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M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4

GUEST,How Folk Songs Should Be Sung ... 01 Apr 15 - 06:27 AM
GUEST,jack warshaw 31 Mar 15 - 12:03 PM
GUEST,raymond greenoaken 15 Jan 12 - 04:08 PM
GUEST 15 Jan 12 - 04:07 PM
The Sandman 15 Jan 12 - 03:53 PM
Brian Peters 15 Jan 12 - 03:40 PM
Jim Carroll 15 Jan 12 - 03:26 PM
Baz Bowdidge 15 Jan 12 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,raymond greenoaken 15 Jan 12 - 12:14 PM
Jim Carroll 14 Jan 12 - 03:22 AM
Jim McLean 11 Jan 12 - 10:52 AM
Big Al Whittle 11 Jan 12 - 10:36 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 11 Jan 12 - 09:21 AM
Les in Chorlton 11 Jan 12 - 09:06 AM
Baz Bowdidge 11 Jan 12 - 08:36 AM
Jim Carroll 11 Jan 12 - 04:33 AM
theleveller 10 Jan 12 - 12:10 PM
Spleen Cringe 10 Jan 12 - 11:34 AM
Mavis Enderby 10 Jan 12 - 09:01 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Jan 12 - 08:35 AM
The Sandman 10 Jan 12 - 08:09 AM
Baz Bowdidge 10 Jan 12 - 06:41 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Jan 12 - 06:36 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 10 Jan 12 - 06:24 AM
GUEST,Derek Schofield 10 Jan 12 - 05:53 AM
Les in Chorlton 10 Jan 12 - 05:24 AM
MGM·Lion 10 Jan 12 - 05:21 AM
Spleen Cringe 10 Jan 12 - 05:10 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Jan 12 - 05:10 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 10 Jan 12 - 04:28 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 09 Jan 12 - 06:23 PM
The Sandman 09 Jan 12 - 03:58 PM
The Sandman 09 Jan 12 - 03:56 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Jan 12 - 03:04 PM
Les in Chorlton 09 Jan 12 - 02:15 PM
Baz Bowdidge 09 Jan 12 - 01:48 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Jan 12 - 12:43 PM
Spleen Cringe 09 Jan 12 - 11:21 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 09 Jan 12 - 10:57 AM
The Sandman 09 Jan 12 - 10:53 AM
MartinRyan 09 Jan 12 - 09:42 AM
Jim Carroll 09 Jan 12 - 09:31 AM
tonyteach1 09 Jan 12 - 07:50 AM
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TheSnail 09 Jan 12 - 06:57 AM
Jim Carroll 09 Jan 12 - 06:08 AM
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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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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,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
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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 02:35 PM

interesting version of henry martin, thanks.


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