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M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4

Vic Smith 16 Dec 11 - 12:49 PM
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Subject: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Vic Smith
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 12:49 PM

http://a3.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/378838_10150414567726573_633846572_8847390_675441681_n.jpg

Vic Smith posts this then hurries to his bomb shelter before another battle in the Mudcat MacColl Wars breaks out.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 12:51 PM

thanks, vic, I will look forward to listening


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 03:59 PM

Sounds very interesting - but philosophically flawed - is there really a way that "folk song should be sung"?

I will ahve to try to remember to record it for detailed study.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 04:42 PM

I attended a weekend workshop run by Ewan and Peggy ... more years ago now than I care to remember. They presented an approach to the singing of folk songs based upon their knowledge of traditional song, voice production techniques, ideas about performance gained from Ewan's theatrical background, Peggy's ideas about accompaniment etc., etc., etc. I don't recall any "should" element.

I have to say, though, that it was all very interesting and stimulating and it was an important formative experience for me.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim McLean
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 05:08 PM

Did Martin ever sing in the Singers's club? In the early 60s I visited both the Troubadour and The Singers's club in the Pinder of Wakefield but I can't remember seeing Martin there.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 08:43 PM

I dont think he did


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 03:55 AM

"Did Martin ever sing in the Singers's club? "
Martin did sing at 'The Singers' - once, I think; he certainly was around occasionally in the Pindar of Wakefield days.
"philosophically flawed"
I hope he is not going to add to the myth and propose that anybody in the Critics Group suggested that there was a correct way that "folk song should be sung" - nobody ever did. The Group came into being when people on the scene asked MacColl to take classes.
He refused, and instead set up a self-help group to examine the technical and artistic problems of singing and the various ways to tackle them. It covered various wider areas - research, repertoire... even acting, but (wrongly, to my mind) never attempted to spread its influence outside the group, apart from encouraging the setting up of other self-help groups.
Shimrod's description of Ewan and Peggy's seminars more or less sums up the work covered by the group.
In my experience it covered ground-breaking aspects of singing and it's a great waste that none of the work was made more public so it could have been discussed honestly and perhaps borrowed from.
Though far from perfect, the work of the Group was useful for me as a singer for as long as I was a singer and many of the basic techniques that evolved still work forty years later, as rusty a singer as I now am.
For the record, recordings of several hundred group meetings are housed at The Charles Parker archive in Birmingham Central Library; digitised and open for public access - as far as I know.
As I probably won't get to listen to it here in Ireland I would very much appreciate a recording of the programme - will happily pass on the script of the talk I gave on the Group at the symposium to celebrate MacColl's 70th birthday in 1986.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: JohnH
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 04:53 AM

I used to go to the Pindar regularly and he was there fairly often unless my memory is failing at last!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Kevin Sheils
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 04:59 AM

I don't think we should read too much into the programme title. I guess the idea of the programme was proposed and someone in the production office was given a brief to come up with a title, which they did. It could be tongue in cheek as much as a suggestion.

I don't mean to suggest singing with tongue in cheek!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 05:42 AM

Thanks for the heads-up Vic. I hope we can avoid any wars at least before it's broadcast!

Will happily send you a recording Jim but might need a reminder nearer the date.

Pete.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 05:57 AM

Jim,

I don't quite understand your remark "when I was a singer". Do you no longer sing? or did you mean when you used to put on a performance in front of an audience?
I am NOT looking for an argument just clarification on a minor point.
Personally I never stop singing in or out of the bath.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 06:11 AM

Sorry Hoot - perhaps I should have said when I was singing publicly.
I am a firm advocate of not going in front of an audience without preparation - rubber duck excluded - though things on the up-and-up singing-wise here lately.
Thanks Burton - much appreciated and will remind you later.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 08:16 AM

Jim, I prefer to listen to radio 4 via the computer, via listen again, Iam assuming it will be available


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 08:23 AM

I wonder if they'll decide - gosh we did make a mistake! if only we'd been a bit more like Roger Whittaker or daniel O'Donnel - more people would have listened to our folksongs.

Aren't we silly asses....!

No I can't see it happening, either.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Kevin Sheils
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 09:00 AM

Dick

Yes it says on the blurb it'll be on the iPlayer for 7 days after each broadcast.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 09:19 AM

Dick
"Jim, I prefer to listen to radio 4..."
Thanks Dick; will be away from home and computer free (unless I can slip one into the luggage) - anyway, I tend to keep and archive such programmes (and have done so for decades-if anybody is ever looking for something specifically - feel free to ask) and I understand that you can't do download here with Beeb broadcasts.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 09:27 AM

Tues 3 Jan 11.30 am
Sat. 7 Jan   2.30 pm

repeated on BBC ipod for 7 days after each broadcast


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 10:08 AM

Most BBC IPlayer programmes are not downloadable. The best way to preserve them is by digitally recording them. There is a thread currently running on Mudcat about recording Iplayer programmes using a digital recorder. (Sorry, I can't recall the title, or the content.)

However, that is the way I do it. I simply run an audio cable from the computer's headphone socket to the line-in socket on the recorder, then copy the programme back to the computer and carry out any editing/amplifying that might be necessary.

I dare say somebody will object, on the grounds of loss of fidelity or whatever. But when it's just for archive/storage purposes, the sound quality will be more than adequate.

Anyway, I'm at a loss to understand what all the fuss has been about with the Critics Group. I was never a part of MacColl's circle, so I can't really offer an opinion. But it seems to me that all he and Peggy were doing was offering the folk equivalent of classical music master classes.

I don't know whether that made him guilty of authoritarianism. But imagine turning up at a Rostropovitch class and telling the master you were going to ignore his teaching completely and play all the great cello compositions the way you wanted to play them.

I suspect it would be quite a while before the surgeons were able to dig the instrument out of your anus.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 10:24 AM

thanks Kevin


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Vic Smith
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 10:26 AM

Owen Woodsen wrote:-
"I simply run an audio cable from the computer's headphone socket to the line-in socket on the recorder, then copy the programme back to the computer"


Just what I do - recording it in .wav format on my Zoom H4 recorder and if there is any loss of quality compared with a radio broadcast when I playback through my main sound system then these ears don't detect it.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: ChrisJBrady
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 12:32 PM

All audio broadcasts on BBC iPlayer are available for downloading via get_iplayer or RadioDownloader or other apps. of that ilk. You wont even need to use ExpatShield first.

They might then be uploaded to RadioArchive.cc


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 12:59 PM

Owen"
"the folk equivalent of classical music master classes. "
Not the case.
As I said, MacColl refused to take classes; instead he developed a workshop situation where every member was expected to participate in discussing each others' performances and attempting to assist by suggesting ways to improve the singing - in this way everybody benefitted from every sessions, whether it was you being worked on or not.
MacColl acted as chairman, summing up and pulling together the various suggestions of practical work, but to my knowledge he never taught (I have listened to all the available recordings, right back to the beginning of the Group, so I beilve this to have always been the case).
The evenings often ended with talks by MacColl on aspects arising out of the work, but, while usually being the most enjoyable parts of te evening, these were not classes.
Peggy took part only as a member of the group, though she did give classes on instrumental accompaniment to individuals, when requested.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: tonyteach1
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 01:38 PM

I went to the Bull and Mouth in the early 70s and spoke to the great man explaining that I had started classical singing lessons. He was quite amiable as we discussed differences in style. I enjoyed his ballad singing immensely and the marvellous nights he could remember all the words were fantastic. I did not and do not share his political views but enjoyed the peformances.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 02:01 PM

i-sound from Abbysmedia is excellent for £30 or so, it seems to create a "virtual" stereo mix which my PC does not have.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 02:59 PM

I thought this might turn tricky sooner or later but this took me by surprise:


"i-sound from Abbysmedia is excellent for £30 or so, it seems to create a "virtual" stereo mix which my PC does not have."

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 03:07 PM

Can I correct a couple of things from the programme publicity.
The Critics Group did not break up either because of MacColl's "autocracy", nor did it break up "acrimoniously", as is often claimed.
At the beginning of 1971 MacColl announced that he intended to concentrate on theatre work - his life-long interest.
He invited us all to either participate in setting up an agit-prop theatre group, or to become members of 'The London Singers Workshop' which had been established a few years earlier by Sandra Kerr. It was proposed that the Workshop be run by Terry Yarnell, in my opinion, the best singer from The Critics Group.
This was, in practical terms, the end of The Critics Group as a singing workshop.
The break-up was amicable - a theatre group was set up using a gym in Camden Town as a movement venue and The Union Tavern as a rehersal/performance venue.
As far as I know, the theatre group had no name, though 'Big Red Eye' was once mooted.
A year later the drama group broke up acrimoniously; we were not involved then so we have no details - we do know that MacColl had what was described as 'a breakdown' over the breakup.
London Singers Workshop lasted for 20 years as a working group, for a short period with the assistance of MacColl and Seeger, who came along to give suport and advice.
MacColl could occasionally be demanding to work with; personally there were some members of the C.G. I would have been far more reticent to express criticism of the work than I would Ewan, who I always found approachable.
I look back on my time spent with the Group as the most enjoyable and formative period of my life - as far as I'm concerned - my thanks to Ewan, wherever his ashes may be blowing.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 03:23 PM

Thanks Jim, I appreciate your input into the discussions about The Critics group and about Ewan.
I am really pleased that you are here to let us know what really happened.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Kevin Sheils
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 04:26 AM

Jim C sums up accurately from actual experience. Although I doubt if it will stop the inaccuracies circulating. Thanks for being here to add the facts when needed.

I'm inclined to agree with your view on TY, Jim.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 04:59 AM

Jim, a casual peek at The Critics Group in Wikipedia reveals:

In 1972 the principal performing members of the Critics Group broke away from MacColl's leadership and formed the left-wing theatre group Combine, which produced weekly events in an east London pub, the Knave of Clubs. They created songs, plays and other events in a similar manner to the Critics, culminating in the Vietnam Victory Show of April 1975 which celebrated the final liberation of Saigon.

Is this the theatre group to which you refer in your previous post, or is it a different set? Or (knowing Wikipedia), is the article flawed? Just curious. I went to Wiki to see who the members of the Group included - your name's there - and realised that I'd heard of some of them, but not others. Charles Parker I encountered at the BBC in my time there.

The article also mentions Christmas concerts at the New Merlins Cave in London - I pub I played jazz in regularly in the late 60s.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 05:30 AM

That's the Group Will - From memory John Faulkner, Sandra Kerr, Terry Yarnell, Donal Maguire, Mike Rosen, Ron Elliot... I seem to recall that Doc Rowe and Dolores Keane were involved for a time. Some of these were never CG members but had become involved via the Festival of Fools.
By the time they broke away, the Group had ceased to exist as a singing workshop and, as far as I knew, no longer used the name.
I think I listed a total of 50 coming and going CG members of the for my symposium talk; there was always a hard core of around a dozen people.
The Festival of Fools was one of the first ventures as a performing group - it was a 'Living Newspaper' (a format used by agit-prop theatres throughout Europe) consisting of songs and sketches written by MacColl based on newspaper cuttings collected throughout the year - mainly political. The first one was in 1965 (?) - opened on Boxing Night and ran for 12 performences each year - incredibly hard work, but very satisfying.
Pat and I were regulars at the Sunday afternoon jazz at The Cave - probably heard you there (you didn't used to be Bruce Turner, did you? - if so, send an autograph - one of my jazz heroes).
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 06:04 AM

Thanks for the confirmation, Jim. We must have bumped into each other at the Cave sometime! No, unfortunately, I never was Bruce Turner, or John Chilton either - but I did weekday evenings there now and then. Travelled on the Central Line from Queensway carrying a small amp and a guitar...


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 02:15 PM

I thought that Faulkner was a very good singer.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: MartinRyan
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 03:19 PM

Still is!

Regards


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Dec 11 - 04:12 AM

Was John Faulkener the guy playing guitar on stuff like North Sea Holes?

Whoever that was, i always liked that work.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Dec 11 - 02:53 AM

John Newsham New Zealand.

I heard Terry Yarnell sing at the Union Tavern in Feb 1973 and again at Peggy's 'new' Club in Highgate (?) in June/July 1990.

I think he is one of the best singers I have heard anywhere.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 22 Dec 11 - 03:33 AM

John Newsham - was that the answer to my question about who played the guitar, or was that you telling us who are?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Dec 11 - 06:56 AM

"I think he is one of the best singers I have heard anywhere. "
Me too - especially ballads.
"Was John Faulkener the guy playing guitar on stuff like North Sea Holes?"
Which recording - he and Sandra Kerr accompanied loads of songs - Fitzroy Coleman played guitar on Singing the Fishing and John, Sandra, Peggy and Jack Warshaw all did guitar accs on 'World of Ewan and Peggy' vol 2 which included North Sea Holes.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Dec 11 - 10:58 AM

well, it is all a matter of opinion, Jim are you able to provide any clips of Terry Yarnell.I only saw him do a live gig once, that was at Groombridge folk club about 1973, with a couple of other members of the critics group.
I remember booking Faulkner and Dolores Keane at a club i was running in the late seventies, I was very impressed by both of them
i would like to hear   more of Yarnell, as a result of your recommendation.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 22 Dec 11 - 11:47 AM

He might be heard here http://folkcatalogue.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/1966-the-critics-group-a-merry-progress-to-london/


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 22 Dec 11 - 12:09 PM

"The Lawyer's Lamentation for Charing Cross" from the above is brilliant - sung by Terry Yarnell.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Kevin Sheils
Date: 22 Dec 11 - 01:32 PM

Fare thee well old stump!

Excellent.

It was Terry's tracks on the 2 London LPs that stood out for me, although the rest is a close run thing.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: zozimus
Date: 22 Dec 11 - 02:23 PM

"North Sea Holes" recorded on the Critic Groups album "As we Were Sailing" lists Peggy Seeger and Sandra Kerr as guitarists and John Faulkner on mandolin, with Ewan on vocals.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 22 Dec 11 - 03:18 PM

From the depths of somewhere, I thought it was John Faulkner on a 12 string. But I get mixed up. I also remember being worried at the time of Suez whether we'd run out of oil paint for my paint by numbers kit. Luckily the oil shortage never bit that deep.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 23 Dec 11 - 11:28 AM

Nice to hear from Jim, I, too, enjoyed the Critics work & share his view of Bruce Turner, great with the Critics, Humph, Wally and the Jump Band as well.

RtS


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: TheSnail
Date: 28 Dec 11 - 03:11 PM

More and, possibly more contentous information about the prgramme here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b018wy4j


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Dec 11 - 03:27 PM

was it his intention to drag it into the mainstream?
The Spinners [1959 to 1989] were already doing this


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Kev Boyd
Date: 28 Dec 11 - 06:52 PM

I'm going to record the programme and post it on SoundCloud so anyone who misses it (or doesn't get to listen on iPlayer) can catch up at any time. And it'll be downloadable so - as is all the other Martin Carthy content (mostly radio programmes) I've posted previously. I'll post the ink here when it's sorted.

For what it's worth, I record directly from iPlayer using Audacity on my macbook. Audacity is free to download (Google it) and can also be used on PC and Linux. There's no need for external recorders or cables and it's simple to use. It is a bit 'clunky' if you're trying to clean up poor recordings or do anything other than fairly basic editing but for archiving recordings that are already half decent it's perfect.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,CJB
Date: 02 Jan 12 - 02:25 PM

How Folk Songs Should Be Sung - Martin Carthy

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b018wy4j

Immediately after the success of the BBC Radio Ballads, Ewan MacColl set about the Herculean task of trying to drag British folk music into mainstream culture. Frustrated by the dreary amateurishness of folk song performance, he decided to establish his own centre of excellence to professionalise the art. He called it "The Critics Group".

MacColl tutored select artists "to sing folk songs the way they should be sung" and to think about the origins of what they were singing. He introduced Stanislavski technique and Laban theory into folk performance and explored style, content and delivery.

BBC producer Charles Parker recorded these sessions to aid group analysis. 40 years on, the tapes have come to light. For the first time, a clear sound picture can be constructed of this influential group in action. Former group members Peggy Seeger, Sandra Kerr, Frankie Armstrong, Richard Snell, Brian Pearson and Phil Colclough recount six frantic years of rehearsing, performing and criticising each other. They recall the powerful hold that Ewan MacColl exerted which was eventually to lead to the collapse of the group in acrimony and blame.

Presenter Martin Carthy MBE, now an elder statesman of the British folk music scene, shared many of McColl's ambitions but didn't join the group himself. He listens to the recordings and assesses the legacy of MacColl's controversial experiment.

Producers: Genevieve Tudor and Chris Eldon Lee
A Culture Wise Production for BBC Radio 4.

Tue 3 Jan 201211:30 BBC Radio 4
Sat 7 Jan 201215:30 BBC Radio 4

and later on iPlayer


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 04:29 AM

For the record - Peggy Seeger summed up her/Ewan's/The Singers Club's/The Critics Group's "correct way to sing" here (sorry - don't know how to use the blue clicky - maybe Vic can give a lesson sometime - the last ones he gave me were extremely useful)
Jim Carroll

Click here

----------Link simplified and clicky added. JoeClone


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: autolycus
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 06:17 AM

Jim

1. Copy the url
2. Click on 'Make a link' at the foot of your post.
3. At the top of the resulting form pste the url.
4. On the same form, type in the words you want to use in your post to signify the limk
5. On the form, click where it says 'Make the link'.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 06:34 AM

It's just started and I was tickled to hear that the BBC thinks MC is "Martin McCarthy". (I'm not missing it because I'm recording it to listen to later.)

Richard


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 07:01 AM

Go!

l in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: ChrisJBrady
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 07:03 AM

Not a bad programme but it could have been longer and gone deeper into Ewan MacColl's influence on the folk scene of the time. More songs would have been good too. It would be good if the Parker tapes could be digitised and uploaded online perhaps to Archive.org


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 07:18 AM

Perhaps the BBC know something we don't, perhaps he changed his name to Carthy, why shouldn't he?.
his ancestors came from MAYO, McCarthy is the clan name, however names often got changed when people emigrated, it is hardly important


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 07:52 AM

If they went to East Kent, would the band be re-named "Mayo Sandwich"?

(Apologies to Bob Kenward, he does a sizeable skit about this notion)


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 11:09 AM

Seemed like a well balanced take on EM and them Critics - no less than one might expect from MC et al.

Crucial Critics? Dunno. Seemed an interesting little corner of our folk history - none the worse for that - but so much more can be explored and BBC Radio 4 is a great place to have it done

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 11:16 AM

Terrible programme. Granted it wasn't long enough to turn round in, which makes me wonder why the producers even decided to tell such an important element of the folk revival in such a short space of time.

One consequence of this brevity was that the whole thing presumed a knowledge of the British folk revival, and Radio 4 is a general listening station. What the non-folk folks who turned it on made of it, I just shudder to wonder.

But its problems weren't just to do with space. Throughout, there seemed to be a desire to put the cart before the horse; to highlight the supposed deficiencies in MacColl's working methods (and personality flaws), and then to attribute its failure to the same.

It would have made a far better programme had the BBC placed more emphasis on the positive aspects of the Critics Group, such as the fact that it produced so many first rate singers, the fact that it resulted in some very interesting LPs, and the fact that some remarkable songs came out of the Critics Group. Remember Grey October?

I'll grant you that the recorded excerpts of the Critics Group meetings seemed to show MacColl in fine dictatorial fettle, and I remember a statement of his. It was to the effect that democracy doesn't work in the arts. According to MacColl there has to be a tyrant. And anyone who has studied the attempts of soviet orchestras in the early days of the USSR, to operate as co-operatives, might well concur.

But that leaves me with two questions. One is how selective were those extracts? If we were to listen to the entire set of recordings, or even to a substantial sampling, might we not come up with a more balanced view of MacColl's working methods, and might we not find that he was more willing to operate on a working consensus than the soundclip about writing Vietnam songs suggested?

The second question is, if it takes a tyrant, as MacColl is reputed to have claimed, where in the early 1960s would you have found anyone who was more erudite or better qualified?

Last of all, why give the job of narrator to Martin Carthy? By his own admission he was never a member of the Critics, and to my knowledge, has never done any research into the group's history. I know Carthy, albeit slightly, and I have always found him an extremely likeable and pleasant person, certainly not someone I would expect to harbour grudges going back half a century. Yet he came over as someone with a gigantic King Edward potato welded firmly to his shoulder.

I can think of one person who would have done an excellent job even with the limited time, and better still if more had been available. And that person is Sandra Kerr.

BTW., if Carthy was saying that membership of the Critics was by invitation only, then I happen to know he is wrong. No less a personage than Frankie Armstrong rang MacColl up and asked if she could join.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 11:16 AM

I chuckled at Peggy's defensiveness. Only what one would expect of course, loyalty and all that jazz.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 12:07 PM

"It would have made a far better programme had the BBC placed more emphasis on the positive aspects of the Critics Group, such as the fact that it produced so many first rate singers, the fact that it resulted in some very interesting LPs, ..."

Yes, the Critics produced some fine records- London songs, Sea songs etc. The trouble is that critics outside of the Critics (if you get my meaning?) were, at the time, falling over themselves to slag them off as 'Ewan MacColl clones' etc. In fact they were nothing of the sort and were mainly highly talented individuals who turned in some excellent performances (and, in many cases, are still doing so).


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: matt milton
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 12:25 PM

"Yet he [Martin Carthy] came over as someone with a gigantic King Edward potato welded firmly to his shoulder."

I didn't get that impression at all.

I thought that all concerned were pretty fair-minded, given how overwhelmingly pompous MacColl (bless im) came across in those recordings.

The most critical things (towards the process and towards MacColl) in that programme were voiced by the participants. Not by Martin Carthy.

If you really wanted to claim that programme as being an inditement of MacColl's pedagogy, you could point to the way it concluded with Roberta Flack's cover of one of his love songs.

While it didn't overtly say so, it adeptly demonstrated that MacColl - ironically - was at his most populist and likeable when he wasn't being a try-hard manifesto-follower.

(Me, I always thought both MacColl and Peggy Seeger's sloganeering, political songs were terrible, godawful and clunky; whereas their simple, autobiographical stuff - songs about love and family - have at least some poetry in their souls)


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 01:01 PM

Matt Milton. "I didn't get that impression at all."

Probably a matter of opinion. What infuriated me was the way the programme went straight for the negative aspects of MacColl's character.

"given how overwhelmingly pompous MacColl (bless im) came across in those recordings"

The point I was questioning was how selective those excerpts were. I was never a member of the Critics but I can't imagine any group or organisation lasting five minutes if it had one memmber continually laying the law down like that.

"MacColl's pedagogy". I'm not sure I understand what you mean, but I'm at a loss to understand what The First Time and Roberta Flack were doing in a programme about the Critics Group.

"MacColl and Peggy Seeger's sloganeering, political songs were terrible, godawful and clunky". Here I do agree with you. I usually found MacColl's political songs to be far too dogmatic and table thumping, and much prefer most of the other stuff he wrote. But exceptions to the rule for me would include Brother Did You Weep, The Ballad of Tim Evans, The Parliamentary Polka and Legal-Illegal. However, MacColl was an established songwriter long before the Critics, and I was thinking more of songs which the other members wrote.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: matt milton
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 01:20 PM

The programme did give the impression that the Critics Group got more and more "critical" as it went on. Probably why it lasted as long as it did.

I rather got the impression that the Roberta Flack cover was there because it was an example of a song that was very different to the kind of songs the Critics Group were (allegedly) being encouraged to write.

I can't speak for the programme makers, but I'm guessing it was inserted into the programme to make the point that, despite a great deal of what he said and did, Ewan MacColl could actually write a decent love song when he wanted to. I think it's a shame he didn't write so simply more often.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 01:22 PM

It's a shame that some notable folkies have gone down the "politics" path. For me it ruins their appeal, and taints their work, even that which doesn't have a political slant. The other person I admire, but loathe his never ending political stance, is Billy Bragg.
It's allied in my mind with actors and singers who lend their name to political causes or parties. In so many cases they wouldn't be listened to, were it not for their celebrity gained in another arena.
Nor would the political party want to know them if it weren't for the fact that they hope a little of their glitz will rub off, and they might gain a few more votes.
It's a form of prostitution.
You don't want to knosw my political stance, why the fuck should I want to know yours?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 01:34 PM

Politics is linked to old songs because many of the old songs were kept alive the generations of working people passing them on within and beyond their own communities through good times an bad

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 01:36 PM

Sandra Kerr was a member of the Critics group, so Kerr doing the job is rather like having a policeman investigating police corruption, a f#####stupid idea, far better to have had someone like Roy Harris, or bob davenport or johnny handle or MtheGM, im sure bob davenport would have had some interesting things to say, particularly as he one tried to give Ewan a bunch of fives


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Acorn4
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 01:58 PM

Were other members of the group allowed to criticise EMac ? This wasn't really made clear in the programme.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 02:32 PM

m the gm he would have been good.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 03 Jan 12 - 05:18 PM

I agree very much that it would be good to hear more of the tapes, both to hear the kinds of criticism that were made and understand better than from the very small samples how dictatorial or democratic it was, and of course just to hear all that singing by all those excellent people.

Matt said
> I rather got the impression that the Roberta Flack cover was there because it was an example of a song that was very different to the kind of songs the Critics Group were (allegedly) being encouraged to write.<

Perhaps that was the reason. It certainly is very different, in that the format is the singer addressing his lover. A lot of modern pop songs also take the form of the singer addressing his or her present or past lover, with the word "you" coming up a lot, whereas it's much rarer in the tradition. The ballads are almost exclusively third person and/or dialogue. The lyrical songs describe experiences, but generally seem to be addressed to the audience, not to the lover.

Richard


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 04:33 AM

It's a shame that some notable folkies have gone down the "politics" path. [John MacKenzie]

That struck a chord with me as well, John. I'm not sure if my memory serves but, I believe Martin Carthy finished the programme by saying that MacColl had performed a service by reconnecting folk music to politics - or words to that effect. There's nothing that puts me off music more than an overt political message - though I can live with some satire and humour. When I heard the bit in the programme about the members of the Critics Group being told to go away and write a song about Vietnam "by next week", I felt disgusted. Not because I'm apolitical - far from it - but because, in essence, it was no different from Suffolk gentry telling their farm workers how to vote in the 1930s and 1940s (see "Akenfield" by Ronald Blythe).


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Acorn4
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 05:06 AM

Bill Bailey on Billy Bragg:-


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 05:06 AM

It seems clear that most "folk songs" are not overtly political. Songs about poaching often represent an act of resistance. Coal field balladry is something else again.

At the risk of repeating myself:

"Politics is linked to old songs because many of the old songs were kept alive the generations of working people passing them on within and beyond their own communities through good times an bad".

I don't think this was an act of resistance as such but they were not a function of middle or ruling class life. Sharp et al "saved" the songs from extinctinction and locked them up in CSH. McColl, and to be fair hundreds of others, directly or otherwise liberated the songs and endlessly made the point that they had survived for hundreds of years on the lips and in the minds of mostly agricultural working people.

We should celebrate Sharp et al, and we often do, but we should celebrate much more significantly an agricultural working class that had such a rich oral culture. And that is to some extent a political act.

I think

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Acorn4
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 05:07 AM

Put the clip on this time: Bill Bailey on Billy Bragg:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jo_9UgaxeJE


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 05:10 AM

Thanks for your good opinion, Dick.

I have a sort of formula, which I think is my own invention: if someone sez "Why weren't you at so·&·so's party?",

I reply, "Oh, I wouldn't go after the way he insulted me."

"How did he insult you?"

"He didn't invite me."

I fear that Radio 4 'insulted' me thus. But, I repeat, thanks for your good opinion!

Seriously, tho: Martin was an excellent choice IMO, & did a perfectly good job of anchoring what was, as has been mentioned by several as an opinion, rather a thin programme; but I wonder to what extent he was allowed to participate in the selections from the tapes, and whether he wrote or devised his own narration or was required to work from someone else's script. I think we should be told ~ but somehow doubt whether we shall.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 05:22 AM

"I think we should be told ~ but somehow doubt whether we shall."

Excellent stuff - lets cook up another bunch of conspiracy?

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 05:39 AM

Now, don't be roguish, Les. I only meant...

Oh, well, let it pass, let it pass!

~M~


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 05:44 AM

Les, it is not really comparing apples with apples when you say the tradition was carried on by "the working class"
Many of the traditional songs were 'handed down' orally, as many of the singers were illiterate. In the days when many of these songs originate, there was no middle class, there was only 'them' and 'us'
TV and even radio, are 'new' in historical terms, we didn't have a TV till I was 14, and that was 1956. So if income was the ruling factor, as to whether you had a radio, or a TV, then of course the lower your income, the longer it is till you have 'canned' entertainment in the house. So you have to continue making your own.
Ergo, the oral tradition was a working class 'thing' for economic rather than cultural reasons.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 06:03 AM

Fair enough Michael, I am just wary of us lot giving the BBC a hard time when all they did was make quite an interesting little 30 minute programme about a significant part of the Folk Revival.

Hi John, I don't think we are at odds here:

"the oral tradition was a working class 'thing' for economic rather than cultural reasons."

Economic indeed. Sharp et al targeted the rural working class for all kinds of reasons. They existed, before the Industrial Revolution, well below a smallish middle class of farm managers, clerics, traders, shop and property owners and so on. If we enjoy and sing their songs we are enjoying and singing the songs of the agricultural working class and probably sometimes the songs written for middle class entertainmnet.

MacColl and Lloyd and loads of others tried very hard to collect the songs of the Industrial working class with varied success. I guess they were looking historically at both groups.

Isn't the feature that unites most "folk songs" utility - they were created and sung for the joy of singing not for immediate finacial gain - although Broadside ballads certainly were.

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: BB
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 06:32 AM

"Sharp et al "saved" the songs from extinctinction and locked them up in CSH". Wherever did you get that idea from? They were never 'locked up' in CSH, but were published, in books, and in the FSS Journals, and were accessible through the VWM Library at CSH. Many of them were also still in existence in the mouths of the people who had always carried them - there were still many traditional performers around, certainly when MacColl's group was happening, as he and Peggy were aware.

On another point, I suspect that if Genevieve Tudor (of BBC Shropshire's Folk Show) were asked, she would be happy to explain the making of the programme, as she was instrumental in putting it on.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 06:33 AM

While I do think it is important that a singer of a folk song should think about its roots, I don't like the idea that there is a way that folk songs "should" be sung, I don't accept that the contemporary songs of MacColl are truly folk songs, and I'm buggered if I can see the relevance of Stanislavski technique or Laban theory to the singing of folk songs in that they are exemplars of artsy-fartsiness and thus the antithesis of folk arts.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: evansakes
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 06:53 AM

The programme was interesting from a historical point of view but was a bit of an eye-opener for me. Some of the autocratic sections may have been exaggerated but it made for awkward listening at times. The clips we heard from the meetings came across very much as tutorials. However the general intention to raise standards of performance was laudable.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Acorn4
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 07:09 AM

From what I could make out of the Stanislawski technique, it just meant getting inside a song and performing it as opposed to just singing the words which good singers of all kinds do anyway.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 07:23 AM

McColls recolections of the Ruen folk club in Greenock were a bit "Little Dorrit" for me. Yea it was in a disused shop with hotch potch of discarded tables and chairs ( I sat on one of those foldy down benches), and candles. Hells teeth I was fifteen on my visit and the rest were not much older, Jim McFadyen was seventeen and he was one of the people running it, a bit of a rebellious place with underage drinking by kids who were buzzing the Hunley in the holy loch in kayaks, I think McColl had never ruffed it, a middle class bore. Sticks in the craw to think he was pontificating to feral kids how to sing feral music. Has anyone thought that his failure to connect with this younger generation sent music the way of the Beatles, nah wasn't that important! (discuss.....bye!)


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Pete Jennings
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 07:42 AM

Interesting and informative thread, which happily hasn't descended into war.

Also, timely to see Jim Carroll mentioning "agit-prop" (17 Dec 11 - 03:07 PM). I've just written about this in an essay on Performance Art and for information there's an entry on Wikipedia and also on the Tate Gallery website here.

Also interesting to note the comments about teaching being ignored (Owen 17 Dec 11 - 10:08 AM): In 1960 the then student Allen Jones (went on to become quite successful...) was expelled from the Royal College of Art for being "too independant"! (biog).

This could be viewed as thread creep, I guess, but adds to the wider context IMO.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Brian Peters
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 07:51 AM

Having never met MaColl nor heard him sing live, I've always been torn between admiration for his enthusiasm for and wholehearted approach to traditional ballads, his radio projects, and at least a part of his output as a songwriter, and - on the other hand - a distaste for his (reputed) didacticism and the more theatrical aspects of his singing style. But I'm afraid that the piece of criticism he unleashes at 20'34" on the unnamed composer of an anti-Vietnam-War song (apparently not the Vietnam song spliced into the programme immediately beforehand) has pushed me several degrees towards the 'anti' camp.

"It's a bore... it's a bore because it's dishonest - this is the main thing." Uttered with staggering, deadpan, matter-of-fact arrogance. Whatever the quality of the song itself, presenting personal opinion as incontrovertible fact in that way is contemptible. I hope the songwriter punched him.

"You have to be absolutely clear," he pronounces grandly, "...that you are writing from the outside - that you're not pretending that you're there." Huh?? So what was he doing when he wrote 'Shoals of Herring' or 'The Iron Road'?

Glad I wasn't around to be a member of that set-up!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Howard Jones
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 08:04 AM

As it came across to me, McColl's purpose was not so much "how folk songs should be sung" as "how folk songs should be approached" - getting performers to think about the song, what layers of meaning they want to emphasise, and what style to adopt to achieve that. It's something a good performer does instinctively, the rest of us have to learn it, either by absorbing it from other performers or from a more intellectual approach. Stanislavsky and Laban are just formalised analyses of what good performers do instinctively.

The instinct in the folk world seems to be to shy away from anything which smacks of theatricality, as if it is somehow inauthentic. However the best of the traditional singers and musicians were undoubtedly performers, and used many of these techniques even though they had no formal training.

I found the programme very interesting. The Critics Group had already broken up by the time I got actively involved in folk music, but its presence was still felt. However this programme is the first time I've really understood what it was about, what it was for and what it was trying to achieve.

If the Critics Group itself was ultimately a failure, some of those involved with it had a significant impact on folk for many years to follow. It's a pity we don't seem to have a similar emphasis on performance these days - the situation described at the start of the programme which led to the group being formed could apply to many clubs today.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: greg stephens
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 08:06 AM

Ewan McColl was a pompous self-glorifying Stalinist control-freaking twat. Also a totally wonderful song-writer and singer. And an especially a totally genius radio programme maker.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: greg stephens
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 08:11 AM

To me the great thing about McColl is what he gets so often knocked for. He passionately and angrily believed that the folk songs he loved should be approached with thought and care and rehearsal. And he wasn't mealy-mouthed about telling other people so. Good for him!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 08:11 AM

That nails it down Greg.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 08:32 AM

Fair enough BB, I was being provocative - although I seemed to have failed to provoke.

Locking up is an extreme version of my position. I came to it on thinking about what are generally called the First and Second Folk Revival. I am not sure that the first one was much of a song revival where as the second one certainly was. Sharp collected songs and published some. He sort to pass them to a largely middle class audience via piano led performances and teacher training. I guess the latter led to some working class children learning versions of some old songs.

I guess it's wrong to critisise Sharp with the advantage of hindsight so I will call it an observation. Has the Second Revival returned folks songs to the working class? Probably not but loads and loads of songs were sung at loads of folk clubs and in that sense the Second Reival has been and continues to be more successful.

L in C#
PS Spot on Greg, as usual


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,AlanG at work
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 08:57 AM

Les

"He sort to pass them to a largely middle class audience via piano led performances and teacher training"

I don't think Sharp targetted any particular class. His aim was to preserve the songs and to make tham as widely available as possible. The fact that he used the popular musical arrangements of his day to do that doee not make it class concious.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 09:18 AM

Brian Peters,I was around and I chose to go elsewhere, it might possibly have been a mistake.
I did meet EWAN, Furthermore I did a support for them[himself and Peggy]weds 11 nov 1988, phoenix art leicester.
I found that they were a bit out of touch with the then English Folk Revival, however they did a great set and were very well received.
I had previously booked them at my folk club in Bury St Edmunds , they were both courteous and professional and did an excellent spot, although Peggy seemed intimidated by my concertina playing.
On the previous occasion I met Ewan[1968 FARNINGHAM FOLK CLUB] , I could have happily punched him in his Hampsteads.
However I think i could have learned a lot from Ewan if I had attended the group, from both the songwriting and singing perspectives, but I prpbably was not mature enough to take criticism in an objective way


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 10:00 AM

Good point Alan, I don't dissagree with your point, Sharp did what he did as the man he was and it was amazing. I think the point I am failing to make is that it didn't lead to much of a revival of songs whilst I think the Second, our Revival did so.

The reasons that the second was so much more effective than the first were more to do with whatever the 60s were, so to speak

Cheers
Les


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: ChrisJBrady
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 10:02 AM

Now on BBC iPlayer at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b018wy4j/How_Folk_Songs_Should_Be_Sung/

How Folk Songs Should Be Sung -

Immediately after the success of the BBC Radio Ballads, Ewan MacColl set about the Herculean task of trying to drag British folk music into mainstream culture. Frustrated by the dreary amateurishness of folk song performance, he decided to establish his own centre of excellence to professionalise the art. He called it "The Critics Group".

MacColl tutored select artists "to sing folk songs the way they should be sung" and to think about the origins of what they were singing. He introduced Stanislavski technique and Laban theory into folk performance and explored style, content and delivery.

BBC producer Charles Parker recorded these sessions to aid group analysis. 40 years on, the tapes have come to light. For the first time, a clear sound picture can be constructed of this influential group in action. Former group members Peggy Seeger, Sandra Kerr, Frankie Armstrong, Richard Snell, Brian Pearson and Phil Colclough recount six frantic years of rehearsing, performing and criticising each other. They recall the powerful hold that Ewan MacColl exerted which was eventually to lead to the collapse of the group in acrimony and blame.

Presenter Martin Carthy MBE, now an elder statesman of the British folk music scene, shared many of McColl's ambitions but didn't join the group himself. He listens to the recordings and assesses the legacy of MacColl's controversial experiment.

Producers: Genevieve Tudor and Chris Eldon Lee A Culture Wise Production for BBC Radio 4.

Broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 11:30AM Tue, 3 Jan 2012
Available until 12:02PM Tue, 10 Jan 2012
First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 11:30AM Tue, 3 Jan 2012
Duration 30 minutes

Can be listened to from the web page. Can be recorded using Audacity (with i/p as Stereo Mix). Can be downloaded using RadioDownloader.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Baz Bowdidge
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 10:09 AM

Rather than fun and enjoyment it sounded like a disciplinarian route march. This programme demonstrates farcical shades of Captain Mainwaring in Ewan McColl.
I used to drive to my parents glancing down Stanley Avenue, Beckenham thinking to say hello perhaps it's just as well I didn't.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Brian Peters
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 10:13 AM

"And he wasn't mealy-mouthed about telling other people so. Good for him!"

Agreed in principle, Greg, but there are ways of making constructive criticism that aren't as arrogant and offensive as the particular passage that I took exception to.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 10:38 AM

"Frustrated by the dreary amateurishness of folk song performance, he decided to establish his own centre of excellence to professionalise the art. He called it "The Critics Group"."

This in itself is an arrogant statement. It is both a value judgement, and a put down. There were then, and always have been, many excellent performers on the folk scene.
Ewan seemed to assume that if they weren't doing it his way, they were doing it wrongly!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 10:42 AM

I agree with whoever it was that said that the one truly glaring omission of the programme was the question "did the round-table criticism extend to Ewan's (and Peggy's) own material?". That's the screamingly obvious question the programme logically should have asked.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 10:57 AM

THE IMPORTANT REMARK BY SANDRA KERR, is that you could work at this stuff.
However it is also true that many of us were working at our material without going to the critics group, and have been doing so for many many years.
BUT THE STANDARD IN 1968[in my opinion] in folk clubs was much higher, you could not get on to do a floor spot a second time, if you forgot your words,nobody was allowed to read their words in front of an audience, most clubs were full with about 100 people.
so Martins comment about singers shambling on and forgetting verses, was not my experience, in fact I will contradict Martin, and say that this is more the case now in 2011 In singaround clubs, than it was in guest booking folk clubs in 1968,
but this doesnt alter the fact that the idea of working on material is a good idea whether it be 1968 or 2011.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 11:09 AM

I was going to folk clubs in 1966, I can remember performers like derek brimstone. johnny silvo. gerry lockran, ralph mctell,pete and marion grey, cyril tawney. wizz jones pete stanley these performers did not come on to stage shambling or forgetting their words, sorry, but Martin[in my opinion] is giving a false impression.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: janemick
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 12:08 PM

It would be illuminating to see a transcript of the tapes to get an idea of how selective the editing was. I agree with TwickFolk that the programme was interesting but made for uncomfortable listening at times. I cannot think that this group would have lasted as long as it did if EMcC had been as overbearing as this all the time.

but I also totally agree with you, Greg (Stephens). I dont think there is anything more toe-curlingly embarrassing than the "I-haven't-quite-learned-this-yet-but-I'll-give-it-a-go" approach to performing. I'm all for "thought and care and rehearsal" all the better to tell the story!

Jane


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: greg stephens
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 12:11 PM

Brian Peters: I said "good for him" because he was serious about folk. He was also a self-opinionated insufferable bully to a lot of people. It is inconvenient, but the world is not completely divided into goodies and baddies.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Brian Peters
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 12:36 PM

Not disagreeing with any of that, Greg. That 'serious about folk' bit is one of the things I respect about EMC.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: MartinRyan
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 12:39 PM

McColl's polarising effect, even after all these years, is quite striking.

Regards


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 12:51 PM

From the programme blurb. "He (MacColl) called it "The Critics Group".

He didn't. The name was coined by Charles Parker in response to the group's technique of mutual criticism and accepted via the consensus of the whole group. I'm not going to get off my backside at this time of night and check. However, I'm fairly sure that if the producers had bothered to check Ben Harker's biography of MacColl, or Set Into Song (Peter Cox's book on the radio ballads), they would have found the same confirmed.

I'm beginning to understand why this programme caused so many problems.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 01:19 PM

"The name was coined by Charles Parker"
Quite true - the group were doing a benefit concert for the Co-op and they needed a name in a hurry for the publicity - Charles pulled CG out of his head on the spot. Vitually all members later agreed that it was a rotten name that in no way described the group's work.
"Ewan seemed to assume that if they weren't doing it his way, they were doing it wrongly!"
Not the way he workeed or thought; it was an internal way of working for the group, not aimed at what was happening elsewhere - suggest you read (above) what Peggy had to say about the way Ewan worked and thought - and contradict her if you don't believe her.
It is true that standards in the revival were higher in the sixties than they are now, but I got thoughroughly sick of Alex Campbell and his clones telling audiences that their out-of-tune guitars were "near enough for folk song" - eventually the slogan caught on IMO, so much so that you can now read arguments on this forum that seeking to raise standards is detrimental to the club scene as they putt the lesser-talented off.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: ChrisJBrady
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 02:03 PM

Hello all and Happy New Year

I thought you might be interested to know that we have a large set of Ewan MacColl/Peggy Seeger collection tapes, including the Critics Group recordings, here at the British Library, donated by Ewan and Peggy back in 1983. They have been copied onto CDR and can be listened to onsite at the BL. They are not available online thus far. Go to the catalogue, do an advanced search on "C102 and critics group", then select tape from the format drop down menu. This will select all the tapes in the MacColl/Seeger Collection (C102) that relate to the Critics Group.

This link will take you directly to the advanced search page:

http://cadensa.bl.uk/uhtbin/cgisirsi/?ps=d9nn7EHE23/WORKS-FILE/35230354/38/30026/X/BLASTOFF

Thanks

Janet

Dr Janet Topp Fargion
Lead Curator, World and Traditional Music

The British Library
96 Euston Road
LONDON
NW1 2DB
http://www.bl.uk/wtm

T +44 (0) 20 7412 7427
F +44 (0) 20 7412 7441
janet.toppfargion@bl.uk


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: stallion
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 02:06 PM

the "guest" way back was me, cookie now reset


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: stallion
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 02:08 PM

What i find interesting is that most people wander about with headphones on or listen to radio et al, before the electronics did people sing or whistle all day long?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 02:11 PM

you can now read arguments on this forum that seeking to raise standards is detrimental to the club scene as they putt the lesser-talented off

Well, we've raised this spectre before, Jim, in one way or another. I don't believe that most people on this forum really believe that raising standards is detrimental. The argument, IMO, appears to revolve around how to encourage people to be better and more focused without being authoritarian.

One point which has been raised earlier by Dick is that, in the '60s, the standards in most folk clubs - by todays standards in some folk clubs - were very high. I can't recall, for example, anyone ever bringing in, much less using, music stands and folders in clubs in those days. It was a very competitive and crowded scene and, if you didn't shape up, you just didn't get a spot.

If my recollection is correct - and I stand humbled if not - then what and where were the poor standards that MacColl was aiming to raise? And by what standard did he judge? The programme didn't touch on this.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 02:22 PM

AND we never used microphones ;-)


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 03:08 PM

If my recollection is correct - and I stand humbled if not - then what and where were the poor standards that MacColl was aiming to raise? And by what standard did he judge? The programme didn't touch on this.
   an excellent point, I reckon he was trying to steer singers in a certain direction, his direction, now in some ways that was not a bad idea because he was a good singer and song writer,but it meant that right from the start the project was doomed, because the pupils grow up and want to fly in a different direction.
the point is that standards did not need to be raised , I mean can you imagine Derek Brimstone and ralph mctell and wizz jones,AND Gerry Lockran and John Foreman, and Ian Campbell shambling on stage and forgetting their words.
MacColl felt he could help ,other singers sing the way he wanted them to sing , to interpret British traditional songs his way., its not a bad starting point, but when the birds have learned to fly they have to fly their own way.
finally I must deal with Martins comment about political songs, yes its fine when we agree with the politics,and I agree with Ewans politics, but the majority of us do not feel its fine when the British National party try to hijack folk music., so its only ok when its the politics we agree with.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Vic Smith
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 03:16 PM

Will Fly* wrote
"I can't recall, for example, anyone ever bringing in, much less using, music stands and folders in clubs in those days."


... and nor can I and I must have been going regularly to folk clubs for over 15 years before I saw one. I was horrified the first time that I saw it and still consider it unacceptable. When new singers turn up at our club with their huge volume of song words - complete with stand - and sit and study them carefully - generally to the detriment of paying attention to other performers, I usually have a sharp comment for them such as "Have to come to read us a song?" and they go to the bottom of my list of people that I will give a floor spot to. Luckily, we usually have far more good floor performers than we have time for - even at one item each. The residents put their heads together at the interval and decide who will perform in the 2nd half. The criteria is always who we consider can perform best and offer variety to our paying audience. The only exception would be to ensure that newcomers get a go and also to put a good performer at the top of the list if we have left them out on a previous visit.

A few years ago we had a blind singer amongst our regular supporters. Unlike most people who came out the front to sing, he understandably stayed in his place and sang his unaccompanied song with bags of authentic style from his regular seat behind a table. One evening, I went up to him to thank him for singing and added that I found it remarkable that he knew so very many songs and never forgot a word. His sightless face broke into a huge grin as he pulled a sheet of braille out of pocket. He told me that he always used his braille song sheets under the table and that I had never noticed!

* The alter ego of Will Fly is Mike Ainscough. He is booked at our folk club in Lewes on January 26th in the company of Alan Day. Knowing Mike as I do, I now fully expect Mike to turn up on that evening and wave a book of song words in front of my face... the bugger!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Acorn4
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 03:28 PM

We had about 15 years out of the folk scene before returning and can confirm the observation that the music stands and word folders had appeared some time during that interval.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Vic Smith
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 04:03 PM

I am not sure about these statements about standards of performance being higher in the 1960s that they are now. In general, the younger generation of performers have blown away previous ones in terms of their musical instrumental standards. There are plenty of bad singers around now - but then there were plenty of bad singers in the 1960s.
What these earlier times did have was a sense of excitement, of innovation, of purpose that the scene has lost as it has matured. It has also lost that naivety that was part of its charm.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 05:15 PM

Vic, depends how you define bad, in the sixties they were not bad in one sense they did not need music stands and words so interaction with the audience was[IMO] better.
Is the music about high performance of technique instrumentally, no it is not, some of the high technique instrumentalists,sound on occasions jaded or bored and on occasions do not interact with an audience.
IF I listen to PADDY IN THE SMOKE I hear the sound of musicians enjoying them selves, What hear is I enthusiastic enjoyment of music making, i do not hear musicians who are doing yet another gig who are doing it because its their living and it has become just another gig, which can occasionally happen to every professional musician.
technique for technique sake is a cul de sac, good technique is useful only if it helps the performer express his musical,emotions better .
Ewan by introducng vocal exercises was attempting to enable the singer to be as best prepared ,so that they could do justice to the
song, it is not dissimiliar to professor alexander and his performing techniques


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Arcane Lag
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 07:24 PM

"I can't recall, for example, anyone ever bringing in, much less using, music stands and folders in clubs in those days."

The Coppers have brought music books for as long as I can remember


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: greg stephens
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 07:54 PM

The Coppers are the exception that proves the rule. I am appalled by the numbers of people who turn up in pubs with their collection of songwords downloaded off the internet that they bury their noses in. I reserve the right to make sarcastic comments. What kind of message are you giving out if you sit there saying"I can't even be bothered to try to learn one song"?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:04 AM

What about those who now have their words on their I-phones or whatever they are now called! I had a chap in front of me in a club recently who was continually perusing his Blackberry for the words of a song and when he got up to sing it was a two verse throwaway piece.
I never saw MacColl resorting to visual aids.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Acorn4
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:26 AM

I've actually seen a sea shanty done from a phone - hilarious!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:34 AM

When I was a kid going to church I sometimes closed my hymn book during a hymn, just to show off the fact that I'd sung those words to that tune so many times that I knew them both backwards. Now, my memory is good, but it's not superhuman, and most of the congregation at those services had been singing those same hymns for a lot longer than I had. At a conservative estimate, half the people there knew the hymns just as well as I did - and yet they still went through the motions of opening the book and finding the right page. I imagine this was partly in case they did forget a word, partly because it was what everyone else was doing, but mainly because they'd been doing it for so long that not doing it would seem snotty and ostentatious.

I think something similar is going on when the Coppers use their book. Put it another way, hands up everyone who thinks Bob Copper didn't know Thousands Or More by heart. Where the Coppers are concerned there's the part-singing element as well - from my limited experience it's much easier to get a harmony line right if you've got the dots in front of you.

What kind of message are you giving out if you sit there saying"I can't even be bothered to try to learn one song"?

I've seen some very good singers use words as a safety-net. Blanking in mid-song is horrific, and can strike unpredictably - back when I used to do covers, I once did Nick Drake's Which Will for a floor spot on the spur of the moment, and blanked between verse 1 and verse 2 (the entire song is eight lines long). There is some overlap between "good singer" and "has songsheet". But there's a much bigger overlap between "has song folder/notebook/ringbinder" and "bad singer".


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Leadfingers
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 04:15 AM

The standard of performance of BOOKED and paid artists has always been high since I started going to Song Clubs in the mid sixties .
However the same is NOT true of floor singers today . There are two clubs local to me that I have stopped going to entirely simply because the majority of the local singers seem incapable of learning a song without the words in front of them , and in many cases actually hold the words in front of them , so they are singing AT their bloody song book , not TO the audience


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 04:25 AM

There are quite a few folk clubs where this kind of 'performance' has simply become the norm. As I said on another thread, there are places where 'apologising in advance ("I only finished it this afternoon"), reading the words off a bit of paper, mumbling into your chest because you're concentrating on getting the chords right, forgetting the chords halfway through anyway (and so on) isn't just tolerated - it's actually welcomed: that's the kind of thing the regulars expect.' I think this is one reason why the big ballads are either frowned on or treated with a kind of wary respect ("how many verses was that?") - proposing to do Sir Patrick Spens unaided is seen as a bit arrogant and 'starry'. After all, most other people in the room couldn't do that...


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 04:29 AM

If I go to a club or a singaround or a session - which I do several times a week sometimes - I go in the expectation that (if I'm lucky) I'll be asked to perform anything between 1 and 3 numbers. So, a day or two before I go, I run through the same internal processes:

1. What's the style and character of the venue - and therefore...
2. What's appropriate to perform?
3. What numbers did I perform at that venue last time I was there?
4. What, more or less, will I do on this occasion?

Being a musical tart of many years standing, I have a large rep that I can call on fairly flexibly. Nevertheless, I'll run through 3 or 4 numbers that I know my audience won't have heard (for some time at least) and get those to a standard that I know I can do as perfectly as possible on the night. And I might change my mind at the last minute, depending on what's gone before.

If the worst happens - and very occasionally it does, and a line goes astray - I'll play through it until it comes or I get to a point where the words reappear. I never stop at verse 5, say, "Oh dear, I'll have to start again"! That way madness lies...

I'm happy to forget all that just for the sheer pleasure of waving a large folder in Vic's face on 26th, spending precious minutes assembling a music stand, leafing through the folder - dropping some pages as a I do so - finally choosing a song, tuning up interminably, starting off in the wrong key and then changing my mind, losing my place while performing, staring at the music and ignoring the audience meantime.

Now, if that's what MacColl was faced with, I can understand his forming the Critics Group in a bid to remedy the situation - but I don't remember this sort of thing all those years ago.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 04:46 AM

"A few years ago we had a blind singer amongst our regular supporters. Unlike most people who came out the front to sing, he understandably stayed in his place and sang his unaccompanied song with bags of authentic style from his regular seat behind a table. One evening, I went up to him to thank him for singing and added that I found it remarkable that he knew so very many songs and never forgot a word. His sightless face broke into a huge grin as he pulled a sheet of braille out of pocket. He told me that he always used his braille song sheets under the table and that I had never noticed!"

That's a great anecdote Vic.

But doesn't it really prove that any gripes about using lyric sheets are really purely aesthetic?

Greg said the Coppers are the exception that proves the rule. But John Kirkpatrick has a bulging lyrics folder which he uses live, as did Peggy Seeger when I saw her gig recently. Stands to reason - if you've got a huge repertoire (and if you're getting on a bit), you're going to need some reminders.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: greg stephens
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 05:19 AM

Because a few doddering old fools such as myself suffer occaional memory lapses does not justify every bright young thing singing all their songs off their mobile phones. Of course people can do what they like, but those of us who against ring-binder culture are merely pointing out it doesn't generally leads to good performances.
The Coppers(in reference to an earlier post) did not actually sing off sheet music, by the way. Or at least they didnt when I saw them. They had the words, not the dots.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Vic Smith
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 05:20 AM

I'm happy to forget all that just for the sheer pleasure of waving a large folder in Vic's face on 26th, spending precious minutes assembling a music stand, leafing through the folder - dropping some pages as a I do so - finally choosing a song, tuning up interminably, starting off in the wrong key and then changing my mind, losing my place while performing, staring at the music and ignoring the audience meantime.

Aaaaaaaaaaaargh! Why did I know this was coming?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 05:23 AM

John Kirkpatrick has a bulging lyrics folder which he uses live

Really? I've seen John on several occasions and the only paper I've spotted about him is a set list.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 05:33 AM

Well it was something he actually spoke about last time I saw him - specifically from the point of view of needing a few prompts on some material.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 05:33 AM

"I can understand his forming the Critics Group in a bid to remedy the situation"
I really do suggest that you re-visit some of the threads on this forum and look at some of the arguments on using crib sheets, expecting singers to have learned and remember the words and tunes before they are put before an audience, practicing in public........ and all the other aspects of running and attending folk clubs.
We recently had a singing week-end here with a number of visitors and guests from the UK - an extremely enjoyable event - with the exception of the concert at which I sat next to a well-known and accomplished UK singer who audibly joined in on every song that was sung, and if she didn't know the words she hummed the tune loudly.
I understand that it is now the case that a singer has to ask an audience not to join in if he/she wshes to 'sing solo' at many UK clubs nowadays - and then they are not guaranteed to be allowed to do so - is that true?
MacColl did not set up The Critics Group to remedy anything - he did so because a number of singers on the scene asked him to take classes.
One of my greatest criticisms of Ewan and the Group was that they took no part in the public debates that were happening in the 60s, 70s and 80s - whatever work they did, conclusions they reached or opinions they held on the folk scene were seldom discussed outside the meetings and club nights.
Matt
"as did Peggy Seeger when I saw her gig recently."
I assume you are referring to her folder of quotes, newspaper cuttings, anecdotes, bon mots.. etc which she now uses as part of her act.
In my 40-odd year association with Peggy and Ewan I never saw either use crib-sheets (with the possible exception of Ewan's 'Song of the Travels' to which he added a new verse each time the Singers Club moved venue and sang on the first night of the move)
We got a chance to leaf through her "bulging lyrics folder" at a recent concert she gave here - not a lyric in sight. I would be interested if anybody has actually seen her use a crib-sheet - she didn't during that evening, though she did pepper her performance with some hilarious and apposite quotes from her folder.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 05:44 AM

OK I raise you lot one: "Singer-songwriter" singing one of his own songs from a laptop, whilst playing a guitar.

Us old gits forget more than young ones but I have always forgotten words and I blame sheer idleness. It takes a lot longer to learn a song really well but the desire to be approved of by others drives many of us, more often blokes than women, to get up and sing when we should sit down and shut up. Not a catholic but confession is good for us all.

I have taken to writing first lines of verses on a piece of paper and sticking it somewhere. Is that OK?

Back to The Critics: McColl did thousands and thousands of things. Some were good some were not. In general those who don't make mistakes don't do much, so to speak.

Lets be thnkfull that we can still sit or stand in small rooms and sings songs because we like doing it and lets do it more often and a bit better than we did last time.

Cheers

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Vic Smith
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 05:58 AM

I'm pretty sure that the claims the John K. and Peggy S. use song sheets cannot be substantiated from the many times that I have seen both. With the high energy that John puts into his performance, it is doubtful that he would be still enough to read whilst performing.

As for the Coppers, well as has been pointed out that the book is part of the act - the fact that Bob's father Jim wrote the words of his songs down in an old ledger book and that was part of the the family's story. When I first heard them - nearly 50 years ago - they were using Jim's actial book. Later, they used photocopies of the original in see-through plastic sheets in a clip-file. In recent years, it has been the Copper Family song book designed and produced by Jon Dudley. Unlike the earlier versions, Jon's printed song book was the first to have the musical stave of each song noted, but, Matt, none of the Coppers can sight-read music.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 06:02 AM

I'm not trying to be picky, Les - or even a perfectionist. My point is that when you know in advance that you'll probably get just 2 numbers to perform in a venue, why not just concentrate really hard on getting those 2 absolutely right and perfected without recourse to paper? And, though you may go to a club, resist the temptation to get up and sing them if you don't have them down pat.

I don't think this is unreasonable - and the reason, IMO, that so many people perform in an unprepared way is that they're primarily thinking of themselves rather than their audience. There's nothing wrong with sitting down in a family circle or with a small group of friends, armed with a songbook, if it creates an entertaining and happy evening. I very often have friends round to play, and we get out chord books and bits of paper to play around with things that we've never done before. But playing in front of an audience - particularly one that's paid good money to be there - requires more than that.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Vic Smith
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 06:04 AM

One of the very many time when we had The Copper Family at our club, Bob was telling one of the many stories against himself. After the laughter died down, John said, "Well, I think that we will have Claudy Banks now."
"Oh! right." said Bob and he started staring intently down at the song book. I remember thinking, "Oh, yea, Bob, You don't know the words of Claudy Banks, do you?"


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 07:08 AM

"I'm pretty sure that the claims the John K. and Peggy S. use song sheets cannot be substantiated from the many times that I have seen both. With the high energy that John puts into his performance, it is doubtful that he would be still enough to read whilst performing."

Not suggesting either were literally reading from song sheets for every line of every song.

I am, however, stating as a point of empirical fact (as opposed to making any "claims"), that the former had lyrics at his feet (whether he actually consulted them or not I have no idea) and the latter had lyrics on a stand (which she glanced at occasionally) and on a piano's music stand.

I agree that if a singer is literally scrutinizing lines to the extent that they never even look up, it's not exactly a thrilling performance. But millions of guitarists have tiny sheets of "prompt words" tacked to the top of their acoustic guitars, and unless you're an audience member right up close in the front row you'd never notice.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 07:10 AM

Well I am now forgetting words of songs I have known for years, so I sometimes have the words on a chair or a table nearby, in case I get lost. I may glance down at them, but I would never have them up on a music stand in front of me. A music stand is for music anyway, not words. The clue's in the name.
Worst incident I saw at a singaround was at the Yacht Club in Broadstairs, when Tom and Barbara Brown were running the evening. A lady said that her son didn't want to come, but he had prerecorded her accompaniment. She then turned on a tape recorder, and sang along to the disembodied accompaniment of her son, in absentia.
I were gobsmacked I were!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 07:11 AM

MacColl did not set up The Critics Group to remedy anything - he did so because a number of singers on the scene asked him to take classes.

I don't doubt your words, Jim - I'm merely taking my cue from the BBC blurb about the programme:

Immediately after the success of the BBC Radio Ballads, Ewan MacColl set about the Herculean task of trying to drag British folk music into mainstream culture. Frustrated by the dreary amateurishness of folk song performance, he decided to establish his own centre of excellence to professionalise the art. He called it "The Critics Group".

The second sentence of the blurb seems slightly at variance with your view - that's all.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 07:20 AM

Will, I agree pretty well with your post about learning words Will, just hope I can make it. Some people have words on paper at our Singarounds and I don't really know what to say. Singarounds are basically - who ever comes through the door.

Just because the writers for the BBC said:

"MacColl set about the Herculean task of trying to drag British folk music into mainstream culture"

doesn't mean it's entirely true. Maybe it is? Sounds like a nice turn of phrase to me

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 07:36 AM

"I'm merely taking my cue from the BBC blurb about the programme:"
And it is (typically) ill-informed.
MacColl was approached by singers - Bob Davenport and Harry Boardman among them - to hold classes - he refused but organised a self-help group which eventually became known as The Critics Group.
I read through Harker's biography of MacColl and listed 4 pages of what I knew for certain to be factual errors
Early members were Bobby Campbell, Gordon McCulloch, Luke Kelly, Alasdair Clayre... got a full list somewhere.
"Not suggesting either were literally reading from song sheets "
And I'm saying that in Peggy's case they weren't song texts - I flicked through them - even asked her for a copy of them.
Would appreciate information as to how common joining in with the singer now is in the UK - and opinions thereon
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 07:48 AM

Vic: Unlike the earlier versions, Jon's printed song book was the first to have the musical stave of each song noted, but, Matt, none of the Coppers can sight-read music.

I'm confused. Who wrote the setting shown on this page & who did they write it for? I assumed it was out of The Book - & that they sang from the stave - but I guess not.

Would appreciate information as to how common joining in with the singer now is in the UK

At our local FC (not to be confused with Les's singaround) the problem is the opposite - people are there to be entertained (or else to wait for their turn), and you have to work to get a sound out of them, even on choruses. When John Kelly did "Shallow Brown" I think there were three of us joining in on the refrain - and it's not the most demanding refrain!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 07:55 AM

Would appreciate information as to how common joining in with the singer now is in the UK - and opinions thereon

As an occasional singer in clubs, I'm always happy for the audience to join in - if they know the words, which is sometimes highly unlikely, given the abstruse stuff I do! I've not seen or heard much evidence of thoughtless joining-in in the clubs that I frequent - audiences appear to be mostly tactful. If the performer indicates quite clearly that he/she wants audience participation, that's a different matter.

At the sessions I attend, it's understood that, unless the leader of a song or tune specifically wants to do a solo and says so, joining-in is the norm. At my own session, I always make sure newcomers understand this.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 07:58 AM

Some people have words on paper at our Singarounds and I don't really know what to say.

"Don't"? Realistically that's probably not the best idea. I was at Sale FC once where a performer was very gently chided (chidden?) for using words on a music stand; the result was a tirade about how Some of Us had Busy Lives and didn't have the Spare Time to Learn Songs All The Way Through, which lasted almost as long as the song eventually did. (I wouldn't have minded so much, but they were only doing "When a child is born", in the style of Johnny Mathis. Don't think I've been back to Sale since, oddly enough.)

It's one of those things that are bearable in moderation, perhaps. I don't mind the odd rustle of paper, as long as it doesn't become the norm, and as long as the people who do it don't rely on it excessively ("Lowlands, lowlands -" [pause, rustle] "- away").


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 08:03 AM

Perhaps this might clarify the setting up of the Group - from the expanded edition - p 296
Jim Carroll

"In 1964, an established Tyneside singer resident in London said, in the course of an interview, that Lloyd and MacColl should share the benefits of their enormous experience with all those newcomers on the scene who were anxious to improve themselves. After reading the article, I phoned Bert and suggested that it might be a good idea to start a discussion group. He was distinctly cool and refused to be involved. Peggy and I mentioned it to two or three friends and almost before we had realised what was happening we found ourselves taking part in a discus¬sion on the problems of the revival with several dozen young singers.
We had, previous to this, tutored several other singers singly. Our original intention in taking on the group was to describe some of our own experiences and to give warnings of the dangers and pitfalls which confront those who make singing folk-songs a full-time job. It didn't work out like that. Within a short time we found ourselves devoting one or two evenings each week to a group whose numbers fluctuated between twelve and twenty-five. It was a mutual-aid group where everyone gave a hand in solving each other's problems. For instance, at a number of meetings, a singer would sing a song with which she or he was having trouble with, or present a performance of a number of songs meant to represent a 'spot' at a folk club. Afterwards, the group would discuss and analyse what they had heard.
The objective of these sessions was to improve a singer's performance by seeking out the weak spots and then working to eliminate them. Since new problems were constantly arising, new techniques of dealing with them had to be developed and old techniques had to be adapted. We introduced the kind of voice exercises that had been taught in Theatre Workshop by Nelson Illingworth. We invented exercises based on Laban's effort-scales and we had exercises for relaxation and to improve articulation and the sense of pitch. These formed the basis of our purely physical work."


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: C Stuart Cook
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 08:12 AM

Amazed at how some threads develop. Everything from fractious, informative, thought provoking, untruthful and sometimes downright objectionable. This one has developed more than I thought it would given so many other threads re EM have covered the ground already.

The old crib sheet/words subject has been covered with before with the usual frayed conclusions.

I'm inclined to say that there has to be a number of dividing lines laid down. Paid guests/supporting artists/floorspots are one place where we can reasonably expect a much higher level of performance.

At a singaround we're all there to enjoy ourselves to whatever level of performance we can acheive. I'd emphasize enjoy there. Sometimes that doesn't seem to be an act that seems to be acceptable with some contributors. Everybodies contribution is valid. I know many songs fully. Not as many as once upon a time but enough to get by if I have to. I and others would get very fed up if I just repeated them all the time. Many people do exactly that of course. That becomes a natural (rude in my opinion) beer break in some circumstances.

Then again if I want to sing something that's topical because of that week's news, why shouldn't I, or anyone else, print it off and sing it, I just don't see a problem with it or why some see it as such a terrible act. I've seen any number of performers in "In Concert" programs on Sky Arts, Beeb 3 & 4, YouTube videos who have the music stand set up and ready.

To me it's like we're all footballers. It would be nice to be at Premier League level, but some of are only Non-league and even more are Sunday Morning Pub Team level. We all play the same game to whatever level we can and hopefully enjoy it, even if there are more miskicks and duff tackles at the lower level.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: RTim
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 10:25 AM

Pip Radish - asked:

>Vic: Unlike the earlier versions, Jon's printed song book was the first to have the musical >stave of each song noted, but, Matt, none of the Coppers can sight-read music.

>I'm confused. Who wrote the setting shown on this page & who did they write it for? I >assumed it was out of The Book - & that they sang from the stave - but I guess not.

The music was written by Dave & Caro Kettlewell - and Brasser's original book had no musical notations.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 10:30 AM

"To me it's like we're all footballers. It would be nice to be at Premier League level, but some of are only Non-league and even more are Sunday Morning Pub Team level. We all play the same game to whatever level we can and hopefully enjoy it, even if there are more miskicks and duff tackles at the lower leve"
but many have the potential to be better than they are, by availing of workshops such as the ones Lewes Saturday club run, or the Critics group, PERFORMERS can get better.
Incidentally many years ago about 1989 Ihad a conversation with Valmai Goodyear at the Saturday folk club in Lewes[ this was the club run by the Burglar Fred Baxter]I was expressing my views forcibly on the subject of folk clubs running workshops,I must say how pleased I am that shortly afterwards she instigated the Lewes Workshops


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: theleveller
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 11:39 AM

I just wonder if The Critics Group had been called The Singers' Workshop the whole perception might have been different.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Acorn4
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 11:46 AM

This link has just appeared on Genevieve Tudor's facebook page - thought it might be of interest.

http://www.downhomeradioshow.com/2008/08/martin-carthy-radio-programs/


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 11:48 AM

To me it's like we're all footballers. It would be nice to be at Premier League level, but some of are only Non-league and even more are Sunday Morning Pub Team level.

A comforting simile, one that brings to mind Lowreyesque images and such homespun wisdom as folk is a grey music, sung on grey days by grey people; and here there are no audiences, only participants... It's a cosy idyll for sure, but one that doesn't account for the underlying entrenched curmudeonly reality that so very often assumes that A) Everyone is just as good as everyone else, if not better, and B) What they are doing is somehow as good, if not better, than the Traditional Singers so very few of them have actually bothered to listen to, preferring revival product to the fossil record. Maybe this is like comparing punters in a Dinosaur Park to the paleontologists who've put it all together. After all the academic veneer of The Revival can be a tad off putting at times, especially to those who just want a good old blow over a few pints of a Friday night, as unaware of Roud Numbers as they are of the dodgy provenance of (say) The Blackleg Miner they've sourced off their favourite Steeleye Span LP, trusting that it's somehow The Real Thing. Thus is assuaged a craving for the OO-gauge authentic which at least looks real enough, like the bucolic scenes on food labels in ASDA, or ALDI, many of which (come to think of it) do resemble 70's folk album art...

Anyhoo, recently I fell in love with Jim Causely's version of Out With My Gun in the Morning on the Woodbine & Ivy album (which elsewhere I likened to an encounter between Martin Carthy and The Smiths overseen by The Divine Comedy on Craggy Island), a song I sort of knew (and sort of loved, as I sort of love all these things) from one of the VOTP CDs my sister-in-law bought for me at Fylde back in 2008. Today, the tune fell under my fingers during Fiddle Practise (basically an hour or so of Scales, Free Improvisation and picking up on anything that might happen by way of a song) &, not having the words, I give Mudcat a shot thinking it was a sure thing. I found but ONE mention - and that was buried in a Malcolm Douglas post from 2001 which linked to one of the crappy broadside scans on the the Bodlian website. A serendipitous result really. Over the next month the song will become part of my Unrecorded Repertoir of Traditional Folk Songs - i.e. the stuff I only sing in sessions and singarounds on account of a lingering superstition I have about recording (or not recording) certain folk songs, if only to enter into a more spiritual communion with the nature of the beast itself. Indeed, I have several cherished songs that are not only unrecorded, but (get this) unperformed; the stuff I reserve only for long solitary walks on long solitary beaches when I feel inclined to sing unaccompanied, much as nature intended. You can't do that with stuff you've recorded and performed - it belongs elsewhere.   

Once in a singaround I was severely irked when someone sang from a crib sheet a song I'd been living with for months & had planned to sing that night. So I sang it anyway - giving source and provenance and even the Roud Number just to show I'd been doing my homework, pointing out that the true FUN of FOLK is in the rooting around & that, after all, one only gets out of life what one puts in. Needless to say I didn't make any friends that night, but isn't that so often the way? Where there is no suffering, there is no art. And as Scott Walker says - in a world filled with friends, you lose your way...

S O'P (Old Christmas Eve: ill, cold, muttering in his sporran...)


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 12:06 PM

Jim Carroll wrote:
I read through Harker's biography of MacColl and listed 4 pages of what I knew for certain to be factual errors

It would be great if you could share that list with others Jim - how about posting it to this or a new thread?

Derek


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 12:17 PM

I remember at some point Ewan saying that singers should sing with passion. That has always stuck in my mind because it is the passionate singers who make the 'hairs stand up on the back of your neck'!

I do not believe that you can convey either passion or conviction if you've got your nose stuck in a ring-binder or note book. And if you're reading the same songs, from the same bits of paper, week after week after week you're obviously not making any sort of effort and I don't see why I should have to listen to you! Expect me to go to the bar or the gents (whichever is most urgent) when you're on.

Not all singers can be great ones - but I do like to see people making an effort.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Vic Smith
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 12:35 PM

Unpleasant and unnecessary to have put a perjorative descriptive word before the name of the late Fred Baxter. I could put an equally damning word before the name of the person who wrote it from what I know about him, but good taste and consideration for that individual would prevent me from doing so.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 12:42 PM

THREAD DRIFT ALERT
Suibhne - the source for the version of "Out With My Gun" on the Woodbine and Ivy Band album is the Musical Traditions CD "A Story to Tell: Keith Summers in Suffolk 1972-79" where it's sung by Jimmy Knights.

Now I like my jovial country life
Happy at home with my home and wife.
Some people are rich but I envy none
I'm rich enough with my dog and gun.
Early in the morning I leave my home
That is the time in the fields to roam.
Down in the valley my house you'll see
Folks say it's small but it just suits me.

Chorus:
Then I like my wife, my pipe and my glass
Gaily along life's road do I pass.
Jolly and free it just suits me
And out with my gun in the morning.

Oh I'd lie in bed when the lark sings high
up in the blue and cloudy sky.
Gay as a bird to the fields I go
Back I'll return with the sunset glow.
My dear little wife as she crossed the stile
She welcomed me home with a loving smile.
Perhaps other women would fairer be
But she is my own and she just suits me.

Then I like my wife ...

Now the winter may come and the winds may blow
Safe at home from frost and snow.
By my fireside with my wife I'll sing
I would not change with a crowned king.
Happy am I in my little cot
Contented I'll be with my humble lot.
Some people may sneer at my low degree
They say I'm poor, but it just suits me.

Then I like my wife ...

The sleevenotes contain a brief exchange between Jimmy and Keith Summers:

JK: "Did I tell you where I got it from?"
KS: "No. Who from?"
JK: "Charlie Baldry!"
KS: "Did you?"
JK: "I did."
KS: "Is that one you learnt off him?"
JK: "No. The old man writ that out for me."
KS: "Did he?"
JK: "Yes, when they lived in Bredfield."
KS: "Yeah? And how old would he have been?"
JK: "Oh, he was bloody near eighty when he writ that out."
KS: "Was he?"
JK: "Poor old bugger used to stand up and try to sing it. Laughs." Everybody wanted him to sing it, you know. And a ... he didn't write it out. His daughter did for me."
KS: "He didn't live in Melton then?"
JK: "No. Old Charlie? You didn't know him?"
KS: "No."
JK: "No. Blast you wouldn't know him boy. He was dead before you was bloody well born. Yes."

Apart from Alfred Williams' inclusion in his MS of this song from a Mrs Phillips of Burton, Wiltshire, the only other singers cited by Roud are Charlie Baldry's son Jim, and Jimmy Knights! And the only broadside listed is that in the G R Axon Collection, Chetham's Library, Manchester - so this is a very rare song.

Now back to Ewan McColl.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 01:19 PM

Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Vic Smith - PM
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 12:35 PM

Unpleasant and unnecessary to have put a perjorative descriptive word before the name of the late Fred Baxter. I could put an equally damning word before the name of the person who wrote it from what I know about him, but good taste and consideration for that individual would prevent me from doing so."
Vic, it was not meant to be unpleasant, as far as I was concerned Fred was a very pleasant bloke, I understood he had been convicted of burglary, so I thought I was merely being factual, if I have my facts wrong I apologise to Fred,I thought Fred was a bit of a character a sort of lovable chap as a matter of fact, I do not see it as a pejorative word, as far as I am concerned THE banks are bigger criminals.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Vic Smith
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 01:46 PM

It is too late to apologise to Fred, he died a long time ago. Just ask yourself why didn't you just call him "Fred Baxter".

You say that you were just being factual. Ask yourself if there are facts about yourself that you would like disclosed on a public forum.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,raymond greenoaken
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 01:50 PM

Couple of points. Don't know whether to post them here or on the other thread, but I dare say you're all following both.

For me E MacC didn't really come across on those recordings as particularly arrogant or bullying, just a man expressing his opinions frankly in a situation where such frankness was apparently encouraged. We tend to forget that Ewan's relationship with the Group was inevitably master and pupil. He was a middle aged bloke with vast knowledge of the subject under scrutiny, whereas the Group were (mostly) young people who knew a lot less. In the circumstances he had a responsibility to be both critical and forthright, otherwise what's the point? Everyone will have perceived him as Pontifex Maximus whether or not he consciously assumed that role. As a Uni lecturer I'm frequently reduced to despair at the reluctance of students to offer criticism in workshop situations; their default setting — admirable in other situations — is to try and find positive aspects of what they see and hear from their peers. Calling someone's piece of work "dishonest" or "a bore" would be unthinkable, even when it's true. The Critics Group was clearly not run on an "everyone gets a prize" basis, and I suspect everyone accepted and respected that.

And writing a song about Vietnam for next week's meeting sounds like a pretty sensible exercise given the temper of the times. Was there anyone in the Group who hadn't exercised their minds on that subject? I suspect not.

Grasshopping to another matter entirely — though well within this thread's remit — I want to break a lance for the ringbinder tendency. Agreed that singing from a text is ubiquitous nowadays, but to suggest that in the Rare Old Times only the Coppers ever sang with a book in their hands simply doesn't chime with my club-going experience of forty years. It was never commonplace, but it often happened, and some singers were known for it and nobody, as far as I can recall, batted an eyelid. What changed is that the folk movement grew collectively old, and many singers found that they simply couldn't retain words as they had done in the past. In the circumstances, having the words in front of you is an eminently sensible arrangement. Nor do I agree that you can't sing with passion if you're reading from a text. On the contrary, not having to worry about remembering the words enables you to focus more keenly on the emotional content of your material. I suspect the reason many ringbinder singers sound sapless and unengaged is that they are basically indifferent singers, and learning the words would have little effect on their ability to inhabit a song. What they probably need is Ewan MacColl breathing fire into their ear.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 01:58 PM

Details have been changed in this post to avoid identifying the guilty.

The biggest danger of the "we have standards" brigade is vividly borne out by a singer and player married couple of my acquaintance. Her singing is at best average and his playing is often wholly unacceptable (particularly when he joins in with others and forces them to change key(!)) - but he is incomprehensibly convinced of his own great merit, and indeed sometimes posts here to play that up. He is also judgemental and critical of others.

If the "standards" approach prevails he will be handed a weapon to go around saying "You are not good enough, get thee hence" to others in fact better than him - and he will do it. Most amateur performers are quite sensitive to that sort of criticism and even if they are pretty damned good will be driven away by that sort of thing.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,MikeofNorthumbria(off base
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 02:06 PM

Earlier in this thread, Jim Carroll wrote:

>>It is true that standards in the revival were higher in the sixties than they are now, but I got thoughroughly [sic] sick of Alex Campbell and his clones telling audiences that their out-of-tune guitars were "near enough for folk song"<<

Well Jim, during the early 1960s I hung out with Alex quite a lot. I only heard him use that phrase a few times, and on those occasions it was quite clearly meant as a JOKE. You know … as in satire … irony … all that kind of stuff …

Moreover, I don't ever remember Alex performing with his guitar significantly out of tune. (Though of course, as all working guitarists know, no guitar is ever perfectly in tune - for further information, see numerous Mudcat threads on the structural limitations of fretted instruments, the defects of the equally tempered scale, etc, etc.)   

And finally (for now) I'd like to add that although Alex, like most of us, had his off days, at his best he was a superb performer of traditional and contemporary songs, a matchless communicator to audiences of all kinds, and a tireless and unselfish publicist for artists who were less well-know than himself.

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 02:18 PM

Alex, like most of us, had his off days, at his best he was a superb performer of traditional and contemporary songs, a matchless communicator to audiences of all kinds, and a tireless and unselfish publicist for artists who were less well-know than himself.

That's absolutely right. I encountered Alex on more than one occasion at northern clubs in the mid-60s, and found him to be irascible, charming, slightly drunk, garrulous, wonderful company, impish and utterly himself. Would that there were more of his ilk around today.

And I really enjoyed playing his J-200...


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 02:35 PM

Thanks Mike, those were almost exactly my thoughts on the subject. It was ALWAYS said as a joke as far as I saw.
Many folk singers have clichés that they utter, all too often in some cases.
Many singers seem to do exactly the same set every time too. Some can get away with it, and some can't. It's a matter of charisma, or lack thereof, in most cases.
There was a time when I could have reeled off every one of a late lamented artiste's wisecracks, but he got away with it, because he was good.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:09 PM

My abiding memory of Alex was watching him chucking up over the front row of a club audience in Manchester - sorry.
In the mid sixties MacColl and Lloyd organised a forum in Soho, central London, at a pub called The John Snow - the speakers were Bert Lloyd, Bob Davenport and Alex Campbell - the meeting was chaired by Ewan.
Lloyd's contibution was somewhat lightweight and acedemic; Davenport's was aimed at proving that all 'art' (unless it was written with a small 'a') was "Bourgeois" and Campbell whinged incessently about singers new to the scene being paid the same fee as him for club bookings.
Davenport managed to reduce the meeting to what sounds like a fist-fight when he described Jeannie Robertson as "a terrible singer".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: TheSnail
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:13 PM

GUEST,raymond greenoaken

Agreed that singing from a text is ubiquitous nowadays

Enough already!

I agree nothing of the sort. Where does this happen? I know of one couple, in their seventies, who have an unobtrusive notebook that they hold at waist level and glance at occasionally to jog their memory. It is barely noticeable to the audience. I know of another couple (shall we say, late middle age) who do set up a music stand with words and music. I wish they didn't but they are clearly driven by a desire to get it right, not because they can't be arsed to learn it. Sometimes, when playing in an instrumental harmony group, I have the score on a music stand at low level as a safety net.

That's it. "Singing from a text" may be prevalent in some areas, but ubiquitous it ain't.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:14 PM

Confession: I have used the line "close enough for folk" as a heckle, to wind up friends who were taking their time tuning up on stage. (That Martin McCarthy bloke has a lot to answer for.) But I only ever said it to people I thought would take it in good part - I'd never have said it if I thought it would actually encourage people to play without tuning up.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:49 PM

It's Jimmy Knights on the VOTP CD, Spleen, albeit without the dialogue. Different recording perhaps? Or another example of the editing that marrs so much of the VOTP series. Anyhoo - the exciting thing is that if you follow the old link posted up by Malcolm Green back in 2001 (see HERE) you get a shitty scan of a very exciting broadside that was printed by T. Pearson in Manchester between 1850-1899, 4 - 6 Chadderton Street, off Oldham Road. I was thinking of suggesting a pilgrimage out that way but having just visited it using Google Maps it doesn't look too inviting these days. Did it ever? No matter - I've been singing the song all afternoon & it's like being out there in the bucolic idyll it celebrates; a mythic realm as real as ASDA labels & 70s folk album covers, or broadside vignettes - like the one here of a chap out hunting with his gun. Whilst the gun is unambiguous, his dog looks more like a giant cockroach...

Epiphany tomorrow; how apt...


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Brian Peters
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:53 PM

"For me E MacC didn't really come across on those recordings as particularly arrogant or bullying, just a man expressing his opinions frankly in a situation where such frankness was apparently encouraged."

Well, Raymond, I've just listened to that section again, and got angry again. Nothing wrong with frank opinions or criticism - Harry Boardman used to offer plenty of both in days of yore, and I never got angry with him. It's the aloof and dessicated certainty with which EMC pronounces some poor sod's song 'dishonest' that I can't stand. Whatever happened to 'IMO'? I'm reminded of an infamous workshop in which a virtuoso player of a particular specialist instrument (to say which would give it away) reduced a female participant to tears by telling her rudely that the instrument she'd brought along (and no doubt spent much-needed cash on) was a pile of crap. That and the MacColl passage are plain rude.

And of course what he says at this point is utter bollocks anyway. "You're trying to get us to accept the fact that you are a Vietnamese..." Really?? Was there a funny accent, make-up or perhaps a bandanna and set of jungle fatigues involved in the attempted deception?

MacColl states baldly the nonsense that writing a song from another person's point of view is "dishonest" and "a hoax". Dear me, all the times I've heard singers in folk clubs earnestly pretending that they actually are Sam Hall, Jock Stewart or William Hollander! Sounds to me like he is making up the law off the cuff just to put an inferior in their place.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 04:18 PM

(Post not related to main thread)

SA

The scan isn't that bad; the words are clearly readable and make better (or at least different) sense in some places than the version above. Here's my transcript.

Mick




OUT WITH MY GUN IN THE MORNING

I live a jovial country life
Happy am I with my home and wife,
Some men are richer, I envy none,
I'm rich enough with my dog and my gun;
Early in the morning I leave my home,
That is the time in the fields to roam,
Down in the valley my house you will see,
Folks say it's small but it just suits me.

I love my wife, my pipe, and my glass,
Gaily along life's road do I pass;
Jolly and free, it just suits me,
Out with my gun in the morning.

Who'd lie in bed when the lark sings high:
Up in the blue and cloudless sky,
Gay as the birds to the fields I go,
Back I return to the sunset's glow.
My dear little wife, as I cross the stile,
Welcomes me home with a loving smile,
Perhaps other women may fairer be,
But she's my own, and she just suits me

Winter may come, and the winds may blow,
Safe in my home, from the frost and snow,
By my fireside with my wife I sing,
I wouldn't change with a crowned King,
Happy an I, in my little cot,
Contented I be with my humble cot,
Fols may sneer at my law degree,
People call it poor, but it just suits me.


Source: Broadside: "I Have No Mother Now", printed by T.Pearson, Machine Printer, 4 and 6, Chadderton Street, Oldham Road, Manchester


MCP Notes: last verse line 6 last word should probably be lot
                      line 7 first word should probably be Folks


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 04:19 PM

The Chethams Axon scans are so much nicer; contrast & compare (and yes, it's a dog, not a cockroach...)

http://www.chethams.org.uk/axon_ballads/104.htm


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 04:27 PM

Two dogs indeed!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 04:27 PM

Having read Jim Carroll' remarks about Alex Campbell and seeing the response from Mike, Will and John I must agree with them. I don't know how many times you saw him Jim and I wouldn't try to excuse the incident that you witnessed, but there was a period in the sixties when he was regularly on at the Ballads & Blues Club on alternate week-ends. Alex to my mind was an entertainer,singer and raconteur and always managed to get a good turn out. I saw him for a number of years from when he first came back from France with a young Joe Locker. The "near enough for folk" comment has always been used light heartedly. Surely you have been around long enough to know that
I was a regular at the B & B from 1957 at the Princess Louise until it finished in 1965 at the King of Corsica and so am quite aware of the way Ewan did things and mostly had the feeling that he was a little remote from many in his audience and often quite humourless.
Exactly opposite to Alex. One evening at the King & Queen at Paddington Green Ewan was far from pleased when Alex told a farting joke and he was even more pissed off when Eric Winter followed up with his joke about the man who was always scratching his testicles.
Needless to say the audience enjoyed both.
Neither Alex or Ewan were perfect, and who is? but I believe Alex was probably responsible for bringing more people into this music than Ewan.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 04:57 PM

"My abiding memory of Alex was watching him chucking up over the front row of a club audience in Manchester - sorry."
yes, well he wasnt the only one, Margaret Barry[ TradSinger] did it also, in the Marquis of Clanricade club.
Another well known singer, an icon of the scene, and still performing puked up in someones bed in Nottingham, and just turned the mattress over.
I saw Alex Campbell about 1974, he was superb, absolutely hilarious.
I doubt if he was booked Very often by Vic Smith.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 05:04 PM

(Post not related to main thread

SA

You're right - that's a much better copy! (I'd forgotten about that site; I still haven't copied all my bookmarks from my XP machine to my Linux one).

Mudcat was having problems when I posted and one correction I thought I'd got in time was missed; penultimate line was meant to have low degree; while holders of law degrees may have been sneered at, that wasn't the writer's intent.

Mick


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,raymond greenoaken
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 05:08 PM

>Well, Raymond, I've just listened to that section again, and got angry again. Nothing wrong with frank opinions or criticism - Harry Boardman used to offer plenty of both in days of yore, and I never got angry with him. It's the aloof and dessicated certainty with which EMC pronounces some poor sod's song 'dishonest' that I can't stand. Whatever happened to 'IMO'?<

Would there really have been a need during a Critics Group cut and thrust session to presage every vinegary utterance with "in my opinion"? I suspect they were used to opinions bluntly expressed.

> That and the MacColl passage are plain rude.<

This is a cabal of Marxist class warriors we're talking about, not a bunch of dainty milksops who wouldn't say boo to a goose.

>And of course what he says at this point is utter bollocks anyway.<

Did you forget your "IMO"? Play the game now...

> "You're trying to get us to accept the fact that you are a Vietnamese..." Really?? Was there a funny accent, make-up or perhaps a bandanna and set of jungle fatigues involved in the attempted deception?<

I'd love to think so...

>MacColl states baldly the nonsense that writing a song from another person's point of view is "dishonest" and "a hoax". Dear me, all the times I've heard singers in folk clubs earnestly pretending that they actually are Sam Hall, Jock Stewart or William Hollander! Sounds to me like he is making up the law off the cuff just to put an inferior in their place.<

Maybe it wasn't the principle he was deriding, but just this particular example of it? I can't help feeling that if the Critics Group was no more than a MacColl power trip to assert himself over everyone else present, it would have ended five years before it did. Who's to say the aspiring songwriter didn't go away and write a far better song as a result of Ewan's critique? Sure, he was an ideologue, and we have the benefit of forty years hindsight to debate whether his insights were valuable or mere bollocks. My verdict? A bit of both.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Acorn4
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 05:43 PM

"Writing a song from another person's point of view is dishonest" - if you've got to, in a sense, get in role to sing a song, isn't it possible to write from someone else's point of view - this could almost be a separate thread.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Stuart Reed
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 05:52 PM

Will Fly wrote: There's nothing that puts me off music more than an overt political message...

Although we have never discussed politics, knowing you as I do Will, I suspect that we share a broadly similar world view but I think you are being dogmatic here. There is a tide in the affairs of men etc. and a time too, when dissenting voices must be heard - including those of musicians.

This has an honourable tradition in Britain, exemplified by venerable examples such as The World Turned Upside Down and The Diggers' Song from the mid-17th century. And the German Die Gedanken Sind Frei predates that by at least four centuries.

What everyone would agree on is is that the "message" alone is not enough to make a good protest song: The Streets of London works because it oblique rather than declamatory.

But sometimes a blunt, direct approach works best - I mean how influential in the anti Vietnam protest movement was Country Joe McDonald's wake-up call of, "One, two, three, what are we fighting for?" to the stoned youth of Woodstock?

I'll own up here to having recorded a couple of Critics Group songs in the 70s, neither of which pulled any political punches but it was at a time when political movements were less sophisticated and, apart from street demonstrations and marches, the folk music world was a crucial area of influence.

The band I played in had a broad repertoire which included some pretty cheesy, crowd pleasing stuff, but we could follow Whisky in the Jar with, say, the Critics' Grey October and get a huge reponse, even with its (to use your word) overt slogan, "Children die, while we stand by and shake the killers by the hand."


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Acorn4
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 06:31 PM

"Masters of War" was pretty unsubtle.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 06:49 PM

"I suspect the reason many ringbinder singers sound sapless and unengaged is that they are basically indifferent singers, and learning the words would have little effect on their ability to inhabit a song. What they probably need is Ewan MacColl breathing fire into their ear."

In the absence of Ewan perhaps a good kick up another orifice might prove efficacious!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 02:42 AM

well if it had not been for Alex Campbells kind hearted generosity, Peggy Seeger would not have been allowed into the country, there probably wouldnt have been a Critics group, and this thread wouldnt have existed,Fred Baxter wouldnt have been called a Burglar,Vic Smith would not have got on his high horse and started tilting at wind mills its all Alex Campbells fault.
Pewking up on people was almost the norm at one stage in the folk revival,There was another well known folk singer who pewked up out of Mervyn Vincents upstairs bedroom window, and straight over Mervyns daughter, aye, standards were definitely higher on the early days of the revival.
VicSmith, Fred Baxter told me THAT he was a burglar, so either he was, or he was a Walter Mitty, I found him a pleasant guy and I enjoyed his club, he was not a pompous. humourless self important person


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 02:53 AM

Mudcat was having problems when I posted and one correction I thought I'd got in time was missed; penultimate line was meant to have low degree

I wish you hadn't posted that correction - I love the idea of hundreds of Mudcat-reading floorsingers, a month or two from now, solemnly singing Folks may sneer at my law degree! (The corrupted last line should of course read
But at least it's not Socio-o-logee!)

(Guess what I do for a living.)


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 02:57 AM

R U A brain surgeon


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 03:47 AM

No, no ~~ a poet, obviously... ;-}


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 04:09 AM

Sociology lecturer. (Actually Criminology, but I work in a Sociology department, so it's close enough.)


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 04:19 AM

Stuart, I also rocked along to the joyous strains of "Fixin' To Die Rag" (even though Country Joe didn't have the grace to acknowledge that he'd nicked the tune from Kid Ory's "Muskrat Ramble) at the time. I'm not quite as dogmatic as I might appear - and I'm certainly not apolitical by any means. I have very strong views on the ways of the world and will engage with anyone in a reasoned debate on them - but I like to keep my musical world separate from that all that. If I really wanted to influence public opinion in a political sense, then my method would be through print, or via the net, or by personal interaction, and not through song.

I asked, many weeks ago, in a similar thread, for 'Catters to name me one overtly political folk song which had, to their knowledge, actually had some effect on the political spectrum and really changed something 'at the top'. I didn't get one response to that question. I'll repeat it here - and I'll be happy to hear of any. Country Joe may have had some effect on the 'stoned youth of Woodstock' (whoever he was), and on the anti-Vietnam movement, but I suspect in my cynical old heart that the Vietnam war stopped when the US politicians at the top realised that it was really lost in Vietnam.

For me, the problem of singers performing 'protest' songs at a folk club - even in the early days - was always the tacit assumption that, because you attended the club and were interested in folk song, you were necessarily of the same political persuasion as everyone else there. And even if we were of the same persuasion, what was the point in preaching to the converted? If you really want to get your musical protest heard - sing it on the steps of 10 Downing Street, or outside your local town hall, or outside the houses of prominent politicians.

There's a wonderful piece of satire in the Tony Hancock film "The Rebel" where he's talking to a group of young admirers sat round him. He's recounting his previous conformist life in the office where he worked - wearing a suit, regimented, all workers looking and acting exactly alike - to a a crowd of young people all wearing black polo neck sweaters and black beards, all nodding in unison. My point exactly.

I really thought MacColl's diktat to write a song about Vietnam "by next week" - and then to criticise Charles Parker's effort in the most stupid terms was loathsome. If he genuinely thought it was dishonest to write a song in someone else's character, then I wonder what he would have made of Randy Newman's wonderfully constructed and subtle songs - like "Rednecks" or "Short People". Two songs, by the way, which I love and would accept as subtly political - but I still don't think they've changed the world.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 04:47 AM

I remember my younger sister taking the p. out of "We will overcome", the verse that goes "We will ban the bomb" in particular. My older sister, who was more of that generation, got a bit defensive at this point - "Well, we did ban the bomb..." It took a moment before she realised that actually, no, we didn't. Great campaign, though.

I suspect it's a fool's errand looking for Songs that Changed the World - how could we ever be sure that the song made the difference? - but I do think songs, & popular culture more generally, has wider effects. Jeff Nuttall said that the most significant thing about the first wave of CND in the early 60s was that it failed completely - thousands of idealistic kids were left revved up and with nowhere to go, but with a little extra dose of cynicism about achieving anything through 'the system'. Result: the counter-culture of the late 60s, and everything that followed from that.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 04:52 AM

Ewan wrote a lot of songs from other people's characters. That's what he did wasn't it? Herring fishermen, travellers, power station builders, children of striking miners, victims of Aparthied... No oppressed minority on Earth was safe from his polemical doggeral; he was the real Voice of the People that man. Heavens, could it all have been (gulp!) dishonest I wonder??

At some point in the mid/late 1980s I was moved to write a letter to Folk Roots on this very issue after being bored to suicidal shitlessness by an evening of his tedious middle-class paternalistic politicising (after which I went to see The Fall, as I recall). I don't have it any longer, but I wrote it under the name of Ralph Harris & they published it under the rather nifty heading Ewan Whose Army?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 05:01 AM

Interesting, Pip. I've always believed that - for better or worse - the real moments of pivotal change where they had a direct impact - i.e. at the top - have come about through more direct, and often violent action. Thatcher didn't repeal the poll tax because someone like Billy Bragg sang about it. It was ended because people voted with their feet, on the street, first in Scotland and then down here. Get out on the street, burn some cars, trash some shops, act violently - whatever the raison d'etre for these actions - and you'll get column inches in the press and heated debate in Parliament. Sing about the same raison d'etre and you'll probably achieve bugger all.

I'm not a proponent of such actions, by the way, but - in the scale of things - people are moved to it, not by folk song, but by the impingement, and the severity of that impingement of something on them personally. And that includes politicians.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 05:03 AM

Jim Eldon was the best at this political protest song lark, telling it like it was by way of basic reportage. He added various lines to this effect to his classic cover of Brice Springstine's Dancing in the Dark (...Working for the Grocer's Daughter I just can't feel proud of myself, we came like lambs to the slaughter, now we're just stock upon her shelf...) which rang very true at the time, but one knew that Jim was in there with the rest of us, writing about experience & simultaneously operating as a one-man Folk Process rather than the card-carrying paternalistic righteousness of Ewan MacColl. Next to Peter Bellamy, I'd say Jim Eldon's the greatest Traditional Folk Singer & Idiomatic Folk Song Writer in the UK.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 05:13 AM

Similar thing, Will ~~ I have the original on my wall of a cartoon published in The Teacher newspaper when my wife was Features Editor, 1960-63. A group of schoolmasters, all in 3-piece suits & spectacles, carrying briefcases and smoking pipes, emerge from the staffroom as two male pupils dressed in the teen-fash of the time walk by. "Isn't it funny," says one teacher, "how they can never shake off the influence of their peer-group?"

~M~


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 05:15 AM

Good one, Michael - sounds a bit like Posy Simmons!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 05:24 AM

Don't know of a single song, offhand [tho see below]: but isn't the folklore that John Gay's The Beggar's Opera [1728] was instrumental in bringing Horace Walpole down? And such a good piece of work in its own right that it goes on being performed purely for its entertainment value nearly 300 years later, when all the actual issues it satirises are dead and forgotten. And song's like "That was directed at me" still bite..., even if Walpole represented as a receiver of stolen goods and his opponents as thieves & highwaymen & pimps, no longer means anything to us at all.

And how about Joan Littlewood's {Mrs E MacColl's!} Oh What A Lovely War?

I remember Ralph McTell once remarking sadly that Streets Of London had done more for him than the people who were its subject ~ but who can tell, in the long term, what effect it might have? And will it still be sung? & maybe Ewan's Go Down You Murderers & Karl's Guns And Comics had some influence in the cap-pun debate. Who can tell?

~M~


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 05:44 AM

Gay certainly satirised [Robert] Walpole in "The Beggar's Opera", but he survived all that. It was a combination of things that got him out of power - principally the naval disaster against Spain in the Battle of Cartagena in, I think, 1742.

As for "Oh What A Lovely War", well, certainly a great anti-war musical and film - but what did it actually stop or prevent?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 05:49 AM

Not actually Posy, Will; I think she did do a bit of work for Valerie, but unhappily I don't have any originals of those. Have several Colin Wheelers, tho. When Valerie went to work there, she found the originals were just being binned after the paper was printed, so she rescued them [she was the Features Ed who made the selections anyhow] & now they hang on my stairs & my study wall. The 'peer-group' one is signed "Mo". Have several others of his also; but not sure who he was...

~M~


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 05:50 AM

As for "Oh What A Lovely War", well, certainly a great anti-war musical and film - but what did it actually stop or prevent?

I did it as part of an O-level drama course when I was sixteen, and it prevented me from persuing the subject any further, though several of the songs therefrom remain in my unrecorded / unperformed repertoir...


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: theleveller
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 06:00 AM

"isn't the folklore that John Gay's The Beggar's Opera [1728] was instrumental in bringing Horace Walpole down?"

Christopher Hill discusses The Beggar's Opera in the context of the repression and radicalisation of the poor at some length in his seminal work, 'Liberty Against the Law'.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 07:17 AM

Wasn't Lillibellero supposed to ahv some kind of effect?

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 08:16 AM

"Ewan wrote a lot of songs from other people's characters."
As far as I know MacColl took all the songs he wrote in the person from acutuality (one of his constant song-making practices) - Shoals of Hering from Larner and Ronnie Balls, Freeborn man from Minty Smith, Belle Stewart, Gordon Boswell etc., Just a Note and Drivers Song from Jack Hamilton, Shellback from Ben Bright. Can't recall him writing songs in first person on Apartheid victims or miners, though I know he occasionally used commentary from news interviews (I actually gathered some of these cuttings for Festival of Fools sketches).
I believe that what he did find 'dishonest' was some of the pastiches, where the writer pretends to be an 18th century highwayman, or a 19th century sailor under sail - he argued that many of them sounded arificial and many appeared to have come purely from the writer's imagination rather than reality.
To me, this sometimes to be the case, though I'm not sure it isn't a generalisation on his part - I have always been totally smitten with Rosselson's 'Digger's Song'.
"Lillibellero"
The song that sang a king out of three kingdoms (James II)
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 08:40 AM

"Lillibellero"
The song that sang a king out of three kingdoms (James II)
Jim Carroll

So, is this asong or a tune that had somekind of political effect?

I guess that in the end songs never really have a political effect but can they be "signs or signals of something or other?

What about that French one - The Marselais?

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim McLean
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 08:55 AM

Sorry to be pedantic, Jim, but the king was James II of Ireland and England and VII of Scotland.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 08:59 AM

"So, is this asong or a tune that had somekind of political effect?"
From research for a talk at our local history society entited 'Song and History'.
Jim Carroll

"According to one source the words "lillibulero" and "bullen al-a" were used as a rallying cry for the Irish to recognize one another in the uprising in 1641. Later (1687) Thomas, Lord Wharton (1640-1715), wrote a set of satirical verses titled Lillibolero regarding the Irish problems and set them to a melody arranged by Henry Purcell in 1678. Purcell's arrangement was based on an older tune under the name Quickstep which appeared in Robert Carr's Delightful Companion (1686). It became popular immediately. After the Stuarts were deposed, Lord Wharton, a strong supporter of William III, boasted that he had "rhymed James out of three kingdoms" with his tune".


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 09:15 AM

I have always been totally smitten with Rosselson's 'Digger's Song'.

Funny thing, that strikes me as precisely the kind of glib, preachy, self-conscious sloganeering that gives protest singers a bad name. (I'm not a big fan of Leon Rosselson generally, it has to be said.)


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 09:26 AM

Must admit that Rosselson has always struck me as too self-consciously determined to be absolutely right-on; counter-productively so, in its effect on me.

~M~


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim McLean
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 09:28 AM

"I knew a very wise man that believed that . . . if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation. - Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun" (He was a strong opponent of the Scottish union with England in 1707.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: theleveller
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 09:41 AM

Thanks for that, Jim McLean, I've been trying to find the source of that quote for ages - it appears in Hill's Liberty Against the Law as "Give me the songs of the people - I care not who makes their laws" but without specific attribution. You've made my day!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 09:45 AM

"Next to Peter Bellamy, I'd say Jim Eldon's the greatest Traditional Folk Singer & Idiomatic Folk Song Writer in the UK."
hilarious, of course we all have different opinions, in my opinion, jim is a very good performer,but to compare him as a songwriter to jez lowe richard grainger ,leon rosselson, Ewan,or peter bond, s absolutely hilarious


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 09:53 AM

Beg to differ there, GSS - it all depends where your values lie I suppose, but give me Jim Eldon's earthy storytelling to Jez Lowe's mawkish Cookson-esque popular fiction anyday!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 09:59 AM

Calm, calm - both of you, this is a public place!

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 10:08 AM

Values? you are entitled to your opinion as are those people who like britney spears, but honestly comparing Eldon to MacColl, is a bloody joke.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 10:16 AM

Could it possibly be that that Mr Ashtray has a different perspective on music in all its glory and that one of his pastimes is stating his views in such a way that people who wouldn't often swear at others in a face to face discussion might be thus provoked?

Best wishes Mr Schweik

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 10:35 AM

one of his pastimes is stating his views in such a way that people who wouldn't often swear at others in a face to face discussion might be thus provoked?

Hardly my intention anyway, Les - but typical enough around here it would seem where one must constantly tread on eggshells. I honestly thought we were having a fun chat; obviously not...

Jim Eldon speaks to my heart, he always has, both in his own songs and his masterful essaying of traditional material in which he surpasses (in my opinion) pretty much anyone else in the revival. He is, in short, my icon of what a Folk Singer ought to be. Ewan Macoll, on the other hand, took away my will to live on various occasions; his own songs are as heavy handed and outmoded as his political agenda, and as often as I've basked in his balladry it's too much of a put-on to take seriously when I hear it now. Just my opinion though, to which I am no doubt welcome.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 11:18 AM

you are welcome, as far as I am concerned freedom of speech should be available to all even if its an opinion I differ with, The only things I find offensive are racial abuse and sexual abuse,
I have found you always to be a courteous man to cross swords with


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Pete Jennings
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 12:52 PM

I'd never heard of Jim Eldon. Just listened to him on YouTube performing "Dancing in the Dark". I'd be a bit more blunt than the good soldier. I think he's crap. Just my humble opinion, of course...


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 01:01 PM

I have only seen Jim once at Whitby Festival. He was extraordinary but I can't really say why.

Live music hey?

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 01:04 PM

God I love Marmite! Aarghhh...


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 01:31 PM

He was extraordinary but I can't really say why.

Let me tell you why - because like Peter Bellamy & Seamus Ennis before him, Jim Eldon is one of the few true masters of the Traditional Craft; like them he is idiosyncratic, single-minded and a taste worth acquiring because once acquired it leads to untold treasures of which he is a veritable font. In Jim Eldon once senses the true essence of Traditional Popular Song and the artistic genius, mastery & self-effacing humility that gives it substance. Storyteller, fiddler, entertainer, singer of Traditional Songs, collector of Traditional songs, song writer, unique interpreter of Popular Song and one of our nations last remaining truly unique Treasures with a record legacy of staggering variety and consistency. Jim Eldon is, quite simply, the pure drop. I've been in awe of the man forever really - 30 years - though rarely have our paths crossed. One time they did was after a storytelling gig in Newcastle about 15 years ago. We sat eating pizza in someone's front room and he asked me if I knew the words to Born to Be Wild.

Along with Michael Hurley he keeps my folk fires burning. If you don't like Jim Eldon, you don't like life, it really is that simple.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 01:42 PM

I have to say I really was mezmorised with out knowing much of that, but I can believe it

Les


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Vic Smith
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 01:46 PM

My final post on this thread because I will not enter into protracted arguments which have no chance of being resolved:-

VicSmith, Fred Baxter told me THAT he was a burglar,
He told the same to me and to other people including some who have contributed to this thread. No-one is doubting the truth of the matter. I am stating that to say so now on a public forum long after his death is in bad taste. There was no need to pit that word in front of his name

I saw Alex Campbell about 1974, he was superb, absolutely hilarious.
I doubt if he was booked Very often by Vic Smith.

My records show that I booked this fascinating, enigmatic and unpredictable character on four occasions. I received a printed circular from him - probably other folk club organisers who had booked him got the same circular - saying that he was moving to Denmark but he wanted to thank those who has supported his folk club career.

Vic Smith would not have got on his high horse and started tilting at wind mills its all Alex Campbells fault.
Please try to clarify this confusing statement.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Vic Smith
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 02:00 PM

Oh - a final word about Fred. His open assertions were that he had been a burglar, but with the assistance of his wonderful supportive friend and landlady, Molly Gilbert, his life had been turned around. Rather like a reforming alcoholic, he was stating his previous life difficulties and stating proudly that he had got on top of them. Previous posts could be interpreted as though Fred was boasting about previous crimes.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 02:03 PM

None of my business claerly but did Fred Baxter become "Burglar Bill" after that famous children's book Burglar Bill? A true classic if children's books?

Les


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 02:09 PM

"its alex campbells fault", he genorously offered to marry peggy seeger, enabling her to come and live in this country, the rest is history.
if alex hadnt married peggy, i doubt if the critics group would have been formed, peggy wouldnt be here to have helped form it., and this thread wouldnt exist., of course it was meant as a joke, but I am not surprised that you didnt realise that.
and clear off with this crap about bad taste, its only bad taste in your opinion, you may be dictator in your folk club, but thats where it ends, give it a break


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 02:15 PM

Vic, if Fred Baxter thought fit to tell people he had been a burglar,including me, a relative stranger who was booked several times by him at his club he clearly did not have problems about people knowing about it, so for gods sake stop boring everyone


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 02:37 PM

Money is never wasted on charm or elocution is it?

Les


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 03:16 PM

Vic, he told me he was a burglar , [present tense ..at that time] the next time he told me had problems with his nerves, he never told me he was a reformed burglar.I did not know what he told you.
I only know what he told me which I found at the time extraordinary.
   Back to thread,Martin is a fine singer of traditional songs, he clearly realises what he does best.
at the same time he has helped to lead the uk revival in a certain direction, that direction has been the appreciation of traditional songs and guitar playing.
Ewan attempted to improve standards, he brought out along with others songbooks , he attempted to encourage song writers and published their songs in the new city songster, some of these songs were political some were social comment songs some were not.
I was puzzled by Martins statement regarding the revival and political songs, does he feel that he should have sung more political songs, or that other people should have done so, or both.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 06:18 PM


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 03:51 AM

Is nobody familiar with:

Burglar Bill

I cant help feeling this is where the nick name came from

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 04:44 AM

Back on topic (briefly, no doubt!) and here's my link to the archived downloadable version of the programme on Soundcloud:

How Folk Songs Should Be Sung


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 05:04 AM

I was told that the Alex marrying Peggy thing wasn't true, having believed the story myself for many years. Can't remember who said it isn't true though.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 05:48 AM

Just before Peggy left England for America, she did a biographical Radio 2 series with Jim Lloyd. I can't remember the details too clearly, but I recall Peggy saying she'd been deported from Britain and left stranded in Paris, at the same time being pregnant by Ewan.

The upshot was that she couldn't get back into this country without becoming a British citizen, and the only way she could do that was by marrying someone British. AC was also in Paris at the time and agreed to do the job so that she could get back into Britain.

I've never known what Campbell's motives were, although I've heard it said that Theatre Workshop paid him to do it. Personally I prefer to think it was just a humane gesture on his part.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Will Fly
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 06:32 AM

As I heard the story from Alex - albeit many years later - he married her because he loved her, whether pregnant or not, and was upset when she left him for Ewan. I clearly recall him making a rather bitter joke backstage at a gig, talking about himself being down a mine "hewin' ma coal! hewin' ma coal!" Who will ever know now, except Peggy...

But - if she needed to marry an English person to return to Britain, why not Ewan himself? Could he not travel to Paris for some reason?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Acorn4
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 06:54 AM

Was he still married to his second wife (mum of Kirsty) at that time?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 06:57 AM

I think he was married to someone else, anyway Alex enabled Peggy to come to England.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 07:52 AM

Yes, Ewan was still married to his second wife at the time. As I understand it from the people involved it was not Theatre Workshop that paid Alex. The sum wasn't large and I would have thought that Ewan could have afforded to pay it himself.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 08:37 AM

This portion of the thread is getting to look rather like washing somebody else's dirty linen in public, and I'm sorry now that I interjected.

The details aren't of very much interest, except to historians of folk music. Anyone who wants to know who was married to who and why will find a good part of the story in Ben Harker's book on Ewan MacColl.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 09:05 AM

"This portion of the thread is getting to look rather like washing somebody else's dirty linen in public,"
Or the pages of Hello Magazine; - almost a shame to spoil it with a few facts.
Jim Carroll

"To get back to Britain and MacColl, in Paris Peggy Seeger married the laid-back Glaswegian folk singer Alex Campbell, who'd agreed to help her out of an impossible fix. For years rumours would circulate that Campbell was actually in love with Seeger and took the ceremony seriously, a story that can be traced back to the reminiscences of Campbell himself. Seeger insists that it has no basis in fact. 'We should have paid him something,' she recalled. 'I offered him money later and he turned it down.... Alex did it out of sheer goodness of heart. He did it light-heartedly. He was not in love with me. He never made any advances.'"
Class Act p 139


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Baz Bowdidge
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 10:42 AM

'Washing dirty linen in public'?
These guys do that themselves don't they?
eg. Peggy's self-documented bisexuality.
I'm sure her relationship is wonderful.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 10:51 AM

Do you just want to check out what you have just written?

Best wishes

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 10:57 AM

Phil Colclough a member of the group, later wrote song for Ireland, so perhaps It helped his song writing?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 10:58 AM

Wouldn't it be wonderful if - just for once one of these discussions actually included a mention of the work of two singers whose contribution to folk song over the last half century has been inestimable.
Nah - that would be silly, wouldn't it?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 11:30 AM

Well Jim, as it's nothing to do with the title of this thread. Then perhaps you'd like to start one.
However I reccommend a good search first, as you may find it's been mentioned before :)


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 11:47 AM

Sorry John - don't understand.
The Critics Group doesn't have anything to do with the work of Ewan and Peggy - but Alex Campbell's love life has?
I'm off - I'll leave play school to get on with its finger painting
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Baz Bowdidge
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 12:12 PM

>The Critics Group doesn't have anything to do with the work of Ewan and Peggy - but Alex Campbell's love life has?<
As I see it they would say to sings songs about being a lover you have to be one.
Isn't that the philosophy?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 12:23 PM

The thread purports to be about the radio programme, which told about the work of the Critics group. Ewan was their mentor.
As I said, the songs of Ewan, and of Peggy, have been done to death on Mudcat already. That was all I was pointing out. As has been said, this thread has been remarkably cool headed thus far, and I wouldn't want to change that.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: glueman
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 12:56 PM

Any thread with Jim Eldon and Michael Hurley is worth the admission. Along with Sub Ashtray's admiration for Clarence Asley and Roscoe Holcomble (or was that someone else?), it's possible to believe we were separated at birth.
Of Ewan MacColl I have no opinion, except his daughter was a considerable songwriter, so there must have been something in the genes. Like so many of his generation he seems to have been defined by what he disliked as much as the stuff he loved, which is unfortunate, but that's the folk revival for yer.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 01:04 PM

"As I said, the songs of Ewan, and of Peggy,"
I didn't suggest the disdcussion should be about "As I said, the songs of Ewan, and of Peggy," - their work was what I wrote, and the Critics Group (the subject of this thread) was very much a part of that.
But if you feel it more valuable to discuss the sex lives of well-known singers, who am I to interfere with life's litle pleasures?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 01:16 PM

What relevance to this thread is someones sexuality.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Baz Bowdidge
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 02:11 PM

>What relevance to this thread is someones sexuality.<
The driving force that brought them all together and continued throughout these peoples' creative lives.
If things had been different, this thread wouldn't exist - funny that.
(the thread hasn't stuck to topic anyway)


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 02:22 PM

I listened to the repeat of this programme today and I am prompted to ask. Are there any singers who honestly believe that they benefitted from belonging to this group? apart from Jim Carroll that is. I must admit that I never knew Jim Carroll as a singer or that he was a singer. I always thought that he was a successful electrician who collected/made recordings of traditional singers most of whom I guess had not had the benefit of Ewan's teachings. Did he pass on his knowledge to them of how it should be done before turning on the mic?

It is probably unfair to make a judgement on the brief clips used in this programme but if they were typical of the meetings I am surprised that anyone attended more than a couple of sessions. I am not surprised that it all fell apart, but equally surprised that it lasted as long as it did was it six years?

Hoot


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 03:43 PM

"apart from Jim Carroll that is."
Just after the acting group broke up Karl Dallas organised a symposium to mark MacColl's 70th birthday at County Hall in London.
I was asked to speak on the Critics Group, which I (extremely reluctantly, given the prevailing atmosphere) agreed to, but only on the understanding that I could speak to and record as many ex members of the Critics as was practically possible and include what they had to say in my presentation.
Despite the bad taste that the break-up had left behind, I was staggered at the positive response I got.
While a number expressed some reservations about the overall achievements of the Group, virtually all I spoke to said they felt that they had got a great deal from their being members an working in the way we did.
I am still in regular contact with two members of the group, both friends, excellent singers and unstinting in their praise of the work we did.
"how it should be done before turning on the mic"
I assume you haven't bothered to read what I have written above - why bother with facts when you can write your own script. It was never a case of "how it should be done" - it was a self-help group run on the lines of singers working in a workshop situation from suggestions and ideas from every single member of the group
The first thing that was suggested to me when I joined was that I should get hold of as many traditional singers as I could and listen to them - no instructions, no rule book, no "right way to do it".
The last workshop I attended - a few months ago, I, along with a whole roomful of people was handed song texts (of some songs I had heard before, but mainly not) and asked to sing them - that appears to be what passes for singing classes nowadays. I am in no way knocking that, but to be honest, I got far more from our group criticism work than I ever got from the 'singing-by-rote' method that appears to be used now.
I still have all the recordings I made for the symposium, and I also have all the recordings made of Critics Group meetings (around 200 cassettes worth) so I'm not relying on a fading memory, Chinese whispers or malicious rumours when I describe what was said and done by the group - it's all on the shelf behind me..
As Janet Topp Fargion pointed out, there are some of the Group meetings on the British Library web, and hopefully Birmingham Central Library will one day make all of these generally available from The Charles Parker Archive which is housed there.
Did I attempt to tell the Travellers, the West Clare veterans who had been singing all their lives, Walter Pardon.... and all the other source singers we were priveleged to have met, "how it should be done"? I am not sure whether to regard that question as extremely crass or just the old usual snide I have long come to know and love.
It has never been a case of telling people how it should be done, not for MacColl, not for the Group members, and certainly not for me - the last thirty odd years my life has been a learning curve and the generosity of the people who I came into contact with still leaves me both moved and grateful.
Can I assume that you regard all workshops, schools, learning sessions.... as "telling people how it should be done", or do you reserve your snide just for MacColl and Seeger.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 04:36 PM

Jim,
I did say that judging by the few clips I heard in the programme. It appeared to me that Ewan was telling people how it should be done. I think at one time he said that singers are actors or should be actors(?).
You are not alone in having met and recorded veterans who had been singing all of their lives. I too among many others have done the same including Walter Pardon on three or four occasions, and some of us for more than thirty years. I first met Peggy in 1957 and 1958 until she had to go to France and heard her and Ewan regularly until about 1961. I always enjoyed listening to her and learning from her. Ewan I did not enjoy very much but agree that he wrote some very good songs and made some good radio programmes. I didn't particularly like his attitude but that is not a snide remark it is purely the way I felt about the man. I don't remember making snide remarks about Peggy either.
Perhaps there are some singers who will tell us if their singing benefitted from Ewan's/the group's advice.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Acorn4
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 05:04 PM

I've really spent far too long on these two threads - must get some work done this week!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 04:00 AM

"It appeared to me that Ewan was telling people how it should be done."
MacColl did no more or less than any other tutor, lecturer, teacher, writer, group leader.... on any subject you would care to name - he passed on his opinion based on his experience in order to help a bunch of people who VOLUNTARILY went each week to hear him do so - no bars on the windows, no electronic tags - we were there because we wanted to be. His efforts were solely for those of us who turned up, not for the revival in general (my main criticism of the work was that it didn't get a wider airing)
I was a member of the Critics Group for a couple of years; (Pat for three years longer). I was a friend of Ewan and recipient of his generosity from 1968 to his death - around 20 years in all - we still count Peggy among our friends.
In both of them we found two people who were top of their particular tree, yet who were prepared to spend time and effort with newer and less experienced singers like us, open their home once a week to work with us, share their field recordings, library and record collection and result of their skills, experience and researches - all while singers on the scene in similar positions got on with their careers.
The end result of their generosity appears to be that, whenever MacColl's name is mentioned - now a dozen years after his death - he becomes a target for any ill-informed (and usually tailor-made) shit that can be dug up - here, for example, people would rather discuss Alex Campbell's and Peggy's sex life rather than the subject in hand The Critics Group.
I suggesst that if you are genuinely interested in MacColl's work and ideas, and how he put them across (which I doubt), you dig out some of the (around 300 hours in all) recordings of the Critics meetings housed at Birmingham Central Library, The National Sound Archive in London or at Ruskin College, rather than basing your somewhat unpleasantly snide analysis of his work on a few selected sound clips (sorry - reducing Ewan's method of work to telling people "how it should be done" is about as snide as it gets).
Jim Carroll
By the way - I was intrigued by your "successful electrician" description of me - I spent my working life as a jobbing domestic maintenance and installation electrician - state educated (Secondary Modern) and retired on a state pension; my only "success" was to be regularly empoyed through most of my working life.
The only thing that made me any different from any other worker on this planet was that, for a time, at the end of a days work I washed, bolted down my meal and went off to record traditional singers - now there's "success" for you.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim McLean
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 06:21 AM

I listened to the program with a couple of non 'folkie' friends, deliberately, to get an unbiased response. The consensus was that Ewan came across as an arrogant, opinionated bully but they loved his 'pop' song sang by Roberta Flack.
Personally, I think the program was a hatchet job on MacColl, damning the man with faint praise, with Martin having his tongue firmly stuck in his cheek. A couple of questions: why was a man with the stature of Martin Carthy not invited to join the Critics Group? Did his friendship with Bob Dylan exclude him? Or maybe he had no time for the CG which would make him a peculiar choice as presenter.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 06:43 AM

Personally, I think the program was a hatchet job on MacColl, damning the man with faint praise, with Martin having his tongue firmly stuck in his cheek."
Absolutely, like everything that appears in the media , the programme was edited or censored[ same thing], 30 minutes of material was used out of a much larger availablity of material, only certain members of the critics group gave their opinions, we did not hear from Donal Maguire, John Faulkner, Terry Yarnell or any of the other members.
the programme was unbalanced and it has had its desired effect even affecting people like Brian Peters.
what is needed is another programme of 30 minutes, perhaps even interviewing Jim Carroll, to get another perspective .
The BBC likes to give the impression it is even handed, ha ha.
unfortunately all media programme makers have a remit to make a contoversial programme, to get people to listen, it is the same with newspapers we always hear about the sensational aspects of life, we never hear about the millions of people who are decent kind and respectful to each other.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Acorn4
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 07:37 AM

Crib Sheets


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Acorn4
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 07:38 AM


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 07:43 AM

Jim Mclean and GSS.

All media programme makers have to attract an audience. That means folk programmes end up using big names such as Billy Bragg or Martin Carthy, rather than people who can claim to be experts in their field. Yes, I don't doubt Martin knows a lot about the folk scene of the sixties. But an expert on the Critics Group he is not.

I don't think hatchet job is quite the word to use here. More a case of picking out the salacious bits, which the producers knew would pull the punters, but which nonetheless gave rise to an unbalanced and unfair programme.

Regarding the question of MacColl's "opinionated bullying". I've mentioned further up this thread that the recordings were too few and too selective to be fair to the man.

However, another thought has just struck me. Could it be that what came across as bullying on the recordings might simply have been commitment.

MacColl was a very passionate man who, rightly or wrongly, believed that the retrieval of the folk song tradition was absolutely essential for "the furtherment of social progress" (his words). In other words he was prepared to work as hard as humanly possibly to raise his own perfomance standards, and those of other people, thereby helping to turn the folk revival into an instrument for improving the lot of the entire human race.

I don't think we need to start to another flame war on the viability of his beliefs, or on his attempts to ally folk music with socialism. But let's at least respect MacColl's memory for the things he did, and for the work he put in, and for the sincerity of his convictions.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 08:05 AM

Jim, you really should lighten up. I understood that you were an electrician and did a very good job of work. I am sorry if I was mis-informed and that description is incorrect, and I should point out that I have no interest in your education or table manners.

Keep smiling

Hoot


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 08:08 AM

Cards on table - technical problems have prevented me from hearing the programme yet, which is why I have refrained from commenting on its contents. A kind Mudcatter is sending me a copy (there's still a lot of that sort of generosity about in the revival, as I have discovered from this forum).
I doubt if Carthy did a hatchet job on MacColl and the group - whatever opinions I might have on his singing, I have always found him fair minded and generous with his praise of others. Personally I would have hated to try and cram six years into a single radio programme; I certainly would have been hard pushed to choose from the mass of recordings available for that time slot.
Rather, I would guess that any attempt to present the area of work that was covered by the group would have to be a superficial dip.
I wonder if he included any of the 'soliloquies' after the work was finished, when MacColl 'took off' and poured out his love, understanding of and committment to traditional song - some of the most inspiring moments I (and others, at the time) have ever experienced - as quoted from me by Ben Harker, "it left you feeling as if you were walking a foot above the pavement".
MacColl's main input into the Group was inspirational; he devised voice and relaxation exercises for us, most of which still come in handy, and he suggested ways of looking at and relating to songs which helped them work and kept them alive, but it was in encouraging us to lift the corner and look underneath that has been the most enduring influence he had on me.
This latter was one of the main influences in our collecting work; getting the singers we met to talk about their songs rather than just sing them - this was particularly true with our recording the Travellers' 'living tradition'.
Why wasn't Carthy asked to join the Group?
From the off, MacColl deliberately limited the numbers in order to make it possible for everybody to participate in the work - any larger and this would not have been possible and it would have become a series of lectures.
Being asked to join, certainly in my case, was an accidental affair, I first met them outside the MSG in Manchester, was invited to visit their home for a week-end and take copies of their recordings (I think son Calum still must curse me for taking over his bedroom and turning it into a temporary recording studio - cum- dossing place).
I was invited to join on the basis of discussions I had with them then and on subsequent visits (including a week of re-wiring their lighting circuit).
And, "reader - I married them"!!!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 08:52 AM

Sorry, I do think it was a hatchet job , but not on Martins part,on the programme makers part.
it was an edited 30 minutes, that made Ewan look and sound arrogant, it was not[imo] balanced, what is needed is for there to be another programme putting a different perspective on the group,
Jim he did include that quote, but the overall impression was that Ewan was a controller and arrogant, That is the fault of the programme maker who selected certain material to create that impression.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 10:01 AM

"Jim, you really should lighten up."
Sorry Hoot - it's a little difficult to "lighten up" when you are accused of "teaching traditional singers how to sing" and reading descriptions of somebody you respect which bear no relation to reality - will try harder.
Cap'n
Ewan could be arrogant in certain circumstances - quite often defenvely so - I think I told you of the attempts to sabotage 'The Travelling People' Radio Ballad which is now passed around as an anti-MacColl story - or how he 'stole 'Shoals of Herring' from the tradition and claimed it as his own - I'll tell you the story of the hedgehog and the worms sometime.
He could also be somewhat unrealistic on occasion; his tendency to exaggerate was legendary.
Having said that, his generosity and desire to involve others in traditional song dominated everything he did.
When the acting group broke up he had what his son Neil described as a breakdown; for a period he cut himself off from everybody.
One night we were at The Singers and we were discussing the London Singers Workshop, which we had helped set up to work with raw singers around The Singers and The West London Folk Club.
We described what we were doing and, out of the blue he said, "I'll come and give a hand if you want"
He came along on a monthly basis for around a year - great evenings; and eventualy he agreed to be interviewed by us, talking just about his involvment and ideas on song - a project that took six months to complete.
I don't know anybody in his position who would have put that much effort into working with others, certainly none of his detractors.   
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 11:42 AM

so WHY was his helpfulness NOT given more prominence?simple because the programme maker chose to highlight his flaws, rather than his good points, he gave up hours of his time to try and help others, why is he made to appear like a control freak,
certain of his conversations were used to highlight one side of his character.[eg the extract about Charles Parker and a particular song]. The PROGRAMME was a subtle attempt to portray one side of his character, it was not [imo] a balanced programme, that is why another programme is need to give a different perspective, it was far too simplistic an analysis of a complicated and interesting man, a complicated an interesting woman, and a group of people who were asking for assistance with their performance


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim McLean
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 12:29 PM

Jim, I'm not being rude, but I suggest you wait until you hear the program before being further involved in wasteful tit-for-tats.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,CJB
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 01:53 PM

Not sure if there is any mention of The Critics but Genevieve included Martin Carthy last Sunday - two hours left to listen / download.

Genevieve in conversation with Martin Carthy and a preview of Belinda O'Hooley and Heidi Tidow's wonderful new CD, The Fragile.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00mfs7x


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 02:35 PM

interesting version of henry martin, thanks.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: tonyteach1
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 02:57 PM

Having listened to the recording my conclusions were that what started out as a good idea became too dominated by McColl and his political agend and his bullying personality He must have been one of the richest Stalinists in town as attenders at the Bull and Mouth gigs were high pressured into buying his and dear Peggys LPs as they were at the time. I want 3 songs about Vietnam by next week yeah right I am sure he was absolutely charming if you did everything his way just like Hitler was


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 03:33 PM

you just dont get it do you tonyteach1?, this is a selected carefully edited programme, that wants to give you just that impression,
people should not make judgements until they have heard all the tapes.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,SRD
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 05:51 PM

Surely the programme was just another example of the way Aunty has to kow-tow to the government of the day. Today it's proving its non left wing bias by knocking anyone who had radical left wing views (whilst choosing not very important people to blast, after all who bothers with folk music?) yesterday and tomorrow there were, and will be, any number of oddball right wingers to have a poke at. Don't forget that the producers etc. are all in fear of losing their jobs.

And I don't give a stuff for the right way to sing a song, what's important is that I want to sing it and if I have to modify the tune to suit my voice what care I for 'traditional' Western musical notation, and why should I? I'm not being paid to entertain, I'm just joining in and contributing as I see fit and having Courtney Pine getting his pianist to play middle C made not the slightest difference to how I am able to sing.

My memory was useless before I discovered alcohol (even in the Wolf Cubs I was useless at Kim's Game), so it's read the sheet or miss out on the song.

When you're in a pub for a sing-around and no-one else is prepared to get up and sing, you have to make do with those who've got the balls to do the job, good or bad it matters not, doing it is what matters.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 06:08 AM

"Jim, I'm not being rude, but I suggest you wait until you hear the program before being further involved in wasteful tit-for-tats. "
Jim
I'm not being rude either, but I so far I have carefully avoided reaching any conclusion whatever on the contents of the program and have taken up comments I know to be totally inaccurate - the opening publicity blurb "How folk songs should be sung" being a classic example.
Seems somewhat daft that I should hang on to hear the programme then catch up - especially as this thread is now full of aspects that (apparently) have no relation whatever to the progremme's contents, but are examples of the mythology which surrounds MacColl and the Critics Group - (or did the programme really go into whether Alex Campbell was in love with Peggy? - can't wait!!!)
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: TheSnail
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 06:57 AM

Jim Carroll

The last workshop I attended - a few months ago, I, along with a whole roomful of people was handed song texts (of some songs I had heard before, but mainly not) and asked to sing them - that appears to be what passes for singing classes nowadays. I am in no way knocking that, but to be honest, I got far more from our group criticism work than I ever got from the 'singing-by-rote' method that appears to be used now.

Ah well, Jim, you've never been to any of our workshops. Lewes Saturday Folk Club Workshops

Here are a few this year that you might be interested in.

3 Mar FAY HIELD English song
28 Apr CLOUDSTREET Vocal harmony
26 May JIGJAW Song for dancing
30 Jun ANNE NEILSON/GORDEANNA McCULLOCH Ballads
15 Sep CRAIG MORGAN ROBSON Vocal harmony
16 Sep CRAIG MORGAN ROBSON Ballads
20 Oct DENNY BARTLEY Irish song/guitar

Valmai says she'll pay for your place at one out of her own pocket. You'll have to arrange transport and accommodation yourself.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: MartinRyan
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 07:06 AM

In fairness to "singing workshops" at Irish festivals - and I think I was at the one to which Jim Carroll refers - they vary ENORMOUSLY! They are usually given by one of the guest singers performing at the event, not all of whom have a conscious approach to the facilitation/teaching/inspirational role they've been landed with. In my experience, many workshops are enjoyable but pretty pedestrian, a few are insightful and the occasional one is exhilirating (Phil Callery springs to mind).

Regards


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: tonyteach1
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 07:50 AM

Of course I get it GSS You can hear the dogmatic bullying tone in his voice on he tape I WANT 3 songs on Vietnam - not shall we consider subjects for songs including the V word He did not like stuff that was counter to his views. He did not like material that was not part of the Method style of creation. No creative person can develop under a regime like this

By the way this is the guy who slagged off Dylan and presumably was quite happy to accept royalties for his hit song which presumably the estate is still getting residuals from - the guy who was a dedicated socialist who sent his kids to private school and endured the hardships of the late 60s and early 70s in a very nice house on the Kent London borders That is really street cred that is


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 09:31 AM

Martin;
I have been to half a dozen singing workshops here in Ireland - give you a list of them if you wish
All have been singing-from-a-sheet affairs.
Have discussed at length with two people taking these; both expressed reservations on their value.
Brian;
Am referring to what I believe to be happening in Ireland at present - have no experience at what happens in the UK, though I should add that two of the Irish workshops were run by singers from the UK.
Would welcome descriptions of forms of teaching other than the ones I have described.
Tonyteach1
The programme arrived this morning - I will listen to it with intrest
As far as my own experience in the group - I never once witnesses anything resembling dogmatic bullying, nor have I found any evidence for it in any of the recordings of group meetings I have listened to.
Members came and went - it was never easy to stand up before a group and sing, knowing your performance was going to be discussed in detail - I accepted that was going to happen and would happily have continued to work in this way long after the Critics Group ceased to exist - others didn't, and left. I do know that one of the lasting effects that this type of work had was that I have never since, felt nervous about performing before an audience.
The only heayy demands I ever saw in the Group was when there was a deadline to be met; the Festival of Fools being an extreme example; I witnessed first hand the demands MacColl put on himself when writing the script - just as demanding, if not more, than any he put on the rest of the group.
Despite MacColl's initial refusal to teach, that is how he was regarded and eventually, that is what he became - a teacher.
I can only say that if the Critics Group was a classroom, then it was the most democratic one I have ever been in. I have never been in one where the 'pupils' participated in the 'teaching' as much as we did - but then again, it is over half a century since I was at school; maybe things have changed in that time.
When the Critics (singing) Group broke up, here was no sign of dissention among the then members - wasn't part of the acting group so I can't speak for what happened there.
Incidentally; as far as I remember all the members of the Critics Group, including me, shared most of MacColl's political views; they/we sang political songs out of personal choice; some of them wrote their own songs, so there was NEVER ANY QUESTION OF MacCOLL IMPOSING HIS OWN POLITICAL VIEWS ON THE GROUP.
I would have been far more wary expressing contrary political views to some of the group members, than I ever would to Ewan; on two occasions I argued strongly with MacColl against views generally accepted by group members (on the Irish Civil Rights movement and on Trotskyism) and both times I recieved an (unexpectedly, as I was a new member) friendly reception, even though we parted agreeing to disagree.
I assume you are able to provide some substance to your description of MacColl's likes and dislikes - I really wasn't aware that Ewan had ever "slagged off" Dylan or anybody for making money, but perhaps you have proof that this was not the case?
BTW his "rather nice house" (I assume you visited it) was the upper two floors of a maisonette - certainly not a slum by any means, but neither was it a palace.
You sound somewhat like Theresa May slagging off the protesters at St Pauls for drinking coffee from Starbucks - do people really have to be starving and living on the street before they are allowed to possess a social concience?
Below is an extract summing up MacColl's views on The Critics Group from the expanded edition of MacColl's autobiography; will happily provide the whole section to anybody interested - that is the Critics Group I remember and was part of.
Jim Carroll         

From Journeyman - p 300 (Manchester University Press 2009)
Almost from the first week of its birth, The Critics Group had been a target for suspicion and abuse. The suspicion fed on itself and created its own myths which, in turn, exacerbated the situation and produced even more abuse. The name Critics Group was seized upon by rabid myth-makers and held up as proof of our arrogance. 'What right have they to criticise us?' was the cry. In actual fact, we were criticising ourselves. I think it was the idea of a folksinger having to train like an athlete or a carpenter which stuck in the craw of most of our critics. 'Did Harry Cox or Sam Larner or Jeannie Robertson - or any field singer - have to train?' There were, of course, several answers to that. Joe Heaney, for example, did train, did plan his decorations, the use of this tone here and that tone there. We have recordings of Paddy Tunney talking about how he decorates, how he approaches a song, who his models were when he was learning. Then there was the fact that the traditional singer had been a neighbour among neighbours who know his repertoire almost as well as he did. Furthermore, field-singers were not expected to sing twelve or fourteen songs in a row three or four times a week in front of strange audiences. The job of the revival singer is very different from that of a traditional singer. Nonetheless, it is still a common myth that all folksingers are really amateurs. We were in Bletchley one night at a club and a member of the audience happened to be present when we were being paid. He was astonished. 'You get paid for: this?' he said. 'You shouldn't. You were just doing something you enjoy doing.' A compliment, perhaps, but also indicative of a commonly held opinion as to the professional status of folksingers.
Even now, nearly twenty years after the dissolution of the Critics Group, myths are being created about it. Recently, in what purported to be a serious if somewhat shrill expose of the folk revival, the Critics Group was described as an organisation which met in secret. The author had in his possession a tape-recording which apparently had been smuggled out of one of these clandestine sessions. In view of the fact that a great number of the meetings were recorded and access to the recordings is simply a matter of obtaining permission from the National Sound Archives or The Charles Parker Archive in Birmingham, no great skill was required to 'smuggle them out'.
Should one, on encountering myths of this sort, rush to one's typewriter or word-processor and dash off a repudiation? Perhaps; but I have had neither the time nor the inclination. Apart from the fact that you could easily spend most of your working hours dealing with misinformation, there is something rather endearing about the idea of a group of conspirators plotting to re-establish a group of songs which are the nation's rightful heritage.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: MartinRyan
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 09:42 AM

Jim

(Final bit of threadcreep!).

Phil Callery gave a set (3?) of workshops during the Feakle festival a year or two ago - of which I attended, IIRC, one when I happened to be there. While he certainly had a sheet with a song or two for people to work with, he mixed in demonstration, chat about song, breathing exercises, directed harmony singing, getting people to sing a verse or two, bouts of discussion etc. etc. Streets ahead of any other such workshop I've attended over the years.

Regards


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 10:53 AM

I confirm what Jim says, he lived in BECKENHAM, his house was nothing special.
my brother lived in a similiar house and he was a doctor at Guys hospital, The area BORDERED ON penge a working class area, I f###### know I had the misfortune to be at a state secondary school in beck/penge for 2 years, at the time the MacColls were living there.
and    Tony teachj,you still do not get my point ...you are listening to selected conversations designed to give you a certain impression, the producer chose limited material from what was available, to make us think he was arrogant, it would be even handed if the BBC were to make another programme interviewing other members and highlighting MacColls time and effort he put in to helping others.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 10:57 AM

Theresa May Jim? Are you sure it wasn't Louise Mensch the Chick Lit. M.P. Assuming that you are referring to a recent HIGNFY broadcast.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 11:21 AM

You're right, Hoot. It was the snidey and deeply annoying Mensch.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 12:43 PM

"Are you sure it wasn't Louise Mensch "
Am pretty sure it was Theresa May I saw on Question Time - she may have been quoting somebody else - I think they only have one brain between them which they pass around.
Martin;
What you describe certainly sounds far superior to those I've experienced - hope to be able to talk to you about it next time we meet.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Baz Bowdidge
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 01:48 PM

GSS - The road I remember as the McColl's was Stanley Avenue, Beckenham (3 miles from Penge) - bordering Bromley/W.Wickham and not as you put it 'working class area', rather posher.
However perhaps they were at Penge way back in the 60's - Jim could fill us in there.

Baz


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 02:15 PM

This is getting trivial now. I think we should return to a MacColl thread I started earlier - I think it gets to the heart of the matter:

Here

Best wishes

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 03:04 PM

Don'r know they ever lived in Penge (did anyone ever live in Penge?)
35 Stanley Avenue
Ewan once told me he was offered the house that Christopher Wren had built in Cardinal's Cap Alley Soutwark, to oversee the re-building of St Pauls Cathederal fro the south bank of the Thames, after the fire of London - he turned it down because there was too much work needed to make it habitable.
Ewan was a fanatical gardener and after he died Peggy found it difficult to cope with, so she turned it into a 'wild garden' (untended - just allowing the what grew naturally to thrive).
After a while she received a barrage of complaints from her neighbours because of the badgers, foxes, rabbits that targeted it (and adgecent gardens) as an urban sanctuary.
Hope you don't think I'm making a case for them living in a working class area - as has been pointed out, they certainly did not, but neither was it as opulant as some have made it out to be.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 03:56 PM

{did anyone ever live in penge] yes, bill wyman and thomas crapper, amalcolm muggeridge, here;
Notable residents

    Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Bourne OBE DCM, Colour Sargeant at the Battle of Rorke's Drift, lived at 16 Kingshall Road after his retirement.[24]
    Penge was the childhood home of Bill Wyman (b. 1936 William George Perks) bassist from The Rolling Stones[25]
    Thomas Crapper, the famous Victorian manufacturing plumber retired to live at 12 Thornsett Road (c1897-1910). He is commonly, but erroneously, credited with inventing the WC.[26]
    Walter de la Mare, famous poet and author of ghost stories, resided at 195 Mackenzie Road (1899–1908), 5 Worbeck Road (1908–1912) and 14 Thornsett Road (1912–1925).[24]
    John Freeman, Georgian poet and essayist. A friend of Walter de la Mare.[27]
    Camille Pissarro, French impressionist painter, lived in Penge in the 1870s.[26]
    H. T. Muggeridge, British politician, father of Malcolm Muggeridge
    Malcolm Muggeridge, British journalist, author, satirist, media personality, soldier-spy and latterly a Christian apologist.[28]
    Andrew Bonar Law, Prime Minister, who was the Member of Parliament for Dulwich and lived in Oakfield Road in Penge.[28]
    John Clunies-Ross, first King of the Cocos Islands.[28]
    Tom Hood 1835-1874, author, playwright and editor of "Fun" lived at 12 Queen Adelaide Road.[28]
    Helena Normanton 1882-1957, the first woman to practise as a barrister in the UK.[28]
    Herbert Strudwick Surrey and England wicket-keeper lived at 4 Worbeck Road.[28]
    Simon Moores, the mining industry's writer, author and modern day thinker who made his name in Industrial Minerals magazine.[29]
    Henry Howse, a very early film actor with the Lumière brothers, moved to Penge by 1911 by which time he had become a cinematographer. He was a member of The Salvation Army and was instrumental in establishing the Limelight Department. He moved to Melbourne, Australia with the Salvation Army then to southern Africa resuming his career as cinematographer. He returned to live in Penge until his death.[30]
    Roger Mallett (Author, Photographer and Global Expert in Asset Management) lived in Penge from 1955 to 1977 (at 95 High Street Penge with his parents) and again from 1980 to 1983 (34 Albert Road).


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 03:58 PM

lets have fairplay for Penge.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 06:23 PM

Thanks, GSS, for your who's who of Penge ... fascinating! ... sort of ... if you live in Penge ... possibly?

Anyway, I can't help noticing that one William George Perks changed his name to Bill Wyman and no-one 'batted-an-eyelid' but James Miller changed his name to Ewan MacColl and, according to some people, this made him unforgiveably pretentious as well as the most wicked man since Hitler.

Mind you, Perks/Williams plays 'guitar-based music which rocks', in a commercially successful band which has never required its audience to think and, therefore, can be forgiven anything. But the evil Miller/MacColl 'subjected' his audience to ballads and politics, dared to express opinions about performance and (allegedly) didn't like Bob Dylan - so must be condemned for all time!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 04:28 AM

That should be Perks/Wyman, by the way - NOT Perks/Williams ...


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 05:10 AM

Thanks for that Cap'n - still not convinced anybody ever lived in Penge.
Listened to the programme (thanks a million Burton) with growing fascination last night - nice to hear some of the old voices.
Major problem was, as I expected, not near enough time to cover the great area of work done by the group - just as there's not enough time here to cover all of the misrepresentation (I'm convinced they were not deliberate).
The main point for me was the position MacColl was shown as holding in the group.
He set it up in the first place, so it was, in essence 'his' brainchild - this was a fact nobody ever disputed in my hearing.
MacColl did not, as was stated, "lead off with the criticism following a performance" - both Pat and I shouted "bollocks" simultaneously when it was suggested he did.
MacColl was chairman - after a performance, he always asked for "comments" it was routine - almost part of the script; the first question always being "did the singing move you". The only thing 'demanded' of these comments was that they were "balanced", outlining both the strengths and weaknesses of the performance
These would (usually) come from everybody in the room - if anybody showed reticence in giving an opinion MacColl would ask for one - he never, in my presence nor on any of the tapes I have listened to, insisted on one, but would accept "I have nothing to add to what's already been said" or some such.
He would then sum up what had been suggested and add his own opinion, agreeing or disagreeing with what had been said and saying why.
He would then ask for suggestions as to which aspects of singing should be concentrated on, again adding his own suggestions, and we would embark on usually an hour+'s intense working session, making sure not to give the singer more than they could cope with in terms of work.
When we'd finished, the singer was usually asked if there were any questions on what had been arrived at and would be asked to come back at a later date with any results of work, or any continuing difficulties - three or four weeks later usually, if time permitted.
I was present at the session where MacColl 'demanded' that all members take part in the discussion; without checking the recording, I'm pretty certain that it was my first working performance in front of the group meeting (you never forget that sort of thing).
The sessions were organised in such a way that no one individual dominated the criticism; that everybody had a part in the proceedings. As sometimes happened (again, from the recordings), the number of people participating had dwindled to the same handful. MacColl felt that this was detrimental to the way the group operated and, as was his wont - said so, in this case, rather forcibly.
If this appears bullying, sorry - I never felt it was - but there you go.
A full description of the critical work the group did can be found in the full version of the 'Journeyman' extract I posted earlier.
If everbody isn't bored out of their skulls by all this, I'll be happy to cover some of the other reservations of the programme I have later.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 05:10 AM

"Which has never required its audience to think"...

Are you sure about that? And in any case, weren't folk songs and ballads, in their proper context, entertainment? And if not, why not?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 05:21 AM

---If everbody isn't bored out of their skulls by all this, I'll be happy to cover some of the other reservations of the programme I have later.
Jim Carroll ---

I should greatly welcome this, Jim, and I am confident I should not be the only one. We are greatly privileged to have among us one who was an actual member of the group, and can speak of his experiences of it, and give his opinions of its success; and of the virtues or shortcomings of the R4 programme, based on first-hand knowledge of the topic under discussion ~~ for which, when accessible, there can be no substitute.

Please, do expound your views.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 05:24 AM

You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, you might find
You get what you need.

Jagger/Richards - of a rock combo in which Bill Perks played for a while

L in C#
Wednesdays down the Beech with Mr Shimrod and Mr Cringe


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 05:53 AM

Like MgM, I'll be interested to hear Jim's further comments on the programme. Also still interested in reading Jim's list of mistakes in Ben Harker's biography.
Derek


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 06:24 AM

"And in any case, weren't folk songs and ballads, in their proper context, entertainment? And if not, why not?"

Of course they were (still are!), Spleen.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 06:36 AM

"Also still interested in reading Jim's list of mistakes in Ben Harker's biography."
Sorry Derek - you've asked this before but I've never got round to sorting it out in a legible form, will try to do so - will also let you have a copy of meeting you once enquired about sometime - need to get hiss our of recording to make it more listenable
"weren't folk songs and ballads, in their proper context, entertainment?"
Does "entertainment" exclude thought - I'm sure Shakespeare and Beethoven thought not!!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Baz Bowdidge
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 06:41 AM

> I should greatly welcome this, Jim, and I am confident I should not be the only one. We are greatly privileged to have among us one who was an actual member of the group, and can speak of his experiences of it, and give his opinions of its success; and of the virtues or shortcomings of the R4 programme, based on first-hand knowledge of the topic under discussion ~~ for which, when accessible, there can be no substitute.

Please, do expound your views.

~Michael~ <

Thanks from me too Jim for your input.
I wanted to put the selfsame into words but no better than Michael's wonderful compliment.

Baz

PS. I used to live at 59, Croydon Road, Penge. Also as a recording engineer would make me working class.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 08:09 AM

I too spent some time in Penge, not sure if I was living at the time, It depends how you define living,I remember seeing Jimi Hendrix at The Bromley Court Hotel in 1966,.
I think that was the highlight of my time in Penge.
"Major problem was, as I expected, not near enough time to cover the great area of work done by the group - just as there's not enough time here to cover all of the misrepresentation (I'm convinced they were not deliberate)."Jim Carroll.
how can the making of a programme not be deliberate, of course it was deliberate, how can misrepresentation be accidental, the only was misrepresentation can be accidental is through incompetence if misrepresentation occurs in programmes and it is accidental it means someone has not checked their facts and is incompetent.
if Jim Carroll was not here to correct certain falsehoods, alot of people listening would have got a wrong impression, and MacColls reputation would have suffered, its disgraceful.
that is why another programme is needed, to balance matters, why was Jim Carroll not asked in the first place?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 08:35 AM

"Also as a recording engineer would make me working class. "
Sorry folks - I really am only joking - you want to haer what I have to say about Slough - (of Despond fame)
Thanks all for the interest - will have a go as soon as it starts raining and I don't have to put up outside light.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 09:01 AM

Jim,

glad you got the recording and it worked.

I'll add my voice to those interested in your comments on the programme...

Pete.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 11:34 AM

"Does "entertainment" exclude thought - I'm sure Shakespeare and Beethoven thought not!!"

Wassailing songs, work songs, lullabies, sea shanties, drinking songs, broadsides, bawdy songs, comedy songs? Dunno if they were supposed to make people think! Maybe that was true of the long ballads, but I'm more inclined to see them as ripping yarns... I'm not opposed to thinking (I tried it once or twice and quite enjoyed it), but I don't really associate it with folk music... obviously people think a lot about folk music, but I suspect you can't whistle a Mudcat thread about Ewan McColl in the shower.

Or can you?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: theleveller
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 12:10 PM

Sometimes I sit and think and sometimes I just sit.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 04:33 AM

"unno if they were supposed to make people think!"
Nobody wants to "make" anybody think, but incan be good fun sometimes.
From the notes to the Texan Gladden album in the Alan Lomax series
"I have a perfect mental picture of every song I sing. I have a perfect picture of every person I learned it from, very few people I don't remember. When I sing a song, a person pops up, and it's a very beautiful story. I can see Mary Hamilton, I can see where the old Queen came down to the kitchen, can see them all gathered around, and I can hear her tell Mary Hamilton to get ready. I can see the whole story, I can see them as they pass through the gate, I can see the ladies looking over their casements, I can see her as she goes up the Parliament steps, and I can see her when she goes to the gallows. I can hear her last words, and I can see all just the most beautiful picture."
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Baz Bowdidge
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 08:36 AM

The McColls former home:
Upper floor apartment of 35 Stanley Avenue, Beckenham sold for £278,000 in 2000.
click here
Today's valuation c.£500,000
Not working class, as Peggy said on D.I.Discs 'we had a middle class home'


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 09:06 AM

Class is a forever. From the 60s onwards loads of traditional "working class" jobs disappeared to be replaced by white collar jobs.

However E & P could be better descibed as "professionals". How defined? - A "Professional" is somebody who does a job but to a large extent decides how to do it.

No, I know that answers nothing, what did you expect a disertation? Like many people of our generation they bought a house because in the long term it was the best bet. In that time we have found our houses to be worth hundreds of thousands - We need a new Ballad - of Accountancy?

L in C#


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 09:21 AM

It's curious, isn't it? When a working class person gets him or her self an education and a career there always seem to be lots of, mainly middle class, 'socialists' around to label that person as some sort of 'class traitor'!


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 10:36 AM

nice interview with Carthy in this months Acoustic magazine plus an appreciation of Bert Jansch's career.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim McLean
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 10:52 AM

Anecdote told to me by Hugh MacDiarmid, the Scottish poet:

Friedrich Engels meets Karl Marx at the railway station and sees him descending from the First Class carriage.
Engels is shocked at this seemingly betrayal of class but Marx chastises him for being naive. "The purpose of Communism," said Marx, "is to abolish the Second and Third Class".


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Jan 12 - 03:22 AM

Sorry to re-open this; I intended to take up where I left off, but wanted to re-listen to the programme before I did.
For me, the nearest the programme came to presenting the facts in a manipulative manner was in placing the bit on MacColl 'demanding' 4 Viet Nam songs where it was placed .
As I've said, the Group was largely made up of people whose political views coincided roughly with Ewan's – no coercion, no brainwashing, no condition of membership – all consenting adults of a left persuasion.
They were very much a part of the anti-Viet Nam war movement, active in Karl Dallas's (I think) 'Folksingers For Freedom in Viet Nam, and performed at concerts and rallies in support for that cause.
Some of the members, notably, Charles Parker and Jack Warshaw, worked to produce a number of radio programmes 'Broadside On' which were sent to North Viet Nam to be broadcast there.
For all of this, the Group undertook to write songs for the programmes and the concerts.
The Carthy programme gave the impression of a sweatshop proprietor demanding goods be turned out to order; MacColl demanding songs on subjects HE had chosen, when, as far as I recall, he was asking that the Group members were forthcoming on the commitment that they had made.
I attended some of the song-writing classes that took place in the Group; we were asked to bring songs of our own choosing to be worked on – no coercion, no brainwashing; these classes produced some fine songs from some very talented songwriters; Dick Snell, Phil Colclough, Sandra Kerr, Jack Warshaw....
Outside the Group, one of the finest songwriters of the time, John Pole was one of those influenced by the encouragement he received from MacColl and the Critics and from the Singers Club (he won a first edition set of Child Ballads (first series) in a songwriting competition run by the Singers – the bastard!! – for his 'Punch and Judy')
The idea that MacColl could influence a bunch of intelligent and talented adults to the point of forcing them to write songs on subjects he had chosen lurks somewhere in the pages of some of my old science fiction novels anyway.
I've dealt elsewhere with MacColl's 'Stalinism'.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,raymond greenoaken
Date: 15 Jan 12 - 12:14 PM

Curious that this thread seems to have dried up completely just as someone joined in who has actual experience of the Group and its working methods. Are people simply embarrassed by their knee-jerk denunciations of the great man? I'd have thought that, now that Jim is ready to tell us what we want to know, we'd be bombarding him with questions. Well, here's a couple from me, in the hope that Jim's still keeping an eye on this thread...

1. It's been suggested on this thread that MacColl was eager to dish out criticism, but reluctant to expose himself to the criticism of other members. Jim, does this tally with your recollections?

2. There has been speculation that MacColl's method of getting to the heart of a song in performance was broadly this: that for the duration of the performance, the singer would imagine himself/herself to be the central character in the narrative, and "live" the experience described in the song rather in the manner of a classical actor. Is that a fair summary of his method?


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Baz Bowdidge
Date: 15 Jan 12 - 01:05 PM

Calling these meetings 'The Critics Group' suggests there would be criticism doesn't it?
That combined with MacColl's apparent stern manner may sum up latter day general opinion on the affair.
The word 'critic' echoes his days on the stage.
The 'Rehearsal Group' maybe?

Baz


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Jan 12 - 03:26 PM

Thanks Raymond - I thought it was something said!
1.   To an extent this was true, but the Group members regarded Ewan as a teacher – on occasion they even referred to group meetings as 'classes'. Don't know about your school, but I would have been hard pushed to criticise any of my teachers. The group was never a democracy as such, but the critical work was as democratic as I've ever come across – before or since.
The work was by no means perfect; Ewan said often enough in my hearing that he felt he was learning as much as he hoped the rest of us were by working the way he/we did.
These threads have inspired me to revisit some of the recordings – even re-started digitising them. The one thing that strikes me while listening is the unstinting praise by members of the group for the work that was being done at the time – I have just been listening to a post-mortem on the 1965/66 Festival of Fools – fascinating to contrast what was being said then and later attitudes, particularly by some who became Ewan's greatest critics (with a small c)
I have said that there were a few in the group in whose presence I would think very carefully before criticising Ewan; one of these, one of Ewan's bitterest critics today, recently appeared on television saying how much another member (the subject of the programme who went off and achieved 'fame and fortune') hated the critical sessions he was given by the group (totally contradicted by a biography of the same singer – now dead). He went on to say that "Ewan wrote a few good songs, but wasn't a particularly good singer. It would have been very much a case of 'The Hustler'-like broken fingers in the lavatory door had anyone made such a comment way-back-when, but, as the man said "The times they are a-changin'".
I honestly don't know if democracy would have worked in the group; I do know that the extremely democratic 'London Singers Workshop' existed for three times the length of the Critics Group and did not achieve a fraction of the successes.
Ewan was a knowledgeable, talented and charismatic artist – in my opinion, that was very much a part of what the group achieved.      
2.   What you are describing is the way Ewan used Stanislavski's acting method of analysing and getting inside a song – it is what we did during work sessions and was, as far as I'm concerned, never meant to be used during public performances, though in my experience it did leave you with enough involvement in the song to make it come live while in front of an audience. It was summed up nicely for me in the title of a book we were all recommended to read on joining, Stanislavski's 'An Actor Prepares'.
Ewan said often enough that any actor or singer who believed him or herself to be the character they were playing or singing about would pretty soon (in the politically incorrect language of the time) "were sure-fire subjects for the looney-bin".
The work that was done was fairly equally divided between technical work – based on exercises adapted from Ewan's theatre work, and analysis and relating to and personalising the songs we were working on, by the singers.
There's a pretty fair description of this work by Ewan in the re-issued version of Journeyman – am happy to scan it and put it up if anybody wants it.   
Can't be bothered re-opening the 'Dylan' thread (and I wouldn't wish to interrupt the high-level discussion about Ewan's trousers – would be out of my depth among such scintillating intellect – really gets to the heart – or should that be arse- of Ewan's contribution to British folk music), but stumbled across this in an old folk mag – in the form of a letter of advice to Bob DYlan; only a part, but happy to put in the whole thing up if anybody's interested.
I met the writer briefly – he never struck me as a Ewan fan but.....

".... In 'Don't think Twice, It's All Right', sometimes it's comical the way you get your lines to rhyme, it reminds me of McGonagall the poet at times.......
I thought your fragmentation of the Scottish song, 'The Bonnie Lass O' Fyvie was very amusing. As you are fond of the blues maybe we will get a Talking Pibroch Blues out of you yet....
If I were you, Bob, I would start looking at the writings of Guthrie again, the man by whom you are so obviously influenced. Come back to this country and let's hear more of you this time. And while you are here study the writings of Ewan McColl, you could learn a lot. Listen to his songs of the last war, how he writes about the army, and if you get a chance try and hear tapes of his Radio Ballads. In fact study the way he writes about life. Listen to the songs of Hamish Henderson such as The Banks of Sicily and The Freedom Come All Ye, the last two lines of this song especially:
'And a black boy fae Yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o! the burghers doon'.
Stop churning out songs. When you write one, work on it and get it perfect. You have talent and this should be applied to a wider field of subjects. Maybe you have come too quickly to the front as a writer and the demands on you are too much. You have a distinctive way of singing, playing very good guitar and harmonica which has in a way saved these two records, especially the first, but you are primarily a writer.
I don't see any reason if you die of old age why you should not make a contribution to Folk Music.
Sincer1y   
Nigel Denver
From Folk Music Vol 1, No 4 (undated but circa mid-sixties – again, will scan and put up in entirety if anybody wants it)
Baz
'Critics' referred to the way the groum members workeed on each other's singers - universally agreed a rottenly misleading name.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 Jan 12 - 03:40 PM

"Are people simply embarrassed by their knee-jerk denunciations of the great man?"

Meaning me, Raymond? Not a knee-jerk, just a visceral reaction to the manner of the 'dishonest song' put-down. I didn't actually mind the instruction to 'write a Vietnam song by next week' so much; it sounded just like a schoolteacher setting homework.

Of course I'm as interested as you to hear the first-hand account from Jim.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Jan 12 - 03:53 PM

From Folk Music Vol 1, No 4 (undated but circa mid-sixties – again, will scan and put up in entirety if anybody wants it)
"according to Denvers biographical details he left london in 1965,so it was probably written 1964 T0 65.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Jan 12 - 04:07 PM

>Meaning me, Raymond?>

I was being politely vague: didn't have you particularly in mind. But I think it's been instructive to view the Critics (and the programme) in the context of their times and of what they were trying to achieve (which has been widely misunderstood and misrepresented - including on this thread and the other one). It was hard to do either of these things on the basis of the programme as presented, which as we can now see was context-lite to an unhelpful degree.


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,raymond greenoaken
Date: 15 Jan 12 - 04:08 PM

As you'll have guessed, that was me...


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,jack warshaw
Date: 31 Mar 15 - 12:03 PM

I came across this from Peggy - this extract might shed some light on the folk revival, Singers Club, Critics Group and why some of us still approach learning, singing and writing folk songs the way we do.

Ewan MacColl Controversy - by Peggy Seeger
I confess, I confess! I was the one who started the whole 'policy' debate. The Ballads and Blues Club had been going really well since 1953. I arrived in London in 1956. The club met at the Princess Louise in High Holborn at that time and there was an impressive list of residents: Alan Lomax, Ralph Rinzler, Isla Cameron, Fitzroy Coleman, Seamus Ennis, Bert Lloyd, Ewan MacColl, et al. Bert was singing English, Australian, N. American and Scottish songs; Ewan was singing 'Sixteen Tons' and 'Sam Bass' alongside 'Eppie Morrie' and 'The Banks of the Nile'; I regularly sang French, German and Dutch songs alongside 'Barbara Allan' and 'Cumberland Gap'. Fitz and Seamus stuck, respectively, to their Jamaican and Irish material. Alan only sang songs that he and his father had collected in the USA. There were many floor singers who came and went - the Weavers turned up from New York and sang in three or four different languages; a west London couple came regularly and sang in Yiddish, a language which they did not speak; two French students would sing Spanish Civil War songs; and so on. It was a free-for-all and I will admit that it was a lot of fun. More about that at another time.

It was that Cockney lad singing Leadbelly who started the rock rolling downhill. Was it 1960 or so? Yes, it was that poor fellow whose rendition of 'Rock Island Line' reduced me to hysterical laughter one night. I was literally doubled over in my seat, gasping. I had to be taken out of the room. Most unprofessional, but I couldn't help it. I am North American. Woody Guthrie, Jean Ritchie, Big Bill Broonzy, Leadbelly, et al, used to come to our house in Washington. I knew what the song should sound like and the manner of delivery and the insertion of Cockney vowels into a southern USA black prisoners' song just sounded funny.

I was reprimanded by several members of the audience at the end of the evening. When I explained my reasons, one of the French students pointed out that the insertion of my American vowels into French songs was also quite laughable. I then mentioned that Ewan's rendition of 'Sam Bass' verged on parody. My children have since pointed out that my Scots accent (on a number of Seeger-MacColl records) is not exactly impeccable. But I am straying… the Cockney singer then confessed that he loved Leadbelly's songs but was losing his confidence in singing them. He was getting bored. I declared that I preferred singing songs from the Anglo-American traditions and only sang the French/German/Spanish songs for 'variety'. The discussion heated up and was a main topic of conversation for several weeks following. We laid the matter in front of all the residents and interviewed the folks who paid at the door on the subject. The decision to lay down guidelines for what you could sing on stage was not made by Ewan MacColl - it was made by the residents and members of the B&B Club (later known as the Singers Club). If it became hewn in stone - well, that's the way things go.

This policy was meant for OUR club, not for other clubs. The policy was simple: If you were singing from the stage, you sang in a language that you could speak and understand. It didn't matter what you sang in the shower, at parties, while you were ironing or making love. But on stage in The Ballads and Blues Folk Club, you were a representative of a culture - you were interpreting a song that had been created within certain social and artistic parameters. Incidentally, along with this policy came the request from our newly-formed Audience Committee that we not sing the same traditional song more than once every three months… they were getting tired of hearing the same songs week after week. This forced us residents to learn new songs at an unholy rate. But it brought out lots of new songs and ballads and really got us thinking about how we sang what we were learning.

Shortly afterwards, the Critics Group was formed, at the behest of several singers who also found that they were losing their way in singing traditional songs. We began to attract singers who wanted to study folksinging. You know, there is no set discipline for folksinging - it's an 'anything goes' area even though real dyed-in-the-wool field singers are very specific about how they sing and what they sing. The purpose of the Critics Group was to make it possible for the singers who had not been brought up in the 'folk' tradition to sing the songs in a way that would not abrogate the original intention of the makers. It was an attempt to keep the folksongs folksongs, not turn them into classical pieces or pop songs or anything-goes songs. We analysed accompanimental and vocal styles, tried to expand our abilities to sing in different styles so that we could tackle different kinds of songs (within the languages and dialects that we spoke) and still keep the songs true to themselves. Once again, we were not initially telling other singers how to sing - just deciding how WE were going to sing. If we became evangelical and sounded dictatorial, well - that's the way things go. The intentions were honourable.

I must admit that I am still going that way and tend to be rather intolerant of female singers lilting 'Ranzo Ranzo Way Away' as if it were a lullaby or a love song; of a band of instrumentalists producing 'Sir Patrick Spens' (which had been unaccompanied for several centuries) with four fiddles, two double basses, drums, electric guitar and unintelligible lyrics. It was such a good song… but OK. Just don't call it folk song. And while you're at it, listen to some of my own early recordings - say on the Fellside album "Classic Peggy Seeger". Listen to me in my early years singing so fast that even I (who know the words of the songs) cannot understand what I am singing. Or listen to me accompanying Ewan on sloshy guitar or overharmonising with him on 'Lassie Wi' the yellow Coatie'. We all do these things in our youth and before we have understanding (just wish I hadn't recorded them). Ewan did this himself in his early recordings and never pretended that he didn't. What he was really trying to do in his later years (and I will be the first to admit that sometimes we could both be hamfisted about it) was encourage understanding of where these songs came from and how easy it is to ruin them, to turn them into something else. Kind of like what's happening to the earth right now. We're all doing just what we want to a beautiful piece of natural art (aka nature) - and only just now beginning to worry about having to live with the mess. Unfortunately, that's the way things go. And so many of the intentions are not honourable.

I've done my share of 'changing' the folksongs. Had to. I wasn't brought up on the front porch of a cabin in the Appalachians and I don't care to pretend that I was. I had a middle-class classical musical training and that's hard to shake. But I don't pretend to be a folksinger or that the folksongs (as I sing them) are 'ur' versions. I am a singer of folksongs and I hope that my lullabies are lullabies and the words of my ballads are intelligible. Ewan MacColl was one step nearer to being a folksinger than I, having been brought up in a Scots community in Salford. He is a man who is a perfect example of the old saying "stick your neck out and someone will chop your head off". I didn't know, until after he died, just how many enemies and ex-post-facto critics we had made. WE. Please remember that he and I were in this together and you can now aim your missiles at someone who is still here and who is quite articulate on the matter. Pity more folks didn't have the courage and the knowledge to talk with him while he was alive. He was actually an interesting, approachable person and was happy to talk to anyone who approached with a less-than-hostile attitude. I learned so much from those years… and, of course, I am biased! I am also fed up with people who criticise him with only hearsay and second (third, fourth, umpteenth) knowledge on which to base their opinions.



Peggy Seeger, Asheville
North Carolina
Living Tradition Homepage


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Subject: RE: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4
From: GUEST,How Folk Songs Should Be Sung ...
Date: 01 Apr 15 - 06:27 AM

here ...

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/5h0ba7y6yapj6gt/AADvZfreagCZ85CTfS17PftXa?dl=0


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