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What's a Socialist Choir?

GUEST 12 Jul 11 - 09:02 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 12 Jul 11 - 09:09 AM
Fred McCormick 12 Jul 11 - 09:42 AM
GUEST,livelylass 12 Jul 11 - 09:50 AM
Newport Boy 12 Jul 11 - 09:52 AM
Fred McCormick 12 Jul 11 - 10:52 AM
Bonzo3legs 12 Jul 11 - 11:03 AM
Max Johnson 12 Jul 11 - 11:18 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 12 Jul 11 - 12:07 PM
RoyH (Burl) 12 Jul 11 - 12:10 PM
Fred McCormick 12 Jul 11 - 12:30 PM
Michael 12 Jul 11 - 02:20 PM
GUEST,livelylass 13 Jul 11 - 04:38 AM
GUEST,livelylass 13 Jul 11 - 04:40 AM
Newport Boy 13 Jul 11 - 07:15 AM
GUEST,henryp 13 Jul 11 - 07:22 AM
GUEST,livelylass 13 Jul 11 - 07:54 AM
GUEST,livelylass 13 Jul 11 - 08:21 AM
Newport Boy 13 Jul 11 - 10:35 AM
GUEST,ifor 13 Jul 11 - 10:54 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 13 Jul 11 - 01:21 PM
GUEST,Doug Saum 13 Jul 11 - 01:24 PM
GUEST,livelylass 13 Jul 11 - 02:00 PM
Herga Kitty 13 Jul 11 - 02:25 PM
GUEST,livelylass 13 Jul 11 - 03:59 PM
mayomick 13 Jul 11 - 04:57 PM
GUEST,LordBraggof BraggTowers 14 Jul 11 - 05:32 AM
bradfordian 14 Jul 11 - 11:09 AM
mayomick 14 Jul 11 - 03:34 PM
GUEST,Ripov 14 Jul 11 - 04:44 PM
RoyH (Burl) 15 Jul 11 - 12:32 PM
Musket 15 Jul 11 - 01:11 PM
Jack Campin 15 Jul 11 - 01:37 PM
Newport Boy 15 Jul 11 - 05:03 PM
GUEST,NormanD 16 Jul 11 - 05:31 PM
GUEST,Toggy 27 Jul 12 - 05:29 PM
Big Al Whittle 27 Jul 12 - 11:46 PM
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Subject: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 09:02 AM

Stumbled on the term Socialist Choir today and wondered what it means exactly? Sounds like something old, from the thirties?
Do educate me please..


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 09:09 AM

interesting question, as by coincidence I was googling "The Labour League of Youth" yesterday
after listening to my old mum's recollections from the late 1940's;
and was about to look for references for any songs that might have been associated or unique to their teenage social gatherings ???


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 09:42 AM

Socialist choirs are pretty much what it says on the label; choirs who sing left wing political songs at demonstrations, rallies, picket lines etc.

As far as I know, their ancestry can be traced back to the mid/late 1930s, when the Workers Music Association did much to promote them. This was partly as the result of a directive from Stalin no less, that national Communist parties should encourage the singing of national folksongs. Believe me I didn't make that up. But it's beyond me to understand why that directive should have helped give birth to the 1930s New York folk revival in the USA, while it also gave birth to the socialist choir movement in Britain.

In any event SCs seem to have flourished from that date through to the early 1960s, and were doubtless encouraged in their later stages by the Aldermaston CND marches.

SCs choirs have been enjoying something of a resurgence lately. EG, the one I belong to, The Liverpool Socialist Singers, was formed early last year and keeps going from strength to strength.

NB., for anyone in the Merseyside area, we're singing on Saturday 16th July as part of the Peace and Ecology Festival at St Lukes Church at the top of Bold St.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,livelylass
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 09:50 AM

Fascinating Fred, thanks..
Neat to see my intuitive guess at a 30's origin was on the mark too!

If there is indeed a contemporary resurgence as you suggest, then what with Cameron's latest White Paper and Big Society (aka Big Business) proposals which he's determined to see pushed through, then it would appear to be an appropriate time for them.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: Newport Boy
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 09:52 AM

The tradition continues - Cor Cochion Caerdydd & Bristol Red Notes are both very active.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 10:52 AM

Cameron, Big Society, cutbacks, pension cuts, closures, bankers, News International sleeze. Yup we sure won't be stuck for things to sing about while this government's around.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 11:03 AM

And we have a century's worth from the previous worthless bunch!!!


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: Max Johnson
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 11:18 AM

I guess a socialist choir is one which believes that the means of production should be owned by the State but, unlike a Communist choir would not necessarily take control by force.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 12:07 PM

not necessarily exactly a 'socialist' choir,
but Belgrade based "Viva Vox Choir"
show what they can do with a modern East German industrial techno metal marching song...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EOSDOA0tCs&feature=related


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 12:10 PM

The Communist Party established 'Clarion' choirs throughout the country. 'Clarion' cycling clubs have the same provenance.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 12:30 PM

That sounds great but most of our lot have trouble walking and singing. Imagine the fun they'd have if they had cycle and sing at the same time.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: Michael
Date: 12 Jul 11 - 02:20 PM

Jah Wobble? Fred.

Mike


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,livelylass
Date: 13 Jul 11 - 04:38 AM

I looked up The Workers Music Association or WMA (est. 1936) mentioned by Fred. On their web site they have this to say about their origins:

"The story of the WMA
It began life in 1936 when five London Labour Choirs met to perform together at a time when the world was hurtling towards a struggle to contain the menace of fascism; embodied in the conflict of the Spanish Civil War; the development of the holocaust; wholesale genocide, and the suppression of human spirit.
Alan Bush ... with the support of many like-minded people founded the WMA as a response to those conditions and seeing the need for a body to be the spiritual home of Workers who could express their hopes and wishes through music, about the way the world should be."

And about their objectives:

"The WMA is dedicated to encourage the composition and performance of music with special regard to:-
Music which expresses the ideals and aims of mankind towards the improved organisation of society.
Music which exerts an influence against the social injustices of our present society.
Music which encourages and reflects the activities and aspirations of the labour and peace movements for a new society."

Furthermore they have a list of current "radical choirs" both formally affiliated to the WMA or otherwise less formally associated with them, and it seems there's quite a number of them out there too:

http://www.wmamusic.org.uk/Radical%20choirs.htm

A number of descriptors are used by these choirs, including "Community", "People's", "Clarion" (as referenced above), and of course "Red". As might be expected, barring London, they all appear to be in the North of England.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,livelylass
Date: 13 Jul 11 - 04:40 AM

Oops, meant to include a link to the WMA home: Workers Music Association - Home Page


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: Newport Boy
Date: 13 Jul 11 - 07:15 AM

Geography not your strong point? There's Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham, Leicester, Aberystwyth, Edinburgh, Australia & New Zealand - hardly the North of England.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 13 Jul 11 - 07:22 AM

I'm in the East Lancashire Clarion Choir.

We're off to Whitby this weekend for the Street Choir Festival. We'll be singing on cliff tops and street corners, so I hope this fine weather continues.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,livelylass
Date: 13 Jul 11 - 07:54 AM

Correct, I should rephrase that Newport Boy:
"as might be expected, barring London* there appears to be an absence of such choirs across the South of England."


Thanks Henryp, will there be any YouTube videos to share?

In fact archive films from the early days, would also be fascinating to see.








* Bristol excepted


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,livelylass
Date: 13 Jul 11 - 08:21 AM

Scanning through YouTube reveals a variety of approaches and technical prowess ranging from fairly large and formal concerts with a conductor to a handful of participants engaged in loose comedic singsong.

At the upper end of the scale for the former, I found numerous examples of the Russian Red Army choir, which presumably back in the day, would have represented the initial model and inspiration for British Labour Choirs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKRTi584pJE&feature=related


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: Newport Boy
Date: 13 Jul 11 - 10:35 AM

Ah, livelylass - but is Bristol in the South or the West? But thanks for thinking of my feelings for my adopted city.

Phil


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,ifor
Date: 13 Jul 11 - 10:54 AM

How well I remember the summer fete in my local park a feww weeks after the Tories won the general election in 1987. The local right wing Tory group turned up to man a stall ....but then were serenaded by the Cardiff Red Choir and many others standing around with renditions of The Internationale and the inspirational South African anti apartheid song of freedom.
The Tories eventually beat a retreat ! The music was excellent!
Ifor


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 13 Jul 11 - 01:21 PM

A Socialist Choir will get red in the face when they sing a blue note.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,Doug Saum
Date: 13 Jul 11 - 01:24 PM

To examine this movement through the life of one of its American prime movers, see the biography Ruth Crawford Seeger: A Composer's Search for American Music by Judith Tick. It explains how her work and politics set the stage for the folk revival of the 50's and 60's. Incidentally she is the mother of Mike and Peggy Seeger (Pete's step-mother).


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,livelylass
Date: 13 Jul 11 - 02:00 PM

It's certainly interesting to look at the separate strands of both Nazi and Communist political co-opting of Traditional folk music for early 20thC propagandist purposes.

I was aware of Hitler's savvy exploitation of Volk music, but not until now aware of Stalin's equivalent interest in Russian folk song.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 13 Jul 11 - 02:25 PM

Not sure whether this counts, but the Tolpuddle Martyrs festival in Dorset next weekend includes the Tasmanian Grass Roots Union Choir as well as Robb Johnson and Billy Bragg...

Kitty


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,livelylass
Date: 13 Jul 11 - 03:59 PM

That would seem to count perfectly well Herga Kitty!

Tangientally, I'm rather taken by the refreshingly spirited young Grace Petrie there: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjuGVfhzh08


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: mayomick
Date: 13 Jul 11 - 04:57 PM

By the 1870s, Arbeiter-Vereine (Workers Clubs) had been set up throughout much of Chicago . These workers self-help organizations , formed by German immigrants to the US, were heavily influenced by the ideas of Karl Marx and other socialist thinkers .

"The singing societies, so integral to the workers' club life, and present at almost all events, went by such names as the Rote Mannerchor (Red Men's Choir), the Socialistische Mannerchor del Nord Seite (Socialist Men's Choir of the North Side), and Liedertafel des Socialischiste Arbeiter-Verein (Singing Society of the Socialist Workers' Club)"
http://www-distance.syr.edu/schied.html


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,LordBraggof BraggTowers
Date: 14 Jul 11 - 05:32 AM

>>The Communist Party established 'Clarion' choirs throughout the country. 'Clarion' cycling clubs have the same provenance.

In the Socialist Utopian Motherland, bicycle ride you.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: bradfordian
Date: 14 Jul 11 - 11:09 AM

I'm proud to be a member of a "socialist choir"
We combine our political ethos with a passion for song.
We deliver our message through singing, which goes beyond political bounaries.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hgA22ElIiY

Nottingham Clarion Choir

bradfordian


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: mayomick
Date: 14 Jul 11 - 03:34 PM

No way that you could combine the clarions is there? A cycling choir, something like that.......


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,Ripov
Date: 14 Jul 11 - 04:44 PM

"On the night of November 20th 1926, ten thousand people assembled in the Albert Hall to launch the "Daily Express" Community Singing Movement....Three months saw Great Britain turned into a land of song.." from the Daily Express Community Song Book 1927. Which contains Shanties, Spirituals, Nursery Rhymes, Catches, Hymns, and quite a few Folk Songs, albeit ones that we don't sing any more (perhaps because we got fed up with having to sing them at school); as does "Songs that will Live Forever" published by Odhams, early 1930s. They were all at it then!


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 15 Jul 11 - 12:32 PM

Bradfordian,I'm so glad to see that there still is a Nottingham Clarion Choir. I ysed to know some of their members. Is Laurence Plattt still singing with them?


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: Musket
Date: 15 Jul 11 - 01:11 PM

Ah, choirs. Love 'em. A bit of Elgar to stir the spirit eh?


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Jul 11 - 01:37 PM

"The News Chronicle" also had its own songbook.

Anybody know if these community singing events were exclusive to the paper that produced the book? Did everybody in a gathering use the same one?

I don't think the broadsheets went in for that - there were no "Guardian", "Times" or "Telegraph" community songbooks.

It's surprising the Communists didn't go with the flow and call theirs "Morning Star" choirs.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: Newport Boy
Date: 15 Jul 11 - 05:03 PM

Be historically correct, Jack - it would have been "Daily Worker" choirs. The "Morning Star" is a latecomer.


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,NormanD
Date: 16 Jul 11 - 05:31 PM

Burl wrote above: "The Communist Party established 'Clarion' choirs throughout the country"

I don't think this was strictly true. Clarion clubs existed in the late C19th, and pre-dated both the formation of the Labour and Communist Parties. Politically, I think they were originally aligned with the Social Democratic Federation (SDF). Like their European socialist counterparts, the SDF set up cultural activities amongst the membership, as a way of fostering community friendship and putting across socialist ideas in daily life. Bicycle clubs were one aspect (I think there are still some clubs with "Clarion" in their name), and singing groups were another. Clarion choirs, in the C20th, weren't necessarily led by the Communist Party, though CPGB members may well have taken part.

Singing groups were common amongst the left between the wars, and maybe for some time after WW2. I've an old Left Book Club socialist song book, and also one published by the Labour Party from the late 1950s. The Left Book Club volume suggests the involvement of Alan Bush (I'll check it out later and maybe report back on the songs listed, if anyone's interested). The LP book is a combination of "Early One Mornings","Old Folks At Homes", "Coming Round The Mountains"-type songs, with a few "solidarity forevers" here and there. As mild and compromising as you might expect from the Labour Party (or Old Labour as it then still was).

Down here in South East London we have The Strawberry Thieves socialist choir, who do a combination of old leftist songs, and newer self-written songs of struggle.
strawberry thieves info


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: GUEST,Toggy
Date: 27 Jul 12 - 05:29 PM

I had a chat with a colleague recently who told me that "Clarion" clubs (both for choirs and cycling - in Birmingham) - meant a group of people who would get together and sing (choir) anything that any Clarion member wrote simply because it was a rule of the organization NOT to criticize/critique anything anyone wrote. So a good wordsmith with a poor tune would be "congratulated" as would a good tunesmith with poor lyrics. She suggested that it was the rule NOT to change anything submitted. I'm not sure what this meant for cyclists, especially at busy road junctions...

Now can anyone confirm or add to this comment?

And, if this pleasant/incredibly stupid logic persists through into parenthood, can we then try and understand why children of today think that the sun shines out of their fundamental orifice?

Can anyone substantiate this socialist domination theory?

Thanks for any enlightenment!


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Subject: RE: What's a Socialist Choir?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 27 Jul 12 - 11:46 PM

I remember one night chatting with Derek Brimstone about the need he felt to write his autobiography.

He said to me something to the effect:-

Al, i've lived through some of the most momentous days of modern history - the blitz on London, the 1960's cultural revolution - been all round this country endlessly for years on end - seen all the changes, My Dad worked in the great London markets that don't exist any nore.

And I want my grandchildren and great grandchildren to know what that was like - otherwise, all they'll have is what we had, the recollections of the generals, the prime ministers, the great and the posh...

there really is a bloody great strand of English civilisation that doesn't get into the history books. And that is the working class intellectual. Or do I mean - the educated working classes. Either way - people of extraordinary vision, but trapped in lowly circumstances by the kind of society we have.

We all know about Auden and isherwood going off to America in 1939 - but what about their comrade Edward Upward, who wrote what it was like to hate the injustices of the class system and ended up getting duped by Stalin and his thugs. i remember also a friend telling me what it was like to visit Arthur Marwick's council flat and there amongst he muddy football boots and cups of tea were a whole family debating and writing endlessly - working on PHD theses.

My mother was very taken by the idea of the WEA, and we always had their publications round the house - full of essays out to give a working man a stake in the culture of the world.

This choir business is all part of that unwritten history.


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