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radio 4 how folk songs should be sung

The Sandman 25 Nov 14 - 03:25 PM
GUEST 25 Nov 14 - 03:55 PM
Bainbo 25 Nov 14 - 04:06 PM
The Sandman 25 Nov 14 - 04:12 PM
The Sandman 25 Nov 14 - 04:13 PM
Reinhard 25 Nov 14 - 04:14 PM
The Sandman 25 Nov 14 - 04:32 PM
The Sandman 26 Nov 14 - 04:18 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Nov 14 - 04:47 AM
Musket 26 Nov 14 - 05:05 AM
Leadfingers 26 Nov 14 - 05:26 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Nov 14 - 05:37 AM
Musket 26 Nov 14 - 05:51 AM
GUEST,DTM 26 Nov 14 - 05:51 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Nov 14 - 06:16 AM
Musket 26 Nov 14 - 06:21 AM
Brian Peters 26 Nov 14 - 06:23 AM
Backwoodsman 26 Nov 14 - 06:37 AM
Musket 26 Nov 14 - 07:17 AM
GUEST,Rahere 26 Nov 14 - 07:35 AM
Musket 26 Nov 14 - 07:45 AM
bubblyrat 26 Nov 14 - 07:52 AM
The Sandman 26 Nov 14 - 08:34 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Nov 14 - 09:06 AM
The Sandman 26 Nov 14 - 09:23 AM
GUEST,Rahere 26 Nov 14 - 09:54 AM
GUEST, topsie 26 Nov 14 - 10:01 AM
The Sandman 26 Nov 14 - 10:27 AM
Backwoodsman 26 Nov 14 - 10:40 AM
Musket 26 Nov 14 - 11:06 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Nov 14 - 11:07 AM
Backwoodsman 26 Nov 14 - 11:13 AM
Backwoodsman 26 Nov 14 - 11:15 AM
TheSnail 26 Nov 14 - 11:53 AM
GUEST,Desi C 26 Nov 14 - 12:20 PM
The Sandman 26 Nov 14 - 12:58 PM
GUEST,LynnH 26 Nov 14 - 01:34 PM
The Sandman 26 Nov 14 - 02:15 PM
Vic Smith 26 Nov 14 - 02:55 PM
The Sandman 26 Nov 14 - 03:10 PM
Brian Peters 26 Nov 14 - 03:32 PM
Vic Smith 26 Nov 14 - 03:38 PM
The Sandman 26 Nov 14 - 04:20 PM
Jim Carroll 26 Nov 14 - 04:46 PM
Jim Carroll 26 Nov 14 - 05:08 PM
GUEST,Bob Blair 26 Nov 14 - 07:23 PM
The Sandman 27 Nov 14 - 05:06 AM
Musket 27 Nov 14 - 05:16 AM
The Sandman 27 Nov 14 - 05:43 AM
Vic Smith 27 Nov 14 - 06:22 AM
The Sandman 27 Nov 14 - 06:59 AM
Jim Carroll 27 Nov 14 - 07:16 AM
The Sandman 27 Nov 14 - 07:16 AM
Vic Smith 27 Nov 14 - 07:46 AM
Vic Smith 27 Nov 14 - 07:51 AM
Jim Carroll 27 Nov 14 - 07:58 AM
GUEST 27 Nov 14 - 08:15 AM
Musket 27 Nov 14 - 08:27 AM
Brian Peters 27 Nov 14 - 08:53 AM
Jack Campin 27 Nov 14 - 08:57 AM
The Sandman 27 Nov 14 - 08:59 AM
Brian Peters 27 Nov 14 - 09:23 AM
GUEST 27 Nov 14 - 09:29 AM
Jim Carroll 27 Nov 14 - 09:48 AM
Brian Peters 27 Nov 14 - 09:58 AM
Brian Peters 27 Nov 14 - 10:26 AM
GUEST,Jane of 'ull 27 Nov 14 - 10:49 AM
johncharles 27 Nov 14 - 10:56 AM
Jim Carroll 27 Nov 14 - 11:31 AM
Brian Peters 27 Nov 14 - 11:50 AM
The Sandman 27 Nov 14 - 12:03 PM
Brian Peters 27 Nov 14 - 12:07 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Nov 14 - 12:23 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Nov 14 - 12:33 PM
The Sandman 27 Nov 14 - 12:36 PM
Vic Smith 27 Nov 14 - 12:48 PM
Brian Peters 27 Nov 14 - 12:58 PM
The Sandman 27 Nov 14 - 01:09 PM
GUEST,Rahere 27 Nov 14 - 02:29 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Nov 14 - 03:04 PM
The Sandman 27 Nov 14 - 04:27 PM
GUEST 27 Nov 14 - 04:57 PM
Jim Carroll 28 Nov 14 - 04:00 AM
GUEST,Jon Dudley 28 Nov 14 - 11:59 AM
The Sandman 28 Nov 14 - 12:15 PM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 28 Nov 14 - 12:19 PM
GUEST 28 Nov 14 - 01:19 PM
Jim Carroll 28 Nov 14 - 03:06 PM
GUEST,Rahere 28 Nov 14 - 03:19 PM
The Sandman 28 Nov 14 - 05:08 PM
GUEST,Rahere 28 Nov 14 - 08:57 PM
Jim Carroll 29 Nov 14 - 03:04 AM
Musket 29 Nov 14 - 03:34 AM
GUEST,Rahere 29 Nov 14 - 04:04 AM
The Sandman 29 Nov 14 - 04:25 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Nov 14 - 05:04 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Nov 14 - 05:13 AM
The Sandman 29 Nov 14 - 06:20 AM
MGM·Lion 29 Nov 14 - 10:25 AM
GUEST,John Foxen 29 Nov 14 - 10:51 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Nov 14 - 11:44 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Nov 14 - 11:56 AM
michaelr 29 Nov 14 - 12:56 PM
Vic Smith 29 Nov 14 - 02:07 PM
GUEST,Rahere 29 Nov 14 - 02:28 PM
Brian Peters 29 Nov 14 - 04:24 PM
The Sandman 29 Nov 14 - 04:29 PM
Jim Carroll 30 Nov 14 - 03:57 AM
The Sandman 30 Nov 14 - 04:00 AM
GUEST,Rahere 30 Nov 14 - 05:38 AM
MGM·Lion 30 Nov 14 - 07:23 AM
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Brian Peters 30 Nov 14 - 09:32 AM
Jim Carroll 30 Nov 14 - 09:54 AM
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Subject: Radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Nov 14 - 03:25 PM

I found this programme interesting, so thought I would draw peoples attention to this, if others were not aware of it.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Nov 14 - 03:55 PM

And brilliantly, you neglect to provide any information concerning or even a title of the programme that you refer to.

A link? Nah, that's far too much to ask...


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Bainbo
Date: 25 Nov 14 - 04:06 PM

How Folk Songs Should Be Sung


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Nov 14 - 04:12 PM

bbc radio 4 how folk songs should be sung, try googling.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Nov 14 - 04:13 PM

thanks bainbo, cross posted


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Reinhard
Date: 25 Nov 14 - 04:14 PM

There was already a long discussion on this programme in 2011/12: M. Carthy on The Critics Group - Radio 4 where our poor soldier very pointedly had a lot to say.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Nov 14 - 04:32 PM

Reinhard, 3 years ago, is there any problem with bringing it to peoples attention again?
I have just listened to it again, and thought Ewan made some good points about performing.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 04:18 AM

I found my opinion of the programme changed on listening to it again. In retrospectI think the programme might have been more interesting and more helpful if we had heard more of Ewans ideas about performing and less about personality clashes.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 04:47 AM

We are at present working on two - hour long radio programmes on Ewan which will be broadcast in January on Irish radio in time for the centenary of his birth; much of it will cover his work with the Critics Group
Hopefully, it will challenge some of the inaccuracies of this somewhat (well - inaccurate) and somewhat misleadingly named programme.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Musket
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 05:05 AM

I sing them like Musket. I enjoy singing them like Musket.

If others enjoy it, brilliant. If they don't, you can't win 'em all.

Tell you what though. You can only criticise a style on your own personal liking. There is no such thing as wrong.

John Eliot Gardener arranges and conducts baroque classical music as he feels audiences would have heard at the time of composing them. They tend to be slightly different to what we are used to, slightly up tempo for instance.

But.

He isn't doing it right. Others aren't doing it wrong. He isn't doing it wrong. Others aren't doing it right.

I have had people say they don't like how I have arranged songs and criticism is helpful. Only once has someone said to my face that I sang a traditional song "wrong." my reply means they no longer talk to me...


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Leadfingers
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 05:26 AM

If Cecil Sharpe collected over a hundred versions of only one song , which version is 'Right' ??


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 05:37 AM

"I sing them like Musket. I enjoy singing them like Musket. "
You take he words right out of MacColl's mouth - that was his argument
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Musket
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 05:51 AM

Does that surprise you? I criticise his hypocrisy in some matters, but not others.

he said everybody should sing songs indigenous to them. (Except him, because he was a performer. Yeah, a contrary old bugger.)


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,DTM
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 05:51 AM

"I sing them like Musket. I enjoy singing them like Musket.

If others enjoy it, brilliant. If they don't, you can't win 'em all."

100% agree. Songs are for singing, not analysing.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 06:16 AM

"he said everybody should sing songs indigenous to them"'
He didn't - he said people should sing songs in their own accents, Lomax and Lloyd argued the same.
The reason was to persuade people to direct their attention to opening up their own local and national repertoires instead of sounding 'oirish' or mid-Atlantic - it worked.
The argument was first put forward by Lomax at a time when Lloyd and MacColl were doing both - they succumbed to his reasoning many people stopped sounding like "Walthamstow cowboys galloping across the plains of Essex" - to quote Peggy, though sadly, many others didn't.
Peggy's letter on the subject is still on the 'Living Tradition' archive, but I'm happy to dig it out if anybody doubts it.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Musket
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 06:21 AM

Huh, if you sing Ballad of Jamie Foyers in Derbyshire English, it doesn't bloody rhyme.

Rod Stewart would be living on the state pension if he hadn't gone transatlantic in the early '70s.

Err.. I repeat. MacColl used the word indigenous. (January 1985, the "snug" of The Lord Conyers pub in Kiveton prior to their concert at the folk club there, Musket interviewing him.)


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 06:23 AM

Here it is, Jim - and worth reading:
Peggy Seeger's letter

My guess is that a lot of the impetus for people like Harry Boardman to sing Lancashire songs, and others to take up their own local repertoire, came directly or indirectly from 'The Policy'.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 06:37 AM

So let me understand this........singing in an assumed accent is 'wrong', but singing under an assumed name is 'OK'?

What's the difference? Both are a deceit, surely?


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Musket
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 07:17 AM

Not to mention the faux Scottish accent, form a Salford lad.

Although for Clapton's sake, don't get Jim started.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 07:35 AM

Actually, back in the 1960s, there was a need for songs from your own background, because people with no background were cocking things up out of simple ignorance. That was then, though, and with the growth and rediscovery of local heritage it's less of a problem. Where I live is on the edge of an area where the heritage is has bottomed out and will either recover or die, and so I do have to add something to that, for all that my family's from elsewhere.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Musket
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 07:45 AM

People with no background?

Some peasants near us with no breeding I suppose... Apparently, they serve Earl Grey after afternoon tea. Uncouth proles.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: bubblyrat
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 07:52 AM

I like to sing "Drinkin's Ower Risky " ( Ricky-do-dum-day ) in my best possible imitation of a Glasgow accent as picked up from a Royal Navy colleague from Larkhall (Glasgow) .It just doesn't sound any good at all ,especially sung with an English , or even Kelvinside, accent , otherwise.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 08:34 AM

according to this article method acting is not the same as Stanislvskis method


Developed in the early 20th century at the Moscow Art Theater by Constantin Stanislavski, the Stanislavski method of acting is a set of techniques meant to create realistic portrayals of characters. The major goal of the Stanislavski method is to have a perfect understanding of the motivations, obstacles, and objectives of a character in each moment. Actors often use this technique for realistic plays, where they try to present an accurate portrayal of normal life. It is not the same as "Method Acting," which goes even further into becoming a character.
Three Core Elements

To begin employing the Stanislavski method, actors generally go over the script very carefully, looking for key identifying factors. A performer discovers what a character wants, what prevents the character from getting it, and what means the character will use to achieve this goal. These concepts are frequently referred to as "objective," "obstacle," and "method." Actors must also determine the given circumstances of every scene, such as where the scene takes place, what is in the room, and what is going on in the outside world.
Beginning with Objectives

To identify the objective clearly, an actor breaks down a scene into "beats" or "bits," which are short sections that end with each change of objective. In a basic example, if a character pours a cup of coffee, answers the phone, and then runs screaming out of the house, the scene has at least three separate beats. At the bare minimum, the objective changes from pouring coffee, to answering the phone, to getting out of the building. Beats are not determined on action alone, however, and may be based on a change of argument or emotion.

Actors can define objectives even within individual lines of dialogue, based on a concept called "objective words." It is the actor's job to understand and play the character's objective not only in the entire play or film, each scene, and each beat, but also in each line. Determining what the key motivation is behind each line is a basic practice in the Stanislavski method.
The "Magic If"

In order to help actors portray the honest objective of the character, Stanislavski pioneered a concept called the "magic if." To help connect the character to the actor, performers must ask themselves "What if this situation happened to me?" Through this activity, actors identify with characters as possible aspects of themselves, allowing them to think like the characters, rather than just impersonate them.
Obstacles and Methods Within a Scene

Obstacles are things preventing a character from achieving his or her objective. In the previous scene, if the character trips while trying to run, it would present an obstacle to the objective of getting out of the house. Obstacles are dealt with through one of three methods: the character gives up the objective because of it, finds a way to go around it, or plunges along regardless. The method a character chooses in dealing with obstacles gives great insight into that character; the basis for much of the Stanislavski method lies in defining how and why a character chooses a particular response.
The Internal Monologue

Understanding the objectives and methods of a character allows a performer to create an internal monologue for that character. Real people typically have a semi-constant flow of thoughts going on in their minds, and the Stanislavski method attempts to create a similar internal monologue for a character. This technique helps each action feel as if it comes spontaneously, rather than simply because the script says it should happen. Actors also use this monologue to help them prevent a scene from becoming repetitious or dull even after many performances.
Differences from "Method Acting"

Due of its emphasis on realism, the Stanislavski method is often used in modern plays, film, and television. It should not be confused with Lee Strasberg's "Method Acting," however, which involves an actor attempting to completely become a character. The Stanislavski method maintains that a performer must remain somewhat separate from the character, in order to properly understand his or her motivations and goals.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 09:06 AM

"Not to mention the faux Scottish accent, form a Salford lad.
Maccoll grew up in a Scots household, learned his songs from Scots lodgers and neighbors and his Scots parents.
I know from personal experience that when he was in conversation with his mother he lapsed into broad Scots pretty well as I end to lapse into broad Scouse when I talk to by sisters.- not "faux" - but then again, don't let these facts interfere with your grave dancing.
Whatever words MacColl chose to frame his beliefs in, his intentions were as I stated - happy to pass on Peggy's address so you can put her right Muskie (thanks Brian).
Staninslavski's method was not the same as Strasberg's adaptation - I worked at the headquarters of the London branch of the Strasburg Studio in Red Lion Square and had a chance to discuss it with some of the people there - different beast altogether
MacColl adapted Stanislavski for singing, just as he adapted Laben's movement technique for the voice - it was a technique of relating to and identifying with a song - worked like a charm and still does for me.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 09:23 AM

There are a number of performers in THE UK FOLK REVIVAL who sing under an assumed name.
I am of the opinion that its not important and not as important as trying to get a song right,I judge performers on their performances not their names.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 09:54 AM

Well, Musket, if you were one of the tea-dance crowd who'd taken over the EFDSS at the time...
What they were really having a go at is the crew who'd not settled to who they were, singing in a cod mid-Atlantic accent one moment and an equally inaccurate Irish or Scottish one the next. And that was only part of the list of pains we faced. Who were not grown up enough to tell the BBC crew who thought English folk had to include Dylan (a point Martin Carthy makes, referring to Ewan MacColl's opinions) and thought Simon and Garfunkel's version of Scarborough Fair was both uthentic and the last word in the subject, not realising thaat what we really needed was to get back to the first word. This is why Jeremy Barlowe's work on the English Dancing Master in the late 1970s was so important, work which hasn't really been taken on yet, and the follow-up work done by Joel Cohen in Boston in the States.
I'm not saying there is no such thing as modern folk, or American folk, or trad, or whatever. What I am saying is that the journey by which we got to these was somewhat distorted between the 1930s and the 1950s, and we have the resource and knowledge to undo that and pick up again where we should be. Most of what we're doing's clearly right in any case, but it would be as well to be able to claim all our heritage. It's what the Early Music crowd call historically-informed performance, not performance identical to what the original would have been, in whatever century the song comes from, but a performance which can justify where we are now in a line of thinking and feeling descended from where it started.
It's kind of where Ewan McColl was coming from back then, just he didn't have the tools we have now nor the experience of the mistakes his followers and others made along the way. Now it's time to make our own mistakes, whether through failing to take uup the siren call of commmercial music a couple of years bak, or going that way, we are as blind now as they were then and as anyone evermore will be. All we have is the path by which we got to where we are, and to carry that on. In this, we held part of a heritage the commercial music tried to kill in the 1980s, and it's our choice whether to follow the siren song of dosh and try a professional career in the face of the opposition of those already starving in the sector, or whether we do it as excellent amateurs, which is, after all, the real nature of folk music down the ages. And so on and so forth.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST, topsie
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 10:01 AM

"performers in THE UK FOLK REVIVAL who sing under an assumed name"

I believe that, because of the rules of - I think - Equity, some have had to change their names because they happened to have the same name as someone already registered.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 10:27 AM

not always to do with equity, some changed it for other reasons, why shouldnt they?does it matter, in my opinion it is more important to practise and try and perform without words, but that is just my opinion, the opinion of a talentless moron.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 10:40 AM

So why is it 'wrong', according to someone whose opinions I don't give a FF about and who isn't around to debate the point any more, to sing songs that aren't from one's own region/area/district/country/whatever, and to attempt to sing them in the accent appropriate to the song's provenance?


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Musket
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 11:06 AM

I don't get into arguments about people with opinions on my hobby and (semi) artistic output either. Neither MacColl, EFDSS, 1954 or any of the other terms that get some people animated actually mean Fuck all.

People sing, people listen. It either makes you feel horny, makes you want to throw up or any and all points in between.

MacColl only heard my singing twice, so hardly enough to tell me what my folk music is considering that is what I sing.

I don't pretend accent it either. I'm a northern Lad and you either get that or something fairly neutral if it is American. I don't sing with an American, Scottish or Australian accent, I don't black up to sing Swanee River, I don't sing Diddy songs from a church roof whilst borrowing lead and I don't nick a car before singing a scouse song.

(there. That should just don't the trick. It was getting a bit boring.)


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 11:07 AM

"to sing songs that aren't from one's own region/area/district/country/whatever"
Nobody said it was "wrong" - that's one of the urban legends.
People running clubs can adopt any policy they wish to present any kind of music they wish - MacColl's clubs chose to promote traditional and traditionally based clubs in order to open up the British repertoire - those who didn't agree with that policy were free to go somewhere else.
As Peggy said - it was a club plicy adopted by Ewan's clubs.
The end result was that the British repertoire became the norm (more or less) - I'll drink to that.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 11:13 AM

Correct. I don't do any of those things either - as you know, I sing in the regional accent in which I speak - but I don't censure those who do sing in an assumed accent, neither do I censure Mancunians who changed their name in order to try to fool people into believing they were a Jock. Which was the point I was originally trying to make!

Have a good 'un tonight, sing a couple for me (North Lincs accent, please!). 😃


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 11:15 AM

Cross-posted with Jim - mine of 11:13 am was a response to Musket.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: TheSnail
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 11:53 AM

There are a number of performers in THE UK FOLK REVIVAL who sing under an assumed name.
Back in the nineteenth century the Scottish fiddler Archibald Milligan changed his name to Carl Volti.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 12:20 PM

The very fact that there is a radio prog titld 'how Folk songs SHOULD be sun, is reason enough to give it a very wide berth surely!


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 12:58 PM

MacColl's clubs chose to promote traditional and traditionally based clubs in order to open up the British repertoire - those who didn't agree with that policy were free to go somewhere else."
The Singers Club had a policy[ as I understand it] that American singers could sing American songs, English singers should sing English songs etc, this policy only applied to singing in the singers club, so this meant that Peggy Seeger and Tom Paley were able to singsongs from the Appalachian mountains though they were not from this part of America?
Was it ok for an English singer to sing an Irish or Welsh song?
I am merely curious as the exact rule, no intended criticism, just asking for clarification, Thanks.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,LynnH
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 01:34 PM

@GSS- I'm not sure how Charles Parker singing "The Strawberry Roan" squares with Singers Club/Critics group policy.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 02:15 PM

Lynn H,I am afraid I cannot answer that one. oh hang on, maybe he didnt sing it at the club but at a crtics group meeting somewhere else. Someone on the programme said ewan lived in the stockbroker belt thats not correct, he lived in Beckenham, Which joined on to london and was at that time a mix of working class and middle class, but not stockbroker belt, i went to school there for a couple of years, stocxkbroker belt way wide of the mark.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 02:55 PM

Funnily enough, I lived within a few doors of the MacColl residence in Beckenham for a couple of years when I was at college so this was 1964-1966. They were pretty huge houses and even in those days many were divided into flats. Somehow I was the leaseholder for two of the three flats and had the (difficult) job of collecting the rent from all the students who had a room there to pay to the letting agency. It has seven bedrooms in total but even what intended as living room and lounge etc. were occupied as single student rooms.
Ours had been rented to students for some years and was the only run-down house in the area. I think that most of them have now been converted into flats, but a quick check on house prices for those that remain as single occupancy in the roads in that area and that reveals that their current prices seem to be in the range of £1 to 2 million, so you can imagine the sort of house that is being discussed here.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 03:10 PM

this is exactly what was wrong with the programme, nonsense about houses, instead of more detail about how to perform songs.if he had a big house he did not inherit it, it was as a result of his song writing skill.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 03:32 PM

The comment about the house was a throwaway remark addressing the more general point about how MacColl gradually became estranged from the group. The programme was actually about the Critics Group, rather than about singing technique, whatever the title may have suggested.

What baffles me about this thread is that people are getting so hot under the collar about this 40-50 year-old slice of history. The kind of ideas discussed by MacColl and his acolytes / collaborators had a profound and often beneficial influence on the folk world we've all grown up with. On the other hand, there was much else going on at the time, independent of CG, that also fed into it. I see nothing wrong per se with enthusiasts getting together in an attempt to improve their performance and understanding of songs, however quaint some of their ideas seem now, and however divorced they might be from the way Sam Larner etc did it. The idea that there is one particular way in which folk songs SHOULD be sung is not something I hear getting preached from many pulpits these days, so why not listen with interest to these voices from the past, rather than dismissing out of hand the whole notion of trying to get better at singing?


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 03:38 PM

My link reminds us that A Very Sensible Well-Informed Person argued with Ed Milliband on television last week that £2,000,000 will only buy you a garage in London at current property prices - never mind a big house.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 04:20 PM

"The idea that there is one particular way in which folk songs SHOULD be sung is not something I hear getting preached from many pulpits these days, so why not listen with interest to these voices from the past, rather than dismissing out of hand the whole notion of trying to get better at singing?"
has anyone dismissed the idea of getting better at singing, I certainly have not, in fact I h ave suggested that the programme would have been better if we could have heard more of Ewans ideas about how songs should be sung and less irrelevant throwaway remarks.
I agree there is no one particular style folk songs should be sung, however, Brian I know you are a skilled performer and that you value committment and practice and basic performance skills[ like singing without notes]


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 04:46 PM

Quickie - back later
The MacColl household occupied a smallish 3 bedroom maisonette in Beckenham
When I visited and throughout the period I stayed with them young Neill was evicted from his bedroom to make room for me and the tape recorders (see below)
Jim Carroll

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLjS3gzHetA


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 05:08 PM

It was once my ambition to live long enough to see the folk song reval reach adulthood - an ambition long abandoned
Back to Denzil Washington
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Bob Blair
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 07:23 PM

Brian Peters. " however quaint some of their ideas seem now"

Perhaps you can give some examples of these quaint ideas so that we can have some idea on what you're talking about.?

Bob Blair


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 05:06 AM

I think that many of the suggestions from Jim Carroll[ which I assume came from Ewan and his mates] about breath control and diction and singing technique are very good.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Musket
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 05:16 AM

Agreed. You never do badly from listening to how others do what you do.

Aping them in order to somehow seem "authentic" is another cesspit of geraniums entirely...


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 05:43 AM

Ewans ideas re Stanislavski,and how folk song should be sung, do not appear to have any continuity with traditional singers, but is that a reason to not consider them? I suppose not, as long as the singer is not giving the impression to others that this is how traditional singers sang.In the edited excerpts we heard and for all i know they may not be truly representative of everything that happened at critics group meetings, Ewan was portrayed as being a person who was in charge, as someone in that position he had a responsiblity[ to explain that these ideas had no connection with tradtional singing styles], for all i know he may have done that.
In Ewans favour, he was giving up his time to try and help others he was also trying to get singers to analyse and think about interpretation, all of which are positives., some singers like Luke Kelly moved on, but still owed a huge debt to Ewan and Peggy as regards repertoire.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 06:22 AM

Brian Peters -
"What baffles me about this thread is that people are getting so hot under the collar about this 40-50 year-old slice of history."


I realise that you probably know this, Brian, but what the obsessive nature of Mudcat with Ewan and The Critics reflects is the average age of the British contributors here. They came into this music when they were young and when MacColl was a hugely important and divisive character on the folk scene. He remains so for those people. Amongst regulars on this forum are those who have gained an enormous benefit from what Ewan did and said. Those from the Critics Group with the other opinion are not represented here. Recently, I was digitising old radio interviews and came to one with someone who had been a prominent member of The Critics Group. In the interview I mentioned Ewan's name but before I could frame the question about his influence on the interviewee, I was interrupted with "Aaaaargh! No more gurus! We each have to work out own direction... our own salvation."

One of your recent albums * sees you working with artists that are young enough to be your children (ahem, grandchildren?) and I think that this typifies what I think of as your approach. Of course, you recognise the importance of knowing where the scene has come from as it is a guide to where it is going but you refuse to be bogged down in the past. I hope that I feel that I also can learn from the different attitudes of younger performers in my contact with them in conversations and in interviews for radio and magazine articles.

* The Liberty to Choose
A Selection of Songs from The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs
James Findlay, Bella Hardy, Brian Peters, Lucy Ward.

Fellside Recordings FECD257 (CD, UK, June 10, 2013)


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 06:59 AM

I realise that you probably know this, Brian, but what the obsessive nature of Mudcat with Ewan and The Critics reflects is the average age of the British contributors here.
not necessarily, it might reflect that he has been an important song writer who has produced a significant quantity of excellent songs, Vic can you name a young song writer in the uk folk revival who has produced the same quantity of modern quality songs.
jez lowe is 60ish.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 07:16 AM

The title, 'how folk songs should be sung' is, at best, superficial and at worst, vindictive - it was not what the Critics Group was about and I would like to think the Martin Carthy had nothing to do with its choice.
The Critics Group was formed when a number of singers approached MacColl and asked him to take singing classes.
He could well have done, but instead, he chose to set up a workshop set up on the self-help principle where a number of performers and enthusiasts could meet regularly, listen to each others singing, make comments on what worked and what didn't and suggest how improvements might be made.
The first thing they did was to immerse themselves of as many types of traditional singing as were available via recordings.
MacColl provided singing and vowel exercises to develop pitch, tone, articulation, breath control.... etc, and relaxation exercised developed by Nelson Illingworth.
He introduced the idea of 'efforts', based on understanding and controlling the voice delivery in terms of weight, direction and speed - he had adapted these from Laban's theory of movement as used by dancers and actors.
That was more or less the technical side of the Group's work.
The second side of singing work was to assist a singer make a song their own using Stanislavski's 'application of the idea of IF, and emotion memory.
Far from advocating that there was a single 'right' way of "how folk songs should be sung" it was an examination of all the different ways a song might be approached and made work be each individual singer.
I have recently been listening to a recording of one of the Group singing 'The Gypsy Laddie' using five different approaches - not one way it "should" be sung, but five ways it could be approached if one way became stale though being over-sung.
It also helped develop ways of handling all the differing types of song in the repertoire, from shanties to lullabys.
Among the first work was listening to singers from all genres and attempting to imitate them; this was to try to understand your own voice, how it was produced and how to control it.
This may well have been where Charles Parker's 'Strawberry Roan' came from - Charlie never sang cowboy songs - they really weren't his 'thing'
There were other aspects to Group work, including examining specific genres of song, song writing, planning feature evenings (including poetry and prose readings) - we even did a bit of acting.
The Group was primarily set up for those who were serious about their singing and wer prepared to put in the work, but most aspects of what was done was adaptable - Pat and I helped run Singers Workshop for 15 years which was set up to assist new and less experienced sings and was run on a far more casual basis - much of what we did was taken from our Critics experiences.
I don't believe what we did was "quaint" - much of it was groundbreaking and has, to my knowledge, never been surpassed.
I know Frankie Armstrong developed what was done in the Group for her voice workshops, and Sandra Kerr used some of it in her Newcastle courses, I understand.
The incentive it gave us to 'lift the corner to see what was underneath' fed into our own work as collectors - it is a part of our lives we still value very much
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 07:16 AM

Vic,
my experience in Ireland is that most of the modern songs that are mistaken for traditional songs are songs written by MacColl his songs appear to have entered the tradition in greater numbers than any other writer, so perhaps he is being discussed not because of contributors ages but because of his importance as a song writer of traditional style songs.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 07:46 AM

Jim Carroll -
"Vic can you name a young song writer in the uk folk revival who has produced the same quantity of modern quality songs?"


No, because, in my opinion, he is the finest songwriter to come out of the folk scene....actually, I'd go further than that; I'd say that he was the finest songwriter of songs in vernacular English since Robert Burns, but he would not say that he wrote folk songs though I can remember him talking at a dinner party about how it had been reported to him that his The Shoals of Herring had been sung as The Shores of Erin.. When I asked him if he thought that the change was conscious or was something like the 'folk process', his reply was something like, "I don't know. I am not in a position to tell."

However, it is not the quality of his songwriting is not under question. The point that he was divisive cannot be disputed with his attitude towards how folk songs should be sung being one of his qualities that caused this divisiveness.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 07:51 AM

Sorry! I quoted Jim Carroll with the quote above and that is incorrect.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 07:58 AM

"how folk songs should be sung "
Hope we cross-posted on this one Vic
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 08:15 AM

Let's see, in terms of volume of work, Katherine Tickell's not been a slouch, and Bella Hardy's on her way.
Of course, neither are a Mozart, but then again, neither was Ewan McColl! And Wolfgang burned out early


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Musket
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 08:27 AM

If you are a young person, there's every chance that young folk singers have written better songs from your perspective. Quality is subjective.

When MacColl was the age of some young singers, he wasn't so prolific. That doesn't mean he wasn't special. The old sod was, and recognising that doesn't deflect at all from whether you like, prefer or enjoy something far different.

I personally have huge affection for his imagery, simple words conveying meaning and choice of tunes. My youngest feels similar about Billy Bragg whilst my wife feels all music had been written by the time of Elgar and folk musicians use music rather than perform it.

All bloody relative. Putting anybody on your pedestal is honourable. Assuming your pedestal is gold plated and the next person's made of plastic isn't getting anybody anywhere. Folk music, like any entertainment evolves. Whilst crusty old buggers are bowing at the altar of yesterday's hero's, millions of people worldwide are clicking on "folk" in iTunes and downloading the latest Ed Sheeran album.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 08:53 AM

Re 'quaint':

What I actually said was that "some of those ideas seem quaint now". That is not to deny that some (or many) of the ideas were valuable at the time, and may indeed be useful now.

But to me it seems quaint to look back on a time when a single pedagogue could hold a group of acolytes in such thrall. Even in my early days on the Manchester folk scene (1980s) there were people around who still believed in the gospel of Ewan as if there were no other valid approach. Back in the heyday of the Critics Group it was probably true that MacColl knew much more about the subject than anyone else (excepting Bert, of course), and newcomers must have marvelled at his depth of knowledge and been delighted to have him share it. These days we have democratization of information, and anyone who is so inspired can get hold fairly easily of any number of the source recordings and documents that in those days were available only to the most dedicated researchers. Young singers have it all at their fingertips, and they are not deferential to the older generation, though they may respect us.

Vic was kind enough to give a plug to a recent venture of mine involving young performers (incidentally, Vic, my own sons are 21 and 27, so less of the 'old enough to be their grandfather', thank you!). If I were to say to any of those singers, "Sorry, but you're doing it all wrong, this is how you should do it", they would laugh in my face. They respect the way I do it, but are quite capable of developing their own style and approach. I might well say to them (as people like Roy Harris and Martin Carthy once said to me, to their eternal credit): "Ah, but have you heard Phil Tanner's version of that one?", but that's as far as I'd want to go in prescribing anything - and they've most likely heard Phil Tanner already anyway. Put me in front of a song workshop and I'll try to pass on what I know - but not, I hope dictate.

I also find the idea of applying Stanislavski to folk song performance rather quaint (and I wonder how much longer Stanislavski will hold sway in the acting profession, after seeing the recent documentary on Mike Leigh). No-one believes more strongly than I do in the value of looking hard at a ballad and trying to get to the beating heart of it, but this 'sing as an actor' business is over-rated IMO. I don't buy the idea that attempting to perform say 'Little Musgrave' from the point of view of the three main protagonists is going to affect materially the perception of the story by the listener, and the example presented in the programme didn't convince me. I'm interested to hear about Jim's recording of alternative approaches to 'The Gypsy Laddie', but do ballad singers really get bored by singing the same ballad over and over and feeling the same emotions? I know I don't. Would it be useful to sing 'Long Lankin' from the point of view of the false nurse? I don't think so.

My wife, who's just heard the programme, remarked that the 'method acting' approach came across as a device presented by someone with a background in theatre, to impress by mystification. It might have had some value as a means of getting singers to really think about their songs but, again, I can't see younger singers wanting to go through all that. And they, after all, are the future of this kind of music.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 08:57 AM

what we really needed was to get back to the first word. This is why Jeremy Barlowe's work on the English Dancing Master in the late 1970s was so important, work which hasn't really been taken on yet, and the follow-up work done by Joel Cohen in Boston in the States.

I was listening to The Broadside Band's Playford cassette a couple of days ago, and it was beginning to seem rather old-fashioned. The arrangements are more elaborate than they need to be, with heavily filled-out harmonizations that don't add to the danceability of the tunes, and lots of recorder twiddles that would no doubt sound terrific in live concert performance but ditto, don't tell people's feet very much. (I speak as a recorder player with a great fondness for flashy twiddles myself).

But basically you're right - tidying up Barlow's approach to remove these traces of self-indulgence would have done better by these tunes that what actually happened. The main group playing them where I am is led by a shatteringly loud accordion player who turns them all into monster-ceilidh-band music. You get only slightly less gross treatments all over the UK. Playford's soundworld has been completely lost.

Joel Cohen's early Sephardic music recordings sound rather twee now, but he's gone on to deeper investigations of how that music ought to sound. I doubt if he'd now see the Voice of the Turtle stuff as much moire than a heads-up to tell people that music was worth a hearing.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 08:59 AM

There must have been good reasons why MacColl developed during his lifetime into a very good song writer, other than just talent, talent is never enough without training and practice and environment, in MacColls case PRESUMABLY theatre environment, as I understand it
Did MacColls study of speech rythyms, for the radio ballads contribute to Shoals of Herring and other songs?.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 09:23 AM

Forgot to add: when I was talking about "people getting hot under the collar", I was referring to those who disapprove of analysing folk song in principle, one or two of whom seemed oddly irritated by the fact that someone had advocated that kind of analysis fifty years ago.

One other thing: hearing again that bizarre criticism by E MacC of the poor sod who'd tried to write a song from the point of view of a Vietnamese, I wondered how that approach could be 'dishonest' and 'a hoax', whereas writing a song from the point of view of a Yarmouth fisherman is not. When a singer begins "Oh my name it is Jack Hall...", are we entitled to be offended because he or she is not, in fact, Jack Hall?


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 09:29 AM

As a ticket and CD buying consumer (I only sing on the chorus) the bit about Stanislavski opened up for me a view of 'make the song your own' that was less self-centered than I how it had always seemed to me.

Had I miss-understood or do many who give that advise have a self-centred approach ?

But McColl's singing always struck me as someone acting, which the even people who credit his influence rarely do.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 09:48 AM

"whereas writing a song from the point of view of a Yarmouth fisherman is not"
Shoals of Herring was based, as many of them were, on actuality recorded directly from Sam Larner, Ronnie Balls, et al - he uses much of Sam's actual wording in the song directly from the actuality recordings.
Likewise Freeborn Man and the Travellers songs
Shellback was based on interviews they did with Ben Bright, the sea terminology was Bright's.
Tenant Farmer came from interviews with Border farmers on the subject that the song dealt with.
I doubt if the same can be said of the Vietnamese song.
All of MacColl's Vietnam songs came from the point of view of the sympathetic observer (from afar) - none, to me recollection, were written from the 'first person' position - I don't believe there were even first-hand accounts of the Vietnam to draw from to make songs.
"But to me it seems quaint to look back on a time when a single pedagogue could hold a group of acolytes in such thrall"
Is it that old fashioned?
I still get buzz from listening to actors discussing their roles - I'm totally hooked on the Sky Arts' Shakespeare programmes and Al Pacino's 'Looking for Richard' made a major contribution to my understanding of Richard III.
I never looked on MacColl as a pedagogue (schoolteacher) but as an extremely articulate artist who had thought a great deal about his art - for me, that will never be out-of-date.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 09:58 AM

Re-reading Jim Carroll's interesting account posted at 07.16 about the varied approaches taken by CG, reminded me that Jim once copied and sent me several recordings of song workshops from the period, which contained much that was of value. Thanks, Jim.

No doubt it's true that the programme presented an incomplete picture. There did seem to be an agenda to tell a story about the rise and fall of a dictator, rather than really describe what was going on - despite Martin C being at pains to stress the benefits that were gained. And there were clearly great benefits: hearing Frankie Armstrong's 'Tam Lin' always made me want some of whatever she was on!


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 10:26 AM

"Shoals of Herring was based, as many of them were, on actuality recorded directly from Sam Larner"

Yes, I know that, Jim, but the actual quote on the programme seemed to be suggesting that any first person narrative is by its very nature bogus. If you accept EMC's statement that to write in the first person is to 'pretend that you were there' you'd have to argue that interviews with a fisherman are a far cry from a lifetime of first-hand experience on a North Sea drifter. Perhaps he just didn't express himself very clearly. At any rate, I think that describing a piece of work produced to EMC's order by a member of the group as 'a bore', 'dishonest' and 'a hoax' oversteps the line of frankness into rudeness and arguably bullying. For all the benefits that some of those singers undoubtedly received, that remark alone made me glad not to have been in that place at that time.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Jane of 'ull
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 10:49 AM

Ewan MacColl did come across as curmudgeonly in this programme and Peggy Seeger has said a few times that she feels slightly embarrassed now about this period with the Critics.. but then it was a long time ago, and many of us have been there! Steadfast youth and all that!


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: johncharles
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 10:56 AM

I am with Brian Peters and his wife on this one. Just sing the song to the best of your ability with thought given to the nature of the song.
Ewan McColl was a prolific song writer, however, I think in terms of the songs continuing to be sung in clubs only a handful seem to have stood the test of time.
john


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 11:31 AM

"Ewan MacColl did come across as curmudgeonly in this programme and Peggy Seeger has said a few times that she feels slightly embarrassed now about this period with the Critics"
The programme in no way represented what happened at The Critics meetings - I'm revisiting them at the moment and half a century after they happened they still give an unbelievable lift - a little disturbing to find that lachriomosity is one of the aspects of ageing!!.
I have to say they some selections of the programmes we have passed on to the producer have had a powerful effect on her.
Ewan largely avoided commenting on the performances of singers outside our work - I think I've come across less than half-a-dozen after listening to over 200 tapes.
Analysis (criticism) of singing was confined to member of the Group, and we could go home and take our ball with us any time wewished.
I spent 2 days with Peggy last week being recorded discussing Ewan and the Group with her - this is about as far as it gets from how she feels about them
Ewan listed the work he did with the Critics Group as one of his greatest achievements, which is pretty much how Peggy still feels about it.
"that any first person narrative is by its very nature bogus"
I don't know if this was the case - he was often critical of pastiche representations of people and periods far removed from the experiences of song-makers (and obviously misunderstood)
"Just sing the song to the best of your ability with thought given to the nature of the song"
There's no reason, as far as I can see, that someone shouldn't wish to continue adding to your skills constantly - seems a little complacent not to.
I cut down my singing when we started collecting and eventually stopped altogether.
Over the last few years I started again and realised to my horror that my range had reduced to the extent that I could no longer handle some of my songs (particularly Flying Cloud and Sheffield Apprentice) - a few sessions at the exercises and I got them back.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 11:50 AM

OK, Jim, you were there, I was not. The BBC programme seems to have had the negative effect on several others that it had on me, but if it was a misrepresentation then I hope there will be a way of hearing your programmes for Irish radio, to redress the balance.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 12:03 PM

I can find songs that are not dishonest that are written from the point of view of someone participating in the event examples
chemical workers song [ron angel] whitby whaler richard grainger. otago by greame miles.
"Yes, I know that, Jim, but the actual quote on the programme seemed to be suggesting that any first person narrative is by its very nature bogus. If you accept EMC's statement that to write in the first person is to 'pretend that you were there' you'd have to argue that interviews with a fisherman are a far cry from a lifetime of first-hand experience on a North Sea drifter. Perhaps he just didn't express himself very clearly. At any rate, I think that describing a piece of work produced to EMC's order by a member of the group as 'a bore', 'dishonest' and 'a hoax' oversteps the line of frankness into rudeness and arguably bullying. For all the benefits that some of those singers undoubtedly received, that remark alone made me glad not to have been in that place at that time."
I agree with Brian, furthermore having encountred Ewan and his gauche behaviour in 1969, I decided to give the singers club a wide berth.
however I agree that he contributed a lot to the uk folk revival and both he and Peggy gave up hours to help others, and were most helpful to anyone who wished to visit their house and get info on songs, both were/are good performers and song writers.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 12:07 PM

Yes, Dick, I thought of the Chemical Workers' Song too. Jim did have a point, though, about 'Shoals of Herring' being based on good research - the reason Keith Marsden's 'Prospect Providence' sounds authentic is because it's based on one person's first-hand experience, related in detail to the songwriter. Reminds me of MacColl's work, in fact.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 12:23 PM

"I hope there will be a way of hearing your programmes for Irish radio, to redress the balance."
I hope so too - but I hope for a bit more than that.
Singing in Ireland has some way to go before it catches up with the popularity of the instrumental music.
Coming back from Oxford, Paula (the producer) and I got into a somewhat intense discussion on how things might be improved (much to the consternation of the other passengers) - Paula is a singer, deeply involved in broadcasting music and song
Some interesting things are taking place - the Goilín Club and the Inishowen people have put up their considerable collections on line, our Clare collection goes up shortly.
On top of this, The National Library is promoting Child Ballads via a series of public performances.
To date, teaching seems largely limited to passing out texts and getting pupils to read from them, with a few singers generous enough to dedicate time to holding classes.
I've always been convinced that the self-help system is one well worth re-trying - who knows
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 12:33 PM

Sorry
Meant to add that I think Lyric FM is available on line and we'll be happy to pass on the result of our work to anybody interested
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 12:36 PM

I've always been convinced that the self-help system is one well worth re-trying - who knows"
yes, however with skype and you tube, much can be done on a one to one basis, with skype the people can see each other too. this would have more privacy than the critics group type set up.i think most people can take criticism if it is done privately.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 12:48 PM

Brian Peters -
"the reason Keith Marsden's 'Prospect Providence' sounds authentic is because it's based on one person's first-hand experience."


I would have loved to have helped Keith Marsden do the detailed research needed for his famed pub-crawl song Doin' The Manch but then I realised that my capacity for alcohol meant that I was not up to the job.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 12:58 PM

(Y) Actually, you might manage it these days, Vic, I bet most of those pubs have closed. The Hillgate crawl in Stockport isn't the challenge than it used to be.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 01:09 PM

One day there will be no pubs and no folk clubs, if young people care they need to start running clubs, they need to start looking at the early days of the uk folk revival where clubs booked each others residents. they need to start their own clubs wht will young performers do when there are no old people to run folk clubs?
in my opinion present day folk clubs, should give up trying to entice anyone under 30 and concentrate on getting 40 year olds in.
I cast my mind back to when i was young i went to clubs for the music but to meet other young people.
the next generation [ in my opinion] down from 50 plus are more likely to be more accepting of wrinklies than under twenties or under twenty fives


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 02:29 PM

Jim, is there any reason why you're not going into the theatre side? I don't want to talk about what I saw from a degree of remove, but there are things which need to be added here you're not adding.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 03:04 PM

I think Paula will touch on Theatre, but even with 2 hours at our disposal, we are going to have to cut a great deal out.
We have very little by way of live recordings of people talking about his theatre work, we recorded Ewan and Gerry Raffles talking about their work in Theatre Workshop and John Arden made a contribution (all at Ewan's 70th symposium), but I have yet to check the for quality - we'll see.
On the subject - I'm looking for a couple of references to Ewan if anybody has any trace of them
Shaw once described him as "the most promising talnt on the British stage today. apart from myself" - wonder if anybody knows where and when?
Also, MacColl's name appears in Sean O'Casey's Collected Letters - Pat wrote the quote down, but we have no reference to it's source.
Thanks
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 04:27 PM

Set in to song Peter Cox, PAGE 175, states, his songs should follow the same discipline as traditional song, no literary language, few adjectives, simple expressions that ordinary people used on a day to day basis, there is a suggestion by Cox that he was working to a formula.
elsewhere in the book the Radio Ballads are discussed and it is suggested that one of his weaknesses which could occasionally date a song was his use of slang, at another page it states that he had a favourite mode for tunes which was the dorian mode[ flat 3 flat 7].


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 04:57 PM

So I should save you? I'll background, that won't use your ammo.

Ewan was part of a movement predating the goggle box: amateur theatricals got quite useful in the 1930s, in my in-laws territory the Chapels created Burton and Hopkins and it has kept going. In Brum it was the Rep, and Ewan part of the Manchester scene. He was right on the edge, and blocked by the authorities as a result - until their cred got shot after WWII, which is a debate still not concluded as these pages show.

You may chose to correct me, Jim, but for me, the pathfinder in the vernacular ballad form which led to the Radio Ballads was Charles Chilton. Ewan had also worked in radio production in the 1930s, and Charles Parker was a strong guide to him. Although we know him as a folkie, he was also extremely well-connected as one of the angriest of the Angry Young Men: for example, his work with Dominic Behan was exactly alongside Joan's with B.

His second wife, Jean Newlove (Kirsty's mum), was Rudolf Laban's first assistant when he came to the UK, and thereby the leading Laban proponent. We should ask GSS for details, as his avatar is one of Ewan's plays from this period.

To think of Method Acting in the extreme framework Newman and Hoffman took it to in the States was not true of the UK acting scene at that time: it was far more intellectual here, conceptualising rather than experiencing. We were far more likely to have to channel the experience of a telephone, as the medium through which a communication happens, than go out and murder a patrician household so we'd know where Long Lankin was coming from!

At the same time, with a few exceptions, one of the problems with the 1960s folk scene was that most of the audience were, frankly, twee. They'd been brought up on the National Songbook and were falling between every stool imaginable, in not following the early steps of hard rock nor yet sticking with classical music. I at least wrote my name in both! What was needed was something which could speak for itself, in neither the Classical mould of the Early Music movement (you discussed Andreas Scholl here recently) nor yet fabulist, in the style which would head towards Marillion. And that was the point of the Critics Group, to find a staging method which would be true to the heritage yet not be banale.

And how they did that, Jim, over to you. Part of what you did led to something superb, Natural Voice, and for that this movement will go down in history.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 04:00 AM

Hi Guest
As far as I know, The Radio Ballads were unique in the sense that it was the first time that the working man's voice was used to any great length to depict working life and conditions.
Both Ewan and Charles described how the original aim of the BBC was to collect actuality in order to turn it into a script to be read by actors - Ewan became convinced that the recorded speech was powerful enough to stand on its own, without needing to be 'performed' by actors
Charles took up the cause of "the working voice" and went on to produce a number of important programmes for Midlands Radio.
What you say about Jean Newlove is, I believe correct - it was through her work with Theatre Workshop that she and Ewan got together.
I only got to meet her and Kirsty once, when we were recording choruses for Ewan's South African piece, White Wind - nice people.
I wss interested in your comparison between Stanislavski and Lee Strasberg's adaptation of The Method - don't know a great deal about it, but I was working at Conway Hall in central London (as an electrician) at the time the English Branch of the Stradberg Group had been abandoned by Stradberg's widow and left to their own devices - not a happy time for them, I don't know if they survived.
My memory of the 60s, in the North of England, was of a large working class following for folk song - I was working at the docks and was persuaded to go to my first folk club in Liverpoolby a fruit market porter - the audience was overwhelmingly made up of people like us, though I think the performers (The Spinners and Jackie McDonald) were teachers.
Most of us were evacuees from The Cavern, a wobnderful Jazz club which was being gradually taken over by 'The Mersey Beat'
Thanks for your input
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Jon Dudley
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 11:59 AM

Far be it from me to get embroiled in this interesting thread, especially with such luminaries as Jim and Brian and 'Guest'. I would ever-so-slightly, and very gently point out that 'The Life of James Copper' broadcast on the Home Service in September 1951 might have pre-dated The Radio Ballads. This was indeed an example of a 'working man's voice depicting working life and conditions' to a tee! What may now be termed a 'docudrama ' (hideous term but reasonably accurate!) this programme was a dramatised version of Jim's life on the farm much of it voiced by him as a verbatim account of his life and times. Was that a similar format for 'The radio Ballads'?

Indeed it was Jim Copper's letter to the BBC remarking on a classical singer performing folk songs on Country Magazine that brought the family to the attention of Frank Collinson who came scurrying down to Rottingdean almost immediately. This led to Jim and Bob and other working people singing songs on that programme. Robert Irwin was the resident classical singer by the way with whom the two got on famously.

Foresightedly (if that's the right expression) Jim put a good proportion of his fee for the programme towards have it 'dubbed' off air at a small specialist studio in Oxford Street onto acetate discs. We have those precious items which he insisted were for his two grandchildren, that they might know something of his working life. He was not to know that his son Bob would become his champion and chronicler in years to come. Sadly, the BBC (considering the great expense of the production) did not keep a copy of this broadcast...fortunately we have it!


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 12:15 PM

It sounds very interesting, Jon.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 12:19 PM

Jon. Fasinating stuff. That would indeed precurse the radio ballads, and by all of seven years.

Would it be possible for you, or somebody, to put it onto the Internet? This sounds like an extraordinary document, and it will be well out of copyright by now.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 01:19 PM

"Not to mention the faux Scottish accent, form a Salford lad.
Maccoll grew up in a Scots household, learned his songs from Scots lodgers and neighbors and his Scots parents.


I once went with a colleague to do a job. On the way back he said we were passing near his mother's house, and would I mind if we called in. Of course I wouldn't, and his hospitable Scottish mother regaled us with tea and cakes, and much family gossip. To my surprise, my colleague conversed with her throughout in a strong Scottish accent like hers. When we left, I asked my colleague if he always spoke like that at home. He didn't know what I meant. He did not realise that he changed from a broad local, English, accent when in a family situation. I doubt if this is uncommon.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 03:06 PM

"That would indeed precurse the radio ballads, and by all of seven years."
Fascinating, yes, but not the precursor of the Radio Ballads - I would love to hear it.
Country life programmes involving country people were not uncommon producers such as Olive Shaply and Denis Mitchell did a number of them in the 1940s, the first of these was probably George Bramwell Evens (Romany)
I seem to remember that Winford Vaughan Thomas did one in the 1940s on Phil Tanner entitled 'The Gower Nightingale' and Robin Flower made one in Ireland on The Blaskets which included storyteller, Peig Sayers.
There are accounts of more in back copies of 'The Countryman Magazine' (I might be mistaken, but I think the Copper Family appeared in that publication)
The uniqueness of the Radio Ballads was that they dealt with entire social groups, and communities based entirely on the words of working people without the intervention of a commentator - a seamless commentary with music.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 03:19 PM

Whoops, 27 Nov 14 - 04:57 PM was me - I was so busy making sure my comments were objective and fair I forgot to sign it! Although I'd spent a good few hours in the VWML beforehand, I only really came across into real folk at Loughborough in the 1970s, taking over Mike Smith's job as Program Controller of the Uni Radio Station so he could help Dave Kettlewell on All The Tunes.

My time on the edge of the theatre was from 69-74, although some chums had been involved earlier - Bob Yetzes (the much bullied Fisher in If, filmed in 1967) and Jeff Sirr (Jai in Tarzan c1966) were mates and we were to some extent educated in the heritage we were going to carry, senior pupils passing the ball down to junior, and it was clear things were expected from us - people like Anne Skelton would do gigs just for fun, so finding myself SMing Queen as a guest band at L'boro a couple of years later was just par for the course (the weekend before the Hammersmith Odeon recording, actually the weekend Rhapsody made #1) - this was the time we were pushing Kraftwerk and Mike Oldfield to Radio 1. ELO, Mud, yep, did them too - not the Stones though. As I've explained elsewhere, Alleyns was the birthplace of the NYT movement - we also count the likes of Leslie Howard, Frank Thornton, David Hemmings, Julian Glover, Simon Ward, Jude Law and Sam West in the number. I say on the edge of the Theatre with a degree of tongue in cheek - where the demarkation in work and thinking on a School Production and ideas going forwards to the NYT and beyond lay is anybody's guess. Jude Law is typical: his first NYT stage credits are from age 14, the same age I was when finding those OWALW uniforms. Oh the innocence of youth...

One other angle I'm trying to think back to - and it is fifty years - is that as far as I can recall, the Coppers were about the last of a wider movement in Rottingdean. I know that one name from my not then too distant past was a maypole expert from the area, Freddie Hambleton, who had also broadcast summat. For the real geeks, he's worked in the LBSCR Eastleigh works and did the paintwork on the renovated Terrier loco Bluebell from memory.

Guest 28 Nov 14 - 01:19 PM is not me.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 05:08 PM

The uniqueness of the Radio Ballads was that they dealt with entire social groups, and communities based entirely on the words of working people without the intervention of a commentator - a seamless commentary with music."
apparantly not according to Peter Cox[set into song, for example page 197] "on the edge" radio ballad, quote, overall its a frustrating piece,much less than the sum of some fascinating parts its design flaw, Ewans intrusive and inappropriate voice" not my words but an extract from set into song.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 08:57 PM

So the world's not perfect. To disable the entire thing by focusing on a detail is incoherent, though: one voice is not the message, indeed the weakness of the narration makes the peoples' voices more powerful.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 03:04 AM

"apparantly not according to Peter Cox"
Peter's book is one of the most thoughtful and objective books written about MacColl and his work - taking one line about one Radio Ballad is meaningless
The entire book on all the Radio Ballads is dedicated to pointing out exactly how important and unique they where - which is what I said.
All the Radio Ballads had their weaknesses; according to the team who made the Ballads, the weakest one was 'Song of a Road', I'm not sure why.
One of the problems of 'On The Edge' was that the subject matter being dealt with was in a constant state of change; fashions, taste, language were in a constant state of flux and became quickly dated.
None of this in any way reduces their importance and their role in changing the media's approach to broadcasting the working voice; taking comments out of contexts seems to be a little facile.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Musket
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 03:34 AM

Funnily enough, 'Song of a Road" is possibly my favourite. My adaptation of "Fitter's Song" is one of my more regular songs I sing.

Music is an abstraction and if the content of the song reflected the documentary properly and in context but it wasn't a good song, the song wouldn't have survived outside of the programme. The ones that have are testament to the song, not the strength or weakness of the radio ballad itself.

My brother recalls many years ago when he went to folk clubs for a time, and recently said that "Shoals of Herring" was one of his favourite songs and reminds him of happy days in a club where he was living in the early '70s. From our chat, it was clear he had never heard of the radio ballads and hadn't realised MaColl had written it. Music isn't a large part of his life by any means, but for me this is an example of songs standing on their merit rather than context.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 04:04 AM

One detail from a draft I didn't put forwards but should is Ewan's importance as a visionary in making you folks think, much like we were on the burn on the stage. From our side, it laid the foundations for the UK's lead in breaking the barriers down, producing not only a new generation of musical, but the downright outlandish, The Dog in the Night, Billie Elliott, Splatalot...
It even crosses over - Made in Dagenham The Musical, Urinetown the Musical...I wonder what Ewan would have thought of that?


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 04:25 AM

I agree the book is very good, the comment is not meaning less it means that your satatement is not correct
"The uniqueness of the Radio Ballads was that they dealt with entire social groups, and communities based entirely on the words of working people without the intervention of a commentator - a seamless commentary with music."
in my opinion the radio ballads are excellent.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 05:04 AM

It wasn't so much the music that was the problem for the production team, rather, it was the actuality.
What they got from the road workers was excellent, probably among the best from people like Jack Hamilton.
The problem, they felt, was the over-long sequences of technical detail from the experts, which they thought interrupted the flow of the whole thing - they were responding to previous criticisms of there not being enough detail of the trade.
I find your comments fascinating Rahere, though I'm not familiar enough with modern theatre production to add much to what you say.
I know the Theatre work done by The Critics was highly regarded in some circles; I got to meet Sam Wanamaker and Joan Littlewood during the Festival of Fools and Ian Cuthbertson appeared at the Singers Club once in a 'Poetry and Song' evening
Ewan's dream was to involve those members of the the Group in a theatre/music combination team, a failure which came to a somewhat undignified conclusion.
I was always interested in theatre, but not enough to be part of the changes in the Group when Ewan shifted the focus away from song; it's often forgotten that it was the theatrical side of the work that collapsed, not the song.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 05:13 AM

"it means that your satatement is not correct"
It means no such thing - if you re-read the passage you quoted you will notice it refers to a small sequence lasting a few minutes in an hour long Radio Ballad - Cox refers to it as 'the stalking' sequence.
How on earth does one comment by one writer on one sequence of one Radio Ballad contradict what I said.
Shakespeare wrote a few rotten lines, in general, his plays are the finest in English, if not world literature.
Take this further if you wish Dick, for me, it ends here.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 06:20 AM

In the opinion of Peter Cox, the fight game has vocal action that is better shared out than on the unbalanced on the edge, Ewans voice and acting abilty are more impressive here.
the above are the words of Peter Cox, not my words.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 10:25 AM

From: Leadfingers - PM
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 05:26 AM

If Cecil Sharpe collected over a hundred versions of only one song , which version is 'Right' ??

.,,.,
In interests of accuracy --

          Sharp

≈M≈

Sorry if coming over as pedantic, for which I have been denounced more than once before ("MGM your pedantry is legendary" was one compliment I received); but I do think we should pay the man but for whom this thread, indeed this very forum, would not exist, the compliment and respect of getting his name right.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,John Foxen
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 10:51 AM

On the subject of radio pioneers we should raise a glass to Douglas Geoffrey Bridson who used Ewan MacColl in his radio dramas and mentions him in his book Prospero And Ariel. Bridson was desperate to get "ordinary" people on the air in the Thirties but the BBC would not allow the masses to broadcast unscripted. So Bridson would talk to them and write scripts which the folk could read confidently because it was the way they spoke. A cumbersome and complicated method but it did get the voice of the people past the BBC censors and on the air.
There is a long and winding trail to the radio ballads and Bridson, Chilton and many others played their part in opening up the airwaves.
Now the pendulum has swung the other way and hearing a lot of what goes on radio today, in the words of Jim Copper I feel "prostrate with dismal".


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 11:44 AM

"On the subject of radio pioneers we should raise a glass to Douglas Geoffrey Bridson"
Second that - Bridson's description of the struggle to get the working voice accepted by The BBC is fascinating - Yorkshireman, Wilfred Pickles was once given the job as newsreader, but was removed after complaints that he couldn't be understood.
Bridson, Mitchell and Chilton were all part of that "long and winding road" which now seems to have
Bridson's book is sub-title 'The Rise and fall of the BBC' it's interesting to speculate what the old guard would make of the 'Estuary English' and the loss of word-endings, which now seems to be the standard form of communication (I swear I thought that "brawban" was a Scotsman's support for a boycott!"
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 11:56 AM

Should read
"Bridson, Mitchell and Chilton were all part of that "long and winding road" which now seems to have taken a turn for the worse"
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: michaelr
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 12:56 PM

...the man but for whom this thread, indeed this very forum, would not exist...

Max


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 02:07 PM

...the man but for whom this thread, indeed this very forum, would not exist...

Yes, true, Michael. This forum would not be here without Max but the other Michael - he of the MGM tag - is also right that the whole folk song movement would not have developed in the way it did without the enormous pioneering work of Cecil Sharp.

I am reminded of the extraordinary tribute paid to him by The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain at the 2007 Cambridge Folk Festival.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 02:28 PM

What I'm reviving is the thought that as performers, we have a tale to tell, which needs more than just a dull "next" introduction stringing the songs together, the best performances have a thread running through them. Robin Williamson is a case in point, he engages with the audience in a way which takes them on board and only releases them at the end. It doesn't have to be something deep and meaningful, we can achieve a lot by demonstrating the folly of the world, or what you will. But a simple catalogue of songs does nobody any service, the music least of all.

It was Ewan above all who started us on that track, crossing the boundaries of the theatre. Steeleye's 1974 Tour, for example, introduced a multimedia film performance into the set. This might have headed in the direction of a more integrated performance, meeting up with the Concept Album, had it not been for the overthrow of performer autonomy which happened in 1976-7 with the imposition of punk and hip-hop.

It is slowly returning though: Marvellous Machines, written by Andy Mellon and Pete Flood and performed by most of Bellowhead, earlier this year, was above all else a concept piece. A weird one, but one none the less.

So, at the simplest - and simple is good - we don't just sing the song, we perform it, we colour it to tell a tale. What that tale is is partly in the song, and partly in what we decide to do with it.

Andd then there's the question of grabbing the audience...


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 04:24 PM

Interesting post, Rahere. The pros and cons of song introductions have been debated here recently (and I'm with you on the 'pro' side), but I'm now wondering what MacColl had to say on the matter, and whether it came up as a topic in CG. Jim...?


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 04:29 PM

"So, at the simplest - and simple is good - we don't just sing the song, we perform it, we colour it to tell a tale. What that tale is is partly in the song, and partly in what we decide to do with it.

And then there's the question of grabbing the audience..."
and there are many was of gettong an audience apart from grabbing them, an example is Roy Harris.
"Yes, true, Michael. This forum would not be here without Max but the other Michael - he of the MGM tag - is also right that the whole folk song movement would not have developed in the way it did without the enormous pioneering work of Cecil Sharp"
my thoughts too, Vic.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 03:57 AM

"The pros and cons of song introductions have been debated here recently"
The question of introductions to songs was a constant theme throughout the time I knew MacColl.
He thought they were essential to prevent evenings from being conveyor belt productions of songs - "next - next - next" - on the other hand, he argued that they should never be too long, nor should they be superfluous - an example was the tendency of some singers to tell the story of the song, then repeat the exercise by singing it.
He limited, (or claimed to limit) his introductions to no more than (I think - have to check) a minute and a half.
I've just been listening to an evenings of ballads at the Singers, where some of the introductions were of the best I've heard - for instance, he introduced The Keach in the Creel, with the fableaux of the renaissance painter's apprentice who fancies his master's daughter and creates a diversion to keep the parents away while he has his wicked way (said to be one of the fore-runners of the ballad) - masterful.
Occasionally he would use the introduction to place a ballad in its historical setting, like The Battle of Harlaw or The Laird of Warriston.
At other times both he and Peggy would link a song and a story, making the latter an introduction to the former.
Introductions in the sessions over here in Ireland are extremely rare, and personally, I miss them very much; I feel you can loose a lot of the song without them.
I found it rather refreshing recently when I attended an afternoon concert of ballads set up by The National Library as part of their 'Man, Womam and Child' project, to hear singers introducing their songs - it added so much to the proceedings.
I think the rule of thumb with introductions is that they should contain relevant information, be entertaining and should add something to the song rather the repeat something that's already there, though there is no harm in drawing attention to something that might be missed.
An example of this that always springs to mind from MacColl, is his savouring the beautiful description of pregnancy in the ballad, Gil Morrice when the wife confesses that Gil is her son, and not her lover, as the vengeful husband suspects "I ance was fu' o' Gil Morrice as the hip is of the stone" (stick your thumbnail into into the thin layer of flesh of a rose hip, and you'll see what I mean)
I've noticed that some of the most interested responses from audiences when we've beeing giving a talk, particularly from those who are not particularly familiar with the folk song genre, have arisen from introductions.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 04:00 AM

In my opinion introducing songs well is important, one thing I do not like is somebody introducing a song whilst denigrating it, why sing a song if you do not like it? neither can I see the point of telling the story before it has been sung, background info in my opinion is good.
I have noticed that some of the best performers use humour to get the audience on their side.
Prformers like Roy Harris manage to create an intimate feel, rather like a storyteller round a fireside.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 05:38 AM

A lot of it is in voice tone, and perhaps adds importance to the middle 1/3 of a performance, in that the first 1/3 is grabbing them (often using an accessible piece), the middle confirming their loyalty, and the end the classic blow-off, minor emotional peak - recovery - big hit - thank'ee folks.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 07:23 AM

The intro question is vital. I remember once being one of the judges in the Cecil Sharp House London Folk Festival competition, & subsequently writing the experience up for Folk Review; mentioning in particular the difficulty of judging between a good but rather run-of-the-mill group, and a m-f duo whose singing was way above average but the resolute facetiousness of whose intros was a real pain-in-the-arse turn-off.

We judges were pretty-well divided, iirc; and the prize eventually went to neither, but to the agreed runner-up on all our lists.

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 07:31 AM

.... and the end the classic blow-off, minor emotional peak.....

There is something about some performances of a song that I can come to call last verse syndrome. A song has been going well; no slips - no forgotten words - no stumbles. You can feel that sense of relief, particularly with inexperienced singers, towards the end of a song and there is a lapse in concentration, a switch off just too soon and that is when the words don't come out or there is a drift off tune or some other slip up.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 09:32 AM

I remember hearing a performance of 'Matty Groves' which had seemed to go on for ever on account of an uninspiring delivery of the 'standard' Fairport version. About sixteen verses in, the singer stopped to announce:
"I can't rememeber the rest, but anyway they all end up dead."

A classic blow-off, indeed.

Jim, that is just the kind of thing I was hoping to hear about song intros.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 09:54 AM

"Jim, that is just the kind of thing I was hoping to hear about song intros"
Pleased to hear it Brian - will be happy to send you some examples if they are of use
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 11:48 AM

Always interested in that stuff, Jim.

"[intros] should add something to the song rather than repeat something that's already there, though there is no harm in drawing attention to something that might be missed."

Exactly. In a complicated ballad, some vital detail can certainly be missed if it flies past quickly, or if the wording is a bit opaque. Point it up in advance, and a listener meets it with glad recognition.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 12:03 PM

Jim, thankyou for your earlier post of 3.57 am, that is useful info.
On the occasions I saw Ewan and Peggy perform I was impressed with their performance presentation, I would appreciate examples if you felt like sending them or any info about their approach to song intros.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 01 Dec 14 - 07:49 AM

It's the emotion which needs judgement, though, and sensitivity to the audience. A caring song in a Rugby Club? Max Boyce: Oh, snaily snail! worthy of Shakespeare...that's where the heart of grabbing the audience lies.
And then there are those who say the important bit is the reminder the CDs are at the back...


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 01 Dec 14 - 09:08 AM

I hope that soon I may be able to make a more informed contribution to the everlasting debates...... a review copy of Legacy of Ewan MacColl: The Last Interview has just dropped through the letter box.


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