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Folk Battles!

Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 05 Dec 09 - 06:00 PM
Jeri 05 Dec 09 - 06:05 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 05 Dec 09 - 06:08 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 05 Dec 09 - 06:10 PM
Jeri 05 Dec 09 - 06:35 PM
catspaw49 05 Dec 09 - 06:47 PM
GUEST,Gerry 05 Dec 09 - 11:20 PM
dick greenhaus 06 Dec 09 - 12:06 AM
Jim Carroll 06 Dec 09 - 03:42 AM
Dave Hanson 06 Dec 09 - 03:47 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 06 Dec 09 - 04:08 AM
Jim Carroll 06 Dec 09 - 04:17 AM
Will Fly 06 Dec 09 - 04:42 AM
Jim Carroll 06 Dec 09 - 04:55 AM
treewind 06 Dec 09 - 05:08 AM
Young Buchan 06 Dec 09 - 05:18 AM
Jack Campin 06 Dec 09 - 06:50 AM
VirginiaTam 06 Dec 09 - 07:47 AM
GUEST,Ralphie 06 Dec 09 - 08:00 AM
theleveller 07 Dec 09 - 04:05 AM
Will Fly 07 Dec 09 - 04:16 AM
GUEST,Banjiman 07 Dec 09 - 04:21 AM
Valmai Goodyear 07 Dec 09 - 05:02 AM
Will Fly 07 Dec 09 - 05:10 AM
Valmai Goodyear 07 Dec 09 - 05:18 AM
theleveller 07 Dec 09 - 05:38 AM
Young Buchan 07 Dec 09 - 06:45 AM
GUEST 07 Dec 09 - 06:54 AM
Young Buchan 07 Dec 09 - 07:06 AM
Valmai Goodyear 07 Dec 09 - 07:35 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 Dec 09 - 07:38 AM
Jack Blandiver 07 Dec 09 - 08:17 AM
SylviaN 07 Dec 09 - 08:56 AM
Jim Carroll 07 Dec 09 - 09:33 AM
Diva 07 Dec 09 - 11:06 AM
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Subject: Folklore: Folk Battles!
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 06:00 PM

You've heard of Hip-Hop Battles so what Folk Artistes and Lyrics would you post against each other?
Err. So my idea would be post one highly inflammatory folk (trad or absorbed into 'the tradition') lyric and then the next smart arse reacts with a follow up lyric.
It ain't neva gonna work, but here goes:

"Mine is bigger than thine!"


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Folk Battles!
From: Jeri
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 06:05 PM

I'll gave you the secret sign


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Folk Battles!
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 06:08 PM

Sorry the whole lyric (which incites the rest) is:

"There were four old whores of Baltimore
Drinking the Blood Red Wine
and the topic of conversation was
Mine is Bigger than Mine"

so, spontaneity rules...


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 06:10 PM

Sorry Jeri - you're next (not that I know the ref.)


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Jeri
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 06:35 PM

I gave her gifts of the mind,
I gave her the secret sign,
That's known to the artists who have known
The true gods of sound and stone.


(Half a verse, and not really 'folk', but I didn't understand and was just trying to rhyme. I think there should be a 'wink, wink, nudge, nudge' in there.)


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: catspaw49
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 06:47 PM

Sorry Group, but I am way too friggin' stupid to play this game but y'all go ahead and have a good time.........if you are.......or want to...............or not.................whatever..............


Spaw


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 11:20 PM

My idea of a folk battle would be to have two performers alternately singing verses of "I'll Fly Away" and "When I'm Gone" at each other.


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 12:06 AM

Well they seem to have them all the time in Ireland and Scotland----lots of Champions popping up .


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 03:42 AM

C.S.
"Flyting is a contest of insults, often conducted in verse. The word has been adopted by social historians following the example of William J. Ong from Scots usage of the fifteenth and sixteenth century, in which makars (makaris) would engage in public verbal contests of high-flying, extravagant abuse structured in the form of a poetic joust; the classic written example is The Flyting of Dumbar and Kennedie, which records a gloriously scurrilous contest between the poets Walter Kennedy and William Dunbar. The term "flyt" is Scottish for "quarreling," or "contention." After the Middle Ages, flyting became obsolete in Scottish literature, though the tradition itself never completely died out among Celtic authors."

It is suggested that the practice of verbal contests existed t least as far as Homer's Iliad - nothing new under the sun!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 03:47 AM

Great song from Hamish Henderson, ' The Flyting O Life and Death ' a verbal battle as to who owns the world.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 04:08 AM

That's brilliant JimC. I believe the Bards are supposed to have engaged in some kind of initiatory experience, where they would be subjected to incantatory style assaults on their person by their peers. Much in the same fashion as they talk of the feared cursing of Kings - which amounted to debasing his reputation in verse. I have a reference to one made in the supposed secret 'black speech' somewhere, which while superficially praising the King when decoded reads as a whole tirade of insults: "you house of tiny wine cups" and so-on.


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 04:17 AM

CS - don't know if it still happens in folk clubs, but it used to be wonderful when it did.
A singer would pick up and 'reply' to another's song, followed by a response from either the original singer, or another.... It can become laboured if carried on too long, but when it worked, you never forgot it.
We used to build themed evenings around subjects such as 'The Battle of The Sexes" in The Singers Club - still got the notes of one of these somewhere.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 04:42 AM

An instrumental equivalent of this happened from time to time in my jazz days, based on the old "cutting contests", when one soloist in a band would pick up on another's phrase and embellish it, and then have his embellishment turned around. This usually happened when a visiting player was sitting in. Great fun, and absolutely in the spirit of improvisation.

I also saw a similar phenomenon recently at a house party where there were members of a women's Morris team present. We played some typical Morris tune and each one would get up in turn, trying to outdo each other with the steps until one was acknowledged as the winner by virtue of the complexity, grace and athleticism of the steps. Also great fun, to watch!


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 04:55 AM

Will - Not forgetting 'Deliverance' - though not so much fun......!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: treewind
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 05:08 AM

"each one would get up in turn, trying to outdo each other with the steps"
That's very like a Suffolk pub night, if you're lucky enough to find one where there are step dancers. I've seen it happen and even played for them.

They don't usually declare a winner, but there is at least one annual competition where that's very much the object of the exercise. Same at Dartmoor too, of course.


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Young Buchan
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 05:18 AM

In the old days there were pubs where two singers would battle by singing alternate songs for hours on end until the loser ran out of material, or lost the will to live.

More recently, a folk club in the South Durham area used to have a competition at Christmas where two people would sing songs simultaneously until the loser lost the plot.


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 06:50 AM

Azizi has posted a lot of stuff here about "Yo Mamas" and similar kinds of flyting from African-American culture.

There is a surviving tradition like the old Irish bardic one in Kars in north-east Turkey, described in an article in the Garland Encyclopaedia of World Music. Singers get together regularly in cafes to insult each other in rather elaborate improvised songs with saz accompaniment. They have to stick to precise verse forms and metres. Apparently they're hopelessly lost if you ask them to do it without the saz.

There is a different tack on this in some groups in New Guinea, where the insult contests involve embedding your rival's remarks in ever more complicated sentences so as to negate them. (New Guinea languages have extraordinarily complicated syntax even without trying). The winner is the one who comes up with an insult so syntactically intricate that his opponent can't figure out how to negate it.


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 07:47 AM

This sounds a brilliant idea. Especially in view of the antiquity of the practice.

When I can come up to a reasonable response to CS' post, I will add it.

WillFly - you reminded me of this little ditty by P.D.Q. Bach

Echo Sonata for Two Unfriendly Groups of Instruments

I must get some more of Peter Schickele's (inventor of BDQ Bach) stuff.


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: GUEST,Ralphie
Date: 06 Dec 09 - 08:00 AM

Maybe not totally germain to the Battle theme, but, was reminded of this when the Kipper Family realised that two pages of their famous song book were stuck together, and came up with this...


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SPENCER THE WILD ROVER
(Kippers)

This song was compos-ed for many's the year
While travelling through England on whisky and beer
It had been much reduc-ed, my gold in great store
And I'll never play Spencer the wild rover no more

In Yorkshire near Rotherham, with Ivy I went
Me mind was on travelling, me money was spent
By the foot of yon mountain she said to me nay
For bread and cold water I can get any day

With night fast approaching, without sovereigns bright
With Woodbines and Ivy opened wide with delight
But I drank on sighing with wines of the best
Go home to your family, it was only in jest

Well his children gathered round him,
Told him what they'd done
With prittle- prattling stories about the prodigal son
I'm as happy as those as oft times before
Like bees in one hive, I'll go roving no more


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: theleveller
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 04:05 AM

"based on the old "cutting contests", when one soloist in a band would pick up on another's phrase and embellish it, and then have his embellishment turned around."

There's an example of this sort of thing in R L Stevenson's Kidnapped when Alan Breck Stewart is "out-piped" and threatens to resort to ther sword.


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Will Fly
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 04:16 AM

Alan Breck Stewart - another memorable Stevenson character! ("Am I no a bonny fighter, Davy?").

New Orleans at the time of Buddy Bolden was a scene of band battles, where the bands would play on the backs of carts and wagons and try and outplay each other. There are also lovely stories by Jelly Roll Morton and others of pianists trying to "cut" each other in bars and rent parties. Fats Waller was a tremendous pianist but, when James P. Johnson entered the parlour, the people would say, "Get up of that stool, Fats, you're hurting its feelings!"

I've always believed that, at heart, there's a strong competitive element - albeit unconscious in many people - in music. At the very least, the urge to get better and more proficient - if you have that urge - is competing against oneself.


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: GUEST,Banjiman
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 04:21 AM

"More recently, a folk club in the South Durham area used to have a competition at Christmas where two people would sing songs simultaneously until the loser lost the plot."

I like this idea a lot. We've had songwriting and traditional singing competitions at our KFFC weekends but I think we'll be trying this at our February Winter Warmer Weekend.

We might call it the "No finger in the ear singing competition"

Thanks C.S. for starting this thread and Y.B. for sharing this "tradition". This sounds like fun!

Leveller will you be entering?


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 05:02 AM

During Bonfire Night about three years ago I was priviledged to witness an impromptu skirmish between a pipe band (British Airways Pipe Band) and a New Orleans marching jazz band (The Expendient Marching Band) both of whom were taking part in the Cliffe Bonfire Society's procession. To get the full picture bear in mind that this was night-time, the pavements were crowded with spectators, and all the non-musicians were in elaborate costumes and carrying burning torches.

Our procession was stationary in Lewes High Street waiting to come down the hill from the War Memorial. For a variety of reasons our Captain of Bands needed to bring the pipe band further up the procession to a new position. While everyone else stood still, the pipers - in full kit, of course - marched towards their new place with the drummer giving the beat but no music. The jazz band saw the pipers approaching and immediately launched into a heavily-swung, raunchy rendition of Cock of the North.

There was absolutely nothing the pipe band could do about it; they had to keep marching to this completely inappropriate music until they got into place. The pipe-major's face was like thunder. When the pipers came to a halt they got the wind into their bags and tried to wrestle the tune back into strict tempo, but the jazz band wouldn't give way. It was very funny indeed.

The pipe band are very good sports, though, and wonderful to march to. Between processions a couple of years ago I was delighted to hear them taking turns for who could play the daftest tune on the pipes. For me, the winner was the one who relieved himself of Jingle Bells.


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Will Fly
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 05:10 AM

Typical Expedient behaviour! I used to play with Sluff Hazel, one of the long-standing Expedient marchers, and still bump into "Councillor" Roy Martin (one-time Expedient leader) from time to time. Stubborn characters both.


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 05:18 AM

Roy was there, drum and all. He pops up with his banjo in folk clubs and tunes sessions now and again. He's amazing, and what's more he does it all on fruit juice.

The Expedient are wonderful to march to as well (except in the circumstances outlined above). They are a seasoned Bonfire band.


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: theleveller
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 05:38 AM

"Leveller will you be entering?"

Probably, if I haven't lost the plot beforehand.


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Young Buchan
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 06:45 AM

Banjiman:

The club concerned was the one at Hawthorn near Easington, which Fred Brierley used to run. He later moved the club to somewhere in Durham (I think the Traveller's Rest); I don't know if he took the competition with him. I never attended, but he used to tell me that you didn't simply sing from opposite sides of the room - you toed the line and sang directly into each others face. I guess the singer with the greatest halitosis would beat the singer with the most extensive repertoire.


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 06:54 AM

Thanks YB. That's how we'll do it then!

I'll see if I can get hold of Fred (I think he is at Croxdale pretty often?") and make sure we understand all the "rules" .


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Young Buchan
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 07:06 AM

No one has yet mentioned the songwriting competitions. Tommy Armstrong's Row Between The Cages is sometimes said to have been written as a challenge - that he couldn't write a song on the topic; but in fact it was a competition against another songwriter in which they each had to write a song about the new patent cage.

In the 70s the Oxford Irish club at the Greyhound on Gloucester Green used to have an occasional competition - wittily known as the Eire-vision Song Contest. Mike Henry would pick an item from the news and you had until the following Friday to come up with a folk parody on the topic. I remember once the topic was a senior Catholic clergyman who had been found dead in a prostitute's flat. My tasteful parody of the Glendalough Saint lost to a VERY rude song by Terry Eagleton, who is now Professor of English. Never mind. For an impoverished student it was genuinely more important to take part than to win, because while there was no concrete prize for winning, Mike would stand a pint of Guiness to any entrants.


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 07:35 AM

Another example of battling in song (of a sort) from Bonfire can be found in the long tradition of Cliffe and East Hoathly Bonfire Society members competing in the the back bar of the Foresters Arms.

After the processions and fireworks at East Hoathly, members of both Societies go back to the Foresters. The back bar will have been cleared of furniture and wall hangings by a prudent management and sawdust strewn on the floor, as everyone is muddy, smoky and lightly drizzled with paraffin. The room is so tightly packed that anyone weighing less than twelve stone is likely to be lifted off their feet.

A group of empty oildrums is set up at each end of the room. About ten members of each Society mount the barrels, usually rather unsteadily and clinging together for balance, and then lead songs directed against the other society, their friends joining in from the floor. The songs are mainly Bonfire variants of rugby and football chants ('It's All Gone Quiet Over There,' and 'Can You Hear East Hoathly Sing' for example). The Cliffe certainly write occasional songs slandering the opposition and circulate the words on the coaches travelling to the village. The aim is to drown out the opposing singers and the effect isn't very musical, but it's certainly lively. One year Cliffe members dressed in East Hoathly costumes and captured their barrels before the Hoathly boys could arrive, which was a bit of a coup. I have known a few fireworks (rookies) get let off inside during the proceedings, which means that localised patches of smouldering sawdust add an extra piquancy to the atmosphere.

Valmai (Cliffe Bonfire Society)


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 07:38 AM

I'll see your seven hundred elves and raise you a hundred pipers.


Anaw, anaw...

:D (eG)


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 08:17 AM

In some bardic traditions the masters in such competitions handicap themselves by holding a double ended needle between their lips, just to limit the consonants, for fun, least they use a P or B and pierce their mouths...

We once got thrown out of a folk club for extemporising additional verses to the mawkishly awful Close the Coalhouse Door, Lad. Oh, we had all sorts in there - milk, seals, God, radiators, and, ultimately, coal - at which point we fell about hysterics and were asked to leave. The moral: shrooms and singarounds don't mix!


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: SylviaN
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 08:56 AM

When Cleethorpes Folk Festival was still on the pier, the bar was the full width of the building and a great place to sing in. Someone would often start a song at one end, and someone else start another song at the other. It was a battle, especially for those in the middle who had to choose which one of the songs they were going to sing!


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 09:33 AM

A reservation to all this.
I believe that spontaneous competion is can be a healthy input into singing, playing and any other activity, but, in my experience, the god-awful competions organised by Comhaltas (and EFDSS at one time), where winning becomes the built-in object of the exercise, has driven more people, especially youngsters, away from the music for life - that sort of event is for winners, not for enjoyment.
The ultimate example of competitive spirit for us was during a singing session here in Clare back in the 70s.
As it was drawing to a close Pat sang the Scots version of Long A-growing - The Trees They Are Ivied, which took the fancy of one of the crowd, who came across to comment on it.
Shortly afterwards piper, Seamus Ennis walked through the door and the man who had commented on the song, who was a friend of Ennis's, said to him "This woman has a beautiful version of 'The Bonny Boy'".
Ennis's immediate response was "I have a better one".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folk Battles!
From: Diva
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 11:06 AM

After a very jolly evening in the Resolution at Whitby this year, where it had turned into a Scots verses the Irish sort of thing..we were thinking of instituting a Two Nations or indeed a Three Nations sing off......I believe by the time we were finished it had turned into a Pan Celtic event.......


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