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To introduce songs, or not, and how?

BB 03 Jun 09 - 10:02 AM
Tug the Cox 03 Jun 09 - 10:10 AM
Banjiman 03 Jun 09 - 10:16 AM
Leadfingers 03 Jun 09 - 10:19 AM
manitas_at_work 03 Jun 09 - 10:22 AM
BB 03 Jun 09 - 10:26 AM
PHJim 03 Jun 09 - 10:27 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 03 Jun 09 - 10:38 AM
Bill D 03 Jun 09 - 11:05 AM
Anne Lister 03 Jun 09 - 11:45 AM
Rifleman (inactive) 03 Jun 09 - 11:54 AM
GUEST,Russ 03 Jun 09 - 12:02 PM
Liz the Squeak 03 Jun 09 - 12:04 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 03 Jun 09 - 12:10 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 03 Jun 09 - 12:27 PM
NormanD 03 Jun 09 - 12:43 PM
PoppaGator 03 Jun 09 - 01:36 PM
Richard Bridge 03 Jun 09 - 01:42 PM
reggie miles 03 Jun 09 - 01:50 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 03 Jun 09 - 01:57 PM
Tim Leaning 03 Jun 09 - 02:41 PM
reggie miles 03 Jun 09 - 02:53 PM
catspaw49 03 Jun 09 - 03:05 PM
Phil Edwards 03 Jun 09 - 03:23 PM
Don Firth 03 Jun 09 - 03:49 PM
Jack Blandiver 03 Jun 09 - 03:49 PM
kendall 03 Jun 09 - 03:55 PM
Banjiman 03 Jun 09 - 03:59 PM
Tim Leaning 03 Jun 09 - 04:33 PM
JWB 03 Jun 09 - 04:57 PM
GUEST,PeterC 03 Jun 09 - 05:27 PM
Don Firth 03 Jun 09 - 05:31 PM
Dave Sutherland 03 Jun 09 - 05:36 PM
Uncle_DaveO 03 Jun 09 - 05:49 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 03 Jun 09 - 05:51 PM
GUEST,Dave Hatton 03 Jun 09 - 06:00 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 03 Jun 09 - 06:17 PM
The Vulgar Boatman 03 Jun 09 - 07:10 PM
Tug the Cox 03 Jun 09 - 07:38 PM
Don Firth 03 Jun 09 - 07:46 PM
The Vulgar Boatman 03 Jun 09 - 07:51 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 03 Jun 09 - 08:24 PM
Ian Fyvie 03 Jun 09 - 08:50 PM
Leadfingers 03 Jun 09 - 09:13 PM
GUEST,Guest- Helen 04 Jun 09 - 01:02 AM
Artful Codger 04 Jun 09 - 02:30 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 04 Jun 09 - 03:49 AM
Nigel Parsons 04 Jun 09 - 06:53 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 04 Jun 09 - 08:17 AM
Tim Leaning 04 Jun 09 - 10:37 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 04 Jun 09 - 10:41 AM
Anne Lister (inactive) 04 Jun 09 - 12:15 PM
PHJim 04 Jun 09 - 12:19 PM
Eve Goldberg 04 Jun 09 - 12:37 PM
Tim Leaning 04 Jun 09 - 01:31 PM
Ian Fyvie 04 Jun 09 - 02:15 PM
The Villan 04 Jun 09 - 03:27 PM
Don Firth 04 Jun 09 - 03:43 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 04 Jun 09 - 03:45 PM
BB 04 Jun 09 - 04:41 PM
The Villan 04 Jun 09 - 05:01 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 04 Jun 09 - 05:11 PM
GUEST,CupOfTea, at work, no cookies 04 Jun 09 - 05:56 PM
Phil Edwards 04 Jun 09 - 06:07 PM
Uncle_DaveO 04 Jun 09 - 09:25 PM
glueman 04 Jun 09 - 11:05 PM
33 1/3 05 Jun 09 - 07:24 AM
Artful Codger 05 Jun 09 - 07:36 AM
PHJim 05 Jun 09 - 01:19 PM
Uncle_DaveO 05 Jun 09 - 02:20 PM
Don Firth 05 Jun 09 - 02:27 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 05 Jun 09 - 02:30 PM
Don Firth 05 Jun 09 - 02:31 PM
BB 05 Jun 09 - 02:53 PM
Jim Carroll 06 Jun 09 - 05:39 AM
Mr Red 06 Jun 09 - 05:56 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 06 Jun 09 - 06:07 AM
Jack Campin 06 Jun 09 - 06:39 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 06 Jun 09 - 07:17 AM
Anne Lister 06 Jun 09 - 08:45 AM
Marje 06 Jun 09 - 09:51 AM
glueman 06 Jun 09 - 10:34 AM
Rifleman (inactive) 06 Jun 09 - 11:08 AM
Anne Lister 06 Jun 09 - 11:52 AM
Rifleman (inactive) 06 Jun 09 - 11:58 AM
glueman 06 Jun 09 - 12:42 PM
Anne Lister 06 Jun 09 - 02:57 PM
Ian Fyvie 06 Jun 09 - 03:20 PM
Diva 06 Jun 09 - 04:39 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 06 Jun 09 - 04:43 PM
Don Firth 06 Jun 09 - 04:43 PM
glueman 06 Jun 09 - 05:16 PM
Bobert 06 Jun 09 - 05:23 PM
Art Thieme 06 Jun 09 - 08:47 PM
Don Firth 06 Jun 09 - 10:23 PM
Eve Goldberg 07 Jun 09 - 01:28 PM
Ian Fyvie 07 Jun 09 - 01:52 PM
Ian Fyvie 07 Jun 09 - 02:02 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 07 Jun 09 - 02:15 PM
Ian Fyvie 07 Jun 09 - 02:41 PM
Don Firth 07 Jun 09 - 03:18 PM
SDShad 07 Jun 09 - 04:35 PM
The Sandman 07 Jun 09 - 05:51 PM
Ian Fyvie 07 Jun 09 - 10:03 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 08 Jun 09 - 12:31 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 08 Jun 09 - 01:05 PM
Don Firth 08 Jun 09 - 02:19 PM
Ian Fyvie 08 Jun 09 - 10:38 PM
PHJim 11 Jun 09 - 10:49 AM
Marje 11 Jun 09 - 11:09 AM
Jess A 11 Jun 09 - 11:57 AM
PHJim 26 Jun 09 - 03:19 PM
Ian Fyvie 05 Jul 09 - 01:12 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 05 Jul 09 - 03:26 PM
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Subject: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: BB
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:02 AM

In another thread that got rather bogged down, the subject of introducing songs came up, and it was suggested that a new thread should be started, so I've taken my life in my hands and done it!

Someone said that they never use more than ten words to introduce a song. I said: "I find that very sad. I'm not suggesting lectures, but conversationally toned intros. just putting songs in context is surely going to enhance an audience's enjoyment of the songs. Obviously too one picks where one does that - i.e. it needs to be somewhere where the audience is actually quiet enough to listen to the intros. - a (folk) club, concert or village hall - not a pub gig or anywhere where the audience couldn't give a damn.

And this doesn't just apply to 'folkie' audiences - it's been my experience in village hall gigs with not a folk enthusiast in sight. In fact, those are the very people who sometimes need the songs put in context, because they're not used to the genre, and it helps them to understand where these 'strange' songs are coming from.

And how do I know what they think? - because they've come and told me afterwards how much they've enjoyed the fact that we do tell them something about the songs - sometimes with the words, 'I didn't think I liked folk music, but ...'

No, introductions are not for all people, circumstances or venues, but they have their place, and with skilled introductions can make a real difference to people's perceptions."

So what does anyone else think? What are the pros and cons? Should they be introduced, how, to what extent, why, in what circumstances?

Barbara


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Tug the Cox
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:10 AM

As with everything, use good judgement. if you are able to get a good feeling for your audience you will be able to gauge how much info they need. Watch their reaction to your first effort....interest or boredom......totally ignore the rentamob folkie who shouts 'get on with it.'


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Banjiman
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:16 AM

Thank you Barbara.

I think a short attrubution is always polite...... who wrote the song (if known)and where you got it and any arrangement from. It's then down to style amd judgement.

I really don't like it when the intro becomes the feature and the song almost an after thought though. I once saw a set by a fairly well known singer who managed to get only 4 songs (not especially long ones!) into a 45 minute set and spent the rest of the time talking about them. I felt a bit cheated. He did better in the second half..... 5!


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:19 AM

And ALLWAYS credit your source ! If the song is Traditional , a mention of the collector may fit , but at least say who you got it from .
If its a Composed piece it is only polite to credit the writer .


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: manitas_at_work
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:22 AM

I used to introduce a particular tune as being learn at my mother's knee and then tell people we were listening to the Light programme at the time.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: BB
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:26 AM

Yes, Terry, if you've learnt it directly from a singer or recording. If you've got it from a book, which we quite frequently do, I think it depends then on the circumstances - to say at a village hall do that 'this song was collected from so-and-so' probably won't mean a thing to the audience, unless perhaps it's a particularly local song.

I couldn't agree more, Paul! We reckon to get at least 9 or 10 songs in a 45-min. set, but I do think putting a song in context can be important, so 'where a song came from' may be more than just composer and where you got it.

Got to go out - I'll take a look at this later.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: PHJim
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:27 AM

In most of the venus I play, the songs require a bit of introduction. If I'm singing or playing someone else's song/tune, they deserve a mention or if I'm singing or playing a song/tune that I learned from someone else, they'll also get a mention (if I can remember). Some tunes have interesting stories that go with them, maybe what prompted me to write them or learn them. This leads to audience interaction and makes me much more comfortable.
As an audience member, I always enjoy a bit of patter from the performers. A performer who plays 5 or 6 songs with no interaction with the audience won't hold my attention unless (s)he's exceptional.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:38 AM

It all depends on how well it's done.

I love Vin Garbutt's singing and playing, but I'd happily pay to hear him do just one song in each half - his patter's that good.

There are other performers who keep their intros to a bare minimum, and are very wise to do so!

If you're wondering how good your intros are, record a gig and count the 'um's. There shouldn't be any at all!

Certainly it pays to spend as much time thinking about intros (and sequencing) as about music - it's just as much part of the performance, and if you make aim to keep the audience's attention as tight when you're talking as when you're singing or playing you'll not go far wrong.

I feel I'm booked as much these days as a storyteller as a singer, and get as many positive comments about the intros as I do about the songs. So I'm not ashamed of doing about 7 in a 45 minute slot. That said, not all the songs have long intros. Some are just a few words, and there are times I go straight into one with nothing said.

Intros don't have to be funny, but like jokes they rely on punchlines and



















timing


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Bill D
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 11:05 AM

It simply depends on how well-known the song is and how knowledgeable the audience might be....and whether you have a 'different' version....and whether it has strange words in it...and who you got it from....and

wait, maybe it ISN'T simple.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 11:45 AM

I'm with Tom - I'm also considered as much a storyteller as a singer, but I try not to have long introductions for every song in the set and still reckon to get 8 or 9 songs into a 45 minute set.

I put the chat in for various reasons, and a major reason is to allow me to make the mental transition into a new song and new mood - and to enable the audience to do the same. I still remember a gig when I was at uni with the wonderful Sandy Denny. Not a single intro, and as a result I couldn't tell you even at the time which songs she sang. Great music, but unseparated and therefore for me at least lacking any "frame" or definition.

Anne


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 11:54 AM

"count the 'um's. There shouldn't be any at all!"

I'll continue to include a couple of ums regardless od what Tom Bliss says, it gives the illusion that you're thinking about something when infact you have the between song chat down pat. It can be quite funny as well, if used properly.

Ummm....right that's about it then...the next song is a little piece we learned from...


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 12:02 PM

What Leadfingers said.

It's ok to say a bit about why you sing the song, but keep it short, e.g., "This is my favorite infanticide ballad."

It's also ok to do a little proactive clarification of possible obscurities, but if the explanation is longer than the song, maybe you shouldn't be singing it.

I am annoyed by introductions that tell the story in detail. Let the song speak for itself.

Russ (Permanent GUEST and traditional singer)


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 12:04 PM

Yes, you should, but you should keep it short. You can always back announce it once you're done if you find yourself noodling onstage and it develops into the tune.

I used to introduce one song I do as being learned at my father's knee... we were too poor to afford paper so he wrote it on his knee (OK so I stole it from the Two Ronnies' alter egos 'Jehosophat and Jones' but it's still funny)!

LTS


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 12:10 PM

Time for the dreaded "It depends...."

Some of the very best performers I've known and seen pick and choose their spots for introductions. You can sometimes segue' from one song into another without an introduction, especially with familiar pieces. But I think you can establish rapport, not to say credibility, with an audience by giving them a little background, historic context and, where appropriate, a little humor in speaking of your next song in a set. Not all of us are comfortable as storytellers, but it is a craft worthwhile practicing.

On the other hand, if your material is all composed, especially if it is your own compositions you're doing, intros might not be as important. Lightfoot, for example, is fairly spare with his remarks between songs. A humorous comment here and there might be all that's needed. More is not expected.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 12:27 PM

Yes Russ, can indeed be a difference between introducing a traditional song, specially a well-known one, and one of your own.

I usually keep trad intros to a bare minimum because they shouldn't need much beyond an attribution (essential), unless there's a special story to the finding or arranging of that version, such as with 'Rue.' And, yes, you should certainly NEVER spoil the drama by telling the story of the song in the intro (it's amazing how many people do make this mistake though)! A little background to set up the tale is ok if it's necessary, but most trad songs are self-contained. (That said, there is sometimes a real life story behind or suggested by some trad songs which can be worth sharing).

I specialise in true tales, and could write a slim novel around most of my songs. When I compose the piece I write the intro and song together: Some facts go in the spoken section, some in the sung part, and I take a great deal of care to get it right so the song delivers double the punch it would have done on the radio or a CD with no intro. I'll let others decide if that works or not.

George P and I were discussing this at our workshop in Chippenham the other day. He doesn't tell stories so much actually in his songs, they are more vignettes - but there's often a great story in the inspiration - and the song is vastly more effective if he shares it (as he usually does - and most powerfully too).

Not everyone has this gift though, so caution is required.

One really important thing about intos is to understand how to launch a song. There comes a point in your patter where the audience is cued to expect music next. If you go on talking or tuning or mucking about after this moment (as bands often do), they become confused and frustrated. I know of some great artists, specially duos, who regularly make this mistake. They know they haven't finished, but they've accidentally triggered the audience. It's like a bowler stopping during his run-up. It makes the intro seem longer than it is, whereas if you cruise to the launch smoothly they think it's shorter than it was.

Tom


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: NormanD
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 12:43 PM

I always now think of the film A Mighty Wind when The Folksmen have to stall for time, and so give that long, rambling introduction to their song about the Spanish Civil War.

The few times I have performed publicly I have the beginner's shakes. I always say something, partly to make a link with the listeners, but mainly to calm myself down. Nothing too long, just enough to warm my hands of lead up on the guitar. It's worked well (so far).


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 01:36 PM

It depends, of course, on a lot of things ~ mostly the audience, and your repertoire.

If you sing traditional songs, or contemporary songs written on historical topics, and if the venue draws listers who are as interested in historical context as they are in music, by all means talk at length between songs.

On the other hand, if you sing mostly familiar songs, much less commentary is required. And if you perform your own originals, intros are entirely optional (although there is probably, for most, an inclination to talk too much rather than too little about your own creations).

I'm sure that I err on the side of not speaking enough. Most of my experience as a performer has been on the street, where the object is to continue making music uninterruptedly ~ most listeners are passing through, so those who would hear your spoken intro will be gone by the time you resume singing. The best bet for grabbing someone's attention so they'll stop and listen is to be making music, not speechifying.

I suppose I've let my old habits remain in place when I perform indoors on a stage (which is only an hour or two a month). I sometimes get a question or comment from the listeners after having finished a song, and so wind up doing more "out-tros" than intros.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 01:42 PM

Funny, I'm sure I posted, but here it isn't.

The bitbucket in the sky or enemy action?


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: reggie miles
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 01:50 PM

Some intros are my favorite parts. Some of my introductions are in fact more entertaining than the songs that follow them. Songs can get bogged down in too much musical structure but intros are free form verbal calisthenics.

The line between storytelling and song singing doesn't, in my mind, have to be so separate as to demand a short intro but I agree that taking note of the attention level of the audience is probably a good idea. Beyond that, if you've got a captive bunch and you enjoy adding more non-musical stories along with your songs, I say, go for it.

For my part, I enjoy the blending of music, stories and songs. Songs are just stories with music. Therefore, I can't see the harm in presenting some non-musical stories along with those that have musical accompaniment.

Story songs are among my favorites to listen to. Those that have music but are not sung but rather recited, or perhaps even have a little of both singing and recitation. That harmony of musical accompaniment and story is quite an art form to master.

Every entertainer has their own balancing act regarding this aspect of their presentation. It isn't always a perfect mix. Sometimes the magic works and sometimes it doesn't. The audience and venue plays an important role in that result.

Stories and songs are created, through trail and error. It can be a struggle to fit a word or phrase here or there, to make our point and adding music can be the same kind of struggle. It's not always a perfect fit the first time. Formulaic approaches don't always create the best result. It's an organic process that seems to defy our best efforts at streamlining.

Do all songs need intros? No. Do intros have to contain specific info? No. They can be total nonsense, just as the message of any song can. The choice is up to each of us as to what we wish to offer via our talents.

I enjoy offering intros and make them as long or as short as I see fit. It is, after all, my choice. I don't always present them the same way to every audience. I curb my presentation to fit. I've enjoyed writing and presenting some intros more than the songs that follow them.

Instead of adding an intros to some of my songs I've included some non-singing parts in the middle of a song or at the end. There are no rules that state what you can offer in your songs or how you must present it. Nor are there rules regarding whether your messages have to be sung or spoken. Those decisions all fall into the realm of artistic freedom.

You can, as some have suggested, offer the name of the writer of the particular song and perhaps add what influenced you to sing it. If you don't know the author, making one up can be a fun too. I've always enjoyed someone that can add humor to their intros but that approach won't fit all songs.

I'm interested in some of the background of some songs but unless that aspect can be presented with care, delving into too much historic minutia can become less interesting to me. I don't need to know the date a song was created unless it somehow relates to the message in some important way.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 01:57 PM

Gosh Reggie - reading that I thought for a moment I'd written it!

snap

(though I don't make up writers' names - I assume you mean the Bloody Gardener was written by Allan Titchmarsh, sort of thing)?


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 02:41 PM

Hmmmmm
As audience I find a short intro is good.
The Guy who co wrote a song ,then told us the story of the song,why he wrote the song,then the words of the song ,then sang the bloody song ,then told us about the song again.
Doesn't get my vote.
Neither does the guy who turns his gig into a lecture about ....zzzzzzzz.
It is nice to know the title + who wrote it if known.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: reggie miles
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 02:53 PM

I meant that the kind of folk/blues that I play can sometimes be impossible to trace to an exact source. Offering the names of several authors who have written versions of the same song might be interesting to some but I'd have to say that the number who would be interested would be few. I don't really believe that most enthusiasts are as interested in such detail as they are in my particular version and presentation.

Here's an example. Many blues enthusiasts know the version that Skip James offered of "I'd Rather Be The Devil" but few know that Kansas Joe McCoy recorded a similar but different version under the title, "Evil Devil Woman Blues" with Memphis Minnie. That's because he recorded it under the name, The Mississippi Mudder. Fewer still probably know of the same song being offered in a slightly different version under the title, "The Devil's Got My Woman". So, rather than try to delve any deeper into who wrote or recorded what first and spout such minutia to our audience, a friend and I came up with this intro.

This next song is about THE DEVIL! But if you play it backwards it's, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus."


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: catspaw49
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 03:05 PM

I think formal introductions are always nice............

Lord Randall, may I introduce Miss Barbara Allen?
Miss Allen, this is Lord Randall.


Spaw


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 03:23 PM

There comes a point in your patter where the audience is cued to expect music next. If you go on talking or tuning or mucking about after this moment (as bands often do), they become confused and frustrated.

Interesting thought. I'd like to say my intros carry on till they reach that point, but I don't always get that far before I dry up.

Then there are the acts who know perfectly well they're dragging it out too long, & effectively try the audience's patience for comic effect - doesn't always work, but it's very funny when it does.

I guess there are as many different kinds of introduction as there are kinds of act. Since Billy Connolly and Jasper Carrott got started there have always been people honing their patter in the hope that they'll get asked to do more of it - fair enough if you can do it, but some people would be better off working on the songs. (There's a guy I know who does what ought to be very funny songs, each of which he gives a long intro which includes - and explains - all the jokes in the song; it's a bit counter-productive.) Then there are people who just want to say where they got the song or when they wrote it, and people who just want to raise a quick laugh so that they can feel the audience is on their side. And people who just want to sing.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 03:49 PM

It sounds like most people here have the hang of it.

One should avoid the situation where people say afterwards, "I knew he was a folk singer because he'd spend about fifteen minutes each introducing songs that lasted two and a half or three minute songs." However, a few "program notes" from time to time can substantially add to the interest, especially if you are judicious about which songs to introduce and you work out ahead of time what you're going to say rather that just rambling on.

I don't do it for every song. I usually open without an intro and just launch into the song, but I choose one that generally doesn't really need an intro. Then, maybe about the third song, I'll give a few program notes: a sentence or two. Then, maybe someplace along the line I might give a more elaborated intro, but that depends a lot on the song. Is it historically significant? And interesting? But again, have it all worked out beforehand.

It's always a judgment call. Depending on the situation and the audience response, sometimes I'll just sing one song after another and generally keep my mouth shut otherwise. But other times, it can be very appropriate to give some very long dissertations on the songs. I've sung in situations, such as at the Overlake Friends of the Library, where that's exactly what they wanted me to do.

I think a performance of folk songs should be both entertaining and informative. But the balance of information and entertainment should depend on the audience, the circumstances, and just good judgment.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 03:49 PM

Does this thread apply to singing in singarounds? I tend not to say anything unless anyone asks afterwards, preferably in the interval. This is partly because I never really know what I'm going to sing until I start singing it; I pick up my wee (Black Sea) fiddle and improvise until something occurs to me. In solo gigs (storytelling & ballads)the energy of the performance is pure improvisation, bouncing off the audience & getting into a spontaneous roll in which I never know quite what's coming next - so very little by way of introduction unless anyone asks about it afterwards. Working with Rachel tends towards a more conventional approach, although there's been a few gigs we've done where we've done unbroken sequences of upwards of 40-minutes - one of which at least resulting in a standing ovation, though not with a folk audience. In folk club & festival conditions however, we're consummately orthodox!


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: kendall
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 03:55 PM

Brevity is the soul of wit.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Banjiman
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 03:59 PM

OK


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 04:33 PM

k


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: JWB
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 04:57 PM

I put a set list together carefully, often with a thread of some sort stringing two, three or four songs together. The intro to each song then helps make the connections visible to the audience. But paramount is that I'm there to entertain, not educate (unless that's what I'm being paid to do), so short, sweet and with some humor works best of all.

With a tougher audience, I've found that giving them something to look for in a song can help them focus: "This next song will give you gents a sure-fire technique for picking up dairy maids." That technique is great with kids, of course, but their 'rents sometimes need that extra hook, too.

I hear so often that "stage presence" is what makes a performer truly enjoyable for an audience. The patter is part of the performance, and it's a crucial piece of one's stage presence. Thinking about your intros in advance, as much as practicing the songs, is the surefire way of doing it well.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,PeterC
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 05:27 PM

As much as I like a song to be put into context I do recall on of the finest singers I hever heard who just stood up, sang and sat down.

Walter Pardon


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 05:31 PM

Excellent, Jerry. Exactly so!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 05:36 PM

You could say the same about Fred Jordan


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 05:49 PM

Yes, I always do.

How? Here's approximately how I introduce Jan's Courtship:

"As you've noticed, I like to sing the old songs. This is from Devonshire, in England, from maybe two to three hundred years ago as best I can make out.

"It seems that a young man named Jan (pronounced 'John') has just come of age, and his father gives him some good advice . . . "

And then the first verse starts this way:

"Coom 'ither, zon Jan
As thou art a mon
I'll gie the the best counsel in life
Coom zit down by me
And my ztory will be
I'll tell 'ow to get thee a wife,
    Iss I will, man I will, zoor I will,
    I'll tell 'ow to get thee a wife
    Iss I will.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 05:51 PM

Singarounds are different. You have to take a cue from the others re the house rules. But even if intros are out of bounds there's always time for a couple of words between the last note and the applause.

Many people on the folk scene murmur the title of the song in that moment, and for a trad song that can often be enough.

What does frustrate me, though, is when people sing a 'cover' - a song by a living writer - but still just mutter the title at that point. (Frustrate? It makes me blinking fume)!

The other day someone actually said the name of the songwriter in that moment. I nearly got up and hugged him!


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Dave Hatton
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 06:00 PM

It really does depend, as everyone says. If I'm in a singaround environment I always say a few words because I'm amongst folkies and they are interested in what's being sung but I'll keep it brief - after all a lot of them will already have heard the song from years earlier.
When working my way through a longer set I'll chat a lot more but wouldn't dream of going into detail about what the song was about as it'd be telling everyone what they would be about to hear. I was pretty much introduced to folk music by Hughie Jones and The Spinners and a lot of people (particularly, Hughie reckons, the Americans) appreciate his stories as much as his songs. I'm not as good a showman so would never dream of trying to entertain more than through an odd line of banter but if there's an interesting history to a song I see it as rude not to let people know it. Otherwise I feel like I'm excluding some of the audience and I'm not doing what I really want - to give other people the full experience of the songs I love and to encourage them to find more of their own.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 06:17 PM

I can recall some groups, Bud & Travis and The Limeliters in particular, who excelled at this sort of introduction and stage patter. The Limeliters' Lou Gottlieb, as some may recall, played the part of the rather lofty professor, using many 25 cent words and seeming singularly amused at his own erudition, as some of our real professors were. It came off as funny as hell. Most of us may not have that sort of lightning wit and vocabulary to match, but we can all have fun and loosen ourselves up along with the audience.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: The Vulgar Boatman
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 07:10 PM

Great thread. Bless you Barbara - you've been credited in my intros.
My rules -
honesty - don't pretend otherwise if you really found it on a recording;
if you had the fortune to be given a song by another singer, acknowledge them;
likewise if you stole a song - most of us, from Homer onwards have done (spot the Kipling link...);
if you really love a song or genre of songs, tell the people why - briefly.
All these can engage an audience. Then, save lectures for the wonderful occasion when you are engaged to do a lecture recital...and, be lucky - I had the great fortune to do a concert on International Talk Like a Pirate Day. At a maritime festival. What a gift. (It's September 19th BTW)


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Tug the Cox
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 07:38 PM

Look, horses for courses, gigs for gigs. I was recently asked to do a spot at a not specifically folk audience ' folk gig.' ( It was part of a wider arts and music festival. The organiser wanted me to tell stories about songs with stories. I gave a little talk, punctuated and illustrated with tunes and songs, about the variety of ways in which folk music was developed and used. I quite enjoyed the challenge. Tried to keep the talking short, but intersesting, and made sure the songs fitted the storyline. I was actually pleased with what I did, and had good feedback. Why do people ask questions which presume that there is a single answer when there very rarely is.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 07:46 PM

It often precipitates a good discussion.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: The Vulgar Boatman
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 07:51 PM

Thanks for that Don.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 08:24 PM

I'd say it depends on the audience how long, and what kind of an introduction you give. If I'm introducing a song in a nursing home it's quite different than it would be introducing it to a knwoledgeable folk audience. I don't feel good about "practiced" introductions. I've heard some folk singers do the same word for word introduction to a song over a period of several years. The audience notices it and makes snide remarks about singers performing on auto-pilot. I know one musician who tapes every concert and memorizes the lines that get the most laughs. I'm sure that Disney could reproduce him. Each audience is unique, so canned introductions are likely to miss the mark.

I've had people say after a concert, "I don't know if you're a story teller who sings songs or a singer who tells stories." And yet there are times when my introductions may be very brief. It depends on the setting and the audience. If you're not responding to your audience, then you're just doing a "show."

Jerry


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 08:50 PM

We run three singarounds a week with an 'extended family' of singers.

Amongst our supporters a consensus seems to have developed where we say about of sentence before the song. Some singers say virtually nothing, just start. I ask these singers next round: "would you like to tell us a bit about your song?"   

For a singaround this feels about right. Having only one sentence per round this seems to maintain a nice flow, though we don't dictate anything.

In a guest club situation I really get bored with artists who ramble on about stuff. I (use to) go to such clubs to hear songs - not a Jasper Carrott or Fred Wedlock comedy act (nothing against these two excellent musical comedians).

I stopped going to guest folk clubs in the 1980's and when I think back to that era my stomach turns when I remember those awful 2/3 songs-per-half-hour-set merchants.

On crediting your song?

All my songs are obscure except to regular supporters*. My repetoire is mainly own compositions, co-written songs and other songs I've collected written by unknown singers I've actually met and liked.

The difficulty I have is that club supporters often think that everything I sing is "one of mine".   So I either mention the writer or co-writer as part of the brief introduction, or shout something like "words by XYZ" as the applause dies down.

* I keep a few well known songs in the repetoire for Punters, special occasions or a bit of fun.


Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 09:13 PM

My 'Intro' at a Folk Club Singers night this evening was -

This song is for Jack Ross ! I saw On Line that he Died yesterday - the last Australian survivor of Gallipoli ! So One day No one will march there at all has arrived .

And went straight into "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda"


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Guest- Helen
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 01:02 AM

I think if you do not introduce song or songs it is an insult to audience and when you do introduce them make it brief so as not to bore them to much. I dont make my intros too long i let the song do the talking as i think a lot of audiences are intelligent enough to work it out most of the time. If they were unhappy with what you did they will certainly let you know.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 02:30 AM

Now that so many people are connected to the Internet, I've thought it would be nice if performers supplemented their generally skimpy song intros (mind you, I'm not complaining about that) and liner notes (skimpiness here I do mind) with expansive notes on their web sites. Seems like it would address both worlds: the folks who dislike patter/chatter and the folks who want to know rather more.

It would also be helpful if performers would describe the alterations they've made to songs, not just say "adapted" or "arranged". For comparison, wouldn't you like to see the original version(s) they followed?


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 03:49 AM

"if performers supplemented their generally skimpy song intros (mind you, I'm not complaining about that) and liner notes (skimpiness here I do mind) with expansive notes on their web sites."

Some of us have been doing that for years!

It's sad to read comments like "I really get bored with artists who ramble on about stuff," and others of a similar ilk above. I wonder if this is an expression of a specific intolerance to speech in a 'music' setting, or if it refers only to people who do merely ramble, rather than entertain.

Time is a strange beast in these situations. A long well-delivered intro will seem shorter than a brief but poorly-delivered one.

I recently had a case where I was taken violently ill before one of my one-man story and song shows, and was rushed to hospital for painkiller injections and other stuff. My sound engineer, a great singer of traditional songs and a top-flight musician (a FAR better player than me), with excellent stage patter (so NOT a poor-deliverer at all), held the fort for me.

He did 45 minutes, then I got back and did 80 (only ten less than my contracted 90 - and that was only because we'd run out of time).

But the promoter asked for a fee reduction on the basis that he had 'covered for most' of the evening.

He had in fact done a terrific spot. The audience absolutely loved him and would probably have preferred him to continue when i arrived back. But my show is designed to keep up the narrative throughout the event, speech and music, and it never drops off the pace - so people always report that they don't notice the evening passing at all. Therefore, ironically, it seemed to them that I'd been on stage for a much shorter time than he had been.

Tom

(I did get our money in the end)!


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 06:53 AM

Say something, even if just to allow time for the MC to get off the stage and away from the mikes!


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 08:17 AM

The other major issues are whether the song is traditional (not a need for a long introduction, for the most part,) or original (may need a longer introduction if it is a story song that needs a setting.) Not all original songs need a lengthy introduction, but some do.

I don't think there's a "right" or "wrong" to this whole issue. The length of the introduction is determined by the audience and their interest, and the individual song, not by a discussion on mudcat, no matter how interesting. Cripple Creek doesn't need a long introduction, while The Battle of New Orleans does. If you're performing at an outdoor arts festival with a roaming audience, neither of them do.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 10:37 AM

"The other day someone actually said the name of the songwriter in that moment. I nearly got up and hugged him!"

Was it one of your s mate?
I get a buzz when someone sings one of mine.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 10:41 AM

No. No-one ever sings my songs in my presence, unfortunately.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Anne Lister (inactive)
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 12:15 PM

In a singaround, a brief intro means you're actually acknowledging the group you're in and your place in it. It's not all about information about the song. And my comments on my original post about giving the audience and yourself a chance to change mood are also still valid.
Unless it's a very well known song I feel short-changed when there are no intros (or comments after the song).


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: PHJim
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 12:19 PM

Nigel said,"Say something, even if just to allow time for the MC to get off the stage and away from the mikes!"

I like to do the first song/tune without an intro. It's nice when the first thing the audience hears is the music. We usually start with a tune rather than a song and will say, "That was Drowsy Maggie(or whatever)" at the end of the tune.
This doesn't work as well when the audience has to listen to a sound check, but, in this case, we never use a song or tune for sound check that we'll include in the show.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Eve Goldberg
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 12:37 PM

This is a great topic of discussion, thanks for starting it BB.

I have sat with rapt attention at a performance by a highly respected traditional performer who did not utter a word during the whole performance. It was brilliant.

I have also sat with rapt attention at a performance by a highly respected performer who told so many long involved stories that she only sang about four songs in each set. It was brilliant.

So to me the issue is not how much time you take introducing a song, or whether or not you say anything in between songs, the issue is that as an audience member I have to "buy in" on the journey you are taking me on. In both of the above cases, I bought in big time, because of the strength of their performance -- not just which songs, but how they were presented, what order they came in, what was said before and after, etc. In other words, they had thought about the performance almost like a theatre piece (whether or not it was completely scripted). They knew what atmosphere and emotion they were trying to create, and everything they did on stage pointed toward that goal.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got about performing is that your task in developing your performance style is to uncover or discover who you are on stage. And who you are on stage, just like who you are in life, is going to be different from anyone else. Just like those two performers were so different, yet both so compelling.

When I'm putting together a set list or thinking about a performance, I'm always thinking about the arc of the performance. I want to have some highs and lows, some places where I talk, and maybe some places where I don't talk at all. I try to have some variety in the styles of songs I'm singing (key, accompaniment style, happy/sad, etc.) I have introductions to songs that I've honed over time, but I try not to recite a memorized speech. I also have some songs that I can introduce with an involved story or a short sentence, which allows me to read the moment and do what I think is needed at the time.

Having said that, if you are just starting out performing, it might take some time to get comfortable with the idea of being in the moment when you are on stage. So if it helps you to have memorized introductions at first, I would say do that, but with the idea that as you get more comfortable you can move towards being more spontaneously "you" on stage.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 01:31 PM

"No. No-one ever sings my songs in my presence, unfortunately."
Luckily mine are simple enough for me to play.
Therefore not too challenging for anyone else.
After seeing you at Gainsbro a year or two back,I should that unlike in my case, no one would assume they could do better.
Its probably a compliment...


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 02:15 PM

"I stopped going to guest folk clubs in the 1980's and when I think back to that era my stomach turns when I remember those awful 2/3 songs-per-half-hour-set merchants."

If you want to defend this type of performer, Tom, fine. But it's not what I would enjoy, even if I've got in free as a floor singer.   

It's purely personal but I really do think these Joke+Folk acts are an awful substitute for a folk performer who can deliver 6 or 7 songs per 30 minute set with efficicient, nevertheless informative introductions..

Jasper Carrott and Fred Wedlock obviously recognised quite soon they were brillant comedians and transfered to the comedy stages. If those "2/3 songs per set merchants" still trailing around the guest club scene can still pull audiences - fine also.

But it doesn't mean we should like them because someone somewhere is inappropriately calling them a folk singer.

Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: The Villan
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 03:27 PM

I have always thought of Jasper Carrott as a story teller with humour.
He draws you into the story and delivers humour through the stories.
To me that's what he is good at.
I can't stand his cheap telly programmes and hosting Golden Balls is aweful.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Don Firth
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 03:43 PM

I had a great mentor back in the early 1950s: Walt Robertson. I took my first guitar lessons from him, and on a number of occasions we'd sit in a restaurant in Seattle's University District and he'd explained to me his approach to programming sets, concerts, and such.

About eight years ago, for the "Tales of Walt Robertson" thread, I wrote a fairly lengthy piece about some of the things he told me.

For what it's worth, here's the post:   CLICKY

This advice has stood me in good stead for over fifty years.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 03:45 PM

The simple answer is, you either introduce the songs or you don't


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: BB
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 04:41 PM

Rifleman, I really can't see how your last comment contributes to the discussion. The initial question was, "What are the pros and cons? Should they be introduced, how, to what extent, why, in what circumstances?" You have not answered that.

Don't know why, but I posted to this thread when I got home from a most enjoyable evening listening to Jackie Oates and James Dumbleton, but now my post has disappeared. What's worse, now I can't remember what I said! But things have moved on now anyway, so not to worry.

Thanks, all of you, for your contributions, and more, for the manner in which you've made them!

Barbara x


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: The Villan
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 05:01 PM

I have a mixed audience. Some like artists to expound on each song. However I have also people in the audience who just want the artist to get on with the songs. I quite often get in touch with some of my regular audience to explain, if an act is likely to spend a long time talking instead of singing. They choose not to attend in such circumstances. The plus is that they trust me and keep coming to all the other events.

So it is important for an act to realise that whilst they believe in what they do, they may well create a problem with my audience numbers if they are not prepared to work with the organiser to adapt their act accordingly.

Its a tough old world out there and organisers and performers need to work together to entertain and encourage audiences to come back again and again. It can never be a selfish approach by either party.

Just a thought.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 05:11 PM

"Rifleman, I really can't see how your last comment contributes to the discussion."
It was never intend to "contribute" anything, and I can read the initial question. I already answered it in a previous post.

To make it clear.....I always introduce the songs I perform, both as a solo and in a band format. Why, because it's a courtesey, to what extent, whatever I or the band feels like.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,CupOfTea, at work, no cookies
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 05:56 PM

Intro, please. I very strongly agree with Tabster's feelings about intros as a necessary transition. Mostly I like 'em brisk, informative and as rehearsed as the song (or tunes).

What I like best is for the intro to ADD something to my hearing of the song, be it short or long.

An aspect I enjoy of festival workshop stages is the opportunity for extended introductions to songs, where those of us who LIKE to know all the twiddly bits sometimes have that itch scratched by performers who know what they're chatting about. The back-and-forth between workshop artists can be brilliantly illuminating. If I'm going to hear a concert, I'm not in so much of a mood to hear the twiddly bits like "this is variant 23A of Child Ballad 2,666 as played by Rambling Sid Rumpo on only sunny days in the Southeast" and what not. Could be same performer, same song: different context calls for a different intro.

What I dislike is a sort of introduction I've heard mainly from those who do many educational concerts, and are used to the tellmethreetimes mode,* and use it in a non-educational setting. Songwriters who are strong storytellers sometimes get close to this sort of thing- David Francey comes to mind. Brilliant songs, wonderful performer, his stories are wonderful, he tells them well, but it's discouraging when he does a redundancy of story & song. One or t'other, I find m'self grumbling.

An interesting sideline to the proportion in length of talking/intro to song is those whose performance is structured around both storytelling and song, or where song is a subordinate component to the song. There's a whole continuum there, and at times it's not evident where someone is hitting on that continuum. It can be horrific with a mediocre performance, or zing you with piercing brilliance when done superbly. A case of the superb comes to mind in the way Phil Cooper and Margaret Nelson set up Gypsy Davey. Margaret does a grippingly grim recitation of the facts of the story inspiring the song. (I forget who the author of it is) Then, when they've got you with the hairs standing up on the back of your neck, they launch into a very merry upbeat "She's off with the Gypsy Davey..." Those are the moments you follow folk for, yanno?

An intro should add to the listeners appreciation in direct proportion to it's length.

Joanne in Cleveland

* Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 06:07 PM

An intro should add to the listeners appreciation in direct proportion to it's length.

A poetry group I go to sometimes has a rule (it might be their only rule): the length of the introduction should not exceed the length of the poem - unless it's a haiku.

One of these days I'm going to take advantage of that loophole by writing a haiku and working up a ten-minute introduction to it...


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 09:25 PM

As in all the rest of life, it's judgment....Judgment....Judgment ....Judgment!

The size and makeup of the audience, the weather, where your spot is in the program (if you're not ALL of the program), whether the previous acts have been so-so or SUPER, whether the audience is chomping at the bit, wanting you to get out of the so the star, who's next, can perform, and maybe so they can go home.....all those things and lots of other things have to go into how to introduce songs.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: glueman
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 11:05 PM

Introductions should be brief or better, non-existent. If a folk song is as different from everything else as people say, the audience will be able to tell - and not because someone spoke for ten minutes beforehand.

The best patter is by performers who get the audience on side by taking the mickey out the situation, not by buttering them up. Liza Carthy's recent intro went - I'm going to start with a really miserable song tonight, and it'll all go downhill from there. None of the audience were disappointed.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: 33 1/3
Date: 05 Jun 09 - 07:24 AM

Yes if it is saying something germaine to the story that is not evident in the song.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 05 Jun 09 - 07:36 AM

Pip: Or you could write the introduction as a haiku. Shades of Lewis Carroll's introduction to "Hiawatha's Photographing".


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: PHJim
Date: 05 Jun 09 - 01:19 PM

I was just thinking of some performers who give long introductions, but who do it so well that their audience doesn't seem to mind. I realise that there are people who hate this and know that they occasionally have someone yell out,"Sing the song!", but I enjoy their stories as much as the songs. Some performers who fall into this catagory are Fred Eaglesmith, Tom Rush and Hayes Carll.
The danger of these stories is that they aren't as entertaining the second, third and fourth time around and when they're included on a recording I tend to fast forward over the introduction.
I have seen Hayes Carll several times and his shows are completely different each time. His introductions sound completely spontanious.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 05 Jun 09 - 02:20 PM

In my first CD I dispensed with introductions, with the exception of one two-liner.

Since that, several of my customers have said, "Dave, in your next CD you should include your introductions! That's what makes you distinctive!"

Go figure.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Jun 09 - 02:27 PM

I dunno about that. I've always felt that introductions really didn't belong on the record itself, they belong in the liner notes (or the little booklet included with a CD). As some folks mention above, when you've heard the same introduction to the same song over and over again, it can begin to pall a bit. Most of the time when I put on a record or CD, all I want to hear are the songs themselves. If I want notes, I'll reach for the record jacket or the insert booklet.

Your mileage may vary

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 05 Jun 09 - 02:30 PM

for our next piece, our fiddle player will perform
Sir B. Mackenzie's Daughter's Lament for the 77th Mounted Lancers Retreat From The Straits of Loch Knombe on the occasion of the Announcement of her Marriage to The Laird of Kinleakie.

or would we have lost the audience's attention? *LOL*

actually we do perform this great Fairport fiddle medley, the version we do (yes there are serveral versions) is Bonnie Kate / Up the Chimney / The Kilfenora Road / Biff, Bang, Crash / Tail Toddle / Boston Tea Party.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Jun 09 - 02:31 PM

Addendum:

Unless, of course, it's a recording of a live performance, audience and all. That's a whole different thing.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: BB
Date: 05 Jun 09 - 02:53 PM

Rifleman, I said right at the beginning of this thread, "Introductions are not for all people, circumstances or venues, but they have their place, and with skilled introductions can make a real difference to people's perceptions."

Even with tunes, it's *sometimes* interesting to know where they came from or the circumstances of their writing, although probably not in as much detail as you gave above! Perhaps just to say that it's a medley that Fairport put together is enough for most audiences. Personally, I quite like to know if it's a tune that's been written for a particular occasion like a wedding, or written by someone whose name I might know, or comes from a particular area of the country, or whatever. It doesn't *have* to be a lecture or even more than a few words, but it can put a tune in context, in the same way it can for a song, which can make it more interesting than just a string of tunes.

Horses for courses again.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 05:39 AM

I don't think there are any hard and fast rules on introducing; too many considerations: songs, singers, audiences, circumstances, unfamiliar terms…… I do believe that, whatever the reason, if you are going to introduce your songs (and music on occasion), they have to be well thought out and definite – concise, informative and (where suitable) entertaining.
With me, some good, well-done introductions have stayed in my memory longer than the performances of songs they introduced; like the one to a set of mouth music - the story of a be-kilted Hamish Henderson explaining the meaning of 'Tail Toddle' to a blue-rinse American lady tourist at The Edinburgh Festival. Or one MacColl often used to explain the provenance of 'Keach in The Creel'- a story of a 16th century Italian apprentice painter using beetles with tiny candles on their backs to divert the attention of the master-painter whose daughter he wanted to seduce – magic!!
Bert Lloyd was also a genius at the 'art of talking'.
Irish piper, Seamus Ennis was, by far, the best 'introducer' I have ever heard. His introductions – never 'patter' - were a mixture of background, technical and factual information, history, reminiscences, jokes, tales observations…. etc. and were as much a part of his performance as was his playing and singing. Even on the rare occasions he was not on top form I can never remember coming away dissatisfied from one of his performances.
One of the best nights we have ever spent was at Cecil Sharp House, when Malcolm Taylor asked us to bring along some Irish performers we were recording to give an evening of whatever we chose to do.
We brought three;
Tom McCarthy, a multi-instrumentalist from Clare, played and talked about how he came to the music and described where and how it was done in his native Clare and all the people he had met there and on the London/Irish music scene.
Fergus McTeggart, a brilliant musician from Fermanagh, demonstrated and explained some of the technicalities of his instrument, the fiddle.
Mikeen McCarthy, Kerry Traveller, sang and told stories and related his experiences of travelling in the first half of the 20th century in rural Ireland, as a horse-dealer, tinsmith, farm labourer, street singer, ballad seller….. a lifetime on the road.
Pat and I were there in case the evening dragged or lost direction – our presence was totally unnecessary – two-and-a-half hours of pure pleasure.
A long time ago I came to the conclusion that introductions are not only acceptable, but often essential to the understanding and appreciation of many of the songs, and, within reason, it really doesn't matter how long they are if they are well done, relevant, entertaining and/or informative.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Mr Red
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 05:56 AM

non-folkies need to know a shanty is a WORK song and the rhythm was originally geared to certain kinds of work. And maybe that shanties are not always sea songs, ie Pit Shanty (said when sober).

It always amazes me that when the tall ships arrive and there are shanty crews singing their little hearts out, there is not a sail unfurled or a hawser in sight, (that hasn't been coiled or belayed). The Hull Shanty Festival 10 years ago were told about this so next year they demonstrated shanties - on the quay, with a rope going nowhere! Not on a ship, not heaving the spars and sails. I ask you!

Context?


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 06:07 AM

I'm amazed by the number of s/chanty goups who sing forebitters and call them s/chanties.

In jest, I asked one 8-piece group the other day how many of them owned or could actually sail a boat. Served me right, one of them was a qualified skipper! (howls of delight from the audience)


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 06:39 AM

for our next piece, our fiddle player will perform
Sir B. Mackenzie's Daughter's Lament for the 77th Mounted Lancers Retreat From The Straits of Loch Knombe on the occasion of the Announcement of her Marriage to The Laird of Kinleakie.

or would we have lost the audience's attention?


That sort of contemptuous attitude about what Scottish instrumental tunes mean is fortunately a lot less common than it used to be. (I spent several years of hard work systematically combating it).

If that's the way you feel about the composer, why are you playing the music at all?

For starters, look up the stories behind "The 79th's Farewell to Gibraltar" and the "The 91st at Modder River". Then try to tell me that doesn't affect how you play or hear those tunes.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 07:17 AM

One of my favourite writers did a book signing, at one of my local bookshops, a few years back. In the course of his address he said: "I'm an information junkie". This is a phrase which has stuck in my head because, I realise, I'm one too! This is why I like introductions - especially if I get to learn something new.

To me, learning new and interesting stuff is as important as anything else. This is one of the things which attracted me to folk in the first place!


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 08:45 AM

I suppose for me the introductions are what makes a concert or folk club a social occasion as opposed to listening to recorded material at home. It's a human interaction in all of its glory (and the opposite) in which I can find out more about the performer(s)and see them as real people, capable of a history and of making mistakes or forgetting words. As I've already said, my experience of a concert in which there were no introductions was a deeply flawed experience in which there was no context for any of the songs or tunes.

So, those of you who are saying "no introductions" or even "minimal introductions" - what are you getting from the live experience as opposed to sitting at home with the recordings? This isn't meant as a confrontational question, simply a request for information because you've clearly got a very different take on the whole thing than me!


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Marje
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 09:51 AM

I usually say something to introduce a song, and appreciate it when others do too. What I like less is when the singer (usually a guitarist) spends ages telling jokes that have nothing to do with any of the songs, just while he noodles and retunes. I'd rather he just tuned up faster and got on with it.

A good introduction doesn't need to be very learned - it's often worthwhile to hear something about where the song comes from, etc, but it can be just as interesting to know what it is about the song that has made the singer choose it (the tune? the story? certain lines or phrases? an unforgettable version by someone else?).

If it's a song with a story, it's worth alerting the audience to this and perhaps giving them something to listen out for, e.g. "This is what can happen if you sleep with the boss's wife!" I also like the way Spiers and Boden introduce one of their ballads by asking the audience to imagine certain celebrities playing the leading characters. Any little touch like that helps the audience to focus on the story, so they'll enjoy the song more - but don't tell the whole story, that's what the song is supposed to do.

Marje


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: glueman
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 10:34 AM

"what are you getting from the live experience as opposed to sitting at home"?

Hopefully not a history lesson. I CAN get that from my sleeve notes at home. Personally I pay for as many tunes as can be fitted in to the gig. If a verbal presentation is done with wit no-one can argue but it's so often a dry exposition of fact, in other words record notes without the ability to turn over.
If there's a danger of someone banging on without wit and guile - especially if it's flavoured with narcissism - I tend to go to the bar with as loud a stage sigh as I can muster.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 11:08 AM

Campin I really don't need to justify myself or my band to you or anyone else...but might I suggest you acquire a sense of humour...?just a suggestion, and it does help if you're a performing musician!


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 11:52 AM

Glueman - the notes for the songs that you can read at home presupposes you own a recording of the songs. Some of the songs in any given performer's set haven't been recorded yet, and of course not everyone in the audience has the recordings.
As to paying for as many tunes as can be fitted into the gig - why not simply stay home and play those recordings? Then you wouldn't have any other interruptions to your enjoyment. I still don't understand what the point of a live gig is for you!


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 11:58 AM

Fairport actually meant Sir B. Mackenzie's Daughter's Lament for the 77th Mounted Lancers Retreat From The Straits of Loch Knombe on the occasion of the Announcement of her Marriage to The Laird of Kinleakie as joke, and as a joking attempt to get into the Guiness Book of Records(it did, infact, make it in as the world's longest tune title)Fairport has a sense of humour and so do we here....


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: glueman
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 12:42 PM

"why not simply stay home and play those recordings?"

For many years that exactly what I did. Then I thought it's my music as much as these other peoples, so why not take the stuff you like and leave 'the scene' to go hang - which is pretty much where I am now. You'd probably find we agree on all kinds of practical issues, like which music is 'good', I just can't be arsed with all the folkie trimmings and attitude.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 02:57 PM

OK, Glueman, I note you still haven't answered my questions (about what the point of a live gig is for you and how you can read liner notes to recordings you haven't got) so I'm assuming we've just hit a moment of mutual incomprehension.
For myself, I'll stick with knowing how many people tell me how much they enjoy my intros and how much I enjoy other people's intros, and remember how we're all different in what we enjoy. As a performer I think I would have sunk without trace by now if most of my audiences preferred me not to chat between songs.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 03:20 PM

A question.

Performers - do you see yourself as doing and ACT?

If yes, then you're probably going to have a rehearsed intro. The problem is that if someone comes to see you again quite soon afterwards. it's going to be so obvious you're an act from the scripted repetition.

That jarrs with the folk ethos for me - another reason why I prefer singarounds where, although you're going to see the same poeple from club to club - no-ones going to come out with repetetive patter. Amongst friends they'de probably get a humorous quip if they tried!      


Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Diva
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 04:39 PM

I like to know where songs and tunes have come from and think that it is basic good manners to acknowledge your source.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 04:43 PM

If yes, then you're probably going to have a rehearsed intro. The problem is that if someone comes to see you again quite soon afterwards. it's going to be so obvious you're an act from the scripted repetition.

Um...the origin of a song or tune isn't going to change from gig to gig


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 04:43 PM

"The problem is that if someone comes to see you again quite soon afterwards, it's going to be so obvious you're an act from the scripted repetition."

True. But the simple solution to this problem is to know your material well. Don't script what you are going to say. Know it well enough to be able to ad lib it, and either shorten it or lengthen it depending upon the audience and the occasion.

In this respect, make every performance new and different.

There are many performers who get up in front of an audience and blunder around blindly, having not really worked out what they are going to sing or what kind of intros to do, if any. This can lead to aimless babbling or standing there staring at the song list taped to the side of your guitar trying to figure out what to sing next. Not good! So at least to a certain extent, if you are going to entertain and inform people, you need to be an "act."

I am of that school of thought that says "if your are going to take up peoples' time, and especially if you're going to ask them for money as you do so, you owe it to them to be well prepared."

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: glueman
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 05:16 PM

"OK, Glueman, I note you still haven't answered my questions"

It's not evasion, I'd have thought the difference between a live performance and a recording is self evident. The things the performer puts of her/himself into the material in 'real time' are what compels me.
I don't see it as an exposition of an old tune so much as an interpretation, a new voice meeting traditional material. As a rule I'd say a typical folk performance is fairly derivative and doesn't take a song as far as it might, it tends to be a performer's idea of what a folk revival song should sound like to a folk revival audience rather than a blank canvas taking the material into new places. That's a generalisation of course, some performers sound as though they are singing something for the very first time and make the hairs on your neck stand up, others make it sound like a school lesson


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Bobert
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 05:23 PM

Well, I'm pretty much the county's bluesman and so folks don't know much about the blues so in a 1 hour set there will be about 10 minutes of intros and stories so folks will have some reference as to what the music is about... I enjoy that part and make the intros and stories as interesting as the songs themselves... Plus, they add to the entertainment aspect of my set...

Bobert (alias Sidewalk Bob)


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 08:47 PM

Utah Phillips was my mentor. He showed me how jokelore and actual folk tales might be used to set-up and frame a song---to defuse the seriousness of a given song---and even bring an audience not educated to the history within the song to a place where they were, then and there, more receptive to this strange new thing called a traditional folk song. More often than not, a tale like "The Split Dog" would lead into a tearjerker like "Old Shep." A tall one like "The Great Turtle Drive" could easily lead into any song of the American west.

The extent to which I did that, without it being too obvious, determined whether or not I was completing my job as I saw it.

When a person introduced me with a line like, "This guy is gonna have you rolling in the aisles!!!"--- he would sure hear about it from me later on. I wanted to kill those intro purveyors.

I was a FOLKSINGER who just happened to toss in funny stuff once in a while. I was NOT a comedian who sang a few folk songs.

There were certain sets I did where the comedy of the night just took over----but it was purely accidental and linked to where the audience preferred to go---and to how much I had to drink.

My comedy was comic relief from the very real tragedy that life can be at it's base---. And it was to HIGHLIGHT the grand song tales that came out of that basic tragedy that life is ere to--in the end.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 10:23 PM

Early on, I got hired to sing for a men's group. The guy who introduced me said, "Don knows hundreds of really raunchy songs!" NOT! At the time, I knew all of about fifteen songs, all from Burl Ives or Richard Dyer-Bennet records.

I coulda killed the S.O.B!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Eve Goldberg
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 01:28 PM

This has been a really interesting discussion, especially hearing from people who would prefer to have as many songs squeezed in as possible and don't really like introductions or patter in between songs.

I talked a lttle bit about this before, but the reason I go to a concert is to be taken on a journey. The journey might be musical, but it also is about me allowing the performer to take me wherever they want to go. And usually, if the performer is at all attuned to their audience, where they go has everything to do with what the audience is ready for. They might sing exactly the same songs as the night before, but the journey will be different because they are singing to different people, possibly in a different place, they feel differently that night, and so on.

Last night I went to see the excellent French Canadian band Genticorum. They are fantastic musicians who play beautiful songs and tunes. I loved the music. But what made their performance was not just their amazing musical chops - it was also the way they interacted with the audience, the stories they told about the songs, the way they joked around with each other.

So for me, in addition to hearing the musician's interpretation of the song live, I want to get to know the performer in some way. That might be through the way they play the music or interact with the audience while they are singing/playing, but it also is likely to be through the things they say and do in between songs.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 01:52 PM

Um...the origin of a song or tune isn't going to change from gig to gig

But do you have to say it exactly the same way as if you're knocking on doors flogging double glazing, Rifleman?

Why not impart the info as if you're tellin a friend rather than a Sales Prospect!

Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 02:02 PM

PS to last....

Don puts it excellently - I should have read his posting before replying to Rifleman!

Ian


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 02:15 PM

I'm a bit loath to join in again, specially as I've said this lots of times before, but Ian, please could you try to spare a thought for the poor working musician, who's doing 1-200 gigs a year. When you introduce a song night after night after night after night, you soon find the 'ideal' intro. Yes, most of us try to ring the changes, but if that's the story, that's how it's going to come out.

I have people coming again and again to see me do my 'act' and, yes, they largely hear the same old same old - but they give every appearance of enjoying it.

To be honest there's nothing much i can do about it, except tell a string of lies, or say nothing (as you'd prefer) and miss out most of what people seem to be paying to hear.

Ok, it's not 'folk' by your definition, but it's kinda life, really.

Tom


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 02:41 PM

Tom

I'm doing 150 singarounds a year; yes only 3 songs per night so one song of a repetiore of 40 doesn't get aired as often as one from a Guesting performer.

However I do say something original for every song for every performance. If I did frequent bookings I would still try to convey the song information naturally, and not in a scripted fashion.

When I'm doing a set or do the odd booking, I don't even plan a running order of songs, and may stray outside the selection if it seems right.

I remember playing at 'Raise Your Banners' one year and towards the end of a current song thinking "Would the audience like 'song x' or "song y' next?"

As several people have said, much of it is Horses for Courses. By experienced singers, guesting and non guesting, informing relative beginners how they present songs, etc.; then aspiring beginners can see that lots of approaches work - and make a choice which might suite their personality and prospective audiences.

Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Don Firth
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 03:18 PM

When I was the most "wall-to-wall" active, back in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, I was doing two or three nights a week in one coffeehouse or another.   Fortunately, these places paid, so I was making a halfway decent living at it. I had a working repertoire of maybe 200 songs. I usually sang four or five sets a night, generally eight or ten songs each. I tried not to repeat until I'd sung through the whole list, which didn't take all that many nights at that rate. And, blessings be, there was a lot of repeat business; the same people kept coming, so a) I must have been doing something right, and b) if I was going to keep them coming back, I couldn't afford to let myself get boring.

So—I would figure out my sets ahead of time, early in the week, and make sure to shuffle the order a bit and decide what, if anything, I would say about each song. So when someone heard me sing a song they'd heard me do before, it was in a whole new context. AND none of these pre-planned sets was locked in stone. I might make a few last minute switches, depending on circumstances.

Forethought. No matter how busy you are, don't let yourself fall into a rut.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: SDShad
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 04:35 PM

"Performers - do you see yourself as doing and ACT?

If yes, then you're probably going to have a rehearsed intro. The problem is that if someone comes to see you again quite soon afterwards. it's going to be so obvious you're an act from the scripted repetition."

Not necessarily. If you "act" is "moody, antisocial, introspective jazz genius," you're going to play your trumpet facing away from the audience and never say a bloody thing to 'em. And your name is going to be Miles Davis. :-)

And, in the other direction, having some sort of pre-planned intro to give before a song that deserves one doesn't prove that you're up to that for-some-reason-dreaded-and-dratted practice of "doing an act." It might just mean that you think a lot about your material, and figure it'll come across richer to the audience if you tell them something about it first.

Me, I was a debater in high school, so it's second nature to have something I've at least rehearsed in my head before the gig to say before some songs, although at other times it'll occur to me to just come up with strings of words on the spot when it seems warranted. Life ain't one-size-fits-all, but guess which kind of intro comes across as more "together." :-)

Shad


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 05:51 PM

of course the best intros are the spontaneous ones,this is obvoius to the audience if the act is more than one person,from the reaction of the other performer,however its a pretty difficult thing to do regularly.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 10:03 PM

I think a song should generally have an intro (except when a spontaneous performance feels right) - but that's personal, not a dictat!

I simply differ with those who advocate saying the same thing in the same way like a script.

If a song needs something particular said about it - surely there's no problem varying the wording or expression. And does the song need the same thing said about it for every audience? What about different emphasis for different occasions for example?

If I can relate a song to a news item, for example, or something else contemporary I'll do so.

It just needs a bit of lively thinking and avoiding the rut Don referred to.

And Shad, I'd get bored with any 'act' however brilliant. Once you've seen it, you've seen it...

Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 12:31 PM

"you owe it to them to be well prepared."

I`m always well prepared AD scripted


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 01:05 PM

Well, if I was going round and round the same local singarounds on a regular basis, seeing largely the same faces most of the time, and only doing two or three songs, not only would I myself want to ring the changes, both in terms of songs and intros, but I wouldn't need to tee-up my songs, because everyone would soon know them (and probably be bored of them too)!

But at most of my gigs, a majority of the people there have not seen me before. I'm not going to leave out an important story or a good gag (finding gags that fit the stories is not as easy as you'd think) just because a few people may have heard it before. If that's going to stop people coming, then I'm not going to loose any sleep over it, and if me doing proper intros is going to annoy people, then I'm very happy for those people to stay away (their grumpy faces might spoil the atmosphere)!

Not many get to see me more than twice a year or so, and there are certain songs that I usually want to play (because the shift CDs) and that people want to hear, because they're the favourites, and are usually requested anyway. Plus there's no point in doing a lot of songs that you've not got on CD, because every one you do is a potential sale lost, (no sales = no food nor petrol), so that keeps the repertoire reasonably tight.

Of course you alter the stories to fit the slot. The more people on stage, usually, the more brief you need to be. With Piper Sons we hardly did any intros at all - and we keep then tighter in the duo than I do when I'm on my own.

Would the aversion to intros apply to 'proper' storytelling, I wonder? Should a story teller tell the tale in a different order, and maybe change the charactors names, and even the key events, every time?

I'd find that hard to do, because all my stories are about real events - and the more atmosphere and background I give the more interested people usually become (as long as I've prepared the spiel properly and don't loose my thread.

Certainly it's much better to do a good scripted intro than a weak ad lib.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Don Firth
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 02:19 PM

Circumstances.

If you are the only singer and you are singing four or five sets a night three nights in the same place for eighteen weeks in a row, and you have a high percentage of repeat clientele, you'd jolly well better keep your "act" flexible and varied. Add to this that, after that eighteen week gig is over, your next one is in a place two miles away and most of your audience follows you, and—well, you see why versatility is essential.

In 1959, Bob Nelson and I were "barnstorming" in the San Francisco Bay area, and while we were there, we saw some of the "big name acts," the ones that were responsible for the "Great Folk Scare." We actually saw the first professional gig of The Smothers Brothers at The Purple Onion. They did the same songs with the same well-rehearsed intros every night they sang. But—they didn't have that much repeat business. The Purple Onion, like The Hungry i, and other North Beach clubs that were featuring "folk music" (actually, comedy acts using folk songs as a vehicle for their humor) were primarily tourist attractions. Tourists would go to The Purple Onion one evening to hear the Smothers Brothers, to the Hungry i the following evening to hear The Limeliters, then someplace else to hear stand-up comic Phyllis Diller.   Little repeat business, new audiences every night.

Later, when the Smothers Brothers records started coming out, they did the same routines that Bob and I had heard word for word. Then, a few years later, when they got their own television show—yep, the exact same stuff.

That's what people expected from them and that's what they wanted.

I was not a comedy act. In fact, I had a small reputation as being something of an academic as well as an entertainer; yes, an "entertainer," but I don't think that made me any less a singer of folk songs and ballads. But reputation as a bit of a scholar notwithstanding, I kept my intros (it any) short, informative, and varied.

So—what do your audiences want? What do they expect from you?

(By the way, these comments are general, not addressed to any specific person here)

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 10:38 PM

"So—what do your audiences want? What do they expect from you?"

Isn't that the real joy of playing to an audience - balancing these two things with what you sppecificly want to include?

Having said that I would not want to play to an audience that want's all the well known folk stuff.

I played at a new bar session a friend started a year or so back. Before I started a group of 'listeners' started asking the usual "Do you do Wild Rover? Do you do Mr Tambourine Man? "No" I said " I"m a singer songwriter" "Oh. Do you do Oasis?

Some audiences are not going to get what they expect from me when they see a label 'Folk SInger' - and I don't really want to supply what such audiences expect.

Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: PHJim
Date: 11 Jun 09 - 10:49 AM

I noticed that Art mentioned Utah Philips above. Utah and Gambel Rogers were two performers whose intros were as interesting as the songs. I don't think I'd be terribly disappointed if I went to one of their shows and heard no songs, only stories. (Well, maybe a bit, since they were both great singers and songwriters.)


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Marje
Date: 11 Jun 09 - 11:09 AM

I can see that the professional or semi-pro who tours and does paid gigs is in a different position from people who regularly perform in the same handful of clubs in their local area. In the former case, there's no particular reason to vary the introductions and patter, as the audience will be largely new, whereas the local floor-singers would do well to avoid too much repetition.

But even so, I appreciate it when the professionals are clearly tailoring their chat to that particular audience and situation. They may decide to link the song to some current event, whether it's MPs' expenses or the X-Factor finals; they may link the song to the local area or its history; or they may make a link between their song and one that's already been performed by a floor singer. This sort of thing shows that they're treating the evening as a one-off, individual performance, rather than one of 20 identical gigs, and that they're paying attention to where they are and who they're with, which always helps audiences to warm to them.

Marje


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Jess A
Date: 11 Jun 09 - 11:57 AM

Another 'it depends' answer from me. I'm probably repeating what lots of others have already said but for me the chat in between sets is an opportunity to share a little bit about the material (background, source, motivation for singing it...), make more of a connection with the audience, if they're the listening interestedly type, and also when playing in a multi-instrumental band, a way to cover the gaps where people are changing instruments and checking tuning.

That said I also hate it when (unless the performance is half stand-up, am sure somebody else has already mentioned Vin Garbutt...) the introductions outweigh the music. Or when the chat doesn't add anything, in terms of information or a connection with the performer.

Plus there are some gigs where the audience wants background music not a 'sitting still listening to every word' type concert, and there I feel really uncomfortable saying more than a few words - it just feels wrong. That said, I don't really enjoy that type of gig myself.

Earlier on, Tom Bliss said 'And, yes, you should certainly NEVER spoil the drama by telling the story of the song in the intro (it's amazing how many people do make this mistake though)! '... I'm not sure I agree with this 100%. I'm not advocating telling the whole plot of every song in a set. But there are times when there is so much going on in a ballad that you only have to miss a few key words to miss the point of the story, or other times when the imagery is a bit obscure and a bit of explanation beforehand helps. When I'm in an audience I quite like having a clue what the story is about before the song starts, not all the time but sometimes... so even with explaining storylines I'd still say 'it depends' as to whether it is appropriate or not.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: PHJim
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 03:19 PM

Another great "patter" guy is Todd Snider. Listen to his Digger Dave story that he tells with Moondawg's Tavern.

http://favorstar.com/song/download/mp3/Moondawg%27s+Tavern+With+Digger+Dave+Story/


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 05 Jul 09 - 01:12 PM

Good posting from Marje.

If you're landed with a performer whose just regurgitating patter - have some fun with a bit of light baracking! At a friendly singaround you'll get it all the time from mates.   No problem - and good experience.

Being a 'responsive' audience in this way (without going OTT) you're also letting the guest know that YOU know they're just dishing out a 'Line' to you, an audience, which they don't much care about. And that's disrespectful.

Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 05 Jul 09 - 03:26 PM

I'm always amazed how Vin Garbutt can introduce a serious song in a irreverent, jokey way, and, then, some how, getting the audience to accept his serious rendition of the song! But, then Vin is a sort of genius.


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