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Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship

Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 06 Jun 09 - 03:42 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 06 Jun 09 - 03:46 PM
GUEST,Ed 06 Jun 09 - 04:15 PM
Diva 06 Jun 09 - 04:24 PM
The Sandman 06 Jun 09 - 04:34 PM
Diva 06 Jun 09 - 04:44 PM
Suegorgeous 06 Jun 09 - 08:43 PM
Drumshanty 07 Jun 09 - 07:57 AM
Fred McCormick 07 Jun 09 - 11:54 AM
BobKnight 07 Jun 09 - 12:11 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 07 Jun 09 - 12:15 PM
peregrina 07 Jun 09 - 12:20 PM
SylviaN 07 Jun 09 - 12:23 PM
Ruth Archer 07 Jun 09 - 12:23 PM
BobKnight 07 Jun 09 - 12:32 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 07 Jun 09 - 12:38 PM
Ruth Archer 07 Jun 09 - 12:55 PM
Ruth Archer 07 Jun 09 - 12:57 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 07 Jun 09 - 01:04 PM
mg 07 Jun 09 - 01:19 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 07 Jun 09 - 01:24 PM
GUEST 07 Jun 09 - 01:35 PM
Vic Smith 07 Jun 09 - 01:39 PM
GUEST,Russ 07 Jun 09 - 06:22 PM
maeve 07 Jun 09 - 10:17 PM
Surreysinger 08 Jun 09 - 11:47 AM
maeve 08 Jun 09 - 02:00 PM
BB 08 Jun 09 - 02:59 PM
Jim Carroll 08 Jun 09 - 04:12 PM
The Sandman 08 Jun 09 - 04:24 PM
Surreysinger 08 Jun 09 - 04:31 PM
Ruth Archer 08 Jun 09 - 04:33 PM
Diva 08 Jun 09 - 05:23 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 09 Jun 09 - 09:29 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 09 Jun 09 - 09:39 AM
nutty 09 Jun 09 - 11:21 AM
The Sandman 09 Jun 09 - 12:43 PM
GUEST 09 Jun 09 - 01:23 PM
GUEST 09 Jun 09 - 01:26 PM
GUEST,Russ 09 Jun 09 - 01:44 PM
Northerner 09 Jun 09 - 01:44 PM
Drumshanty 09 Jun 09 - 02:01 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 09 Jun 09 - 02:27 PM
GUEST,matt milton 09 Jun 09 - 02:29 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 09 Jun 09 - 02:33 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 09 Jun 09 - 02:44 PM
GUEST,Russ 09 Jun 09 - 03:58 PM
giles earle 09 Jun 09 - 04:46 PM
Spleen Cringe 09 Jun 09 - 05:01 PM
GUEST,Russ 09 Jun 09 - 06:32 PM
Jim Carroll 10 Jun 09 - 03:26 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Jun 09 - 03:31 AM
Diva 10 Jun 09 - 04:12 AM
The Sandman 10 Jun 09 - 08:06 AM
WalkaboutsVerse 10 Jun 09 - 08:23 AM
Marje 10 Jun 09 - 08:36 AM
Diva 10 Jun 09 - 12:10 PM
The Sandman 10 Jun 09 - 12:58 PM
GUEST,Russ 10 Jun 09 - 01:09 PM
Diva 11 Jun 09 - 05:59 AM
The Sandman 11 Jun 09 - 06:04 AM
Diva 11 Jun 09 - 06:08 AM
BobKnight 11 Jun 09 - 06:49 AM
Diva 11 Jun 09 - 07:24 AM
Jack Blandiver 15 Jun 09 - 06:33 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Jun 09 - 03:28 PM
Diva 16 Jun 09 - 05:36 AM
GUEST,Russ 16 Jun 09 - 06:24 AM
Brian Peters 16 Jun 09 - 06:53 AM
Diva 16 Jun 09 - 07:12 AM
Diva 16 Jun 09 - 07:42 AM
The Sandman 16 Jun 09 - 08:37 AM
Diva 16 Jun 09 - 01:33 PM
The Sandman 16 Jun 09 - 01:55 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Jun 09 - 06:29 PM
Diva 17 Jun 09 - 05:23 AM
Jim Carroll 17 Jun 09 - 08:16 AM
Diva 17 Jun 09 - 10:58 AM
Jack Blandiver 17 Jun 09 - 11:34 AM
GUEST,Russ 17 Jun 09 - 12:02 PM
Brian Peters 17 Jun 09 - 12:10 PM
GUEST,Russ 17 Jun 09 - 12:17 PM
meself 17 Jun 09 - 12:26 PM
Diva 17 Jun 09 - 12:39 PM
Brian Peters 17 Jun 09 - 12:40 PM
Diva 17 Jun 09 - 01:04 PM
Jack Blandiver 17 Jun 09 - 01:28 PM
Diva 17 Jun 09 - 01:32 PM
Jim Carroll 17 Jun 09 - 02:58 PM
meself 17 Jun 09 - 03:33 PM
meself 17 Jun 09 - 03:58 PM
GUEST,Russ 18 Jun 09 - 08:50 AM
Jim Carroll 18 Jun 09 - 12:50 PM
Vic Smith 19 Jun 09 - 09:08 AM
mattkeen 19 Jun 09 - 09:58 AM
Vic Smith 19 Jun 09 - 10:51 AM
Diva 19 Jun 09 - 01:32 PM
Tradsinger 19 Jun 09 - 01:58 PM
Goose Gander 19 Jun 09 - 02:53 PM
Tradsinger 19 Jun 09 - 03:50 PM
Stringsinger 19 Jun 09 - 06:11 PM
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Subject: Tratitional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 03:42 PM

Another thread where I (rightly or wrongly) grumbled somewhat about the 'Voice of the People' (major recorded archive of source singers & traditional songs) not being all that available to 'the ear', or rather more precisely 'the pocket of the people', threw up a response suggesting I get out and find tradition bearers and learn songs off them directly.

Of course a wonderful idea which I'd be more than be interesting discovering more about... And especially someone from Essex!

Coincidentally, this weekend while looking at the East Anglian Traditional Music Day page, I noticed a chap called Sam Lee who is apparently apprentice to a traditional Scottish Singer (as well as running a London folk club). This piqued my interest as I'd never considered the thought before and yet it evidently occurs.

I'm so curious to know how many 'Tradition Bearers' take on 'Apprentices' and how that experience and relationship works out?


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Subject: RE: Tratitional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 03:46 PM

Mods - please correct the typo? 'TraDitional' singing please :)

------Done! Mudelf---------------


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 04:15 PM

I grumbled about the 'Voice of the People' not being available to 'the pocket of the people'

You could buy one CD at a time. I'm sure that you could save up £11.73 if you tried?

Is this the East Anglian Traditional Music Day page that you refer to? It mentions Sam Lee but nothing about apprenticeship. I'm not sure what you mean?


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 04:24 PM

Sam has been learning songs from Stanley Robertson


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 04:34 PM

You only need to listen,start with Phil Tanner,Harry Cox,Sam Larner,Joseph Taylor,W Pardon then revival singers such as Ron Taylor,Isabel Sutherland.
there was an essex traditional singer called cliff yeldham,I believe in the efdss archives,they have a recording of him singing the knife in the window.or hares on the mountain,and possibly others.
I have never heard the recording, but I remember seeing it as Cecil Sharp house,late sixties or early seventies.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 04:44 PM

who is a traveller and nephew of the late Jeannie Robertson. He, in common with many other singers of my aquaintance (some mentioned on a previous thread) have been more than helpful and generous over the years in sharing songs and knowledge.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 08:43 PM

Voice of the People cds are often available to take out of local libraries. Mine has several of them.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Drumshanty
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 07:57 AM

I know of at least one young person who has been working very closely with a "tradition bearer" here in Scotland, but I can't say that it appears to be a common phenomenon, and I am almost sure that it will have involved money at some point.

This is something I would love to be able to do - sit at the feet of a master until I have learned everything they want to teach me. But I think that these days, it would be difficult to find someone willing to take it on, even if I was willing and able to recompense them financially.

Having said that, there are ways and means. I've got to know some of our best singers by attending their workshops, by being judged by them in competitions and seeking their feedback, just by buttonholing them for advice and, on one memorable occasion, by spending the whole day with someone working on songs and performance.

Diva said how helpful and generous these people have been, and I could not agree more. I am often astonished by the willingness with which some singers are prepared to give advice based on many years of experience.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 11:54 AM

In England, and to a lesser extent in Scotland and Ireland as well, it has become practically impossible to learn direct from traditional singers, for the simple reason that so many of them have gone to the grave.

As far as learning from traditional singers, far and away the best source nowadays is Topic's Voice of the People. And don't forget the next set of VOTP CDs, drawn from Peter Kennedy's collection. Due out in September, I think.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: BobKnight
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 12:11 PM

I heard Sheila Stewart give Sam some advice last year at Cullerlie Traditional Singing Weekend. Basically to learn from Stanley, but not to copy - she thought he was sounding too much like Stanley. :)


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 12:15 PM

Something of an unlikely and romantic notion for sure, it'd simply never crossed my thoughts until half an hour prior to my posting the question.

It would be good to simply *hear* an Essex traditional singer performing a set of local songs. From prior rummagings on t'internet, I think there might even be an Essex traditional singer at Leigh on Sea this year. Unfortunately I cannot recall the lady's name! Typical!


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: peregrina
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 12:20 PM

One of Jon Cohen's movies, I think 'The End of an Old Song', but can't check that now, shows a student who'd come to learn the old ballads from an old singer in North Carolina, 'sitting knee to knee', as it was done.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: SylviaN
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 12:23 PM

Drumshanty, you are sooo right. Sam is very fortunate, and he knows it. He's also very talented, so if you haven't heard him, keep your ears open, and he's also a lovely person.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 12:23 PM

I think the "apprenticeship" largely involves Stanley Robertson passing on his repertoire, and as Sam's activities keep him very busy in England, I think that at the moment this largely happens through Stanley recordng his songs and sending them to Sam.

Sam wears Stanley Robertson's sovreign ring, hwich he gave to Sam as a kind of token of the apprenticeship.

I'm not really aware of this as a common practice, but it's an interesting idea with regard to keeping the songs alive and out there, rather than simply "collected" onto recordings.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: BobKnight
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 12:32 PM

Apart from the anecdote about Sheila and Sam, let me just add that Sam has a great voice, and as has been said already, a thoroughly nice lad.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 12:38 PM

So if I'm right, Sam is English and Stanley is Scottish?
Is there any err cultural confusion in this?

I've come to feel that it might not be the right thing to sing songs outside of my own cultural heritage as such - and some others are very strong on such matters - in way's that I don't relate to at all in fact. So, to clarify that, I personally don't take this as a blanket 'no-no' or anything too strict, and the odd few songs from here or there I do indeed happily sing (and will continue to do so), but for my own part, I would feel decidedly uncomfy adopting an *entire repertoire* belonging to a culture fully distinct from my own. I hope that makes sense, purely as a personal response.
Or maybe Sam has Scottish ancestry or something?

Sorry, I don't want to make this too political, I'm just interested in others thoughts.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 12:55 PM

Sam is English - and I think his heritage is Jewish.

Sam has developed a strong interest in Treveller culture, especially with regard to folk music. I think Stanley Robertson's Traveller heritage will be one of the things that interests Sam in his repertoire, and I certainly think that, culturally, the Traveller dimension is as important with reference to repertoire as the Scottish dimension.

I guess you could argue that the Traveller culture is equally "a culture fully distinct from (our) own", but if we stopped singing songs collected from Travellers, there wouldn't be a lot left... :).

My cultural heritage is Irish and Sicilian. I grew up in America. I've lived in England for almost 20 years and I sing mostly English songs. It feels right to me...I guess it has to be an individual choice.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 12:57 PM

I should also add that, from what I remember, it was Stanley Robertson who chose Sam to take on his songs - I don't think it was something Sam actively sought.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 01:04 PM

Thanks for your reply Eddie, as a relative newcomer I find a lot of the 'sensitive' areas around traditional song, to be a minefeild to be honest! But your elaboration, reminds me that the songs themselves are the thing.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: mg
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 01:19 PM

I would start, as they recommend in at least one folklore graduate program, with your own locale or heritage. How about asking at the nearest elder facility if you can interview a few of the elders and see what they remember? There are probably tips and techniques for doing this..but you could come up with some treasures and have fun in the process...mg


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 01:24 PM

"I would start, [..] with your own locale or heritage. How about asking at the nearest elder facility if you can interview a few of the elders and see what they remember?"

Mg - yeah, I've thought about this since posting. My suspicion is that pickings will be thin to non-existent. But it's worth a try, hey? One never knows what someone might remember..


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 01:35 PM

If you really want to collect folk songs, you could always enroll one of the programs at, say UCLA, or Indiana University, or Penn.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Vic Smith
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 01:39 PM

Crow Sister wrote
Or maybe Sam has Scottish ancestry or something?


I wrote an article on Sam for fRoots and in the interview, Sam told me that his background was Eastern European Jewish.

Crow Sister wrote
So if I'm right, Sam is English and Stanley is Scottish?
Is there any err cultural confusion in this?


Well, there certainly could be if it was not done properly. Another time when Sam stayed at our house, Stanley was also there and I was able to witness a lesson and the intensity of the learning process that goes on as part of this apprenticeship. If you hear Sam sing a song that he has learned from Stanley, there is no attempt on Sam's part to adopt a false Scottish accent, but you can still hear the minutae of the decorations and the emotional intersity that he has learned from his great master.

When Sam sings one of Stanley's songs, there is no doubt that
a] the song is being sung in Sam's voice and
b] The source of the song is Stanley.
And to my mind, that is the way it should be.

I think that Crow Sister makes an interesting point about "cultural confusion" and it makes me think of another music and ask the following questions:-

Who are amongst the finest revival performers of Old Timey/Appalachian music and song?
Well, amongst them must be Bruce Molsky, Tom Paley, Sara Grey, John Cohen and Mike Seeger.

And what is the background of these five?
All New York/New England Jewish of Eastern European origins.

There might be a good study for an ethnomusicologist there - unless it has already been done!


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 06:22 PM

Augusta Heritage, Davis & Elkins College, Elkins WV has been running an apprenticeship program for years.

I've seen/heard the results. It really works.

Augusta Heritage Apprenticeship Program

Russ (Permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: maeve
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 10:17 PM

Another kind of music learning opportunity is with Village Harmony summer ensembles: www.villageharmony.org

maeve


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Surreysinger
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 11:47 AM

A great learning opportunity, yes, Maeve ... but I don't really think that a choral singing course quite equates with an apprenticeship with a traditional source singer, which was what Crow Sister was discussing in the initial post. (And I say that as a choral singer of many years' standing who really admires what Village Harmony and Northern Harmony do, and finds what they do very exciting.)


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: maeve
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 02:00 PM

Ah, but what the graduates of the workshops have learned makes for an excellent base of cultural and musical understanding in addition to the training in both solo and choral singing and in self-discipline. If Crow Sister is seeking a source musician with whom to apprentice, she (or anyone else considering such a path) will want to be learning everything she can in the meantime. Such an experience can only help in the preparations for further study.

"Many small steps train Grasshopper for the great leap" ;)

maeve


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: BB
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 02:59 PM

It probably wouldn't be easy to find many Essex songs that would work for you (just as there are not that many Devon songs which work for me) - it's unlikely that you'd find all of them to your taste or whatever, but you could widen it to, say, East Anglia, which would give you a much bigger pool to dip into.

As to the Leigh FF, the lady you're thinking of may be Kiti Theobald, who is a fine singer (in fact, one of my favourites) of traditional songs, but not what is generally thought of as a traditional or "source" singer.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 04:12 PM

According to Bert Lloyd, in a number of the countries he collected in in Eastern Europe, would-be singers were apprenticed to established ones for a given period (years) at the the end of which they underwent an exam which consisted of making and improvising a song on the spot on a given subject.
Now there's a thought!
Crow Sister
"I've come to feel that it might not be the right thing to sing songs outside of my own cultural heritage as such"
This (much misunderstood) practice was adopted by the Singers Club FOR ITS OWN RESIDENTS ONLY, the idea being to open up the native repertoire rather than follow the trend at the time and sing American songs in a somewhat odd mid-Atlantic accent.
The idea originated from a suggestion by Alan Lomax - and it worked at the time.
Personally, while I hate pseud accents, be they cod American, 'Oirish', Mummerset, or bad Scots, I see no harm whatever in learning songs from the Irish or Scots (or even Canadian and American) repertoires as long as they adapt comfortably into your own vernacular.
I love the ballads (saw it on a tee-shirt once) and, as far as I'm concerned, the best of these by far are Scots. Most of them adapt pretty straghtforwardly and I'm more than happy to sing them, given the opportunity.
Who knows where they originated anyway!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 04:24 PM

As to the Leigh FF, the lady you're thinking of may be Kiti Theobald, who is a fine singer (in fact, one of my favourites) of traditional songs, but not what is generally thought of as a traditional or "source" singer.
she is a fine singer who sings traditional songs well,that is all that is important,there are bad traditional singers and goodsingers of traditional songs,give me the latter anytime.
BB,i


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Surreysinger
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 04:31 PM

Maeve - I don't totally disagree with what you say, but knowing Crow Sister's background, I think she's already been learning in that way for some time, and is stepping onwards!


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 04:33 PM

that's fine Dick - it's simply not what the OP was asking for.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 05:23 PM

I second or third what was said about Sam he's a smashing lad and a very good singer.

A couple of years ago I was personally gifted a song by Stanley while we were out for dinner and it was quite an experience. The learning of and passing on of songs is a very special craft.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 09:29 AM

BB, sure - I should think in broader terms of East-Anglia for a more substantial repertoire if looking 'locally'. I have no desire to limit myself exclusively to songs from my region, but I think what would be nice would be if I learned at least a modest 'sub-set' of songs whose regional origins I have some personal relationship to - and it would be even nicer if I could hear some of these from a local singer. I know there are a couple of books out there on Essex folk song in particular, one of which I've already been promised a loan of.

Kiti Theobald was the lady I was thinking of. Thanks for reminding me. In fact I found her MySpace page: Kiti Theobald MySpace

Otherwise, I don't imagine myself seated at the feet of any master in the forseable future or indeed ever, despite the possible romance of the idea.
An intriguing notion since hearing brief references to Sam & Stanley's story though, so thanks for the elaboration offered on the subject. And following another thread, there's a most absorbing film in there surely, no?


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 09:39 AM

And for what it's worth regarding previous comments here, I possibly aught to add that she describes herself as 'a singer of traditional songs.'


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: nutty
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 11:21 AM

Are we really carrying on the 'tradition' by learning songs from aged singers?

A song sung by someone in their youth can sound very different to one sung by someone in their dotage and IMHO many of the Kennedy recordings are the worst examples of traditional singing. One problem I had with the singing of Peter Bellamy was that he sounded like a ninety year old.
Yes, he was truly following his sources but I much prefer a young person to sing like a young person. One might use the same arguement in the way the (YOUNG) Copper Family interpret their family songs.

I realise that holding such views is likely to get me hung drawn and quartered.

As older manuscripts and broadsides become more available it is increasingly more possible to discover what original songs must have sounded like both in tune and content. I recently obtained a book of English Songs containing both words and music that was printed in 1811.

Apart from the changes made by the collectors in the past, publishers and the singers themselves had a hand in modifying 'traditional' material.

There is also the question of 'source singers'. Fred Jordon is often used as an example, yet he would admit to having learned songs from gramophone records - a source we have all used at some time in our singing career.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 12:43 PM

good post Nutty,Furthermore if a singer follows the examples of Maccoll/ Peggy Seeger,and voice exercises,the voice can go on sounding good into old age.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 01:23 PM

"Are we really carrying on the 'tradition' by learning songs from aged singers?
A song sung by someone in their youth can sound very different to one sung by someone in their dotage and IMHO many of the Kennedy recordings are the worst examples of traditional singing. One problem I had with the singing of Peter Bellamy was that he sounded like a ninety year old.
Yes, he was truly following his sources but I much prefer a young person to sing like a young person. One might use the same arguement in the way the (YOUNG) Copper Family interpret their family songs.
I realise that holding such views is likely to get me hung drawn and quartered"

No, I think you're totally right. I often wonder whether the style of singing we think of as 'folk' is actually entirely accidental and arbitrary: people trying to sing like old men and women with aged larynxes, whose voices have been weathered by, of necessity, having to belt it out unamplified in boisterous pubs. I mean, presumably singers in the 19th century didn't think of themselves as 'folk singers', they were just 'singers'.

With you on Peter Bellamy too. I have a sort of ambivalent affection for the singing of Peter Bellamy - and Ewan MacColl for the same reasons: I somehow manage to enjoy them while simultaneously thinking the stylisation just sounds all wrong. I suppose it's a case of appreciating what they were trying to do, what they were thinking, even if you personally totally disagree with it. And of course there's always the song beneath, no mater how it's being sung.

I think a quest for authenticity of style is a red herring in folk music. Quite apart from anything else, the voices on the VOTP recordings are very varied: it's not like they all sing the same way. I also feel very uneasy about using the word 'apprentice': sounds far too pompous. I mean, it's great that Sam Lee is so committed to the music that he is actively seeking out a singer with a old repertoire, rather than relying on recordings and transcriptions. But folk music isn't opera - it's more interesting than that (IMO). I find notions of rectitude - the "correct" way of doing things, "master" and "pupil" relationships etc - very offputting in the context of folk music.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 01:26 PM

cookie gone. Matt Milton (for it is I) wrote the above post.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 01:44 PM

If learning from the old people is simply about about the song or the tune it is a waste of both parties' time. There are much more efficient ways to build repertoire.

If learning from the old people is about mimicking them, both parties should view that as a stage in a process.

If you don't think the old people have anything more to offer than a limited repertoire and a few annoying stylistic idiosyncrasies, why bother?

Russ (Permanent GUEST and traditional musician)


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Northerner
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 01:44 PM

Hi! I know Sam Lee. Like me he is apprenticed to Stanley Robertson. Stanley is getting increasingly housebound now. It was his birthday yesterday - I sang Happy Birthday over the phone to him.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Drumshanty
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 02:01 PM

Much thought-provoking stuff there. First, I have to confess that I was never thinking along the lines of carrying on the tradition - it didn't occur to me. Maybe it should have...

Secondly, good question about learning from aged singers. Again, never occurred to me. The person I would like to mentor me is in their mid-40s.

And it never occurred to me to question my teachers when they said, "Go to the old recordings", but I will question that now, because for the life of me, I couldn't tell someone why it's more authentic to learn a song from a recording of, for example, Jeannie Robertson (superlative though she was) than it is to learn from a recording of . Maybe it isn't. Maybe that's just an assumption that I've been making all along and it needed correcting.

Hmmm...

[Sorry to ramble - I am, as ever, grateful to Mudcatters for forcing me to ask questions.]


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 02:27 PM

My apologies to the following artist (though I doubt he will read this thread!), but although I really like some of the creative backing, I find the vocals almost bizzarely derivative: Andrew King


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 02:29 PM

Funnily enough for me there's been an inverse proportion to singing in a "traditional folk manner" and the seriousness and interest I've put into delving into the repertoire and tradition. I'm singing less and less "folkily" I would never have imagined a couple of years ago that I'd be spending money on 4th-hand musty old tomes and getting excited about discovering songs about foxes, or what are in effect 17th century adverts for a pub (to mention two random things I've been trying recently).

I probaly listen to Harry Cox, Walter Pardon, Cyril Poacher and others of a similar era than anything else at the moment, but even though I spend more and more time listening to them, I don't feel comfortable trying to sing like them. I think you can take subtle things from such singers - attitude more than anything, but also certain emphases, certain inflections, ornaments – and use them subtly. I think you can come unstuck if you try to go the whole hog.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 02:33 PM

"The person I would like to mentor me is in their mid-40s."

Drumshanty, sounds like you aughta pounce on them! ;-)


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 02:44 PM

Matt, are you the same guy who was into electronica and progressive ambient stuff? I'm sure I recall someone like that around here.
Would love to work some kind of creative mix of those genres, but I can't PM you - no need to reply of course, just noise making.. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 03:58 PM

Drumshanty,

There are excellent reasons for "going to the old recordings."
"Authenticity" is not one of them.

Russ (Permanent GUEST and traditional musician)


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: giles earle
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 04:46 PM

This reminds me of the long-time debate in Early Music, about 'authentic' versus 'historically informed' performance.

Part of the argument goes, more or less, that although you can be as 'authentic' as possible using source material of the time, this doesn't necessarily give anthing like the same experience to modern listeners as to those who heard the music when first composed. How the average set of ears hears something depends on their owner's background/expectations/assumptions(/etc) - which has changed over time. Indeed, in some cases, 'authentic' performance can sound downright silly to modern ears: e.g. the staggeringly OTT florid decorations of 'genuine' Rococo performance would sound tasteless and pointless to most of us. Even the most dyed-in-the-wool Early Music practitioner draws a line well before reaching that sort of 'authentic'.

At its best, the 'historically informed' route is to study historic practice not in to follow it slavishly, but to communicate some flavour of the original music to a modern audience. A tricky balance to find, at times.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 05:01 PM

I'd have thought one good reason to learn directly from someone like Stanley Robertson is that it would be an incredible experience. Here's an elderly man who has been steeped in traditional music his entire life and is a brilliant storyteller to boot. Sounds like a dream job!


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 09 Jun 09 - 06:32 PM

Spleen,

You got it.

Russ (Permanent GUEST and traditional musician)


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Jun 09 - 03:26 AM

"I probably listen to Harry Cox, Walter Pardon, Cyril Poacher and others of a similar era than anything else at the moment, but even though I spend more and more time listening to them, I don't feel comfortable trying to sing like them."
In the end the aim should be to sing like nobody but yourself - surely.
Sure, the Kennedy (et-al) recordings have some examples of bad singing, they were made when our singing tradition was in terminal decline, so they are bound to.   They also have some of the best singing of traditional songs you are ever likely to hear.
I don't want to sound like a singer who is past his prime and, because of age, no longer has enough breath control to hold a long line. On the other hand, nor do I want to incorporate Peter Bellamy's "Larry-the-Lamb" impersonations (his own description) into my singing, or some of the idiosyncratic phrasing, or the peculiar vocal gymnasitics, or the extremely intrusive accompaniment techniques that I hear regularly from some of our folk 'superstars'.
If I had to choose - and I don't - give me Phil Tanner any day; an old man sounding like a youngster going out looking for his oats, as he does when he sings Banks of Sweet Primroses. Or the seething anger of Harry Cox when he sings about a young man transported to the other side of the world for trying to feed his family. Or Sam Larner, whose health was ruined by dragging soaking wet nets over the side of the boat, yet still managed to make his songs sound as if he was singing them for the first time. Or the quiet, assured understanding of Walter Pardon who made every song he sang sound like a personal experience.
There are some spectacular examples of technique among the old recordings, not so much in England, but certainly among the Irish and Scots singers, but I believe it's something more intangible you are looking for when you listen to other singers to learn from them - and it is this that you can't put a price on.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Jun 09 - 03:31 AM

PS
"Russ (Permanent GUEST and traditional musician)"
You may well have grown up and learned your music in an environment where tradition music was a vital part of the expression and identity of that community community, but I suspect that you came to it like the rest of us, as an outside, which makes you a revival musician rather than a traditional one.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 10 Jun 09 - 04:12 AM

Jim Carroll wrote:

"I believe it's something more intangible you are looking for when you listen to other singers to learn from them - and it is this that you can't put a price on."

that's it in a nutshell

Oh and guest Russ I have known Drumshanty for a few years now and not only is she a very fine singer she also possesses the intuitive understanding of why these songs and their singers are so important

Kathy Hobkirk....singer of traditional songs


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Jun 09 - 08:06 AM

Idiagree with some of the statements on this thread.
Peter Bellamy was a good singer,why,because he interpreted songs well,he was also a good harmony singer.
believe it or not 90 yearolds can be god singers even if their voices are not as good as they were,being a good singer is not just about having a wonderful voice.
I can think of several revival and one or two traditional singers who have good voices,probably more listenable[than Bellamy],but sing as if they are reciting a shopping list,something Bellamy could never be accused of.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 10 Jun 09 - 08:23 AM

Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship: turning up at folk clubs and festivals.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Marje
Date: 10 Jun 09 - 08:36 AM

Jim, I'm not at all sure about this "traditional" vs "revival" singing. There are now a great many people who've been singing traditional music for all or most of their adult lives. A typical "revival" singer born in, say, 1945, who started folk singing in the 1960s, will have been singing for over 40 years now. He/she will likely have been doing much of this singing in the company of like-minded people from their own local community and from the wider folk community, learning from each other and exchanging songs at informal social gatherings.

While I can see that in the 1960s and 70s, "revival" singers were indeed coming to it from outside, I think it's possible to argue that we have now reached a stage where the tradition has re-established itself, albeit in a specialist way that's only experienced by a minority of people (which was also the case when much of the song-collecting was done, about a century ago).

Modern communications and travel mean that communities are now defined, for most people, not just by geography, but but shared interests. It's therefore possible, for many of us, to belong to a community that values folk song and music as part of its collective identity, and I don't see why this can't be described as "traditional" singing/playing. A revival is, by definition, a transitional stage, and eventually evolves into something ongoing or permanent. Maybe we've got there now?

Marje


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 10 Jun 09 - 12:10 PM

On a lighter note, I hope, a good few years ago I was at one of the Auchtermuchty Ballad days that Aileen Carr used to run and it was mentioned that the guests that year (Sheila Stewart, Cy Laurie and John Dillon) had all been singing for thiry years. It was decided,for a lark, that the apprenticeship for traditional singers must therefore be thirty years.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Jun 09 - 12:58 PM

what larks, Diva.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 10 Jun 09 - 01:09 PM

Jim Carrol,
I am confused.
Define "outside(r)."

Russ (Permanent GUEST and musician of uncertain type)


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 11 Jun 09 - 05:59 AM

Ahh but the scarey thing now is that I have been singing for 30 years.........I still think i'm an apprentice


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Jun 09 - 06:04 AM

Diva,we never stop learning.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 11 Jun 09 - 06:08 AM

Yep I agree with that CB the day we stop learning we are deid!


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: BobKnight
Date: 11 Jun 09 - 06:49 AM

Diva - were you at the Rolling Hills Club when I was there last November?


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 11 Jun 09 - 07:24 AM

That was one of the ones I missed but I think we met at Cullerlie


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 Jun 09 - 06:33 AM

I remember discussing songs such as Lamachree & Megrum and McGinties Meal an Ale with Stanley some 15 years ago. He also imparted the Bonny Wee Doo - (Me Daddy kil't me; me Mammy e't me; me sister Mary pickit ma banes...) with the promise that I would never forget it as long as I live - so far so good! Best of all was the information he shared with a fellow storyteller & myself regarding how to how to tell an evil ghost from a good one. All ghosts, it would seem, will put a chill along your spine, but with an evil ghost the chill will go down your spine, and with a good ghost the chill will go up. Or was it the other way round? Not so sure about ghosts but the last chill I got was when our local friendly BNP candidate smiled at me on my way in to the polling station the other week...


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Jun 09 - 03:28 PM

"Jim, I'm not at all sure about this "traditional" vs "revival" singing."
Marge - I am - it's a bad idea
You take your inspiration from wherever you can, whether the singers are or 19 or 90 - I never suggested otherwise (it was somebody else who suggested learning from 45 year olds).
The examples I cited from older singers, I believe, come with a lifetime of experiences and backgrounds and are unlikely to be available elsewhere.
Whoever you take as your guide, I've never been convinced that folk singing can be taught, though I fully accept The Cap'ns suggestion of learning by listening to other singers.
What I would hate to see is a return to the barren days of copying, when virtually every club was populated by Carthy copiers or Bellamy bleaters or Dylan doubles or Moore mimers, or Joanie clones, and when you knew that when three or four singers stood up to sing you were about to hear a Watersons tribute group.
By all means take the best and most useful of whatever other singers have to offer, but please make the end result your own, not a piss-poor imitation of theirs.
No - I don't believe we as revival singers, are part of the the song tradition, merely borrowers from that tradition, and what we do seldom, if ever extends beyond the walls of our individual clubs, festivals, singarounds, whatever.
This is not in any way a criticism, just an assessment of who we are and where we stand in relation to the music we have chose to be involved in.
Guest Russ.
Sorry about the delay in responding to your query - was forced to take a few days beak in beautiful Donegal - tough, but somebody has to do it.
"Define "outside(r)."
Not part of tradition that made, remade and kept alive down the centuries the music we are involved in, merely (the wrong word altogether) borrowers of it. There are, I believe, a whole bunch of reasons why it is important to recognise this, which have been hammered to death ad nauseum, and I have no doubt, will be again.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 05:36 AM

As far as I am concerned I'm still learning my trade and have been lucky, no....privileged... to have a number of singers that I consider have been mentors. They have always beeen constructive in their criticism and happy to answer the stupidist and most mundane of questions. Why? because they love the songs and the sharing of songs and it is always a pleasure to spend time with folk like this.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 06:24 AM

Jim Carroll

Thanks for the response.

You giveth and you taketh away.

As important as you think it is, I cannot recognize your distinction until I understand it.

That a person has "grown up and learned ... music in an environment where tradition(al) music was a vital part of the expression and identity of that community" is not sufficient to be properly deemed a traditional musician.
What else is necessary?
Please clarify "Not part of (the) tradition".

Russ (Permanent GUEST and "traditional" musician)


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Brian Peters
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 06:53 AM

matt milton wrote: "I often wonder whether the style of singing we think of as 'folk' is actually entirely accidental and arbitrary: people trying to sing like old men and women… the voices on the VOTP recordings are very varied: it's not like they all sing the same way"

I'm not entirely sure where the standard-issue 'folkie voice' (the nasal tone, the mummerset vowels) came from, though I rather doubt it was an attempt to sound like an elderly person. The point is that there's a large gulf between that style and the way in which any actual traditional singers sing, or sang. I was listening to Jeff Wesley in the car last night (a CD, not unfortunately the man himself) and was struck by, not only the musicality of his voice, but the unmannered style of delivery. Here was a man singing just like he speaks. The same goes for pretty much any traditional singer you listen to. It's quite true there's no single 'traditional style' (I never bought the old dogma that "they all sing deadpan") but, if there is common ground to be found, it's in this use of the natural voice (ornaments, vibrato etc. notwithstanding) and an unhurried sense of pace.

The American singer Jeff Davis - who will be known to some of you as much for his authentic back-porch singing style as for his fiddle and banjo playing – recently persuaded me to join him in presenting a vocal style workshop during a week-long summer camp in North America. Participants were given a CD onto which we'd burned recordings by various North American and British traditional singers (Jeff's included Lee Monroe Presnell, Texas Gladden and Almeida Riddle, mine Phil Tanner, Lizzie Higgins and Bill Cassidy) and invited to spend their free time during the week learning a verse or more in the exact style of the singer(s) of their choice. The results were interesting – there were some valiant attempts! But what was the point of the exercise - was it to turn out a couple of dozen geriatric soundalikes?

Here's what Jeff said: "Fiddlers sit for hours on end copying every note of their favorite players, but singers are always worried about this business of 'sounding like themselves'. The thing is, no matter how hard a fiddler tries to make their playing sound like Henry Reed's or Edden Hammons's, they are still going to end up sounding like themselves. And it's the same with singing: there's actually tremendous freedom in copying. I think everybody went away from that class better listeners and better singers, and sounding more like themselves than they did when they were trying to sound only like themselves."

The point is that none of us grows up in a musical vacuum. We are surrounded from infancy by the popular music of the day, which by and large is based on an American template. When I had to coach young Mancunian actors in singing Victorian broadsides for a theatre production a few years back, the first thing I noticed was that every one of them adopted an American accent the instant they moved from speaking words to singing them. Even those of us who have grown up enjoying folk music have often spent a lot of time listening to revival singers who have in some cases adopted highly mannered delivery styles. Listening to a few traditional singers (leaving aside for the moment the subtleties of phrasing and ornamentation that are there to be absorbed) is a good way of providing some kind of balance to all that musical baggage.

Lastly, can I agree with Jim Carroll's point about "Phil Tanner... an old man sounding like a youngster". The idea that elderly singers are past it, or a travesty of their former singing selves, is one that doesn't stand up to actually listening to some elderly singers. The best just get better!


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 07:12 AM

I think your own voice comes through eventually, something to do with time and with confidence. I think that mine has changed over the years and that is no bad thing. I eventually realised that I didn't have to be a clone of other singers.

Listening to other singers (source or revival) is something I always suggest when running workshops and i like the idea of burning discs.

And I definately agree with being non ageist when listenig to singers I've heard some in their 70's that sound better, more rounded, than those far younger.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 07:42 AM

Whoops.....that looks like ageism in reverse....its not meant to be.

Although a very well known singer (no names no pack drill!!!) once said that folk under 30 couldn't sing the muckle sangs.

I'll tak my foot out of my mouth.....and go and get another throat sweetie


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 08:37 AM

Brian Peters ,makes some good points,but misses one vital point.tohave and keep a good voice you have to practise singing,just as a musician practises an instrument,an old person can maintain a good voice through using vocal exercises.this has nothing to do with style.
I use vocal exercises.,but I got the idea from Ewan and Peggy
Dick Mileshttp://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 01:33 PM

I don't think I know anyone who sings traditional songs/ballads who practices vocal exercises but I know many classical singers who would not dream of singing anything without first warming up. Given the mess I have made of my throat I am begining to think they might have a point.

Like I say always learning


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 01:55 PM

well,contact Jim Carroll,he was /is friendly with Ewan and Peggy,and might be able to pass on useful information.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 06:29 PM

Russ
"You giveth and you taketh away."
Sorry - not attempting to take away anything.
Don't know where you are, but as far as I can make out the singing traditions died in the UK somewhere between the wars, in Ireland, somewhat later; what we were left with was singers remembering songs from a tradition which, in all but a few cases they had not been part of, got through family, neighbours, etc.
The main exception to this was the Travelling communities who, thanks to their relative isolation from the settled communities and the effects of modern technology, kept singing and remaking the songs, and composing new ones to reflect their own lives and communities. Unfortunately this screeched to a halt in the mid-seventies when they acquired portable televisions - we were there and saw it happen.
The folk song revival, which started some time in the 50s by singers like MacColl, Lloyd and others, with teh encouragement of Alan Lomax, and based largely on the collecting project carried out by the BBC in the earlier part of that decade, was one set up and run my outsiders like ourselves - and that, with a few exceptions (mainly the Scots Travellers, is how it stands today IMO.
As I say, not a value judgement, just an assesment of where we are.
Diva,
The worst thing you can do is continue to sing through a damaged throat - get some simple voice excercises to restore your voice.
Have I heard you sing - I have an idea that I have; if so, your voice sounds aright to me.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 05:23 AM

Hi Jim
I'm not sure if you have heard me sing. I was at Whitby last year and in the ballad sessions most days. Amazing and a wonderful chance to hear people I wouldn't normally hear. This years expedition is in the planning stages..yippeee

Talking to Drumshanty last night and she tells me that Christine Kydd is a vocal coach and she is the only person who we know who does warm up exercises.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 08:16 AM

"she is the only person who we know who does warm up exercises."
Par for the course for the Critics Group.
There is a story in Luke Kelly's biography of one time, when he was a CG member, he was staying with friends in Grimsby. One morning they heard the most excruciating sounds emnating from the bathroom, so, after hammering on the door for a few minutes and getting no response, they finally shouldered it open, only to find Luke in the shower doing his voice exercises.
Ewan and Peg used to say that, when on tour they were often greeted with the most peculiar looks from hotel staff because of the noises they made (one has to presume voice exercises!)
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 10:58 AM

I can get myself into more than enough trouble without strange noises eminating from wherever I am staying!!!

Ahem back to the purpose of this thread... being that the voice is an instrument then it makes sense to look after it as one would a fiddle or guitar etc.

I have a vague memory of being at at festival were they had a series of master and apprentice talks. A well known and established singer would share with an up and coming singer.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 11:34 AM

One problem I had with the singing of Peter Bellamy was that he sounded like a ninety year old.

I have in my keeping presently an extensive archive of concert recordings spanning PB's entire career and on that evidence alone I'd say that he only ever sang like himself - which is to say, a dynamic, rarefied, idiosyncratic stylist and absolute master of his uncompromising craft, as any self-respecting Bellamist will attest. I saw him many times from the mid-eighties onwards and each time the atmosphere was electric - and audience opinion invariably polarised. I also have on cassette the first few songs of his performance at the Durham Folk Party in the summer of 1991, only a month or so before he died. Sad to say, on that occasion half the audience got up and left (in protest? it certainly seemed so at the time...) as he took the stage, necessitating that I run off around the singarounds to raise some support. PB was 46 at the time; I am now 47 - which is a sobering thought, personally speaking...


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 12:02 PM

Brian Peters,

Excellent post.

HOWEVER, two things:
1.
My experience is that when it comes to traditional singers there are (at least) two schools of throught.
There are those who sing high and those who don't.

Sheila Kay Adams (NC)exemplifies the latter.
She sings a song in about the same pitch range that she uses for her speaking voice.

Maggie Hammons Parker exemplifies to former.
She prided herself on her ability to "sing high" but bemoaned the fact that she couldn't sing "as high as she used to."
An extreme example would be her version of "Wicked Polly." In the version found on the Hammons Legacy CD sampler of her singing, she starts high, goes higher, and finally ends up somewhere in the stratosphere.
I haven't done any real research but my impression is that this approach is not uncommon in eastern KY.

2.
For the record.
It is Edn Hammons
The story that I have heard (not read) is that Edn waged on ongoing battle to control the spelling of his own name.
Academics (who shall rename nameless) insisted on referring to him as Edden, Edwin, Eddn, etc.
He insisted that he was "Edn".
This story is usually told as an example of Outsider Academic Arrogance on the part of people who would think that an adult didn't know how to spell his own name.

Russ (Permanent GUEST and traditional musician)


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Brian Peters
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 12:10 PM

> he only ever sang like himself - which is to say, a dynamic, rarefied, idiosyncratic stylist and absolute master of his uncompromising craft <

The odd thing about PB - who was, as you say, an outrageously individualistic singer - was that he paid more attention to studying traditional singing style than pretty much anyone. The thing was, the styles he studied were so eclectic (Larner and Cox, Appalachia, Sacred harp, the Blues) that the results - allied to his preference for pitching at the very top of his range, and a militant rock-n-roll attitude - sounded nothing like any traditional singer you'd ever heard.

He was outstanding at telling a story in song, though. He did indeed polarise opinions, but I found that people who thought they hated his style were often won over when they could be persuaded to listen to it.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 12:17 PM

Jim Carroll,

I appreciate the clarification and your patience.

I am a yank.
Born in the USA!

For what it is worth,
In light of your clarification I now formally claim that I am a traditional musician in your sense of the term. I formally deny your claim that I am a revival musician in your sense of the term.

I should admit that my initial response to your original "suggestion" was decidedly and consciously NOT traditional.

Where I come from, a request for clarification is not the preferred first reponse to a perceived slight.

Bobert and Spaw have provided provided mudcat with many fine examples of more traditional responses.

Russ (Permanent GUEST and traditional musician)


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: meself
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 12:26 PM

Every time a mention of the singing style of Peter Bellamy comes up, I wonder if it is he that appears on an LP made of the Mariposa Folk Festival from some time in the '70s, singing The Flying Cloud - an unannotated copy of which I have on cassette tape. Anybody know?


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 12:39 PM

Now I know this is probably heretical but while I know who he was, I have never actually heard Peter Bellamy sing. Something I intend to remedy.

Over a fair few years I have listened to and learned from the Scots traveller singers like The Stewarts, Stanley Robertson and Lizzie Higgans. All of whom sang in their own voice and style.

My influences in traditional singing and singing styles are mainly Scots and Irish hardly surprising given my background and not many English. I only heard Will Noble forhe very first time last year at Whitby.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Brian Peters
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 12:40 PM

"My experience is that when it comes to traditional singers there are (at least) two schools of throught.
There are those who sing high and those who don't."

Are you talking specifically about women singers here? Maggie Hammons Parker is an interesting example, since she sang right across the break in her voice. In fact she is one singer that I would like to have heard as a younger woman, since the top end of her range is pretty shaky on - for instance - 'Young Henerly', but she sounds devastating when she hits the low notes. That ballad has an unusually wide range, though it's interesting that a version was collected in Avery County, NC in 1939 with an almost identical tune, so the lady that sung that one must have had her own way of dealing with the range.

"It is Edn Hammons"

I'll take your (and Edn's) word for it - it says 'Edden' on my CD but I suppose some Arrogant Academic Outsider was responsible for that.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 01:04 PM

I have always thought traditional music and song was an area well worth studying and am now in a position, having done a degree as a mature student, and made a concentrated study of ballads, where I can count accademics as friends. Neither arrogant nor outsiders but having an interest and a love of a subject and immense knowledge to share.

I am sure that in their time Hamish Henderson and Kenneth Goldstein (to name only two) were very well regarded by the travellers that they talked to and came to regard as friends.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 01:28 PM

The only copy of a Mariposa Folk Festival LP I've been able to track down is from 1976; there's a copy on Ebay Here which gives full track details - but no PB & no Flying Cloud! Did PB ever sing Flying Cloud? A quick search reveals a blank on that too...

As for hearing PB, there's a couple of things on YouTube, including THIS in which PB's rendering of The Fox Jumps Over the Parsons Gate (1970) is married with the images from Randolph Caldecott's book of the same name (1883) - by all accounts a seminal influence on the young PB!


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 01:32 PM

Brilliant thanks for the link.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 02:58 PM

Guest Russ
My Apologies - For some reason I had assumed you were a Brit - my mistake.
While I am nuts about American traditional singers like Chandler, Gladden and The Hammonds family, all of whom, I believe, maintained the stylish elements of singing long after we had lost it in the Uk, my knowledge of the state of the tradition there is very limited.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: meself
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 03:33 PM

Nope, that LP on e-bay isn't the one, so the one I'm thinking of is from another year. However, that one is from the year I attended Mariposa, I'm sure. What a line-up ...

Now I'll go check out that PB link.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: meself
Date: 17 Jun 09 - 03:58 PM

Okay, now I've had me a listen - great stuff! I'm not certain if it's the same singer or not, although it is at least a similar voice.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 08:50 AM

Brian Peters,
I was thinking mostly of female singers. I mentioned Maggie because I figured you'd be acquainted with her singing. I mentioned Eastern KY because of my wife and the singers in her family.

Can't think of any male ballad singers who went high, but males singing a high tenor harmony are common in bluegrass music.

Jim Carroll,

Knowledge of American traditional singers is limited even in the states.

Hammons. No "D"

Me, a Brit?
What in the world have I said to give that impression?

Russ (Permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 12:50 PM

"Hammons. No "D"
Thanks for that.
"Me, a Brit?"
Sorry, confusing you with another guest - no offence meant.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Vic Smith
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 09:08 AM

Coming back to the idea mooted at the beginning of this thread.....

I have just received in the post today a review copy of

"REEK ROON A CAMP FIRE
A Collection of Ancient Tales"
by STANLEY ROBERTSON
published by Birlinn ISBN 9 781841 587950
£9.95

www.birlinn.co.uk


One of the book's dedications is To Samuel Lee, the great singer from London.

Now, obviously this is because of Sam's great respect for and friendship towards Stanley but I believe it is also because of something that Stanley told me when he was down here at the end of last year. He told me that one of the consequences of Sam's frequent visits to Aberdeen and the enthusiasm that Sam showed for Stanley and his songs and stories engendered a renewed interest in the material amongst some of Stanley's immediate family who had been tending to drift away from their culture.

Clearly the master/apprentice relationship has a symbiotic nature.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: mattkeen
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 09:58 AM

BRIAN PETERS

I listen to Jeff Westley quite often as I live in Northamptonshire too. You are spot on Jeff sounds like himself, he has a wonderful kindly sort of voice and it reflects his love of the land (he's a farmer) and also his general attitude.

A varient I also like is Billy Bragg - he sounds like where he comes from and that is reflective of his speaking voice.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Vic Smith
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 10:51 AM

Jeff Wesley - a rare solo folk club booking -

8th October 2009

The Royal Oak,
Station Street
Lewes
East Sussex
BN7 2DA

Websites:-

http://www.myspace.com/royaloakfolklewes (where you can hear Jeff singing Young and Growing)

and

http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~tinvic/fd.htm


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Diva
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 01:32 PM

I am slowly coming round to this technology yoke! Just had a listen, what a smashing singer and like all the best, using his own voice. Magic

Interesting (for me)is that the tune Jeff uses is the same as Gordeanna used to use and the one that I first learned.

Very heartening to hear of the renewed interest amongst Stanley's family for the songs and stories. This is something Sheila (Stewart) and I have talked about at length.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Tradsinger
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 01:58 PM

Coming back to the original question of the posting, I am doubtful that this is a viable proposition in England due to the paucity of source singers, and I doubt whether any of them would be willing to take on an 'apprentice'. Also, traditional singing is not something that you can learn in a vacuum without social context. Almost no-one these days who is learning folksongs has the same life experience as, say, Sam Larner or Wiggie Smith. It is one thing to learn a song from a traveller singer who learnt it from his grandparents around a campfire but quite another then to perform the song in a folk club or festival to an audience, most of whom you do not know and who do not know you. The song can be the same, but the emotional baggage is quite different.

However, I do applaud and support those wishing to learn folksongs from source singers so long as they don't try to slavishly copy the mannerisms and accent. I would be very suspicious of anyone trying to sing like Fred Jordan, but on the other hand, one can learn a lot from his singing about how to pace a song, how to bring out the story, and so on.

Just a final note on apprenticeship, note that about half the songs I sing have been learnt from me personally from source singers, so perhaps I should take on an apprentice!

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Goose Gander
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 02:53 PM

Tradsinger, you may have a whole new career ahead of you!


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Tradsinger
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 03:50 PM

..that last sentence should read BY me... etc, not FROM. Too hasty typing.


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Subject: RE: Traditional Singing and Apprenticeship
From: Stringsinger
Date: 19 Jun 09 - 06:11 PM

An observation about Peg Seeger. Her mother transcribed in musical notation many of the songs that she grew up learning. Peg was able to learn them as her mother dropped the needle over and over again on the passage to be transcribed.

It brings me to this point. The style of singing is wholly dependent on the music that's being sung. In traditional music, the interest lies in the actual notes of the rendition, not just the manner of singing. Learning the actual notes being sung accurately through transcriptions is valuable as an insight into style. Most of the notes can be expressed through pitches in music notation although phrasing, breathing and ornamental slides are harder to catch and record in notes. Charles Seeger had a machine that actually transcribed pitches. It was like an oscilloscope which was able to measure precisely relational pitches. It printed graphs on paper which he eventually learned to read and sight sing. This would be a useful device for trad vocal singers. You could actually transcribe quarter or micro-tones and learn to reproduce them.

The problem with trying to sound "authentic" is that without proper vocal health care, you can ruin your voice. One famous revivalist folk singer who is well-known did just that. He can't sing well any more. Another problem is that if you try too hard to emulate another's voice and style you run the risk of sounding phony. (This is often a subjective appraisal, however.)

I would think a better solution than just listening and apprenticing with one singer would be to acquaint your ear with various singers in that specific tradition. This is analogous
to what many blues guitarists have done. There are those not from that tradition that can sound convincing in their interpretations. Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal come to mind.

That said, it would be advantageous to be in the same room with a traditional singer. I learned so much listening here in the States to Horton Barker (now deceased) and Nimrod Workman (also now gone). Both had full resonant voices until the last.

Alan Mills from Canada also recreated the tradition of his region well. Jean Carignan accompanied him to the States. " Jeanny" was one of the greatest Acadian fiddlers of his generation.

One of the interesting aspects of trad singing is ornamentation. How to use it tastefully requires getting the notes down in the first place to see what they are.


Frank Hamilton


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