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Classic folk music

GUEST,Neophyte 09 Jan 11 - 09:48 AM
Old Vermin 09 Jan 11 - 10:17 AM
Howard Jones 09 Jan 11 - 10:47 AM
GUEST,Neophyte 09 Jan 11 - 12:22 PM
Paul Davenport 09 Jan 11 - 12:38 PM
Old Vermin 09 Jan 11 - 12:49 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Jan 11 - 02:46 PM
Steve Gardham 09 Jan 11 - 03:11 PM
GUEST,Grishka 09 Jan 11 - 03:49 PM
Howard Jones 09 Jan 11 - 03:59 PM
framus 09 Jan 11 - 04:02 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 09 Jan 11 - 04:19 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Jan 11 - 06:13 PM
GUEST,Grishka 09 Jan 11 - 06:15 PM
Tim Leaning 09 Jan 11 - 06:17 PM
GUEST,Folkiedave 09 Jan 11 - 06:40 PM
Old Vermin 09 Jan 11 - 06:43 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 09 Jan 11 - 07:05 PM
Jim Carroll 10 Jan 11 - 03:58 AM
GUEST,Neophyte 10 Jan 11 - 04:36 AM
Old Vermin 10 Jan 11 - 05:00 AM
treewind 10 Jan 11 - 05:04 AM
treewind 10 Jan 11 - 05:07 AM
Old Vermin 10 Jan 11 - 05:45 AM
Manitas_at_home 10 Jan 11 - 05:53 AM
johnadams 10 Jan 11 - 05:59 AM
Manitas_at_home 10 Jan 11 - 06:10 AM
Paul Davenport 10 Jan 11 - 06:53 AM
Old Vermin 10 Jan 11 - 06:54 AM
Old Vermin 10 Jan 11 - 07:07 AM
GUEST,BBP at work 10 Jan 11 - 07:21 AM
GUEST,folkiedave 10 Jan 11 - 07:38 AM
andrew e 10 Jan 11 - 08:02 AM
TheSnail 10 Jan 11 - 08:03 AM
Howard Jones 10 Jan 11 - 08:04 AM
theleveller 10 Jan 11 - 08:33 AM
johnadams 10 Jan 11 - 08:58 AM
Old Vermin 10 Jan 11 - 09:02 AM
Howard Jones 10 Jan 11 - 02:34 PM
Paul Davenport 10 Jan 11 - 05:23 PM
Howard Jones 10 Jan 11 - 05:44 PM
GUEST 11 Jan 11 - 04:58 AM
Paul Davenport 11 Jan 11 - 05:08 AM
theleveller 11 Jan 11 - 05:14 AM
johnadams 11 Jan 11 - 05:31 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Jan 11 - 06:20 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 11 Jan 11 - 06:27 AM
GUEST 11 Jan 11 - 06:34 AM
GUEST 11 Jan 11 - 06:50 AM
theleveller 11 Jan 11 - 06:59 AM
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Subject: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Neophyte
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 09:48 AM

I was lucky enough to hear a group of young people from the North East of England playing some beautiful folk tunes and was struck by their talents. Surely now that there are so many young musicians playing at this level we might once again hear the folk music arrangements of Vaughan-Williams, Butterworth and Grainger as examples of how wonderful the English folk tradition is? Why are these wonderful works rejected in favour of, frankly, rather inferior modernisations of folk themes?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 10:17 AM

Could you perhaps clarify the question?

Arrangements by RV-W and others do of course remain in the canon.

I was just wondering what you mean by the seemingly pejorative "frankly, rather inferior modernisations of folk themes" and why you think these are inferior.

I look forward to an illuminating correspondence.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 10:47 AM

The folk music arrangements of Vaughan-Williams, Butterworth and Grainger are not examples of "how wonderful the English folk tradition is". They are arrangements of the folk tradition, and in this respect are no different from what modern revival folk musicians are doing.

The composers took traditional tunes and arranged them according to the disciplines and instrumentation of classical music. Modern folk musicians take traditional tunes and arrange them to suit a different audience, using different instrumentation, and for a different performing environment.

The composers were using traditional tunes as inspiration to create new works within the genre of classical music, and for the concert platform. The intention of folk musicians is (on the whole) to embellish tradition tunes to appeal to modern audiences, in a different and usually more informal performing environment.

Whether these are "inferior" is a matter of taste. They are not trying to do the same thing. Both are adaptations of folk, rather than true representations of the tradition.

As for why the works of RVW, Butterworth, Grainger and others are not performed more, you are asking the wrong forum. You should be asking a classical music forum. Despite taking their inspiration from folk tunes, these works were never part of the folk genre.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Neophyte
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 12:22 PM

I seem to be in error. I had assumed that the use of folk themes used to create musical works was de facto, how the tradition of folk music was continued? The young people I heard were polished and professional in their approach and reflected perfectly the values of classical music. I had thought that Vaughan-Williams was a true apologist for the developing tradition of folk song.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 12:38 PM

Neophyte writes; 'a true apologist for the developing tradition of folk song.'
I think this might better be answered by more extensive listening. I would personally suggest that you try to get hold of some of the CDs from the 'Voice of the People' collection. You might then have a better idea of what you call 'the tradition of folk music'. MInd you, Howard raises an interesting point above, 'you are asking the wrong forum. You should be asking a classical music forum. ' Howard, should'nt we be talking to a 'pop' music forum if we want to examine the work of Jim Moray?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 12:49 PM

"Apologist"? Really? An interesting thought.

I think one might ask on whether notated, arranged classical works for formal public performance which draw on folk tunes are a continuation of the tradition or a high-art development parallel with the tradition. There is a perceptible difference in spirit between, say, When I was Bachelor sung from memory in a pub with dirty-minded choruses and the same song arranged and accompanied by Benjamin Britten and sung by Peter Pears in front of a decorous audience.


Worth remarking that Britten's arrangement now sounds dated, as, to my ears anyway, does Grainger.


The tradition does of course draw on classical or art sources. Obvious thing is Michael Turner's Waltz which started life as a fragment of a Mozart German Dance.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 02:46 PM

Whether Grainger, Vaughan Williams et al sound out of date or not is a matter of personal taste - Butterworth's 'Banks of Green Willow' still gets me as one of the most beautiful pieces of orchestral composition of all times.
Folk music, it ain't, and was never claimed to be by their composers, some of whom put in the time listening to the real thing.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 03:11 PM

Jim, for once me and thee are in complete accord! They can be as 'out-of-date in taste' as you like for me. I love the rough and ready versions, and I love what the composers did with them, but they are very different beasties.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 03:49 PM

Adaptation of folk tunes to "learned" contexts is almost as old as Western music, in the 15th century it even was one of the main genres, notably in France and present-day Belgium, but also in other countries including England. Quite a number of folk songs are only known today because of such adaptations. Are they folk? Probably not, but they were often sung by non-professionals for their own pleasure. In later times, chorals of the Lutheran tradition, i.e. real folk songs, were the spine of Protestant church music. In Bach's cantatas and oratorios, the whole parish was supposed to join in singing the chorals.

Many classical composers wrote nice arrangements of folk songs in the "pastoral" taste. Beethoven with his English songs is just one out of many. Bartók is the father of modern folklorism; he inspired RVW and the others.

Most of all that music was meant to be executed by amateurs, but professionals perform it as well, in concert halls an on CDs.

Summary: not much news; label it as you please.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 03:59 PM

The tradition of folk music continues through the tradition. Other treatments, whether by classical composers or folk revival musicians, are just that - treatments. Perfectly valid in their own way, but not part of the tradition.

The tradition is one thing. Interpretations, whether by classical musicians, folk revival musicians or pop musicians, are something else.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: framus
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 04:02 PM

May I make a nod to the Irish equivalent of the "classicization" of folk, similar to Vaughan-Williams et al.
Mainly I would suggest Sean O'Riada who has produced many excellent orchestrations of a plethora of Irish folk melodies.
Of course Mr. Tchaikowsky made a brave fist of it in Russia too.
Cheers, Davy.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 04:19 PM

The young people I heard were polished and professional in their approach and reflected perfectly the values of classical music.

Troubadour Raimbaut de Vaqueiras (c. 1155-1207) is said to have collected the melody for his celebrated Kalenda Maia from the duelling fiddles of two jongluers, often assumed to be vernacular types (i.e. folk musicians) though his Razo isn't too clear on this. Interesting though the episode is, I much prefer his account of spying through a knothole on the wife of Enric del Carret as she brandished her husband's sword around her chamber in her underwear, naming her his Bel Cavalier thereafter.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 06:13 PM

"Most of all that music was meant to be executed by amateurs,"
Amature is one of those 'odd' words; most folk (proper) musicicians did not perform for money, though a few did.
On the other hand, the level of skill that came with some singing and playing when the tradition was still alive challenged some of the best classical playing. I remember seeing Yehudi Menuin lay his violin aside and admit he could not compete with a couple of Scots fiddle players.
To hear folk at its best, try to get hold of a recording of Bert Lloyd's radio programme, 'Folk Music Virtoso' - still stunning, even forty years later.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 06:15 PM

Davy framus, funny that you mention Tchaikovsky, who certainly "made a brave fist of it", but all other Russian composers of that time did even more so. Many composers in Europe and America once more looked for inspiration by folk music, from their own countries or from other ones such as Spain. And quite a number of tunes and dances, newly composed in folkloristic styles, later made their way into genuine (?) folklore, i.e. were and are performed by traditional ensembles - bad luck for the categorizers.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 06:17 PM

oh dear lol


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Folkiedave
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 06:40 PM

I was fortunate to be at a concert with Alistair Anderson, Catriona McKay, Donald Grant, and Peter Cropper. The first three have a foot in both the classical and folk camps.

Peter Cropper who was a famous classical violinist (he plays a Strad and very well too) admitted he could not play like the other three - just did not have the "voice".

It was illustrated by Donald Grant playing a short jig and then Peter playing the same piece. It wasn't right!!


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 06:43 PM

Jim - may I mention that when I used 'dated' it was in the sense of being very much of that era. 'Out of date' meaning obsolescent or obsolete wasn't what I intended.

I feel that Grainger's and Britten's arrangements haven't worn as well as Vaughan-Williams, Holst or Butterworth, but this is indeed a personal judgement.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 07:05 PM

Bert Lloyd's radio programme, 'Folk Music Virtoso'

You have this, JC? I lost my cassette copies years ago.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 03:58 AM

Suibhne Astray,
PM me.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Neophyte
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 04:36 AM

I'm sorry if I've caused an argument, I was merely trying to ascertain why these works by these fine composers lacked performance time when clearly there are so many musicians in folk music capable of playing them. I noticed that other types of music using the folk tradition seem to be acceptable but not these. Is there a reason for this?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:00 AM

May I refer the Neophyte to folkiedave's anecdote.

Classical playing and folk playing differ. Some instrumentalists can do both. Classical playing tends to be very score-dependent. Folk playing may do without dots altogether or use them merely as a rough guide.

At extremes, a classically-trained player may be unable to play be ear, at least on first immersion in a session, while a folk player may be unable to read a score.

It may also help to consider the instrumentation and personnel required for what may be an orchestral setting.

I'm fairly sure that the orchestral pieces are still done once in a while by classical ensembles. I'm equally sure that if a fiddler [perhaps with others] should do Greensleeves followed by Lovely Joan, or whatever the sequence is, it may coincide with the tunes in a particular classical setting, but won't be that setting.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: treewind
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:04 AM

"I seem to be in error. I had assumed that the use of folk themes used to create musical works was de facto, how the tradition of folk music was continued?

No, it's a cross-fertilisation between two musical cultures. Not a bad thing in itself, but what RVW wrote wasn't folk music. It goes both ways too - Michael Turner's Waltz was written by Mozart and Hungarian gypsy bands are playing Brahms!

The young people I heard were polished and professional in their approach and reflected perfectly the values of classical music.

That's an interesting observation and also the gateway to a can of worms. There's a discussion that comes up from time to time, where one side says that folk performers should be competent or nobody will come (and especially pay) to listen to them, and laments the poor standard of floor singers in folk clubs. The other side says that folk music is the music of the people and should be inclusive and welcoming and anyone should be allowed to have a go.

But that aside, there's a distinction to be made in the above quote. A polished performance by virtuoso musicians has its place in folk music (in my opinion) and it has something in common with classical music, but a performance even of highly arranged folk music by folk musicians is not the same thing as a piece of art music that happens to use folk tunes as a source of melodic material. Vaughan William's music was and will always be for the concert hall, and I don't think many folk musicians buy CDs of his music to learn tunes from. Nor would it be advisable for an aspiring folk singer to learn songs from Britten's arrangements.

Incidentally, I know there are famous examples of highly trained classical musicians being unable to play folk music convincingly, but I don't think that means it's impossible. It just means they haven't spent enough time playing folk music to get the feel of it - if they did, they'd be able to do both. There are better known examples of jazz musicians being perfectly at home in the classical world, and if you look carefully you'll find some of the bass and brass sections of the London orchestras playing in the jazz clubs on their nights off.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: treewind
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:07 AM

Excellent post from Old Vermin while I was composing mine... agreed on all points.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:45 AM

Thank you, Treewind

Veering off-topic, I'm glad to hear the two of you are performing at Guildford later this year.


Had a chuckle at your merest suggestion of modelling oneself on a Britten arrangement.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:53 AM

LTS who can't be arsed to log out:

Neophyte - I sing both folk and classical music, because I love singing. Getting an audience to pay to attend a folk concert seems to be a bloody sight easier than getting one to pay to attend a classical concert. These days classical music, particularly choral classical, is a hard gig to sell - who needs to go out to see an obscure choir in an unknown venue which is usually cold, uncomfortable and a long way from home, when you can sit in your own sofa, with Classic FM and a mug of tea? People want to hear the big, familiar numbers like Messiah or Creation, and hear it in the Royal Albert Hall or St Martin in the Fields which can be cold and uncomfortable and are a long way from most people's homes but have the kudos of being famous venues. When my choir last performed at St Martin's, we had an audience of over 400, most of whom were drawn by the programme and the venue (Mozart's Requiem). That's 4 times our average audience now - not a reflection on the abilities of the choir or conductor, but rather on the venues we are restricted to and the material we can afford to produce because no-one really wants to come out to classical concerts by a small choir in unfamiliar venues.



East London Chorus, the choir I sing with, have in the past, sung the very arrangements mentioned in the first post. To a classical choir, they are flimsy, old fashioned and without substance when compared with more popular classical works. Because they are unfamiliar, your ordinary paying punter won't part with their hard earned cash to sit in a cold venue to hear them live, when for less than the cost of a concert ticket, they can download the CD. Get them played every week on Classic FM and maybe we'll stand a chance of getting a paying audience should we choose to perform them. if we do, I shall post here and expect to see you in the audience.

To a folk singer, the arrangements are stilted and confined.   To someone who is used to making up their own harmonies, blending with others, belting out the rude bits with gusto or singing the piece solo, the classical arrangements are restricting, suffocating and terribly twee. There is no scope for improvisation or freedom of expression. Everything you sing is the conductors' interpretation of a composer's piece - even if the composer was involved in the original collection of the folk song as RVW and Grainger were. In my head I see it as the difference between a kitchen chair and a Chippendale chair - the kitchen chair - folk - is there to be used often, but the Chippendale - classical arrangement - is for very special occasions and then only with great care and delicacy.

Having said that though, I am sneakily introducing proper folk carols into our repertoire - we have recently been wowing diners at the Ritz Hotel by singing 'While Shepherd's watched' to 'Ilkley Moor' in the Yorkshire Carols tradition and, in his own words, making 'an old Yorkshireman very happy' - the 'old Yorkshireman' who actually ran over to sing a verse with us, being Alan Titchmarsh!

Anyway.... those young musicians may well have talent, but it is also possible that they haven't the slightest clue who Grainger was or what RVW did to a lot of folk tunes (i.e., steal them, rearrange them and turn them into hymn tunes). If you tried to make them play those arrangements, the resulting sound would be completely and utterly different. Folk is an evolving genre - it is music of the people and people don't stand still. The bare bones of the tune may still be recognisable, like an old photograph of yourself from 1972, but to compare the same tune now to that captured image from the past, is futile and often depressing.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: johnadams
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:59 AM

Jim Carroll wrote: To hear folk at its best, try to get hold of a recording of Bert Lloyd's radio programme, 'Folk Music Virtoso' - still stunning, even forty years later.
Jim Carroll


Suibhne et al,

I have this programme in the Paul Graney Audio Archive and can make it available for download later today.

Johnny A


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:10 AM

LTS again;

Not to mention the fact that the classical interpretations are for classical instruments. The quality and variety of sound produced by a traditional orchestra will never be the same as the quality and variety of sound produced by 3 fiddles, 2 melodeons and a shaky egg. The best orchestra in the world will never have the flexibility or sheer guttiness of an Anglo Concertina, and those talented young musicians would be all at sea when presented with 'Zadok the Priest' to play.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:53 AM

Howard wrote; 'The tradition is one thing. Interpretations, whether by classical musicians, folk revival musicians or pop musicians, are something else.'
Dead right Howard. Yet the current folk scene seems to value 'traditional' music less than the others named, as exemplified by nature of the 'headline' acts at festivals.
As to whether there is a likelihood of hearing a chamber orchestra on the main stage at any folk festival in UK I think Neophyte may have a very long wait but some of the stuff I've heard in the last couple of years is less like folk than Butterworth's 'Banks of Green Willow' (on which I thoroughly agree with Jim.)


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 06:54 AM

Seems a good moment to mention the Hook Eagle Morris approach to tunes:

" Nothing at all is played as written. Well-known tunes are recognisable, but ...."

Hook Eagle Music

Now what is this if it is not in the current tradition?

For pure amusement, see Hook Eagle rules for musicians

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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:07 AM

Paul Davenport - Yet the current folk scene seems to value 'traditional' music less than the others named, as exemplified by nature of the 'headline' acts at festivals

Ah, the distinction between traditional folk scene and the festivals. Festivals have to sell tickets to punters: the traditional folk scene lives in pubs and clubs, has a strong Morris element and is done for ourselves rather than as a commercial operation.

I don't think I'm alone in having dropped into the Festival Dance House tent at Towersey to hear Jim Moray, giving him ten minutes and going back very fast to the ceilidh tent.

Towersey does have a core of traditional sessions and performance, but elsewhere "Folk" in a festival title isn't necessarily a good guide to the content.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,BBP at work
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:21 AM

I'm in total agreement with LTS, as I have a foot (or a vocal chord)in both the folk and classical camps. She has said exactly what I'd say but so much better!


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,folkiedave
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 07:38 AM

"...... but elsewhere "Folk" in a festival title isn't necessarily a good guide to the content".

Quite right. That is why I always look at the list of artists to decide whether I go there or not.

How do you know you are going to like the artists at a sing around?

In fact of course here at the epicentre of the folk universe in Sheffield, we have all sorts of concerts.

http://www.musicintheround.co.uk/event.php?id=195


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: andrew e
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:02 AM

I've sung in a choir 5 Traditional Songs arranged by John Rutter.
The Girl I Left behind Me
O Waly Waly
The British Grenadiers
Golden Slumbers
Dashing Away With The Smoothing Iron

Folk it ain't. They're arranged to sound classical I imagine, or maybe just because of the arranger's musical training.

Similar thing with Gospel songs arranged in a classical way.

They don't do much for me!


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: TheSnail
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:03 AM

treewind

That's an interesting observation and also the gateway to a can of worms. There's a discussion that comes up from time to time, where one side says that folk performers should be competent or nobody will come (and especially pay) to listen to them, and laments the poor standard of floor singers in folk clubs. The other side says that folk music is the music of the people and should be inclusive and welcoming and anyone should be allowed to have a go.

I'm probably going to regret giving this particular can of worms a nudge but I have to protest the implication that encouraging people to have a go inevitably leads to poor standards. In my experience, people who want to perform want to perform well. Some of them may fall short of their ambitions but most do well enough and some excel.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:04 AM

"I was merely trying to ascertain why these works by these fine composers lacked performance time when clearly there are so many musicians in folk music capable of playing them"

The short answer is that these pieces are not folk, so you won't find them performed in a folk environment. You will find them played in a different environment and to a very different audience. Folk audiences and classical audiences have very different expectations and values.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:33 AM

The difference between classic folk music (ie folk standards) and classical folk music is that the latter is an exercise in composition and arrangement using folk themes or tunes and is usually performed by orchestral musicians. So, for instance, Vaughan Williams' Variations of Dives and Lazarus is a very different animal to Martin Simpson singing Dives and Lazarus. The only connection is the basic tune. Both good - just different.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: johnadams
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 08:58 AM

Here's a link to the preview/download page for the Bert Lloyd radio documentary referred to above by Jim Carroll.

Sadly, it's not one of the better recordings in the archive having suffered some tape degradation in the years before it was digitised. Maybe you've got a better copy Jim?

It's a 110mB file - a one hour programme.

The Folk Music Virtuoso


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Old Vermin
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 09:02 AM

Howard Jones Folk audiences and classical audiences have very different expectations and values

Just trying to remember the last classical concert I attended. Too long ago? No, on the South Bank, smaller hall, all the Brandenburg concertos in one day. I'm fairly sure that my expectations if not necessarily values vary depending on who and what I'm going to hear.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 02:34 PM

Old Vermin, I agree entirely. I wasn't suggesting that folk audiences have lower expectations and values than classical audiences (or vice versa), simply that they depend on, as you say, who and what they're going to hear.

I would be very happy to hear RVW, Butterworth or Grainger as part of a classical concert. However if I went to a folk event I would expect to hear something closer to the real thing - or if not, at least something arranged with more regard to the tradition from which it came, rather than according to the rules of classical music.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:23 PM

Howard wrote; 'I would expect to hear something closer to the real thing' Really? I'm not sure that very much of what we folkies listen to is very close to the 'real' thing Howard. There's a huge tendency to process the material so that it sounds like something 'more modern' or 'up to date'. As an artist specialising in a relatively obscure singing tradition I can safely assume that the vast majority of folk clubs and festivals are not interested in booking me. That's not to say that I can't appreciate modern music using 'folk themes', I like Gloristrokes and am a great fan of the Demon Barber Roadshow, both whom are great acts but about as far from 'the real thing' as one can get.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Howard Jones
Date: 10 Jan 11 - 05:44 PM

Which was what I tried to convey with the second part of my sentence. Whilst it is true that most performers on the folk scene are some distance from the "real thing", it seems to me that most of them are trying to find new and different ways of interpreting the material, which respects the underlying tradition even if it diverges from it.
The classical composers on the other hand are using folk themes to create something entirely new within their own genre - a very different approach.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 04:58 AM

Well there are two of you using the phrase "real thing".

Surely you need to tell me what the "real thing" is?

I go on a regular basis, generally at a particular time of the year - but sometimes not, and sing what most people would regard as traditional songs - in the company of others - learnt orally and have done so now for the past 35 years or so. Does that make me a traditional singer?


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 05:08 AM

Guest writes; 'Does that make me a traditional singer?'
That's a fair question Guest. In my world the answer is Yes. That's because I tend towards the viewpoint of Ethnomusicology whereas the 'folk police' would say, No, you're a revivalist singer. Nobody has satisfactorily explained this distinction to me so I stand by my initial response. There is a further problem here and that is the context of your singing. In my world you just described a 'traditional' context whereas a folk club would be a revival context. In my own family it was frowned on to sing other family members songs so 'oral transmission' was minimal unless the singer taught the song to you. This too is a traditional context but its not accepted by many folkies. I'm just working on a manuscript collection in which a particular singer was taught a song by her father by the means of a written text. There was no attempt at oral transmission and yet she is one of Vaughan-Williams' informants. Go figure.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 05:14 AM

At what point in the life and transition of a traditional song is it the "real thing"? Does time then stand still at that point and the song is allowed to develop no further? To my mind a traditional song, no matter how, where or by whom it is performed is real - certainly for the performer.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: johnadams
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 05:31 AM

Absolutely. And surely, in a living tradition (if that's what we call what we do), the latest style of presentation is the only real thing.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 06:20 AM

'folk police'
Is it not possible to conduct these discussions without infantile name-calling Paul - shame on you!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 06:27 AM

To my mind a traditional song, no matter how, where or by whom it is performed is real - certainly for the performer.

It's a different sort of reality though. The irony here is that any Traditional Song is no longer Traditional when it is sung in the name of The Tradition - or of Folk. I dare say to the trained ethnomusicologist there will be a Traditional Level to Revival Performance, but your average Folknik will be as innocent of that as the fish is of the water through which it swims. In short - the Folklore of Folk isn't quite what Folkniks think it is.


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 06:34 AM

Guest asked
"I go on a regular basis, generally at a particular time of the year - but sometimes not, and sing what most people would regard as traditional songs - in the company of others - learnt orally and have done so now for the past 35 years or so. Does that make me a traditional singer?"

I wonder whether the context of his/her singing makes a difference to whether you call it traditional?

E.g. carols in a Yorkshire pub
football songs on the terraces
back of the bus songs
festival singaround songs.

But maybe we've had other threads on 'what is folk?'


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 06:50 AM

Help. The above post was me, it has logged me out, won't let me log in, won't recognise my password or email address. It had a go-slow when I was trying to post that, too.
Mo the caller


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Subject: RE: Classic folk music
From: theleveller
Date: 11 Jan 11 - 06:59 AM

"It's a different sort of reality though."

Hmmm....I think we're getting into the metaphysics of folk here.


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