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Longest ballad in recent tradition

Arenaria 12 Mar 15 - 12:50 PM
Jack Campin 12 Mar 15 - 01:13 PM
Joe Offer 12 Mar 15 - 01:24 PM
oldhippie 12 Mar 15 - 01:28 PM
MartinRyan 12 Mar 15 - 02:14 PM
Jim Carroll 12 Mar 15 - 02:37 PM
RTim 12 Mar 15 - 03:50 PM
Musket 12 Mar 15 - 04:01 PM
Big Al Whittle 12 Mar 15 - 04:12 PM
Vic Smith 12 Mar 15 - 04:33 PM
GUEST,Paul Burke 12 Mar 15 - 06:24 PM
RTim 12 Mar 15 - 06:31 PM
Dave Hanson 13 Mar 15 - 03:02 AM
Joe Offer 13 Mar 15 - 03:16 AM
Musket 13 Mar 15 - 03:42 AM
GUEST,Mike Yates 13 Mar 15 - 04:07 AM
GUEST 13 Mar 15 - 04:47 AM
MartinRyan 13 Mar 15 - 05:08 AM
Keith A of Hertford 13 Mar 15 - 05:20 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 13 Mar 15 - 06:06 AM
Jim Carroll 13 Mar 15 - 06:22 AM
Vic Smith 13 Mar 15 - 06:52 AM
OldNicKilby 13 Mar 15 - 06:57 AM
Big Al Whittle 13 Mar 15 - 06:57 AM
GUEST,Arenaria 14 Mar 15 - 10:54 PM
Tradsinger 15 Mar 15 - 04:32 AM
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Subject: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Arenaria
Date: 12 Mar 15 - 12:50 PM

What is the longest ballad documented through recorded performance by a singer who carried the song as an oral tradition, or family tradition?

I know there are a few immensely long ballads that have been recorded by "literary" singers, wonderful things, but I'm curious about the depth of family and regional tradition, the power of memory and tradition that has been independent, to some small or large extent, from the written word. I'm familiar with many field recordings, but certainly haven't heard them all, so what MOST FORMIDABLE pieces have come through time, riding in the memories of a chain of singers? Those of broadside origin, included, of course.

And, who was the singer?


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 Mar 15 - 01:13 PM

No contest. The Manas Epic.


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 Mar 15 - 01:24 PM

Longest ballad?
Please, don't encourage those people.

There are people like Frankie Armstrong who can sing ballads in such an engaging fashion that one doesn't notice the passage of time. And then there are others who can make a five-verse ballad seem like it lasts forever.

If you're going to sing a ballad, sing it for the purpose of telling a story you want to tell - don't try to make it a marathon. It's the story, not the length, that's important.

At least, that my opinion, as one who rarely sings ballads but hears lots of them. I could listen to some ballad singers forever, because they are spellbinding storytellers.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: oldhippie
Date: 12 Mar 15 - 01:28 PM

"California Joe" by Jim Ringer, sequelled by "California Faith" by Debbie McClatchy might be a contender.


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: MartinRyan
Date: 12 Mar 15 - 02:14 PM

Well said, Joe! If it feels long, it's too long - even if it's short...

Regards


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Mar 15 - 02:37 PM

Longest song we hear in English in Ireland was 'The True Lover's Discussion' which we got from an 80 year-old singer in Clare, Martin Reidy - it's a dialogue between a man and woman, a Catholic and a Protestant, on which religion of their religions is the correct one - superb, even to my atheistic ears.
Martin also sang another ballad about religion, 'Father Tom O'Neill' - about ten minutes.
He had numerous long songs in his repertoire; he once told us that "a song isn't worth learning unless it has a few verses in it".
In my opinion, one of the finest pieces of ballad singing I ever heard in Ireland was from a Traveller from Roscommon, Martin McDonagh, who sang a breathtaking version of Young Hunting (Lady Margaret), pretty well the only version to be recorded frm a source singer this side of the Pond.
"Please, don't encourage those people."
In fairness, some people can make a two verse song sound too long - it's the singer, not the song.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: RTim
Date: 12 Mar 15 - 03:50 PM

THe speed that Lizzie Higgins sang - they are all loooooooooooooong!

Tim Radford :-)


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Musket
Date: 12 Mar 15 - 04:01 PM

Going to see Martin Carthy tomorrow. If he sings Famous Flower of Serving Men, he used to make it last ten mins, but he is slowing down a bit now, so twelve mins?


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 12 Mar 15 - 04:12 PM

in stuart gilbert's exposition of Ulyssess, he talks about the viking baresarks going into a trance and singing a ballad for three days.

of course the vikings made this contribution to our culture - the Irish and the English, and it had a place and a context.we can appreciate and know about these alien contexts to some extent - but whether we can reintroduce the skills, the context, the intention behind the long ballad - i'm not sure.

through Gilbert's work, i knew how Joyce has used the legend of proteus in Ulyssess. so it was fascinating for me , a few years later when i encountered Ewan MacColl singing the ballad of Tam Linn.

and of course Martin Carthy's Famous Flower of Serving Men.

still these fragments are part of our tradition and we cast them aside at our peril.


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Vic Smith
Date: 12 Mar 15 - 04:33 PM

In fairness, some people can make a two verse song sound too long - it's the singer, not the song.
Absolutely.

THe speed that Lizzie Higgins sang - they are all loooooooooooooong!
Not as slow as some - even within her own family. The way Lizzie engaged with a ballad and the emotional impact of her singing makes the pace and length of the song secondary for this listener.

a few years later when i encountered Ewan MacColl singing the ballad of Tam Linn.
Not familiar with his singing of this ballad but my favourite recording of a revival singer singing a ballad in Tam Lin sing by Mike Waterson.


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: GUEST,Paul Burke
Date: 12 Mar 15 - 06:24 PM

These are all OLD ballads sung by modern balladeers.

Jack bloody Campin, give us the text or shut up. For a REAL modern epic, try my own Wreck of the Mary P Cooper ((C) Paul Burke 2011, written for the 50th anniversity of the unhappy event. 13 verses of pure tedium, with chorus.

Come on Al Whittle, how can you say folk music is dead?


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: RTim
Date: 12 Mar 15 - 06:31 PM

Tim Laycock's version of the Thomas Hardy poem - The Tramp Woman's Tragedy, is pretty long., ie. 13 times 8 line verses!
I understand Tim wrote the tune and practiced it on a bus ride from (probably) Dorset to Bodmin in Cornwall.
I wish I had been on that trip!!

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 03:02 AM

Obviously some people here do not understand the meaning of ' ballad '

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 03:16 AM

I don't think American ballad singers get the credit they deserve. There are some good ones. I could listen to Judy Cook all day.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Musket
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 03:42 AM

Meanwhile, I learned Bob Dylan's recent ballad about the sinking of The Titanic. Tempest. More of an exercise to see if I could retain new long songs in my head these days. Racing through and not using the chorus as often as he does, I get it to just over eight mins.

That's a minute longer than bloody Percy's Song!


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 04:07 AM

Many Travellers sing their ballads at a slow pace. For example, Phoebe Smith's version of "Barbara Allen" takes over 11 minutes (Veteran VT136CD - Phoebe Smith: The Yellow Handkerchief.)And many of Jeannie Robertson's ballads seemed to go on for ever! Not that this bothered me - she was a wonderful singer. Then there was Gordon Hall, another singer who liked to take his time. His version of "Broomfield Hill" lasts for some 10 minutes (Veteran VT131CD - When the May is all in Bloom.) I feel certain that some of his other songs and ballads actually took longer to sing.


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 04:47 AM


Obviously some people here do not understand the meaning of ' ballad '

Oh yes they do but it is mandatory in mudcat to reinterpret the topic to mean something totally different


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: MartinRyan
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 05:08 AM

There's a rumour that Briain O Rourke is working on a song that will make Chantal du Champignon look like a Shakespearean sonnet...

Regards


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 05:20 AM

Barrett's Privateers is good long ballad.


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 06:06 AM

Sheila Stewart used to have a version of The Mill of Tifty's Annie - not the one she usually sang - which she got from a broadside, and which took about twenty minutes to sing.

SFAIK it has never been published, but MacColl and Seeger did record it from her one time.


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 06:22 AM

"it has never been published, but MacColl and Seeger did record it from her one time"
As good a singer as Shiela was, it's not a bad example of a ballad being 'too long', in my opinion
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Vic Smith
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 06:52 AM

Longest ballad in recent tradition??

Possibly Gordon Hall's The Ballad of Bob Copper in which Gordon Hall wrote a hilarious account of Bob's life culled from stories that he heard in a secret meeting with John & Jill a few weeks before Bob Copper's 80th birthday party which we held for him at our folk club in Lewes. I didn't time it on the night though John Howson recorded the whole evening and sent me the 3 1/2 hours of cassettes of the entire evening. I still have them in one of these many boxes of cassettes that I am going to organise and catalogue one of these days. I believe that it lasted 26 minutes and the look on Bob's face as stories that he thought were only known to the family unfolded only added to the hilarity of the occasion.

The only problem would be with the word 'tradition' because I don't know if a song that I suppose was only ever sung once can be considered to come into that category.


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: OldNicKilby
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 06:57 AM

Robin Hood and the Bishop of Lincoln is only 700 verses ( it's in the 1882 edition of Child) Thankfully I have not heard it performed or as an alternative Dave Taylor sings one that is 17 minutes


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 06:57 AM

when you say a modern song. are we talking about one in the last two hundred years, the last forty; the last two years.

they're all modern compared to the very old ballads.

also getting old is confusing. bill caddick's the writing of Tiperary is considered modern by some, but its at least forty years ago since i first heard it.

forty years ago when i was a kid was the first world war, and look for the silver lining seemed old even then.

maybe you get too old and daft to understand what anyone is talking about. i'm beginning to think that is my problem.


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: GUEST,Arenaria
Date: 14 Mar 15 - 10:54 PM

Thank you all for your comments on the matter, all very interesting. Big Al, my very narrow interest regards ballads in the English language which have been carried by memory, especially those that are documented as carried through oral tradition. I


I fully understand that written texts have created and supported ballads throughout the centuries.Even very traditional families of singers in Appalachia often kept "ballet boxes" or "ballet books" holding handwritten or clipped printings of song texts. Many of the 18th broadsides had 50-plus quatrains, of course. Which ones moved mostly INTACT into the 20th Century via oral tradition? In the US, the older ballads were whittled down to 8, 12, 16, 20 or, very rarely, 30 quatrains.

A few broadsides of greater length have been documented by folk song collectors, though some of them may have depended on written texts. It seems like the full version of "The Mill of Tifty's Annie" sung by Sheila Stewart would be such a feat. I note that Jane Turriff was said to have known 52 verses of that song, but sang a shortened version. Are there other gigantic performances that came along through similar course of family tradition?


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Subject: RE: Longest ballad in recent tradition
From: Tradsinger
Date: 15 Mar 15 - 04:32 AM

A couple of people have mentioned Gordon Hall. He always sang very slowly and usually did the traditional thing of repeating the last 2 lines of every verse, all this in between puffs at his cigarette. Also he supplemented his versions with extra verses from broadsides. I had the pleasure of meeting him once and recording him. I remember 2 songs in particular

- The Leaves of Life (14 minutes)
- Lord Beckett (Bateman) (17 and a half minutes)

Speech and movement gradually returned to us listeners after the last notes died away.

Tradsinger


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