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Singers Nights

GUEST,Bignige 05 Mar 16 - 05:58 AM
G-Force 05 Mar 16 - 06:52 AM
Harmonium Hero 06 Mar 16 - 11:23 AM
Will Fly 06 Mar 16 - 11:58 AM
GUEST,Andiliqueur 06 Mar 16 - 12:22 PM
GUEST,Peter 06 Mar 16 - 02:35 PM
GUEST,Pete from seven stars link 06 Mar 16 - 05:58 PM
Will Fly 07 Mar 16 - 03:20 AM
GUEST,Derrick 07 Mar 16 - 04:51 AM
GUEST,Peter 07 Mar 16 - 04:59 AM
GUEST,Henry Piper of Ottery. 07 Mar 16 - 06:23 AM
GUEST 07 Mar 16 - 06:24 AM
Jim Carroll 07 Mar 16 - 06:43 AM
Teribus 07 Mar 16 - 06:50 AM
GUEST,Derrick 07 Mar 16 - 07:08 AM
matt milton 07 Mar 16 - 07:42 AM
Jim Carroll 07 Mar 16 - 08:35 AM
Backwoodsman 07 Mar 16 - 10:34 AM
GUEST 07 Mar 16 - 12:05 PM
Rusty Dobro 07 Mar 16 - 12:56 PM
Will Fly 07 Mar 16 - 01:00 PM
Rusty Dobro 07 Mar 16 - 01:06 PM
GUEST,The Goose Is Out! 07 Mar 16 - 01:27 PM
GUEST,alex s no cookie 07 Mar 16 - 02:16 PM
Backwoodsman 07 Mar 16 - 02:34 PM
GUEST 07 Mar 16 - 04:33 PM
Backwoodsman 07 Mar 16 - 04:47 PM
Dave the Gnome 07 Mar 16 - 05:39 PM
GUEST, Poxicat 07 Mar 16 - 08:53 PM
GUEST,ripov 07 Mar 16 - 10:45 PM
Gurney 07 Mar 16 - 11:19 PM
GUEST 08 Mar 16 - 01:25 AM
GUEST,Musket 08 Mar 16 - 02:59 AM
Will Fly 08 Mar 16 - 03:40 AM
Jim Carroll 08 Mar 16 - 04:03 AM
Backwoodsman 08 Mar 16 - 04:39 AM
Jim Carroll 08 Mar 16 - 05:01 AM
GUEST,Derrick 08 Mar 16 - 05:39 AM
matt milton 08 Mar 16 - 05:51 AM
Jim Carroll 08 Mar 16 - 06:50 AM
GUEST,Roger Knowles 08 Mar 16 - 07:01 AM
GUEST,Derrick 08 Mar 16 - 07:24 AM
Jim Carroll 08 Mar 16 - 07:52 AM
Dave Sutherland 08 Mar 16 - 08:10 AM
Backwoodsman 08 Mar 16 - 08:23 AM
Dave the Gnome 08 Mar 16 - 08:36 AM
Jim Carroll 08 Mar 16 - 08:56 AM
GUEST,Nick Dow 08 Mar 16 - 09:05 AM
Dave the Gnome 08 Mar 16 - 09:15 AM
growler 08 Mar 16 - 10:41 AM
Jim Carroll 08 Mar 16 - 11:10 AM
Harmonium Hero 08 Mar 16 - 01:53 PM
GUEST,Musket 08 Mar 16 - 03:16 PM
Harmonium Hero 08 Mar 16 - 04:58 PM
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Subject: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,Bignige
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 05:58 AM

It seems to me that the standard of music in Folk Clubs is not what it used to be. It now seems acceptable to get up and speak come warble
from crib sheets, with no instrumental accompaniment, anything that that the performer likes, without thought to those who have to sit and listen. I can't work out if its due to decline of Folk Clubs generally, or whether new/next generation is getting its musical kicks somewhere else.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: G-Force
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 06:52 AM

Most people in folk clubs are now in their sixties (or more!). It becomes harder to memorize new songs as you get older. So to avoid being accused of just doing the same old stuff every week, most of us get new material together as well as we can, but perform it with the words in front of us, just in case.

I for one do not have a problem with that, but remain impressed by people who perform from memory (and get it right!).


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Harmonium Hero
Date: 06 Mar 16 - 11:23 AM

G-Force: I don't agree with the oft-quoted excuse that if you're over 60 - or even over 50, you can't remember stuff. I think it has less to do with age than the fact that your head is like a shed which, over time, gets filled with so much junk that you can never find anything. I think the malaise is being mis-diagnosed; I think the real problem is the present poularity of regular singarounds. People go along every week and expect to get two or three songs. As you say, you don't want to be accused of not learning new stuff, so you end up trying to sing stuff you haven't properly learned. In the 'bad old days' (according to some), when clubs had a semi pro - or even full time resident group, there were fewer floor singers. People went to be entertained and join in with choroses, and so didn't expect - or want - to get a floor spot every week. So they had time to learn their songs properly. You never saw crib sheets in those days. Singarounds were things you got at festivals, which was fine, as there weould be people from all over the country who you'd never otherwise see, getting probably one song each, and this at an annual, not weekly event. But on a regular basis? - forget it.
By the way, I'm 69, and inclined to sing ballads, and long songs with a narrative, which I find easier to learn and remember than short non-narrative songs. I'm not immune to getting the words muddled, but I think people in folk clubs can overloook such lapses if you draw them into the songs, which you're not going to do if you are getting the words off a crib sheet.
John Kelly.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Mar 16 - 11:58 AM

Wise words, John - with which I agree absolutely. I remember the intense competition to play in clubs in the '60s and '70s - when a performer was lucky to get a floor spot. You had to be of a reasonable standard, and I recall being roundly criticised by a folk club organiser in Leeds for not having brought enough care and attention to what I was singing and playing!

I would add in another, modern factor: the concept that everyone has a right to have their 15 minutes in the spotlight - regardless of whether they know how to present their material or not. It's as though the world is one gigantic X-Factor or "Folk Clubs Got Talent". In reality, we don't have any right to waste people's time.

And, by the way, I'm 72 this year and have absolutely no trouble in learning a song in a day at most. That's probably because I've spent the last 50+ years doing it!


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,Andiliqueur
Date: 06 Mar 16 - 12:22 PM

I totally agree with the two previous views. I too remeber the late 60's 70's Folk Clubs. To be given a floor spot was so special that you made sure that you knew your stuff. The residents were always of a high quality and they were very careful about whom they chose for a floorspot. The standards were therefore high and non performers were guaranteed a decent night's entetainment. Indeed, This is why Folk Clubs have lost their popularity and as we old ones gradually 'drop off the perch'and don't attract a new/younger audience they will die out.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,Peter
Date: 06 Mar 16 - 02:35 PM

I think the posts above have covered most of this.

From the mid 70s onwards we hit a negative spiral with people dropping out of the scene as they started families or took more demanding jobs and new people coming in in far smaller numbers. With club income falling singers nights which formerly happened once or twice a year soon became one or twice a month and then it was the guest nights that were once a month.

The pressure to keep finding and learning new material while trying to revive a slowly shrinking club going really took the fun out of it.

Now we have a small core of fairly strong clubs booking high profile guests but a lot of clubs that primarily have singers nights with few or no guests and, with some honourable exceptions, are pretty much as described by the OP.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,Pete from seven stars link
Date: 06 Mar 16 - 05:58 PM

I should have though different clubs serve different purposes, and target different audiences and contributors. As long as there is no pretence of only having professional level performers , no one is being cheated or having their time wasted.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Will Fly
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 03:20 AM

We've discussed the terms "professional" and "amateur" quite a few times here, as I recall. I don't believe that being professional is just a question of whether one makes money or a living from performing - it's also a question of attitude, i.e. doing what you can as best as you can and putting some heart and sweat into it. Mainly for the benefit of those listening to you.

I'm always intrigued by the reasons why people want to get up in front of other people and perform. For some folk, the target audience appears to be the least of their concerns - the real reason being that they must have their "look at me" moment, irrespective of any effect it might have on those whose time they're taking up. I honestly think that's selfish - and I'm quite aware that, for anyone who performs, being in the spotlight is a compelling motive. (The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd, etc...). I'm also aware that a musical gathering of any sort has other dynamics besides music - friendship, communal fun, chat, laughter, socialising, and so on.

But it's unfair to get into that spotlight, and ask for peoples' attention, with little preliminary preparation. I consider that to be thoughtless and selfish. Watching and listening to a performer mumbling behind a music stand really is a waste of time.

Or perhaps I'm just a heartless bastard.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,Derrick
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 04:51 AM

I give singers and musicians who are in their early stages of performance career a certain amount of lee way,after all they have to start somewhere,something veterans of forty years of performing sometimes forget.I am less forgiving to those who make little or no effort to improve.Club organisers are sometimes a little too kind to non improvers and should encourage them to get better or ditch them.
With regard to crib sheets I have no objection in principle,I have seen excellent performances by users,it's how they are used that counts.The crib sheet used properly is unnoticed,it's the incompetent performer who falls over his act in spite of his crutch that annoys me.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,Peter
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 04:59 AM

"As long as there is no pretence of only having professional level performers , no one is being cheated or having their time wasted. "

Agreed, although to a newcomer they are all just "folk clubs"

That works both ways, I have known newcomers to the scene, used to paying a nominal fee for a singers club, be quite upset at a different club when asked for something approaching concert prices to see a "named" singer when they didn't know Peter Bellamy from Bob Dylan.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,Henry Piper of Ottery.
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 06:23 AM

The original poster uses the phrase "with no instrumental accompaniment", as though all folksongs demand some kind of accompaniment, the bulk of ,certainly, British/English folksong was historically usually performed unaccompanied, instrumental accompaniment was a rarity until the "revival" when such accompaniment did became more common.
There is certainly nothing wrong with using instruments to accompany Folksong, but I don't think you should make a lack of instrumental accompaniment a failing on the part of a performer.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 06:24 AM

I'm not going to disagree with any of the previous comments but would make a couple of points.

Crib sheets if used dicretely and in moderation enable some people to participate more confidently knowing they have a safety net. Though I agree that one should try not to use them if possible.

Having said that, the following link indicates that some surprising people are not averse to using them. I witnessed this performance and most people in the audience wouldn't have spotted the music stand, even though it's very obvious on the video, or noticed that the words are being read as they are sung. I know it was the second gig on a tour but that's not really an excuse.

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

Learning words is a problem for some people. When I was working I had lots of 'stuff' in my head which is now 'junked'. Learning songs now seems possible where it wasn't before - though it can take weeks before I can recall the lyrics confidently. And then, of course, in the singaround situation panic scrambles the brain cells.

Singarounds seem to be for the benefit of the participants and may not necessarily attract an audience at all.

I agree with Derrick's comments fully - as long as we remember that someone over 60 may well be 'starting out on a performance career' (perhaps better described in many cases as just enjoying the opportunity to have a sing in the company of others). The fact that you've owned a guitar for forty years doesn't mean that you've had any time to play it during a busy working life. As long as there is a desire to improve one would hope that people so described are tolerated/encouraged/helped in the singaround situation.

When professional guests are being paid at folk club concerts there is often a different type of audience and we owe it to the audience and the guests to be professional in running the event.

I was a frequent attendee at folk clubs in the 70's when you could see top class acts nearly every night of the week in our local area. All the clubs I remember were run well, but one of the negatives, was the 'floor spot' when someone you'd never heard of and hadn't paid to see, took up an inordinate amount of time and you just wished they'd go away. I suppose there were some pleasant (and delightful) surprises but my memory banks are scarred with these unpleasant experiences. No wonder the better concert clubs are now more selective with regard to 'floor spots' or don't have them at all. And therein lies part of the reason why many singarounds don't attract audiences.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 06:43 AM

"As long as there is no pretence of only having professional level performers , no one is being cheated or having their time wasted."
Depends on how poorly the performers perform.
I've been to far too many clubs where the standers is far below anything that would be accepted in any other musical genre.
I have come to believe that the acceptances of poor performances stems from a basic contempt for folk music.
I'm always reminded of something MacColl said in an interview, when these arguments come up
"Now you might say that working and training to develop your voice to sing Nine Maidens A-milking Did Go or Lord Randall is calculated to destroy your original joy in singing, at least that's the argument that's put to me from time to time, or has been put to me from time to time by singers who should know better.
The better you can do a thing the more you enjoy it. Anybody who's ever tried to sing and got up in front of an audience and made a bloody mess of it knows that you're not enjoying it when you're making a balls of it, but you are enjoying it when it's working, when all the things you want to happen are happening. And that can happen without training, sure it can, but it's hit or miss. If you're training it can happen more, that's the difference. It can't happen every time, not with anybody, although your training can stand you in good stead, it's something to fall back on, a technique, you know. It's something that will at least make sure that you're not absolutely diabolical         
The objective, really for the singer is to create a situation where when he starts to sing he's no longer worried about technique; he's done all that, and he can give the whole of his or her attention to the song itself, she can give her or he can give his whole attention to the sheer act of enjoying the song".
Clubs should no more be places where singers bring insufficiently prepared work to practice on the audience - this is not a demand for "professional standards; just plea for respect for those who have taken the trouble to turn up.
I don't think crib sheets are any more acceptable in folk clubs as they would be anywhere else - and that has been made doubly true by the use of mobile phones and tablets.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Teribus
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 06:50 AM

Trouble is that there are very few "Folk Clubs" today, very few performing what I would recognise as being Folk music (And this will probably shock him to the core - but in this I am in total agreement with Jim Carroll).

From the above posts:

1: the standard of music in Folk Clubs is not what it used to be.

Couldn't agree more.

2: its due to decline of Folk Clubs generally"

Again agreed, they now no longer serve as bearers of tradition and places where new talent is encouraged and new artists can cut their teeth and develop their performance skills - those who have ditched paying for Guest artist evenings and opted for the "Club Session" which in the UK generally means sing rounds where any genre of music is performed usually very poorly. Even with crib sheets the same stuff is regurgitated each week with no discernible sign of improvement.

The material on offer has become poor covers of 1950s, 60s & 70s pop songs - Not Folk.

On the up side by trial and error you do find the rare "sessions" that are actually "sessions" not performance slots for the mediocre. The musicians have a marked advantage over the singers as in tunes sessions you have to be of a certain standard to stay the pace.

There have been threads to the gist that anybody can sing - taken basically and literally this is true in the same vein that anyone can perform brain surgery - what will vary is the standard and competence brought to the table. So only those fully trained and qualified should perform brain surgery, build rockets, etc, etc. In reality and to be kind to those sitting listening there are those who can sing and those who cannot and should not sing in public (With or without crib sheets)

3: " the concept that everyone has a right to have their 15 minutes in the spotlight - regardless of whether they know how to present their material or not. It's as though the world is one gigantic X-Factor or "Folk Clubs Got Talent". In reality, we don't have any right to waste people's time."

SPOT ON Will Fly, SPOT ON.

4: "Now we have a small core of fairly strong clubs booking high profile guests but a lot of clubs that primarily have singers nights with few or no guests and, with some honourable exceptions, are pretty much as described by the OP."

Again accurately put.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,Derrick
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 07:08 AM

Guest 06-24am,refers to concert clubs,are these only for the purpose of offering professional performances? If so are we talking about two different things?
A folk club to me should be a balance of professional performers who give a quality act and an interesting insight into folk song and music,and non professional artists who should give as good a performance as they can.
Folk music and song after all was the entertainment of everyday people before mass entertainment as we know it today.Such music was part of the identity and culture of the people.Trained performers were scarce,
most were a little rough round the edges,but never the less played their part in society.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: matt milton
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 07:42 AM

"It now seems acceptable to get up and speak come warble
from crib sheets, with no instrumental accompaniment..."


Oh no! Singing folk songs without any instrumental accompaniment?! What is the world coming to? Not like in the good old days when singers like Paddy Tunney, Harry Cox, Jumbo Brightwell would... oh hang on...

as for "crib sheets", I really don't care. I'd far rather singers had the words to hand than forgetting multiple verses and having to abandon songs. I can think of some really good singers I've heard at some London folk clubs who often interesting songs I've never heard before but invariably forget the words. I wish they would use crib sheets. Should they memorise the words? I think they probably would have done so if it came easily to them.

In fact, there's a folk band that I really like that are highly rated by all and sundry, and I noticed the singer always has an instrument case open in front of him, but hardly ever actually plays the instrument. It occurred to me that said case might well have a few lyric prompts in it. If that is indeed the case (no pun intended), it certainly doesn't inhibit the performance for me or, by all accounts for anyone else.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 08:35 AM

There is a difference between 'prompts'or reminders and crib sheets as far as I'm concerned -
One is possible hints on verse orders, in the case of non-narrative songs say, the other is all to often a singer simply relying entirely on the written word.
The old habit used to be for a singer to stick a reminder sheet to the side of the guitar unobtrusively, not sure what unaccompanied singers did - problematical bits biroed onto palm of hand maybe!
I'm never sure of how a singer gets enjoyment from reading a text in front of the audience but I do know that I always found somebody reading in company simple bad manners.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 10:34 AM

"The old habit used to be for a singer to stick a reminder sheet to the side of the guitar unobtrusively........!

So true, and equally true is the discovery we made that Sellotape and Blu-Tack can be extremely dangerous around some modern guitar-finishes. I have four guitars, which cost between £2k and £4k each, and I'm bollocksed if I'm going to risk ruining the nitro just to keep some moaning old bugger, who's got a bee in his antedeluvian bonnet about lyric-prompts being 'offside', happy.

So I have my iPad, which (shock, horror) I put on a low stand (or on the table in front of me if I'm at a singaround/session, and which has set-lists, lyrics, keys, capo-positions, tunings and background notes for each song, and which I can glance down at if I start to dry. I generally don't need it very much, but I refer to it if I have to. I feel no shame - I believe I have sufficient performance experience (coming up to 55years, in several genres, amateur and semi-pro) to perform as well as many, and far better than some, whose mental processes are such that they don't need prompts/aide-memoires.

And I heartily agree with the poster above, who said that non-narrative lyrics are not as easily recalled as narratives. Some of my songs are narratives, but a fair number aren't, and it's the non-narratives I tend to get confused with.

It is a fact that, as I've aged, I find retaining 'stuff' more difficult than in my younger days, but I apply myself to learning my songs - something I suspect many of the 'Big Black Music Stand And Loose-Leaf Binder Club' don't even try to do.

And, when these kinds of discussions crop up, I always wonder why it's deemed perfectly respectable for a fiddler/melodeon player etc. to have sheet-music stuck up in front of him/her, yet a singer/guitarist who has the lyrics and chords in front of him is regarded as holding the music in contempt? Why don't fiddlers and melodeon/accordion players who play tunes from music get accused of holding music in contempt?


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 12:05 PM

Performing from sheet music, be it by a singer or instrumentalist, is a distinct skill. If somebody has learned that skill then that is fine.

On the other hand I have seen some pretty ropey music sessions where the musicians are all staring at the dots rather than interacting with eac other.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Rusty Dobro
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 12:56 PM

Crikey, I'm glad that on the two occasions when I've done a floor spot in front of the legendary Will Fly, I've managed to dredge up the lyrics from what I laughingly term my memory. These days I have trouble remembering the songs I've written, let alone anyone else's.
Mind you, I've seen Richard Thompson using printed lyrics on stage, which he explained as the 'choreography - verse 1: raise right foot'.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Will Fly
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 01:00 PM

As I recall, you gave excellent performances both times - and not a hesitation in sight! :-)


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Rusty Dobro
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 01:06 PM

Thank you , Will! My metaphorical cup figuratively runneth over!


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,The Goose Is Out!
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 01:27 PM

We have run a regular monthly Singaround for several years now, in various venues. We have our first this sunday in a new venue.

When we ititially started we had no idea that it would be so popular. Mudcatters are always very welcome.

http://thegooseisout.com/singarounds-at-the-old-nuns-head/


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,alex s no cookie
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 02:16 PM

Will Fly has once again hit the nail unerringly on the head...


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 02:34 PM

"Performing from sheet music, be it by a singer or instrumentalist, is a distinct skill. If somebody has learned that skill then that is fine."

But, but, but, according to Jim, if you don't learn your stuff and sing or play it from memory, you're showing contempt for the music.

And it took me years to learn to read, and years to learn to play the guitar. Aren't they 'distinct skills' too?

Why can't fiddlers etc be arsed to learn the tunes they play? Aren't they being contemptuous too?


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 04:33 PM

"And it took me years to learn to read, and years to learn to play the guitar. Aren't they 'distinct skills' too?"

No that is a typical Catter taking offence where none was given


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 04:47 PM

No - there's no offence taken, just asking why 'distinct skills' apparently includes the ability to read music, but apparently not reading English or playing an instrument?

Just a question, that's all.

Perhaps you're a typical nameless GUEST, too wimpy to use a consistent identity, engaging in the kind of trolling that nameless GUESTs are notorious for?


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 05:39 PM

I concur with most of what has been said. There is a place for crib sheets but there is no excuse for using them instead of practice. I find it very annoying when someone gets up with their overflowing folder and starts to say, "Now, what shall I do? Oh, I know, I have not dome this one for ages. Now, where is it..." One good thing though, as they look through, drop loose sheets on the floor and mutter, it is usually enough time to get to the bar :-)

Mind you, I said similar to the opening post many years ago and was rounded on in no uncertain terms by someone on here saying that there is no such thing going on and if I encountered it I must be running a crap folk club. Glad someone else has noticed!


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST, Poxicat
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 08:53 PM

Perhaps Bignige and the Goose is Out (they are conjoint) fail to treat floor singers well and thereby discourage those who do arrange and practise their material.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,ripov
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 10:45 PM

Some can't read. Some can't remember. Some can't improvise. Some don't have a good technique. (And not just, as Backwoodsman has said, only in music). And probably we're all in there somewhere.
But - with apologies to the religious:-
"If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea."

Surely our purpose is not to be entertained, and to criticise those who don't come up to the mark (those who think theirselves good should be the entertainers); but, while enjoying the good, to encourage the less competent to improve their performance, not to complain about it; however trying it can be at the time.

Those who are able can take pleasure in what they do well, and hopefully give pleasure to others (don't you just love to hear those feet tapping?) But don't condemn those who don't have your abilities.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Gurney
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 11:19 PM

I find myself in the category that G-force, way up at the top there, describes, in that I'm finding it difficult to force new songs-and-music into an aging brain, but at the same time I've tired of lots of my earlier repertoire.
It feels as if the 'lyrics' part of my swede is a box, and it is full up! I used to think it was infinite.
I sometimes use a crib sheet at a soiree that I attend, but I wouldn't do it at a gig or a festival. Anyone could see that as a double standard, and I can't explain why it isn't.

I have seen people staring at their cellphones whilst LEADING at a singaround, and also staring at them to see if the singer is using the published variant, I suppose. That looks uncommitted to me, but may be just a generational thing. I suppose.

Learn the lyrics while you're young, my advice is.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 01:25 AM

Poxicat , we don't discourage anyone,quite the opposite


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,Musket
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 02:59 AM

Yin and yang as ever.

Part of this thread seems to be the old "is it folk?" and part seems to be about quality of what you hear having got off your arse, stuck on fresh y fronts and wandered down the pub.

Putting the "what is folk" to one side, and concentrating on the quality. We are all of mixed ability. Backwoodsman and I bump into each other at singers nights at two places in particular. One has everything from a retired man who has been singing and playing for years but bless him, still sounds like first time ever tried to play all the way to ex pro and semi pro ability, with I'm delighted to report, singers and players in their teens and twenties too. There again, we both go to another place where I'm sure we agree, the quality is such that it certainly makes me want to raise my game (can you after almost forty years? I'm willing to try!).

Now.. As I go to these and a few others on a regular basis, you can either play the same few polished songs (the ones you play when you go sonewhere for the first time) or you can mix it a bit. I'm lucky in that many words have stuck in my head over the years and can recall, I think I'm right here, over 120 songs, mainly 'trad but others too. So I don't use crib sheets as such although not having the guitar porn objects of BWM, I'm more likely to stick crib reminders to my guitar with blu tack. (See? The Rainsong has its uses!).

So... What about my view of what goes on around me? I have no issue with people using iPads and paper, I'm not a critic reporting on a night. I may advise those trying to improve to learn more, drop the crutch and use your brain to listen to what you are doing now, not what you will be doing in five seconds time but there is a difference between not able to keep words in your head and not trying in the first place. This affects the quality of what the audience hear.

Oh and the audience.

Ok. Gloves off. Yes, it does annoy me that people are shuffling through papers and talking whilst others are performing whilst assuming people listen intensely to their turn. When real folk clubs were the order of the day, I worked hard at engaging an audience with eye contact etc. Now, at singarounds, I'm most likely to shut my eyes whilst singing. Why? Because I'm vain enough to expect people to listen to me as I do to them and seeing papers shuffled and conversations between people who are to perform themselves is demoralising.

A good friend wonders why I like one particular folk club we occasionally go to. It's because of the courtesy we give each other whilst performing.

Mind you, let's not get into performing vs your turn...   Real folk clubs used to expect two songs from a floor turn. Great for guitarists as you could do one with an easy accompaniment followed by one a bit more entertaining as your fingers had loosened and warmed. With one at a time, pretend to be Mr Carthy at your peril..,

I'm with Will on this. I really miss folk clubs.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Will Fly
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 03:40 AM

Just a final comment from me, in case I seem like some cold-eyed monster who eyes performers up with a red hot poker in one hand and a penile clamp (look it up) in the other.

I'm really very supportive of performers who are learning or trying to up their game, or who are genuinely giving of their best. This phrase from Musket strikes a chord with me:

there is a difference between not able to keep words in your head and not trying in the first place

That is the essence of my argument - the not trying in the first place.

I posted a recent thread on helping a poor singer to sing better. As I said in that thread, I was well impressed with his successful steps to wean himself off the music stand and play a reasonable fingerstyle guitar, after seeing him "mumbling away" two or three years ago. I said words to that effect after a session we'd both attended, and he seemed quite chuffed at hearing that. It was then that we got round to the topic of his singing and what was needed - but that's for the other thread.

I really don't mind what people do. (I've always said "Have what you will - and pay for it".) But I do mind what effort they put into doing it. Three cheers for trying - no cheers for being lazy.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 04:03 AM

"But, but, but, according to Jim, if you don't learn your stuff and sing or play it from memory, you're showing contempt for the music"
Not exactly what I was saying - I am saying if you don't take it beyond just reading it off the page and take the trouble to learn it is showing a contempt both for the songs (not a musician, so I am not commenting on instrumental music).
The songs I know as folk are not just a set of words, but a representation of experiences and emotions set into a verse form with a tune added.
The fact that they were made and proliferated by a section of our population who are not recognised to any great extent as creative artists, gives the songs as a whole a social importance - they are, as the monumental series of albums says, 'The Voice of the People'.
We spent decades talking to old singers who were quite articulate in discussing what the songs meant to them and their contemporaries.
I expect to come away from a song with some understanding of what it meant to the singer, what he or she felt about it, how they related to it..... and a whole lot of other aspects of the making of the song and the journey is has made, through both space and time.
I very seldom, if ever, get that from someone who gets up and reads it from a crib-sheet, a tablet or a mobile phone - they at least should have gone to the trouble of learning the words and the tune and absorbing the song in order to make it their own - I can probably get the words and tunes from a book.
As I said, having memory aide-memoir is not what concerns me - we've all possibly had to do that from time to time.
Age really isn't an excuse for not knowing the words - we have just been recording a 95 year old who has given us some of the longest versions of traditional ballads I've heard, without too much trouble in remembering them, though he hasn't sung some of them for half a century.
As the roadworker said in reply to the lady who asked how she could get to Carnegie Hall - "Work lady, work".   
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 04:39 AM

Yep, I'm in wholehearted agreement with Musket and Will - and in partial agreement with Jim. I used to go to a club where one singer sang the same three or four songs every time, reading the words from a loose-leaf binder. This went on for years, the same few songs, always reading. I couldn't understand, for the life of me, how they were incapable of learning four songs, in fact I'm astonished that, having sung them so many times, the words hadn't simply osmosed into their memory! Laziness, IMHO.

And regarding age and memory, we're not all the same. Telling us about a 95-year-old who has a fantastic memory for songs he learned fifty years ago is irrelevant. He isn't me, or you or anyone else, and people's memories and learning abilities don't all deteriorate at the same rate. You have my absolute, firm assurance that, although my long-term memory is still pretty good, my short-term memory is far worse, at sixty-nine, than it was ten years ago, and I have quite severe difficulty learning 'stuff' nowadays, even though many of the songs I was singing in the 1960s as a teenager are still crystal clear.

However, I work on learning songs, and much of the time I have reasonable success. If someone doesn't like me having to get the occasional line from my iPad mid-song, that's tough - I regard picking up a line and getting through the song flawlessly, as far as anyone else is concerned, is far better than stopping mid-verse and humming-and-hawing scratching my arse while I try to remember, or even worse, have to give up altogether.

As ever, IMHO, YMMV.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 05:01 AM

"Telling us about a 95-year-old who has a fantastic memory for songs he learned fifty years ago is irrelevant."
Over the last forty years - it was common - all the singers we met remembered their songs even though they may not have sung them for decades - can't think of a single one who had any great problems.
I haven't got a great memory but I do have a large repertoire of songs (300+)
I stopped singing regularly some time in the eighties because collecting took up far too much time to put the work in, and when we moved to Ireland nearly twenty years ago, there wasn't a great audience of narrative songs, particularly long ballads.
Recently, things have changes here and there is a growing audience for the songs again, so I've resurrected my songs again, without a great deal of trouble.
I may have lost my range a little, but a bit of concentrated work has improved that somewhat.
As far a the words are concerned, with the exception of a few re-readings where necessary, they're back were they were in the mid-eighties (though I sometimes can't remember what I've just read in the newspaper).
If the song are absorbed, they stay absorbed - a bit like riding a bike - once learned, never forgotten once you get the pedals going.
Singers who can't sing without crib sheets need help, not offers to get up and practice in front of an audience before they are ready.
Our practice in running clubs was to try and provide practical help to newbies; we had a permanent self-help workshop, but one-to-ones can work wonders.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,Derrick
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 05:39 AM

I have to agree with Backwoodsman with regard to the individuality
of people.No two people are the same.Some are gifted with a photographic memory,some are not.Just because Jim can remember words,he says those who cannot are lazy,or need help.
Half the troubles of the world are caused by people who cannot or will not accept that other people are different to them and have not
experienced life in the same way as themselves.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: matt milton
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 05:51 AM

"]Real folk clubs used to expect two songs from a floor turn. Great for guitarists as you could do one with an easy accompaniment followed by one a bit more entertaining as your fingers had loosened and warmed. With one at a time, pretend to be Mr Carthy at your peril.."

This is a good point, and I think there should be more of this: two songs per round.
I can understand that you might have a room that's so busy this would be impossible without denying people the opportunity to sing. But it's always good to warm up. If you suffer from nerves, like me, then you need 1 song to get going.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 06:50 AM

"Just because Jim can remember words,he says those who cannot are lazy,or need help."
No I did not (I do wish people would respond to what I actually say) - I do say that those who can't remember words should not sit in from of an audience, particularly paying ones, and sing from prompt sheets if they can't remember the words on songs - absorbing the songs comes with the job description.
I suggest that it is possible to acquire the ability to learn and remember songs - that's where the help comes in, and that applies to all aspects of singing that some people may have difficulty with.
I would love to have been a musician, I tried, reached a certain point and got no further, so I gave up - at no time did I ever consider inflicting my guitar, concertina or flute on an audience.
Why on earth should I or anybody do so with singing?
I repeat - I have not got a good memory, but songs come with built in aides to help memorise them - rhyming systems, speech patterns, plots and tunes - all part of absorbing the song as an entire entity, not just a set of words.
Not being able to remember is not "lazy" - not working on a song enough to sing it is, and singing it in front of an audience if you are unable to do that is unacceptable - every audience deserves a level of performance - not virtuoso standard, but high enough to be able to enjoy listening to the singing.
I spent well over twenty years listening to MacColl sing - I watched him grow old on stage and eventually begin to forget words.
I never once saw him make a balls-up on stage from totally drying-up on the text.
If he forgot the words as he had learned them, he had absorbed the songs and the language they were written in so well that he just made up the bits from his own pool of understanding.
We all dry up at times, so hopefully, we make sure it doesn't happen too often by putting the work in.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,Roger Knowles
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 07:01 AM

If you have to read the lyrics or chords whilst performing in a folk club, it simply means you aren't ready to perform in public. Go home and practice. Don't inflict your lack of talent on other people.
A certain friend of mine runs clubs where he charges £5 ( it goes to charity ) if a person reads the lyrics - great idea!


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,Derrick
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 07:24 AM

Jim
I agree with much of what you say about word patterns,knowing the story of the song,tune etc, I use much the same tools myself but occasionally where the next line should be is a hole,sometimes you can talk your way out of the problem or bluff in some way,other times not so. I occasionally use a crib sheet as a prompt or safety net if I decide to do something, I rarely do at short notice and do not have the time to rehearse it and refresh my memory. As I said before I have little problem with the discreet use of such a thing,only when the device intrudes noticeably into the performance. I liken them to a bad
accompaniment. As you so rightly say any performance should be at least competent.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 07:52 AM

"I occasionally use a crib sheet as a prompt or safety net"
Fine - no argument with that whatever - have done it myself when necessary.
I really don't believe that to be the problem nowadays - it's people who patently don't know the songs well enough to sing them through that can cast a pall on the evenings, leaving the more proficient performers to pick up the pieces.
This doesn't mean the strugglers should be abandoned - there are ways of bringing them along without constantly putting them in front of an audience - I would go along 100% with Roger Knowles - if they don't know the songs, they aren't ready - if they continue to not know them and they refuse all offers of help, they probably never will be.
The idea of the £5 fine tickles me; beats the stocks and rotten fruit, I suppose!!
By the way, one of the other 'tricks' in memorising the songs is to sing it through at high speed a few times (in private, of course) - does wonders for training your memory to keep up with the important bits.
Telling the songs as stories (again privately) helps to establish the progression of what they are saying and reciting the words helps enormously with the phrasing in order to sing as you would say.
Jim Carroll

.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 08:10 AM

From some of the folk clubs that I have attended over the last few years I have gleaned the impression that if you don't sing from your crib – sheet, i-phone, music stand or book, blatantly set in front of you, and perform from memory you are considered a right arrogant bastard


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 08:23 AM

"From some of the folk clubs that I have attended over the last few years I have gleaned the impression that if you don't sing from your crib – sheet, i-phone, music stand or book, blatantly set in front of you, and perform from memory you are considered a right arrogant bastard"

How very odd - I've found precisely the opposite, and that nobody gives a flying fuck whether a singer has a visual crutch (Ooh matron!), or has the kind of memory which enables him/her to sing Tam Lin flawlessly from start to finish from memory!

I suspect it's a case that the 'Open Mic' culture is affecting the folk-music scene, many performers and audients frequenting both. But I could be wrong - I distinctly remember being wrong once, a long time ago... 👍😎


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 08:36 AM

Maybe we should start a Folky-Oki business?

:D (tG)


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 08:56 AM

"I suspect it's a case that the 'Open Mic'"
Maybe true - I certainly hope not.
The Clun scene I was part of for so long was one dedicated to a certain type of song - you may have quibbled at what that meant, but parameters were set
In my opinion, things started to go astray when those parameters were abandoned (an argument for elsewhere)
In Ireland, we have a plethora of 'song circles' which depends entirely on who is involved - some are good, some are 'curate's eggish' and some are abysmal - you tend to attend as an exercise in sociability rather than to listen to or sing any particular type of song.
Most are not to promote any type of song to any standard, but to provide locals with a place to sing.
Fine, as far as I'm concerned; I used to go to one on the Stretford Road in Manchester back in the 60s and watch Sinatra-Elvis-Count John McCormack wannabes regularly and enjoy the evenings immensely - in between my visits to Terry Whelan's and Harry Boardman's Clubs or the M.S.G.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 09:05 AM

Firstly I am very lucky in that I hardly if ever forget words. (That was fatal, I've got a gig tomorrow night). The reason for this is the fact that I quite accidentally trained my memory when very young in the classic 'memory man' way, i.e. taking a journey. My 'journey' aged 8 years old and with a poem to learn for school, involved walking round a carpet in my bedroom, and each corner represented a verse, then going accross the carpet was the next verse etc. etc.
Now I doubt weather walking the floor in a folk club is acceptable, but giving yourself landmarks i.e 'then he marries her'...'then she leaves him'...then they are reunited' etc. in a song might help.

Secondly most Traditional singers including my wife, have a family Songbook. All songs numbered and in the best handwriting, and kept with pride.
This is no more than a treasury, and a reference if memory does fail. My wife has her book in her hand and sings with her eyes shut!
On the other hand there are too many people singing for the wrong reason. One simple question sorts it out.
Why are you singing in the first place. (I want to do it for me, and play my guitar Wrong answer..not a crime just the wrong answer)
Why are you singing? (Because I want you to love this song as much as me! You are on your way to becoming a singer, who cares if you need the words or not! You have opened your heart...the rest will follow.

Here endeth the lesson...


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 09:15 AM

'ere, Jim. Just as I was typing folky-oki (or should it be Folkaoke? Anyway...) I was reminded of Anthony John Clarke's 'Tuesday night is always Karaoke'. Now, AJ is originaly from the north of Ireland and this song, one of his most famous, bemoans that fact that live music was not in evidence on that particular Tuesday night. One of the lines suggests Carrickfergus was on the Karaoke machine. Coming round to the question that sprang to mind - Is FolkyOki already in evidence over there?


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: growler
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 10:41 AM

I'm glad that I don't attend the singarounds mentioned above. The standard of the Good Intent Rochester, is sometimes breathtaking. True we have singers who are singing from crib sheets, but others can take you to another plain with their performances. Surely a local folk club should encourage anyone who wants to perform, sometimes they realize that they they are better of listening. I have been attending or running folk clubs since the mid 60s and cannot agree that, although things have changed, the standard has dropped


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 11:10 AM

"Because I want you to love this song as much as me! "
A perfect statement Nick
The family songbook is an interesting one
Many of the families we visited here in West Clare kept and treasured them, though sometimes the natural hospitality of this area reacted against their survival.
One man we quizzed fairly closely because of the quality of his repertoire told us, in reply to our query about a certain type of song: "I never learned them but I have them written down in 'the book'" - only to find that he had torn the pages out and given them to a neighbour - lost forever.
This was particularly true of the locally made songs that didn't appear on 'the ballads' or weren't published in collections.
I heard Peter Cook give a lecture on the same custom being prevalent in Aberdeenshire.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Harmonium Hero
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 01:53 PM

Interesting comments from Nick and Jim about treasured songs, often songs that have been in families for generations. If the sort of singers we're complaining about here were in possession of such treasures, we could forgive the shortcomings of performance. Sadly, a lot of what they sing just isn't folk song any more. And, before I get a mauling for being elitist, or threatening to poke a stick once more into the 'what's a folk song' cage, I think, in my usual naive way, that if I see something listed under 'Folk Clubs' I should be abe to go along with the reasonable expectation of hearing some bloody folk songs.
I went to a 'Folk and Blues' club one night. Out of about fifteen spots, only me and a couple of other bods did anything you might call folk, and there was no blues at all. At the end of the night, a bloke said to me "wasn't a bad night tonight was it?". Deftly avoiding telling him what I really thought, I said "I thought I'd have heard a bit of blues tonight, but there wasn't any". He said "No, there isn't any folk some nights either, but at least we had some tonight". Can somebody explain to me; if there's no folk and no blues, how is that a 'Folk and Blues Club'? Does the Trades Descriptions Act not apply to folk clubs?
John Kelly.


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: GUEST,Musket
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 03:16 PM

Harmonium hero - Trades description could apply to folk, but it is such a wide genre that it would be irrelevant.

Evenin' Jim....


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Subject: RE: Singers Nights
From: Harmonium Hero
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 04:58 PM

If you bought tickets to see a play, and the actors were simply standing on stage reading the lines off a script, with no attempt to act - no attempt to persuade you to suspend your disbelief and accept that what you were seeing on stage was real, you'd feel cheated. You'd feel that the 'actors' had no respect for you, the play or the playwright, and you'd want yout money back. I might not be the best singer in the world, or the best musician, but I try to find songs that I can believe in, and that I think I can do justice to. These songs are often about real people, and real lives. They are about murders, tragic deaths, rape, incest, loss, heart-rending love affairs, wars and rebellions, yearnings and aspirations, work, real poverty, disappointments, heroes and villains, and also about happy endings, fun and games, romps in the hay, drink, sport and home sweet home. Anything and everything in people's lives. I am telling these people's stories, and if I didn't think I was givimg honest and respectful renditions, I would be being disrespectful to them, to the writers of the songs, and to the audience. If people think that their urge to sing outweighs the right of the paying public to such consideraations, they would be better singing in private gatherings, which might as well be in each other's houses. Club organisers would do well to remember that if they advertise and charge addmission, then it's a public event, and the paying public are going to have certain expectations.
John Kelly.


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