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Throwing away the crutch....

Johnny J 01 Jun 13 - 06:53 AM
Will Fly 01 Jun 13 - 07:44 AM
GUEST,Lavengro 01 Jun 13 - 07:53 AM
John Routledge 01 Jun 13 - 08:13 AM
Jack Campin 01 Jun 13 - 08:16 AM
Les in Chorlton 01 Jun 13 - 09:12 AM
Acme 01 Jun 13 - 09:21 AM
Jack Campin 01 Jun 13 - 10:10 AM
Ron Davies 01 Jun 13 - 10:22 AM
Sir Roger de Beverley 01 Jun 13 - 10:23 AM
Vic Smith 01 Jun 13 - 10:44 AM
Johnny J 01 Jun 13 - 10:49 AM
Ron Davies 01 Jun 13 - 11:02 AM
Marje 01 Jun 13 - 11:19 AM
Manitas_at_home 01 Jun 13 - 11:35 AM
Johnny J 01 Jun 13 - 11:39 AM
Ged Fox 01 Jun 13 - 12:07 PM
Tattie Bogle 01 Jun 13 - 12:37 PM
GUEST 01 Jun 13 - 01:13 PM
Sir Roger de Beverley 01 Jun 13 - 01:16 PM
Jack Campin 01 Jun 13 - 01:35 PM
Saro 01 Jun 13 - 02:30 PM
John Routledge 01 Jun 13 - 07:33 PM
John Routledge 01 Jun 13 - 07:52 PM
Les in Chorlton 02 Jun 13 - 04:31 AM
Tattie Bogle 02 Jun 13 - 04:44 AM
RichM 02 Jun 13 - 04:56 AM
John Routledge 02 Jun 13 - 05:57 AM
Johnny J 02 Jun 13 - 07:55 AM
GUEST,Lavengro 02 Jun 13 - 09:35 AM
banjoman 02 Jun 13 - 11:10 AM
John P 02 Jun 13 - 11:54 AM
GUEST,Lavengro 02 Jun 13 - 12:01 PM
Les in Chorlton 02 Jun 13 - 03:07 PM
GUEST,FloraG 03 Jun 13 - 03:42 AM
Will Fly 03 Jun 13 - 03:57 AM
GUEST,Don Wise 03 Jun 13 - 04:37 AM
Jack Campin 03 Jun 13 - 07:12 AM
Johnny J 03 Jun 13 - 07:26 AM
RichM 03 Jun 13 - 08:22 AM
Phil Cooper 03 Jun 13 - 08:38 AM
Nigel Parsons 03 Jun 13 - 09:50 AM
John P 03 Jun 13 - 09:53 AM
Paul Davenport 03 Jun 13 - 09:57 AM
Johnny J 03 Jun 13 - 10:05 AM
Tattie Bogle 03 Jun 13 - 10:13 AM
Johnny J 03 Jun 13 - 10:27 AM
Bill D 03 Jun 13 - 11:49 AM
Marje 03 Jun 13 - 12:16 PM
GUEST,JHW 03 Jun 13 - 06:50 PM
Ron Davies 03 Jun 13 - 11:18 PM
Don Firth 04 Jun 13 - 01:15 AM
Jack Campin 04 Jun 13 - 05:39 AM
Johnny J 04 Jun 13 - 05:44 AM
buddhuu 04 Jun 13 - 06:12 AM
Jack Campin 04 Jun 13 - 07:04 AM
JHW 04 Jun 13 - 08:39 AM
Will Fly 04 Jun 13 - 08:47 AM
The Sandman 04 Jun 13 - 09:14 AM
GUEST 04 Jun 13 - 10:11 AM
Tattie Bogle 04 Jun 13 - 10:30 AM
GUEST,Don Wise 04 Jun 13 - 10:57 AM
GUEST,FloraG 05 Jun 13 - 04:05 AM
Les in Chorlton 05 Jun 13 - 04:16 AM
GUEST 05 Jun 13 - 05:04 AM
GUEST,Lavengro 05 Jun 13 - 07:51 AM
Les in Chorlton 05 Jun 13 - 01:25 PM
The Sandman 05 Jun 13 - 02:49 PM
GUEST,JHW 05 Jun 13 - 03:37 PM
Donuel 05 Jun 13 - 04:01 PM
GUEST,Guest TF 05 Jun 13 - 04:17 PM
GUEST,Guest TF 05 Jun 13 - 04:26 PM
Vic Smith 05 Jun 13 - 06:07 PM
michaelr 06 Jun 13 - 12:23 AM
GUEST,FloraG 06 Jun 13 - 03:16 AM
Les in Chorlton 06 Jun 13 - 03:44 AM
GUEST 06 Jun 13 - 06:16 AM
Jack Campin 06 Jun 13 - 06:27 AM
Will Fly 06 Jun 13 - 07:26 AM
GUEST,Lavengro 06 Jun 13 - 07:27 AM
GUEST,FloraG 06 Jun 13 - 07:34 AM
Marje 06 Jun 13 - 08:10 AM
GUEST,Don Wise 06 Jun 13 - 10:31 AM
GUEST,concerened 06 Jun 13 - 12:13 PM
Megan L 06 Jun 13 - 12:41 PM
TheSnail 06 Jun 13 - 12:50 PM
Larry The Radio Guy 06 Jun 13 - 02:19 PM
GUEST,Lavengro 06 Jun 13 - 02:35 PM
The Sandman 06 Jun 13 - 04:33 PM
GUEST,jim bainbridge 06 Jun 13 - 05:36 PM
CupOfTea 08 Jun 13 - 12:04 PM
Ron Davies 08 Jun 13 - 12:54 PM
Jack Campin 08 Jun 13 - 02:00 PM
Johnny J 11 Jun 13 - 09:40 AM
Phil Edwards 11 Jun 13 - 03:07 PM
GUEST,jim bainbridge 12 Jun 13 - 09:15 AM
Tattie Bogle 12 Jun 13 - 07:31 PM
RichM 12 Jun 13 - 08:42 PM
Will Fly 13 Jun 13 - 05:21 AM
Keith A of Hertford 13 Jun 13 - 05:34 AM
John Routledge 13 Jun 13 - 05:34 AM
Vic Smith 13 Jun 13 - 05:57 AM
Nigel Parsons 13 Jun 13 - 07:10 AM
Marje 13 Jun 13 - 10:00 AM
Don Firth 13 Jun 13 - 02:42 PM
Allan C. 13 Jun 13 - 02:45 PM
Phil Edwards 13 Jun 13 - 03:46 PM
Don Firth 13 Jun 13 - 04:27 PM
Allan C. 13 Jun 13 - 05:33 PM
Marje 14 Jun 13 - 10:15 AM
Don Firth 14 Jun 13 - 03:32 PM
GUEST,JHW 14 Jun 13 - 03:49 PM
Ron Davies 15 Jun 13 - 12:45 AM
breezy 15 Jun 13 - 11:48 AM
Jack Campin 15 Jun 13 - 12:08 PM
breezy 15 Jun 13 - 03:03 PM
breezy 15 Jun 13 - 03:08 PM
breezy 15 Jun 13 - 03:21 PM
Don Firth 15 Jun 13 - 03:45 PM
GUEST 15 Jun 13 - 05:46 PM
Phil Edwards 15 Jun 13 - 06:05 PM
GUEST,150613 16 Jun 13 - 04:33 AM
Phil Edwards 16 Jun 13 - 04:43 AM
GUEST,150613 16 Jun 13 - 05:25 AM
Ron Davies 16 Jun 13 - 11:00 AM
Don Firth 16 Jun 13 - 02:09 PM
Tattie Bogle 17 Jun 13 - 10:22 AM
Phil Edwards 17 Jun 13 - 12:14 PM
CupOfTea 17 Jun 13 - 06:29 PM
Don Firth 17 Jun 13 - 06:46 PM
Jack Campin 25 Jun 13 - 07:37 AM
Johnny J 25 Jun 13 - 08:09 AM
GUEST 25 Jun 13 - 08:18 AM
Ron Davies 25 Jun 13 - 08:51 AM
Ron Davies 25 Jun 13 - 09:10 AM
GUEST,John Routledge 25 Jun 13 - 09:25 AM
Ron Davies 25 Jun 13 - 09:29 AM
Nigel Parsons 25 Jun 13 - 09:44 AM
Ron Davies 25 Jun 13 - 10:07 AM
Nigel Parsons 25 Jun 13 - 10:54 AM
Ron Davies 25 Jun 13 - 11:01 AM
Jack Campin 25 Jun 13 - 01:16 PM
Phil Edwards 25 Jun 13 - 01:56 PM
Ron Davies 25 Jun 13 - 11:40 PM
Ron Davies 25 Jun 13 - 11:53 PM
Ron Davies 26 Jun 13 - 12:05 AM
Johnny J 26 Jun 13 - 05:14 AM
Phil Edwards 26 Jun 13 - 06:40 PM
Don Firth 26 Jun 13 - 08:22 PM
Ron Davies 27 Jun 13 - 12:27 AM
Phil Edwards 27 Jun 13 - 02:35 AM
Jack Campin 27 Jun 13 - 06:01 AM
Marje 27 Jun 13 - 08:30 AM
Jack Campin 27 Jun 13 - 09:35 AM
Marje 27 Jun 13 - 11:21 AM
GUEST,Don Wise 27 Jun 13 - 01:45 PM
Don Firth 27 Jun 13 - 02:33 PM
Will Fly 27 Jun 13 - 03:03 PM
Don Firth 27 Jun 13 - 03:08 PM
GUEST 27 Jun 13 - 03:41 PM
Johnny J 27 Jun 13 - 03:53 PM
GUEST,Musket sans props 28 Jun 13 - 05:45 AM
GUEST,SteveT 28 Jun 13 - 07:43 AM
Marje 28 Jun 13 - 11:21 AM
Bill D 28 Jun 13 - 11:37 AM
Ron Davies 28 Jun 13 - 11:54 PM
Johnny J 29 Jun 13 - 03:53 AM
Phil Edwards 29 Jun 13 - 04:34 AM
Jack Campin 29 Jun 13 - 04:56 AM
Phil Edwards 29 Jun 13 - 06:20 AM
GUEST,John Routledge 29 Jun 13 - 07:37 AM
Don Firth 30 Jun 13 - 01:35 AM
GUEST,150613 30 Jun 13 - 03:33 PM
Don Firth 30 Jun 13 - 05:55 PM
OlgaJ 01 Jul 13 - 11:37 AM
Jack Campin 01 Jul 13 - 11:56 AM
Ron Davies 01 Jul 13 - 06:21 PM
Ron Davies 01 Jul 13 - 06:23 PM
GUEST,Musket sans reality check 01 Jul 13 - 06:25 PM
Ron Davies 01 Jul 13 - 06:35 PM
Ron Davies 01 Jul 13 - 06:38 PM
GUEST,Musket sans body of Clapton 01 Jul 13 - 06:55 PM
Rumncoke 01 Jul 13 - 08:04 PM
Ron Davies 02 Jul 13 - 12:53 AM
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Subject: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Johnny J
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 06:53 AM

This is a sort of offshoot from the "Choir in the Community" thread...

These days "group work" seems to be the in thing as far as musical projects are concerned and, as another poster had observed, this is potentially affecting folk club gatherings, music and song sessions etc. While not necessarily leading to their demise and, in many cases, sometimes actually encouraging more interest, it is certainly altering the character and ambience of such events.

For instance, on another site, someone was advertising a tune session and he posted a "Suggested Set List" complete with "the dots" while another session organiser stated that the repertoire for the evening would be from "What's his name?"'s tune books.

In song sessions and even for folk club floor spots, it's now common practice to bring in song sheets... sometimes large folders.. but it's also increasingly more common for some tune sessions to be organised in this way. Also, even in folk clubs, singers and musicians now set up their music stands on a regular basis.

Of course, everyone has to start somewhere and I don't begrudge beginners arranging their own sessions but many of them are well beyond that stage or should be by now. Yet, they like to continue with the same approach and format.

I feel that there ought to be a time for everyone to enter the "big bad world" and stand on their own two feet. Learn a few songs and/or tunes before you go along to a session or folk club. If you can only remember one or two of them the first time, so be it. Next time, you'll have a few more under your belt. Likewise, if you make a mistake or two, it doesn't really matter. You can actually make just as many reading off song sheets or the "dots" as you can be too busy looking at these to actually do the songs and tunes real justice.

As with everything else, there "may" be an occasional exception to the rule. Sometimes, I may bring along a song or tune which I haven't yet learned fully as I have a specific purpose for performing it. It may be something topical, for instance. However, this is a very rare thing and certainly I wouldn't want to do so in a good going tune or song session.

Looking forward to all comments, agreeable or otherwise.
:-)


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Will Fly
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 07:44 AM

Ah - a topic that's been aired many times here - and you can probably guess the usual suspects replying to it, and their usual replies...

well, here's my usual response:

The only time I ever use a music stand and music is very occasionally - as an aide memoire - when performing with our ceilidh band, and only if we're doing a rarely performed piece or a brand new tune.

Otherwise never. Never in a pub or club, and never at a session or singaround. I hate using these things myself, and I'm not fond of others using them either - just call me a Mouldy Old Fig!


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Lavengro
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 07:53 AM

Personally don't normally use sheets unless I get asked to play at "such and such" an event where I think a specific song would fit that I am not overly familiar with.

But (also personally) I couldn't care less if someone performs from a folder, crib sheet electronic device, whatever. Makes no difference to me.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: John Routledge
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 08:13 AM

The problem is not in the sheets as such. It is that their use can encourage little or no preparation.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 08:16 AM

There are some performers (singers more than instrumentalists) who will hold everything up while they insist on finding exactly the right piece of paper. (The larger the singer's folder, the more likely they are to do this). That is just plain rude. If someone can perform with a bit of paper without it interrupting the flow, fine.

It is also a bit irritating if people can only do the version of the song or tune they've got on paper in front of them, when there may be good reason to do a different one, which they should be able to pick up on the fly but won't.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 09:12 AM

I think people sing much better when they sing from memory - providing they have thoroughly learned the song.

We use the Beech Tune Book in our tunes sessions - 14 copies, big print on 'music stands' and we use a version of that for Ceilidhs.

I picked up this idea from 'Beginners Sessions' at Whitby and Shrewsbury Festivals. As a result around 110 people have played in our sessions, 20 play most times and we generally have a Ceilidh Band of about 20.

Most of the people who come to The Beech, M21 9EG, have not played on other sessions and as far as I can tell still don't - although some of us do.

I believe having the music enables a whole host of people who can read a bit to play with us. Playing from the dots is an historic feature of country dance tunes - that why they have survived in such incradible numbers - see The Village Music Project.

Best wishes


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Acme
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 09:21 AM

Thank goodness! Another thread about getting rid of Rise Up Singing et al - I was afraid you were stopping drinking or smoking!

;-D

SRS


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 10:10 AM

It might have been less oh-god-not-again if Johnny J had named some names, so as to make it more concrete. He's talking about a specific local development in the Edinburgh area.

In the case of sessions, I don't think the situation is that clear-cut. There are a few "beginners", "slow", or "not too fast" sessions in the Edinburgh area. One, in the Canons Gait, started out using materials on paper from the Adult Learning Project's Scots Music Group, about 15 years ago, supplemented by tunebooks from Nigel Gatherer more recently. It doesn't have any formal connection with either Nigel or ALP/SMOG now, but hasn't found any way of introducing new tunes either - or even different medleyings of the same tunes. The result is an astonishingly ossified repertoire. It's all played quite slickly, and only a few people use sheets, but every week is the same.

The one with the formalized mailing list of tunes, organized by Alistair Kilgour and currently in the White Horse on Mondays, is nominally a slow session. In practice it's more adventurous than the Canon's Gait one, because there's a way of introducing new material. Some people use paper (mostly Nigel Gatherer's books), others don't, but the greater formality goes along with greater variety. You can do something not on the list and not be stared at as if you're an alien. My guess is the Beech Band works that way.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 10:22 AM

John Routledge has nailed it perfectly.

The only thing that can be added is that some crutches are worse than others.    Rise Up Singing--which you in the UK can count yourselves lucky to be spared--is the allltime worst.   

And for exactly the reason he cited:    it makes it easy to avoid any preparation at all--especially for groups which have a lot of that particular tome.

So you can have the edifying spectacle of a whole group plowing through every verse printed in the book--though they have never seen some of them.    To a tune they also don't know.

RUS--like other crutches--is fine.   At home.    Not at open sings or singarounds.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Sir Roger de Beverley
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 10:23 AM

You are a bit out of date with pieces of paper - nowadays it is all ipads that can be set to scroll up the page in time with the song.

R


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Vic Smith
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 10:44 AM

You are a bit out of date with pieces of paper - nowadays it is all ipads that can be set to scroll up the page in time with the song.

Observed at tune sessions as well.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Johnny J
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 10:49 AM

I'm not having a go at the particular sessions to which Jack was referring as such but just the general trend.

I know there are musicians and singers who could quite easily make the transition to "faster" or more advanced sessions or, at least, be able to do so much of the time.
Of course, this is dependent on the prevailing repertoire and it can take some time to adjust to this but I get the impression that many are just content to plough their own furrow.

It's possibly a social thing too. Many of the emerging "adult" singers and musicians aren't "pubby" types and might prefer the tried and tested company of their friends and fellow SMG etc students. Also, there is "safety in numbers", to a certain extent.
It's also the case(Fairly or unfairly), that many people regard much of the established session and folk club scene as a little cliquey.

Another reason why "The Canon's Gait session" has stagnated is also due to its popularity and sheer size. Players are less inclined to introduce new tunes in front of so many people and there is always a tendency to fall back on standard tunes when a session is really large.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 11:02 AM

ipads in your pub sessions? That's discouraging.

Can you set ground rules banning their use?

Sure hope they will not be in the Anchor.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Marje
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 11:19 AM

Or how about reading the lyrics from a CD cover? That way you don't even have to prepare a crib-sheet or write out the words, you just grab a CD as you leave home. And then you stumble over the words because you can't see them properly, and also because you haven't bothered to work out how the syllables fit to the rhythm of the tune.

I agree it's not quite as bad as iPads and smartphones being used to generate lyrics. But probably even worse than this is messing around with smartphones checking your e-mails when it's not your turn to sing, or (at a session) where it's a tunes or song you happen not to be joining in with. Just plain bad manners, it seems to me. If you want to check your e-mails or Facebook, go away and do it somewhere else.

Then again, it might be permissible if the performer is reading the wodrs from a CD cover...

Grumble, grumble, mutter mutter ...

Marje


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 11:35 AM

WRT to Ipads at sessions - a couple of weeks ago we agreed we would play Morning Star but found we couldn't remember the start so we did another set. During the smoke break I took out my phone and fired up Tunepal, finding the tune we wanted. I hummed the first few notes to the fiddler and that was all we needed. This is what the song books should be - an aide memoire. Glance at the words or tune and then shut them.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Johnny J
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 11:39 AM

"smartphones being used to generate lyrics"

I have to confess to doing this *once* at a large singaround although I didn't actually sing them off the screen. Just to remind myself, beforehand.

However, I still don't approve.
:-)


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ged Fox
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 12:07 PM

I fairly often go to "The Broadside Folk Club." The name is a reminder that pub singing with crib sheets & dots is a tradition that goes back centuries.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 12:37 PM

Well there was a time when I couldn't play anything unless I had the music in front of me, and the little A5 size books proved invaluable: gradually over the space of 10 years or more, I have improved my "ear learning" - forced myself to do it - amd now can get through most tunes sessions without music ion front of me, whether I previously know the tune or not. Part of it is being more familiar with my instrument, part of it just learning the stuff, developing brain- and muscle-memory. (Try to carry on a conversation while still playing the tune!) I am aware of some people who just will NOT take their eyes off the written music still ("in one eye and out the other") despite having played the same tune x000 times. They DO need to "throw away the crutch". And one of the problems of the "ossified session" is that some people do go on to automatic pilot - play slow airs far too fast, lose all musicality in certain tunes. I have given up on one of the sessions referred to as it is far too repetitive and unwelcoming of any attempt to introduce any new tunes.
I do struggle to learn words of songs anything more than about 5 verses long, and I do prefer to sing a wide variety of songs rather than a very limited number: hence I will use song words sometimes, but hopefully will use the words as a backstop and know how the song goes before I launch into it. Nothing gets up my nose more than those folk who sit and wait until their turn comes round (they can see it coming a mile off!) and then faff around deciding which of the 100s of songs in their files they will do. If I do need to take lyric sheets to a session, I'll decide on a short list of 3 or 4 and just take those with me.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 01:13 PM

Yes ipads are being used and why the hell not? As long as people are encouraged to sing and play. I dont think the Folk Police are in position to impose rules about this, any more than the instruments played and music performed. Electronic instruments are being used more often such as EWIs and synthesisers and why not? a guitar or accordion is no more authentic to accompany a tradional song. it is not as if the oral tradition was art risk. We learn songs and pass them on by use of digitsl media these days, if it helps to have the music in front of you then its better hou do that than not to play at all.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Sir Roger de Beverley
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 01:16 PM

Wasn't it Bob Dylan who wrote (in Hard Rain) "and I'll know my song well before I start singing."?

R


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 01:35 PM

Part of it is being more familiar with my instrument, part of it just learning the stuff, developing brain- and muscle-memory. (Try to carry on a conversation while still playing the tune!)

Trying to hold a conversation while playing is a bit tricky for us wind instrument players, but the divided-attention thing is clearly a good idea. I have decided that mindful contemplation of the barmaid's bum while in mid-tune will do instead.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Saro
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 02:30 PM

I do understand that some people find it really hard to remember words, and though i don't like it, I find it hard to quarrel with someone having a copy to hand to glance at in case of disaster - but that's assuming they've learned the song to the best of their ability and have a momentary lapse - don't we all? The worst case i saw was someone singing quite a long song from a songbook, turning over the page and saying "Oh sorry, that was the last verse."


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: John Routledge
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 07:33 PM

Saro's last sentence says much.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: John Routledge
Date: 01 Jun 13 - 07:52 PM

On a positive note I spend years trying to sing by talking about it.!!
The only way is to DO it. Bit like diving off a spring board into a pool. You can't do it slowly. Take a deep breath and do it.

Same applies first time you stand up to sing and leave your words in your pocket/bag/ipad whatever.Trust me the second time is much much easier.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 02 Jun 13 - 04:31 AM

I with John - sing 'em lots and never say "I sorry, I've sung this before" - that's the very reason the songs have survived


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 02 Jun 13 - 04:44 AM

Well ideally everyone would know every song they want to sing off by heart (and easier to sing "from the heart" if you do). But there are maybe different levels? I.e. for public performance on stage, no words in front of you (although I can think of several groups of more mature years and maybe fading memory who do have the folder there for the occasional glance down reminder). But for sessions, so long as you basically know how the song goes ( the words scan, etc) and can sing it without your head down in the book, I don't mind people using lyrics.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: RichM
Date: 02 Jun 13 - 04:56 AM

Sure, I'll comment. I don't feel I have to apologize or explain why I depend on song sheets.

It's not relevant!

Begrudgingly I will tell you all that I have a brain condition called Hydrocephalus-which affect memory among many other symptoms.

It's much improved since a brain operation 5 years ago, but why should I have to show my "handicap" sticker(figuratively, though I do have one for parking a vehicle)if I do participate in a stage presentation?

I think it's rude to comment on the use of written sheets. Do we criticize classical musicians when they do this?


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: John Routledge
Date: 02 Jun 13 - 05:57 AM

I would not criticize anyone using a "sheet" if they have put even a minute fraction of the effort into learning a song that classical singers/musicians do.

Therein lies my difficulty.

The use of "sheets" without even a small amount of preparation shows no respect for the song and certainly no respect for the audience.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Johnny J
Date: 02 Jun 13 - 07:55 AM

Rich,

I'm sorry to hear about your health issues but I'm pleased that things have improved for you. Of course, it's your choice to mention this or not.

You say "why should I have to show my "handicap" sticker"?

Well, in a sense, this is part of my argument. Bringing your music or lyrics on stage or into a session is actually doing this in itself. However, most reasonable people will understand your situation and why you may need to do this.

It's a different matter when there's absolutely no need or even when it's through laziness or lack of preparation. I can understand that some people may lack confidence but, as has already been stated, the best way to get over this is to try to do without the "aides" or walk with out the crutch. Also, the practice of constantly referring to sheet music or song sheets inevitably hampers the progress of a musician or singer in what is essentially an oral and aural tradition/genre and it's surely in their own interests to dispense with these in the long run.

Returning to the analogy of "the crutch" or "crutches", I obviously have no problem with persons who require to use these for any physical reason if they really need them but only for as long as this this the case. For instance, when their broken is leg healed or the plaster is removed etc, it really is in their own interest to "throw away the crutch(es)". Otherwise, they'll never have the confidence to walk unaided.
Of course, there are many people who are permanent "users" of such aides and equipment out of physical necessity and we should all be appreciative and understanding of their needs. The same obviously applies to other aspects of life including the performance of music.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Lavengro
Date: 02 Jun 13 - 09:35 AM

Most clubs have a wide spectrum of ability/talent and personally I would rather see someone up there with a sheet, than not being up there at all for fear of running the gauntlet of scornful stares from those who disapprove.

The other side of the coin for me is this. At one of the clubs I go to there is a singer/guitarist (who draws from a core of about 30 songs)and is very averse to using "crib" sheets as it is "not very folky" (his words). The issue is that every club night he bumbles lyrics, repeats lines and verses and puts in additional guitar breaks whilst he stands with a pained expression trying to summon up the lyric. It is even worse when he is singing without an instrument as it is then an even more painful silence, occasionally punctuated by a self deprecating joke.

The man is a decent enough singer and guitarist and plays stuff he is well practiced at and familiar with. But he just can't remember it fully. I would much rather see him "cheating" and delivering a complete song. Not everyone can do everything to a standard that others want to hold them accountable to. That shouldn't mean (IMO) that they should be confined to their living room and barred from public performance.

I have a friend who has absolutely no sense of direction. He can take a straightforward journey 10 times (with a navigator) and get lost on the 11th going solo. If he wasn't allowed a crib sheet in the form of a map, or sat nav we might never see him again! He should still be allowed to drive in public though.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: banjoman
Date: 02 Jun 13 - 11:10 AM

I would rather see someone make the effort and the odd mistake than to suffer the setting up of a music stand and rifling through pages of written words.
We used to have a system of fines in a club I was involved with which included a fine of 20p if you used a music stand or crib sheet.
The worst I ever saw was at a small concert in aid of a local charity where one "Performer" annonuced he would sing one of his own songs and then proceeded to search his vast portfolio for the words of his own song.
I think every effort should be made to learn a song.music before public performance


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: John P
Date: 02 Jun 13 - 11:54 AM

Not everyone can do everything to a standard that others want to hold them accountable to. That shouldn't mean (IMO) that they should be confined to their living room and barred from public performance.

If they can't produce a competent performance, why should they be encouraged to get up and perform anyway? To continue the driving analogy, this is like saying that someone who can't reach the clutch, or who can't see adequately, should be encouraged to drive anyway. Why isn't it considered rude to inflict an ill-prepared performance on an audience?

There are plenty of opportunities to play or sing music with others that are not public performances. I draw distinct differences between getting up on a stage and "entertaining" an audience on the one hand and joining a session or a song circle on the other. I know that a lot of people don't like music reading even at sessions, and I don't either, but it's nothing like standing in front of a captive audience without being skilled enough or practiced enough to turn in a decent performance. The big difference for me is that, unlike at a stage performance, I don't expect competence or even ability at a public session, and think it's just fine when I don't see it.

In a band context, I have found almost without exception that people who are reading music aren't listening to and playing along with everyone else very well.

Also, there is a lot of folk music that simply cannot be scored accurately. Do people that play from music at sessions ever learn how to play reels?


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Lavengro
Date: 02 Jun 13 - 12:01 PM

JohnP:

"this is like saying that someone who can't reach the clutch, or who can't see adequately, should be encouraged to drive anyway"

That didn't stop Short Round or Mr Magoo ;)


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 02 Jun 13 - 03:07 PM

I saw a man use a laptop - fi man fi

sorry - true though


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,FloraG
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 03:42 AM

I think the same things apply to calling dances. Best to have them in your head - especially if you are playing at the same time. However, I am happy to admit - I've never called this before - usually at a dance club - and please could you help me make sure it works Ok - and have a crib sheet for that occasion.
I also find a large written list of dances helpful - you are never quite sure what shape the hall is or how experienced the dancers - so you can pick suitable dances or alter the ones you know.
FloraG


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Will Fly
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 03:57 AM

You wait, Les - it'll be wi-man-fi soon...


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 04:37 AM

Living in Germany I've noticed that it is fairly common to 'hide' behind the music stand. The negative side of this becomes very quickly apparent when people are playing for dances. My experience playing with a ceilidh band back in the UK in the late '60s/early '70s showed me that at least one person in the band, preferably the leader, has to keep an eye on events on the dance floor, particularly so given the very mixed abilities of the average dancers. Even the best caller can't be everywhere at once.

In Germany however, at a 'everyone mucks in' festival I used to go to, the musicians tended to hide behind their music stands and play on oblivious of what was happening on the dance floor. It was also very quickly clear to me that they had very little or no relationship to the dances they were playing - they were simply reeling off the dots and leaving the dancers to fend for themselves, not all of whom could relate the various sequences of the dance to the music. The result of this was often total chaos on the dance floor. Admittedly, the somewhat eclectic choice of dances- english, french, balkan, swedish, afghan etc. didn't help. I did persuade the band leader to actually learn some of the commener tunes she used and put her music stand to one side. She did this and reported that the difference was like night and day- she could now connect the music to what the dancers were doing, put the emphasis in all the right places and take steps to counter any signs of chaos on the dance floor. Not only that, she was enjoying the music much more.

The complete opposite of this was a family group who insisted on arranging everything as if they were giving a chamber music recital rather than playing for dancing. They ensconced themselves behind their music stands and, like the musos on the Titanic, played blithely on whilst the dancers gradually gave up and left the dance floor or stood around trying to work out where they were in terms of the music and the dance sequence. Quite simply, they played so delicatly that the necessary lead that the music should give the dancers just wasn't there or, more probably, didn't make it over the barricade of their music stands.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 07:12 AM

A lot of Scottish dance bands use music stands like this:

Jim Johnstone and Iain MacPhail

Easy to see over it to the dancers.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Johnny J
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 07:26 AM

Jack,

I think that the music and dances themselves are well planned in these circumstances... i.e. on the SCD scene.

While I'm sure they'll pay attention to what the dancers are doing, I'd imagine that they'd be a little less flexible than ordinary ceilidh bands.

The dances will last for a set time(as will the tunes)and the dancers will usually be expected to know what they are doing too.
Unlike your average SMG hoolie   :-)

I'd imagine that the music is more of a "plan" for the programme as opposed to the musicians actually needing to read the dots as such.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: RichM
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 08:22 AM

Intolerant dilettantes plenty, it's a common failing of the prissy folk community. This is why I don't often participate in "folk" events where purists abound.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 08:38 AM

There's a duo in the US that uses a songbook and stand, but make it part of their performance. It's their original songs, which are very humorous. You pretty much don't notice they are using it after awhile. But they also don't fumble around looking for things. The act is Peter and Lou Berryman, and they are well regarded.
   I also noticed that Richard Thompson used a song sheets for his 1000 years of Popular Music program. Again the music was not in the general sight line of the audience and there was no dithering between songs to find the next one.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 09:50 AM

"Throwing away the crutch"

Is this just about dispensing with music stands & paper?
Or should it extend to doing away with certain guitars, without which the performer would be unable to stay in key for more than half a verse?

Just askin' :)


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: John P
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 09:53 AM

RichM, I've been trying without success to figure out what you meant by your last post. Can you elucidate? Who are the intolerant, prissy, purist dilettantes you're talking about -- people who think a performer should be competent and prepared, or those who don't think it's important? I can make your words make equal sense (or nonsense, really) if applied either way.

In any case, why do you think it's necessary to use such offensive language?


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 09:57 AM

We have a regular singer at our club who always uses sheets and has done as long as I have know her. But…last month she sat there and calmly announced that she'd left the sheet at home but was going to attempt the ballad that she'd been working on. What a shock! We suddenly heard a voice we'd never heard before, strong and secure without the faltering to which we had become accustomed. A revelation to anyone who thinks that singing from a sheet makes you safer. It also cramps your vocal apparatus and limits your range. I hope our friend persists in her singing without the 'crutch'. She's a good singer who doesn't limp without it!


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Johnny J
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 10:05 AM

Regarding the last two or three posts, Rich has previously posted on this thread and, to an extent, I can understand his position(I replied fairly soon afterwards).

However, my stance(with or without a crutch ;-)...... )is that we are surely better off without such aides when there is no need for them and they are actually more likely to hinder rather than help your progress.

There are, of course, some exceptions to the rule as there always is.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 10:13 AM

Oh dear, I really must go and learn the words of my song for Wednesday's competition: I'm nearly there but it's got SIX verses, and I've already said I can't mange more than FIVE!
I found to my cost in a previous year that the lights are so dazzling that you cant really see your words even if they are in BIG PRINT!
(And I hear do of one person who had all his chords written out in red: but overhead red spotlight reduced that to nothingness!)

As for using sheet music for gigs: I do sometimes, but if there's a definite set list, I usually create a new folder for that gig with all the music for that gig in correct order, so all I have to do is turn the page. Or if it's a gig where the set list is a bit flexible, as sometimes happens with ceilidhs, the music is all in alphabetical order so can be found easily. Preparation pays off!


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Johnny J
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 10:27 AM

Good luck, TB.

That's something I can't understand though.. when people can't even remember their own songs and tunes! It seems so odd when they have actually written the things themselves.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Bill D
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 11:49 AM

Simple rule for me.... IF I can close my eyes and have no clue you are using a helper sheet, fine! If you cannot get thru the song in tune and in time, even with the sheet, I cannot understand how you think others will enjoy listening.
*I* occasionally glance at verse #4 of some song I haven't done in a long time...just to be sure I won't mess it up.

(The ultimate story... we had a blind singer at some of our local singarounds a few years ago. She knew a few songs ok, but she used Braille cheat-sheets for many.... which she kept in a wide bag in her lap. Instead of just pulling one out and using it openly, she would thrust her hands into the bag and 'read' the sheet in a fumbling manner, as if she wanted to pretend we didn't know what was going on. When her fingers reached the end on a line, or worse, when she had to go to sheet # 2 to finish the song, it got rather 'interesting'. She did bring a lot of nice songs, and sang decently when it all worked....but...."


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Marje
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 12:16 PM

What puzzles me is those singers (and I've seen it more than once) who appear to read every word, including the chorus, every time, from their sheet or file. I even knew someone who, after the verses had progressed to Page Two, kept on turning back to Page One to read the chorus. If the audience can manage to join in with the chorus without a crib-sheet, it's not unreasonable of them to expect the performer to do the same.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,JHW
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 06:50 PM

It does get worse. First the words, then music stands, now they even have lights on the blessed things.
When I started going to Folk Clubs (late 60s) everyone KNEW their songs so when I decided to have a go I LEARNED the song
so I ponder here
When Did It Start?
Who Started It? or indeed
Why Did We Let Them Get Away With It?!


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 03 Jun 13 - 11:18 PM

banjoman has it right:    "I would rather see someone make the effort and the odd mistake" than rely on written words in front of them.

I'm with him all the way.    I have unlimited respect for someone who makes the effort without crib sheets--or especially books.   Reading off a crib sheet, or worse, out of a book--not so much respect, to put it mildly.    So it may not be perfect.   The fact he or she has tried means they have actually put some work into preparation--they care enough to do that.   Any performer, even of one song, owes that to the audience.

I don't even mind if the performer has the sheet in hand while singing. But use it as a talisman---don't look at it.

Yes, there may be songs and performances which are worth hearing even out of a book (and only a book compiled by the singer)--particularly long humorous songs    But this situation is the exception that proves the rule.

It's rare, to say the least.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Don Firth
Date: 04 Jun 13 - 01:15 AM

When I first started singing at "hoots" in the 1950s, which, at the time were song fests generally held in someone's living room and amounted to informal song swapping sessions, I sang only from memory. Songs I knew by heart. Everyone else did the same. NO ONE used cheat sheets or books.

It was just the way it was done.

That was good training for when I started getting hired to sing. I knew the songs in my repertoire, and could sing them from memory. And put my attention on putting the song across.

And I was not unique in this. There was never a music stand or cheat sheet in sight.

Seattle Song Circle got started in the late 1970s and, at first, that's the way it was done. We sang in rotation, going around the circle. Singing from memory.

Then, sometime in the 80s, a few new people started showing up with notebooks or stacks of song books. I remember sitting there one evening grinding my teeth with everyone else while one guy pulled out a song book, searched for the song he wanted, announced, "I haven't learned the words or tune yet, but. . . ." And then proceeded to set the whole room (about thirty people) writhing with his attempt to sing a Jacques Brel song (at a folk song circle), complete with backing up and restarting a couple of times.

OY!!

Actually, that was the last time Barbara and I went to Song Circle. This sort of thing had been happening for some time.

Then I heard that Rise Up Singing appeared at the Song Circle gatherings. More and more people began singing together out of the book, sort of like a hymn sing. By then, many of those who had started Song Circle in the first place had long since dropped out.

I have never used song sheets when singing in coffee houses, in clubs, in concerts, and I didn't use song sheets, cue cards, or teleprompter when I did television.

When I was taking singing lessons from George Hotchkiss Street many years ago, he had me bring my guitar to the lessons, then after we had worked on vocal exercises and technique, he would ask me to sing whatever song I was working on at the moment. He would often stop me and ask, "Now, what does that line mean?" He knew, of course, but he wanted to make sure that I knew, and wasn't just singing the song by rote.

And knowing what the song was all about made it possible for me to put something into it that made it come alive.

You simply can't do that if you don't KNOW the song and are reading it off a sheet of paper.

Keep a book of song sheets, yes. And use them to refresh your memory if you haven't sung the song for awhile. But do this at home in your own time.

And then leave the damned thing at home!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jun 13 - 05:39 AM

I was at the first performance of this, the day after the event it commemorated:

Steve Byrne's song on Nigel Farage's visit to Edinburgh

and Steve used a sheet when singing it. I would too.

Contrariwise I have been encountering a specific problem with slow sessions where people use sheet music. They often use books (like Nigel Gatherer's) with three or four tunes to a two-page spread. And usually those tunes do not belong together. But the peple who use the books regard the typographical medley in front of them as an unshakeable musical reality. The result is you get idiocies like two marches followed by a waltz, or (my pet hate) sets that randomly switch between tunes that fit in the pipe scale and ones that don't, which buggers up instrument selection for multi-instrumentalists and shuts smallpipers out entirely. Do these people select their friends from names occurring on the same page in the phone book?


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Johnny J
Date: 04 Jun 13 - 05:44 AM

Not a song I'd go out of my way to learn, quite frankly.

I've no time for Nigel Farage but I can't be bothered with SNP propoganda either.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: buddhuu
Date: 04 Jun 13 - 06:12 AM

At The Plough session we have a number of standard ensemble numbers that have just kind of evolved as such over the years as we've all gradually began to contribute bits and pieces to each other's songs. There is certainly no set list.

As for song books, I'm totally guilty. I'm a crap singer and a crap player. awareness of this saps confidence to the extent that I need the cheat sheets in case my mind goes blank. I try to play without looking at them, but disaster invariably ensues.

If people want to ban books at their sessions then that's fine; I won't inconvenience them with my presence. At my session, however, things are TOTALLY informal. Apart from a couple of rules that are there for the sole purpose of provoking people into breaking them, people can do whatever makes them happy and allows them to have fun. Ours is not a "performance" session, it is an inclusive, fun, having-the-craic-with-mates session. If people chose to sing without books then we even tolerate that.

As for iPads etc, I see no real difference between reading from paper and reading from a screen. If anything, the screen means less shuffling of paper and dropping of loose pages. It's not for me, but good luck to anyone who is not too anal to actually apply technology for something useful.

Enjoy your rules, dislikes, proscriptions and set lists. We'll just carry on having fun and spending more time singing and roaring with laughter than tutting at other people's insecurities. It may not be an approach that works for everyone, but it's kept my session going every week for the last 8 years or so.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Jun 13 - 07:04 AM

The SNP propaganda bit of Steve's song is all in the last three verses. I'd leave those out. I also came up with a different refrain:

with a you kay eye pee and an eff oh ay dee

- at any rate, better to find a specific one that fits the verses.

The slow session last night had a rather odd mix. Half the people in the room knew all the tunes and never looked at any music. The other half used sheets for everything. No middle ground of people who could play some tunes from memory but not all. People in that category do exist, but I seem to see less of them than I used to.

The worst regular session player I know is one who doesn't read music at all, and learns a lot of her material off Phil Cunningham CDs. Playing along with the Phil in her head makes for even greater rigidity than following a score.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: JHW
Date: 04 Jun 13 - 08:39 AM

Don Firth thanks for confirmation that knowing your song was once taken for granted.
I went once to a house folk 'club' in Portland. There was a stage but only the MC used it. Everyone else sat round in concentric crescents, each with a ring file. 'OK turn to page 43 and we'll do Puff the Magic Dragon' And so they did, all together, many with guitars. They were aghast at my girlfriend's suggestion that they might like to hear a couple of songs from John just over from England, sung ON MY OWN ...


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 Jun 13 - 08:47 AM

There's a big difference, IMO, between informal sessions and more formal performances. I run a free-for-all session where people do occasionally bring a song-sheet, and I've no problem with that. We also have lots of laughter and fun.

But last night, for example, at a local acoustic performance, there were was a young, 3-girl group singing. Beautiful voices, nice choice of songs - absolutely no communication or eye contact with the audience as their eyes were glued to a communal book in front of them. I mentioned this (I hope) fairly gently to one of them afterwards, and she readily admitted that she felt unhappy with using a book and hoped to dispense with it when the three of them had been together longer.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Jun 13 - 09:14 AM

EFDSS started it all with dance musicians playing from the dots and using music stands


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Jun 13 - 10:11 AM

And one of those groups (Ranchers?) commented that their playing changed when they decided to stand to play, and did away with the music stands and dots.

Flora mentioned dance cards. I never use them for 'general public' ceilidhs, though if I've worked out a programme in advance I might print out a list with a few reminder of dances I use less often. And glance at the music stand when I go back to the stage to talk to the band.
But a dance club is different. I have a much bigger list of dances to work from. So I take cards. But I will have practised enough at home with cds to pretty much not use them use the music is playing. Having reminded myself in the walk-through (mustn't get the walk-through wrong or the wrong patterns are firmly imprinted in dancers brain - they take no notice of corrections and apologies).
On one occassion I suddenly noticed that there was a multiple of 5 couples, (not often the case), found the tape, walked and called Levi Jackson, and after the dance noticed that the 'talisman' card in my hand was for some other dance (the one that was on my list).


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 04 Jun 13 - 10:30 AM

"That's something I can't understand though.. when people can't even remember their own songs and tunes! It seems so odd when they have actually written the things themselves."
And if it's a new song, there's no-one out there who can help you if you forget!

But it's not about whether you've written them yourself or not: it's about how your own personal memory works. I do not have a photographic memory and have always struggled to learn WORDS. (Not just since I got older!) I "know" loads of songs when someone else is leading them, but not nearly so good at leading a song myself, tho' gradually over the years I have increased the number of songs I CAN sing without words in front of me: but there are HUNDREDS more that I like to sing, have sung, know how they go, yet would still need the words with me, if only to glance at.
In my working life, I had to learn so many facts and figures that my poor little brain won't take any more!
I have more of an "audiographic memory" in that I remember tunes much better: it maybe doesn't always manifest itself as being able to play you a tune, tho' I could usually sing the melody to you. (But with my efforts at doing more "ear playing", even this is getting better!)


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 04 Jun 13 - 10:57 AM

It's all about developing a personal relationship to the songs you're singing, the tunes you're playing or a better understanding of the dances you're playing for. Martin Carthy has commented somewhere to the effect that, whilst he's singing there's a film of the ballad/story running in his head and he's in there in the story. I don't have a film but I also don't sing a song in public as soon as I've learnt it. A song needs a few months to 'bed-in' or mature and become a part of you before you let it loose on an unsuspecting audience.

I sing at a monthly acoustic music club in Germany where most people have crib-sheets of one sort or another with them. On the one hand this irritates me, but on the other I think OK, they're trying to sing in english, a foreign language for them and perhaps they don't trust their linguistic abilities that much. That being said, I also suspect that some of them only decide what they're going to sing a day or so beforehand and they've got their work cut out dealing with the guitar accompaniment (they mostly sing pop/rock songs). What I do notice is that, for me,(and this is irrespective of the language being sung) because they've not really got into what they're singing it all tends to comes over as 'flat' or lifeless.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,FloraG
Date: 05 Jun 13 - 04:05 AM

Just a thought - clubs could charge 20p donation to their charity for use of a music stand. Not enough to put people off if they really need it but a message about preference.
FloraG


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 05 Jun 13 - 04:16 AM

Hey GSS, trust you are well.

"EFDSS started it all with dance musicians playing from the dots and using music stands "

The EFDSS may have gone around arresting songs and tunes and locking them up in CSH but the use of dots for playing dance tunes goes back before Playford and has always been a feature of playing dance tunes.

Isn't that wht some many written collections of old dance tunes have survived?


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jun 13 - 05:04 AM

The EFDSS may have gone around arresting songs and tunes and locking them up in CSH
Interesing viewpoint and a total lack of historical knowledge. It was the Folk Song Society which "arrested" the songs. All EFDSS did was put then in a nice library near Euston Station where they were accessible.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Lavengro
Date: 05 Jun 13 - 07:51 AM

JHW

"Why Did We Let Them Get Away With It?!"

Just wondering JHW. Who is the "We" you are referring to? And come to think of it who is "Them", and how were/are the "We" going to police/enforce their wishes on the "Them"? T-shirts with broken music stand logos? Placards with "I won't stand for it!!" Turning of backs to performers using stands? A special shelf with warm beer for anyone using prompt cards? History shows that manufacturing false "us and them" divides, tends not to be very useful? Isn't one of the blessings of music that it is a unifying thing?

I have seen plenty of long established musicians using teleprompters (Springsteen, U2, Elton John etc.) and closer to home I have seen "crib sheets" used on more than one occasion by some well known Folk Musicians, and on the likes of The Transatlantic Sessions etc. Personally I don't feel it stilted the performances in doing so, and I would rather have those performances "out there" rather than not performed for the sake of a sheet of A4.

I personally find it more than a little irritating when the usual suspects start a rambling, disjointed introduction to a tune/song that is sometimes longer than the piece itself. But I don't sit there making my displeasure known, or suggest to the committee a system of TUC style green, amber, red lights.

Thankfully it really does "take all sorts"; that's why I like folk clubs. A random gathering of misfits with a common interest!

ATB, Lavengro


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 05 Jun 13 - 01:25 PM

Fair enough Guest:

"The EFDSS may have gone around arresting songs and tunes and locking them up in CSH
Interesing viewpoint and a total lack of historical knowledge. It was the Folk Song Society which "arrested" the songs. All EFDSS did was put then in a nice library near Euston Station where they were accessible."

Maybe a bit over the top - just re-reading The Imagined Village again - amazing book


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Jun 13 - 02:49 PM

none of which alters the fact that the EFDSS encouraged musicians to play from the dots , percussionists were exempted, perhaps the EFDSS did not consider percussionists[ particularly goat bashers] musicians


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,JHW
Date: 05 Jun 13 - 03:37 PM

Lavengro, The worth of knowing your song has oft been discussed so my post was to add an angle. There are those like me who came into folk music back when everyone who sang knew their song. I was happy with that and so it seemed at the time was everyone else. I wondered from whence came the change. Sorry if I was too dramatic.

I'm disappointed to learn that some renowned performers use cribs. I did know that some mime to recordings.
I'm sure that when Folk Clubs come to this there will be those who defend it.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Donuel
Date: 05 Jun 13 - 04:01 PM

Dyslexic musicians among us number about 1 in 10 and would find the sheet music more of a distraction than a crutch. Still I would welcome chord change reminders as a life long novice.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Guest TF
Date: 05 Jun 13 - 04:17 PM

Just a random thought. Maybe The Coppers have a lot to answer for.
Do the new generations of the family rely on "the book" more than their parents?


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Guest TF
Date: 05 Jun 13 - 04:26 PM

AND as far as I can read "the oral tradition" has only been mentioned once in more than 70 posts. That's what it's about. Folk music is not some self help social work project. If people insist that they must have words and music in front of them maybe they should join a community choir. There are plenty of them about nowadays. My memory is fading but I'm fighting it all the way.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Vic Smith
Date: 05 Jun 13 - 06:07 PM

Will Fly wrote
"she readily admitted that she felt unhappy with using a book and hoped to dispense with it when the three of them had been together longer."


From a phone call that I took today, I believe that I know the trio that you are talking about, Mike, and 'young' here is a relative term. One is a mum with two kids and they have been performing together for longer than you might think.... long enough to have learned the words and a bit about communicating with the audience.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: michaelr
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 12:23 AM

There was a time when I could reliably remember the lyrics and chords to hundreds of songs. Unfortunately that is no longer the case. Therefore I use a music stand at gigs, with printed lyric sheets on it.

I'm sorry if anyone thinks that's cheating (not all that sorry, actually), but it takes nothing away from me or the band being rehearsed. It's just insurance. And I do put them in order beforehand.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,FloraG
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 03:16 AM

I find some of the poorest acts in a sing around are those who read the poems of others. There is always that feeling that if they learnt them the presentation would be so much better. I know Les (and the Coppers) use books - but it always feels like part of the act.
However, I have to admit to using a booklet when it comes to Xmas songs and carols - I only play them one month a year. I never remember verse three and beyond, and my copy has useful bits of notation like SN; start note.   
FloraG


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 03:44 AM

Hi Flora, we use the dots in The Beech tunes sessins because we started as a Beginners Group.

As I have tried to explain above, tune players - playing for dancing and for fun have used books of dots - some handwritten many printed since at least Playford.We continue that tradition.

Best wishes


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 06:16 AM

"It's all about developing a personal relationship to the songs you're singing".   This is how I approach the songs I sing. "whilst he's singing … he's in there in the story" Absolutely! How could I get into the story, how could I lose myself in the song/story if I didn't know it, if I had to read it? (How could I sing with my eyes closed?) I also enjoy listening to people who really mean what they sing; not ones who think that they are more important than the song they're singing, that their need to perform is more important than the song itself.   For me the song comes first and the performance (and more accurately the performer) second.

Luckily, this is the "folk world". At my regular (fortnightly) singaround nearly every singer seems to feel the same. It was actually set up by a few singers who had had enough of the other type of singaround. Occasionally a newcomer or visitor may arrive with their words or song book. Perhaps they get a second song, probably they don't. Some continue to come along and adapt to the "norms", some stop coming. OK, it's discriminatory but it works and we have a brilliant singaround that suits all the regulars (and it's one of the best attended singarounds I've been to.). There is one person, recently recovering from a stroke who always gets a song and always has the words in front of them but they've "earned" the special dispensation from the past. The reason I'm not posting by name is so that there's no way of identifying, and possibly embarrassing, that person.

BUT, I also occasionally go to other clubs and singarounds where there are singers who have their bits of paper and even two who bring their own music stands. I don't really enjoy their performances, not because of the aids but because their performance is not as good, perhaps because they need the aid in the first place. The hiatuses (hiati???) where they lose their place and have to look down etc. and even the initial fumbling for the right page all detract from the song. (True in the "no paper" club someone will occasionally forget their words but it seems to happen much less frequently with these singers.)   Still the "performance" clubs work for their regulars and I don't have to go there (usually I don't) so I say live and let live. Thanks to the variety of the "folk world" at least I can go somewhere where my preferences are catered for.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 06:27 AM

GUEST, what on earth was the point of writing all that if you aren't going to tell us who you are and where the singaround you want to make people unwelcome at is?


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 07:26 AM

Les, I think there's a subtle difference between playing music specifically for dancing and playing music as a direct performance to a listening audience.

For the dance, exactness and clarity are important - all playing together, keeping a steady tempo, playing the right notes at the right time. And the "audience" aren't watching the musicians - they're interacting with each other, and the music is the glue that holds that interaction together. For a band to use dots is not a problem, and has been done - as you rightly say, for hundreds of years.

But projecting and performing, face to face, with an audience that is silently concentrating on you requires, IMO, a rather different set of skills - and the barrier of the permanent music stand and the permanent folder of unlearned songs is a barrier indeed for me.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Lavengro
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 07:27 AM

@ Jack Campin

Glad you posted on that one Jack because I am still open mouthed! No really. I sat at the laptop wondering what the strange noise was, and it was me dribbling on the keyboard.

If I was thirty years younger I might have said OMG!


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,FloraG
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 07:34 AM

Les - I was referring to another Les who writes and reads his own poems - not yourself methinks. Sorry for any confusion.
I admire anyone who starts anything going in the way of live music.
Do your beginners find they can pick up tunes by ear at some point and then start experimenting, or does it inhibit them from this?
I've heard a singing group start with a note and then told to find other notes that harmonise, before being given the words and music for the main part of the practise.
I've also been in a workshop where we were just given the chords and told to make tunes round them - mostly on the arpegios - before the workshop leader put the actual tune above what we were doing. That might make a very interesting variation with your group.
FloraG


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Marje
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 08:10 AM

For what it's worth, a community choir (Guest TF, above)won't necessarily use wordsheets. I was in a community choir for a couple of years and we performed everything from memory. We almost never had written music for the tune parts, as everything was taught by ear, and this meant that the words were pretty much learned aurally along with the tune. At some point we were given a written wordsheet, and were required to learn this by heart, even though much of the material was in languages other than English.

And dyknowwhat, everyone managed it somehow. No one claimed exemption on grounds of age, illness, inexperience, laziness or general slow-wittedness. Everyone just got on and learned the words. The performance benefited enormously from this, as we could make eye contact not only with the audience but also with each other as we sang our different parts, usually standing in a semicircle. it's a much more rewarding experience than standing in straight rows singing from a book.

Marje

marje


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 10:31 AM

@ Will Fly:

Generally I'd agree with you as far as dance bands are concerned. The main thing is that the band has it's tunes reasonably off pat, is reasonably familiar with the dances, knows how to give that subtle emphasis at the start of each new 16bar figure (english dances) and is flexible enough to react if, despite everything, chaos develops. The problems I referred to earlier come when the music stands become barricades and stop the interaction between musicians and dancers developing. I've been there, I've tried to dance it......

Don


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,concerened
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 12:13 PM

You cannott put any feeling or presentation straight reading of a lever arch file, ipad epad dpod or whatever.

If you need a crutch, safety net whatever to get a song bedded in no problem, Dont forget however that you do get to depend on crutches and the longer you leave it the harder it is.
But what grinds me gears is the constant use of them (see Duncan Macfarland)

Also this constant whining like " oh it is ok for you, I really cannot learn stuff"


Arrant crap, if you cant learn the song, find another pastime, but dont inflict your laziness on the rest of us.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Megan L
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 12:41 PM

Min min hids great tae be perfect


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: TheSnail
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 12:50 PM

Er, I think I agree with Megan. I tend to concentrate on the quality of my on performance. If you think you're so great, lead by example, be a role model.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Larry The Radio Guy
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 02:19 PM

It all goes back further than that. It's that bloody alphabet. Became such a crutch as we no longer use our memories.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Lavengro
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 02:35 PM

Next time someone starts a thread bemoaning the fall in numbers at folk clubs, the perception that young people aren't interested in attending folk clubs any more, blah blah, moan moan, whinge whinge. Perhaps we just need to look at some of attitudes displayed above.

I think Johnny Kalsi would get more hospitality at an English Defence League barbeque.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 04:33 PM

People who are plying for dancers should be watching the dancers not looking at tadpoles, it is about quality of performance. however I used to play in a band called the new mexborough english concertina quartet, and we used to look at the tadpoles, because the music and the parts were extremely complicatedhttp://www.eafa.org.uk/catalogue/5148


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 06 Jun 13 - 05:36 PM

our indigenous culture seems to have become so degenerate that most people equate 'music' with the written stave and think anything but manuscript music is not really music- see how jazz (especially the traditional variety)is looked down on. It's a widespread, if mistaken, mindset and who can blame folk seeking to take part in an enjoyable social experience for starting off using the dots/ written lyrics. Some people have an innate facility to remember tunes/words but some folk don't have that gift, and surely shouldn't be pilloried for 'cribs' even after years of involvement- that is if we are the sensitive folk we think we are. BUT it is not really acceptable if money is being charged- this is a 'performance' and the 'performer' certainly has a duty to give a paying audience value for his/her fiver or whatever - forgetting words is one thing, and as we (me!) get older it happens more often. I know of some older and well known performers who happily use a 'crib' and audiences accept this- they've earned respect over the years, and the alternative is to stop performing altogether...one such singer told me that since he's accepted the cribsheet/music stand as a necessity, he's never needed it!
Am not a believer in learning from printed sources, but some 'traditional' singers of past years certainly were! Maybe musicians are different- I loved a quote Joe Burke made once about a tune he loved dearly- 'I knew this tune before I learned it'- doesn't that speak volumes?


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: CupOfTea
Date: 08 Jun 13 - 12:04 PM

Ok, I've thrown away the crutch, but I occasionally use a cane...

I sympathise utterly with the feeling that using "reading a song" to replace oral tradition - has both stifled vibrant song circles and caused others to never take off. In the US the saturation of Rise Up Singing is the major problem.

I recently did a workshop at a regional dulcimer festival called "Singing Outside THE BOOK."   Unfortunately, I was preaching to people of THE BOOK - in this case the song & tune book created by the organization's leader - and had a pitifully small turnout. While he's done wonders in getting lots of people to play traditional music, they're so wedded to THE BOOK that in the evening song circles, I've been made to feel like a pervert for wanting to do something in the key of C - which suits MY voice better.

An aside: This plays to another pet peeve about the folks stuck "in THE BOOK" - the attitude that you really shouldn't do anything that the group can't ALL join in playing/singing out of THE BOOK. (as a lap dulcimer group, they never wanted to get out of D, While being wedded to a specific key is appropriate for traditional tunes, it doesn't work for vocal ranges.) I live in a region that's now very sparse in traditional singers & not much in other areas of folk either, so it's a sticky issue to be prissy about someone gushing about just discovering Rise Up Singing. Song circles, pub sings, after festival song sessions - all those have melted away here. I envy those on t'other side the Atlantic who have many places to go to sing with others, and other areas of the US where there are choices in Folk Festivals and venues.

In "Singing Outside THE BOOK" I showed how songs are put together, line, verse, chorus, refrain, and using that knowledge to LISTEN to what people are singing, to THINK, and to KNOW when you can join in - all skills I learned in an atmosphere of aural tradition that barely exists here anymore.

That cane vs. crutch thing - I've mostly "learned" a song from "the singing of-----" But, if I've not had the chance to hear that person sing it often enough to know it completely, I go for the written. Writing it down helps me to learn/remember it & work out chords. I use a personal "fake" book as a tool & it evolves from edition to edition - sometimes just the name and the chords, or a first line of the verses, and adding songs I'm working on learning. I keep the whole text of long songs so I can go over them BEFORE performing EVEN if I know the song. I think of Frank Harte, a man who "knew" thousands of songs & used his cheat book when teaching, but not when performing. The cheat sheet/fake book/"cane" is a tool to be used wisely.

I wish you encounters with wisdom and good songs,


Joanne in Cleveland


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 08 Jun 13 - 12:54 PM

"saturation of Rise Up Singing".    Amen.

And what that is causing is:    those of us in the US who actually believe in learning songs are boycotting groups known to have Rise Up Singing books used,   We form our own groups and have our own gatherings (invitation only).

Not precisely the ideal inclusive "folk attitude", but life is too short to suffer bad music--and that's what use of Rise Up Singing at singing sesssions causes.

I'm really to sorry to hear about those conditions in Cleveland, but Joanne you might want to see if you can make it out to the Getaway some year--you won't have the RUS problem.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 08 Jun 13 - 02:00 PM

as a lap dulcimer group, they never wanted to get out of D

How traditional is that?

The Turkish saz (very similar in its setup) uses a zillion different tunings (ok, a lot of individual players only use one or a few). I can't imagine why the lap dulcimer would have settled on one tuning early in its evolution.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Johnny J
Date: 11 Jun 13 - 09:40 AM

Warning... non PC humour here...

Some Italian musicians arrived at a local song session and asked if they could have a "sheet on the table"....

You know the rest....

:-)


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 11 Jun 13 - 03:07 PM

I occasionally sing with a crib, but I've never sung from the words except in church. But I know I've got an unusually retentive memory for song lyrics - if I like a song the words seem to stick, and by and large they stay stuck. The second verse comes after the first one, and the rest of the song comes along behind. (I thought I'd forgotten The Cruel Ship's Carpenter the other day, but I realised I'd only forgotten the first line - once that came back to me, the rest of the song was there waiting.) If singarounds were restricted to people who learn songs as easily as me, they'd be a lot more thinly attended and I'd get a lot more songs. So it wouldn't be all bad.

Having said that, I did 'dry' a couple of weeks ago, when I got a bit too confident - I'd come prepared to do Randy Dandy-O and decided at the last minute to do Oak, Ash and Thorn instead. Verse one was fine, but where the hell was verse two? It was on somebody's smartphone, that's where, for which I'm eternally grateful. "Oak of the clay lived many's the day"... and we were off again.

Don't ban cribs. Do encourage learning. And the best way to encourage it is to show that it makes the songs better.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 12 Jun 13 - 09:15 AM

Good man Phil- being positive is much the best option


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 12 Jun 13 - 07:31 PM

You're a lucky man, Phil, and thanks for a balanced view.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: RichM
Date: 12 Jun 13 - 08:42 PM

I haven't followed up on my single posting above, some time ago.

That's because I am disgusted with the elitist attitude shown by many of the comments. Do you also feel superior to people who use a cane (I happen to use one, as well as a foul memory aid when singing).

What about wheelchairs? Do you also sneer at musicians who use one?

I am white-hot sick of this kind of attitude from a pretentious bunch of traditionalists.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Will Fly
Date: 13 Jun 13 - 05:21 AM

Rich - there's a deal of difference between being physically disabled to such an extent that you need an aid such as a wheelchair or a cane, and not taking the trouble to learn a set of songs properly. (One of my best musician friends uses an arm crutch because of problems with arthritis - he's a marvellous singer who performs professionally at folk clubs with no prompts).

At my own session/singaround - where the standard is mixed - we all sit round a table and chat and play and sing and have fun and drink beer. Sheets of words and chords are used if people need them, and I have no problem with that - and I'm the organiser and host of the session.

However - and it's a big however - if I'm paying to go to a club where people are performing, whether as guests or as floor spot singers, I'm expected to (and happy to) sit still and quietly and give them my full attention. I get very bored with people who waste my time by (a) fiddling with a music stand (b) shuffling interminably through a folder of songs until they find one they want to perform (c) stare at the music and even lose their place while not communicating in any way with the audience (d) stopping and starting in spite of having the music. I've lost the will to live with this style of public performance - which is not a disability but sheer laziness and incompetence.

If a performer keeps a crib sheet to one hand, I can live with that. But I have to say - harsh as it may sound - that, if a would-be performer has a genuine difficulty with learning a repertoire, then perhaps public performance is not their métier. I first played in folk clubs in the '60s and I can't ever remember even floor singers using cribs. When I returned to playing occasionally in folk clubs after years playing other music (jazz, blues, rock'roll, funk) for 40 years, I couldn't believe the difference.

I'm not a traditionalist, by the way - I'm just a musician who loves all styles of music - and (I hope) in no way pretentious. I've done free workshops for beginners on performing in public and made available literally hundreds of music arrangements and transcriptions on my web site, plus a large number of instructional videos on YouTube. All free - and all because I care about good music. Don't confuse genuine disability with laziness.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 13 Jun 13 - 05:34 AM

Know your song well before you start singing, to an audience anyway.
100.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: John Routledge
Date: 13 Jun 13 - 05:34 AM

I was about to post but then re read Will Fly. I can't add anything so won't.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Vic Smith
Date: 13 Jun 13 - 05:57 AM

Will Fly - (Date: 13 Jun 13 - 05:21 AM ) hits it on the head. So much so that I feel that there is no need for further discussion


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 13 Jun 13 - 07:10 AM

Marje:
Everyone just got on and learned the words. The performance benefited enormously from this, as we could make eye contact not only with the audience but also with each other as we sang our different parts, usually standing in a semicircle. it's a much more rewarding experience than standing in straight rows singing from a book.


I sing in a church choir, my wife sings in a community choir.
Might I suggest that if you know the songs, making eye contact with your audience & your fellow singers should come 2nd & 3rd to watching your conductor/director.

Cheers


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Marje
Date: 13 Jun 13 - 10:00 AM

Nigel: Well, yes and no. Obviously, knowing the songs gives you more opportunity to watch the conductor too. Having your head stuck in a copy limits this as well as all the other things you could be paying attention to.

Most times in the community choir we were conducted, but sometimes, depending on where and how and why we were singing, we weren't, we just sang together and watched each other. It's an interesting experience.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Jun 13 - 02:42 PM

Rich, there is little I can add to what Will Fly said just above. He is exactly on point. But here are a couple more things to contemplate.

There is a reasonable expectation that a professional performer KNOW his or her material before attempting to sing for paying audiences. And successful professionals do. Knowing the material from memory is a prerequisite for professional performing—in ALL genres of music.

I have attended concerts by dozens of performers of folk music, including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Theodore Bikel, Ewan McColl, Peggy Seeger, Richard Dyer-Bennet, Peter Paul and Mary, Bob Gibson, Guy Carawan, and the list goes on and on. NONE of them used crib sheets or written music, save, I presume, to learn the songs in the first place.

And this extends to all kinds of music performance. Opera singers know—from memory—often fifty, sixty, seventy entire opera scores and are expected to act as well as sing their roles. I've attended concerts and recitals by well-known classical singers, and I have never seen one sing from a crib sheet or written music. Popular singers do the same and are expected to do concerts or night club sets without referring to written material, save, as I said, to learn the material, and as a memory refresher from time to time—before going before an audience.

"What about wheelchairs? Do you also sneer at musicians who use one?"

As to that comment, Rich, be it known that I had polio when I was two years old, and all my life I have walked with crutches. I got interested in folk music in the early 1950s and have been singing for audiences since the mid-1950s. In fact, I've managed to make a fairly decent career of it.

When I go on stage to sing a concert, a stage hand sets a straight-backed chair on stage, and puts my guitar on a stand beside the chair. When I'm introduced, I walk on stage—using my crutches—sit down, pick up the guitar, and start in.

If you have ever seen a television show or a film clip of classical violinist Itzhak Perlman, he (having also had polio when he was young) does the same thing:   walks on stage using his crutches, sits down, someone hands him is violin and bow, and he begins to play.

My last few performances in concerts and at folk festivals, I have had to do from a wheelchair. It does not affect my performing in any way, and the audience does not seem to care.

Now, I'm sorry you have memory problems. That's a real bummer! But unfortunately, being able to sing songs from memory is a standard requirement for professional performance. That's just a fact of life.

In more informal sessions, such as parties or at multi-performer performances at folk clubs, I would assume that, if the audience is aware of your memory problems, they would—should—cut you some slack about having to use crib sheets.

Personal anecdote:   when I was in my early teens (and walking with crutches) I "OD"ed on Errol Flynn swashbucklers and Rafael Sabatini novels (The Sea Hawk, Captain Blood, Scaramouche, et al.) and I wanted to be able to fence so bad I could taste it!

One evening I went to the local YMCA to watch a fencing class. The teacher came over to talk to me and I told her that I would really like to fence, but obviously it was impossible for me. She said, "Well, wait a minute, let's see what you can do." We discovered that with the aid of one crutch supporting me on my right side and holding the fencing foil in my left hand (I'm naturalliy right-handed), I could stand in a stiff-legged approximation of the bent-legged guard position, and although I could not lunge, I could step briskly forwards and backwards. She said that I would have to learn a strong defensive game (parries and ripostes and well-timed counter-attacks), but she could see no reason why I couldn't fence.

A couple of years after this, I entered my first competitions—against physically normal, non-handicapped fencers. Over the next several years, I competed actively. And I won a nice collection of second and third place trophies and medals. No first places. But I was having one helluva lot of fun!!

I knew that there was no way I would ever be able to fence in National competitions, or World's, or the Olympics.

But I had to keep my expectations within the bounds of realism!

So—considering your memory problem, there is no reason, if your fellow singers and the audiences in folk clubs and such are aware of your difficulties, they should not cut you some slack as far as crib sheets are concerned—and if you lay down an otherwise decent performance.

But under the circumstances, in the same way that I could not reasonable expect to be chosen for the U. S. Olympic Fencing Team, it is probably not reasonable for you to aspire to Carnegie Hall or the Royal Albert Hall.

And "elitists," "intolerant, prissy, purist dilettantes," and "pretentious traditionalists" have nothing to do with it.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Allan C.
Date: 13 Jun 13 - 02:45 PM

I keep seeing the use of lyric sheets or other "crutches" equated with ill preparedness. I can only say that this may be fine and well for people with no memory issues. The last I heard the average age of Mudcatters is somewhere close to 52. Those of us who are somewhat above the mean often do have memory issues. I can play the same songs I did regularly 20 years ago with little effort. However, despite hundreds of practice hours I have a hard time remembering some of the lyrics of songs that are newer to the repertoire. Chords are rarely an issue. My wife, on the other hand, would be at a tremendous disadvantage on both fronts if annotated lyrics were not in front of her.

There are also folks who, even with the use of cheat sheets, etc., have issues with tracking. They cannot look away from their sheets for even a moment for fear of completely losing their place.

Then, of course, there is simply the problem of stage fright. No amount of persuasion can convince some people that an audience or even a song circle might be forgiving of an error or two. I well remember my first time at a Getaway song circle. I got a third of the way through a song and simply could not remember the next chord. I simply switched to a different song. The song circle very generously forgave me.

So if you are saying that there is no place in sessions or song circles for "crutches" then you are denying a good many people, who may have some wonderful music to share, the opportunity to do so. This sounds rather selfish to me. Perhaps a solution is to have different sessions or certain times during a session in which "crutches" are allowed.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 13 Jun 13 - 03:46 PM

There are also folks who, even with the use of cheat sheets, etc., have issues with tracking. They cannot look away from their sheets for even a moment for fear of completely losing their place.


I've known singers like that - the kind of person who sings to the bottom of the page then pauses to turn the page before carrying on, wherever they happen to be up to:

Thousands or more!
Thousands or more!
Thousands


[pause, rustle]

or more!

With the greatest respect to those people, that's not a difference of ability, it's a problem - and it's a problem that's fostered by depending on lyric sheets in the first place.

No amount of persuasion can convince some people that an audience or even a song circle might be forgiving of an error or two.

They'll have realised it by their second visit. Hopefully by their third they'll have noticed that most people aren't singing from song sheets.

So if you are saying that there is no place in sessions or song circles for "crutches" then you are denying a good many people, who may have some wonderful music to share, the opportunity to do so.

I think you're confusing two very different things. If you've given 'hundreds of hours' to a song, you will know that song inside out - you'll know what makes it tick. If the words or the chords fly away when you come to perform it, you need a crib to glance at, and I don't think there's any shame in that. But someone who sings while reading a song line by line, chord by chord - just as they would if they were sight-reading - doesn't know their songs inside out, and on the whole I'd rather listen to someone who does. (To be fair, there are some very, very good sight-readers - people who can manage the expression and the eye-contact and everything - but people don't tend to complain about them.)


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Jun 13 - 04:27 PM

The first gatherings of folk singers that I attended in the early 1950s—not a "folk club" or "song circle" or anything of that nature—were simply parties to which people brought their guitars of various kinds, a banjo or two, maybe an autoharp, or just themselves and their voices. We sat on the sofa, on chairs, cross-legged on the floor, and sang, in no particular order, often solo, sometimes people joining in on choruses if appropriate.

One fellow had a weekly television show and know several hundred songs. The rest of us might know a couple dozen songs, or just a couple, or were there to try out the one song they had just learned.

There were no song books or crib sheets there. It was automatically assumed that one know a song from memory before trying to field it. We didn't even talk about it. As I said, it was automatically assumed.

The first time a song book appeared at one of these gatherings was sometime in the late 1970s, a copy of The Folksinger's Wordbook--no music, but the words to about 1,000 folk songs. Two brothers, who often attended these parties as listeners, never singing, sat there with their heads together and sang—hesitantly and stumblingly—out of the book. I don't think there was anything wrong with their ability to memorize. They were both successful attorneys. They wanted to join in the singing, but didn't bother to learn the songs.

And then, a few years later, a "Song Circle" got organized locally. We sat around in a circle and sang in order, just to make sure everybody got a chance. Worked fine for a few years, then., Rise Up Singing began putting in an appearance.   More and more people—newcomers— were singing out of the book—NOT bothering to learn the songs as we all had done. Then pretty soon, everybody was singing together out of the "Song Circle hymnal."

Many of us, like Bob Nelson, John Dwyer, Stan James, and other "old timers" stopped going to Song Circle. Thirty people, sitting around singing—hesitantly and stumblingly—"Barbara Allen" or "The Rhyme of the Chivalrous Shark" with their noses in "The Book" was a bit of a turn-off for us.

Nothing "prissy" or "elitist" about it!

But we didn't stop singing for each other, or for others who were not enthralled with this kind of group singing. We got together on our own and sang anything we felt like, solo or together as we were inspired to do by the nature of the song and the spirit of the moment, whether it was in Rise Up Singing or not. Just as we had done initially.

Which was how those of us who went on to sing professionally had learned our trade.

No "Tyranny of the Hymnal."

A song, especially a ballad, is not just the recitation of a string of words. It involves KNOWING what the song is all about. The words are just the starting point.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Allan C.
Date: 13 Jun 13 - 05:33 PM

I can't agree more that "knowing what the song is about" is paramount in importance. I know people who couldn't care less about the lyrics or even the substance of the song. They have a hard enough time just plinking along with it on whatever musical contraption they have. Often the only way they are even aware that the end of the song has come is because everyone has stopped singing!

That "the words are just the starting point" explains the folk tradition in an economy of words. I think the invention of new verses or the partial, or even complete substitution of half-remembered lyrics is the basis of what some of us still refer to as "traditional folksongs." The basic sense of the song was maintained, (usually,) even when someone changed the lyrics a bit - whether by intent or by accident of memory.

Don points out an instance of the very thing I suggested. If there are hardliners among a session or song circle who cannot abide crutches, then either the hardliners or the cripples may need to find or to create a different venue.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Marje
Date: 14 Jun 13 - 10:15 AM

I listened to the recent Mastertapes BBC radio programme on Richard Thompson (the "A" side) in which he talked about his work and music. He was asked how he felt about doing requests, and he said it wasn't always possible because if it wasn't one of his best-known songs, he might not remember all the words when put on the spot. When you have a lot of songs, he said, you cam't retain them all, you have to go back and revise the ones you're planning to do.

So it was reassuring to hear than even successful professional performers have to keep working at their repertoire just like the rest of us.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 Jun 13 - 03:32 PM

Germaine to what Marje posted just above, I've had occasion to talk with Richard Dyer-Bennet a couple of times. I once asked him how many songs he estimated that he knew, and he responded, "About 700."

That dwarfed my repertoire at the time of about 200 songs, so I asked him, "How do you manage to keep them all fresh? Or do you?"

He said, "I regularly sing about 50 concerts a year. Some performers will sing the same songs at every concert when they're on tour, but when I did that, I found I was forgetting some of my other songs. So now I try to go through an entire concert tour singing different songs at each concert—not repeating a song until I've gone through them all. That tends to keep them fresh in my mind."

Some people don't like Richard Dyer-Bennet because of his high, light tenor voice and his cultivated, carefully studied delivery. But he was the consummate concert performer, and not so much a "folk singer" as a modern counterpart of a medieval minstrel. He didn't just learn a song, he would study it carefully, and learn as much as he could about its historical background.

There's an important difference between just learning the words of a song and knowing a song. Dyer-Bennet advocated the latter.

We only had a couple of fairly brief conversations, but I learned a great deal from him.

Excellent biography of Richard Dyer-Bennet:   

Richard Dyer-Bennet:   The Last Minstrel, by Paul O. Jenkins.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,JHW
Date: 14 Jun 13 - 03:49 PM

I heard last week an interview with a choirboy who was one of those who sang at the Queen Elizabeth 11 Coronation. (A choirboy then) A demanding programme practised and practised by the choir. At the end of the service he realised that though he had opened his score he had never turned a page.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 12:45 AM

It's better for all types of music if you can manage to do it without looking at "the dots".   The large chorus I belong to has just this year started doing a fair amount from memory.    We did a whole special concert (in a sold-out Kennedy Center concert hall), with some other groups, in February, from memory.   The two singers on either side of me were petrified---taking the sheet music from a classical chorus makes some feel they've fallen off the tightrope and there's no net.    But it was wonderfully liberating for the group--and now everybody knows the group can in fact do it. Which gives the whole group more self-confidence.

Without sheet music you have no reason not to watch the conductor for every nuance--which liberates the conductor for a much freer interpretation.

It also makes the sound better--no voice will be blocked by sheet music.

The audience loved it.

Admittedly we don't do it every time--not likely we'll be doing Hindemith or Britten from memory anytime soon.   But Carmina Burana has potential.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: breezy
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 11:48 AM

Ok I aint read all the posts, but after some thought I concluded that non-performers can do as they please at sessions which are for participating rather than performing at .

Now a performer on the other hand is a different kettle of fish and must be totally conversant with the material to be performed. The audience would expect this as standard

you dont expect actors to be reading from the script when giving a performance

performers will check out their 'learning' by trying new things at sessions and would probably test themselves and not have words visible, maybe a prompter.

If I dont know it, I wont do it out of respect for the material and intended listener

And for those who fidget with song folders while others are performing you are being rude and distracting'

bye


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 12:08 PM

you dont expect actors to be reading from the script when giving a performance

One of the most internationally successful plays of recent years is "The Vagina Monologues" and it's common for the performers to do exactly that.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: breezy
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 03:03 PM

Stuff em then.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: breezy
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 03:08 PM

oops

Not exactly a Play though, so it could be excused, worth experiencing.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: breezy
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 03:21 PM

no crib sheets on the youtube clips


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Don Firth
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 03:45 PM

Back in my college days, one of the things I used to enjoy was sitting around in the dorm room of a friend of mine who was a Drama major and several other people, some Drama majors, some not, and read plays. Lots of Shakespeare. No staging or props or anything, other than our copies of "The Complete Works of Shakespeare," often sharing copies and reading over each other's shoulders.

But this was for our own enjoyment, enlightenment, edification, and education. The idea of holding our little recreational readings in a place open to the public, or, God forbid! charging people to listen to us as we butchered the Bard never even occurred to us.

We have an upstairs neighbor who is an actor. He has done a bit of national television, and he has acted in the Ashland, Oregon Shakespeare festivals a number of times. He is currently very active in "little theater" here in Seattle.

He and a number of other actors have been asked to do regular "performances" in one of the big lounges at Horizon House, a big, somewhat posh retirement home in downtown Seattle. They sit up in front of the audience and read various plays, including lots of Shakespeare. And the audiences enjoy it greatly.

No staging, no costumes, no bits of business. It's very much like listening to a Shakespeare play on the radio.

But it should be noted that these are all professional actors doing this, and although they have books and scripts before them, most of the time they don't even look at them. They already know the roles.

Horizon House pays them, which, of course, comes out of what the residents pay to live there, but the residents don't have to pay directly. It's one of the services that Horizon House offers to its residents.

Somehow I don't think these people would really be interested in listening to, and certainly not in having their money spent to listen to a bunch of people sit around and "hymn sing" folk songs out of Rise Up Singing.

If people want to get together and do it (like reading plays in a dorm room) among themselves for their own enjoyment, fine and dandy. More power to them!

But expecting to charge people money to listen to something like this is a bit much.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 05:46 PM

What usually happens at a poetry reading ?


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 06:05 PM

Depends. In my experience reliance on the words often varies inversely with skill as a reader. I'm not just talking about wooden or pedestrian delivery - I've seen poets give big, dramatic renderings of their work with their eyes fixed on a printed copy. What I've never seen from this kind of poet is any engagement - however defiant or confrontational - with the audience. Poets who read to their own words are generally reading to themselves.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,150613
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 04:33 AM

So reading is OK for poets and is OK for actors. Isn't this 'text in hand inhibiting engagement with the audience' line a red herring in this 'crutch' debate ?
One of the most engaging renditions of a ballad I have hear was from a woman sitting motionless with her eyes closed. I don't know about he rest of the audience (though from the response they enjoyed it) but I was in the world of the protagonists of the story, not in the back room of some pub.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 04:43 AM

On the contrary, I think reading to the text (as distinct from glancing at it) does inhibit engagement with the audience, for poets and actors as well as singers. Regarding my previous comment, a "big, dramatic rendering" doesn't necessarily mean the poet's engaging with the audience - it can mean he's engaging with the sheer wonderfulness of his own genius.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,150613
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 05:25 AM

My point was that there is 'content' for which, during the rendition, the audience may wish to be engaged with the substance of the performance - what they hear - rather than with the performer. That may be what the performer wants to happen.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 11:00 AM

It sounds like you both, 150613 and Phil, agree.

The "woman sitting motionless with her eyes closed" was obviously not reading from a text. So you both believe that a singer should not have to have a written text in front of him or her.    Which is what the vast majority of us have been saying.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 02:09 PM

One of the most engaging evenings I have ever spent was at a small theater in Seattle listening to a unique storyteller with the unusual name of Pleasant De Spain

He was something of a minstrel in his own right, but he did not sing, he told stories. For two and a half hours, my wife and I sat, enthralled, listening to him spin tale after tale, about cabbages and kings, mice and men, epic stories, jokes . . . .

As he told the stories, he sometimes walked from one side of the stage to the other and back again, sometimes to the very edge of the stage. He frequently made eye-contact with members of the audience, telling the story directly to them. The members of the audience, in turn, were open-mouth, wide-eyed, and sitting on the edge of their seats, hanging on every word.

He obviously had the stories down word for carefully chosen word, and he delivered them with the skill of a consummate actor.

With no books, scripts, or crib sheets!!

This would have broken the powerful rapport he had with his audience.

Enthralling! Engaging! Fascinating!

To me, in addition to a most unique and enjoyable evening, this was a lesson to me as a performer in how to present my songs, or whatever else I was doing, in a manner that would truly engage the audience.

Be you a singer, a poet, an actor, a story teller, or whatever, you simply cannot engage the audience in this manner with your nose in a book or on a sheet of paper.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 17 Jun 13 - 10:22 AM

Les Barker uses his books, but he still knows how to deliver his poems to huge acclaim and theatrical advantage: facial expression, pregnant pauses, body language, audience involvement (spoken poem choruses) are all there and part of any of his shows.
Pam Ayres on the whole memorises hers (when I went to see her, I think she read just ONE from a book as it was new). "Well you paid good money to see me, so oi thought that was the least oi could do".

Both respected and engaging performers, whichever way they choose to do it. I don't think Les needs to throw his books away.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 17 Jun 13 - 12:14 PM

It sounds like you both, 150613 and Phil, agree.

Indeed, I often sing with my eyes closed myself. (Not so much if I'm actually on a stage, admittedly.)

Engagement doesn't necessarily mean eye contact. Books and songsheets often get in the way, but it's not necessarily because they're physically in the way.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: CupOfTea
Date: 17 Jun 13 - 06:29 PM

Been thinking about this more & it strikes me (particularly after someone mentioning the brilliant Les Barker, who makes reading part of his performance) that memorization of long poems or plays is no longer as prevalent, and the habit of memorization that having a decent singing repertoire requires is NOT a habit that is valued in our current educational system. Why memorize when you can just google it?

I was raised by an aunt much older than my peers' mothers, who went about the house spouting poetry for the sheer enjoyment of it, that she learned in school in the 1920s. I KNEW when she got into "Charge of the Light Brigade" she was on a pleasant ambitious tear. Long before I sang, I learned poems I liked and spent part of 6th grade learning the first three pages of "The Ride of Paul Revere" for my own amusement, and nobody around me thought that was odd. I can still recite a batch of 'em.

In high school my group of friends were all Firesign Theatre fans and could perform the whole Nick Danger saga - an entire album side. I think a good part of the enjoyment of this communal effort was that we KNEW the material completely - we used it as in-joke reference points. That KNOWING it in common gives you the chance to make a bond that performing/singing it together solidifies. There is nothing to get between the singer and the song. I've found sometimes that my playing an instrument gets in the way of putting a song across best - many times my instrumental grasp is not as solid as my vocal memory of the song.

So, I'm wondering - chicken or egg - are we having a harder time building a folk community because of "the book"/crutch getting in the way of that bonding, or does the lack of community feeling dictate use of the crutch? Either way, we loose the craic, don't we?

Joanne in Cleveland, never short for words.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Jun 13 - 06:46 PM

Good points, Joanne!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 07:37 AM

A couple of points on this.

Rise Up Singing--which you in the UK can count yourselves lucky to be spared--is the allltime worst. [...] it makes it easy to avoid any preparation at all--especially for groups which have a lot of that particular tome.

So you can have the edifying spectacle of a whole group plowing through every verse printed in the book--though they have never seen some of them. To a tune they also don't know.


That describes the hymn singing in a typical church service perfectly. I wonder whether the reason that phenomenon took off in the US but not here is simply because Americans still go to church and they're used to it?

Back to the original issue JAJ raised: what to do about it?

I've a couple of encounters with folder-carriers recently in situations where I didn't expect to find them, and further dug in to their folders than I expected. A lot of people get MORE dependent on sheet music over time. I suspect one reason may be that the repertoire is expanding faster than they can cope with; instead of encountering tunes at their own pace, the social institutions of the session/singaround and educational workshops mean that the stuff flows into the scene faster than they can learn it. So they resort to paper as a coping mechanism. In a situation where they were just playing to mostly non-musical social and family circle, as might have been the case a few decades ago, there was less pressure to know lots of stuff.

OK, what to do about it?

The sort of hectoring intolerance and institutional barriers that some people here seem to want just won't work. That does nothing at all to encourage anyone and just makes enemies.

What I'm seeing is the development of dependence on paper as an insidious process where people aren't really aware of how much they're limiting themselves until they can't see any way out. So maybe a better approach might be to encourage people to learn to do without paper one page at a time? Anybody found a way to
organize that?


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Johnny J
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 08:09 AM

"I suspect one reason may be that the repertoire is expanding faster than they can cope with; ....... In a situation where they were just playing to mostly non-musical social and family circle, as might have been the case a few decades ago, there was less pressure to know lots of stuff."

I've not quoted Jack's entire paragraph but there's a lot of truth in this. There does seem to be many more songs and tunes these days or, at least, the availability and access is much easier.

I too have lots of tunes where I still "rely on the paper". For many of these, this is just a transient process and I will eventually know them well enough to play in public either "off by heart" or to be able to join in if someone else starts them.
Some, of course, I may never get around to learning properly for various reasons but surely these are the ones which can be safely "left out" in a public situation?

Occasionally, I may bring in a song or tune sheet for a particular item which I may wish to perform as it's topical or something I've just recently learned(The music is a safety net but I hopefully don't need to look)but I certainly wouldn't bring in sheet music as a matter of course.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 08:18 AM

How about no props for the first round of a singaround. Authoritarian perhaps but perhaps helpful.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 08:51 AM

"still go to church'.    Sorry, that is at least 100% drivel.   I wonder if the poster is an atheist--and if atheists will ever give up ascribing all the ills of the world to religion. Even not learning songs? The idea sounds like a self-parody of paranoid atheists.

Folkies in general are not very religious.   Those who are are lopsidedly on the liberal side of the spectrum.


The more likely explanation of the spread of the RUS plague in the US is the well known US worship--of efficiency.   Why learn songs when you can get a book and read them straight out of the book?


Also, distances are greater in the US, so for some it's not easy to find a group of folks who like to sing folk-type stuff (whatever that is) within easy driving distance. So on the rare occasion they can come together, it would be nice to sing together--that is, the same words at the same time. You can also have instant community-in-a-box. Just pour it--the idea--out and add RUS--no fuss, no muss.

To be continued


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 09:10 AM

It also seems clear to me that in the UK and Ireland folks are far more interested in ballads--that is, solo storytelling, than many are in the US.   After all, the ballads in question by and large came from the UK and Ireland. They are yours, not ours, though we have our own versions.   There's the role played by Child.   But the ballads were still not home-grown American--they came from European sources.

Also, we are more likely to want to stretch the definition of folk--and 1954 is just a year. We watch you wrangle about 1954 with tolerant amusement.

For us "folk" can include virtually everything not classical or rock (and even rock is encroaching, since we are starting to do more doo-wop.)

Some include country, bluegrass, mining songs, labor songs, drinking songs, black and white gospel, labor songs-- protest songs of all types, black and white gospel, and probably more.    There are examples of many of these in RUS.

Yet another possibility is that folkies in the US have less time than those in the UK--maybe folks in the US don't retire as early.   That however is pure speculation--I have no idea if there's anything to that.

It's also possible that as the population ages and it's harder for folks in general to learn songs, UK version of a "folk hymn-sing" book may start to catch on. But it's also possible that the UK "hymn-sing book" will turn out to be an i-Phone or something similar.

But US folkies singing from RUS since they are used to hymn singing.   Not likely , to put it mildly.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,John Routledge
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 09:25 AM

Guest of 8.18 was me - Cookie crumbled.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 09:29 AM

Also, it's interesting that an atheist would be an expert in "a typical church service".


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 09:44 AM

Some singers who accompany themselves on guitar make a point of performing without a 'crutch' (some may have crib sheets stuck to their guitars).
Some memorise songs and can perform them beautifully, but if you've seen them before you may know that their 'set' will perm any three of the eight songs you've heard them sing before.
Others have learnt lots of songs, and can sing any of them 'at the drop of a hat' (good title for a revue, that).
Some supplement their supply of memorised songs with paper versions, which allows them to try something new, or fit in with a themed evening (at short notice).
Yet others only sing from paper. They may improve, and move into one of the earlier descriptions, but probably not if they are censured for singing from a sheet.

Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 10:07 AM

"UK folk hymn-sing book"


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 10:54 AM

"UK folk hymn-sing book" = "UK folk hymnal"

Precise is better (unless it's got to scan!) :)


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 11:01 AM

No problem, Nigel.   You're right, that's the obvious choice.

But whatever anybody chooses to call it, my comments stand. UK and US circumstances are often different.    I have no idea of UK conditions. Nor do UK posters of US conditions.

And as I said, it's just slightly suspicious that an atheist would finger religion as the origin of yet another problem.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 01:16 PM

When I said Ron Davies's description matched a church service, I was talking about my own experience of them. I've spent rather a lot of time sitting in large halls with a lot of other people singing words they don't know past the first verse and don't understand at all to tunes they only vaguely get, and it wasn't in the folk scene. What I believe now is not relevant to that experience and none of Ron's business.

There is a real difference between the number of people with first-hand experience of religious ritual in the US and UK:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_attendance

It's nearly four times as prevalent over there. A difference like that is going to shape people's expectations of social behaviour well outside the religious sphere and also among people who never go near a church.

Ballads are just as much a minority interest here as in the US. You hardly ever hear them in most folk clubs. "country, bluegrass, mining songs, labor songs, drinking songs, black and white gospel, labor songs-- protest songs of all types" fits just as well here (except not much gospel).


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 01:56 PM

Ballads are just as much a minority interest here as in the US. You hardly ever hear them in most folk clubs.

Digressing slightly, I'm happy to say I did a 35-verse version of Lord Bateman the other night; I'm ecstatic to say that it went down well. I'd encourage anyone who's got a big ballad or two up their sleeve to get them out sooner rather than later; you might be pleasantly surprised.

Oh, and obviously it was from memory. The thing about the big ballads is, they're really easy to learn - particularly if (as in this case) you haven't just learnt it from a record, but spent some time looking at different variants and putting together a version that works for you. But even if you just learned Lord Bateman the way Nic Jones or Jim Moray recorded it, I think it'd be considerably easier than learning the average Dylan song, say. You're telling a story, and you're telling it with a very rigid and predictable rhyme scheme - if you forgot the precise wording of a verse you could make it up without too much trouble.

So that's my personal solution for memory problems: more big ballads!


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 11:40 PM

"four times as prevalent".    You can rabbit on as much as you want---to coin a phrase : "show your ignorance, as waxy as you like".

But it is very unlikely that the use of RUS in the US is influenced in the slightest by church attendance. Much more likely are the factors I mentioned.

And it's still faintly amusing that an atheist fingers religion for people not learning songs.

Is it also to blame for people running red lights in the US?   I'm sure a Briton can enlighten us on this also.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 11:53 PM

Also "not relevant now..." Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 26 Jun 13 - 12:05 AM

Excuse me:    "not relevant to that experience..." Don't want to misquote the illustrious poster.


But it is interesting that ballad singing is not a big feature of UK pubs. UK ballad singing sure is a big feature of Mudcat music threads, so it's reasonable that we on the other side of the Pond would think this.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Johnny J
Date: 26 Jun 13 - 05:14 AM

Getting back to the hymns and songs in church, there's nothing worse than having to stand up and try to sing a song you don't know, quite possibly have never heard before, or the key and/or arrangements don't suit your voice.

That's another thing about community singing, of course. Many of the arrangements and keys just don't suit or appeal to everyone.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 26 Jun 13 - 06:40 PM

it is very unlikely that the use of RUS in the US is influenced in the slightest by church attendance

Not sure how you'd prove this negative, Ron, and I'm really not sure (more to the point) why you want to.

All Jack's saying is that if you randomly sampled citizens of the two countries, you'd be four times as likely to find a church-goer in one than the other. It seems like a pretty salient difference to me. Unless you're arguing that the US folk scene is disproportionately composed of atheists - and even then you'd have to argue that it's even more atheist-heavy, compared to the overall population, than the British folk scene is in comparison to its overall population.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Don Firth
Date: 26 Jun 13 - 08:22 PM

Just an observation, but I don't think most of the people I've seen at song circle when the use of RUS became chronic, and then developed into "hymn-sing," are regular church-goers.

And as far as their religious beliefs are concerned, in never came up, but I think if it did, you'd get the full spectrum, but without the extremes, i.e., hard-charging atheist on one end, fundamentalist Bible-thumper on the other.

No, RUS and other materials crept into Seattle's previously excellent Song Circle sort of like "the Fungus that Took Over the World." And those who first organized Song Circle, such as John Dwyer, Stan James, and I, sort of rolled our eyes and left.

I memorize the songs I do and then study them 'til I know all I can find out about them. The only time I would ever have a "cheat sheet" around is in a recording session, and then, just for insurance against the occasional memory lapse.

Yes, I've blanked out on a line occasionally in live performance, but picked it up again and went on, and the world didn't come to an end.

Hell, I did a live television series some years ago, and I used neither cue-cards nor teleprompter. Once during the series, I forgot a line in a song, went into an instrumental break, remembered the line, and finish the song. I asked a number of people later on, and nobody had noticed. They just thought that I always put a guitar break there.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 27 Jun 13 - 12:27 AM

"All Jack's saying...".   Sorry, that is incorrect.   He is linking spread of RUS in the US with church attendance.   You need to reread.    If necessary I will be glad to quote chapter and verse from the collected works of Mr. Campin.

It's just remotely possible that Americans know more about the causes of this phenomenon than Britons do.

Or perhaps I should explain to our UK contingent why dumbed-down community singing is spreading in the UK.    It would have precisely the same amount of value--and be just as welcome, no doubt.

By the way, I thought somebody in the UK was going to explain why religion is to blame for red-light running in the US.   We're still waiting.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 27 Jun 13 - 02:35 AM

Yes, he's saying that religious attendance is four times as prevalent in the US and connecting that fact with use of RUS; I'm aware of that. I'm also aware that neither you nor Don thinks there is any connection. I don't think it should be dismissed out of hand, though.

Let's say we observe folk dance in two different countries, and somebody comments that dances in Elbonia sometimes include what looks like marching on the spot, but dances in Freedonia never do. Then somebody else looks at the likelihood of individuals in the two countries having done military service, and it turns out to be much higher in Elbonia than in Freedonia. That would sound like a partial explanation to me.

And the difference between the two countries would still be relevant even if we knew that folk dance was full of pacifists and most folk dancers - in both countries - were more likely to have refused military service than to have done it. Let's say that 12% of adult males in Elbonia have done military service as against 3% in Freedonia; let's also say that the folk dance scene in both countries is so pacifist that folk dancers are one third as likely to do military service as the population average. That still means that 4% of Elbonian male folk dancers have experience of drill, as against 1% of their Freedonian counterparts.

Or perhaps I should explain to our UK contingent why dumbed-down community singing is spreading in the UK.

Well, it's not, so you'll have to try something else. You could explain folk getting fashionable if you like; this guy has an interesting take on it.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Jun 13 - 06:01 AM

Continuing the religious divagation a bit more.

Ron Davies pointed out that gospel is a common feature of US folk clubs' repertoire. (I have to take his word for it - when I lived in the US I never found a folk club, though there may have been one locally). It does occasionally feature in British ones too (or as mediated by Stephen Foster), but it's always seen as an American import. There doesn't seem to be any kind of religious folksong of the British Isles that has crossed over into the secular folk repertoire; we do have that kind of music, but West Gallery singing is a specialist genre that doesn't get mixed with other stuff, and while we have the tradition of Gaelic psalm singing in Scotland, it stays in church (and on Sunday morning Gaelic radio and on CD). I cannot imagine anybody, even Margaret Bennett, trying to lead the Edinburgh FC regulars in a Gaelic psalm, even though they'll all have heard them.

I doubt if Afro-Caribbean Christian music would be any more likely to get a hearing in the folk scene, even in clubs in London within five minutes walk of churches where it's sung every week. But that's a different story.

Anyway: religious folksong has made the crossover into the secular folk scene in the US but hasn't in the UK, even though such song genres exist in the UK too. There has to be a reason for the difference. I think the reason is simply that there's much less church-going in the UK and hence the cultural influence of activities that take place in church is much less. Why Ron is so outraged at that idea I can't imagine - most Christians in the UK don't have a problem with admitting they're a bit more marginal than they used to be.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Marje
Date: 27 Jun 13 - 08:30 AM

There is some cross-over in parts of the UK: I'm thinking of the evangelistic tradtion, with hymns such as "In the Good Old Way" or "Blessed Quietness", which do get sung in secular folkie gatherings at times. Some of these may well be Anerican in origin, as much of the evanglistic approach has been over the years, but I don't think they're felt to be foreign. Traditional carols, in the style of the Sheffield carols or West Gallery, are also part of the folk tradition. I thinks they are usually sung as songs (with little or no pious or devotional feeling) rather than hymns.

But the point about these hymns is that they are designed to be sung without books - they usually contain a large proportion of repeated or chorus material that's easy to join in with, and only a line or two of new text in each verse.

There is, however, another reason that people expect to sing from books on both sides of the Pond. Like many people of my (now retired) generation, I was raised in a tradition of hymn singing from hymn books. We did this in Sunday School, in Church, and every day of my school life. Even when we were six, the words would often be up on a blackboard for us to sing from.

So although communal hymn-singingbut is not a common feature of modern life in the UK, many of the people over 50 who insist on reading every word from a book or file have, like me, spent their formative years singing from hymn books like this, and don't know how to do it any other way.

I don't like it in a folk setting, I think it's lazy and unnecessary, but I can see how it has come about.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Jun 13 - 09:35 AM

If the evangelistic tradition has the same effect on the current generation, Rise Up Singing had better be published in PowerPoint.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Marje
Date: 27 Jun 13 - 11:21 AM

I wish you hadn't said that, Jack! Someone, somewhere will be thinking, "Now there's an idea..."

Marje


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 27 Jun 13 - 01:45 PM

"Follow the bouncing ball..........""


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Don Firth
Date: 27 Jun 13 - 02:33 PM

At least in U.S. folk clubs, open mikes, and song circles, the encroachment of song books and crib sheets has little or nothing to do with hymn singing in church, or religion and religious traditions.

Sad to say, it's simply a matter of laziness on the part of those who wish to participate but don't want to exert the effort to learn the songs before singing them before the whole group.

Don't make it more complicated than it is.

I've been there, I've watched new people come into the group lugging their armloads of songbooks and/or three-ring binders full of crib sheets, and then bore the crap out of the "old-timers" who always learned a song before they sang it for others. The old-timers heaved a sigh and gradually drifted away, leaving the song-readers to it--meanwhile, gathering in private homes and continuing to sing for each other. From memory.

Now, these newcomers may be somewhat influenced by church-style singing from out of a hymnal, but I really don't think that has anything to do with it.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Will Fly
Date: 27 Jun 13 - 03:03 PM

I don't think singing in church has anything to do with why more and more people in the US - or the UK for that matter - are using folders of songs when doing floor spots at clubs.

I personally think it's an urge for the spotlight coupled with the idea that anyone can do it: just take a parcel of songs, pick one at random and - hey presto! - you're an instant performer. The motive, in my view, is not to entertain an audience but to get attention. Now, I'm sure many of us started off wanting the limelight - I know I did - but in my day (the 1960s), you earned it by hard work and application. And the audience mattered.

It amuses me that people should think performing to an audience in the folk world takes little or no effort when, in any other field of activity it just isn't so. I used to enjoy playing tennis as a teenager - but I was bloody useless at it and wouldn't have dreamed of entering for a tournament just because I owned a tennis racquet.

My advice to singers who use a prop at folk clubs is this: You more or less know you're going to do a floor spot. You know you'll get probably two - three at most - numbers to perform. Why, for feck's sake, can't you take the trouble to learn your two songs properly before you insist on getting up and performing? Then, when you've learned your two songs and done them to everyone's satisfaction, learn two more - and don't come back to perform at the same place until you've done so. You might well perform at less frequent intervals, but you'll come across better when you do.

I don't include singarounds or sessions in my little encomium - let people do as they will in those arenas - but doing your stuff well in front of an audience (probably paying) needs a bit of work. And the irony is that it's so much more satisfying and rewarding for the performer when the work has been put in.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Don Firth
Date: 27 Jun 13 - 03:08 PM

Spot on, Will!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Jun 13 - 03:41 PM

"The audience mattered" - perfectly sums up how should be now. :0(


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Johnny J
Date: 27 Jun 13 - 03:53 PM

This thread's getting a lot of mileage for "a topic that's been aired many times" here before.

:=)


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Musket sans props
Date: 28 Jun 13 - 05:45 AM

Fascinating thread. Many years ago when I first started going to folk clubs, all the ones near me were of the stage and two song set variety on singers nights and that is what I am used to. The first sing around in the go round the room sense I went to, I found it odd that crib sheets were being used. I still find it strange yet the few clubs I support all have a format supporting it.   In fact last week, out of around 12 people playing I was the only one who didn't have a sheet. I was the only one who stood to play for that matter.   Even in my local club, it tends to be just s couple of us who play without props. I suppose we are the only two who have been performers in the gig sense but no matter, I still think it strange.

However. ... You can get confused between performing and joining in a club activity. Performing is the art of entertaining whilst clapping a retired social worker for putting his glasses on the end of his nose, coughing slightly and then reading out the words he sings about how hard it is working the herring fleet. ... That is encouraging people to experience the thrill of performing and whilst ok between consenting adults in private, you wouldn't put it on a Simon Cowell show.   

Although. .......


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,SteveT
Date: 28 Jun 13 - 07:43 AM

I'm glad to say that the majority of singarounds I go to do not feature crib sheets in any great density. In fact there seem to be more at the folk clubs that I occasionally visit. One of the biggest factors in the spread of these is, I think, the critical mass concept. At some of the singers' clubs it's become the accepted practice. At the singarounds, which I prefer, those few who do refer to the words nearly always apologise for doing so. My guess is that newcomers see this and realise that it's only acceptable in extenuating circumstances and excuses like "I haven't learned this one properly yet" are not extenuating enough.

I've been going to clubs and singarounds a long time now. I see myself as a singer, not a performer, nor an entertainer (and I avoid doing gigs for that reason) but I still think if I'm going to stand up (or remain seated) in public and sing a song then it would be an insult to those present if I didn't take the trouble to learn it first. If I wanted to sing a song I didn't know, I'd do it in private and if I just wanted the applause (what applause?) without the work I'd hire a claque. (Not The Claque as they'd probably charge too much!)

This is just my opinion of course and therefore, while right for me, I'm not saying anyone else must subscribe to it; I'm not trying to force others into my way of thinking. My solution; I avoid open mike evenings which seem to be more about the performer than the songs and I avoid places with too much paper. If I don't like the way a place operates I don't go there, if I like it I go.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Marje
Date: 28 Jun 13 - 11:21 AM

It's true that this topic has been aired in the past, but what's interesting is that the trend to using a crib-sheet seems to be advancing, while those opposed to it are increasingly obliged to defend their position.

At a local singaround I go to, the leader has decided to ban the use of crib-sheets and song books. When he first set up the group a couple of years ago, there were two other rules: the session was to be entirely unaccompanied singing, and the material to be either traditional (UK/Ireland)or, if more modern, in the traditional style. It was perhaps a mistake not to introduce the no-books rule right from the start, as one or two people took it personally when this change was made, but it's likely that the leader didn't forsee what would happen.

We have lost a couple of regular members, but newcomers now know what's expected and either go along with it or don't come back. Sitting in a small room sharing unaccompanied songs together, with no printed material getting in the way, is a very special experience. Most of us are very happy with the way it's working out; we've had some lovely, informal song-swapping evenings and hope for many more.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Jun 13 - 11:37 AM

I am fortunate to live where one of, if not THE largest Folk organizations in the US has been active for about 45 years.

If you look thru the list of events at http://www.fsgw.org/ (The Folklore Society of Greater Washington), you will note there is a monthly 'Open Sing' ...where there are few absolute rules. I have attended this off & on for over 35 years, and frankly, it has been in decline as those eager young 'folk' from the 60s have also declined in vaious ways. (Death...moved... got too 'good' and professional to spend time in less than 'A' rated sessions). Still, for those willing to see an occasional RUS or tolerate a few singers who have less-than-professional abilities, it is quite possible to have a nice evening and always hear & share some nice songs.

There are also monthly Gospel singing and Sacred Harp sessions. There is 'some' overlap in who attends these 3 events.... and at our annual Getaway, which you may have read about (now in planning for this Oct.) you will likely see & hear ALL forms of music which even faintly can be chassified as 'folk'.
In recent years...10 or so.. because of Mudcat, the Getaway has attracted music lovers from all over the US, the UK and a few other countries & continents. As far as we can tell, the Getaway format is 'almost' unknown in the UK, though those who have come seem to think it is a grand way to spend a musical weekend. With a group of 150 or so, in workshops, late night singarounds, small impromptu gatherings and a few formal 'concerts', you are likely to hear almost anything. You can immerse yourself in mostly ballad singing, share in a workshop on a single topic, sing Gospel songs with aficionados for 3 days or just wander about listening-- and leaving a group if something doesn't suit you-- There is something to please... and yes, to DISplease everyone.I'm sure you in the UK have similar experiences when you attend 3 day festivals where groups repair to pubs at night for regular annual meeting with folk you don't see often.

(what is Bill D getting at now?, you ask) well, what I am trying to say is that folk music, to quote my father who said it about everything: "It's the same...only different!" YES...some singers and instrumentalists are 'better' than others. Some are professional... some could be, but aren't. Some find it easy to keep in tune, memorize words, project the song expressively, research the history and versions..etc... and some don't- for various reasons. Some clubs & sessions and gathering are open, welcoming and tolerant of variable levels of knowledge and ability- some seriously restrict- formally or informally- those who do not 'fit' the groups idea of what should be sung & played... and at what tempo, using what lyrics and whether read of memorized.
I do suggest that everyone remember that 'folk music' has always meant...among other things.. music of the 'people', and the people are not standardized models. It can be very useful to tolerate and gently 'help' those who are interested but struggling with the music.... one may turn out to be a prize.

As to Gospel music.... I know a few folks who sing it because they 'believe' it... and many others who occasionally sing it because there are just so many amazing, moving songs in the format(s). I am non-religious, but I have several songs that are ummm...just great songs...especially a couple I call "metaphysical metaphor"...("Life's Railway to Heaven" for one...and have you ever heard "Dropkick Me, Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life"? ) and several amazing, bouncy, moving Pentecostal hymns that just demand participation! "You don't have to believe everything you sing."


The crutch? I try not to use it... but throw it away? I'd rather hobble on one 'occasionally' than not get to the party.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 28 Jun 13 - 11:54 PM

Just checking back.

So it seems, as I observed earlier, that it is unlikely, to say the least, that the spread of RUS at singarounds in the US has any link to church attendance.

As I also noted, it certainly is an amazing coincidence that the allegation that church attendance is a possible cause of people not learning songs came from one of our eminent atheists.    It's nice to know they can always be depended on for a totally objective view of religion.

Look, RUS is actually a fine source book--at home. But there are many reasonable causes other than the ones I have already mentioned, which make its use attractive---regardless of the religious background or lack of same--for those who treat it as a folk hymnal. For instance, it has lots of good songs, it is compact, and it's not that expensive.

One of the ironies of the whole mess is that the compilers of the book never meant it to be the last word--they recognized it was just a snapshot. It's some, not all, of the users who have abused it.

But it does make it easy to have a "instant folk community in a box", as I mentioned earlier. Without doing any work to actually learn a song.

And that's how it has caused a schism in the US folk music world.    Which is already a small group.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Johnny J
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 03:53 AM

Bill D

"You don't have to believe everything you sing."

Worthy of another thread, methinks.
:-)


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 04:34 AM

it is unlikely, to say the least, that the spread of RUS at singarounds in the US has any link to church attendance.

I think you misunderstood the original point. What we've been suggesting is that the difference between the US and the UK in this respect may have something to do with the difference between the two countries in levels of church attendance. As Marje said,

although communal hymn-singing is not a common feature of modern life in the UK, many of the people over 50 who insist on reading every word from a book or file have, like me, spent their formative years singing from hymn books like this, and don't know how to do it any other way.

Perhaps a country with a higher proportion of regular church attenders (past as well as present) will have a higher proportion of people who "spent their formative years singing from hymn books", and consequently a higher proportion of people who find it natural to sing from a book. That's all.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 04:56 AM

Perhaps a country with a higher proportion of regular church attenders (past as well as present) will have a higher proportion of people who "spent their formative years singing from hymn books", and consequently a higher proportion of people who find it natural to sing from a book.

And such people may often have learned how to sing with meaning and expression from the book, and will be equally baffled by people who haven't learned to do it effectively and by people who refuse to believe it can be done effectively. A background in church attendance is not necessarily bad for musicianship.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 06:20 AM

That's the other side of it. Sometimes a crutch is just a walking stick.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,John Routledge
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 07:37 AM

Or a pair of walking poles strapped to a walking sac


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Don Firth
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 01:35 AM

"Rise Up Singing" is a good resource for the words of a lot of songs and ballads. The problem is the way many people use it.

The idea that turned the book into a plague may be the sub-title:   "The Group Singing Songbook."

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,150613
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 03:33 PM

I guess I am one of those people "spent their formative years singing from hymn books" as that was what was done in English state school system where I lived. Until, I later discovered, a staff room rebellion lead to more liberal interpretation of the word "worship".

I straight-off interpreted Jack's first post on churchgoers in the way he explained it in his last post.

One learns things like how to read one line ahead, so as to know where the story is going and how the words need to scan. And to read two lines ahead to as be able to miss-pronounce the word at the end on line two so that it rhymes with the one at the end of line four. And how to shift parts of the tune an octave 'on the fly' if the key does not suite (or to accidentally shift a fifth thinking that it is an octave). And to pick out the voices around who seem to know this tune and ignore the person next to you who can't sing in tune.

So we don't end up in a situation where "there's nothing worse than having to stand up and try to sing a song you don't know, quite possibly have never heard before, or the key and/or arrangements don't suit your voice." (Johnny J above).

The challenge now, mainly at funerals, and having subliminally learned the hymns decades ago, is to anticipate where they have been changed to make them gender neutral and so on.

But its not really about crutches is it ? Why not leave the folk who get together for communal singing from books to get on with it.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Don Firth
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 05:55 PM

GUEST,150613, that's what I have said a couple of times up-thread. For those who want to sing out of books, there is nothing to stop them from getting together and doing so.

But the book-singers keep showing up at open mikes and sessions where it is already established that one knows a song from memory and can sing it straight to the audience without the book intervening.

That's what was assumed when I first began singing folk songs and ballads in the early 1950a and that's the way everybody did it.

Until sometime in the late 1970s and early 80s when some newcomers started showing up with armloads of books.

I like to sing my songs directly to an audience, without a book intervening. And I don't like it much when someone has to sing out of a book or they don't have anything to sing.

It demonstrates that the singer is not really invested in the song! Knowing a song means a lot more than just having memorized the words and tune.

I can't see Pete Seeger or Joan Baez or Jean Ritchie or Mississippi John Hurt walking out on stage and singing out of a book.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: OlgaJ
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 11:37 AM

Sorry I haven't read all the above all the way through so if I'm covering what someone else has said I apologize. Nothing wrong with crib sheets in singarounds and sessions but I do object to the 'song book' culture where people who have no inclination to sing themselves turn round and say 'Can someone please sing no. 35 because I like to hear it'. Some of you may know where I'm coming from. However, well delivered, practiced, and learnt songs and tunes are always more enjoyable than long ballads where the singer forgets the words half way through and has to start from the beginning again.

As far as tunes are concerned we play as a ceilidh band and one of our members can't actually remember the tunes/chords very well so he brings a stand on stage with him, we'd prefer he didn't but its better than messing up a whole set. We also have one for the leader who occasionally has a slip of memory and its better to have an available prop as memory slips can spoil the dance. Also we regularly get asked by callers to play tunes we haven't done for a long time, sometimes years. However when we do stage sets and sessions we never use stands, and very rarely crib sheets.

There seems to be a bit of a culture in some of the circles we move in where people who have been playing for 25 years+, almost always reading from the same book, are starting to object when someone new comes along with different music (we do provide sheet music for big scratch bands so that any competent musician can make a good attempt and the dancers won't be disadvantaged). We all appreciate a challenge and playing from an 'easy' book doesn't do much for experienced musicians (don't count me in that, I'm a goat basher most of the time:)


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 11:56 AM

I just looked up the background to the creators of Rise Up Singing.

Pete Seeger was the primary inspiration - the Wikipedia page about him says His Yankee-Protestant family, which Seeger called "enormously Christian, in the Puritan, Calvinist New England tradition", traced its genealogy back over 200 years - which kinda suggests he was proud of it. And the current editors, Peter Blood and Annie Patterson, have spent their entire careers combining music and Quakerism:

http://www.quakersong.org/

It doesn't look like they're afraid to say where they're coming from. And surely a lot of the people who helped them make RUS into the phenomenon it is share their belief-centred approach.

I can't think of many comparable figures in the UK. Sydney Carter was maybe the closest in the way he thought, but he wasn't a creator of mass movements. Hamish Henderson was an Episcopalian, but the only time I know of that he made a point of it was at his funeral (the biggest I have ever been to, with extremely powerful singing of the classic Anglican hymns he wanted - by massed folkies, using the words in their order of service leaflets).


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 06:21 PM

"belief-centered"

Sorry, that's more drivel. This source seems to be an inexhaustible supply.    Too bad it can't substitute for fossil fuels.

RUS is a book with lots of good songs of many types.   As I have said more than once, it is compact, not so expensive, and purports even to have tunes.   It has caught on with many because of this.

That's enough to make "instant community in a box" easy for people who can't get together very often and would like to sing together.   Many don't want to have to actually learn songs. The religious background of the editors is totally immaterial. And no data has been put forward to challenge this obvious fact. Just as religious belief or background of same in the people who choose to sing from the book has nothing to do with it.

If anything, the worship which comes into play is, as I noted, the American worship of efficiency.

No matter how many times our illustrious atheists want to beat the dead horse it's just not showing any signs of life.

Not that we ever expect them to admit they are way off base on this.

Now perhaps our UK atheists can tell us how religion is the cause of red-light running in the US.   Still waiting for this.   It promises to be at least as entertaining as the RUS-refusal to learn songs link.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 06:23 PM

"RUS--refusal to learn songs--religion link"


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Musket sans reality check
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 06:25 PM

Sorry to disappoint you Ron.

But you are talking bollocks so may wait a long time for an answer to your pathetic provocative question.

If you don't go in for all that superstitious nonsense, you cannot provide the answer to your question.

If you take your blinkers off, you'd realise that.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 06:35 PM

"blinkers off".    Sorry, I should know better than to think that US singers know more about US conditions and a US book of songs than UK atheists do.

Hey, maybe the unpleasantness of 1775-83 had a point after all.

But the horse is still dead.

So is Franco--if you get that.    (No fair looking it up on Wiki--many Americans would not have to do that).


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 06:38 PM

But at least "sans reality check" is correct.    At least the poster is right once in a while. Just not quite as often as a broken clock.

And he is entertaining.    In his quaint way.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: GUEST,Musket sans body of Clapton
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 06:55 PM

Bless you my son.






Though be buggered if I know why. ..

I know Franco is dead.   An old guy I once worked with joined the international brigade and many years ago, he took a holiday to Madrid.   His only worry was being fit enough (in his 80s then) to climb the path to Francos mountain tomb.

Just to make sure he was still dead.

Wikipedia? Naw, just an old bloke showing what socialist belief is, and how it knocks the spots off less temporal belief.

Mind you, me? Im a dirty rotten stinking capitalist.

But I can see the difference between believing in fighting for fair society and fighting for medieval community control freakery.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Rumncoke
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 08:04 PM

When I was younger I could remember a song after hearing it once.
I wrote down words only when I wanted to play my guitar to it, so I could write in where to put the capo and when to change the cord.

Then suddenly I could no longer remember the words - and some cords. I mean, how can someone forget D Dm and D7 - well I did.

So I went through my diary to look for mentions of songs I had not already written down - and then I found Mudcat, amongst other resources, and I did remember that I sang something like the songs I found, but my repertoire was rather different from most.

So - without the book I would have had to stop singing, so I used the book.

I think my memory is getting a bit better. It is rather strange - I have never forgotten Tam Linn, but something with three verses - no, gone.

The last thing however is a real pain - I thought I would look up some new songs, that is songs I have heard but which did not stick fast, and now it is the tunes.

I decided to learn Penny for the Ploughboys and Curragh of Kildare.

At first I could not carry either tune, but have persisted - using Utube to find and sing along with various different recordings. It has taken several hours, but I think I have them now.

I know that might seem a small amount of time to learn a tune and song, but it used to take no time at all.

So - please - do not think that it is laziness or lack of application for someone to produce a song book so as to read the words.

It could just be a failure of the little grey cells.

In making the several copies of my song book I have devised a method of book binding, and also how to get the computer to print out paper with the number of lines I decided was most useful for my purpose.

So not all my time wasted.


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Subject: RE: Throwing away the crutch....
From: Ron Davies
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 12:53 AM

"old bloke".   That I can believe. Must be retired, among other things--to have the amazing amount of time to waste on the Militant Atheist thread that appears to be the case.

But I still hope you're not in fact buggered.   You might not enjoy it. But if you do, I'm sure you'll tell us all about it. Just think, it could be worth a few more posts on the Atheist thread.    But please forgive me if I skip them.    It's not really of interest to me. I lean more towards music.


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