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Ballad Singing – a living tradition?

Paul Davenport 29 Aug 09 - 05:50 AM
Fred McCormick 29 Aug 09 - 05:57 AM
Jack Blandiver 29 Aug 09 - 06:15 AM
Susan of DT 29 Aug 09 - 07:55 AM
Paul Davenport 29 Aug 09 - 01:56 PM
BB 29 Aug 09 - 03:28 PM
dick greenhaus 29 Aug 09 - 05:35 PM
GUEST,Barry at wife work computer 29 Aug 09 - 05:52 PM
Susan of DT 29 Aug 09 - 05:58 PM
Ferrara 29 Aug 09 - 06:48 PM
Jim Carroll 29 Aug 09 - 09:04 PM
Charlie Baum 29 Aug 09 - 09:57 PM
Jon Bartlett 29 Aug 09 - 11:26 PM
Paul Davenport 30 Aug 09 - 04:24 AM
Jack Blandiver 30 Aug 09 - 04:37 AM
GUEST,Richard Hardaker in Penrith 30 Aug 09 - 04:55 AM
Jack Blandiver 30 Aug 09 - 05:53 AM
Diva 30 Aug 09 - 07:04 AM
Phil Cooper 30 Aug 09 - 08:02 AM
Jim Carroll 30 Aug 09 - 11:14 AM
Tattie Bogle 30 Aug 09 - 09:00 PM
Valmai Goodyear 31 Aug 09 - 07:54 AM
Brian Peters 31 Aug 09 - 09:39 AM
Folkiedave 31 Aug 09 - 11:45 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 31 Aug 09 - 11:48 AM
Valmai Goodyear 31 Aug 09 - 11:57 AM
Marje 31 Aug 09 - 01:19 PM
GUEST,GavDav 01 Sep 09 - 06:16 AM
FairEllender 01 Sep 09 - 11:55 AM
Barry Finn 01 Sep 09 - 12:16 PM
Taconicus 01 Sep 09 - 12:45 PM
Paul Davenport 01 Sep 09 - 01:07 PM
The Sandman 01 Sep 09 - 01:09 PM
matt milton 01 Sep 09 - 01:15 PM
The Sandman 01 Sep 09 - 01:16 PM
Valmai Goodyear 02 Sep 09 - 02:40 AM
Valmai Goodyear 02 Sep 09 - 05:33 AM
FairEllender 02 Sep 09 - 09:00 AM
Marje 02 Sep 09 - 10:42 AM
Paul Davenport 02 Sep 09 - 11:01 AM
Brian Peters 02 Sep 09 - 11:14 AM
Richard Mellish 02 Sep 09 - 01:22 PM
GUEST,Richard Hardaker in Penrith 02 Sep 09 - 03:49 PM
dick greenhaus 02 Sep 09 - 04:00 PM
Paul Davenport 02 Sep 09 - 04:57 PM
GUEST,Pamela from Ithaca 03 Sep 09 - 12:23 AM
Valmai Goodyear 03 Sep 09 - 02:44 AM
Marje 03 Sep 09 - 05:57 AM
Valmai Goodyear 03 Sep 09 - 06:18 AM
Paul Davenport 03 Sep 09 - 03:13 PM
Valmai Goodyear 05 Sep 09 - 05:34 AM
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Subject: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 05:50 AM

The ballad sessions at Whitby this year seem to suggest a pleasing revival in these extended songs. The events were very well attended and significant numbers of booked artists appeared as floor singers throughout the week. An examination of the performances reveals some surprising things (to me at any rate). Firstly the incidence of high quality performances, secondly, the absence of the well known songs such as 'Gipsy Laddie (Child 200) and its variants. Thirdly the apparent dominance of Scottish accents in the room is not actually borne out in the performances where there is a balance between English and Scottish performers. Fourthly, what is going on in the South -East? The number of quality singers of ballads from that neck of the woods suggests a revival of sorts? Lastly, there is a trend towards the less heard classic ballads, so 'Hind Etin', 'Brown Adam', and 'The Duke of Atholl's Nurse' to name but three, appeared, the second twice in different forms. In contrast there were only two 'Outlandish Knights', no Robin Hoods and nothing in the way of the 'riddle' songs such as 'Capain Wedderburn' or the 'Elf Knight'. This is very different to what was being sung three years ago.
The Child collection still dominates, perhaps less surprising, although the broadside narrative ballad is starting to balance the books. Fine performances of very long texts suggests that attention spans may be on the increase. Overall it looks like these songs still have a lot of life in them and may yet contain relevance for a wider 21st century audience.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 05:57 AM

I haven't been to Whitby for a number of years, so I can't comment. But it sounds highly encouraging. Do you think maybe some singers have been sending themselves on high speed crash courses, courtesy of the newly republished Bronson ? :-).


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 06:15 AM

I sang Earl Brand last night at a session in Preston; this came to me orally many moons ago via Thor Ewing, who is one of the finest ballad singers in the country. I also picked up King Henry from Thor, and many others too. I tink of myself as primarily a singer of traditional ballads, but generally I'm not singing many in singarounds these days because people don't like them - though rest assured there'll be plenty in our Fylde sets this year! Maybe next year we'll make it to Whitby...

On my myspace page presently you can hear me singing King Orfeo self-accompanied on a Tibetan Singing Bowl, bringing it in under five minutes. On the kemence it comes in well under four, yet people still complain about it being too long. Likewise Lucy Wan, which I can bring in under 2 minutes! A sad state of affairs altogether. At the Durham Folk Party they nobly run a Ballad Session before which the room empties. One seasoned old folkie was heard to say It's not right, is it? Singing those child ballads with all this paedophilia around. We do The Trees they do Grow High in under two minutes two, a real child ballad that isn't a Child Ballad! Anyway, here's the link to Orfeo:

http://www.myspace.com/sedayne


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Susan of DT
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 07:55 AM

Hello Paul

We plan to be at Whitby next year, following our alternate year schedule for crossing the pond, and will, of course, be at the ballad sessions every day.

There was a previous thread Living Singers of Traditional Ballads that may be relevant.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 01:56 PM

Fred writes… 'Do you think maybe some singers have been sending themselves on high speed crash courses, courtesy of the newly republished Bronson ? :-).'

That's certainly going to help but they didn't have chance to get into it before the festival - next year who knows?


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: BB
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 03:28 PM

As to the South East, it may have something to do with the Ballad Forums run by Lewes Saturday Folk Club on, I think, something like a 6-monthly basis. I think they draw from quite a large area.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 05:35 PM

One of the undocumented features of the Old Songs Festival, in Altamont, New York, is the so-called guerilla ballad workshop--an unofficial gatheriong o folke who are willing to be up by 8:30 AM to sit around and just sing ballads for a couple of hours. To me, at least, it's one of the high points of the festival---thanx, April Grant!


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: GUEST,Barry at wife work computer
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 05:52 PM

Dick, when did they start these so-called guerilla ballad workshop at Old Songs. Never saw them but it's been some time since I was there. I'd love that

Barry


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Susan of DT
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 05:58 PM

Barry - I would guess four years ago for the Old Songs guerilla ballad workshop. April post notices around the grounds on Friday - mostly I notice them around the johns - but it helps if you know to expect it. The rest of the festival you sit back and listen as people play or sing to you, including ballad workshops, but here we all sing for each other. Around 15 people come.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Ferrara
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 06:48 PM

Ballad singing in our area (near Washington, DC) has never gone away, but is on the increase partly due to our having some terrific ballad singers locally. The ballad sessions at the weekend Getaway are always crowded, usually we have an hour and a half session each day.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 09:04 PM

The last outpost of ballad singing in the UK was among the Travelling communities; the last traditional ballad singers being Irish or Scots.
It would be comforting to think the revival had taken up the ballads, but nowadays there is a great deal of whining about 'long songs', giving the impression that we all have to accept singers and audiences with the attention span of goldfishes.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 09:57 PM

The Old Songs Guerilla Ballad Sessions have been going on for at least a half-dozen years. I remember hearing Margaret MacArthur singing "Fair Malabeem" at one of them. I'm usually one of the regulars there.

--Charlie Baum, who is one of the many ballad singers of the Washington, DC area, and who lives in a neighborhood of Silver Spring, Maryland, where ballads are still sung socially!


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 11:26 PM

The Ballad session at the Washington Getaway is one of the strongest attractions for us, travelling as we will be doing across the whole continent to get there. And the longer the ballad, the better!

I've just taken delivery, on behalf of the Vancouver Folk Song Society of which I am Archivist, of the Hales and Furnivall edition of the Percy Mss. (London, 1867), the foundation of Bishop Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, wherein one may find (and this from Vol 1 alone), "King Arthur and the King of Cornwall" (300 lines, c. 75 verses); "The Turke and Gowin" (337 lines, c. 86 verses); "The Lord of Learne" (436 lines, c. 109 verses); "Fflodden Feilde" (513 lines, c. 128 verses); and in rhyming couplets, "Sir Lambewell" (632 lines); "Eger and Grine", (1474 lines); and, to cap them all, "Merline" (2378 lines), which at a goodly rate would take 54 minutes to read, let alone sing.

The nights were certainly long, weren't they?

Jon Bartlett


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 04:24 AM

Jim Carroll writes; 'The last outpost of ballad singing in the UK was among the Travelling communities; the last traditional ballad singers being Irish or Scots.'
Well they certainly are/were the most visible but there seem to have been plenty of others, usually within familial rather than public gatherings. I learned 'Lord Randall' and 'The Gypsy Laddie' from parents whilst others present at recent festivals I have attended seem to have had the same experience with others of this song type. I have collected a lovely version of 'Lord Randall' from a student aged 12 at school, she got it from her grandfather, and the 'Two Ravens' from an old chap in a churchyard in South Yorkshire! Now this mightn't be a whole load of ballads but they're certainly still out there.
My point was that a lot of people seem to be taking them into personal repertoires and looking for especially obscure examples too.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 04:37 AM

Isn't enough that people are singing ballads without hiking to a notion of a tradition? The ballads are our common heritage and however they've come to us, surely in this day and age that they're being sung by anyone is miracle enough especially in a folk scene where they're almost universally reviled.

If any Fylde-goers fancy an impromptu ballad session this year, PM me and I'll see if there's any suitable down-time somewhere we might use for an hour or so...


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: GUEST,Richard Hardaker in Penrith
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 04:55 AM

The manner in which ballads are presented is important to their acceptability to an audience; true, they can be boring, but a performer who really engages with the story and communicates it well can have his/her listeners on the edge of their seats. We can learn something in this regard from the story telling community whom I have found to be an appreciative audience for ballads and willing to offer constructive criticism on performance.
I was at the Durham Folk Party ballad session mentioned previously in this thread, and thought some participants were not really taking the subject seriously, until a girl from one of the morris teams (I don't know who she was because her face was blacked) stood up and gave a stunning rendition of "Little Musgrave". Notwithstanding the familiarity of the story, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck standing up and a tear in my eye when she had finished.

So, yes, I hope there is a revival of ballad singing, and the increased entries in the Newcastleton festival border ballad competition this year was encouraging. Ballads are not for everyone, but like any more challenging musical (and other cultural) medium what you get out of it is proportional to the effort you put in, in terms of performance or appreciation.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 05:53 AM

Performance conventions differ; there are singers who'll use a ballad as a vehicle for quite stunning theatricality, whilst there are those who might lay back and trust in the ballad to tell itself. As a very physical storyteller myself, I must admit I tend to adopt the latter approach when it comes to ballad singing, which is I feel the most appropriate in terms of traditional performance. It's all a matter of personal taste, but I always urge people to go to the source of thing, storytellers included, without getting too dazzled by the conventions of revival performance which I personally find a little off-putting. Each to their own though; it's enough for me that people are singing ballads, be they folkies, traddies, Goths, Pagans, neo-folkies, or whatever.

Didn't make it to Durham this year, but it's good to hear it was attended. I will be at Fylde, as I say, doing various sets of songs, ballads & stories, and it would be nice to have a natter & a sing with other ballad singers - even if it's a nice a nice fresco ballad walk on the beach under a beautiful sunset - weather permitting of course...

As I say, PM me if you fancy it.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Diva
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 07:04 AM

Most definately. I was at the ballad sessions at Whitby this year (only missed two......thanks to those wild Irish boys in the Resolution and I went to the Stanley Robertson tribute)and there were some cracking ballads being sung.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 08:02 AM

I find that if I offer to sing a ballad at our shows, quite often there's a positive "go for it" comment. I think in performance, it helps to set them up. At organizations like folk alliance, you will get told that audiences don't want to hear ballads, but they're wrong.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 11:14 AM

"Well they certainly are/were the most visible but there seem to have been plenty of others,"
Paul Davenport; I'm delighted to hear the ballad singing is a popular in certain circles as it appears to be.
Some years ago my instinct when I heard one sung, was to erect a hide and observe it, so rare had they become.
Please feel free to continue proving me wrong.
Jim Carroll
PS Regarding my posting on the subject - I broke a personal rule last night and posted at 1am after I had returned from a night of drinking (and music) - sorry)
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 09:00 PM

You're all right, Jim, it's some transatlantic time zone, which makes it look quite a respectable time.
Should not still be here myself (2am BST!)!


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 07:54 AM

First, thanks to Paul and Liz Davenport for running the ballad sessions at Whitby. There was a fascinating range of ballads with very high standards of performance. The new issue of Bronson hasn't had time to take effect, but the Loomis House reprints of Child are probably helping.

Thanks to Barbara for mentioning the possible influence of the all-day ballad forums at the Lewes Saturday Folk Club. There are two this year: one with Brian Peters in March, and the second with Tom and Barbara Brown on Saturday 21st. November. The leaders perform at the club in the evening.

Booking forms will soon appear on the club website, or I can email you one if you PM me.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 09:39 AM

I can certainly witness the fact that the standard of singers at my workshop in Lewes last March (not to mention their interest and level of engagement with the material) was extremely good.

But then these old songs are in many respects the deepest and the most timeless of all. Their reputation as 'boring' has rested on a combination of (some) poor performances and short attention spans in certain quarters. Long may they be sung.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 11:45 AM

I 8understand that Cuthbert Noble sang "Tam Lin" at a session in Whitby.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 11:48 AM

I'd love to learn a few of them long ballads, but I'd have no-place to sing 'em! People would find it a bore...


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 11:57 AM

Where are you based, Crow Sister? Come to Lewes.

It's unkind to an MC to start a ballad when you know that the guest performer is due on in five minutes' time, but any folk club which favours broadly traditional music should welcome it.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Marje
Date: 31 Aug 09 - 01:19 PM

I suppose the habitual folk club format is not particularly conducive to ballad singing. If, as Valmai says, there's a guest performer and the MC is trying to fit in as many floor singers as possible, someone who chooses a long ballad could be seen as hogging too much precious time. It's not necessarily to do with attention spans, it's more to do with a shortage of available time.

Even on a club singaround night, some people have no sense of what's fair or appropriate. Even though the MC says, "Let's see, I think we can just about fit everyone in for one more quick song in the second half," there are people who will choose long songs with elaborate instrumental interludes, or spend time telling jokes, or launch into a long ballad jsut before closing time.

This does ballads a disservice, because even people who like them may become edgy and irritated. Perhaps the answer is (as in Lewes) to have occasional sessions dedicated to ballads. Or in a club where two-song spots are normal, people could be encouraged to do just the one long song as an alternative.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: GUEST,GavDav
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 06:16 AM

I collected a version of Child.73 (Lord Thomas/Fair Eleanor) in 2003 from a singer in Goderich, Ontario, who had left the states (Virginia) to avoid the Vietnam draft. Ballad singing had almost died out in his own community and been replaced by C&W which was seen as "less trashy" than singing mountain ballads. His wife also didn't approve of singing round the table, which his family had done in his youth and it nearly died out in his family. Luckily, his teenage daughter knew he sang and took an interest and is now sining the family ballad repertoire in her own right.

It's definitely alive. :)


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: FairEllender
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 11:55 AM

I'm glad to hear that there are still people around singing the longer ballads - I don't usually get to meet many of them! I absolutely love singing and hearing them (and await eagerly the arrival of the Child ballad reprints on my bookshelves!) but I'm often unsure about when it is appropriate to launch into a ballad. I've often been saddened at comments like 'oh no, not a long song' or (worst of all) 'don't you know anything cheerful?', which can be off-putting. But then I often notice the same people doing ten-minute long Al Stewart songs (why is this any different attention-span wise?) - in which case that's an ideal time to launch into 'Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender', come what may!

I will look forward to attending the ballad sessions at Whitby next year.

Keep singing!


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 12:16 PM

It used to be at the Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival that "way after hours" a bunch would gather in one of the out buildings, after the shanties where sung out at the WTB & they'd start singing ballads, the more obscure the better. You could hear a pin drop in the dim lit rooms, then a few comments, inquires, maybe a joke or 2 until someone else jumped in. It would go on for hrs until exhustion or drink finally would take it's toll. I missed the last one, curses!

Barry


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Taconicus
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 12:45 PM

To hear some wonderful (in this case, Scottish) folk ballads in the true living folk tradition, check out these "Traditional Singing Weekend" sessions. You can actually hear (most of) the songs entire, and see their lyrics, from the websites themselves. A wonderful resource; I've added a number to my repertoire ready, including the beautiful "The Gallant Forty Twa" (which is not the song you're probably thinking of).

"Old Songs & Bothy Ballads"
FifeSing4 (2008): Nick-knack on the Waa
FifeSing5 (2009): Grand To Be a Working Man

Buy albums of these and other living ballads as well, to support their efforts.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 01:07 PM

Fairellender writes; 'But then I often notice the same people doing ten-minute long Al Stewart songs (why is this any different attention-span wise?)'
It's a puzzle isn't it? 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is six and a half minutes long, and many 'pop' album tracks are around this length. By contrast we had 22 ballads sung in two hours last Wednesday, and that includes introductions, asides etc. Most of these were of the Child canon. The problem may lie with the sad fact that most people want to be 'cheerful'. What this often means is that they don't want to be made to think too hard, assuming that 'entertainment' has to be vacuous and undemanding. There again, I could easily be wrong :-)


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 01:09 PM

they are good stories
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_PoPY-mDpA&feature=channel_page


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: matt milton
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 01:15 PM

"...a girl from one of the morris teams (I don't know who she was because her face was blacked) stood up and gave a stunning rendition of "Little Musgrave". Notwithstanding the familiarity of the story, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck standing up and a tear in my eye when she had finished"

There's a great version of Little Musgrave on the new album from James Yorkston. I've never been interested in his past albums, but his new one is all traditional material and on balance pretty excellent


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 01:16 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUoZkOw02uE&feature=channel_page
not as good as Sarah Makem,but passable.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 02:40 AM

Booking forms for Tom & Barbara Brown's all-day ballad forum at the Lewes Saturday Folk Club on Saturday 21st. November are now ready for downloading and printing. A place for the forum is £25 and a ticket for their evening performance at the club is £5.

Participants are invited to nominate a ballad in advance to sing and discuss with the group. Choices are published on the club website as they are made. If your choice has already been taken we'll let you know so that you can choose another.

I've got my eye on The Dragon of Wantley or The Laird of Drum, if I can get it into singable shape and learned.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 05:33 AM

Sorry, a place at the forum is £20. My mistake.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: FairEllender
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 09:00 AM

Paul Davenport wrote: "The problem may lie with the sad fact that most people want to be 'cheerful'. What this often means is that they don't want to be made to think too hard, assuming that 'entertainment' has to be vacuous and undemanding."

Hear hear, Paul! :-) I don't understand the criticism sometimes levelled at, for example, Child ballads, that they are 'depressing' -for me they are the most exciting and powerful creations that could be imagined, containing the entire range of human experience and emotion. A friend of mine once wittily described them as 'the costume dramas of the folk song world.' Call me grumpy, but there's nothing more 'depressing' than listening to a vacuously jaunty song which doesn't really say anything. Ho hum.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Marje
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 10:42 AM

Yes, I agree, Paul and FairEllender. What's so bad about sad?

Another strength of a good ballad, even a sad or downright tragic one, is that it keeps its power to move the listeners even though they may have heard it before. A tragic ending can be all the more poignant when you know it's coming (as the Greek dramatists knew well). By contrast, a "funny" song is generally only funny the first time, if that, and thereafter can be just embarrassing to sit through when you know the plot and the punchlines.

marje


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 11:01 AM

There's an element of therapy in 'sad'. I had a series of bereavements earlier this yearand found that talking about the situation helped immensely. This is a common experience and really indicates that 'sad' can be actually very uplifting…I know it's counterintuitive but much of life is. In contrast 'light hearted' often leaves a sense of emptiness and futility. Perhaps that's why so many sad ballads continue to e sung. But…we need to remember, 'The Whumil in the Door', 'Seven Nights Drunk' and many of the Robin Hood ballads which are amusing, lively and have happy endings and are all in Child.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 11:14 AM

Yes, Paul, and the Keach I' The Creel, The Friar in the Well, Get Up and Bar the Door...

Child was more interested in antiquity and provenance than in selecting for 'heavy' content as some seem to believe. Plenty of rattling adventure yarns in there too. But many of us are drawn to the tragic end of the canon for precisely the cathartic reasons you mention. A bit of light and shade is no bad thing, but an evening of unbridled jollity wouldn't hold too much magic for me.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 01:22 PM

At Sharp's Folk Club we LIKE ballads, Child or otherwise.

We like, and get, variety: long/medium/short, traditional/modern, tragic/comic, accompanied/unaccompanied, etc.

Occasionally someone has split an especially long ballad into two installments, in the first and second halves of the evening. Finnbar Wall did this recently with "Chantelle de Champignon", but on a previous occasion he sang it straight through.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: GUEST,Richard Hardaker in Penrith
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 03:49 PM

With reference to Matt Milton's post, the reason I cited that rendition of "Little Musgrave" at Durham was that it was an inspiring LIVE performance, compared to which the finest recording is but the singing of a caged bird. To take the metaphor further, and acknowledging Jim Carroll's "rare bird" analogy, I would hope that the specialised ballad session/workshop might be less an aviary for the display of exotic rarities than a captive breeding programme to propogate & release the ballad into its proper environment.

Ballads can flourish in the wider folk club & session scene if introduced sparingly and with due regard to the particular audience
present. At our informal sessions here in Cumbria, my usual ballad introduction, "Are you sitting comfortably?" is sometimes greeted with groans and comments like "How many dead bodies?" but I am usually given a sympathetic hearing. Also, we have the local colour
represented by the border ballads. I cannot now walk around Carlisle
without feeling that I am in the company of the ghosts of Hughie the Graham and Hobbie Noble.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 04:00 PM

And, lest we forget, there are lots of good ballads that fall outside the Child canon; many that also don't fit within the broadside tradition. There are railroad ballads, coyboy ballads, sailor's ballads (occasionally clean)....


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 04:57 PM

Richard writes; 'I cannot now walk around Carlisle
without feeling that I am in the company of the ghosts of Hughie the Graham and Hobbie Noble'
That's because you are Richard. Good ballad singing is like good acting, it demands that you enter the lives of the protagonists and allow them to enter yours. That doesn't mean to say it is histrionic.
I like to think of festival ballad sessions as 'breeding programme' situations rather than 'aviaries'. The Whitby ballad sessions have taken on a life of their own in the last few years and seemed to be a place where both punters and booked artists met to exchange some very powerful tellings of these songs.This can only be for the good of the tradition as a whole.
Dick is right too although this year we had less broadside type narratives and nobody sang 'The Flying Cloud', a ballad of epic and politically important dimensions.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: GUEST,Pamela from Ithaca
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 12:23 AM

Debra Cowan and I will be presenting a ballad workshop, called "Singing the Story" in the little town of Whitney Point NY (not far from Binghamton and Ithaca) on Sunday, Sept. 20.

Yes, I think ballad singing is very much a living tradition, and am pleased to hear more young people (under the age of 30) interested in them.


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 02:44 AM

I heartily endorse Richard Hardaker's and Paul Davenport's comments of 2nd. September about the specialist sessions being a captive breeding programme for the release of ballads back into the wild.

I've occasionally tried this in the Bonfire context with songs I would classify as ballads but wouldn't take near a folk club.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Marje
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 05:57 AM

Blimey, Valami, if you start advertising your Lewes ballad session as a "breeding programme" you could be responsible for huge misunderstandings! I'm not sure how my husband would react if I said I was just off to do a spot of "breeding" with my fellow-folkies.

How is your new life at the Elephant, by the way? Has the Club settled well in the new venue?

Marje


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 06:18 AM

He might feel obliged to join in ...

The Elephant is terrific. The new room is much bigger and airier, seats 65, and has beautiful acoustics. The Harveys is even better as one of the joint landlords understands its inner nature through having worked at the brewery for four years. The pub is a hundred yards from my house.

We also have an Angel of Death looted from Glyndebourne living on the stairs (photo courtesty of Will Fly) who has adapted well to a diet of ballads even though she came from the 1992 production of The Queen of Spades.

I have a huge emotional attachment to the Lewes Arms, having been drinking there for nearly forty years, but from everyone else's point of view the move is for the better.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 03:13 PM

Valmai, that Angel of Death might be considered by some as looking a tad too cheerful for a ballad session. That said, I wish I had one!
I also wish that Lewes was a bit closer although I'm starting to wonder about instigating a local breeding programme in Sheffield. I wonder if there'd be many takers for a regular ballady evening?


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Subject: RE: Ballad Singing – a living tradition?
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 05:34 AM

Our sessions last all day and we hold about two a year. If they were only going to last an evening they could be more frequent, but a reasonable interval between them gives people time to learn new material.

We must find a time to bring you and Liz to Lewes to lead a day for us when your other commitments allow.

By the way, The Laird of Drum seems to be yielding to treatment although he's got a filthy accidental in the third line.

Valmai


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