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What would make a good starter repertoir

vectis 28 Mar 15 - 02:23 AM
DMcG 28 Mar 15 - 02:43 AM
DMcG 28 Mar 15 - 02:51 AM
Jim Carroll 28 Mar 15 - 02:53 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 28 Mar 15 - 02:57 AM
Jack Campin 28 Mar 15 - 03:46 AM
GUEST,FloraG 28 Mar 15 - 05:18 AM
Big Al Whittle 28 Mar 15 - 07:04 AM
GUEST,gillymor 28 Mar 15 - 07:52 AM
GUEST,gillymor 28 Mar 15 - 08:05 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 28 Mar 15 - 08:11 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 28 Mar 15 - 08:14 AM
GUEST,anne neilson 28 Mar 15 - 08:18 AM
GUEST,Warwick Slade 28 Mar 15 - 08:32 AM
GUEST,Dave 28 Mar 15 - 08:55 AM
GUEST,gillymor 28 Mar 15 - 09:39 AM
PHJim 28 Mar 15 - 10:48 AM
GUEST 28 Mar 15 - 06:58 PM
Little Robyn 29 Mar 15 - 03:03 AM
vectis 30 Mar 15 - 05:00 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 30 Mar 15 - 06:58 AM
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Subject: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: vectis
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 02:23 AM

I have been asked for a good set of English songs to learn by a local woman with a beautiful voice. She also plays ukulele pretty well.

She already sings songs in Maori but wants to learn some in English.

What well known, but not hackneyed, songs would you start with? She wants about 50 to choose from.

I don't want to recommend stuff that I know and am sure that if I wrote down a list myself I would leave out some really good songs.

She plays at a club where we do three song sets and have a small but enthusiastic singing audience.

Well what songs would you all suggest to start her off?


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: DMcG
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 02:43 AM

I don't think there's any way of answering this except to say it needs to be songs that move her, in some sense. The essence of it, for me anyway, is that the singer approaches it in their own way and to do that, they need some sort of attachment to the song. Otherwise as the hedgehog song of a few decades had it 'You learnt all the words and you sang all the notes but you never quite learned the song.'

I tend to the traditional, personally, so just about the entire Copper family collection, for a start. "What's the Life of a Man?" and "The Drowned Lover" (both also in many other collections) are examples of songs which I found somewhat giggle inducing when I was late teens, but now at 60-odd I really like.

For contemporary songs Jez Lowe is one name I'd put forward, out of many.


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: DMcG
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 02:51 AM

By the Copper Songs I mean this lot


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 02:53 AM

The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (early edition) served us well way back - revisiting it recently for notes convinced me that it remains the best overall introduction to the English repertoire ever produced (Abe Uk Books have used copies from around £4).
Don't know about the ukulele - or any musical accompaniment - I'm not against it, (I sing accompanied when I get the opportunity) but I think that the best way to build a new repertoire is to try the the songs unaccompanied first and then decide if they need accompaniment - most of them don't - the ukulele (or any short-duration instrument) presents far too many problems for anybody starting build a repertoire.
Wish her luck.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 02:57 AM

For a starter, I'd simply suggest she listen to budget price compilation CDs by 3 prime obvious artists:

Anne Briggs, Shirley Collins, June Tabor..

or at least check their repertoire as available on youtube.

Then explore further from there......


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 03:46 AM

The ethnic/cultural background of white New Zealanders is disproportionately Scottish. When I was discovering this stuff in NZ, I used the Penguin book and agree with Jim's recommendation. But I discovered Ewan MacColl's Scottish Songs and Balllads (Oak Publications) at the same time. That's long out of print, and I'd suggest The Scottish Folksinger in its place - it also has a wider variety of songs.


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: GUEST,FloraG
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 05:18 AM

Is it a ' joining in ' type of folk club? If so - songs with joining in bits are obvious.
I think a lot of ukes are tuned in C. Is that a good key for her?
FloraG


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 07:04 AM

well not wishing to disagree - but once again forced to. i think a lot of the music recommended is quite difficult technically. nothing wrong with that, but its a pain in the arse for the audience to see the singer struggling.

i would say in your situation study the albums uf the spinners. not all the repertoire is hackneyed, but it is all delivered with great spirit, skill and professionalism. and they forgot more about getting an audience joining in than the rest of us will ever know.

also - it will enable you to hang onto the uke, whose presence if you are used to it will give you confidence and keep you in key! the uke can be played plaintively or in a jolly way in several keys. and it also you can use a baritone uke for variety.

one of my favourites that they often played was The Bleacher lass of Kelvinhaugh.
as Jim said, best of luck! and have fun!


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: GUEST,gillymor
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 07:52 AM

Sounds like she needs to do some serious listening (a tough job but someone has to do it). Plenty of good stuff on Spotify by The Watersons, Richard Thompson, Martin Carthy, June Tabor to name a few.


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: GUEST,gillymor
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 08:05 AM

and Pentangle and Joan Baez who sang quite a few English and Scottish ballads on her first few albums.


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 08:11 AM

I'll also add a Pentangle compilation CD or youtube search to my earlier suggestions...

.. as ‎Jacqui McShee is also worth a listen for inspiration
alongside Anne Briggs, Shirley Collins, June Tabor..


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 08:14 AM

gillymor - oops.. cross posted within minutes of each other...

that must definitely establish listening to Pentangle as a primer for aspiring female singers..


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: GUEST,anne neilson
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 08:18 AM

Original post doesn't actually ask for traditional songs per se -- so, going with the description of the singer's beautiful voice, she might want to look at songs such as 'How Can I Keep from Singing' (and maybe check for Annie Mayo Muir or Bok, Trickett and Muir on YouTube. And there's a great, gentle little song called 'The Garden Song/Inch by Inch' which would sit very nicely on the ukulele. Also, lots of tuneful and thoughtful songs by Pete Seeger.

And to follow on from Jack's indication of a strong Scottish background in New Zealand (if the mention of Maori language isn't just a happy circumstance), maybe start with some lyrical Scots chorus songs like 'Lassie wi the Yellow Coatie', 'Busk, Busk, Bonnie Lassie/Bonnie Glenshee', 'I'm a Poor Rovin' Lassie' etc. -- if these aren't as overdone as they are here.

And if the lady concerned really wants to dive deep into traditional, she might want to consider a version of 'The Cruel Mother' collected by Robert Burns and usually known as 'Fine Flowers in the Valley' -- all the essence of a big, tragic story but delivered with a haunting tune and refrain.

Hope this opens up some new ideas for the original poster.


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: GUEST,Warwick Slade
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 08:32 AM

Engage with the audience-it's just you and them
Sing songs that you feel happy with-10to1 so will the audience
Slip in a Maori sog- variety is the slice of life.
Finally sing something the audience know well and something they do no know atall

Ps --- smile


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 08:55 AM

The trouble with picking standards which have been sung unaccompanied by people like Anne Briggs is that it is very hard to perform a version which bears comparison. Even very good professionals like Cara Dillon have failed to pull it off on occasion.

Pick songs which are well known but which she can interpret herself, or put her own stamp on them. You are in New Zealand, try Farewell to the Gold, or others by Paul Metsers.

How Can I keep from Singing is a good suggestion, and its pretty traditional in that nobody knows who wrote the words (though Lowry clearly did write the melody). Just don't listen to Enya, unless its to hear how not to do it.


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: GUEST,gillymor
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 09:39 AM

A couple of early John Martyn songs lay well on the uke and are quite lovely, "May You Never" and "Over the Hill" off the LP "Solid Air".


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: PHJim
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 10:48 AM

By "English songs" do you mean in the English language, as opposed to in Maori? This could include songs from Australia, New Zealand , Canada, The USA...

Or did you mean songs specifically coming from England.


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Mar 15 - 06:58 PM

Follow the heron home ... Karine Polwart


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: Little Robyn
Date: 29 Mar 15 - 03:03 AM

Follow the heron is good. Karine is here.
Did you see Reg Meuross at Auckland? The band played Sweet Marie. would be a lovely one that only a few people over here have heard.
Lots of people here sing Paul's Farewell to the gold so I don't recommend starting with that but maybe she would like Rose of Allendale
Or something by Kate Rusby or Mary Black or Maddy Prior and June Tabor .
If you or your friend check out the repertoire of these singers on youtube you might find quite a few songs that are suitable.
Cheers,
Robyn


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: vectis
Date: 30 Mar 15 - 05:00 AM

Thanks for the ideas folks. Any more?


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Subject: RE: What would make a good starter repertoir
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 30 Mar 15 - 06:58 AM

Fifty songs is a hell of a lot to start off with. If your friend tries learning that many all at once, she'll end up learning the words and the tunes, without internalising the meanings.

Best to start off with just one that she enjoys singing. When she's got that reasonably well sewn up, she can then start on a second and a third and so on, until she feels she's got a reasonable number to practice on.

When she's got to the stage where she feels she would be comfortable singing the song(s) in public, IE., when they start to fit like an old jacket, then go sing them in public.

If she's able to, it's always helpful to gauge audience reactions, and to invite criticism. I have long suspected that what kept traditional singing in healthy fettle (when the tradition itself was in healthy fettle) was that people were less afraid in those days to say what they thought of someone's performance, especially if said performer was a novitiate.

Unfortunately, we have become too polite nowadays to do anything more than clap politely at some dire performance, except maybe to hope fervently that the person in question doesn't sing the same song next week. And that is the reason why we have so many dire singers in folk clubs.

Wouldn't it be far better if people felt able to give a friendly word of advice as to where they felt the singer was going wrong? But God, the can of worms that can open up.

If your friend is already a good singer in some other branch of music, then she will find that an enormous asset. There is an awful lot of tosh talked about traditional singing being a different art form to, say, opera singing. To a large extent that is true, as anyone who listens to the way that Harry Cox handled rhythm, for instance, or the way Joe Heaney handled ornamentation. But the basic disciplines of relaxation, breath control, posture etc are universal.

Which brings me to the final good advice.

Listen to the old boys, and old girls, IE., the people from whom the songs were collected in the first place. No, they didn't sound as smooth as Barry Manilow, but most of them could get under the skin of the song and lay bare its meaning to anyone listening. If you're able to do that, you'll have cracked the problem, not merely of what to sing, but of how to sing it.


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