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Chorus songs for ballad singers

*Laura* 23 Nov 11 - 08:06 PM
Leadfingers 23 Nov 11 - 09:50 PM
*Laura* 23 Nov 11 - 09:56 PM
GUEST,JimP 24 Nov 11 - 03:54 AM
Brian Peters 24 Nov 11 - 05:42 AM
Brian Peters 24 Nov 11 - 05:53 AM
MGM·Lion 24 Nov 11 - 05:53 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 24 Nov 11 - 06:08 AM
Brian Peters 24 Nov 11 - 06:11 AM
Brian Peters 24 Nov 11 - 06:15 AM
Richard Bridge 24 Nov 11 - 06:28 AM
Dave Sutherland 24 Nov 11 - 07:03 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 24 Nov 11 - 07:22 AM
Mary Humphreys 24 Nov 11 - 07:56 AM
Brian Peters 24 Nov 11 - 07:58 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 24 Nov 11 - 08:56 AM
GUEST,Working Radish 24 Nov 11 - 09:13 AM
Jim Carroll 24 Nov 11 - 09:14 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 24 Nov 11 - 09:26 AM
Brian Peters 24 Nov 11 - 12:42 PM
Greg B 24 Nov 11 - 02:02 PM
GUEST,mg 24 Nov 11 - 02:26 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 24 Nov 11 - 04:09 PM
*Laura* 24 Nov 11 - 10:15 PM
dick greenhaus 25 Nov 11 - 11:20 AM
RTim 25 Nov 11 - 12:14 PM
The Sandman 25 Nov 11 - 01:38 PM
Jim Carroll 25 Nov 11 - 02:32 PM
Mrs Wickham 26 Nov 11 - 05:45 AM
Valmai Goodyear 26 Nov 11 - 06:03 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 26 Nov 11 - 06:20 AM
Brian Peters 26 Nov 11 - 07:11 AM
Richard Bridge 26 Nov 11 - 08:43 AM
Howard Jones 26 Nov 11 - 09:05 AM
Greg B 26 Nov 11 - 09:06 AM
Anne Neilson 26 Nov 11 - 09:49 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 26 Nov 11 - 10:09 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Nov 11 - 11:09 AM
Brian Peters 26 Nov 11 - 03:35 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 26 Nov 11 - 04:48 PM
Brian Peters 26 Nov 11 - 06:28 PM
dick greenhaus 26 Nov 11 - 09:16 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 27 Nov 11 - 06:00 AM
Max Johnson 27 Nov 11 - 09:06 AM
Greg B 27 Nov 11 - 06:51 PM
*Laura* 27 Nov 11 - 07:29 PM
dick greenhaus 27 Nov 11 - 10:08 PM
Brian Peters 28 Nov 11 - 10:49 AM
Owen Woodson 28 Nov 11 - 12:20 PM
The Sandman 28 Nov 11 - 12:24 PM
Leadfingers 28 Nov 11 - 12:38 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 28 Nov 11 - 12:52 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 28 Nov 11 - 01:27 PM
Owen Woodson 29 Nov 11 - 06:11 AM
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Subject: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: *Laura*
Date: 23 Nov 11 - 08:06 PM

Hi,

I'm looking for some suggestions - as anyone who's ever met me in a folk-club or some such place will know - I mainly sing ballads. This is really because for some reason I find them easiest to learn, and I feel they're what I'm best at singing.
I think the learning thing comes from the fact that they often have strong, coherent stories - and I find songs with stories I can visualise much easier to learn.

However, for sessions etc, it's much nicer (I think) to have chorus songs that people can join in.

I know hundreds of chorus songs but I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions of ones that might particularly suit someone who is used to learning and singing long miserable ballads :)

Cheers, Laura

p.s. they can still be miserable - the more murders the better - just with a little chorus or refrain...


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Leadfingers
Date: 23 Nov 11 - 09:50 PM

I cant think of a Ballad with a chorus , but there are several with a repeated line or two - Young Hindhorn for example


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: *Laura*
Date: 23 Nov 11 - 09:56 PM

Yes, I know a couple like that - Sheath and Knife is another one, but I don't really want to be launching into that at a singaround!
I guess more what I'm looking for is chorus songs with good stories still...
Golden Vanitee is a pretty good one, but quite often I start learning them and then feel they just don't work for me somehow.

Probably a case of practicing...


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: GUEST,JimP
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 03:54 AM

Well, there's ballads, and then there's ballads. Are you looking for trad ballads? Recently composed? Do you lean towards Irish? (Or English, Scots or American?)

That said, I've had a lot of luck getting audiences to join in on Golden Vanity (Lowlands), Cruel Sister, Hungry Child, Prickle-Holley Bush, Pleasant and Delightful . . .

There's a lot of stuff out there with choruses or repeated last lines. A place to start browsing might be Rise Up Singing. Just don't take what's written there as gospel -- I hate how sing-arounds can devolve into people singing songs out of that book that they don't know or half-remember.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Brian Peters
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 05:42 AM

Just off the top of my head, and restricting myself to the Child ballads, I can think of quite a few that have versions with choruses or refrains of one kind or another:

#1 Riddles Wisely Expounded / Devil's Nine Questions
#2 Elfin Knight / Cambric Shirt / Scarborough Fair
#3 False Knight on the Road
#9 Fair Flower of Northumberland
#10 Two Sisters / Binnorie / Wind and Rain
#12 Lord Randal
#14 Babylon / Banks of Fordie
#16 Sheath and Knife
#17 Hind Horn
#18 Sir Lionel / Bangum and the Boar
#20 Cruel Mother

The choruses drop off quite markedly in the collection after that point, until you get to the late 200s and lighter ballads like Our Goodman (Seven Nights Drunk / Old Witchet), Farmer's Curst Wife, Jolly Beggar, Friar in the Well - several of which have 'fol de rol' choruses - and the maritime ones like High Barbary, Golden Vanity and The Mermaid, which are the kind to get a crowd of shanty singers going. Those early numbers tend to be sombre in character, and the choruses are more of a 'slow build'.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Brian Peters
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 05:53 AM

Oh, and....

#200 Gypsy Laddie / Black Jack Davey
#217 The Broom of Cowdenknows
#226 Lizie Lindsay
#299 Trooper and the Maid


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 05:53 AM

Depends on the version ~~ I always sing the Knight & Shepherd's Daughter variant that has the "Line-tin the willow and the Dee" chorus. (On my youtube channel: currently 337 views, 4 'likes').
Some of the historical ballads have choruses even in their best known versions ~~ Battle Of Harlaw.

Seek and ye shall find...

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 06:08 AM

My second favourite chorus ballad is Child #7 - Earl Brand, to the melody given in the Northumbrian Minstrelsy. A right old rollicking romp that insists on a right old rollicking rendering, and ripe for great harmonies on the refrains. It always reminds me of the Water Margin for some reason or other... First favourite: Child #19 - King Orfeo, with it's haunting Norn refrain replete with echoes of ancient lore and classical mythology enduring in the vernacular mists. Again a rare old romp ripe for heavenly chorus singing.

Have have a look at Sir Olaf - a merry carol with a suitably bleak narrative & splendid chorus...


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Brian Peters
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 06:11 AM

And #112 The Baffled Knight / Blow Away the Morning Dew has a jolly chorus and a good story with a feminist slant.

Like Michael said...


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Brian Peters
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 06:15 AM

Have you recorded Sir Olaf, Mr Astray?


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 06:28 AM

Henry the Poacher with the added chorus "Young Men Beware..."

Fine Flowers in the Valley.

Lay the Bent to the Bonny Broom.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 07:03 AM

"Hughie the Graham"
"The Earl of Eroll's Wife"


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 07:22 AM

Have you recorded Sir Olaf

Not for a while. We did a version back in 2003 which gave priority to New Order-style (BLT) drum programmings underpinning extended Folia variations with crwth solo & organ continuo on which Rachel multi-tracked her vocals to give the impression of the merry caroling of a side of trancEd-out circle-dancers in the merry green grove. Sort of Wicker Man staged at The Hacienda circa 1988. At 11 minutes it has a certain charm, though I note that the original take was twice that length....

That said it's on the cards for a more folk-friendly re-visitation some time soon.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Mary Humphreys
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 07:56 AM

Child 65 - Lady Maisry, or Bonnie Suzie Clelland/
the one collected from Mr Wetherill in Bucks by R Vaughan Williams has every other line: Hey My Love, Ho My love; Ho my love so early; Bonny Lady Maisry's to be burnt in bonnie Dundee.
And such a jolly incongruous tune considering it is a viciously male chauvinist and anti-Scots song.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Brian Peters
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 07:58 AM

"a more folk-friendly re-visitation"

No, I want to hear the original version!


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 08:56 AM

Careful what you ask for, Brian...

Sir Olaf (Elf Dance)

This is the clearest mix I can find, but it's far from perfect. In theory I can remix the entire thing afresh. The new version retains the carolling Elf Dance vibe just with voices, crwth and frame-drum.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: GUEST,Working Radish
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 09:13 AM

And such a jolly incongruous tune considering it is a viciously male chauvinist and anti-Scots song.

A regular at the Beech singaround brought poor old Suzy Cleland along one week. Someone asked him afterwards, "Why on earth did you learn that?" It wouldn't be anywhere near the top of my list of must-learns, I have to say.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 09:14 AM

Riddles Wisely Expounded (the one that goes):
There was a lady in the North Countree
Lay the bent to the bonnie Broom,
And she had lovely daughters three,
Fa la la la la la la la la.

can be magic if you get the audience to pick up your speed and intensity.
MacColl and Seeger made a great job of The Baron of Lys by dividing the audience into men and women
Women:
Come tell me you, come tell me true,
Come tell me how they ca' ye,
Your gentle blood lies 'tween my two sides,
And I dinna ken hoo they ca' ye

Men:
Some ca' me this, some ca, me that,
I'm easy hoo they ca' me
(last two lines carried by the singers because they vary as the baron tries to dodge giving his name to avoid his paternal responisbility)

Regarding "audiences joining in" - I've always been opposed to this happening on anything other than choruses, unless invited.
Confirmed by a giant pain-in-the-**** last weekend at our annual singing festival - who joined in on virtually every song, verse and chorus - quite audibly, and when she didn't know the words, she hummed the tune, also quite audibly - a singer of long enough experience to know better - or does that type of happen often in the UK?
Open season on such behaviour here next year
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 09:26 AM

and when she didn't know the words, she hummed the tune, also quite audibly - a singer of long enough experience to know better - or does that type of happen often in the UK?

Yes. So much so I've often thought of petitioning for a change in arms laws to allow for the offing of the more persistent offenders. They do it to demonstrate that they know the song too, generally in all innocence of the stress and misery they cause, and when you tell them to stop they're invariably quick to take offence. One chap even persisted in singing a different version across mine in a singaround because he insisted his was the more authentic! Otherwise perfectly decent folkies will persistently ruin great songs by singing along with those they know for reasons I can never figure out. I can cope with the 'Air Singers' who will mime along to the songs, eyes closed, without uttering a sound, though in a recent rendering of The Land I became so fixated with the Air Singer I lost track of where I was in the song... The people, Lord, Thy people...


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Brian Peters
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 12:42 PM

"Regarding "audiences joining in" - I've always been opposed to this happening on anything other than choruses, unless invited."

I remember a night in a Manchester folk club in the 1980s, when a well-known professional performer (still working to this day) got so exasperated with an audience member on the front row singing along with everything, just slightly out of time, that he broke off the song in mid-verse to shout: "Will you fucking SHUT UP!"

Loving 'Sir Olaf'; Wicker Man staged at The Hacienda is a good start, but you're channelling Gong, Hedningarna and the Incredible String Band as well. Quite a feat.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Greg B
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 02:02 PM

In watery realms:

Andrew Rose
Grace Darling
Lowlands Away

all of these have grand choruses of one sort or another, as well as solo parts that can be played about with by a balladeer.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 02:26 PM

If you don't want people singing along, tell them so right up front. But why in the world do you presume to know why someone does it? They might not know the local rules, they might do it in other circumstancse, they might not have been given feedback, they might enjoy doing it or not realize they are doing it. If you don't like the behavior, then stop it or preferably tell people before they attend a performance what the rules are and let them decide whether they still want to attend. But you don't need to assign motivations to their behavior when you could be way off base. mg


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 04:09 PM

you don't need to assign motivations to their behavior

Oh but we do; we need to analyse and understand such behaviour if only to effect a cure. I reckon CBT could work wonders. Such people crave vicarious association with the performance owing to deep inner insecurities which obliviates any wider respect for the conventions or the singer. They wish to display equal or superior knowledge through the medium of intimidating mimicry designed to belittle the performer to whom to feel themselves as good, if not better. Much of this is a subconscious dysfunction - possibly genetic (like the Folk Gene itself) and I'd be surprised if any mimic set off to deliberately piss off the singer, just as they're unaware of causing such upset when they do. Even at the Gillian Welch gig in MCR the other night we had to shush someone for singing along; they looked at us as if we'd just deeply insulted them. One woman I told to desist never spoke me again.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: *Laura*
Date: 24 Nov 11 - 10:15 PM

Ooh, lots of good ideas - thank you. Feeling inspired now!


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 25 Nov 11 - 11:20 AM

While lots of ballads have repeated second and forth lines, there are some I can think of offhand with actual choruses: The Mermaid (O, the Ocean Waves may Roll); The Prickilie Bush; The Keach in the Creel (Ricky too dum day), The Baffled Knight (Blow away the morning dew).


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: RTim
Date: 25 Nov 11 - 12:14 PM

The Three Ravens has a very good chorus.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Nov 11 - 01:38 PM

my son david, the swan swims so bonny.banks of fordie


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Nov 11 - 02:32 PM

"If you don't want people singing along, tell them so right up front"
You shouldn't have to - if you need to do it you imediately set up a barrier between yourself and your audience.
We've even had it on this forum "what make you so good that you don't want us to join in?"
Surely it is somple good manners to wait to be asked?
I agree totally with Suibhne - it seems to be soem sort of ego trip - actually encouraged in some clubs.
To me it is arrogant, bad mannered exhibitionism.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Mrs Wickham
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 05:45 AM

Martinmas Time has a fol de rol type chorus and a cracking story (even if it does all end happily ;-) )


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 06:03 AM

How about bringing some of them to the ballad forum with Paul & Liz Davenport on 3rd. December in Lewes discussed on this thread??

Valmai (Lewes)


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 06:20 AM

As someone who sings the odd ballad I've slowly come round to the idea that there is a distinctive difference between a 'chorus' and a 'refrain'. The former is there for the audience to join in with - but the latter is part of the structure of the ballad and punctuates the storyline and dictates the pace of the ballad. When the audience heartily and uncritically joins in with the refrain such participation can destroy the pace of the ballad and mask the storyline. I find myself wishing that the audience would shup up and let the ballad unfold at its own pace. This applies when I'm singing a ballad or when I'm listening to another performer.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Brian Peters
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 07:11 AM

True up to a point, Shimrod, but most singing audiences in my experience have the sensitivity not to pile into 'All Alone and Lonely' as if it were 'The Old Dun Cow'. Jim Carroll mentioned the hypnotic effect of the 'Lay the Bent to the Bonny Broom' version of Child 1 'Riddles', and that's exactly what I've found with that ballad.

If what the OP was looking for were songs to suit a determinedly hearty session of robust chorus-singing, then the ones to choose would be the comic ballads and the 'Golden Vanity' / 'Mermaid' type with a 'proper' chorus. However, a 'Cruel Mother' or a 'Cambric Shirt' might be just the thing to give the bellowing a rest and create something possibly more powerful.

It's also worth bearing in mind that many of those ballads exist in dozens of different versions, which can have quite different flavours. For instance, 'The Trooper and the Maid' (the one where the couple "jumped nimbly into the bed to see if it was easy") exists as a jolly romp - as sung by Eliza Carthy and very nicely by this gentleman - or the much more sombre version from Baring-Gould (via Roy Harris) that I've been singing for years now, which is absolutely gorgeous when a singing audience really gets into it.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 08:43 AM

Why do people join in? Could it be because it's folk music?


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Howard Jones
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 09:05 AM

Could be. Although the old traditional singers always seemed to show each other proper respect.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Greg B
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 09:06 AM

Not aimed at original poster, but at the other snarky respondents. If you don't want people joining in on folk music, sing in the bloody shower or all alone in your living room.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Anne Neilson
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 09:49 AM

I'm with Shimrod - up to a point - that there's a difference between a chorus and a refrain, and I appreciate Howard's comment about the old traditional singers showing each other 'proper respect'.

But I'd like to propose a further distinction within the category of refrains. It seems quite reasonable to me that an audience should join in (sympathetically, taking their lead from the performer's interpretation of pace, rhythm and dynamic) with what I'd call Third Person refrain lines, as in The Cruel Mother or Riddles etc. or Two Sisters.

However, I think there's probably a case for NOT joining in on refrains in such ballads as Son David or Lord Randal, where the refrain lines belong to the characters in the narrative -- and so are an important element in the whole interpretation of the narrative, according to the understanding of the singer.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 10:09 AM

Hi Greg,

Thank you for your sensitive and 'thoughtful' comment. Remind me not to sing a ballad with a refrain when you're in the audience!


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 11:09 AM

"If you don't want people joining in on folk music, sing in the bloody shower or all alone in your living room."
Bump - all solo singing banished forever in one fell swoop - wouldn't theis be called "folk-policing" if it was made by "a finger-in-the-ear purist?"
There is another type of arrognce with joining in - on choruses.
Walter Pardon (then approaching 70), was forced to give up singing0 two of his favourite songs in public because of insensitive audiences taking up the chorus at a different pace tht he had chosen; he described it as being like restarting the song at the beginning of each verse" - listen to what the bloody singer is doing!!!
I sometimes think some people come to clubs to listen to themselves - rather like Greg B judging by his arrogance
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Brian Peters
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 03:35 PM

Lay the Bent to the Bonny Broom.

Ballad, with refrain.

People joining in.

Not ruined (at least I don't think so).


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 04:48 PM

I would like to point out that my comment on choruses vs refrains was just meant as a point for discussion. Thanks to all contributors who have understood what I was trying to say and discussed the matter in a civilised manner without feeling the need to condemn me out of hand.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Brian Peters
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 06:28 PM

discussed the matter in a civilised manner without feeling the need to condemn me out of hand

Sorry Shimrod, my comment above was not intended to be combative as it might have looked, though it may have been shaped by the deteriorating temper of the thread in general. But personally I do think that refrains are there to be joined in with - sensitively.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 26 Nov 11 - 09:16 PM

If you want to hear Ballads with choruses (and refrains) with everybody joining in, some of the finest examples have been on a series of CDs from the Fife Singing Weekend, produced on the Autumn Harvest label by Pete Shepheard. To my mind, what it's all about.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 27 Nov 11 - 06:00 AM

Sorry, Brian - I wasn't referring to you in any way! Your comments are always highly civilised and worth reading and I always take your opinions seriously.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Max Johnson
Date: 27 Nov 11 - 09:06 AM

I agree about choruses and refrains. Very often, less is more.

However, let's be wary of looking for rules where, I suggest, there should be none. One of the interesting things about songs is that no two live renditions are exactly the same, and probably no two people in an audience are hearing and feeling exactly the same emotions when listening to it. Sometimes, they are clearly hearing an entirely different song, and they are going to react to it in different ways.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Greg B
Date: 27 Nov 11 - 06:51 PM

Sorry, Shimrod, but one of the inconvenient things about performing in front of or with an audience is they don't follow your rules.

Unless you want to perform at the Metropolitan Opera or some such thing.

If you choose to be a folk-musician realize that your audience is "folk" who think (oddly enough) that they own the music every bit as much as you do.

As I said... your living room, and your shower. Both places where you can be in total control.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: *Laura*
Date: 27 Nov 11 - 07:29 PM

Does it depends where you are - or do you just NEVER want people joining in unless you've invited them?

For me one of the best and most beautiful things about folk clubs and singarounds is the feeling of everyone singing together - we may take it for granted because we are used to it but that doesn't actually happen much.

We had a big party last year for a family member's birthday - and there was a big mixture of folky and non-folky friends there. Towards the end of the evening we ended up having a bit of a singaround, and everyone was joining in with chorus's and refrains (or not, if the songs didn't have them) - as is normal in all the folk clubs I ever go to - and the response from the 'non-folky' sector was pretty amazing. For WEEKS they were all going on about what an amazing experience it had been and how they'd never seen or been to anything like that before - where people were just all singing together in a room.

I love that - hence wanting to learn more songs that it's easier for people to join in with!!

Laura


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 27 Nov 11 - 10:08 PM

I submit that there's a difference between a performance and a sing.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Brian Peters
Date: 28 Nov 11 - 10:49 AM

I think Laura hits the nail on the head when she says:

For me one of the best and most beautiful things about folk clubs and singarounds is the feeling of everyone singing together

I remember a conversation years ago in the Topic Folk Club in Bradford, with a chap who was a self-confessed heavy metal fan, leather jacket, shoulder-length hair, etc. He was completely bowled over by the harmony singing in the club. "How do they do it? Do they practice? Is it like this every week?"

On the other hand I remember another conversation - again a long time ago - with the great Roy Harris who, at the time, had acquired a reputation as a singer of 'chorus songs'. What he said to me (I was interviewing him) was "There is no such thing as a 'chorus song' - there is a song, which might or might not have a chorus." He then went on to say how fed up he was getting with certain audiences who were so focussed on producing wonderful harmonies that they couldn't wait for each verse to finish, so that they could get on with the next chorus. I suspect that's why people like Shimrod and Jim Carroll are suggesting a degree of caution about singing along with ballads - in which you really want to be hearing the story. There many ballads without any refrain, in which a 'pin drop' atmosphere can be achieved, if you're lucky. But where the ballad – usually one of the older ones - does have a refrain (and like Shimrod, I distinguish 'refrain' from 'chorus', even though they are often used interchangeably), it's there for a reason. Deloney was writing in the late 16th century about a group of young women performing a ballad with two singing the song and the rest joining in with the 'burden' (i.e. refrain), and others have suggested that refrains were part of a tradition of singing and dancing the early ballads. I'm sure they were put there to be sung; and in a modern setting they tie in the audience with the performer, and with the ballad.

My experience is that most folk audiences are sensitive to the needs of the song, and pretty good at catching the mood. Only occasionally can I remember audience singing detracting from a particular song, and that's usually because the 'room' wants to slow the chorus down too much, or perhaps wants to sing its own version instead of your. I'd hate to think that ballads are such delicate creatures that they can't take a bit of joining-in.

Exhibit Z is the famous recording of Cyril Poacher singing 'Green Broom' at the Blaxhall Ship in the 1950s. There you have a magical ballad, full of drama and mystery, subverted and turned into a raucous pub sing-song by the addition of a repeat of the last two lines and the totally bizarre 'Hold the Wheel' line. Make of that what you will.

Anyway, Laura, I hope you've got a few practical ideas out from amidst all the argument!


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 28 Nov 11 - 12:20 PM

I was at a very chorusy, very shanty singing type festival recently, which included a ballad session on the programme. Fearing that the halyard raisers and the pints of foaming ale singers would swamp anything with a chorus, I deliberately chose two non-refrain ballads.

However everything with so much as a repeated last line was given the south Atlantic frozen sails, foaming sea spray and force ten gales treatment, with so much gusto that I thought the bows of our goodly ship were about to break and the sea come dashin' in.

Now this session showcased some very fine ballad singers, and one of them complained to me afterwards that she had been unable to sing the refrain line of one of her ballads as she wanted to because of the straightjacketing effect of the audience.

May I offer some conclusions?

1. Whether they have a chorus or no, ballads are not there to be treated like other forms of chorus song. They tell stories, often intensely human stories, about basic human emotions, and about people caught up in the cuelty of inexorable situations over which they have no control.

2. If you are in the habit of belting out the refrain of, say, the Cruel Mother, for all you are worth, then you cannot be aware of the meaning of the song. You cannot be attempting to comprehend the dilemma of someone who has been seduced and abandoned and left pregnant, to face the accusations and hostility of a highly puritanical and very unforgiving society. In other words you haven't listened.

3. No matter how heavy the ballad being sung, nobody would deny that a moderate contribution from the audience is perfectly in order. Equally, nobody would deny that both shanties and ballads occupy important places in our folk tradition. But if you enjoy lusty chorus singing, then please go find a lusty chorus session, and leave those of us who wish to enjoy ballads for what they are to our own devices.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Nov 11 - 12:24 PM

mind you if you are having trouble with your voice, it is great to have a break on the choruses.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Leadfingers
Date: 28 Nov 11 - 12:38 PM

Wetherr it is a Tunes session , or a Singaround , the most important thing for 'Participants' is to BLOODY WELL LISTEN !!!!


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 28 Nov 11 - 12:52 PM

It's one of the joys of ballad singing in session when you feed the other singers a chorus and then - pow - it begins to really take off and fill out, taking on a life of its own. You can feel the thing coming alive, living and breathing. There's nothing quite like it really. The same is true of any chorus song, but in a ballad it becomes especially poignant. My dream is sing Orfeo and for the chorus harmonies to come out like THIS...


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 28 Nov 11 - 01:27 PM

Please understand me, Greg, when I sought to make a distinction between between song choruses and ballad refrains I wasn't seeking to lay down any rules (remember that 'folk policemen' have no way of enforcing their rules - so aspiring to be a folk policeman is futile). Nevertheless, for almost all of the time during which I have been interested in folk music, I have been a member of clubs in which critical thinking has been central - and discussing such distinctions is as natural as breathing. You may think that such discussions are dull, or nerdy or silly or whatever but I beg to differ. I have usually found that people who are prepared to discuss such things (even though they may not agree with each other) often end up as better singers.


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Subject: RE: Chorus songs for ballad singers
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 06:11 AM

"mind you if you are having trouble with your voice, it is great to have a break on the choruses."

If you are having voice trouble, you would probably be wisest to stay away from anything which requires as much stamina and concentration as some of the really big ballads.


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