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Singing with belief

Johnny J 29 Jun 13 - 04:28 AM
Phil Edwards 29 Jun 13 - 04:49 AM
GUEST,Musket seeing entertainment as abstract 29 Jun 13 - 05:09 AM
Jack Campin 29 Jun 13 - 05:14 AM
The Sandman 29 Jun 13 - 05:44 AM
GUEST,Gerry 29 Jun 13 - 05:48 AM
Johnny J 29 Jun 13 - 05:52 AM
BobKnight 29 Jun 13 - 05:56 AM
Johnny J 29 Jun 13 - 06:00 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Jun 13 - 06:35 AM
Phil Edwards 29 Jun 13 - 07:01 AM
Phil Edwards 29 Jun 13 - 07:04 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Jun 13 - 08:18 AM
Mo the caller 29 Jun 13 - 08:19 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 29 Jun 13 - 09:04 AM
Phil Cooper 29 Jun 13 - 09:20 AM
Jack Campin 29 Jun 13 - 09:22 AM
Bill D 29 Jun 13 - 09:52 AM
maeve 29 Jun 13 - 01:09 PM
Bill D 29 Jun 13 - 01:47 PM
maeve 29 Jun 13 - 01:53 PM
Elmore 29 Jun 13 - 01:57 PM
The Sandman 29 Jun 13 - 02:13 PM
GUEST,pete from seven stars link 29 Jun 13 - 02:31 PM
Bill D 29 Jun 13 - 02:49 PM
Elmore 29 Jun 13 - 03:19 PM
GUEST,CS 29 Jun 13 - 03:21 PM
GUEST,Musket giggling 29 Jun 13 - 03:29 PM
Ebbie 29 Jun 13 - 03:29 PM
Joe Offer 29 Jun 13 - 04:35 PM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Jun 13 - 05:16 PM
Janie 29 Jun 13 - 07:33 PM
GUEST,ST 30 Jun 13 - 06:22 AM
GUEST,CS 30 Jun 13 - 06:46 AM
Will Fly 30 Jun 13 - 07:09 AM
MartinRyan 30 Jun 13 - 07:29 AM
Elmore 30 Jun 13 - 11:10 AM
Snuffy 30 Jun 13 - 12:45 PM
MartinRyan 30 Jun 13 - 01:37 PM
MartinRyan 30 Jun 13 - 01:41 PM
CupOfTea 30 Jun 13 - 02:09 PM
Jim Carroll 30 Jun 13 - 02:15 PM
Tattie Bogle 30 Jun 13 - 06:12 PM
Amos 30 Jun 13 - 06:23 PM
George Papavgeris 30 Jun 13 - 06:47 PM
Lighter 01 Jul 13 - 10:05 AM
Keith A of Hertford 01 Jul 13 - 10:26 AM
The Sandman 01 Jul 13 - 01:08 PM
Marje 01 Jul 13 - 02:02 PM
Phil Cooper 01 Jul 13 - 02:57 PM
Jim Carroll 01 Jul 13 - 03:33 PM
Ron Davies 01 Jul 13 - 05:55 PM
TheSnail 01 Jul 13 - 05:56 PM
GUEST,Musket sans Ian 01 Jul 13 - 06:18 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 01 Jul 13 - 07:11 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 01 Jul 13 - 07:26 PM
Janie 01 Jul 13 - 08:45 PM
Janie 01 Jul 13 - 08:52 PM
McGrath of Harlow 01 Jul 13 - 09:33 PM
dick greenhaus 01 Jul 13 - 09:41 PM
Joe Offer 02 Jul 13 - 02:20 AM
Jim Carroll 02 Jul 13 - 03:00 AM
GUEST,Musket sans Ian 02 Jul 13 - 04:27 AM
Jim Carroll 02 Jul 13 - 06:01 AM
GUEST,Musket being confused 02 Jul 13 - 07:02 AM
Jim Carroll 02 Jul 13 - 07:26 AM
jacqui.c 02 Jul 13 - 07:47 AM
Marje 02 Jul 13 - 08:01 AM
Amos 02 Jul 13 - 10:29 AM
Kim C 02 Jul 13 - 10:35 AM
McGrath of Harlow 02 Jul 13 - 11:01 AM
McGrath of Harlow 02 Jul 13 - 11:01 AM
Jim Carroll 02 Jul 13 - 11:39 AM
GUEST,Musket sans Ian 02 Jul 13 - 01:48 PM
Jim Carroll 02 Jul 13 - 02:40 PM
Speedwell 02 Jul 13 - 04:47 PM
kendall 02 Jul 13 - 07:29 PM
Brian Peters 03 Jul 13 - 10:21 AM
Kim C 03 Jul 13 - 10:27 AM
Jim Carroll 03 Jul 13 - 11:32 AM
GUEST,eldergirl 09 Jul 13 - 12:47 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 09 Jul 13 - 02:39 PM
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Subject: Singing with belief
From: Johnny J
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 04:28 AM

On a recent thread, a poster made the following statement...

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

I thought this might be worthy of further discussion.

Although I don't believe that every song should be "meaningful" as such(After all there are lots of good nonsense songs)or necessarily always entirely represent your own sentiments i.e. some gospel songs may fall into this category and maybe love songs too, I wouldn't feel comfortable about singing a song where I was completely at odds with what was being expressed in the lyrics or something which I considered to be offensive.
If nothing else, I wouldn't be able to convince anyone else about the song if I couldn't convince myself.

However, I'm sure many of you might take a different view. After all, a singer might consider that he or she is similar to an actor and take on various roles, e.g. playing a "baddie" or somebody who is quite disagreeable. Many great actors relish such parts. Yet, in real life,they are "pussy cats" who wouldn't say "boo to a goose".
So, they would consider that their job is to "interpret" the song.

Of course, this already happens in musicals, opera and so on but, arguably, this is part and parcel of the acting role. Should a different criteria apply if these songs are taken out of context and performed elsewhere?
Another good example would be singing ballads where the performer is taking on the role of a narrator.

As I say, I don't expect every singer to have "lived" a particular song or to be 100% committed to every lyric and many songs are fairly harmless. However, I'd suggest that is is much harder to sing a song with real conviction if you don't personally believe in its contents...at least it is for an *amateur* such as myself. It may be easier for professional and more experienced performers?

There was a recent instance at my local singing group where I refused to sing a particular song which "bashed" and severely scolded church goers and lectured them that they had to be "born again" before they could be Christians.
Although I knew this might upset church people for whom we would be performing later, my main reason for disliking the song was that I(personally) wasn't particularly religious and didn't want to be lecturing others on how to live their lives or to shove a particular point of view down their throat especially when I didn't believe it myself. Thankfully, a few others in the group agreed with me and the tutor had to, reluctantly, back down.

I'm sure many of you will be able to give examples of subjects which you might refuse to sing about. I'd imagine that racist, sexist, and bigoted material in general would be a "No.. no" for most of us but some might wish to argue that even some of these songs are are OK as long as we can somehow "detach ourselves" from them?
What do you think?


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 04:49 AM

The song you mention just doesn't sound like a very good song! As an atheist, I can imagine singing a song celebrating how good it feels to be filled with the Holy Spirit - just not one that says "you lot aren't going to be saved and serve you right".

Protagonists of traditional songs get into some quite extreme situations. I can be singing about people committing robbery, adultery, rape, murder, suicide, incest, or various combinations of the above, and I'm right there - you need some imaginative identification to make the song work.

I think the key is identifying with the emotions of the song, however extreme the situation is. I like "Sheath and knife" ("I've just buried my sister, who had given birth to my son, and now I can't tell anyone about any of it"); I don't like "The shearing's not for you" ("I raped her, she's pregnant, I'm off"). The first has a much more extreme (and unusual) situation than the second, but the character's emotions are much more sympathetic.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,Musket seeing entertainment as abstract
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 05:09 AM

Good subject matter.

I was a miner at the time of the strike and was saddened, to put it mildly, by both sides of the argument so to hear a retired college lecturer stick his finger in his ear and sing "Blackleg Miner" doesn't make the evening one of long entertainment....

Similarly, a couple recently sang a Provo song on the basis of history and the folk tradition, but their rather warped colours came out when I sang Harvey Andrews's The Soldier closely afterwards.

Yes, I often don't believe in what I sing. I'd join a debating society if I did. There are limits, and if you sing a song wanting a section of society to die, prepare to be challenged. Music is a strong political tool. I used to love helping out singing in concerts for residents of care homes and found them stimulants to get recognition from people with advanced dementia. But just because I have no need for religion etc, doesn't mean I won't sing them The Old Rugged Cross.

You sing for others, not yourself. Unless you have narcissist tendencies.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Jack Campin
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 05:14 AM

I can only think of two songs where the issue has come up for me and where I will flatly refuse to join in: "Dublin in the Rare Old Times" and "Hey Zhankoye".

In both cases the problem is that the song is not generally seen as saying anything unacceptable: for "Hey Zhankoye" most people simply have no idea of the historical background and the appalling atrocity the song is celebrating, and for DitROT it seems to be generally considered okay to attack a black immigrant as a menace to Irish womanhood because, well, we just don't criticize Irish songs, do we?

Whereas (in the UK at least) "detachment" works fine for a pro-Confederacy or Jacobite song. The causes they advocate are so thoroughly dead and buried that nobody could be manipulated by a song into supporting them.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 05:44 AM

yes, i think ias a singer do have to have some affilation with some aspect of the song to sing it well.
I would not BE ABLE TO sing hugh of lincoln WELL.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 05:48 AM

Jack, I've read a little about Zhankoye, including your contributions to a previous thread on that song, and I still have no idea of the appalling atrocity the song is celebrating. Stalin's deportation of the Crimean Tatars was an appalling atrocity, but it took place 20 years after the events celebrated in the song.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Johnny J
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 05:52 AM

"Hey Zhankoye"

I'm not happy about singing songs in foreign languages at the best of times when I have no idea what the language means but it doesn't seem to bother many people. Often tutors don't even know themselves or have the correct pronunciation.
They sound good or "clever" with good harmonies and performed in rounds etc but what's the point? I'd be just as happy singing "la, la, la" or playing a tune.

Re "The rare ould times", I'm not excusing the lyrics but I don't believe it was intended to be deliberately offensive. However, it wouldn't be acceptable or advisable to write this way today.
Back then, many people regarded people from other races and ethnic origins as a "curiosity" but didn't necessarily harbour any ill feelings towards them. It was more ignorance than anything else.
So, it was basically a song "of its time" but I quite respect your position for not wanting to sing it now.

I've never actually sung it myself but, if I did, I'd probably either leave out that verse or alter the words slightly.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: BobKnight
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 05:56 AM

I try to avoid anything with religion in it, as I'm a non believer. As regards "The Shearings No For You," there are several versions of this song. My version has no rape and no desertion. It's just a love song.

The Shearin's Nae For You

Oh the shearin's nae for you, my bonnie lassie oh
Oh the shearin's nae for you, my bonnie lassie oh,
Oh the shearin's nae for you, for yer back it winna boo,
And yer stammick's growin' fu' my bonnie lassie oh.

Dae ye mind the banks o' Ayr, my bonnie lassie oh,
Dae ye mind the banks o' Ayr, my bonnie lassie oh,
Dae ye mind the banks o' Ayr, whaur my hairt ye did ensnare,
And my love I did declare, my bonnie lassie oh.

Tak the ribbons fae yer hair, my bonnie lassie oh,
Tak the ribbons fae yer hair, my bonnie lassie oh,
Tak the ribbons fae yer hair, and let doon yer ringlets fair,
Think ye nae on doul an' care, my bonnie lassie oh.

Tak the buckles frae yer sheen, my bonnie lassie oh,
Tak the buckles frae yer sheen, my bonnie lassie oh,
Tak the buckles frae yer sheen, for yer dancin' days are deen
Aye yer dancin days are deen, my bonnie lassie oh,


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Johnny J
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 06:00 AM

I always used to think it was a song about bestiality too.
:-)


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 06:35 AM

Interesting question that can be taken on several levels.
Can you sing a song whose 'message' you find offensive or contrary to your own views?
Or
Can you sing say a supernatural song if you don't believe in 'Ghosties and ghoulies....'
We did quite a lot of work on this in various workshops down the years.
On the first - maybe - in the right context.
I used to sing 'Blackleg Miner' a lot at one time but realised I couldn't come to terms with the idea of one group of workers fighting with another over jobs.
Nowadays I would only sing it in certain circumstances, where I could introduce it, possibly in a 'feature' or themed evening.
In the middle of the 19th century mineowners took advantage of immigrants fleeing the Irish Famine by reducing the wages of the indigenous miners under the threat of being replaced by starving Irish labour.
Prefix that information into your performance and you still have a powerful song directed at the employers rather than the 'scabs', which is what the song should have been about in the first place.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 07:01 AM

Bob - that's a lot nicer!

Jack - I think you're conflating two different periods. Jewish colonisation of Crimea was organised from within the USSR between 1924 and 1932; Jewish families were resettled from Russia and Ukraine as well as coming to the region voluntarily from outside the USSR. The project was part-funded by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which set up a group called Agro-Joint to help organise it. Land was 'redistributed' to the new settlements from the local population - which was majority Tatar, but also included Russian and German speakers - but there were no massacres or deportations. The massacres (of Jews) started in 1942, and the deportation (of Tatars) in 1944.

I wouldn't sing Hey Zhankoye myself - I don't think it's a particularly glorious episode in anyone's history - but the background isn't as bad as you suggested.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 07:04 AM

Jim - if you take the view that the Blackleg Miner was adapted from the Yahie Miners by Bert Lloyd (or his source), the original was a powerful song directed at the employers rather than the 'scabs'.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 08:18 AM

"Yahie Miners"
I'd forgotten Bert's explanation Phil and I go along with your point, but taking the text at face value and placing it in a British context, without that information it becomes a worker v worker song and you need to make it otherwise for it to work in a contemporary setting - I do anyway
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Mo the caller
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 08:19 AM

I don't join in the chorus of Champion he was a Dandy .
Some songs have jolly rousing tunes and choruses that don't quite go with the suject. Three score & ten.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 09:04 AM

I vividly recall being in Horton Barker's living room in St. Clair's Bottom near Chilhowie, Va. in 1955 for an evening of his singing—he even played my guitar to sing "San Antonio"—which I remember as one of the astonishing nights of my life.

When he sang "Wayfaring Stranger" and "Wondrous Love" he no longer sat, but stood in honor of the songs. I was stunned by his radiance in singing those two songs. Though I was an atheist then and am now, his quality of belief in those two performances was something that left me stunned.

I came back home singing those songs with all the radiance I could muster—a poor copy of what Mr. Barker had done, I'm sure. So I was very surprised after singing "Wayfaring Stranger," all three verses,

... But beauteous fields lie just before me, where God's redeemed their vigils keep ...

... I'll drop the cross of self-denial, and enter on my great reward ...

to a guitar-playing friend of my parents, Harrison Taylor, who sang many Burl Ives songs. I hoped she would hear the clarion call of that song as Barker had done it. What a surprise when she said "I never sing more than the first verse. I just don't believe in the others."

It threw me for a loop. If anyone had asked me, I'd have said it didn't matter whether I believed in any given song or not.

Since then my discomfort with songs that I disbelieve has grown. I have sung a number of gospel and hymn songs—even recorded a few (and I love to listen to impassioned gospel by the likes of Dorothy Love Coates). But singing, I carefully choose the songs that steer clear enough of theism enough not to disturb my disbelief. "Chased Old Satan Around the Stump," "What Kind of Shoes You Goin' to Wear," etc are fine. But I do, now, abstain from singing (except sotto voce over dishwashing, perhaps) the admittedly magnificent "Wondrous Love."

So yes, ability to believe in the song has come to matter to me. What makes me wonder is that there was a time in my life when I thought it couldn't.

I've come to feel the act of "belief" in itself is a risky, pitfall-filled way of approaching life, and I tend to use it with caution ... for what that's worth.

So does that mean I abstain from believing in any song I sing? No. But the song needs to be this side of that line. And though belief tends to be temporary, alive and electric during the song, it ends when the song ends.   

I don't know if that helps. Just the tale of one life's journey. Bob


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 09:20 AM

Well put, Bob. I know atheists who love to sing Sacred Harp music. I am uncomfortable on those, or other gospel songs. However, as you said, when you hear someone who is singing what they believe is the absolute truth it affects the listener, I think. There's a young dulcimer player/singer who is Christian who sings a version of "This is My Father's World" which makes my arm hair stand up. True, I was raised where songs like that were sung a lot. I wound up not buying into all the other stuff surrounding it. Same thing with political songs. As far as "Father's World" goes, I wouldn't try singing it. I have played it as an instrumental on guitar for my dad, when he was dying of cancer.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Jack Campin
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 09:22 AM

I was astonished, many years ago, hearing Mike Tickell singing "The Bonny Hills of Kielder". It had never occurred to me that there were even any bad songs about hunting, and here was this incredible voice singing a song with a glorious tune about how the finest way you could possibly spend your time was stomping around the countryside on horseback with a pack of dogs trying to rip some little animal to bloody shreds.

I couldn't do that one, but in modern Scottish culture hunting is about as acceptable as Greenland whaling or beating your wife in a sheepskin, so it doesn't bother me to listen to it.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Bill D
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 09:52 AM

Since I posted the original comment Johnny J quotes, a bit of history might be in order.... though it doesn't detract from the deeper relevance of the idea.

The American group, "Bok, Trickett and Muir" many years ago..(20?) gave a concert at Gaston Hall Georgetown University - Georgetown - Washington, DC.
They were always being offered new & interesting songs, and that evening they introduced a song called "The Middle Class Life is Best of All"..(I do not remember the author, and can find no reference to it now)

Ed Trickett invited the audience to join in on the chorus, remarking: "You don't have to believe everything you sing." It was quite a catch-phrase in the area for awhile simply because it WAS a useful way to explain...if anyone asked... why one was singing Gospel songs or 'politically incorrect' chanties or unedited Civil War songs for historical accuracy.

It is always an issue how to present certain songs that may, in certain circumstances or to certain audiences, be offensive or uncomfortable, but many singers feel that, with proper disclaimers, non-PC songs can be not only 'shocking', but also educational. Gospel songs, at least in the circles where *I* sing, are usually just accepted as part of the culture, even if only a small % of the audience 'believes' them.

The best example I, personally, have is a Green Irish song called "One Sunday Morning", in which an Orangeman is subjected to horrendous treatment..in only 3 verses. I have know it for 45 years, but sung it only 15 or so times... and always to make a point of how hate and narrow religious attitudes can do strange things to men's 'souls'.
   I also do "The Ould Orange Flute" at times... but that never seems quite as 'pointed'.

As to "the middle class life"....I dunno... I'd like to try rich upper-class, then I'll let you know.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: maeve
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 01:09 PM

This song, Bill, right here in the DT ? Middle Class Life Is the Best of All- Bob Coltman

thread (click)


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Bill D
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 01:47 PM

urrrkk.. Doesn't Google index the database? I never thought to look in the DB...

Yes... that one...


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: maeve
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 01:53 PM

Looks like Art Thieme was the one who added it. I enjoyed your story about "Middle Class Life." Ed and his family used to stay with me when they came to Maine, so your story piqued my interest in finding the song.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Elmore
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 01:57 PM

"Middle class life is the best of all." Sounds tongue in cheek to me. As for singing what you believe, a couple of my favorite singers of Christian gospel songs were Jewish. Not sure what their beliefs were. Many of us who wouldn't be caught dead in church enjoy sacred harp singing.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 02:13 PM

PETE SEEGER is an example of someone who sings with belief.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,pete from seven stars link
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 02:31 PM

most of my songwriting is inspired and informed by my faith,so i do sing with conviction.i mainly do open mics but sessions as well.a few people find my songs offensive but most seem to respect me,even though not subscribing to my faith.as i am only likely to get 3 songs usually, i figure that objectors can go to the bar/loo/smoke while i,m on.and some do
as some of you have commented,-you appreciate the conviction behind the singing,even if not agreeing with the song content.that seems a very resonable attitude IMO.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Bill D
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 02:49 PM

"..a couple of my favorite singers of Christian gospel songs were Jewish. "

Like Helen Scheyner! People refused to believe me when I told them she was Jewish.... she simply appreciated a good song.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Elmore
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 03:19 PM

Bill D.: Helen was one of the people I had in mind. She sang everything with conviction.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,CS
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 03:21 PM

Could I sing a song not believing it? Yes of course, If I needed to.
I'd give it the same effort as any song I sang.
If I wasn't in line with sentiment I would only sing it if I were requested to of course, just like any paid professional is required to in any industry, artistic or otherwise.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,Musket giggling
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 03:29 PM

Some people find pete's songs offensive?

No shit....


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Ebbie
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 03:29 PM

I too believe in singing with conviction- for those moments I will be in happy love or devastated with loss or looking forward to heaven where all will be well through eternity.

Some years ago a band formed in Juneau, Alaska, that featured country music. Problem was that they performed tongue in cheek, and I didn't like it.

I spoke to their lead singer about it and she said that in Juneau their approach was the only one that would work in Juneau, a town and community that tends toward jazz and rock and a *little* folk.

I still disagree with that view.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Joe Offer
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 04:35 PM

There are certain religious songs that really move me. I suppose many would be songs that I sing at Catholic funerals, like "On Eagle's Wings," and "You Are Mine," "Shepherd Me, O God," and "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace." I don't think I'd sing any of these songs at a singaround - I just don't think it would be appropriate. I think when you sing a moving song, it should be moving to both the singer AND the audience.

One of the most popular workshops at San Francisco's Camp New Harmony, is Bob Reid's "Songs of Significance" Workshop, and he does it almost every year. The workshop has to run two hours to accommodate everyone who wants to sing. In that workshop, he asks singers to sing something that touches their heart, and the general idea is that listeners will listen without being judgmental. I go to the workshop only sometimes, because usually I prefer workshops where I can get a little goofy. Two hours of heartfelt intensity, can be a little much for me. The word "smarminess" can come to mind at times when I'm in that workshop - whether that's fair or not.

But I like the general idea of Bob's workshop, because it lets people sing what's in their hearts, without embarrassment. One year, I was thinking a lot of my late friend Jim, who was my wife's previous husband. At his deathbed and again at his funeral, I sang Bob Franke's Thanksgiving Eve:
    What can you do with your days
    But work and hope
    Let your dreams bind your work to your play
    What can you do with each moment of your life
    But love 'till you've loved it away
    Love 'till you've loved it away.
So I told the story of my friend Jim and sang the song at the "Significant Songs" workshop. I couldn't tell that story or sing that song in every situation, but it worked well in that workshop (except that I wanted to sing it a cappella, and some guy with a damn guitar decided to accompany me).

But anyhow, that's a religious-sounding non-religious song that expresses what I believe. When I express what I believe, it makes me vulnerable, so I'm careful about when and where I sing such songs.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 05:16 PM

I don't hear anything in Dublin in the Rare Ould Times about a black immigrant being a menace to Irish womanhood. The protagonist says he courted a Dublin girl, but lost out to a young man, and they went to live over in England where he came from. And he mentions the chap was black and a student. Where's the menace to Irish womenhood in that?
...........
The crucial difference when it comes to stuff like racism and sexism and such is between celebrating or promoting such things and revealing them.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Janie
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 07:33 PM

Good music, like all of the arts, speaks to some aspect of making or finding meaning from a human perspective. Creativity is the act of making meaning. Whether one is the author, the singer or the listener - all are creative processes. Good poetry and good music are not literal, they are evocative. The person playing or singing imbues their own meaning, and the person listening does the same.

If one is unable to find a connection to being human or part of creation within a song, one can not sing it with authenticity. If one can find that connection, then one can sing or play a song or tune with passion and belief, whether or not one literally espouses the literal language of the song.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,ST
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 06:22 AM

My view is I have to be able to feel the song rather than believe it – it's response at an emotional level that matters. Some songs I can feel even if I don't believe in them. I do, however, also try to take into consideration what the audience may take from my singing of the song. If I disagree with the topic covered by the lyrics, and the club/singaround is the sort where I can introduce my song, I can put it in context; if I'm just supposed to get on with it and sing, I may apply a different filter. I don't hunt, for example, and don't approve of "sport" hunting but I'll sing hunting songs at some places because I know they won't offend (and they do have great choruses for joining in with.) At other places I'd only sing them if I could explain my disagreement with the practice but appreciation of the history, pageantry and "country" culture that spawned them.

One example of a "hunting" song I sing is a version of "The Coast of Peru". I'll only sing it if I can put it into context as I can find no justification for whaling these days but there was a time when it was integral to the survival of some communities. I actually treat the song ("feel" it) as an anti-hunting song that sits at the time when whaling was changing from a means of food-gathering and subsistence to a time of greed and extermination. With a suitable introduction, lines like "Which made her to vomit and the blood for to spout" and "And you that wants money I'd have you to go; To the coast of Peru me boys, where the whalefish they blow" carry a real message for me. I don't "believe" the song but I can feel both the hard life of the whalers and the greed for money that turned whaling into an industry that's set to exterminate species.

P.S. And where would my repertoire be if I ditched all the hunting songs, incest songs, infidelity songs, murder ballads, slaving (Flying Cloud) songs, Man Selling his Wife songs, songs extolling delicacies like Lumpy Tums, etc?

P.P.S. I share McGrath of Harlow's view about DITROT. Or should I also be offended by its condemnation of students! (On second thoughts….)


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,CS
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 06:46 AM

"If one is unable to find a connection to being human or part of creation within a song, one can not sing it with authenticity."

I don't know exactly what "authenticity" is. I see the human voice as primarily an instrument, I see singing as a technical skill you can learn to develop. I think I learned to see it that way when I had some singing lessons from a choral singing and early music expert. I've been taught to sing songs I personally loathed, it was all about learning to shape the right notes and tones - believe it or not, you can make a pretty good job of mimicking authentic feeling.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 07:09 AM

I'm surprised that no-one has mentioned singers/songwriters like Randy Newman, who brings to a fine art the "inhabiting" of a personality that is totally unlike Newman himself. And he does this usually to make a social or political comment.

A song like "Rednecks" (my favourite Newman composition) exposes the hypocrisy of a liberal attitude to racism - a style inherent in "Short People". And who could not warm to his "Political science": "They all hate us anyhow, so let's drop the Big One now." ("Boom goes London and Book goes Paree..."

Great stuff, but it's Newman in disguise, inhabiting a character that he's created.

Personally I eschew all songs about going to sea, whaling, ploughing, blues of the "Woke up this morning" variety, etc., etc. I love songs which have little or no meaning whatsoever - superficial trash from the days of music-hall to the 1920s and 1930s - what W.S. Gilbert might have called "airy persiflage".


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: MartinRyan
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 07:29 AM

Re "Dublin in the Rare Ould Times": Yes - I recall posting in a thread a long time ago that a Dublin working class fella of the time would have taken AT LEAST as much offence at having his mot run off with a "stewdent" as with a Brummie with West Indian origins.

Regards


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Elmore
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 11:10 AM

Sorry, but I don't understand what the line from DITROT has to do with Singing with belief.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Snuffy
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 12:45 PM

As it's usually pronounced Birming-HAM in the song, I've always assumed that the "student chap" was an American from Alabama, rather than a Brummie.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: MartinRyan
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 01:37 PM

Standard Dublin pronunciation!

Regards


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: MartinRyan
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 01:41 PM

.. and that's Dublin Ireland, not Dublin, Alabama! ;>)>

Regards


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: CupOfTea
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 02:09 PM

Like Johnny J, the comment in a previous thread "You don't have to believe everything you sing" stuck with me like a mental burr. I've mulled this idea over numerous times with hard-core traditionalists, 'washed in the blood' Christians, Jewish banjo pickers who delight in Gospel songs, staunch Unitarians who always seem to be supporting great songs, people who sing casually, people who sing ancient sacred music professionally, Pagans, Atheists who wouldn't touch a Christian based song for any reason, Social/political Activists who wouldn't sing a song unless it was preaching something.

All those debates hit me strongly last night in a couple different ways. I went to a concert where I went to see cherished singers & songwriters Mustard's Retreat open for Peter Yarrow. Now, David and Michael can write great songs made for singing along. One of theirs is "Ours is a Simple Faith." While picking songs for a study of Folk Music & Faith, in the consideration of newer songs in the folk tradition, I left that one out because the presentation was for my Episcopal Church Lenten Study. "There is no heaven or hell" wasn't going to work in that context. At that point, I decided to skip adding it to my repertoire.

Then last night, singing along - with gusto- on this song, in an audience who were mostly hearing it for the first time, it solidified my feeling that there's a different criterion of "belief" in whether you are presenting the song (performance/song circle/open mic/worship service) or singing along in any of those same contexts.
I love me some Kipling, and sing "A Pilgrim's Way" regularly - but I wouldn't sing it for an offertory at Church.

Later, listening to Peter Yarrow singing his songs used in social justice and teaching youth about respect for others, with lots of "preaching to the choir" talk in between the music, it seemed to me that some songs that didn't move me as much personally or need to add to my repertoire, nonetheless came out as something I wanted very much to sing along with because of the deep, deep belief and conviction with which Peter sang them, as well as agreement with the message.

I appreciate Janie's grasp of the situation completely when she says:"Good music, like all of the arts, speaks to some aspect of making or finding meaning from a human perspective... Good poetry and good music are not literal, they are evocative... If one is unable to find a connection to being human or part of creation within a song, one can not sing it with authenticity..."

Joe's reference to "songs of significance" resonates, too. It makes me think that for me, the "songs of significance" are those with which we are in total sympathy and agreement. You sing those songs with a passion, intensity, CONVICTION that gives it an authenticity that casual singing doesn't have - or NEED.

It's all on a continuum from songs that are spiritually transcendental, to you won't even sing along with for their loathsome viewpoint. Context is an important factor in where a song lands on your particular continuum.

Joanne in Cleveland


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 02:15 PM

It seems to me that people learn a song for different reasons - nice tune, good plot, nice poetry, even a few good lines....
I have learned songs for specific reasons - feature evenings or theatrical performances for instance.
All these reasons will produce a reasonable performance, (providing you put in the work of course) but I don't believe any of them are enough to encourage you keep singing a song - I've found that a song you don't "feel for" will last as long as your original motivation wears so thin that you become bored with it - it ceases to surprise you.
I have not long started to sing again after a gap of 20-odd years and am finding it interesting to learn which of my largish repertoire I can just re-learn and which I have to totally re-think.
We started to record elderly traditional singers in 1973 and continued for thirty years,. We made a point of questioning as many as we could on what the songs meant to them, how they saw them, where they fitted into their lives, what they "saw" while they were singing them...... Without exception, everyone we asked talked about involvement, mental pictures, and above all "truth" and "belief".
Listen to singers like Sam Larner or Texas Gladden talking and you'll find a total committment to their songs.
If I was asked to choose between a skilful singer who could deliver his/her song perfectly and knew exactly where to put their fingers and when (assuming they sang accompanied), and one who is maybe past his/her prime, but was capable of communicating their feelings for their song - no competition - give me the latter every time - anything else is one-dimensional.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 06:12 PM

It certainly is easier to sing a song that you like, and are in touch with its sentiments, even if you have not yourself directly experienced the situation described in the song. I suppose when I was younger it was nice tunes that really attracted me to certain songs. Now that I am older (maybe slightly wiser?) the words have an increasingly important significance, and I'm far more likely to go off and search for the provenance if the song. (The latter of course being easier to do in the current digital age!)
I'd agree with Jim that there are some singers, who may have less than perfect voices (however you judge that!) and may not be the world's most gob-smacking instrumentalists if they accompany themselves, but DO know how to put a song across.
Times where I have had difficulty sometimes is in a group setting, where you have your own idea if how a song should go, but you have to take it faster/slower/ stress certain syllables ( and at least half the other singers forget this instruction!) and the whole song ends up being an institutionalised mush. (Just as with tunes, there are some that just do not lend themselves to group playing, especially slow airs, where personal use of ornamentation is crucial to how a tune sounds.)
I also do not like singing songs about domestic abuse e.g. Blue Bleezing Blind Drunk or Eric Bogle's Glasgow Lullaby: thankfully I have never been a victim of this, but it still makes me feel uncomfortable, as it is more than likely statistically that someone in the room will have experienced it.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Amos
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 06:23 PM

I sing fervid Gospel tunes with as much elan as I can muster, when I like the music and tone of them. There are some songs which I just don't do--those that are hateful without redeeming social value, those that are clyingly sentimental without irony, and a few other types. The Unreconstructed Rebel is full of anger and avowed hatrred but I will sing it any day for the sheer attotude of its last line.


A


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 30 Jun 13 - 06:47 PM

I believe that it IS possible to sing about something you don't believe in, in certain circumstances, and this is how: As a songwriter I of course always write about subjects that I am interested in, but occasionally I present them from the opposing view to mine. Two such typical songs are "Thieves of Innocence" and "Traitor's Love". In the first of these I take on the role of the child soldier, through his abduction and training to his eventual becoming a murderer and abductor of others. It's not that I support that viewpoint, but I find that the use of the "first person" allows me to highlight the horror of those events better. In "Traitor's Love" I take on the role of the "false patriot" who is in fact a traitor, against Jim Causley's accused "traitor" who is in fact the true patriot. So I rail on about God-given rights and how traitorous it is to criticise one's country, when in fact I, George, believe the opposite.

In both of those I become an actor - I act the roles I am in fact personally opposed to. So while I (George) don't believe in the message of the lyrics, the character I play (the child soldier, the bigoted traitor) does believe. And that character sings them with what I hope comes across as sincerely meant conviction. My own beliefs support the overall message of the song, though they are in fact opposed to the words of the characters I represent. It's the acting that allows me to do that. Actors have to do that, otherwise one could never get anyone to play the baddies.

Extrapolating from that to other songs including traditional, for example hunting songs - I am against hunting as a sport - I can sing them because for those 2-3 minutes I "act" the role of someone who likes hunting. But there has to be a redeeming something that allows me to sing them, as I am opposed to both the message of the song overall and the lyrics themselves, and in the case of such songs it is my wish to help preserve those songs from another era and a different set of beliefs.

Thinking about it, there may also be an element of "degree of abhorrence" at play here. In other words I can sing hunting songs to preserve them, but I cannot imagine myself singing pro-slavery ones. I can imaging myself singing atheist songs (being in fact a Christian, though I like to think a non-fanatical one who is happy to live alongside Muslims, Buddhists, pagans and even Richard Dawkins) but not pro-fascist ones. And so on.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Lighter
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 10:05 AM

Seems to me a folksinger sings mainly to please himself and anyone who might happen to be present.

A folkie sings largely to wow an audience as part of a "performance."

So the question of "believing in the songs you sing" will mainly be a problem for the folkie.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 10:26 AM

I do not think the Dublin song racist, but I admit I don't do it when there are black folks in the group.
There are enough songs, why risk offence.
I enjoy rebel songs, but some sentiments I prefer not to voice.
I always leave out the last verse of Skibbereen, with its talk of going back to exact revenge.

I also omit the last broken token verse of Plains of Waterloo.
It is such a silly idea it spoils the previous verses.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 01:08 PM

I always leave out the last verse of Skibbereen, with its talk of going back to exact revenge."
Some versions have the lyrics remember skibbereen, I prefer to sing that version.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Marje
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 02:02 PM

I think there's a difference between songs that are meant to serves some moral or spiritual purpose (e.g. hymns, and some political songs) and older songs with implied values which may or may not correspond to those of a modern singer and audience. I don't have a problem singing a song about going hunting or awaiting the return of a brave soldier from battle, because to me such songs are products of their times, and reflect they way people once lived and thought. The underlying emotions (delight in a gallop across the fields, anxiety and then relief when the soldier returns - albeit from some futile battle) are universal and not difficult to identify with. I can sing them with some sort of "belief". But if someone produced a modern song about why we should bring back hunting or send more troops to the Middle East, I wouldn't want to sing it.

The main point coming across in this discussion, though, is the importance (to most of us) of thinking about the words you sing, and feeling that they matter. You don't get so much of this in other genres of music, and it's one of the things that makes folk and traditional song special.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 02:57 PM

Well put, Marje


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 03:33 PM

"A folkie sings largely to wow an audience as part of a "performance."
Never met one of them - most people I know sing the songs because they love them enough to want to share them, nothing to do with "performance".
"with implied values which may or may not correspond to those of a modern singer and audience."
What makes traditional song accessible (IMO) is the universality and timelessness of the themes - love, injustice, anger, pride... it is this fact that moves both singer and (if it is done proficiently enough) audience and has made them last as long as they have.
There is a wonderful recording of Harry Cox singing 'Betsy the Serving Maid' (rich parents have poor girl deported to America to stop their son marrying her)
After Harry finishes the song he spits out "And that's what the buggers think of us" - complete contemporary identification with the theme and values of the song.
Same singer, after singing Van Diemans Land he goes into a diatribe about enclosures and land seizure - that's what I'm referring to as "belief".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Ron Davies
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 05:55 PM

If you restrict yourself to only songs you identify with, you will have little to sing.

I may well have been the person who made the remark which seems to have been the springboard for the thread.   Or perhaps not.

At any rate, as I--and others--have said before, singing often requires acting.

I'm relatively sure, to say the least,about the imaginary nature of hell but I'm not about to turn down the opportunity to sing the Verdi Requiem, belting out the hellfire and damnation parts with gusto.

And face it, even without roasting in hell, masses are hardcore Catholic theology--and very likely some of the most sublime music ever created.    I--and many other serious musicians, whether professional or just passionate--am completely convinced that religious music is in fact the best vocal music.    You can start with the fact that Tallis and Byrd , both Catholics in a Protestant country, are probably the height of choral music. So if you are unwilling to sing Catholic theology, you don't sing probably the best choral music ever.

So in my group we have Jewish singers, Protestants, agnostics, maybe some atheists, and no doubt some believers, all singing:    "Domine Deus, rex coelestis, Deus pater omnipotens, Domine flli unigenite Jesu Christe....qui tollis peccata mundi" etc. with complete conviction.    Since that is what the music calls for.    We are there to serve the music, not to editorialize.

If you can't put the message across, tell the story convincingly, or convey the emotions of the music, your performance will be lifeless. And the audience will know.

Whether or not you identify with a word of what you are saying.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: TheSnail
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 05:56 PM

McGrath of Harlow

I don't hear anything in Dublin in the Rare Ould Times about a black immigrant being a menace to Irish womanhood.

I wondered whether to comment on this but I agree. I think Jack is rather missing the point of the song which is written from the point of view of someone who can't cope with change and progress. He says of himself -

My mind's too full of memories, too old to hear new chimes
I'm part of what was Dublin in the rare ould times


We may be meant to sympathise but not empathise. Peggy Dignan has a more adventurous outlook. The "student chap with a skin as black as coal" is rather more interesting than Sean Demspey.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,Musket sans Ian
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 06:18 PM

Jim.

Singing is for entertainment of the audience. It is performance.

Without that fact, the good work of yourself and others is consigned to intellectual interest of an ever decreasing circle of academics with no interest in the beauty of music, just the dissection of the history contained within.

Any deluded alternative to that statement would be narcissist to say the least.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 07:11 PM

To respond to the above,

Yes, I wrote "The Middle Class Life Is the Best of All" as satire. Listen closely to the words and they have bite. But as with many of the songs I write, I also tried to live in the skin of a booster of middle class life for just about three minutes. That was about the max I could manage.

I was tickled when my good friend Ed Trickett picked it up and sang it.

For some hearers, however, I can imagine the satire didn't come through. It's a funny thing about songs, once you set them afloat, they take on a life of their own, which may not be what you intended.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 07:26 PM

Another point raised above: "a folkie sings to wow an audience with a performance" — Jeepers! That's poles apart from the widespread feeling among real traditional singers, who had a way of inhabiting the song when they sang it, consciously remaining in the background themselves to let the song flow through them. Texas Gladden was mentioned ... she's a good example of this.

Naturally not all traditional singers took this viewpoint, but few were showmen/showwomen. For one thing they largely did not "perform," so they didn't sing as a performance. Their singing was private, for themselves or their family and friends. It was fairly restrained by modern standards ... had little of the performance about it at all.

In fact that's the one thing that differentiates the modern "folkie" from the traditional singer, who largely did not sing for effect. No shortage of ego in many traditional singers (Gladden had her share)! But when they sang, the ego tended to sink to the background; the song tended to take over and shine on its own.

I may be criticized for taking a romanticized view. But let me assure you, I've known traditional singers and read of and heard many others, and this "inward" view of a song was pretty common while the traditional people were still a force. "Plugging" a song, copping an attitude with it, was very unusual.

For myself, I find the traditional approach very congenial. I try to let the song sing itself, no nods, no winks, no grandstanding. It's just me in the background letting the song be the star.

Not that I've succeeded all the time, but that's my aim. There are some folkies around still who I think take that approach; more power to them.   Bob


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Janie
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 08:45 PM

Good distinction, guestST. You hit the nail on the head, at least for me.

Unlike Pete, when I sing religious music, I am not singing from a place of religious conviction or belief, but am singing from a place of emotional conviction from the awareness of of the human imperative toward the "will for meaning," as Viktor Frankl put it.

Musket, I understand that many of these above the line threads are generally considered the territory of performers, and so I mostly stay out of them. But rest assured that many, many, many people throughout the world sing to sing and for the joy or solace or connectedness it brings - in the shower, in the car, on the porch, alone late at night, or over the grave of a long-buried loved one - no ears to hear other than the singer's own. Singing is not the strict provenance of the performer.

Music is sound. Sound is universal. Music is universal.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Janie
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 08:52 PM

Bob, I recently ran across a Utah Phillips quote at the end of youtube video, which I can't find now, in which he appears to be expressing the same sentiment. Write a song and put it out there, and then it has a life of it's own. I don't think he objected to that and don't think I am hearing that you do either.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 09:33 PM

'Change and progress' - not necessarily the same thing. Some changes are indeed for the better, some are very much for the worse.

But that's continuing drift of the thread that doesn't really belong here.

There's big difference between not sharing a belief and opposing it, and different meanings of belief. There's a sense in which I strongly believe in Father Christmas. There's a sense in which I believe in a just society. But I don't expect to see either of those as I go around.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 01 Jul 13 - 09:41 PM

I frequently disagree with the words and/or ideology of a song I( sing; I always believe in the song.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 02:20 AM

So, Bob Coltman, how could we get a chance to hear "Middle Class Life"?

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 03:00 AM

"Singing is for entertainment of the audience. It is performance."
For you, obviously.
I suggest you read what Bob Coltman wrote - he sums it up far better than I could.
The thirty odd years we spent recording traditional singers, talking to them and putting what they had to say to the acid test and comparing what we found with the work of others, then archiving our recordings and findings so that they would be accessible for the future really was a waste of our time. We really should have stuck to the red noses and baggy trousers.
Sorry Musket, I suggest you stick stick with what you know (or don't know).
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,Musket sans Ian
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 04:27 AM

What I do know is that singing is enjoyable but to forget that it is entertainment is to miss the point of the concept.   It puts thought, views and stories into an easy to remember enjoyable abstract but without the impetus of others enjoying it, it becomes using, not enjoying music.

And that would be sad.




Let's be honest for once. How many of us, in singaround style folk evenings measure our beer glass emptying to be conveniently empty (by coincidence of course) when a retired social worker gets a book out and dirges on about Reed cutting in Norfolk? I have a healthy regard for someone wishing to entertain but if it is just the relaying of traditional story, the book they are reading from supplies the medium, not the excuse to go to the bar.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 06:01 AM

Are you for real M?
Wonder where you got your traditional songs (do you sing them)?
Not one traditional song in the repertoire hasn't passed through the hands of a collector or researcher at one time or another.
Sorry - don't handle trolls too well.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,Musket being confused
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 07:02 AM

Well if that floats your boat Mr Carroll, then fine but

1. Collecting and classifying can be enjoyable. Hearing music can too. Not the same thing though. If I wish to share the enjoyment of McColl's FirstmTie Ever I Saw Your Face with someone who had never heard it, would I find a flat toned old bloke in a pub to recite it or play the rather wonderful Sterephonics version... Mmmm. Lets see.

2. Pretending not to understand isn't clever, neither is calling someone a troll on the basis you put yourself up as an authority. Authorities in music are technicians, authorities in enjoyment of music are happy people. Beecham once said that the English don't appreciate music but they love the noise it makes.

3. Other than singing in the bath, you are entertaining others, or they are humouring you. The oral tradition is fine but became a quirky old style once Caxton got his press going. Nothing wrong with that, but other than idiots such as yourself, people see the oral tradition as an ornament, a bloody nice one, granted, but other media store the human experience of songs and has done for hundreds of years. So sharing is actually entertaining after all.

Music is for the entertainment of people. First, second and so forth. Sharing songs is performing them, you know that and your comments to the contrary do you no justice.

By the way, you can be the most obnoxious troll on this forum at times.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 07:26 AM

I've no intention of making this a one to one with you Musket.
If you think you can't collect, research, study, sing, listen and enjoy - your fish-tank must be a very small one.
If I told you that you had to do all of these things you would, with some justification, almost resort to the old 'folk police' cliche Please don't tell me or anybody what to do and how to do it - mind your own ****** business and leave people to do what they choose to do.
Over and out
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: jacqui.c
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 07:47 AM

If people had not taken the trouble to record some of the local singers of folk music a lot of what we know could have been lost as different areas had differing versions of the same song - think about Barbara Allen for instance. Written down, and with the tune set those differing versions from that particular written one could have been lost. I don't read music so have to learn the tunes of any song I want to sing from an existing version, which is how these songs were disseminated for many years. I have heard, in my travels, many singers of songs, some of whom have wonderful voices but give no feeling to what they sing and others who don't carry a tune quite as well but who make me FEEL the song. I much prefer the latter.

Like Musket I have been at sessions where a 'performer' sings or reads to their song sheet, pretty clearly has not rehearsed their song ahead of time and has not put an iota of thought into what they are doing. Quite often these people have a limited number of songs that they drag out time after time, never improving their performance at all. They are few, I must admit, but they do exist. They have no belief in what they are doing and seem just to do it for their 'fifteen minutes'. That's when I take a bathroom break or go to the bar. Those I do not put into the category of the singers that Jim talks about.

There are some songs that I really do feel, even if I haven't been in that particular situation, and there are songs, particularly heavily religious ones extolling the power of a god I don't believe in, that I would be very uncomfortable singing because I can't feel that emotion. Singing, for me, is about putting a feeling across to listeners, whether that be a serious or a comical one.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Marje
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 08:01 AM

Guest Musket, you clearly have problems with all sorts of aspects of traditional singing - the age of the singer, their professional background, whether they're in a pub or not, whether they use a book or not ... there are numerous other threads where you can read more about these and other aspects of the subject if they interest you, and add your comments there. We're talking here about whether it matters to sing with belief in your song.

You have some doubts about this issue, but picking an argument with one of the most respected and knowledgeable contributors to this forum really doesn't impress. I can't see that Jim is "setting himself up as an authority", as you claim, or pulling rank in any way, but he knows and understands more about traditional song than most of us put together. I don't always agree with him but I read his comments with interest becase he knows what he's talking about. Being wise and well informed, or even taking an academic interest, doesn't conflict with appreciating songs or knowing what makes them enjoyable.

And when Jim says, above: "What makes traditional song accessible (IMO) is the universality and timelessness of the themes - love, injustice, anger, pride... it is this fact that moves both singer and (if it is done proficiently enough) audience and has made them last as long as they have." he absolutely nails it. If the singer is convinced and moved, the audience will be too.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Amos
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 10:29 AM

I think the critical element in singing a song is intent, more than belief. It's a communication, after all, not a tape recording.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Kim C
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 10:35 AM

I'm a storyteller. I just happen to tell the stories in songs.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 11:01 AM

Taking part in a conversation is a bit different from listening to a stand-up comic. While the latter would be classed as entertainment and the former not, both can be very entertaining. A lot of the singing in folk music is closer to the former than the latter, and for many people can be the more important part, with the focus being on song as a medium of communication and socialisation, with entertanment as such being less central.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 11:01 AM

Taking part in a conversation is a bit different from listening to a stand-up comic. While the latter would be classed as entertainment and the former not, both can be very entertaining. A lot of the singing in folk music is closer to the former than the latter, and for many people can be the more important part, with the focus being on song as a medium of communication and socialisation, with entertanment as such being less central.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 11:39 AM

Kim
"I'm a storyteller. I just happen to tell the stories in songs."
That is exactly what every singer we have asked has said to us.
This was highlighted for us while we were recording a couple of elderly brothers thirty-odd years ago in North Clare.
Between them they gave us a dozen or so songs, Child Ballads, narrative and lyrical songs, Anglo and native Irish.
Around half a dozen of them were sung to the same tune, which was obviously regarded as a vehicle for telling the story.
It is interesting to compare this with the tendency nowadays (here in Ireland at least) for the song to be regarded as a means to display musical skill.
A couple of years ago I sang at a session during a week-end gathering.
The son of a friend came over when I had finished the song 'Ranter Parson' and said rather bemusedly - "That's a story, isn't it"?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,Musket sans Ian
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 01:48 PM

Marje. If you read what I put you will see that I do not disagree with you.   I commented earlier on the subject matter. But my later comments were challenging the absurd notion put forward by Jim Carroll that sharing and entertaining are not the same thing.

If you sing in front of others and don't wonder if you are entertaining or not, you really should be asking if your efforts are having the desired effect.

A semi professional singer I used to know played on his age and background claiming the songs he sung were learned at his mother's knee. People used to tape him and have their Lomax moment. Of course it was entertainment! What he didn't get from Martin Carthy albums he learned from me, and I got them from A L Lloyd tapes....

You can tell a story by speaking it, writing a book or putting it to music. But the story is the story and the music remains entertainment.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 02:40 PM

"Jim Carroll that sharing and entertaining are not the same thing. "
Where on earth did I say that?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Speedwell
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 04:47 PM

I think that most folk singers who are passionate about their singing will eventually phase out from their repertoire any songs that they don't truly believe in. This (IMHO) comes with experience and maturity. A good song has its own(kind of)spirit which is there to be connected with or not.
Marje, you talk a lot of sense.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: kendall
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 07:29 PM

When I perform The Band played waltzing Matilda, Carrying Nelson Home or The Lock Arcrae, you can bet your bippy I belief it.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Brian Peters
Date: 03 Jul 13 - 10:21 AM

Pasted from Lighter's message:

"Seems to me a folksinger sings mainly to please himself and anyone who might happen to be present.

A folkie sings largely to wow an audience as part of a "performance."

So the question of "believing in the songs you sing" will mainly be a problem for the folkie."


Leaving aside this unfortunate 'folkie / folksinger' terminology, I don't see how the above remarks could be made by anyone who had heard, either first-hand or on record, the singing of Phil Tanner, Sam Larner, Jeaannie Robertson or Fred Jordan. Performers all, both literally and in singing style.

One problem with the catch-all term 'traditional singers' (or 'folksingers') is that the category extends from elderly people racking their brains at the behest of a collector to remember fragments of songs learned as children and quite possibly never exercised since, to consummately skilled public performers who could command a room with drama, nuance and musicality. Not that any of those I mentioned above showed any less committment to their songs, of course.

As for 'folkies', all of the 'revival' singers I've enjoyed most over the years display precisely the kind of passionate committment to their songs that we're talking about here. Ray Fisher, to name but one. And all of those modern 'folkies' who wish to take their songs no further than their local pub singaround are no more giving performances than the denizens of the Blaxhall Ship, retired social workers though some may be.

PS: Jim 1, Blunderbuss 0


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Kim C
Date: 03 Jul 13 - 10:27 AM

I guess it would be fair to say there are some songs I "believe," because they come from That Place Inside, but I also do a lot of murder ballads. I can't really say I "believe" those. I'm not interested in drowning my sister or poisoning my faithless lover. That's where the storytelling comes in.


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Jul 13 - 11:32 AM

A couple of events in this area underlined the complexity of the 'belief' of some singers.
We were recording a wonderful singer named Tom Lenihan one night; he'd just sung a song and he burst out at the end, "That's a true song".
When we asked him where and when he thought it had taken place he looked puzzled and said "Do you think it really happened?"
"Truth", in Tom's case meant something different
A friend recorded a fiddle player who had a rake of fairy stories, many of them connected with the tunes.
Later, over a cup of tea, he asked the player and his wife, "Do you believe in fairies?"
His wife replied, a little indignant "Of course not, but they're there all right".
MacColl used to tell of the time when they recorded tales from a number of Travelling women who were staying with them.
The women got into a run of supernatural tales, one trying to outdo the others until, by the end of the evening they refused to walk the few yards down the hall to the toilet unless somebody came with them.
One of the most moving pieces of storytelling I have ever heard is a recording of a Scots Travelling woman describing the the death of her youngest daughter, who died when she was jagged by a piece of rusty wire while they were camped by the side of a quarry.
It starts as straightforward description and turns into an account of omens, premonitions and birds flying into the campfire - still brings a lump to my throat when I think of it.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,eldergirl
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 12:47 PM

I am puzzled that anyone could sing a song which did not sit comfortably within their heart in some way. But maybe that makes me too fluffy? for me, certain songs beg to be acquired for the vocabulary; some have virtually grabbed me by the throat shouting LEARN ME!! while others can be taken, or left!


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Subject: RE: Singing with belief
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 02:39 PM

Speedwell: "I think that most folk singers who are passionate about their singing will eventually phase out from their repertoire any songs that they don't truly believe in. This (IMHO) comes with experience and maturity. A good song has its own(kind of)spirit which is there to be connected with or not."

Absolutely!!..and well said!

You all might want to study musical theater....BECOME the character...and be VERY picky about the material you choose!

If you can't find it...Write it!

GfS


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