of advertised 'folk music'

next morning i woke up with vague memory of being barred from thagt pub...


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 15 Jun 07 - 08:07 PM

Well, I don't think it is bad to be judgemental, in a consumer way, when you are pressed for time and have very limited social outings, which is probably what most people these days are up against. If it is primarily a social club where you might hear jokes, might watch jugglers, might hear a few tunes, and might hear a few stories, great..but it might be more like going to a hockey match when you had your mind set on croquet..or going to a hockey match when you really wanted to go to a quilting bee...just advertise what you are going to offer, and if it is everything, great..the omniists will show up at your door. It is more along limited lines, say that too and people won't be either disappointed or they can decide if that is worth putting their snowsuit on for. mg


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: M.Ted
Date: 15 Jun 07 - 07:53 PM

After reading some of the comments here, I would be very hesitant to perform anything in any of the clubs mentioned or alluded to here. Judgementalism seems to abound, with malice and antipathy not far underneath.   Is there any wonder that folk clubs are dying off?


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Mr Impressed
Date: 15 Jun 07 - 07:22 PM

wow.. Northerner sounds so multi-talented..

if she/he can also cook up a decent veggie curry
and do face painting..

crikey.. a one person folk festival !!!!!!!!

.. and an inflatible castle would be an added bonus..!!!


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,Unbiased listener
Date: 15 Jun 07 - 07:15 PM

Northener :-

from me ........ 'He is certainly NOT the club founder'

My apologies both to you and to him.

The person you are referring to IS the founder of that club.

I was assuming the wrong club as that is where I see you most often.

Again, I apologise :-(


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Subject: RE: How to handle criticism?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 15 Jun 07 - 04:53 PM

I know I personally was so disappointed when I went to a Utah Phillips performance..I love his songs but all he did was talk it seemed...I would have liked to have had that information in advance because I wouldn't have been waiting so much for him to sing..and frankly I might not have gone...and I am sure he is among the finest of the fine storytellers..I am just not fond of stories...but if I know in advance I can reset my brain perhaps...mg


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