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Performance Ability does it matter?

MBSGeorge 06 Mar 09 - 06:10 AM
The Sandman 06 Mar 09 - 06:29 AM
GUEST,.gargoyle 06 Mar 09 - 06:35 AM
Banjiman 06 Mar 09 - 06:53 AM
TheSnail 06 Mar 09 - 07:06 AM
GUEST,Moses 06 Mar 09 - 07:08 AM
The Borchester Echo 06 Mar 09 - 07:13 AM
GUEST,Golightly 06 Mar 09 - 07:15 AM
theleveller 06 Mar 09 - 07:16 AM
Bobert 06 Mar 09 - 07:16 AM
Ron Davies 06 Mar 09 - 07:18 AM
The Sandman 06 Mar 09 - 07:21 AM
Hamish 06 Mar 09 - 07:27 AM
The Borchester Echo 06 Mar 09 - 07:27 AM
Tim Leaning 06 Mar 09 - 07:37 AM
Banjiman 06 Mar 09 - 07:50 AM
Georgiansilver 06 Mar 09 - 07:50 AM
BobKnight 06 Mar 09 - 07:52 AM
Gedi 06 Mar 09 - 07:52 AM
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My guru always said 06 Mar 09 - 08:33 AM
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Phil Williams 11 Mar 09 - 05:18 AM
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Don(Wyziwyg)T 11 Mar 09 - 06:55 AM
TheSnail 11 Mar 09 - 08:02 AM
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Sleepy Rosie 12 Mar 09 - 06:53 AM
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Subject: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: MBSGeorge
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 06:10 AM

Should a person's ability be paramount when performing?

I think not.

If someone wants to sing/play/recite - good on them. It takes guts to get up and perform and is even more nerve wracking if you are inexperienced.

The whole point of a singaround/music session is so that people can have a go and no one should be excuded because of their level of ability.

G


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 06:29 AM

ye.,
but that does not mean,that those with lesser abilty should not perform ,abilty is important, but so is practice,with practice it is possible to improve performance.
most professional performers were not so good when they first started they need encouragement and the opportunity to learn stage craft and performing skills,but with practice they improved.
so performance ability does matter,it is important for all perfrormers to have goals,levels to aim at etc,but all performers need to practise .with practice comes improvement .
attending workshops is a good idea too .


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 06:35 AM

It is better (before an audience) to perform an "easy" selection flawlessly, and with spirit....than to perform a difficult piece with errors....

Every "non-musician" can (and will) quickly point out your mistakes.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Banjiman
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 06:53 AM

Yes,

It matters if there is a paying audience who want entertaining

.... and No, it doesn't matter at a singaround, everyone should be encouraged to have a go and I will applaud them for doing so.

Paul


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:06 AM

Does it matter to you?


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Moses
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:08 AM

I couldn't have said it better myself, Banjiman, but I also agree that everyone should have goals to strive for and practice in front of an audience should help achieve better performances.

Christine


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:13 AM

Yes, obviously.

This is particularly the case when it's a public performance before a paying public but a session or singaround is a semi-public environment where a non-participative audience may be present and become thus negatively influenced by a sub-standard presentation of traditional music.

I do not perform in public myself these days and many might screech that this topic is not my business. I disagree. Just regard me as representative of the punter forced on too many occasions to endure ill-rehearsed and toe-curlingly bad floor spots when newcomers I have attempted to introduce are filled with incredulity and vow to run a mile at any future mention of the dreaded "f*lk".

To be clear, the reasons why I rarely participate in performance are twofold: firstly I felt I was merely adequate, barely competent. What was in my head failed (despite a clutch of grade certificates) to transfer to my fingers. I remained a classical violinist and choral singer. Secondly, I had become a music and considered it unethical to continue to play out when I hadn't time to practice enough anyway.

I know all too well (and have said it on innumerable occasions) that practice and more practice is paramount. And the place for this is well away from the public eye and ear. The music and especially other musicians trying to eke a living from it deserve that respect.This is our cultural heritage.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Golightly
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:15 AM

Performance is a two way process. You are only performing if you have an audience, and I'd argue that both the performer and the listener should be enjoying the experience. Inexperienced performers are often singing/playing well known material, so the way it's presented can actually be of more interest to the audience than the material itself.
I can't comment on singarounds because they have a different ethos and, as a non-performer, I don't really enjoy them for the above reason.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: theleveller
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:16 AM

Oh dear, are we about to have the perennial "good enough for folk" debate again?


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Bobert
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:16 AM

Depends on where one is playin'... And if they are being paid...

The way it works around here is that less experienced musicans start by playin' at "open mics"... The open mic gives them an opportunity to see how well they are recieved... And things go from there... Or don't...

I guess that it does come down to "ability"... The root word being "able"...

B~


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:18 AM

In singarounds, mistakes go with the territory, and nobody should criticize the performer--in fact, as noted earlier, they should applaud the guts it takes to perform--- unless the "performer" is just singing out of a book.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:21 AM

in general I agree with you Diane,but with a reservation ,to some extent actually doing it is part of the learning process,particularly performing ,practice at home is necessary ,as is preparing for performing[alexander technique ].
but so much can be learned when on stage,there is nothing to beat learning how to perform by actually having a go,it is similar to acting in this respect.
of course it is necessary to know ones lines or the song,but interpretation ,is often spontanteous ,and stage craft can be learned on the hoof,that is about interacting with people,and there is no better way to interact than in the flesh.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Hamish
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:27 AM

Why does money make all the difference? Seems to me money's been causing a deal of mischief recently. Even if there's no door or cover charge, others present have still invested time to get there, to be there and probably some expense, too.

"The whole point of a singaround/music session is so that people can have a go and no one should be excuded because of their level of ability" is, for me, a dangerous principle giving licence to wasting four, five or more minutes of several other people's time. They might well choose to stay at home next time. They can always switch the telly off or try another channel; read a different book; mend that cupboard door or whatever. Wash their hair, even.

Of course people with limited ability should be encouraged and helped. But that does not excuse wanton or deliberate lack of preparation.

--
Hamish - sorry, having a bad day! ;-)


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:27 AM

That was supposed to say a "music writer. Just as one of these ought to attain a level of accuracy in setting down scribblings from the head, so should the aspiring musician be at least note-accurate before venturing from the bedroom.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:37 AM

Well if you want to be a music be one.
I want to be a musician but until the hole in my backside heals up that aint gonna happen,so I will continue to inflict myself on the public now and then,hoping of course not to drive anyone away from anything at all.
You know the general public do seem to be a lot more tolerant of us wailing guitar stranglers than some of the folks on here would seem to believe.
I suspect it is horses for courses.
I have even enjoyed hearing a banjo for craps sake.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Banjiman
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:50 AM

"I have even enjoyed hearing a banjo for craps sake. "

I'll take this as a vote of confidence then!

Tim, your stuff is beautiful.... and you know it!

Paul


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:50 AM

Tim... stop being so modest. You and your lady wife make some darned fine noises and have had many of us entertained. I would be happy to buy your CD (if you make one) You are a good songwriter and performer.... so please stop putting yourself down.
In the days when Folk music was a man thing mainly after he had worked the fields and the harvest was done .... copious amounts of ale were partaken of and ALL present were expected to sing... even those who were tone deaf... it was the done thing. (It did also happen at sea of course but more controlled)
I agree that 'anyone' should be encouraged at singarounds no matter how good or bad.... but only given paid work if up to scratch... almost word and note perfect.
I do note that there are those who believe that if you can't sing you should shut up!!! I guess they are those who consider themselves better than the average..... best of luck to you.. if you want an exclusive club.. start one of your own.
Best wishes, Mike.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: BobKnight
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:52 AM

Perform to the best of your ability. Sometimes I get the feeling that people come along to a sing-along with a "that'll do," attitude. In other words, they've sung or played it through a couple of times, and "that'll do." Sorry, but it doesn't. If you're going to perform in public, always prepare your material and do the best you can. Having to listen to someone fumble and bumble their way through a piece of music with constant hesitations, wrong notes, and re-starts, is not pleasant for the listener and does nothing for the confidence or reputation of the performer. Do your rehearsing at home - not in front of an audience.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Gedi
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:52 AM

I have a terrible feeling of deja vu coming on......


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Acorn4
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 07:53 AM

I think the old can of worms has been opened here!

If someone is of not too good a standard, they can still perform with character and involve the audience; as long as they do this they'll be fine. Facial expressions and a degree of animation can do an awful lot.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: My guru always said
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 08:33 AM

I agree with many statements here, especially Captain Birdseye & Hawkerladdie in that 'performers' do need to rehearse at home and should strive to improve their performance, as Moses mentioned also.

Stagecraft can only be learned 'on the hoof' so obviously people need to prove themselves in the sings/sessions & clubs before being given the opportunity to try. Last weekend was my first real attempt with monitor & microphone on stage & boy, did I learn a lot!!! Am looking forward to the next attempt where hopefully I'll be able to improve my stagecraft!


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 08:33 AM

I was being realistic re my own performance.
and greatful for your kind ears.
I do believe there is a huge difference between the standard you need to play for pay and what I do which is playing to freinds.
I seem to have great knack for saying the wrong thing just lately.
So will point out that I dont mean that as any disrespect to my freinds,but I would'nt want them to pay to hear me and in the situations I am comfortable to play in there are loads of others who contribute.
Sometimes there are top performers there and more often its just great to hear the ones who dont sing or play too well but they bring a lot of love of their music to let me enjoy and I bloody well do.
There are thousands of us and we should be proud of what we can do not down on ourselves or others because we dont fall into the category of genius.
Mike should sing and Paul should get an instrument.
( This last is a joke he plays the Banjo very well and I love to hear him(and his better half).
Last weeek I sat in a club in Scunthorpe and listened to a very varied set of musicians playing.
BWM was there and he is a very acomplished singer guitarist and performer, twenty people in the room and I enjoyed every minute.
Sitting in a bar in Loftus last November I was sitting near a very odd looking guy who borrowed a guitar and gave a performance you wouldnt believe.
Vin Garbut audience about 20.
Brilliant breathtaking stuff.
But he asked me about my songs unbelievable.
I am not name dropping
Just a lucky bloke to meet all of you that I have.
And to know the value of having you to listen to and listen to me.
We all need to start somewhere


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 10:23 AM

Of course it does. Better is better. But that does not mean that the less good are not allowed.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: MMario
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 10:44 AM

There are pros who are not technically as skilled in the playing and/or singing of music as many amatuers but who transcend that aspect. So there are cases where the performance ability is not *the* most important matter.

Then there are others who despite the sheer astounding ability in their performance of the music just don't cut it.

'Tis a puzzlement.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Bill D
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 11:57 AM

The late Bruce Olson, who posted here for several years, was one of the true scholars of folk music...especially the older stuff. (his website is part of the links up top). Bruce simply could not sing. He attended many sings and suggested and asked for songs, and often provided esoteric & valuable information on them....but he KNEW he was unable to do a credible job of presenting a song by himself. (I heard him on several occasions try to at least give a indication of what the song sounded like...it was not too successful).

But Bruce taught himself musical notation and learned to make ABC files, and did an immense amount to make words & music available to others. He hated that he was unable to sing in a way that would make the experience 'pleasant' for others. He even bought a lap dulcimer in hopes that he could match his voice to the notes, but with little success.

I also have met several folks who were ummmmm... not as good as Bruce... but who regularly attempted to 'do' songs, usually out of a book and with little timing OR melody.

I do not say anything TO them, but I can tell you which attitude I prefer.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 12:17 PM

Each person has their own level of natural ability.
And in a free (or 'good as free/cost of a pint') sociable evening, I believe there is a completely valid place for those with a lower level of natural ability. And some people, perhaps the very elderly in particular, will have limitations on what they are capable of achieving.

If I were paying to see a performance, I'd expect a good standard as 'default'.

If I were given an evenings worth of free rough homebrew at a little gathering of friends, that'd be a great evening!
If I'd payed a tenner for what I thought would be a great bottle of wine and it tasted like vinegar, I'd be badly pee'd off!


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: John P
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 12:19 PM

Why would anyone WANT to do a bad job in front of others? I believe in practicing at home, and trying the material out at home in front of friends.

I also find that a lot of musicians seem to lack the self-critical facility. I don't know what the answer is for them; they don't act like they can tell the difference between good and bad.

I get a bit tired of folky communities supporting each others' musicianship by being complimentary no matter what. How is that doing a service to the aspiring musician?

I like getting together with beginners and showing them things, making suggestions, seeing what they have in the way of raw material. I know that older musicians helped me a lot -- usually by being very honest -- when I was fresh and new and not very good.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: kendall
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 12:32 PM

Why would anyone want to do a bad job in front of...good question. I've seen a few examples of this over the course of my long checkered life, and the only answer I can come up with it, they are not aware of just how awful they are.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 12:36 PM

If you've got the chops to stand(or sit)and play/sing, then all power to you.

Full speed ahead and the critics be damned!


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Bill D
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 12:39 PM

", ...I believe there is a completely valid place for those with a lower level of natural ability."

*grin*...*I* have that. But I 'can' do a credible job on some things, and if I practice, I can pass in social situations just fine...though you'd never pay to hear me.
There's quite a difference between "... a lower level..." and rock-bottom. It is often difficult to tell whether someone like Bruce O. could have been helped with lessons, but we'll never know about HIM.
I do know several who have made serious improvement over several years...they KNEW they needed help, and they got it...and they practiced.
It's a fuzzy line to draw in deciding whether you should or should not sing & play in front of others, but while the gray areas are hard to define, we all recognize the extremes.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 12:43 PM

Depends if you want your music (whatever music) to survive - if you don't, no, it doesn't matter - who gives a toss about badly performed music?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 12:57 PM

There's a young chap who floats about doing floor spots. He plays a variety of instruments which he tunes lengthily and carefully till absolutely in tune. He plays the intro and is really rather good. Then he starts singing the verse in a wholly unrelated key, indeed he wanders through several.

His "critics" who recognise him don't wait around to be "damned" but are full speed ahead out of the door to the bar during his protracted tuning. Yes, someone should have the courage to have a word with him. Not me, I'm first out of the door.

Jim's absolutely right about striving for perfection in performance being inextricably linked with the music's survival. And it's organisers who need to be cruel to be kind in exercises a far higher level of quality control.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 01:06 PM

I've made my point, and not once, but twice, it's been underlined, well done!


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 01:13 PM

What sets my teeth on edge is the person who comes into a song circle (singaround) lugging a stack of books, and when his turn comes up, says, "I just found this song this afternoon, and I don't know the words yet and I'm not sure of the tune, but here goes. . . ." and then spends a few minutes flipping pages trying to find the song because he's lost his bookmark.

You think I exaggerated? I've seen it happen. More than once. And not always by the same person.

I'm all in favor of the person just starting out who only knows two songs so far and wants to try them out, but before he or she does try to sing them for others, they should have the words memorized and know the tune well enough to at least give it a reasonable facsimile. More power to them! Even if they screw it up, they should be encouraged to keep plugging away. Hell, I was there once myself!

However, if you have aspirations of getting up on stage and singing for an audience that has paid to hear you, you'd jolly well better have some performance ability.

Don Firth

P. S. The person who has the slap-dash attitude that, "I don't have to be able to sing well. I sing folk songs!" is someone who needs to be summarily strangled.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 01:19 PM

Performance is performance: singing is singing. Maybe folks should worry less about performing and just sing.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 01:44 PM

Good point Dick, unfortunately there are folks who simply don't know the difference.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Marje
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 02:15 PM

It's true that not all singing is "performance", but if the singing is a solo during which other people are expected to sit and listen atttentively for several minutes, doesn't that make it a performance?

If I "just sing", as I may do in the car or in the shower, it's not a performance because no one else is listening, so it doesn't matter if sing in a key that's too high, or forget the words and sing a lot of rubbish instead.

But if I sing at a singaround, and other people are listening to me, it's a performance, albeit an informal and small-scale one. I owe it to the other people there to present the song as well as I can. If I were to go into a singaround with the attitude that it didn't really matter what my song sounded like or whether anyone enjoyed it, this would be disrespectful and thoughtless to the others who were there.

As Hamish says, even people who haven't paid an entry fee will have set aside their time and probably incurred expenses for travel and refreshments. They have come out hoping for a good evening, and they deserve not to be bored or embarrassed. The least a singer can do is to choose and prepare their song carefully, and sing it as if every note, every word matters. Otherwise we'd all be better staying in to watch TV.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 02:28 PM

You know the general public do seem to be a lot more tolerant of us wailing guitar stranglers than some of the folks on here would seem to believe.

Actually I don't know that.

I think it contributes to the poor public image the music has.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 02:36 PM

Exactly so, Marje!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 02:43 PM

I'm intrigued as to what prompted the original post, as it sounds a bit on the defensive side. And I'd disagree that it's less nerve-wracking when you're more experienced. It's scary in a different way when you're more experienced, especially if you're the booked guest, because much more is expected from you and you'll have high standards for your own delivery too.
People have made some good points already, but I'd say the paramount thing, whether in a singaround or in a formal performance setting, is that you're choosing to sing to other people and therefore you need to pay due respect to that. It's not the same as singing to your bathroom mirror, or humming along to a recording, or even singing in your car and you can only learn performance technique by singing to an audience - but I hate the "good enough for folk" phrase, whether for tuning or performing, and I suspect a lot of other people do too.
So I suppose what I'm fumbling my way to saying is that there's the question of learning the song or the tune and its accompaniment (if it has one) on the one side and then there's performance technique on the other. As long as you've learnt the song and all that goes with it for a singaround (or you know the audience is tolerant enough to cope with bits of paper or songbooks) then you probably don't need to worry overmuch about performance technique until and unless you're the star turn. But if you're taking yourself and your music seriously then you need to keep cranking it all up a notch or two. You won't stop being nervous - I think that when I stop being nervous it'll probably be time for me to bow out gracefully, because it will mean I've stopped worrying about my audience.

Anne


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 02:44 PM

The title of this thread rang alarm bells. So you'll excuse me if I decline to comment.
(no I haven't read the other posts!)


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: skipy
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 03:11 PM

Trust me! It matters! If you suffer "flashbacks" of how bad you where months or even years after you have sung, it just makes you want to crawl under a rock & die!
Skipy


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 03:12 PM

If you are charging money, yes, yes, yes! If not, then it depends.

If you want to work playing music you better have some.

Does it matter if there is a good performance from a field recording of an obscure
folk song? I don't think so. It's a document, not a performance.

If you want to share a song that you've written, a performance puts it across better.

If you are in a workshop or developmental class, then you are not expected to be a great performer.

If you are just studying singing for its own sake and don't plan to appear publicly, then no.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 03:32 PM

OK... so to those who think that all performers should be well prepared... know the words etc.... I had a stroke in 1986... I have a short term memory problem which prohibits me from learning anything new.... I used to sing a lot in the 60's 70's and was asked to sing often.... but what about now.... how would you feel if I brought my book of songs in and looked up the page, then enabled to sing some of the more contemporary Folk songs of the day.... I can remember the 60's 70's ones easily but not retain the modern.... how do you feel about that???? Should I refrain from singing in case I offend one of you?


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: skipy
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 04:00 PM

GS, SING & SING some more
Skipy


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: MBSGeorge
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 04:50 PM

My first post on this thread -

(Should a person's ability be paramount when performing?

I think not.

If someone wants to sing/play/recite - good on them. It takes guts to get up and perform and is even more nerve wracking if you are inexperienced.

The whole point of a singaround/music session is so that people can have a go and no one should be excuded because of their level of ability.)


I started this thread because I have come to realise that there are those who simply will not tolerate people whose ability is, of their opinion, 'sub standard'.

I wanted to find out if even novices would be deemed to be unfit to perform at singarounds/music sessions.

Everyone has to start somewhere, I started at around the age of 7 and if I had been treated badly by others in singarounds at that age for reading my words I think I would have abandoned Folk altogether.

I do still occasionally use my words but as some of the contributors to this thead have mentioned, I do my best to make the performance override the fact that I have the words in front of me. Having my words is more of a confidence issue as I have performed whole concerts without words and have even managed to pick myself up and dust myself down when I've made mistakes but I am apalled to think that if I had not been lucky to be treated quite so kindly that so many would have excluded me in the past.

G


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 05:08 PM

I think the Quality Police are almost as much a myth as the Folk Police - and I think the Over-Indulged Incompetent is a bit of a straw man. A while ago, I asked about people's experiences of being asked not to play or asking someone else not to play; I deliberately didn't specify any particular reason why not. The number of stories of people being asked not to play something because it wasn't "folk" was 0 - but the number of stories about substandard performers being asked not to play was very small.

Apart from anything else, 'substandard' is even harder to define than 'folk'. People with words in front of them can give superb performances. A weedy voice can still hit the notes; a voice that can't hold a key can still make the words live. Equally, someone who nails every note and plays in perfect time can play something you've heard a hundred times before and didn't much like in the first place. So what's 'substandard'? Better to tune out for a few minutes (or nip to the bar) and see if the next person up is any better. In my experience they usually are.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: MBSGeorge
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 05:22 PM

Pip R I totally agree. I'm not my mum's biggest fan but like you if I don't want to hear it I pop to the bar. I have heard some fantastic songs sung (in my opinion) badly, but the words of the song have struck me prompting me to find it for my own interpretation.

G


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 05:32 PM

Much as I genuinely believe in each person making the effort to do their best by the songs they perform - and it is indeed something which I shall continue to do - I don't know that I believe that an inclusive 'all abilities welcome' ethos in free amatuer song-circles could possibly 'kill the music'.

IMO that's akin to arguing that village 'watercolour clubs' could kill art... If Trad Song has suffered a kick in the guts, I suspect it's far more likely to be as a consequence of an overall cultural and even political sidelining. And indeed, I would suspect that if anything, these little folk clubs where all are welcome, represent a contintuity of the heart which early 'real' (aka: source) folk singers would have had for their songs. A love which if I listen to some of these old recordings, comes through their fragile quavering elderly voices...

As said in my first post on this thread, as a thirtysomething, I literally had no clue about the depth and richness of my own cultural heritage... This to me begs serious questions, some of which have been answered in part by comments on this very forum. But still I compare my own experience, or indeed utter lack of it as a 'modern' Englishwoman, to those of my Irish family - one London Irish cousin now runs an Irish dancing school, which is succesfull amongst Anglo-Irish and other interested students. Also a friend of mine from Check, who as a once highly respected and valued member of a touring traditional dancing troupe in her home country, when she moved here simply couldn't believe the public ridicule poured upon our nations dances and dancers, when she witnessed it firsthand!

If someone 'killed' folk music or indeed was responsible for it's demise until now, I suspect it was not the 'singaround' in any way, but something rather more dark, forged out of some kind combination of native revulsion against, and political shame and reaction to, the essentially English 'British' empire, which led to a cultural abandonment of native tradition, on the one hand. And a rampantly capitalist 'aspirational' ethos on the other, which has encouraged the working classes in particular to denigrate and abandon their cultural roots in favour of some kind of faux 'middle class' image archetypically described by lust for Europanstick Ikea and Panini blandness.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Gervase
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 05:38 PM

Kendall had it nailed - there are those who know they're not singing that well, and who are thus capable of improving, and there are those who don't know it, and they're the ones who are the kiss of death to clubs and sessions.
And, sadly, they are the ones who alienate newcomers who wander in and cock half an ear to what's going on - and who then turn round and go straight out because what they've just heard confirms all their preconceptions about folk music.
To quote from another forum where someone had mentioned learning the guitar: It's up to you, but if you are playing music, you should have some respect for it. Folk seems to be the dumping ground for shite which is a crying shame.
Too bloody true.
As for 'tuning out for a few minutes', or heading to the bar - I'm pissed off with sessions where I seem to spend half the time at the bar. And it's not doing my liver any good either.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 06:04 PM

Rosie, that is IMHO a very perceptive comment.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 06:15 PM

Georgiansilver, no static from me. If you have a physical problem that prevents you from memorizing new songs and you need the song book or song sheet as a "replacement memory," then you'll get no criticism from me. My quibble is with those (and there seems to be a fair percentage of them) who have such little regard for their audiences—and the music—that they feel they don't need to bother with such things as learning the words, even thought they could if they simply took the time and effort.

Go to it! If you need the book or the song sheet, go ahead and use it.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 06:17 PM

Cheers Richard.

I feel that my contention is essentially,
that *if* amatuer song-circles, are to be blamed for the destruction of trad folk, *who* then, is to blame for *allowing* amatuer song-circles to carry the vast weight and burden (it is pretty big, after all!) of our ENTIRE musical cultural heritage in the first place!?
Is this in some way ridiculous? For me, as a complete and indeed besotted newbie, it seems thoroughly so!


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 06:30 PM

I'm pissed off with sessions where I seem to spend half the time at the bar

If I were you I'd stop going to those sessions. That's probably the most effective way that any one person can express their disapproval.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: John P
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 06:37 PM

Sleepy Rosie,
Does your analogy about the watercolor club include putting on an art show in a public place? Do you think that really bad art should be displayed?

There are a few different venues being discussed in this thread: private singarounds or sessions, singarounds or sessions in public, paid gigs. I think they each have their own requirements for competency. I'm glad that no one here seems to think that anyone of any ability should accept paid gigs.

I don't think that folks who can't get through a song should be out in public trying to do so. On the other hand, I would never dream of trying to police the situation. I would just form my opinions of the performer and the venue and move on. So the number of people who have been accosted by the competency police doesn't really reflect the opinions of the listeners. I think perhaps I'm feeling a bit like I spent years getting good enough to perform, and others should do the same. Totally self-centered, I know.

If you're not in public, anything goes, as far as I'm concerned. Experience playing or singing for others is almost as important as practicing.

I also strongly believe in encouraging beginners, finding positive (but true) things to say to them, and helping them in any way I can. I also try to find kind and supportive ways to let them know where they should concentrate their practice efforts.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 06:55 PM

I have no problem with people using books or sheets. I've been known to do it myself from time to time, and I've seen professional musicians work from music stands as well (yes, in folk clubs). That's not the same thing as not preparing your song for your audience - we can all have memory problems.
I've never known a folk venue stop anyone from singing or playing, nor have I encountered discourtesy to anyone contributing to an evening (and that's in a good many years and a good many different folk venues) although I have heard some fairly dire performances from time to time. Not often. But it happens. The worst time is when I have non-folkie friends or family along on my recommendation or even to see me, but even then I don't remember hearing any unpleasant comments.
I don't think anyone has been suggesting that amateur singarounds have caused any problems at all for folk music and I absolutely agree that it's a disgrace the way the media and the general public make fun of Morris and some of our other traditions. The question was more specific. Yes, in some situations ability to perform is important. In some other situations it doesn't matter at all.
I run voice workshops - I tell my participants it doesn't matter if they go out of tune, get the words wrong, get the timing or key wrong or develop an attack of hiccups or giggles. And it doesn't - and even paid performers can get away with it with the right audience. But - and it's a big but - if it's a regular problem and not a rare occurrence then it's probably something you should work at not to do.

Anne


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 06:57 PM

"Does your analogy about the watercolor club include putting on an art show in a public place? Do you think that really bad art should be displayed?"

Sure.
Check out your local (UK) libraries boards for examples...
There are a lot of amatuer clubs for various arts in the UK, but as far as I'm aware, none of them are expected to carry the entire weight of the art itself!


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Nick
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 09:02 PM

I think people at singarounds should be encouraged to get involved if they want to but I also think that they owe some form of duty to themselves and others to make some attempt to at least try to reach their potential. It's still a mystery to me why some people seem content to stay exactly at a level they began at.

Having said that most people I have come across have over time improved. Over the past few years I have at various times made recordings at our singaround and there is a noticeable difference from where we started out.

There is a page of songs and tunes which I put together for a friend which came from us singing at our local singaround at the Thompsons Arms Flaxton in North Yorkshire. Apart from one visiting group of musicians who turned up one night and one person who has sung in public on and off for years, the rest of the offerings are from people who had never sung or played in public before we started (except perhaps the odd orchestra).

A little encouragement goes a long way.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: kendall
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 09:46 PM

I will not pay to be annoyed.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Bill D
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 09:53 PM

For about the 10th time, I will give my disclaimer about books & sheets...

IF I can close my eyes and not be able to tell someone is using a cheat-sheet or book, I will not complain. If you can sing the words and know the tune WITH a book, I can enjoy it.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 10:53 PM

Responce to Kendall's:

I will not pay to be annoyed

I simply DO NOT PAY ....there are a myriad of avenues flowing into any venue...flower delivery, electronis, a handful of bolts, a steaming dish of hot stew.

With MY price paid in a floral bouquet....I will frequently stay until the 4:00 a.m. last call....at WolfTrapp, Greek, Newport, and Hyde and on one occasion an 11:00 Mary worthy of the "Bloody Tower."

Personally, I do not beleive that ANY performer should be paid above their "bed and bread." Enough said. We do it for the art.<-p>

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

&)(*(&%#& ^*&^* YIIUY RE ^% %$#NB? *(&(&L6 Hj GH TYJH EYTRD?:"


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 11:39 PM

Quiet, isn't it?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Guy Wolff
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 11:39 PM

I am always amazed someone will pay good money to hear me play music.. My voice isn't the greatest .. There are better banjo players but for some reason I can hold a room. I love doing it and people put up with and even pay me to do it.I am very thankful to them . There are a lot of things to balance here but in the long run <><><> Its sort of like going out with a person .. I cant choose for them to like or not like me and I have to respect them to make their choice about me . I just have to be brave enough to be present ..   This holds true to me on the whole thing about putting music up on youtube.. I have met so many wonderful people from putting up clips on YT.. Are they great music ?? Maybe not but the sharing starts a dialogue that, I hope is worth something .. All good all around . All the best to old friends here , Guy


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 12:25 AM

You know the general public do seem to be a lot more tolerant of us wailing guitar stranglers than some of the folks on here would seem to believe.

Actually I don't know that.

I think it contributes to the poor public image the music has.

Well I dont know if you go to other than folk clubs or what sort of folk you aprove of.
But you are entitled to your opinion the same as I hope I am.
I am not a folky in the way a lot of you seem to be on here.
I love to hear it but dont "know " about it.
It is my personal experience that "normal" people are more put off by what may come over as a snotty and unpleasent attitiude towards "outsiders" than they are by having someone sing a little off key or maybe forget a few words.
There are limits even to what I will sit through.
But I would always listen the first time with interest to anyone having ago.
I have been to concerts where I paid to see Name performers and discovered they were not for me within say twenty minutes and spent time outside with a fag and some beer+ whoever elses tits were in danger of falling off from boredom.
I think its the boredom thats get to most people.
Sometimes all these threads seem boringly similar.
Gs and his singing however would never be boring even if he were reading from the encyclopedia of permissable folk songs.
And Nick thanks for the link Jen and I are gonna make some time this evening to have proper listen and refresh our Flaxton memories.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Ralphie
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 01:33 AM

As a (hopefully humourous) aside.
In the 70's I was involved in the running of a Folk Club. (Standard pattern, Residents, Floor spots, and then the Guest).
On one particular night. we'd managed to book a pretty well known artist to play. On arrival at the pub, there was this young chap with a guitar, who'd travelled 50 miles to come. He asked if he could play. Of course, we said.
Well he did a couple of songs in the first half. Nice voice, Good guitar technique etc.
So when it came to half time, we asked him to do 3 more songs as the "support" to the guests 2nd set. (After all he had done a 100 mile round trip, he was pleasant to listen to, and it meant the rest of us could have the rest of the evening off!).
He was delighted.
The time came, and he did three songs, all of which was material popularised by, you've guessed it......The Guest artist!!!
In fact, they were going to be the climax to the artists 2nd set!
(Sound of ripping up setlists at this point!)
It's not always incompetent performing that is the problem. It's sometimes thoughtlessness on the part of the performer.
The guest seemed to take it in good spirits, but, I'm sure he was seething inside.
PS. The guy actually asked us to book him for an evening after the show. We reluctantly declined!!!
(Oh and Rosie......Panini Blandness.....Priceless!)


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 02:47 AM

Panini blandness?
Panino is the soloist
Great band


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: rich-joy
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 02:47 AM

What about when you have "lost it" due to age??

I am thinking of a very keen local chap who absolutely LOVES the limelight, but can't accept that he no longer has what it takes to be in the least Entertaining - or even listenable! (e.g. he has a quiet warbling voice that can't stay in key and gives long rambling introductions in his quiet, heavily accented, voice) His songs are just not recognizable! (and nigh-on impossible to sing along with).

If asked to do just one, or maybe two items, he'll always attempt to do more - sometimes very cunningly!

Some of the audience consider he should always be given a go, purely as a mark of respect for his age (he's over 80), whereas many others find it a very painful experience and if they could get up and go to the Bar without being too obvious, they would!!!

He is the bane of the MC's too!

Any thoughts?!

R-J


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 02:53 AM

Tim, without doubt the music does have an extremely poor public image among "normals" and yes, just one factor is the air of in-crowd cliquiness of some of the GEFF denizens.

It's many a "f*lk club" that's so boringly similar to the next (with a handful of honourable exceptions). Then there's those "led" singarounds where people wander in, do the material of the quasi-stellar artist and all hell breaks out, usually on here.

It all smacks of complacent, misplaced smug amateurishness. I'm not tolerant of wailing "guitar stranglers" or anything really less than proficiency and commitment fit to be aired in public. And behind every good performance is many hours of practice in showers and bedrooms with doors firmly shut.


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 03:11 AM

I sense a concept for a 3rd Division Sky satellite lifestyle channel series
brewing up in here..

"Celebrity Make Me A Folk Singer Combat Boot Camp"

could even combine it with fast weight gain and looking 10 years older..

I wouldn't watch it..
but I'd set the recorder for my mrs
to catch up on it..

then maybe sit down to take the piss out the elimination finals..

maybe next Xmas chart number 1 CD in this idea..

oops.. shoulda copyrighted this.. !!!???


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Subject: RE: Performace Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 03:41 AM

"I have a terrible feeling of deja vu coming on......"
Me to - the same old patronising/elitist crap - ie "we can't expect anything better from singaround nights so we won't ask for it; but hey, so what; Martin'll be along next week......"
A paying audience should make NO DIFFERENCE WHATEVER. If you are attempting to involve the general public the music should be of a presentable standard, otherwise you are pissing on it from a great height.
"I don't know that I believe that an inclusive 'all abilities welcome' ethos in free amateur song-circles could possibly 'kill the music'"
A failure to apply standards has been partly responsible for, if not killing the music, at least of having put it on a life-support machine.
The irony of this question is that, unless there is something seriously wrong with a person's physical makeup, nobody is incapable of making a good job of a song as long as they make the effort and put in the work - but NOT IN PUBLIC. The patronising attitude of failing to expect a standard from a singer 'in case we scare them off' will not only produce shoddy performances, but will guarantee their continuance until folk music is no more than a warm memory - nobody will ever treat badly sung songs with any level of respect and they will never rise above the 'Knees Up Mother Brown' level.
I take some heart from threads like this (68 postings in a day), but unless they move from being 'are standards necessary' to 'how are we going to improve standards' they will never be more than meaningless and very, very predictable rituals.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 04:14 AM

".... and No, it doesn't matter at a singaround, everyone should be encouraged to have a go and I will applaud them for doing so."

This is pernicious bollocks!! I, for one, do not want to spend any more evenings listening to endless lazy, poorly rehearsed crap! If you can't be bothered to even learn the words - don't inflict yourself on an audience!

And before any of the usual suspects jump to the defence of beginners: I AM NOT HAVING A GO AT BEGINNERS!!! Is that loud enough for you? I would expect a beginner to struggle a bit but I would also expect them to improve with practice. If you're still crap after a year or two, please do everyone a favour and stop - you've probably run out of everyone's sympathy and admiration for your 'courage'.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 04:42 AM

I spend hours playing singing and practising and playing,I hope to try and do the music justice,I am sometimes disappointed with myself,maybe I am tired .
the important thing is to have respect for music and also self respect.
there is less excuse now than ever before for poor performance,there are more free lessons on you tube ,plenty of workshops etc etc.
however , I like the idea of people having a go,making their own music,but even in a singaround there needs to be an experienced m c,who knows the weaker and stronger performers,and can juxtapose them successfully,giving the weaker performers less time ,so that a reasonable standard is maintained.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Richard Bridge waiting for students at LSBU
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 04:51 AM

Better performance comes in two types - better playing and singing, and "working the audience". You can form your own view of how it is going at the Nag's Head if you look at the links put up on the thread - a couple of compilation videos and a couple of John Barden supported by howling great chorusses (choroi?) . Not all of us are anywhere near as good as John but so far the locals seem to be liking it.

Mind you having heard their attempts on Karoake night we must be better than most of them!


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Acorn4
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 05:02 AM

On the point of performing songs that are in the set of the guest for the night, a few years back we went to a songwriting workshop by a very well known and respected songwriter.

He told the story of how he turned up for a gig, and the people who were running it asked him if he would mind not doing songs A, B, C and D (which he had written), because their group normally did them.

Full marks for nerve!


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 05:19 AM

Having lived much of my life in Folk Years, I see the singaround in terms of both Seance & Holy Communion. I have been transported and transfigured; I have seen visions and passed through portals into hitherto unknown realms of exquisite wonderment. I have openly wept at the transcendent beauty of a traditional ballad & damn near pissed myself when my concept of incompetence has been defined afresh and the variables of the known universe have been shifted accordingly. But worse - far worse - I have been bored into states of terminal shitlessness by those preening musos whose faultless techniques and performance abilities, though lauded by most, have had me bidding a hasty retreat to the bar, there to rediscover the will to live in a pickled egg washed down with swift half of Talisker.

Recently, two determinedly non-musicians got up and treated us to a rendition of The Great Pretender in which they sang along to a pre-recorded cassette tape of them singing along with the record, complete with incidental ambience. They used the words, much good that it did them of course, and the I swear that the 3 minutes they were up there seemed as 15 (hence Folk Years). But in such moments we pass through into a realm of a near absolute surrealism, shading our eyes in the presence of a universal brilliance which many I'm sure have mistaken for God but which is, most assuredly, human, however so uncommon it might be.

The Folk Club is a collective happening - it lives and breathes, it consumes & it excretes, it absorbs and humiliates; we leave our egos at home along with our expectations (in one of those safe place which means we spend most of the next day looking for them). Above all, we are enriched by the ecology of folk in its natural habitat wherein the only thing that matters is people doing what they're moved to do, to whatever ability they are uniquely gifted with.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Habius Corpus
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 05:32 AM

There are more important things to worry about than song circles. Brits tolerate more than guitar players.

British people allowed a authoritarian state to creep into being right under their noses.   In many other countries there would have been rioting in the streets. For instance, years ago, when the Greek government passed a law that required the early closing of entertainment venues, Greeks promptly partied all night in the streets forcing the government to back down.

At the same time the rich-poor divide has widened with class once again becoming an issue.

People at the lower end of the scale are battered by disproportionately high taxation - much of it indirect and hidden - as well as unprecedented levels of personal debt to banks and credit companies.

Hospital wards are plagued with deadly MRSA and other bugs.

Youngsters are leaving school unable to read and write

Violent crime has doubled

Prisons are overflowing to the extent ships are to be used as temporary jails.

ASBOS (Anti-social Behavior Orders), confines people to certain parts of town and exclude them from others.

Britons have become the most spied-upon people in the world.

In the pipeline are compulsory biometric ID cards and genetic harvesting by law enforcement.

Proposed satellite tags to track the elderly.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 06:07 AM

"the only thing that matters is people doing what they're moved to do,"
as in bowels, I take it
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 06:39 AM

Like I say, Jim - it lives and breathes, it consumes & it excretes...


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 07:38 AM

"And behind every good performance is many hours of practice in showers and bedrooms with doors firmly shut."

Now I begin to see the light I think.
I do agree that practice is paramount,as is not being stoned,or endrunkened.
I also think beginers need to have somewhere to play where they can be confident of a freindly reception and possibly even some advice.
Of course as a beginer you need to have gumption to listen to all advice and apply only that which suits what you want to achieve.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 07:50 AM

Sorry Sinister; can't think of anybody I know who would leave a warm fireside and an exciting episode of 'Corrie' for the privilege of watching somebody having a dump - though I will admit that it is an idea that seems to permeate the club scene occasionally
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 07:54 AM

Yes, all three help quite a bit, as is possessing a smidgeon of talent in the first place. Last week I saw Leon Rosselson, celebrating 50 years of songwriting. For one very new, ink-still-drying song he spread the lyrics unobtrusively in front of him, just in case. He made sure this did not detract from his performance.

Later today, I'll see young Jon Boden, It's not even 10 years since he rose out of the session world but what an example he is of learning, improving and excelling. And the gig's not in a flamin' f*lk club. Hurrah.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Ralphie
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 08:01 AM

I doff my cap to you Sinister Supporter...
Succinct, Well written, erudite in a "nail on the head....hitting" sort of way.
My only caveat.....Do I have to remove my version of "The Great Pretender" from my reportoire now?
Jolly Good, Jolly Good.
(Must go off and practice my arpeggios and flattened 9ths.....)


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: kendall
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 08:13 AM

A dear friend of mine had been a pro for 60 years or so, and near the end he told me that if he gets too old to do a good performance that I should tell him.He did not want to be a "Back stage pain in the ass." I promised him I would. Didn't have to. He realized he was over the hill and he quit on his own.He didn't live long after that, performing was his life.

Maybe someone should record that old man's set and play it back or let him take it home. If he has any awareness left he will know it's time to call it quits.If not, some kind soul should tell him.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Bruce MacNeill
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 08:23 AM

I guess this is as good a thread as any to walk out on a limb on. I'm about 6 months into a 2 year plan to see if I have anything to offer musically not necessarily for pay. My last "Public" performance was in about 1963, an amature contest and didn't go well. Since playing in public for performance practice isn't possible I made a few videos that friends could review. I'm not strictly "Folk" and certainly not "Traditional Folk". I'll take advice though, even if it's "Find a day job". If you have the time to spare, please take a look at what I have at http://www.youtube.com/user/bamfiles and tell me what you think. There are a couple of songs, a couple of jazz numbers and a classical piece so far. Incidentally, my sister already told me I need to smile but the camera and mic scare the hell out of me and I'm afraid my teeth will fall out. I'll work on that. Thanks in advance.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 10:10 AM

Bruce,
You have a good, natural, musical voice, can sing in tune and have a good sense of rhythm and play a competent guitar - really can't see your problem.
The only comment I would make is as to whether I would want to hear you sing the material you have chosen at a FOLK club - but as that would open a huge can of worms, am not going to mention it here.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Nick
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 11:39 AM

>>Sorry Sinister; can't think of anybody I know who would leave a warm fireside and an exciting episode of 'Corrie' for the privilege of watching somebody having a dump

It's the difference between being a corriephiliac and a coprophiliac


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 12:41 PM

The way some open their mouths around here, it comes closer to coprophagia - but in reverse.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: kendall
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 03:34 PM

If I could play like that I wouldn't care who thought I was out of place.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Bruce MacNeill
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 03:52 PM

Thanks Jim. From anyone on this forum I'll live with "Competent". As to the material, there's no chance you'll find me in an Irish folk club, I'm thinking you're Irish, doing anything let alone this material. I'm just trying to re-learn to play and sing which I could do at 20 but maybe not so much at 60. Like I said, it's a 2 year project to see if I can do it and part of that is public performance. We don't have clubs over here so the Internet is the only audience I can easily get that can't actually throw things at me.

Thanks for your time. Incidentally, my grandmother was Irish and I remember her accent but I can't do it and I promise not to try.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 07:45 PM

No-one here has responded to my contention that the amatuer song circle, should in no way be loaded with carrying the heavy weight of responsibility for the public reputation that English trad. arts have amongst the general populace of the UK.

I appreciate that I know next to nothing about this subject...
And yet, I do listen to what those hoo nose have to say, and I also care enough to consider it important to get to the bottom of the issue.

Again, my suspicion, warranted or not, is that the amatuer song circle itself actually represents a valuable continuity of the historic 'spirit' of community folk singing?

While the roots run strong and deep, the health of the tree might be suspect. But, I would be disinclined to condemn the flourishing branch for rot in the trunk...


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 04:44 AM

Rosie:
"loaded with carrying the heavy weight of responsibility"
I don't think anybody is suggesting that they should; rather, what is being suggested, by me anyway, is that everybody who gets up in front of an audience and sings folk songs (not really interested in advocating on behalf of any other genre, especially the 'Great bloody Pretender'!!!), should bear enough responsibility to have done enough work beforehand to at least remember the words, sing in tune and have enough understanding of the text to be able to give an interpretation - after that, the only way is up! Nobody is asking for a virtuoso performance. I got pissed off with the Alex Campbell "Near enough for folk song" attitude forty years ago; now it seems to be standard practice and it has debased the coin.
"a valuable continuity of the historic 'spirit'"
The communities that engendered this spirit died with the Dodo and trying to resurrect them would be an exercise in extreme romanticism. Nowadays people are attracted by skill, understanding, and commitment, not nostalgic tat.
Irish traditional music is enjoying a boom at present; the young practitioners who are now coming to it in their thousands are going to the styles of Johnny Doran, Michael Docherty and Elizabeth Crotty for their examples, not the old worthy scratching out a reel for a kitchen dance; that is why we have a situation here which guarantees that the music is likely to be still being played and listened to right into the middle of this century, at least.   
In Britain, we caught our song tradition when it was very much on its last legs. Our singers, with a tiny handful of notable exceptions, were remembering songs rather than interpreting them. Virtually every singer we ever recorded apologised for "not being able to sing anymore", and told us that we "should have been here 30 years plus ago". We have much to learn from our old singers, but we also have many gaps to fill in, in what they gave us. Surely our tradition is worth presenting at its most competent (at least). No matter how many times it is claimed to the contrary, anybody possessing a modicum of intelligence or sensitivity comes to an art or an entertainment with expectations; fail to meet those expectations, even half-way, and you lose them - and your song, music, whatever suffers.   
"I appreciate that I know next to nothing about this subject."
It really is time you crept out from behind this one Rosie. Your contributions are as incisive and thoughtful as anybody's on this forum - gi'e us a break girl!!!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 05:36 AM

I do believe that we should do whatever we do as well as we can, and I also believe that most wish to do so. I also believe that we should not exclude those who may not be as excellent as others - that would surely kill the tree, for we are not all as gifted as Martin Carthy or June Tabor. As Martin said, the worst we could do to the songs would be to fail to sing them. We serve them better by singing them well, whether we preserve them in aspic (the preference of some) or interpret them (my preference), although we ideally need to know how they were in oter to interpret them now.

But I do think that you miss part of the point Jim, when you say that people today are attracted by skill, understanding, and commitment - and thereby imply that they are attracted to those things to the exclusion of all others.

It is contrary to what we see in "pop" music in general. There are some specialist types of modern non-classical music where skill has become a major factor, but there are many where the physical appearance is the predominant factor.

I also suggest that at least in some types of folk music it is indeed the continuity with the past that makes a major contribution to the survivial of the songs (or I imagine tunes although they interest me less). Many Irish sing the songs of rebellion precisely because of what they are. Comparably Orangemen. The sentimental Irish ballad is much sung by all sorts of Irish because of its reflection of the believed courtship customs of the past. Many English surely relish the insults hurled at the French in much maritime song.

I am sure I have heard American singers sing, for example "the Battle of New Orleans" (whether it is traditional or not) because of what it says about the expulsion of the English from what later bacame the USA.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 06:46 AM

All true Richard, but it's not a case of being "better" or "worse" than anybody, and as far as I can see nobody has ever suggested it is, apart from those who persist in erecting straw men in order to knock them down.
It's back to the old argument - should we have a base-line below which what we do (publicly) is unacceptable (in general terms - we can all all have an 'off' night)?
Surely our music is worth a loud YES
I've shown you mine - now you show me yours.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 08:23 AM

It's back to the old argument - should we have a base-line below which what we do (publicly) is unacceptable (in general terms - we can all all have an 'off' night)?
Surely our music is worth a loud YES


I agree in principle - I know I work quite hard to make sure my performances are up to what I think is an acceptable standard, and most of the performers I like listening to have clearly done the same. I'm just not sure whether I agree in practice, because I'm not sure what the practical implications are. As I commented higher up, in practice the Competence Police are almost as rarely seen as the Folk Police. Do you think that club MCs and singaround organisers should start taking substandard performers on one side and asking them to account for themselves? I think this would change the atmosphere, and not in a good way - apart from anything else it would seriously deter beginners, even if it wasn't aimed at them.

And Rosie, I second Jim - enough with the little me don't know much about nuffink already! I like the idea that people are - more or less unconsciously - blaming the death of the tradition on the state of the clubs; that would certainly explain why some people (not thinking of you, Jim) seem to feel so strongly about how very awful the clubs are. Course, the trouble with more or less unconscious motivations is that they're more or less unconscious - people aren't likely to own up to them, or not without an expensive course of therapy. (Say what you like about singarounds, they're cheap.)


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Terry McDonald
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 08:33 AM

Pendant time, Richard. The Battle of New Orleans took place in 1815, the combatants not knowing that the War of 1812 was over. It was not about expelling 'the English' from what became the United States, but to prevent the United States from annexing Canada. All Canadians know that they won that war because they don't live in a greater USA.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: kendall
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 08:57 AM

It was the Webster/Ashburton treaty of 1842 that settled the boundry dispute between the USA and Canada.
No one won the war of 1812.

This phrase, "Close enough for folk music" is a common one. I've heard it many times from many different performers, and I always though it was a left handed way of saying, we are not hard asses about how a song should be sung or played. Leonard Bernstein once said that classical music is mis named, it should be called "precise" music. It is played as it was written. Folk music is flexible. I've used that term myself in this context. Hidebound I'm not.Loose as ashes, that's me.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 09:24 AM

Ah well, I guess you can lose a battle but win a war. That's to you Terry.

Jim, I am worried about the thin end of the wedge. I know of a person of gender who (alas) teaches music (god help her students) who has single handedly driven about half the musicians and a quarter of the dancers out of a morris side because she persistently tells them that they are shit and that she can tell them how to do it - when in fact the exact converse is true.

Once I accept that people who are not good enough can be told not to perform (whoever tells them) someone like her will level the charge at me.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 09:27 AM

"Do you think that club MCs and singaround organisers should start taking substandard performers on one side and asking them to account for themselves?"
No, of course not - I think the first teetering step should be to recognise where we are and think about how we are going to improve matters. In other words, plan for change and improvement rather than endlessly debate whether improvement is necessary - as we appear to be doing once again.
"Say what you like about singarounds, they're cheap"
And, in some cases, very nasty.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 10:53 AM

Pip Radish

how very awful the clubs are.

Thanks a bunch, Pip. Nice to know that the hours of unpaid work that I, the rest of the committee here in Lewes and of all the hundreds of other folk club organisers in the country is appreciated.

Jim Carroll

I think the first teetering step should be to recognise where we are and think about how we are going to improve matters. In other words, plan for change and improvement rather than endlessly debate whether improvement is necessary

Any positive, constructive suggestions then, Jim?


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 12:15 PM

"Any positive, constructive suggestions then, Jim?"
Some Bryan, but I'd be happier if people:
a   Acknowledged that there was a problem and that it wasn't a figment of our imaginations, thus freeing all of us from wasting our time.
and
b    Didn't take a discussion such as this as a personal attack - it isn't, and it never has been.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 12:28 PM

Thanks a bunch, Pip.

Calm down, Snail. I'm not saying I think the clubs are awful - I don't. I'm saying that some commenters believe they are - more specifically, some seem to be very strongly committed to the idea that everything's awful out there.

I'm not complacent - I don't think traditional music in England is doing nearly as well as it could. But I'm not convinced that much of the blame attaches to substandard performers in folk clubs. I've got two regular venues in walking distance. At one, about one in eight performers play traditional material and about one in ten sing unaccompanied; at the other, it's more like 7/8 and 9/10. At both, you'll sometimes hear people who haven't fully mastered the song they're singing (more often at the 'contemporary' club). On an average night they're both buzzing - neither of them needs any more punters.

I don't think either of them would be improved by stricter quality control. The 'contemporary' club would be greatly improved by a few nudges in the direction of traditional music, but that's by the way. (They've had a Canadian night, a Twelve-String night and two Dylan nights; one of these days they ought to have a Traditional Night...)


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,John from Kemsing
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 12:29 PM

Like so many others who contribute to this forum, I have been associated with folk clubs and folk music since the 60`s. Then, there were people of all levels of ability to be heard in the clubs. Now there are still people of all levels of ability to be heard in the clubs. Forty five odd years and nothing has changed, apart from the average age of the audience rising, and folk clubs are still going strong. Its my belief it will continue thus so let it lie.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 01:25 PM

I sincerely hope that nobody would rather watch Coronation Street than go to a folk club or a singaround ,at least people at folk clubs/singarounds are making music.
when I become dictator of the world,the first thing I will do will be, ban all radio /television soaps .


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 01:49 PM

Sorry Pip but you may have noticed that I am a little sensitive to attacks on folk clubs by people who have little to contribute. (Not you, but the people you are talking about.) Your rather complicated sentence starting "I like the idea that..." seemed to take "the death of the tradition" and the awfulness of the clubs as read and merely tried to analyse the response of various people to these "facts". Fascinating I'm sure, but largely irrelevant to what is happening in the real world. It would be more useful to refute this nonsense as, in your last post, you have. Thank you.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 02:04 PM

Yes, Jim, I acknowledge that there are problems but, in my experience, not the ones you describe which may not be figments of your imagination but are sufficiently rare as to be safely ignored.

I'm quite happy to listen to ideas on how to solve the problems of promoting traditional music in a world where being on YouTube seems to be more important than appearing in front of an audience, but it would help if we can avoid accusations of being crass, dumbing down, promoting bad standards and sneering at other clubs. Not being compared to Goebbels would be nice as well.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 02:26 PM

Sorry Bryan, don't really want to cover old ground - have to say I don't temember the Goebbells bit, or the sneering at other clubs.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Peace
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 02:31 PM

"Forty five odd years and nothing has changed"

Audiences have, imo. Maybe that's part of the problem y'all see.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: MBSGeorge
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 02:40 PM

Obviously if I paid to attend a concert I'd be expecting an enjoyable performance, but like I have said previously, if I go to a singaround and I am not enjoying a particular performance I would pop out of the session temporarily.

G


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Ebbie
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 03:30 PM

In our weekly singaround of 12-15 people there are some that have dramatically improved. I think specifically of one who for the first two years did almost nothing but finger pick, slowly and carefully. She never sang, except after most of the others had left and then sang in a wispy voice in a key two higher than she should. She never memorized anything and travelled everywhere with her notebooks.

Space was at a premium those days and at times when I thought about cutting back our size I knew it would be she that I would speak to about what she was getting out of our get togethers.

Lo and behold! Nowadays she sings, she fingerpicks in precise, carefully worked out patterns, she has even performed a song or two in some one else's stage set. It turns out that since she sings in lower keys she has a very sweet voice. (She still sings a lot of Donovan, which I'm not that fond of as a general thing but hey, she also likes Michael Smith and John Prine) She still carries her notebook but she has internalized a good many songs.

These days we're glad to see her arrive.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Ebbie
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 03:41 PM

There are performers who, whether from lack of respect for the music or the audience or from some kind of idea that it doesn't matter, just kind of mail it in.

In our monthly pay-at-the-door concerts series sometimes it has been evident that the performer had done virtually no preparation. One actually informed us at the outset that he was not going to do any 'A' material, another (in her 40s) performed so kittenishly that we sat aghast- and she is a seasoned performer!, another, just last night, after telling us that he and his daughter had not practiced said that he had no idea what they were going to perform, and proved it. Which was a pity because his daughter has a beautiful and strong voice, and he himself used to be a professional, touring musician.

I'm not worried about it- there are plenty of performers who give us their all- but I do wonder about the phenomenon.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 03:50 PM

At North Brighton Singarounds we welcome people of all abilities including 'perpetual beginners'. Our term for who we welcome is "anyone of good intent, regarless of well they sing".

The ones we DON'T want are those who are disruptive or are of BAD intent.   This can include quite competent and accomplishes musicians!!

We do however discourage people who haven't bothered to tune their instrument, habitually read from cribsheets (ok on odd accasions) and people who are not ready for thier song (or mobile phone still on!).

Attitude is what we really consider important rather than ability - and welcome any Mudcat contributor to come along - regardless how how "good" they are in the eyes of the ones who would outlaw anyone who hasn't practiced for two years in front of the mirror before stepping onto the stage.

North Brighton Singarounds - Crown and Anchor pub, Preston Village (main A23 London Road) - Wednesdays (tradish slightly) or Sundays (more general).   Average numbers - about 8/9 rarely more than "magic 14" - so were quite a small session and have chatting time between songs (everyone normally has three songs regardless of numbers) - come and see us!

Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 03:55 PM

Ebbie,
It's nice to hear a success story and it's also interesting to of the opposite happening.
I repeat, as far as I'm concerned, almost anybody is capable of singing as long as they put in the work.
I also believe it to be part of the folk club's job is to help those who want to sing, not by allowing themselves to humiliate themselves in public, but to put the skills and the experience of club performers at the newer singers disposal.
MBS George
What you are describing is not a club, but a series of concerts interspersed with practice sessions.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: kendall
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 04:06 PM

Let's face it folks, as long as people are involved in any situation there will be differences of opinion. There is no way around it.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 04:34 PM

Until somebody proves to me that, given time and effort, virtually anybody can sing, I will never understand why the clubs are not full of good singers.
Surely it is far more pleasurable to sing well than sing badly!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: High Hopes (inactive)
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 04:34 PM

It's one of those topics that goes around and around in ever decreasing circles until it gets dizzy and falls flat on its rear end.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 04:42 PM

Jim Carroll

Sorry Bryan, don't really want to cover old ground - have to say I don't temember the Goebbells bit, or the sneering at other clubs.

I could give you the links, but that's not really the point. Those of us who love and work hard to promote traditional music and contemporay song writing that takes its inspiration from the tradition owe you an enormous debt for the work you have done with the travellers in London, in Ireland and (most importantly to me) with Walter Pardon whose songs I hear frequently, mostly from the singing of Will Duke and Dan Quinn. I would love to take part in rational discussions with you about how the tradition can be maintained and brought to a wider audience.

Unfortunately, as soon as we seem to be approaching that point, you invoke your ludicrous notion that the entire UK folk club circuit is dominated by people singing Beatles' songs and singing songs out of tune from their notebooks because they can't be bothered to learn the words. This, quite simply, isn't true. I notice that you haven't denied your willingness to resort to comments about being "crass", "dumbing down" or "promoting bad standards".

Please stop trying to undermine the efforts of those of us who are trying to do exactly what you want.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 04:58 PM

If you have the nerve to get up and sing, then do it!!

You'll likely sound awful to begin with, but practice and practice works, we all started somewhere, I know I wasn't born with THAT perfect singing voice, practice over the years has made it far better. Can you imagine if I hadn't bothered in the first place, the thought makes me shiver, as I do enjoy singing.

"Please stop trying to undermine the efforts of those of us who are trying to do exactly what you want."

Exactly!


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 05:59 PM

Bryan , It is true that in some clubs ,people are singing with wordsheets ,it is also true that in some clubs, people sing Beatles /Buddy Holly songs .
I doubt if either you or I know how sizeable a minority it is .


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 07:18 PM

One actually informed us at the outset that he was not going to do any 'A' material

'A' material?

It is true that in some clubs ,people are singing with wordsheets, it is also true that in some clubs, people sing Beatles /Buddy Holly songs

It's also true that some clubs where people sing from songsheets and do pop songs are doing really, really well. They're not putting on much traditional material, but they get a lot of people turning out regularly to hear live and unamplified music, and they provide a platform that can just as easily be used by traditional musicians as anyone else.

The longer this discussion goes on, the more I think Rosie had it right. It's not true to say that all the clubs are doing badly; some are doing badly, some are flourishing. Not only that, but if you look at the clubs that are flourishing, there's no single pattern. Some of them have formal or informal quality controls in place, but some don't. Some of them are wholly or mostly traditional, but some aren't. The only constant is that English traditional music is nowhere doing as well as we'd like it to - but I don't think the clubs are to blame. It's easy to blame them - I know I've come home after a disappointing night and thought "no wonder the scene's dying on its arse". But I don't come home after a good night and think "no wonder the scene's thriving" - and one reaction is just as illogical as the other.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: kendall
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 08:48 PM

I've never been to a venue where they locked the doors and refused to let me out.If I don't like what I'm hearing, I leave.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Ebbie
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 09:00 PM

"One actually informed us at the outset that he was not going to do any 'A' material

'A' material?"

I took it that he wasn't going to grace us with his best songs.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Don Firth
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 11:24 PM

Just an aside:

"Leonard Bernstein once said that classical music is mis-named, it should be called 'precise' music. It is played as it was written."

Not quibbling, just clarifying. There seems to be something of a misconception about classical music that is pandemic among folk musicians based on the idea that because classical musicians are supposed to play the notes as written, there is no creativity or imagination involved. Not so. True, the notes should be played "as written," but the dots on the staff don't turn a living pianist into a mere player piano.   There is plenty of room for creativity and imagination.

For example, just how fast is allegro? This is open to interpretation and no two conductors or musicians completely agree. How loud is forte? How soft is pianissimo? When plucking a guitar string, how much nail? How briskly? Where on the string? Near the bridge for a hard, "glassy" tone, or soft and mellow a bit "north" of the sound hole?

One of the first classic guitar pieces I learned was Tàrrega's Lagrima. The third and fourth measures repeat exactly the same notes as in the first and second measures. My teacher suggested that I play measures three and four just a bit softer than measures one and two. "Like an echo," he said. There is absolutely nothing in the written music, either notes or dynamic markings to indicate anything like this. It was just my teacher's idea. I adopted it and began applying the same idea to other pieces I was learning when I felt it was appropriate.

In fact Lagrima is full of repeats. Same sequence of notes. I play each one of them slightly differently. And none of this is indicated in the written music.

The more one works with this kind of music, the more one sees that even though the notes are all written out, often complete with dynamic markings, there is plenty of room for individual interpretation.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Azizi
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 11:30 PM

Singalongs and song circle are outside of my cultural experience, as are folk clubs.

Although I don't have the same folk background as others here, I wonder if the following points would still apply to the music and songs that you are talking about.

It seems to me that part of "performance ability" is connecting with your audience. Some people may have a natural ability to do this and may strengthen this ability. Others may have to learn how to do this. Part of connecting with your audience during performances is the "chatting up" your audience that occurs when you introduce songs or in between songs. At the very least it seems to me that a performer has to have some eye contact with his audience. But I also mean more than that.

I think that some people have the personality to be performers and others don't. No matter how well they know their material or their instrument, because they don't have the right kind of on-stage personality (which doesn't have to be outgoing but does have to be appealing in some way/s), they won't be good performers.

Much of what I've read on this thread is about knowing the words to the song and knowing how to play your instrument well, but doesn't r-having performance ability go far beyond that? For instance, African American vocalists talk about finding their own voice, or style (interpreting a song; making the song their own). I'm wondering if this is something that a performer of European and/or Anglo-American folk songs is expected to do. If so, isn't that also a part of learning how to be a good performer?

I realize that there are different expectations for performers and audiences in different music genres, and in different cultural populations. And I ask these questions out of respectful curiousity.

Thanks.

Azizi


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 03:01 AM

Bruce MacNeill - I would pay good money to hear you perform and play guitar like that. 'Misty' was very well played as was the "Girl From Ipanema'. Great stuff man; keep it up. Wish I could play like that.

Seamuas


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 03:59 AM

I know this is a bit of a thread drift, but it doesnt' deserve a thread to itself...

Can someone explain to me why there are 'taboo' songs in clubs, which unofficially 'belong' to certain members?

I can't get my head round why only one person (unless perhaps they wrote the thing themselves) is allowed to sing certain songs - because somehow through performing them repeatedly - they have laid claim to them?

After all isn't it interesting to hear a variety of takes on some songs occasionally? And those that have such a fixed repertoire that they virtually 'own' certain songs, could surely learn a few more so that they are not repeating the same songs over and over again..


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 05:07 AM

Bryan,
I really didn't want to go head-to-head with you; been there, done that - I found it upsetting and unproductive then and I have no doubt that I will do so again.
Nobody 'owes' us anything; Pat and I did what we did because we thought it worthwhile and we got an enormous amount of personal pleasure from it.
One of the problems with our field-work is that the bulk of it, particularly that we did with Walter, lies on the shelves untouched - why? - because when I read of 'folk' clubs presenting performers singing Misty, Girl From Ipanima and The Great Pretender (yes, and The Beatles) my reaction invariable is 'Why ******* bother; who gives a shite about Walter's wonderful Van Dieman's Land (especially as it's probably far too long for those who persistently moan about the length of songs) or Rambling Blade (which Walter described as "The best old folk song ever written), and most of all, who cares what he had to say about his songs and singing.
My instinct, based on my own experiences and on discussions like these is, leave it on the shelf and let posterity decide.
I had a thirty year involvement with clubs in the UK and enjoyed most of that time, though I did find it tapered off towards the end, due mainly to a fall in standards and the disappearance of traditional material. The few sorties into the club scene over the last ten years have only served to confirm what I believed to be happening then.
I have no desire to see the 'tradition maintained', I never have had; the tradition is dead and has been for a long time. What we have is a wonderful body of songs which, I believe are as entertaining and inspiring, and moving as they ever where; but more important than that, the provide us with a unique template on which to make new songs (no, I'm not talking about the 'personal - private and extremely introspective singer-songwriter stuff that invariably leaves me with the desire to tap the singer on the shoulder and ask to be allowed in to his/her private little world)'.
" your ludicrous notion that the entire UK folk club circuit is...."
That is not my notion, but I do feel that, when people can claim that the only requirement for performing in public is 'the desire to do so' and that standards are not just unnecessary, but undesirable in case they 'scare off the less talented', or that a folk club is a place for people with 'no expectations or criteria', I worry about the future of the music as a performed art.
Whether you accept it or not, these notions are "dumbing down" and "promoting bad standards". If I have been mistaken and they are not yours, or anybody's opinions, I apologise and unreservedly withdraw any remarks I might have made.
I am certainly not trying to undermine the efforts of any club, whether I agree with what they are doing or not. From what I have heard of your club, I heartily applaud what you are doing and wish that other clubs could learn from it, but it seems to me that some of the things you have said in the past run totally contrary to your actual achievements.
I do find it thoroughly depressing that, once again we are discussing whether standards and ability are necessary rather than how higher standards can be achieved and abilities developed - for me that is a resounding confirmation of how things stand in the folk scene today.
I never started this thread; I have never started a thread on this subject or anything resembling it, but I am happy to participate in discussions such as these because the music is important to me and I would hope that others will have the opportunity to get the same buzz that I got from it over the last four decades.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Will Fly
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 05:20 AM

The capacity for self-awareness and a self-critical faculty are all important for a performer. Folk clubs have traditionally been one environment where would-be singers, musicians and songwriters can develop their skills and learn the art of performance - and most clubs have been and are, on the whole, welcoming and reasonably forgiving places where this development can take place.

All the more important then, in my view, that people who want to perform at the clubs - and take advantage of this welcoming aspect - are self-aware, i.e. they have a standard to which they aspire and a real knowledge of the standard that they've reached. By "real" knowledge I mean the capacity to be honest with themselves about their abilities. It's the same very welcoming atmosphere at clubs that, ironically, can lull a performer into a false sense of their own worth. Being self-aware means that you know inside how you'v


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 05:22 AM

Jim said of the Snail: some of the things you have said . . . run totally contrary to your actual achievements

That's the contradiction I get too. Lewes is famed for its rightly deserved reputation of high standards of achievement in performance This didn't just happen by consuming Harvey's beer. Did all those famed Sussex trad artists sing and play out before they could? I think not.

Rosie: A guest artist will have come with a setlist, likewise a named session leader. To perform material strongly associated with them without even asking them first if they intend to include the item is not only bad practice but very bad manners.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Will Fly
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 05:23 AM

...continuation of thread above - stopped by pressing "Submit by mistake...!

Being self-aware means that you know inside how you've done regardless of whatever applause, acclaim, etc., you get from the kind people in the audience.

It's when that self-awareness is missing that complacency sets in.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 06:34 AM

I have no desire to see the 'tradition maintained', I never have had; the tradition is dead and has been for a long time.

I've often pondered to what extent the tradition was ever alive in the first place - and would we have ever recognised it as such had we been around at the time? Or was it fucked over by the very people who were trying to preserve it? Whatever the case, what we have now is a very recent construct that has already had its day; it plods on regardless, occasionally fretting over its imminent demise, and belatedly wondering how it might attract younger participants even though it did nothing to engender, encourage or facilitate a second generation when it might have had the chance - hence the general decrepitude we find in folk clubs and singarounds today. When the last baby-boomer folk revivalist has popped their clogs, perhaps we might be able to gain some sort of perspective on the Folk Revival as a cultural / historical phenomenon, but here in its very evident autumn I feel the best we can do is accord it the respect of the dying, allowing it to sip the last of the summer wine in the dignity of its idiosyncratic dotage whilst tearfully reminiscing over the rare owld times.

So - take it as you find it, and give thanks that it's there at all; it is what it is, regardless of how you think it ought to be. These days I'm treating each session and singaround as if it's my last & living it accordingly. I'm taking nothing for granted, because once it's gone, it won't be coming back.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 06:37 AM

"...you invoke your ludicrous notion that the entire UK folk club circuit is dominated by people singing Beatles' songs and singing songs out of tune from their notebooks because they can't be bothered to learn the words."

It certainly isn't a "ludicrous notion", Snail - it's an accurate description of a sizeable proportion of the folk scene where I live. There are also some brilliant singers where I live, and quite a few beginners working very hard, but they're always in danger of being "dominated" by the 'it's all folk music','it's good enough for folk' and 'anyone who wants to should be able to sing - however dire' brigade(s). I've got to the stage where I really, really, really don't want to waste any more of my evenings sitting through this sort of rubbish!


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 07:52 AM

So - take it as you find it, and give thanks that it's there at all; it is what it is, regardless of how you think it ought to be. These days I'm treating each session and singaround as if it's my last & living it accordingly. I'm taking nothing for granted, because once it's gone, it won't be coming back.
a good philosophy.
what is needed now are young organisers .


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 08:08 AM

"what is needed now are young organisers."

How would young organisers make a real difference? Or what would they do differently, to improve the clubs and increase the interest of younger participants?


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: kendall
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 08:29 AM

I once sat on stage with another performer who did stuff right off my album!
Another time, I sat back stage and crossed off each piece as other performers did them.Sure I was irritated, but none of the stuff was legally mine, and I have hundreds of things to choose from.

If I only had a handful of things to do at a given performance and someone nicked one or more of them, I'd be pissed off, but it would be MY problem, not theirs.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 08:38 AM

I think it is good manners not to do a song that you know another is likely to sing. It has been that way since I first went to a folk club, probably some time in the 60s (in those days not because I liked the music, but because it was where the nookie was).


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 08:58 AM

Rosie.
young people have energy,they often have new/fresh ideas,and they often have enthusisam.
if all the old organisers, die, or give up,they need to be replaced . without organisers,there will be no venues .


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 09:01 AM

"I think it is good manners not to do a song that you know another is likely to sing."

But why would anyone want to sing the same songs every month? Or so often that it will naturally be assumed that Mr. 'A' will sing 'x' and Mr. 'B' will sing 'y'?

Isn't that boring both for yourself, and for your audience?
It's not as though there's a limited supply of songs going around...

I'm probably treading on gouty toes galore here, but although it may have been 'the way it's always been done' (which IMO has never been a satisfactory reasoning for anything whatever..), but irrespective of that, it seems almost as cliquey as 'my mug' and 'my chair' type syndrom.

And as for Guests not being welcome to perform songs which are repeatedly performed by regulars, I for one would find it more interesting to hear a fresh rendering of song 'x', than hear it sung yet again by Mr. 'x'.

As an outsider to regular folk clubs (though no longer a novice), this stuff atill makes no decent sense to me.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 10:48 AM

Oh dear, Jim, I wish you wouldn't write such long posts. It makes it very difficult to respond.

Whatever your and Pat's motives, we would be a lot poorer without your efforts.

Your determination to find the slightest scrap of evidence to prove the parlous state of UK folk clubs IS ludicrous. For instance, "when I read of 'folk' clubs presenting performers singing Misty, Girl From Ipanima and The Great Pretender (yes, and The Beatles). I have listened to Bruce MacNeill's tracks on Youtube and three points emerge - 1) He is a guitarist of considerable ability who clearly cares very much about the standard of his playing, 2) Nowhere does he describe Misty or Girl From Ipanima as folk music, 3) He lives in Massachusetts. Do you really believe that The Great Pretender is typical fair in UK folk clubs? Not in my experience. I expect there are places where people sing Beatles songs. Why shouldn't they? They're good songs. Why does the existence of one sort of music interfere with another?

Your response to this "evidence" of what's going on in UK folk clubs is "Why ******* bother; who gives a shite about Walter's wonderful Van Dieman's Land". Lots of people Jim but you refuse to accept the evidence that they do.

and most of all, who cares what he had to say about his songs and singing.
My instinct, based on my own experiences and on discussions like these is, leave it on the shelf and let posterity decide.


I don't think you have the right to withhold that material. It isn't yours, you merely hold it in trust. I think you have a duty to pass it on so that others can share the pleasure you had from it. Did you tell Walter that you were going to lock it away safe from prying eyes? As I understand, he went to considerable effort to save the songs of his predecessors. You give the impression that you would rather it was lost than that it should fall into evil hands.

From what I have heard of your club, I heartily applaud what you are doing and wish that other clubs could learn from it,

Thank you but I'm sure we can't be unique. I know from personal experience that there are others and hear reports of many more.

but it seems to me that some of the things you have said in the past run totally contrary to your actual achievements.

We do what we do and we achieve what we achieve. Any contradictions are down to your interpretation. We do, as a matter of principal not through laziness, give a floorspot to anyone who wants a floorspot. I have never said "that standards are not just unnecessary, but undesirable in case they 'scare off the less talented', or that a folk club is a place for people with 'no expectations or criteria'". In my experience, people who want to perform, want to perform well. You gave a quote from Ewan MacColl on another thread which, in essence, said that the drive for quality has to come from within; it cannot be imposed from outside. All that anybody else can do is to do their best and try to lead by example.

What we have is a wonderful body of songs which, I believe are as entertaining and inspiring, and moving as they ever where

Indeed we do but a song is not a song if it is not being sung. If someone performs a song to less than perfect standard, someone else may hear it and think "That's a good song...and I could do it better." That can't happen if it's gathering dust on a shelf.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 10:57 AM

Read what I said, Shimrod.

"...you invoke your ludicrous notion that the entire UK folk club circuit is dominated by people singing Beatles' songs and singing songs out of tune from their notebooks because they can't be bothered to learn the words."

Jim's position appears to be that ALL UK folk clubs are in terminal decline. I'm sorry that things in your area aren't doing too well but it's down to you and your friends to do something about it. Start a new club and make it clear what is expected. Call it something like The Stricly Traditional Song With No Modern Pop Music Club. If you believe in the music you'll get an audience.

Either that or move.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 11:01 AM

As an outsider to regular folk clubs (though no longer a novice), this stuff atill makes no decent sense to me.

Me neither, and yet it's amazing how much territorial preciousness you find with respect of performers of traditional song. I've seen feathers fly with near violence over completely different versions of the same song. God knows, there are enough songs out there, and enough variations abounding, and the song is always greater than the singer, even though a singer might feel they have earned a certain exclusivity which is never the case. This gets back to the Cultural Autism I mentioned over on the What Brought you to Trad? thread. To quote myself, if I may: Folk accommodates both the eccentric & the purist, very often in the same skin; it is this bewildering duality that ensures I'll keep going back for more...


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 11:33 AM

Do you really believe that The Great Pretender is typical fair in UK folk clubs?

From time to time I might segue a rendering of Up on the Roof (Carol King, Laura Nyro, The Drifters et al, but mostly The Drifters, in my heart anyway) into a rendering of The Innocent Hare at our local (generally non-trad.) folk club. I do this because 1) they are both contenders for my favourite song and as such deserving of a similar place in my heart and 2) I believe much of what we (myself included) have come to think of as Traditional Song is a bit of a red herring sold to us by the selectivity of the variously motivated collectors and subsequent folky-spin doctors. However, to paraphrase Mark E. Smith*, I still believe in Trad. Folk dream; Trad. Folk as primal scream. Much choice that I have about it...

Good songs should be sung anywhere, by anyone so moved to sing them, and if that is Folk Music (which it is) then where better a place to sing them than in a Folk Club?

* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pejedJ8gm5c

The Fall - Live at the Witch Trials

We're still one step ahead of you
I still believe in the R and R dream
R and R as primal scream
Tied to the Puritan Ethic
Non-sympathetic to spastics
After all this, still a lonely bastard.
Eggheads, boneheads, queue
Queue for them
We were early and we were late
But, still, live at the witch trials....


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 11:54 AM

The question, Insane Suspender, was not whether it ever happened or even whether it should happen but whether it was, as Jim seems to believe, typical of what is going on in UK folk clubs.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: MBSGeorge
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 12:13 PM

Maybe we should start a new thread - What is the definition of Traditional Folk? - Personally I have been led to believe that a folk song tells a story which could equally be true of some much more modern music that is around today............

G


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 12:21 PM

Bryan,
"Oh dear, Jim, I wish you wouldn't write such long posts. It makes it very difficult to respond."
Big subject - for me anyway, but I'll take you posting in smaller bits for now.
"I don't think you have the right to withhold that material"
Every recording we've ever made has been lodged at the National Sound Archive and in ITMA in Dublin, with full listening access - thought you knew this. There is an article in The Living Tradition archive entitled (I think) The Carroll-Mackenzie Collection at the British Library.
Coming from the provinces, I have always realised how difficult it is for anybody outside London to use the British Library, so it's always been a question of whether we take our work further - and whether there are enough people interested to warrant our doing so.
Ours was one of the first British collections to be housed at NSA and I'm proud to say that depositing it there had much to do with their opening up the archive to include British material.
We have issued some of our Irish material on CDs (though thanks to a vicious brain-dead of a reviewer we will think twice before we do this again).
I would still like to know if I was mistaken in thinking that you proposed that the only criterion for having someone sing in public was that they should want to.
Nuff for now.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: curmudgeon
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 12:22 PM

"...start a new thread - What is the definition of Traditional Folk?"

This has been done to death on more than one other thread. Leave it be!


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: High Hopes (inactive)
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 12:37 PM

""...start a new thread - What is the definition of Traditional Folk?"
Don't even bloody go there...


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: MBSGeorge
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 12:40 PM

Lol. Was kidding - it would be a veeeerrrrrryyyyy long thread.

:0)

G


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Bruce MacNeill
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 12:50 PM

Not that I want to step in the middle of a dogfight, I would like to thanks those who took the time to look at my videos. My interest was in performance standards and not in musical genre at the time. I appreciate the comments I've received, which have been positive and I'll keep working on my goal of having something fit for presentation within the next year or so although there's nowhere to present it here (Virginia's Eastern Shore now) that I can find.

Ok, at the sound of the bell come out fighting!

Ding!!!


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 01:05 PM

I will admit I haven't read every post here. I may have missed the post that prestates my comment. Sorry if I am redundant.

I will sit through an entire night of someone who doesn't play well and can't sing as long as they are entertaining. There is a difference between entertainment and performance. I've sat through pristine and clinical piano work that was performed perfectly. But I wasn't entertained. And I have heard a haphazard and slapdashed evening of key board work that had me on the floor in tears. I ws entertained.

It all comes down to the quality of the performer, not the quality of the performance at to whether the show is entertaining.

And as far as stage craft is concerned, it can't be learned anywhere but on a stage.

Don


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 01:18 PM

The question, Insane Suspender, was not whether it ever happened or even whether it should happen but whether it was, as Jim seems to believe, typical of what is going on in UK folk clubs.

And my point, my dear Gastropod, was that whatever may or may be typical of what goes on in UK folk clubs, the rules will always be proven by the exceptions which are themselves the human currency of a music that must be primarily defined by context rather than content. Folk Music is about folks doing music; amateurs with a passion very often greater than their ability, but only in the eyes of certain musos who might snide & sneer from the sidelines, but at the expense of the decency & camaraderie inherent in the very fabric of Folk, with but few exceptions. I'm sure the same is true of Lewes (...20 hours solemn walk...); an encompassing & supportive community of like-minds and old friends communing through the medium of Folk Song, however so wobbly the occasional performance might be.

The Great Suspender


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 03:14 PM

"I will sit through an entire night of someone who doesn't play well and can't sing as long as they are entertaining. There is a difference between entertainment and performance. I've sat through pristine and clinical piano work that was performed perfectly. But I wasn't entertained. And I have heard a haphazard and slapdashed evening of key board work that had me on the floor in tears. I ws entertained.

It all comes down to the quality of the performer, not the quality of the performance at to whether the show is entertaining."

Aye, I think you have is spot on here. Whatever the 'art' is, however brilliantly technically executed a performance may be, it still does not assure any communication of charisma, charm, warmth, and all those other 'human' elements which are essential to making something deeply *pleasureable* to partake of.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 03:41 PM

"Depends if you want your music (whatever music) to survive - if you don't, no, it doesn't matter - who gives a toss about badly performed music?
Jim Carroll"

C Sharp travelled around the country, as did a number of others over the years, with the intention of recording the folk songs of our ancestors, as passed down through the centuries.

I have heard many song recordings of country people who, in the main, were far from being polished professional performers.

I think that devotees of traditional folk music (among whom I DO number myself, in spite of also writing songs) should be grateful that some of today's enthusiasts were not around to discourage poor performers from singing.

Had they been around there would IMO be a much smaller, not to say weaker, tradition.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 03:51 PM

Having made that point, of course performance ability matters greatly.

Nobody should ever be willing to perform at a standard below the best of which he/she is capable. That requires learning tune and lyrics, practising until both come easily and consistently, and also gaining experience of performing at all types of venue.

When it comes to judging who should, or should not, be allowed to perform, I will pass, because I truly do not believe that I should assume that MY subjective opinion gives me the right to do so.

I know some people who think my work is rubbish, and others who think it worth travelling twenty miles and paying to hear it.

You pays yer money, and...........

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 04:09 PM

We are not traditional singers and we have no right to use the skills or otherwise of the older singers as an excuse for bad singing.
We took the songs of Sharp's, Grainger's, Greig's and all the other pioneers singers and we owe it to the memory of those singers to make as good a job as possible of their gift to us.
Thirty odd years among such singers has convinced me that they respected and loved the songs they gave us and did their best when asked for their songs. They forever apologised for "not being able to sing well any more" or, not being able to "make as good a job of it as my father" or "my mother" or "the old man who taught me the song".
The "near enough for folk song" attitude so often displayed on threads like these is a profound insult to the people who were generous to pass on the songs to us.
Go and read what Belle Stewart had to say about the necessity of good singing, or listen to what Tom Lenihan or Walter Pardon or Mary Delaney had to say on the subject.
It is not a matter of discouraging "poor performers from singing" rather it is a case of persuading them to do justice to the songs they have taken on loan. If we don't make a good job of them they will die and we will be unable to pass them on to the next generation and will have betrayed a trust.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 04:26 PM

Diane Easby: "A guest artist will have come with a setlist, likewise a named session leader. To perform material strongly associated with them without even asking them first if they intend to include the item is not only bad practice but very bad manners."

I totally turned your comments around in my head somehow, to read quite the opposite statement. Doh!

I now get what you say, and for sure agree.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 05:10 PM

"If we don't make a good job of them they will die and we will be unable to pass them on to the next generation"

I'm not going to plead ignorance anymore, as I guess I am to some degree (much as I find it difficult to claim 'youth' in my thirties!) the 'next generation', being probably a generation or even two behind the bulk of posters here....

On a thread not so long ago, I've seen you Jim C. condemning a series of submitted musical links to widely varying interpretations of traditional songs, as *all* akin to utterly crappy 'pop' music. I have to confess that my jaw dropped at some of your words there!

If the younger generation are to be bequeathed these songs so that they may truly survive, then IMO there must be broad allowances for the creative inventiveness of the young - for indeed the 'tradition is dead' as you say, so perhaps in its stead, may there be allowed for a New Tradition (Aye, even in the words of the infamous Lizzie Cornish!).

Fortunately IMO, there does indeed appear to be a fresh burst of green life in the old tree yet. Lots of viril young twenty sumthings are picking up drum, fiddle and exploring strange auld ballads for their work..
If that's crappy pop, then I look forward to the future arrival of: "Now That's What I Call Traditional Song Top Ten!"

About Trad Song, I keep hearing of the prime importance of communicating STORY, and if this is so, then of paramount importance is the succesfully communicating that story to an audience who wil both give a shit about the story you are telling and actually be able to aesthetically respond to the medium of communication. If it is true that the most important thing in trad song is the communication of story, then while the stories may remain the same, the delivery of them may IMO quite legitimately evolve to suit the audience.

In this respect, the 'tradition' IMO might be well served following the flexiblitly of drama, which despite the continuity of interest in more 'traditional' renderings of plays, has never been stifling of new thought or remained static. In fact the opposite is true, inventiveness of production play massive importance to the full and successful *communication* of various interpretations of the same ancient story to each new audience.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 05:59 PM

"Nobody should ever be willing to perform at a standard below the best of which he/she is capable. That requires learning tune and lyrics, practising until both come easily and consistently, and also gaining experience of performing at all types of venue."

Amen to that!

And most people, if they push themselves a bit, can at least make an effort and get beyond mumbling the words from an exercise book.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 06:28 PM

Jim, as I suspect you already know, I was not referring to the acknowledged greats who picked up the songs that the likes of C Sharp recorded, but rather to the singers of whom those recordings were made.

Listen sometime to the original source recordings of some of those, and you will understand what I meant.

BTW, where exactly in my two posts did I suggest anything akin to "near enough for folk"?

Shimrod, while I do stand by my first statement about learning and practising, I must take issue with you on the subject of reading either words or music.

I know several people who simply cannot memorise lyrics, and yet produce wonderfully fine and professional renditions of songs with the words in front of them. It is also true that classical musicians play from the scores most of the time, and nobody belittles THEIR talent for that. I would hate to miss a fine performance because an organiser vetoed that.

Some performers will always do a bad job, whether from lack of talent or lack of care, but it generally has naught to do with whether or no they read from book or sheet.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 06:46 PM

Incidentally Jim, I have been around the folk scene for half a century, so I don't really need anyone to choose my reading matter for me, but, just so you'll know, I have read most of those.


I strongly suspect that any of those source singers who had turned up (had that been possible) at a folk club run by your good self, would indeed have been discouraged from coming again, because their ability was not up to your high standard.

Fortunately the collectors had more time, tolerance, and patience.

I would love to know how many times in the twentieth century, somebody has discovered a long unnoticed manuscript with a new song, or a new version of an old song, which has been lost forever because he WAS discouraged by the reception his mediocre voice got at some club.

We'll never know, but it's worth contemplating don't you think?

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 06:52 PM

And as far as stage craft is concerned, it can't be learned anywhere but on a stage.[quote Don Firth]
I partly agree with you Don ,I think it can be learned on stage ,but it can also be taught, as acting can ,in rehearsal .
Ewan MacColl had a drama back ground,and was a fine presenter whose stage craft was second to none,I think his drama experience taught him a lot ,and helped him present his performances well .
so stage craft can be taught ,and practised .
Professor Alexander[Alexander technique],was a person who took presentation of performance very seriously,and believed it could be taught .
presentation of performance,equals stagecraft .


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 04:33 AM

Don,
Am confused - who are these 'acknowledged greats' I am referring to; I assumed you were talking about the source singers and responded accordingly. Sharp didn't record his source singers to any extent as far as we know; Grainger did, but most of his recordings are in such poor condition that as to render them unlistenable.
I think you will find that Sharp, if he was interested in his singers as singers, never passed on any of his findings to the wider world. His interest was in taking down their songs; we know very little about how his singers sang, nor what he thought of them as performers. This has remained the case with collecting and because of it we know almost nothing of the singing tradition from the point of view of the singers themselves.
It was not my intention to 'choose your reading matter for you' any more than I believe it was yours to choose my listening material when you wrote "listen sometime to the original source recordings of some of those," - we are passing on information (I hope in a friendly way, but that doesn't always work out).
Nor did I accuse you of adopting a 'near enough for folk' attitude; this is the theme of this, and many other similar threads and I was making a general point.
"I strongly suspect that any of those source singers who had turned up (had that been possible) at a folk club run by your good self, would indeed have been discouraged from coming again, because their ability was not up to your high standard."
Why should you suspect this? We collected songs from exactly the type of singer you described and took them around the clubs whenever we were asked to. The problem was not in getting them to sing, rather it was finding the clubs interested enough to book them. Pat, my wife arranged regular tours for Walter Pardon around the tiny, tiny circle of clubs who were interested enough to have him.
You appear to be making wild assumptions about me and my work based on ..... what???
"Fortunately the collectors had more time, tolerance, and patience."
I hope you include me in that comment - I have been a collector for thirty six years, which would make it around ten years longer than you have been around the folk scene - but who's counting.
Now finally - don't want to go on too long - what are my high standards?
I have suggested that a singer should have done enough work beforehand to at least remember the words, sing in tune and have enough understanding of the text to be able to give an interpretation.
Is that too much to ask or isn't our music worth even that small effort?
Finally, finally - you might have read Shela Stewart's 'Queen Amang The Heather'. but I don't know where you will have read what Walter Pardon, Tom Lenihan or Mary Delaney had to say on the subject as they are all lying on the shelves of the British Library as part of our unpublished (apart from a a miniscule bit of Walter here and there) collection .
Jim Carroll
PS Not ignoring your comments Rosie, but this is far too long as it is - will respond later.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 06:51 AM

Glad to hear about the archives, Jim. When you said "leave it on the shelf " I had images of that shelf being in your back bedroom and ending up in the skip when you the house clearers come in when you finally pop your clogs. I am also delighted to discover that there is an organisation called ITMA in Dublin.

I would still like to know if I was mistaken in thinking that you proposed that the only criterion for having someone sing in public was that they should want to.

No, Jim, you are not mistaken. That is what I said. I have said it several times now. Just to be absolutely sure, I will say it again.

We, at the Lewes Saturday Folk Club, hold it as a principle that anybody who wants a floorspot can have one.

To elaborate, we don't just wait for them to ask; everybody is asked if they would like to perform. The residents will stand back to make time if necessary.

Is that clear enough?


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 07:49 AM

I am also delighted to discover that there is an organisation called ITMA in Dublin.

Don't forget the diver, sir!

(And you know, if you tell these young people today they just wouldn't see what was funny. Sad but true.)


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,John from Kemsing
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 08:00 AM

Pip,
       "It`s that man again,
         It`s that man again.........."


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Will Fly
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 08:12 AM

Perform? "I don't mind if do..."


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,John from Kemsing
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 08:15 AM

Will, "Can I do you now, sir"


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 08:31 AM

"On a thread not so long ago, I've seen you Jim C. condemning a series of submitted musical links to widely varying interpretations of traditional songs, as *all* akin to utterly crappy 'pop' music!"
The links that were put up struck me, at the time as having more to do with not particularly inspiring pop music than with folk song. Sure, they were all traditional songs, but they were performed in such a way as to make the drawing of any interpretation from them virtually impossible, to my aging ears, at least. The 'folk' form had been totally abandoned and the narrative relegated into the far distant background.
Nothing 'wrong' or 'unprincipled' about this; but by shedding their form they had become something else. I'm more than happy to sit with my feet up and listen to Butterworth's 'Banks of Green Willow' till I've worn the disc paper-thin, but as beautiful as it is, it has nothing whatever to do with a woman and her illegitimate child being cast adrift in an open boat.
The problem with a pop song is that, unless it is particularly spectacular it has a very short shelf life. The 'Electric Folk' fad might have caused a bit of a ripple outside the folk scene at the time, but who listens to it now?
Our folk songs have lasted for centuries because down the generations people have been able to identify with them and adapt them to their own particular lives, emotions and experiences - for me, there was simply nothing to identify with.
Abandoning the basic function of the songs isn't saving them, it's just prolonging the agony of their demise - sorry!!!.
Bryan:
"No, Jim, you are not mistaken..."
I which case I don't feel the need to apologise for my remarks about promoting crap standard.
Pip:
"Don't forget the diver, sir!"
I'd pictured you as being much younger than that - ah well...
ITMA - Irish Traditional Music Archive, which is housed in a beautiful six story Georgian building in Merrion Square in the centre of Dublin - reckoned to be the finest archive of traditional music in Europe, if not the world - amazing what you can achieve when you apply standards - people actually begin to take you as seriously as you take yourself!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 08:47 AM

Well said Snail.

Performance standards and ability do of course matter - we would and should all like to be better than we are - but if folk are not allowed to sing it, it is no longer folk music.

And no, that does not mean that if people sing it it is necessarily folk music.

I would have thought that it went without saying that people msut be permitted to adapt folk song, and perform in the style they see fit. Folk is not about form, but derivation. I still listen to 60s and 70s electric folk - and indeed have learned (by ear) a number of songs from there - that I do acoustic. So the wheel completes the circle. I do however see the problem sometimes - how could anyone learn the melody line or words of "The Setting of the Sun" from the Seth Lakeman version? But by comparing that version to the less modern version that I do, I have sent more than a couple of people off on a voyage of enquiry.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 09:14 AM

as having more to do with not particularly inspiring pop music than with folk song

And there's me thinking that 35 years of traditional song and ballad performance at least counted for something. I guess not, because all this while I've been doing pop music - and a not particularly inspiring pop music at that!

So, on the one hand, Jim, you're telling us that the so-called source singers were at best clapped-out old duffers whose imperfect ability to remember the songs far outweighed their ability to actually sing them, and on the other you dismiss out of hand anyone who might take those songs and interpret them according to the dynamic of their own era; a dynamic which nevertheless references the tradition, however so far removed from from the folk form (whatever that might be).

I would say that the robustness of traditional song is far greater than the somewhat preciously autistic notions inherent in the Folk Movement, in the faux-purism of which are sown the seeds of its own inevitable demise, not in people taking a fresh look at such songs whilst conveniently bypassing wanly elitist efforts of The Revival which only ever served to compound the academic elitism that gave rise to it in the first place.

Personally, when it comes to recorded folk music, I only ever listen to these clapped out old duffers doddering in their rustic dotage as they stumble on vainly trying to remember which song it is they're singing. Singers like Davie Stewart for example, as recorded by Lomax in 1957 when he would have been a sprightly 56 - a veritable youngster given the average age of most folk clubs I attend these days! Next time I listen to The Tarves Rant I must remember that this is a remembering of a song, and not a performance.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 09:20 AM

"Don't forget the diver, sir!"
I'd pictured you as being much younger than that - ah well...


The sad part is, I am - I heard a repeat of ITMA once (possibly the only time it's been repeated) and a couple of the catchphrases have stuck in my mind forever after.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 09:55 AM

Had a quickish read through this thread.

Performance ability is more important than musical ability if it comes to the crunch.   A good performer does not need to be an amazing singer or musicain - though they should of course be adequate. They convey their personality and what they are trying to achieve in their music effectively to the audience that goes home happy.

Sleepy Rosie a few postings back sums it up about the good musicians who are totally and utterly boring. Unless that's exactly what you as their punter have gone to see - they are a big yawn.

Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 10:18 AM

"And there's me thinking that 35 years of traditional song and ballad performance at least counted for something."
I had no idea I have commented on your singing - have I - were you one of the sound clips I referred to?
"So, on the one hand, Jim, you're telling us that the so-called source singers were at best clapped-out old duffers........."
I'm telling you no such thing, please don't put words in my mouth.
For a start - I have never commented on the abilities of source singers; I don't go there - "clapped out old duffers" is your somewhat offensive term, not mine. I was referring to their own perception of their singing ability, not mine. I certainly never claimed that their self-modesty had any basis.
Most of the source singers we knew and/or listened to were getting on in years; many had not had an audience for their songs for decades; Walter Pardon, prior to his being taken up by the revival, had only ever sung one song (Dark Eyed sailor - "nobody wanted that") in front of an audience, including his family.
Singers technical abilities varied, depending on age, health, practice, varied from superb to poor, but every one of them, without exception, brought something of value to their songs, interpretation, involvement, belief, experience. Sam Larner at 80 plus could sing the socks of virtually any revival singer I have heard. Mary Delaney, one of the finest singers we recorded, who was a chronic asthmatic who was breathing from a bottle last time we saw her, was capable of bringing tears to my eyes (and her own) with her singing- at the time we were her only audience.
There are exceptions of course; Scots and Irish Travellers kept their singing tradition much longer than the settled communities.
"I would say that the robustness of traditional song is far greater...."
I would have said that twenty odd years ago, until we witnessed the Irish Travellers' singing tradition disappear over the space of 18 months when it became possible to go into Woolworth's and buy a portable television. Nowadays none of them sing the old songs; "We've all been modernised" one of them told us.
"wanly elitist efforts of The Revival"
Have you ever spoken to traditional singers and asked them what they thought of their songs?
Walter Pardon filled tape after tape talking about how he approached his songs, how he identified with them, comparing them (somewhat unfavourably) to the pop songs of the early 20th century and to the music hall songs he knew. Tom Lenihan spoke for hours on 'the right way to sing the songs, 'The Blás', comparing his approach to what he called 'the modern way of singing. These singers all had something 'academic' to say about their art - for that is what it was and that is how many of them approached it.
Tell me how robust, for instance, the ballads are when they disappear entirely from the clubs becaust they are 'too long' - one club organiser recently put a time limit of (something like) two and a half minutes on the length of a song, thereby wiping out almost the entire ballad repertoire at a stroke.   
Going on too long again.   
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Working Radish
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 10:36 AM

I had no idea I have commented on your singing - have I - were you one of the sound clips I referred to?

I'm afraid so. I linked to Jim Moray's Lord Bateman, Sean's King Henry and, er, something else by someone else. I can understand (although I don't quite share) your reaction to the Jim Moray - I had to listen to it three times before I noticed that he was singing a different version from the one I'm familiar with. I don't think Sean's performance deserved tarring with the same brush.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 11:06 AM

Bryan:
"No, Jim, you are not mistaken..."
I which case I don't feel the need to apologise for my remarks about promoting crap standard.


Oh dear. we were doing so well. Tell me Jim, what evidence do you have that our policy leads to crap standards?


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 11:24 AM

Sinister:
I had no idea I had commented on your singing - doesn't mean I wouldn't have if I had known - sing in public and you should expect comments - doesn't mean you have to agree with them.
For me, any interpretation of a song has to arise from its narrative; I got no such interpretation from any of the clips.
Bryan:
My statement was aimed at the comment that all that was needed to sing in public was the desire to do so - nothing else. It is your statement that I believe promotes bad standards; I have no idea how you put it into practice
You later went on to say that you don't get bad singers turning up to sing at your club and appeared to use that as an argument that they were a figment of our imagination, contrary to what others have said (including the person who started that particular thread)
Aren't there any bad wannabes in Sussex; have you scared them all off - tell us the secret of your success and make these threads redundant.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 11:38 AM

Singers technical abilities varied, depending on age, health, practice, varied from superb to poor, but every one of them, without exception, brought something of value to their songs, interpretation, involvement, belief, experience.

Jim, are you saying that today's singers are incapable of that?

For me, any interpretation of a song has to arise from its narrative; I got no such interpretation from any of the clips.

Is that their fault - or yours?


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 12:10 PM

"I am also delighted to discover that there is an organisation called ITMA in Dublin."
I hear that the new chairperson is someone called Mona Lott...


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 12:12 PM

To say that the songs are narrative first and music second is surely a personal judgment, a foible or whim. The modern versions of the songs are plainly interpretations of them. All you are saying is that you do not like them. That's a row and spat I have had more than once - I know my version of "the Innocent Hare" does offend some: I don't do it the way the Coppers did. But its the song my local traveller friends ask me to do more often than any other. And I remember a professional singer seen at many festivals saying my version (closely inspired by the Young Tradition) of Byker Hill (the modern hymn tune version) was awful - we were shouting (allegedly). Funny that, it's the song I get asked for across the board more than any other.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 12:23 PM

Sminky
"Jim, are you saying that today's singers are incapable of that? "
No I am not; I am saying that I am quite often left with the impression that belief, involvement and interpretation are not considerations with many singers, just technical presentation, often extremely skillful, but on its own, unmoving.
I have attempted to discuss it with some singers, particularly some of the 'yoof' and it seems not to have even occurred to any of them.
For me, the best example was a Steeleye Span recording of the ballad Lamkin which I found it on the juke box of a pub I was working at. I put it on in my lunchtime and remember thinking - "Jesus, this is booooooring". Then, half way through the ballad they went into an Irish reel and I realised they'd become bored with what they were doing as well.
"Is that their fault - or yours? "
I quite honestly don't know - I am increasingly aware of my deteriorating faculties - maybe I've lost my power of concentration.
I do know that I can no longer follow the narrative of a song if it is buried under a barrage of accompaniment - when, in fact accompaniment ceases to accompany and instead dominates a song. this is one of the common problems with much of the singing I hear today.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 12:30 PM

"To say that the songs are narrative first and music second is surely a personal judgment"
Sorry, missed that Richard.
If it is, it is a judgement based on how our songs are structured - Lomax in his cantometrics study described English language songs as 'wordy'.
With a few exceptions our songs are narratives; the ballads even more so - miss a line in a ballad and you've 'lost the plot' so to speak.
If the narrative is secondary, what's the point of the text - why not just sing gibberish.
Songs without narrative interpretation are the equivalent of miming Hamlet - an exercise in the absurd.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 12:50 PM

I mistrust that word "wordy" - it so often means that the user cannot be bothered to read or listen to so many words.

Words the songs have indeed - the main ballads many of them, yet the versions of the great ballads show that the words can change while the song remains the same.

Likewise they have melodies and rhythms (or did until some colectors forgot to collect those bits) and increasingly they do have them again as the songs are put to new melodies and rhythms. I did not say that the words were secondary. I said that the music was not. People remember songs for their melodies and rhythms. Once they ahve those they may go on to remember the words.

Nothing to stop words having music. If they don't they are at most poems but not songs.

I think the accompaniment can be a great carrier for the narrative - since we are on 60/70 electric folk-rock, let's take Tam Lin, or maybe Matty Groves. The accompanment punctuates those versions and adds to the dramatic effect.

Long Lankin drives me to distraction - my sympathy is for stone mason unjustly bankrupted because the lord would not pay him!


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 12:58 PM

Right at this moment I'm listening to No Roses, Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band. The Murder of Maria Marten is, for me, the perfect combination of the power of the accompaniment and the power of the narrative. The rather creepy effect of the cart on the gravel road caps it all rather well.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 02:03 PM

Sorry Richard,
Didn't make my point too well.
The cantometrics team was set up to assess dominant features in traditional singing throughout the world.
'Wordy' was in no way a criticism, rather an observation that English language singing was 'word intensive' compared to, say Spanish Canto Hondo, which is largely musically dominated.
Traditional singers like Tom Lenihan constantly stressed that the object was to get the tune to fit the words, rather than the other way round.
The most extreme case of this was of two brothers, both excellent singers, we recorded here in Clare about thirty years ago. Between them they gave us around 20 songs – 10 of them to the same tune. They obviously regarded the tune as a vehicle for carrying the text.
As I said earlier, all too often, for me anyway, accompaniment quite often doesn't (accompany, that is), but rather, dominates the text rather than underlining it, which is probably why our English (and Irish and Scots) traditions are unaccompanied ones.
As far as folk rock went (t.b.t.g.), it was, for me, very much a case of totally overwriting the texts with (more often than not) overloud music.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 02:50 PM

Jim Carroll

It is your statement that I believe promotes bad standards; I have no idea how you put it into practice

I have stated our policy and practice quite clearly several times. Stop wriggling Jim. What evidence do you have that what we do results in crap standards?

I'll tackle your other points when you've had the honesty to answer that.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 03:03 PM

Snail - I think Jim's quite specifically said that he doesn't think that what you do results in crap standards.

What he's also said - and I tend to agree with him - is that your expressed policy seems likely to create quality problems, and that it's surprising that it doesn't in your case. In my experience, evenings with a completely open policy almost invariably feature at least one performance from somebody who's either not giving their utmost or doesn't have much utmost to give.

Where I disagree with Jim is that I don't think the occasional substandard performer is a big deal; I certainly don't think that less able performers are doing the scene much harm.

But I don't know what stops amateurish performers turning up at your club. I mean, something must be stopping them - there are plenty of amateurish performers out there.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 03:06 PM

I think the accompaniment can be a great carrier for the narrative - since we are on 60/70 electric folk-rock, let's take Tam Lin, or maybe Matty Groves. The accompanment punctuates those versions and adds to the dramatic effect.[quote]
I disagree, [imo]it wrecks the narrative.
in my opinion ,its easier to sing the child ballads,more effectively without accompaniment,there are occasionally exceptions.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Will Fly
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 03:23 PM

Pip Radish:
But I don't know what stops amateurish performers turning up at your club. I mean, something must be stopping them - there are plenty of amateurish performers out there.

The Esteemed Snail has every right to disagree with me about this but, as I've said before (in a similar thread to this) I think the Lewes clubs have built up a strong local reputation for excellence. It's quite possible that local performers are aware of this reputation and take the trouble to be "presentable", for want of a better word, before doing a floor spot. Other local musicians I know have also expressed this view. As John Boden announced at a Bellowhead concert in Lewes last year, there are "more folk clubs per head of population in Lewes than in any other part of the country". Whether that's true or not I have no idea, but there is no question that the clubs and sessions in and around Lewes have good reputations, for good reasons.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 03:23 PM

Thank you Pip - that's what I have been saying all along.
If Bryan's club doesn't have occasion to apply the policy that everyone can sing of course it's not going to affect the club adversely - he have said time and again that he doesn't get bad singers turning up asking to sing, but he is prepared to advocate bad practice for other clubs. The discussion was not, as I said at the time, about his club, but a general one. I believe that it is what is being argued for here on this thread and fits in perfectly with the age-old "near enough for folk song" argument".
I certainly am not wriggling Bryan, it is you who is hiding behind this to avoid answering my questions.
jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 07:37 PM

"10 of them to the same tune"

For me that is not 10 songs, it's 10 sets of words.

I remain of the view that what makes a song a song, rather than a mere poem, is melody, dynamic, and rhythm.

That's not to say that accompaniment cannot be a menace - the piano for example is usually dreadful with folk song, but every so often someone is so restrained that it works well - I'd have to go to get the sleeves to bear it out but I think I have some of June Tabor's stuff in mind as wonderful (unlike some of her americana, which I cannot abide).

While the original forms should not be lost, to say that only they are valid is indeed to stultify the music.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: curmudgeon
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 08:01 PM

"10 of them to the same tune"

"For me that is not 10 songs, it's 10 sets of words."

But Richard, you may be missing the nuances of those songs.

"Tramps and Hawkers," "Paddy West," "Come My Little Son," and "Davey Faa" all use the same root tune, but are, or should be, sung quite differently,

Off the top of my head, I can think of five songs that use "Brighton Camp" for a melody, but are sung differently; a note added, a note left out, a different emphasis on the tempo, etc.

Only my tuppence - Tom


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Peace
Date: 10 Mar 09 - 08:09 PM

A folk club in Montreal in the 1960s and 1970s (to the present day in fact) used to hold what I think UK people call open mics. The first 12(?) 'folkies' to put their names in were the lineup for the Sunday night. Some evenings ya'd get Jesse Winchester, Penny Lang, Chris Rawlings, Noah Zacharin, Tammy Bailiss, Gary Davis and others of similar quality. Some evenings it'd be kids new to music. The club is still going. (They don't serve booze--never have. They do serve music and coffee.)

Each performer had three songs with a total time not to exceed 15 minutes. I can recall very few Sunday nights when there was not a full house.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Banjiman
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 05:02 AM

I'm struggling to hold my own line here that anyone should be able to have a go at singarounds.

I was at a singers night recently where a couple of the "singers" were so awful that I just had to leave the room (sometimes I'm very glad to be a smoker!). And these were not nervous people doing there first ever spot just people who whatever they do they don't get any better.

On the one hand I defend their right to have a go..... but I really don't want to listen to it....really painful! A real dichotomy.

No idea how to handle that one.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Phil Williams
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 05:18 AM

I know what you mean Banjiman, People won't do it unfortunately, but we should from time to time RECORD at home the piece we might play/sing at the next session and play it back thinking 'Would I want to listen to that?' and identify where the improvements can be made, - tuning, breathing etc.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 06:44 AM

"I know several people who simply cannot memorise lyrics, and yet produce wonderfully fine and professional renditions of songs with the words in front of them."

Trouble is, Don, I don't! I can't think of a single one.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 06:55 AM

""one club organiser recently put a time limit of (something like) two and a half minutes on the length of a song, thereby wiping out almost the entire ballad repertoire at a stroke.""

An entirely reprehensible action, and somewhat stupid, given that with fifty years experience I can only recall about a dozen folk songs that short.

I do recall one singer who almost made me set a time limit. He was a resident at a folk club I ran for seven years, and on guest nights when I asked him to do just one song he would invariably respond by singing ten to fifteen minute versions of either Long Lankin or Tamelin. I resisted the temptation, I'm still not sure how I did that.



""I do know that I can no longer follow the narrative of a song if it is buried under a barrage of accompaniment - when, in fact accompaniment ceases to accompany and instead dominates a song. this is one of the common problems with much of the singing I hear today.""

Here again I agree with you. Lyrics are what makes a song. Without them it is a tune. So if the music is so important as to warrant drowning out the singer, why have a singer at all. No matter what style or genre, a song should IMO carry the voice high in the mix, so that every word can be clearly heard.

At least that would solve the problem of years long arguments about what words Garfunkel actually sang in "Scarborough Fair", the answer to which Simon and Garfunkel themselves have forgotten.

At last, two points on which we can agree Jim.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 08:02 AM

Pip Radish

Snail - I think Jim's quite specifically said that he doesn't think that what you do results in crap standards.

Really? I must have blinked and missed it.

Jim Carroll

Thank you Pip - that's what I have been saying all along.

Good. So, Jim, you are not saying that having a policy and practice of giving a floor spot to everybody who wants one results in crap standards. I am delighted to hear it. It leaves me a little confused by your previous statement -

In which case I don't feel the need to apologise for my remarks about promoting crap standard.

Pip Radish

But I don't know what stops amateurish performers turning up at your club.

Of course amateurish performers turn up at our club. They are (or most of them) amateur. I am an amateur. The word Jim is using is not amateurish, it is CRAP. We do not get CRAP performers turning up at your club. Sorry if that offends anybody, but that is the way it is.

Jim Carroll

he is prepared to advocate bad practice for other clubs.

I have never advocated any sort of practice for any other club. I have frequently championed the right of any club to organise its affairs in any way it sees fit. I have merely reported what we do and the results we observe. Despite your denials, you do seem to be saying that what we do is bad practice and results in crap standards.

Thanks for the kind comments, Will. Every club has its own culture and ethos which is self perpetuating. An invitation to perform is an invitation to join that culture. We have a group of residents who care very nuch about what they do. We have a loyal following of floor singers who have an equal commitment to what they are doing. That is the environment that new floor singers meet. I would hope that they would take inspirition from it rather than being scared off. If on the other hand, the club culture says that intonation doesn't matter and it's OK to read your words from an exercise book then that is the message that newcomers will get.

I don't see that I need to justify my position. Jim says that to take the desire to perform as sufficient reason to give someone a floorspot is promoting crap standards. I know from personal, practical experience that he is wrong. That's all there is to it.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 08:41 AM

"Jim says that to take the desire to perform as sufficient reason to give someone a floorspot is promoting crap standards. I know from personal, practical experience that he is wrong. That's all there is to it."
And I know from personal experience that it does and I've given one of those experiences; where do we go from here?
Others have also given such experiences - an entire thread, the one where this argument first began, was opened with a description of such an event - are we all lying?
I did not respond to the practices at your club, but to your statement.
I have never been to your club so how could I express an opinion of how it is run?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 08:48 AM

ubject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Shimrod - PM
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 06:44 AM

"I know several people who simply cannot memorise lyrics, and yet produce wonderfully fine and professional renditions of songs with the words in front of them."

Trouble is, Don, I don't! I can't think of a single one.
I can, a girl who sang Whitby Whaler,when I was gigging at Robin Hoods Bay folk club last year .
an exception,but it can be done,however I prefer to see singer not using cribsheets.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 09:28 AM

Jim Carroll

where do we go from here?

Well, you could go back and read my last post. What I am essentially saying there is that the policy promotes the pre-existing standard. Crap begets crap. Quality begets quality.

I don't think anybody is lying, I just think they may be misinterpreting what they see. For instance, in the post you refer to, the poster commented that the booked guests were disappointing. Perhaps they were the ones setting the standard for the floor singers. The evidence you produce yourself can be a little, shall we say, quirky. Citing an American guitarist playing what he described as jazz numbers on YouTube as an example of the parlous state of UK folk clubs was particularly bizarre.

I don't deny that there may be terrible clubs (but by all accounts, they seem to be successful in their own way) and places which may well call themselves folk clubs where you hearing nothing but Beatles songs or angst ridden singer/songwriters. I don't go to them. I have no need because there are plenty of clubs where people care about quality and share my love of traditional music and song. You seem not to believe that such places exist.

I did not respond to the practices at your club, but to your statement.

My statement was about the practices at our club so this is a distinction without a difference. Do you think we should change our policy or just keep it secret to avoid corrupting other clubs?


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: BobKnight
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 11:09 AM

Unless you have some medical problem, such as short-term memory loss, there is absolutely no reason why people cannot remember lyrics. It all depends on how much time you are willing to invest in memorising them. Failure to memorise the lyrics is, in my opinion down to laziness. I have no wish to offend anyone, and I haven't got the greatest memory in the world,(ask my wife)but I know the words to at least a few hundred songs, of all types, and I don't carry a folder around with me to gigs. On the odd occasion my memory lets me down, I sweat buckets, just like everybody else. :)


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 11:25 AM

Jim says that to take the desire to perform as sufficient reason to give someone a floorspot is promoting crap standards. I know from personal, practical experience that he is wrong. That's all there is to it.

Not quite, because you also say

We have a group of residents who care very nuch about what they do. We have a loyal following of floor singers who have an equal commitment to what they are doing. That is the environment that new floor singers meet.

So your policy doesn't result in crap standards, because you've already established a high standard. The policy itself could lead either way - it depends what's there already. Which means that anyone setting up a new club would be well advised to have a more restrictive standard, to stop an anything-goes standard getting established.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 11:44 AM

When I began singing in public, in small coffee house venues mostly, I was an awkward, shy and pretty insecure young fellow of around 17 and 18. My performances tended to be quiet and introspective. I had no formal training in either performance or in music - I was totally self-taught. I tended to let audience distractions bother me. Over time, watching others perform and having people tell me I needed to "connect" more with the audience, I got over simply doing it for myself and started to reach out and share with them. You'll find your own way.

One small piece of advice I never forgot came from an old entertainer with whom I had a chance meeting. He said, "Dare to be ridiculous." He didn't mean that I needed to be silly on stage, but that it helps to "let it all hang out," as we said in the sixties, and enjoy the synergy between you and the folks out there. Of course, if there isn't any, you might want to re-examine your choices...


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Amos
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 11:48 AM

That was excellent advice, for the reasons you state, TJ.

BTW, if you register as a member you can get PMs. Seems silly we never have played together, dunnit?


A


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 12:51 PM

"It is also true that classical musicians play from the scores most of the time, and nobody belittles THEIR talent for that."

Quite apart from various points raised in this thread on which I have no public opinion, it's always worth pointing out again that this is analogy is erroneous.

Solo classical singers almost never read the words. Orchestras and choirs do, but this doesn't matter because the words are either missing or secondary. But a singer, specially one singing a story, is, technically, talking to the audience - albeit in modulation, and so a whole set of behavioural 'rules' kick in, whether we like it or not, which do not apply in classical, choral, and other types of music.

Once, people had to read speeches and the news while maintaining as much audience eye contact as possible (a special and rare skill), but once autocues were invented they became ubiquitous for a very good reason. This is that it's actually quite uncomfortable to watch someone talking to you who's not looking at you. This an instinctive animal response (I used to do lectures on the role of eye contact in TV).

Singers who close their eyes can, strangely, still maintain a connection, but readers can't, and that's all there is to it.

I don't, myself, mind singers reading their words, but this is the reason so many people hate it - even if they may not unbderstand why.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 01:05 PM

Yes,Pip,that is the point I was making. We will have to wait and see whether Jim agrees. As for someone starting a new club, that's entirely up to them but it raises all the problems of deciding who is or is not allowed to sing and risks accusations of cliqueyness(?) right from the start.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 01:25 PM

" For instance, in the post you refer to, the poster commented that the booked guests were disappointing. Perhaps they were the ones setting the standard for the floor singers.."
This is now embarrassing - you are speculating wildly in order, apparently, to get out of the hole you have dug for yourself, and you continue to misrepresent what I am saying.
"You seem not to believe that such places exist."
I have never claimed good clubs don't exist; I have opposed what I believe to be an attitude, if adhered to, which would do much to turn good clubs into bad ones.
This is the posting that started it all which echoes experiences I, and apparently others, have had in some clubs and which contains much of what this discussion is about,
Jim Carroll

"I took a group of friends with me to a club not very far from where I live, but not in my home town (no names, no clues, no accusations of trolling please.) The guests were a band that I wanted to hear and my friends were keen to hear what I've been up to since I started singing this stuff.
The band were disappointing, but no more of that; it was not them that made my friends vow never to grace a folk club again. It was the rest of the evening.
First a selection of floor singers ambled on and after the usual false starts ("oops- a bit high; I'll try that again", etc.- haven't these people ever heard of pitch pipes?) a singer came on who stumbled to the end of the first verse of her chosen song, then forgot the rest and had to be helped through it by members of the audience. As she sat down, to cries of "Well done" and "We got there in the end", one of my friends whispered to me "People actually PAY to listen to this???" in astonishment.
I was so angry that, like my friends, I almost vowed to give up folk music and do something else. Why is it that this sort of thing is tolerated in folk clubs when in any other music venue the performer would be taken off?
So, four people who may have been converted to this music have now decided to steer clear of it. And people come on this message board and debate about where the deckchairs whould be while the ship sinks lower and lower in the water.
Sorry about the rant- it's most unlike me, but I couldn't contain it. FFS- why can't club organisers impose some kind of quality control; ban crap singers from appearing again, or at least only invite known good singers on guest nights?
I'll close with a personal message to any singer who thinks that it's OK to stand up in public and hack his/her way through a song without learning and rehearsing it properly first: YOU'RE WASTING MY TIME AND MY MONEY! GET IT RIGHT OR STAY IN THE AUDIENCE!


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 01:47 PM

I don't mind helping a singer through a song, they'll get it right the next time, then again I may not be as picky as some. As I believe I've said, elsewhere, we all had to start somewhere. Oh look I said all of this in four lines *LOL*


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 01:58 PM

Yes, Jim, I was speculating. Would you care to respond to the other points in my post?


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 02:30 PM

"The evidence you produce yourself can be a little, shall we say, quirky. Citing an American guitarist playing what he described as jazz numbers on YouTube as an example of the parlous state of UK folk clubs was particularly bizarre."
Misunderstanding on my part - nothing to do with the main point of this argument
"My statement was about the practices at our club so this is a distinction without a difference. Do you think we should change our policy or just keep it secret to avoid corrupting other clubs?"
Your statement was in response to a question of what standards, if any, should be applied at clubs - no specific club was cited.
Presumably if all the bad singers I and others (including those described by the lady above turned up at your club you would not only allow them to sing but "The residents will stand back to make time if necessary."
Was there anything else?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: My guru always said
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 03:28 PM

Phil Williams: That's an excellent thought about people recording their offerings & listening with an 'audience ear'!! I've so wanted to suggest exactly that when I've experienced singers who don't seem to feel the need to improve their performance. I've held back mainly due to my well-known lack of social graces.....


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 03:31 PM

Jim Carroll

Presumably if all the bad singers I and others (including those described by the lady above turned up at your club you would not only allow them to sing but "The residents will stand back to make time if necessary."

Yes. You really do seem to have trouble grasping this fundamental point. Of course they would have to take their turn with all our other excellent floor singers. I hiope they would benefit from the experience.

Was there anything else?

You still haven't answered my question "Do you think we should change our policy or just keep it secret to avoid corrupting other clubs?".

Nor have you commented on what is possibly the most important point - "What I am essentially saying there is that the policy promotes the pre-existing standard. Crap begets crap. Quality begets quality."

Perhaps you would like to consider that in conjunction with Pip Radish's post of 11 Mar 09 - 11:25 AM.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 03:32 PM

Does Mudcat do Polls?

Might be worth a thought?


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 03:34 PM

Sorry, one I missed
"Crap begets crap. Quality begets quality."
Crap certainly begets crap; put into practice a crap policy like 'you don't have to be a singer to sing at our club' and you are encouraging bad singers.
There is no evidence that quality begets quality; some of the worst singers I have heard actually believed they were good - even in the company of good singers. The lady I first described who was incapable of making two notes relate to each other pitchwise wrote to the club committee complaining that she was given only one song - how would you have handled that one?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 03:40 PM

Would it be helpful for a thread suggesting:

'practical measures to ensure good standards'?

Ahh, I thought not... ;)


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 03:46 PM

Rosie,
Marry me and have my babies!!!
or in other words yes-yes-yes
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,PeterC
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 04:33 PM

I really can't be bothered to trawl through all 215 posts but the original post explicitly referred to singarounds and sessions not floor spots.

For a singaround the point is participation, you don't go there to listen to a "performances".

For a session you have to have the ability hold the attention of the room or you will just be drowned out by the chatter at the bar.

Once you stand up at the front of a room of paying customers then that is another matter entirely


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 04:34 PM

Jim Carroll

put into practice a crap policy like 'you don't have to be a singer to sing at our club'

I don't know of anyone who puts that policy into practice.

There is no evidence that quality begets quality

Yes there is. I see it every week.

The lady I first described...

That was at the Singers' Club thirty years ago, right? Who was running it then? I would have told her she would get the same deal as everybody else.

Sorry, Pip, but it doesn't look as if Jim agrees with your analysis.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 05:08 PM

A few comments on previous messages.

Can someone explain to me why there are 'taboo' songs in clubs, which unofficially 'belong' to certain members?
I can't get my head round why only one person (unless perhaps they wrote the thing themselves) is allowed to sing certain songs - because somehow through performing them repeatedly - they have laid claim to them?


This ticks me off too. There are some things I'd like to do at one venue which I know I can do a better job of than a certain regular (let's call him Torquil). Yes, I could do other stuff, but why should Torquil be allowed to get away with presenting his own expressionlessly bellowed and utterly humourless version with a third of the verses forgotten as the way the song ought to come across? It might not be good manners towards Torquil for me to cut in ahead of him, but what about respect for the song? Don't I owe it something? Why can't Torquil go away and learn some new stuff, and learn it better?

Go and read what Belle Stewart had to say about the necessity of good singing

Can't remember what that was. But I have heard Sheila Stewart describing her approach. She thinks of herself as a storyteller who sings some of the time. It seems like the point of that is to explain her vocal quality, which is unattractive in the extreme and could probably, at some point, have been improved a lot by some conscious effort. The result is still compelling to listen to, but she doesn't think of "good singing" as part of the recipe.

For me, the best example was a Steeleye Span recording of the ballad Lamkin which I found it on the juke box of a pub I was working at. I put it on in my lunchtime and remember thinking - "Jesus, this is booooooring". Then, half way through the ballad they went into an Irish reel and I realised they'd become bored with what they were doing as well.

I started a vigorous thread on Footstompin about that issue a few days ago: over-arrangement of songs


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 05:18 PM

Well, I agree with both of you - or I don't agree with either of you, whichever you prefer! I think the experience of the Lewes Arms club shows that it's not necessary to explicitly ban or discourage bad performers, but also shows that it is necessary to have quite a lot of peer pressure, in the shape of a lot of good performers. On another thread you (Snail) objected to the idea that you discourage bad performers, but I think that is what you do - not directly, simply by putting on a lot of good performers who they're forced to compare themselves with.

A couple of singarounds I've been to. In one, most of the singers play guitars; most of the material is by Dylan, McTell or Gordon Lightfoot, or by the singer him- or herself. A few people use song-sheets; nobody joins in on choruses, or not without a lot of prompting.

In the other, there are only a couple of guitars, and only a couple of songsheets. Trad song follows trad song, ranging from club standards to newly-arranged obscurities, and everyone pitches in on the choruses.

If singaround 1 doesn't have some sort of quality policy, its quality is likely to suffer - if "Dylan off a songsheet" is OK, what's wrong with "a song I've just written and haven't learnt yet off a songsheet"? And if that's OK, what's wrong with "a song I've just written and I may get the chords wrong so bear with me"?

If singaround 2 doesn't have a quality policy, so what? No one in their senses is going to follow Come Write Me Down, Glorious Ale and Seeds of Love with "a song I've just written [etc]".

In other words, I suspect that clubs that don't have a problem with quality are also clubs where traditional material dominates and where participation's expected; that way, the standard maintains itself, or is maintained by the regulars.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 05:33 PM

"For a singaround the point is participation, you don't go there to listen to a "performances"."

What utter rubbish! I go to singarounds both to participate AND to listen to performances. I know several excellent singers who attend singarounds and I always relish their performances. I also enjoy the performances of those who may not be quite so accomplished but are obviously making an effort. What I object to is those who seem to think that they have a 'right' to sing but no RESPONSIBILITY towards their audience or respect for the material.

At this point its worth repeating what 'Hawkerladdie' said further up this thread:

"Unless you have some medical problem, such as short-term memory loss, there is absolutely no reason why people cannot remember lyrics. It all depends on how much time you are willing to invest in memorising them. Failure to memorise the lyrics is, in my opinion down to laziness."

And laziness implies lack of respect. "Oh, it's good enough for folk."

NO IT FOLKING ISN'T!!!


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 06:29 PM

What Shimrod just said. Amen!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 06:53 PM

Pip Radish

On another thread you (Snail) objected to the idea that you discourage bad performers,

I like to think that we encourage good performers and encourage performers to be good but I'm not going to make a big deal of it. Neither am I going to get drawn into a contemporary v. traditional debate. Each to their own.

I just think that when someone within the folk scene insists on telling the world how dreadful UK folk clubs are he is doing far more damage than any number of outsiders and that when I get lines like "he is prepared to advocate bad practice for other clubs" thrown at me I am entitled to defend myself especially when it comes from someone who has previously said "From what I have heard of your club, I heartily applaud what you are doing and wish that other clubs could learn from it". Jim appears to be deeply confused.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Banjiman
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 06:57 PM

"In other words, I suspect that clubs that don't have a problem with quality are also clubs where traditional material dominates and where participation's expected; that way, the standard maintains itself, or is maintained by the regulars."

Pip. I really don't follow your logic with this one...... I've seen lots of very good and very bad performances of Traditional songs and equally lots of very good/ very bad performances of self penned/ cover songs. I think around here I've seen more people using song sheets for trad songs than anything else.

I think to try and assert that people take more care over trad songs than others is well, tosh, quite frankly! There are people out there who will murder anything.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 07:13 PM

I've got an idea. Why don't you who think you are better than the rest of us go and fom a society - something like Mensa, but without the brains?


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 07:36 PM

I'm losing the will to live here - or else the will to folk; you've beaten it to within an inch of its perilous life. I'll never be able to go to a Folk Club or singaround again without worrying over whether the quality of any given individual contribution is indicative of indulgent idleness and incompetence or inspirational commitment and talent - or if my unwitting enjoyment of them is in any way justified. A far greater fear, of course, is whether or not for my own efforts I'm about to be dismissed as just another crap pop singer by some other level of folk-form criteria which even after 35 wasted Folk Years I appear to have no understanding of whatsoever.

And there I was just about to run through a song for tomorrow night but after reading through this thread I put the telly on instead to watch FM on ITV2, thus enjoying Ladyhawke's contribution whilst lamenting that I didn't stick to rock music in the first place. Still, now that Rapunzel's got her banjo it means I can dedicate my musical brain (such as it is) to figuring out harmonies to her Gillian Welch covers (such as Caleb Meyer, which she's just uploaded to her Myspace Page) and leave folk music to the experts.

Sinister Supporter - An Imminent Ex-Folkie.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Peace
Date: 11 Mar 09 - 09:42 PM

Great post, Sinister Supporter. My biggest laugh of the week. Thank you.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 04:29 AM

or if my unwitting enjoyment of them is in any way justified

There's your problem - you weren't meant to be enjoying it!


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 04:33 AM

"Jim appears to be deeply confused."
Yes, I most certainly am. I wonder why in gods name we can get involved in a worthwhile enough thread like this and end up turning it into meaningless mush by playing infantile word games - "you said this - I said that - no I didn't...." until the mind slams shut; we really should be ashamed of our childish behaviour.
Question - Does performance ability matter - Answer IMO - Yes, it most certainly does; we owe at least that much to the Sam Larners', Harry Coxs' and Phil Tanners' and all those who were generous and caring enough to have passed it on to us - and to those who turn up to listen to it. I'm with Shimrod; there should be no difference between a guest night and a resident's night in aiming for quality; anywhere our music is performed publicly it should never fall below an acceptable standard, and that standard should be set and maintained by the organisers.
Anybody running a successful club should be passing on their secret to those of us who would like to see all the clubs improve.
As Rosie suggested, we should be discussing how to improve the clubs, not whether it is necessary to do so. How about approaching these questions from that revolutionary angle in future.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 05:13 AM

Pip Radish: "I think the experience of the Lewes Arms club shows that it's not necessary to explicitly ban or discourage bad performers, but also shows that it is necessary to have quite a lot of peer pressure, in the shape of a lot of good performers. On another thread you (Snail) objected to the idea that you discourage bad performers, but I think that is what you do - not directly, simply by putting on a lot of good performers who they're forced to compare themselves with."

That makes perfect sense to me.

I would also have thought that subtle cues given by the individual running the club, might be quite enough to tip the balance towards generally improved performances? When I went to a club recently, the organiser asked me to sing again at the end. This of course makes me feel positive about the efforts I have made thus far, and it motivates me to keep making the effort to do the best job I can.
Extrapolating from this, I imagine that exercising a simple and subtle psychology of public 'reward' (however small) for those evident efforts individuals do make, must I think inevitably (eventually) encourage those who are perhaps 'just going along for the ride', to dedicate a little more time and effort to making the best of the pieces they plan to do in future?


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 05:38 AM

Banjiman -

I think to try and assert that people take more care over trad songs than others is well, tosh, quite frankly!

Yes, and that's not what I meant to say. On reflection, I've also been to singer/songwriter sessions where the atmosphere was like a hiring fair (to borrow from another thread) - an MC who not only gigs regularly but sells CDs, a couple of lesser names further down the bill, and if you're not a 'name' you work very hard & just hope you don't let yourself down.

I think it comes down to regulars having high expectations - people know what they've come for, and they've come to hear something almost as good as X. Whether X is Bob Copper or Roy Harper (or Robin Williamson or Jez Lowe or...) is secondary. I think that standards slip - or go out the window - at "come along and have a go" sessions; if the stylistic expectations are wide open, the quality expectations tend to be too.

On the other hand, I don't want to get this out of proportion. I've had some very, very good nights at sessions with a wide range of material and an even wider range of abilities; I myself have got up in front of a folk club audience and done songs by Robyn Hitchcock Peter Blegvad Ivor Cutler Terry Jones And Many More. Clubs where anyone can do anything they want, to whatever standard they feel like, are basically a good thing.

But (on the third hand), I do think clubs with definite expectations are a better thing. If I was starting a session now I'd advertise it as "mostly (but not exclusively) traditional". (Fortunately, I don't need to.)


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 05:56 AM

The worst thing is not to sing at all.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 05:58 AM

There's your problem - you weren't meant to be enjoying it!

I realise this now, Pip; 35 years of actually enjoying all levels of variously motivated ability in folk clubs has ill-prepared for the sudden hike-up in standards which people are now calling for. Has anyone suggested auditioning yet? The way things are going they'll be auditioning for the audition.

Anyway, it's 9.55am and I still haven't recovered the will to pick up an instrument and practise something for tonight's sing at The Steamer.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: TheSnail
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 06:00 AM

I still like to think that we encourage the good rather than discourage the bad. It may amount to the same thing but I feel it's a more positive mindset and seems to be what Rosie experienced at her recent club visit.

Several people have been making complimentary remarks about the Lewes Saturday Folk Club and the scene in the Lewes area in general especially the excellent Royal Oak Folk Club. It gives me a warm fuzzy glow. Maybe we are getting something right. Perhaps we should all share our experiences, not to say "Do it this way" but to say "This is what we do and this is the result we get."

It would be nice to be able to do this without fear of coming under attack from those who have a different way of doing things.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Banjiman
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 06:08 AM

"But (on the third hand), I do think clubs with definite expectations are a better thing. If I was starting a session now I'd advertise it as "mostly (but not exclusively) traditional". (Fortunately, I don't need to.)"

Pip,

Thanks for responding. I think there are 2 seperate questions that you are commenting on here. Style AND competence. I'm still not cleat why advertising a session as "mostly (but not exclusively) traditional" (not saying this is not a good thing BTW) raises performance standards?

Personally I can enjoy trad or other stuff.... but think we should encourage a high standard of performance for all.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 06:38 AM

If we can encourage people to do "the right thing" (however you define it) by complimenting them on it when they do it - and not complimenting them when they don't, then that's one way forward.

I run a monthly session where we regularly get some couples in their 20s attending. There's one couple in particular where the girl has a gentle, but sweet voice and her partner plays very nice melodic fiddle and good guitar fingerstyle work. Two or three sessions ago I commented to him, in passing, that his guitar would ring out more (IMHO) if he put some new strings on it. It turned out that he hadn't put on new strings for over 6 months. At the session after that, I jokingly asked him if he'd put new strings on - he said he'd bought some but hadn't put them on yet, and I said that his "homework" for the next session was to put the new strings on! At the last session, the new strings were in evidence and everyone commented on how clear and pleasant his guitar sounded.

Now, if this sounds a bit cheeky on my part, all I can say is that the conversations were done tongue-in-cheek and that, as I'm old enough to be his granddad, I took the liberty of old age - and he grinned and took it in part. You may think this is all a bit trivial, but I believe that example and encouragement are important. And I recall, over forty years ago, being helped, encouraged and criticised (sometimes quite bluntly) by older and more experienced players. It was all part of the game - perhaps we're too wary of doing that these days.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: GUEST,Will Fly, absent-minded, yet again...
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 06:39 AM

Bugger - 'twas me again - at a strange computer...


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 06:53 AM

What about county wide, amatuer folk competitions between clubs?

On exactly the same level as pub Pool or Darts, or indeed The Best Strawberry Jam award at a village fete...

A bit of friendly competition between clubs might be good fun and inspire folk?


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 06:54 AM

I'm still not cleat why advertising a session as "mostly (but not exclusively) traditional" (not saying this is not a good thing BTW) raises performance standards?

Not just trad - I think advertising a session as anything is likely to result in higher standards than advertising it as "Gasworks Croft Folk Club, all welcome". I don't think there's anything actually wrong with the Gasworks approach, but I don't think there's anything wrong with encouraging people to raise their game a bit.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Banjiman
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 07:25 AM

Pip,

I get you now, interesting point. I'll give it some thought.

Rosie,

Nice idea, we did a trad singing comp at our last weekend event..... people seemed pretty enthused by it. We offered a performance opportunity at the club as a prize. Here's the winning entry Andy Broderick . I had assumed that something English would win but Andy just blew the audience and the judges away (I didn't judge as I am keen to keep my friends!). He will be duly booked for a slot at our next weekend in November.

Cheers

Paul


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 09:54 AM

"I still like to think that we encourage the good rather than discourage the bad."
Why do we have to deal in such emotive and inaccurate terms.
Nobody has ever suggested discouraging anybody; on the contrary, I can think of nothing more discouraging than being thrown in at the deep-end and allowed to make an arsehole of yourself in front of an audience. I believe allowing and even encouraging this to happen is an irresponsible cop-out on the part of club organisers. It is not good for the club, the future of the music and certainly not for the individual concerned - been there, done that and still cringe at the memories.
I have been thinking for some time of putting up some thoughts on teaching, based on what is happening here in Ireland (a little disturbing), and my own experiences in The Critics Group and London Singers Workshop. I am due to be laid up for some time from the middle of next month so might get down to it then; in the meantime, I would appreciate any thoughts and personal experiences on the subject.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: John P
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 10:19 AM

Perhaps the more experienced members of folk clubs could hold informal beginners' sessions that would include some teaching of how to present a song, and be held in private homes.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 11:34 AM

""Unless you have some medical problem, such as short-term memory loss, there is absolutely no reason why people cannot remember lyrics. It all depends on how much time you are willing to invest in memorising them. Failure to memorise the lyrics is, in my opinion down to laziness.""

Memories, like any other stored archive, need a certain amount of space, and there is a limit also to the total that can be stored, and indexed, such that it is readily and logically useable.

If, for example, a taxi driver is learning songs, there comes a point at which each input is matched by a loss in some other area, and it is quite ikely to be in the area of the 10-15,000 streets that a city taxi driver has to remember.

As an ex taxi driver for over twelve years, I can vouch for that. Since I quit, it has been much easier to learn song lyrics quickly and retain them indefinitely.

No medical professional worth a damn would be so quick to assume laziness as the obvious and only cause.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 11:39 AM

""Perhaps the more experienced members of folk clubs could hold informal beginners' sessions that would include some teaching of how to present a song, and be held in private homes.""

It IS an excellent idea John, but, in my experience the very worst singers are almost always the ones who firmly believe that they have nothing left to learn, and for that reason wouldn't attend.

After fifty years, I'D be there like a shot to find out what worthwhile tips and wrinkles I could glean.

Such is life, I'm afraid.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 12:09 PM

John P: "Perhaps the more experienced members of folk clubs could hold informal beginners' sessions that would include some teaching of how to present a song, and be held in private homes."

If there were such informal 'venues' for experienced singers offering guidance to beginners, I for one would be more than pleased to participate.

While I appreciate that intensive multi-day courses in traditional singing require the investment of serious skill, cost, time and effort on the part of those who hold them, unfortuately - though I would love to get involved in such courses - at present I simply could not afford the hundreds of pounds that it would cost me to do so.

For anyone wanting to reach a wider, and indeed younger audience, making use of contemporary mediums like YouTube IMO, should also be considered?

I also feel that as a learner myself, I aught to make comment regards Sinister Supporter, who appears somewhat dismayed at much of the discussion here of late! For whether some others here feel that his style is not in accord with 'correct folk form', this person in particular has been of much aid - via his postings and comments here - to my own learning, discovery and exploration of traditional song over the last few months.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 12:11 PM

The clubs will be run as they will be run, by the respective members of the said clubs, and not by outsiders. You want to change the way a club is run? Become a member of that club and you'll be in a responsible position to do something.


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: BobKnight
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 12:56 PM

Mmm.. I AM a taxi driver Don.(Wysiwyg) :)


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Mar 09 - 01:55 PM

Jim ,sounds like a good idea.Sleepy Rosie,yes youtube is good for learning.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AAzhyBxjes


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: MBSGeorge
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 12:50 PM

There seems to be a lot more flexibilty coming through on this thread than when it started. Personnaly I think that can only be a good thing.

G


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Subject: RE: Performance Ability does it matter?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 04:04 PM

Anyone got links to sites discussing Unacommpanied Traditional English Singing online?

I'm still perplexed at a seeming dearth of easily accessible information about this subject in the public domain...

Jim C, I look forward to hearing more on the 'promised' teaching material front.

And Cap'n - Cheers, I bookmarked your YouTube channel long ago. In fact I learned (if I remember rightly?) Bushes and Briars from your rendering of it...


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