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Songs of the Bothy Balladeer

Jim Martin 21 Nov 16 - 07:10 AM
Marje 21 Nov 16 - 12:26 PM
The Sandman 21 Nov 16 - 12:57 PM
The Sandman 21 Nov 16 - 06:05 PM
Jim Martin 22 Nov 16 - 07:33 AM
GUEST,Jim Martin 23 Nov 16 - 07:41 AM
Jim Carroll 23 Nov 16 - 11:32 AM
Marje 23 Nov 16 - 03:09 PM
GUEST 24 Nov 16 - 12:11 PM
GUEST 24 Nov 16 - 12:36 PM
The Sandman 24 Nov 16 - 02:32 PM
Jim Carroll 24 Nov 16 - 03:01 PM
FreddyHeadey 24 Nov 16 - 06:19 PM
Joe Offer 24 Nov 16 - 06:31 PM
Jim Carroll 24 Nov 16 - 07:16 PM
Tattie Bogle 25 Nov 16 - 05:37 AM
GUEST,RA 25 Nov 16 - 12:00 PM
Jim Carroll 25 Nov 16 - 12:06 PM
GUEST,RA 25 Nov 16 - 12:13 PM
GUEST 25 Nov 16 - 02:03 PM
GUEST 25 Nov 16 - 02:19 PM
GUEST,ST 26 Nov 16 - 06:17 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Nov 16 - 10:52 AM
GUEST 26 Nov 16 - 01:23 PM
The Sandman 26 Nov 16 - 02:02 PM
Tattie Bogle 26 Nov 16 - 09:29 PM
michaelr 27 Nov 16 - 01:46 AM
Jim Carroll 27 Nov 16 - 04:28 AM
Tattie Bogle 27 Nov 16 - 06:57 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Nov 16 - 07:28 PM
The Sandman 28 Nov 16 - 11:06 AM
Jim Carroll 28 Nov 16 - 11:25 AM
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Subject: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Jim Martin
Date: 21 Nov 16 - 07:10 AM

Lovely programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning about 17-year old Rachel Carstairs' attempt to further her career by attempting to gain access to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b082x79q


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Marje
Date: 21 Nov 16 - 12:26 PM

Yes, I heard it and thoroughly enjoyed it. It might have something to contribute to the discussion thread on whether it's a waste of time to study traditional music at a university or college.
Marje


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Nov 16 - 12:57 PM

it might , on the other hand it might not


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Nov 16 - 06:05 PM

Interesting programme.
1.Rachel Carstairs, was concerned about putting ornaments in the WRONG place, who teaches students thus rubbish, there is no right or wrong place it should be just where individual singer feels it.
2, The idea of a student having to work and practise a song[ in this case twa corbies] intensively for 2 weeks for an audition is in my opinion not a good one, practice is necessary, but it should be about singing for the joy of singing, practising because the student wants to practise to get better,not because they have to pass an audition it should not be about training intensively for an audition, that could possibly have the effect of causing the singer to not want to sing the song again for a while.Songs like Twa Corbies deserve a more gradual familarity maybe six monthts or a year of gradual singing for the singer to get to know the song intimately and hopefully give it the respect it deserves. I do not like the idea of a singer being forced to sing a song of a specific duration for the sake of it, the reason a singer should sing a song is because the song turns them regardless of its l;ength its length.
I enjoyed the programme and enjoyed Rachel Carstairs singing. she has great potential and is very good. Thanks for putting this up for us to listen to.


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Jim Martin
Date: 22 Nov 16 - 07:33 AM

Yes, I thought the same, myself - smacked a bit of the CCE philosophy with their competetiveness, maybe.


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: GUEST,Jim Martin
Date: 23 Nov 16 - 07:41 AM

Refresh


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Nov 16 - 11:32 AM

"it should be just where individual singer feels it."
Not really Dick - it's where the song demands it.
To many singers over-ornament because they can, cluttering up the song (in my opinion, of course).
She is potentially a nice singer - pity abouty the intrusive - H in Turra Mairket - and the accompaniment doesn't help.
Would love to know if that was the singer's choice or the Unis
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Marje
Date: 23 Nov 16 - 03:09 PM

You may both be right, Jim and Dick.
An individual singer with plenty of intuitive musicality, and experience of singing and listening, may use ornamentation in the most appropriate and expressive way, without stopping to think about it.

However, most singers lack some of those advantages, and may benefit from stopping to think about what the ornamentation is for: e.g. in unaccompanied singing, it can serve to put the melody into a harmonic context; it can also add expression to a particular word, etc etc. It should always have a point, even if the point is simply decoration.

In that broadcast, it sounded to me as if Rachel had decided where and how the ornamentation could best be used, and had then got it "wrong" by her own high standards. All credit to her for making the effort and wanting to make the song as good as it could possibly be. Many singers could learn from her (I'm sure I could!). I hope she does well.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Nov 16 - 12:11 PM

Had my doubts when the RCOS was set up.
Discussed the subject recently with a friend as to why some graduates seem to be putting new tunes to old songs [Kirkconnel Lea etc.] His take on the matter was that they had sold their souls for the sake of royalties, a sum he reckoned to be of the order of 60pence total.


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Nov 16 - 12:36 PM

Then again it may be that my friend and I are mistaken.
Some of these young people may rake in a small fortune from royalties.
Personally I very much doubt it.


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Nov 16 - 02:32 PM

"it should be just where individual singer feels it."
Not really Dick - it's where the song demands it. quote jim
   it is up to the individual singer to decide where the song demands it,
we may or may not like it, that is our opinion, however teaching ornamentation, and insisting that it has to be a particular way, stultifies the music.
Rachel Carstairs imo appeared frightened of doing the wrong thing, that is so wrong, Singing should have a "joie de vivre", a singer should not be scared or frightened of doing the wrong thing.


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Nov 16 - 03:01 PM

"it is up to the individual singer to decide where the song demands it,"
And it is equally up to the listener to decide whether it enhances the song or whether it acts as an intrusion - both points of view are as important as one another.
Of course the final decision rests with the singer whether to use it or not, but audience has every right to say it doesn't fit the song.
Smone singers (no name - no pack-drill) can't handle constructive criticism and reall should confine their singing to the bath - nothing wrog with having a rubber duck as a listener if they don't want a response.
Rachel's singing, to my mind, is not unsimilar to everything that is wrong with C.C.Es obsession with competition singing which, in some cases has turned potentially good singers into prize-obsessed clones.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 24 Nov 16 - 06:19 PM

Well I'm with Marje.

And the lass is seventeen.
Plenty of years left for her to change her mind on how and what and where she sings.


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Nov 16 - 06:31 PM

Excuse me for being crude, but we Americans now have permission because we have Donald Trump as President-elect.

But anyhow, my point is that ornamentation is kind of like profanity. When I was in the U.S. Army in Berlin, we had a First Sergeant who made profanity into an art form. His language may have been raunchy, but every word was poetic. We had a young captain who tried to keep up with the First Shirt in use of profanity, and he just came out clumsy.

Same with ornamentation. If a singer has a sense when and how to use it, it's wonderful. But it can be horrid.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Nov 16 - 07:16 PM

When we worked with MacColl in the Critics group, he divided the work into two distinct parts.
The first was the voice - the 'toolbox', with which attempted to master all aspects of your voice so that you could handle virtually any song in the repertoire.
The second was making the song yours, analysing it to understand it thoroughly so you could identify with it to make it your own.
One without the other was short term and in the long run, unsatisfactory.
It was when you brought the two aspects together that the songs began to work for you and, if you put in the work, stayed with you forever (as I am now finding after decades of not singing regularly.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Review: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 25 Nov 16 - 05:37 AM

Must confess I haven't yet listened to the programme, but will do so.
If they are really telling young singers to add ornaments in such a regimented way, that's a bit of a shame: getting like competitive bagpiping, where you get marked down if you don't get all of the written ornaments played exactly formulaically and in the right place!
I'm all for there being SOME ornamentation, but everything in moderation, so that it does not become a distraction and/or get in the way of getting the lyrics across.


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: GUEST,RA
Date: 25 Nov 16 - 12:00 PM

From the evidence of this programme, Rachel Carstairs has a great deal of potential as a singer. I hope that the Conservatoire encourages whatever's interesting and unique about her rather than attempting to mould her into something more bland and standardised for commercial appeal - ornamentation or not.


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Nov 16 - 12:06 PM

"I hope that the Conservatoire encourages whatever's interesting and unique about her "
Not sure the conservatoire is the place to develop singers handling traditional material.
A strong dose of listening to source singers for a prolonged period would do wonders for basically good singers like her, in my opinion - that goes for many young singers coming to the material fresh.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: GUEST,RA
Date: 25 Nov 16 - 12:13 PM

Agreed, Jim Carroll.


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Nov 16 - 02:03 PM


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Nov 16 - 02:19 PM

The few Lady graduates of singing who are managing to make a fulltime career as singers seem to have ditched the college mantra of changing the tunes/words of traditional songs when they shook the dust from the place on their departure.
As for men graduates of singing, they are as rare as hens teeth.


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: GUEST,ST
Date: 26 Nov 16 - 06:17 AM

I didn't read too much into the young lady's comment about ornamentation. It sounded to me as if she was just struggling to think of something to say about her performance: a bit like that bit at the end of job interviews where the panel used to ask if you had any questions for them and you couldn't think of anything so had to make something up.

There've been a few times when I've been learning a song and thought "No, I don't like singing that twiddly bit there" but more usually, when I've sung in public and finished a song with the feeling it didn't quite work, it's been more a case of feeling; "I didn't really *mean* that song that time" – but how do you explain that to a judge?

(I'm anti-competitions myself but then I've never understood how anyone can put on any performance "to order" - it's one of a plethora of skills I just don't have. I can usually learn the words and tune fairly quickly but then it takes me ages to go on and actually learn the song from the inside. Once learned though I can only sing whatever song I can feel at that particular point in that particular session - so I'll leave the other rights and wrongs to those who understand those things.)


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Nov 16 - 10:52 AM

"who are managing to make a fulltime career as singers"
'Careers' as an objective seem to me to be one of the greatest threats to folk song.
Just after we moved to Ireland, I watched an impressive programme entitled "has traditional music sold out" ( a subject which seems to be inconceivable as a topic on the British media).
One of Ireland's leading fiddle players said that a solo performer was finding it virtually impossible to make a living out of the music and in order to survive, you needed to form or join a band - career pursuit dominating and reshaping your music.
Folk song has, in my opinion, long been established as the 'voice of the people' and its revival and strength has relied on grass-roots level participation.
Once you make your objective a career, your employer calls the tune, not you.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Nov 16 - 01:23 PM

Career may have been the wrong word, perhaps living would have been better, who knows.
Certainly the young lady to whom I made a present of my copy of "The Lays of Strathearn" on her graduation day seems to have been fully occupied as a singer during the past 8/10 yrs.


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Nov 16 - 02:02 PM

"Once you make your objective a career, your employer calls the tune, not you."
A thought provoking comment. And one i have given a lot of thought to over the years.
Musicians/singers get forced in to a predicament, often the idea of being full time can be attractive because it means more time to practise and hopefully improve,whereas a full time job can mean that singers musicians are often too tired to have the energy to do lots of gigs and work on new material hold down a job and look after a family/or relationship.
Jims, statement is imo too simplistic, the employer does not always dictate,The more successful career musicians singers, Martin Carthy/Christy Moore are not dictated to by employers, neither are less successful ones such as myself, if a publican insists I sing something or other that i dont want to sing I dont do it, same applies to folk club organisers[they can take it or leave it]
Jim, I think that loving the songs and liking your material should be more important than ANYTHING ELSE.
most people who choose a career in folk music know that they will make less money than in a lot of other music genres, but put the love of playing folk music / traditional music above making lots of money.


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 26 Nov 16 - 09:29 PM

I think one thing is being forgotten here, that students who go on these traditional music degree courses are being tutored by some of the finest traditional singers around, take the likes of Sandra Kerr, Anne Neilson, Gordeanna McCulloch (the latter sadly not still tutoring): they learned their songs from your "source singers" - most of whom are no longer alive, and are passing on the tradition and their experience of "coming up the hard way". And it is encouraging to see how many of them come to the various traditional singing gatherings in Scotland, such as the Fifesing and Cullerlie, where they will hear many fine traditional singers and contribute themselves.
And yes, I have heard it said that you need to like a song to do it justice: if you don't, ditch it and try something else.


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: michaelr
Date: 27 Nov 16 - 01:46 AM

I think the title of this thread needs to be changed to The value of folk music degrees, or some such.
I am not finding anything here about songs of the bothy balladeer, more's the pity.


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Nov 16 - 04:28 AM

"are being tutored by some of the finest traditional singers around"
The problem I have here is the term "tutored" - it implies an exclusivity and a teacher-pupil relationship.
In the early 1960s, a group of singers on the folk scene approached one of the greatest figures on the folk scene at the time, Ewan MacColl, and asked him if he would hold "classes".
He refused, but agreed to assist in the setting up of a 'self-help' group based on the idea of a number of singers, with a smattering of non or bog-standard singers, meeting regularly to work on each others singing by listening to individual performances, analysing and discussing the the strengths and weaknesses of the performances and making suggestions as to how it might be improved.
The group became known as The Critics Group, and over the nearly ten years of its existence, produced a body of work which is, to my knowledge, unique in the Folk song scene, though it did give rise to a number of similar groups scattered over England and Scotland - before I joined The Critics, I started one in Manchester.
Ewan and Peggy threw their home open to around a dozen (sometimes more) singers each week and gave them access to their extensive library, archive of field recordings and albums and if necessary, they both were on hand for advice - Peggy gave talks and work-sessions on instrumentation.
Ewan's role during the Group meetings, was to chair the discussions and to help agree on the particular aspects of the singing to be worked on during the course of the evening.
The fact that the work was based entirely on everybody present listening carefully to, analysing and articulating what each singer was doing meant that not just the performer, but everybody in the room was learning and benefitting from the work being done.
The two years I spent in the Critics was, without a doubt, totally life-changing for me - while I was still singing it helped by listen to my own efforts and improve on them, and later, when I slackened off as a singer and shifted to collecting and research, it enabled Pat and I (Pat was a member for several years longer than I was) to organise a method of work to get the very best out of both our continuing self-education on the subject and from the older generation of singers we were taking songs and information from.
The exercises MacColl devised - relaxation, voice production, singing exercises, application of techniques to handle all the different types of song in the repertoire, coupled with the techniques he brought from his theatre days to identify with the songs and make them part of you, really do remain with you for life, as I have fairly recently found out with my own return to singing after a long gap,   
Sandra Kerr was part of that group and I have no doubt that she uses what she took away from The Critics in her work.
She set up a similar group in London for people around The Singers Club at the beginning of the 1970s which she stayed with long enough for it to establish itself; it eventually continued as The London Singers Workshop, independent of any individual leadership - lasted for fifteen years.
The Critics had a minimum of a dozen people and was lucky enough to have an extremely charismatic and knowledgeable figure as a guide.
I have found on numerous occasions that the method of work is equally applicable to a small handful of people who are no more than enthusiastic and not necessarily highly skilled as singers, but who are prepared to devote some time to listen to and advise those wanting help to develop.
On a couple of occasions I have seen a scratch group put together on the spot to work on an individual's singing during week-end singing events.
Individual teaching is a minefield full of dangers of picking up bad habits, idiosyncrasies and personal tastes from others and trying to sound like them rather than yourself.
Group work helps neatly sidestep that without inflating egos.
The basic necessity is to get enough people prepared to devote time to others, to give and accept criticism without throwing a hissy-fit and, most of all, to arrive at a basic agreement on what you understand the songs you are working on are, ("I don't know what folk song is" doesn't hack it) though I have no doubt that many of these techniques are equally applicable to other forms (the whole method of work was a development of that done in Ewan and Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop.
Sorry to have banged on for so long - thought I'd put it all together rather than spreading it out over several postings.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 27 Nov 16 - 06:57 PM

Thanks Jim: I was already very well aware of the Critics Group, not least because of your previous postings, but also from contact with other traditional singers including Sandra Kerr, and from my reading including the book, "Singing from the Floor" which was last year's requested Christmas present. I just wish I'd known about it when I was in London in the 1960s as a student in the East End!
However, I don't want to enter into an argument on semantics, but much of what you say in your paragraph about " the exercises McColl devised....." applies equally and on a continuing basis to what current singing "tutors", "mentors", "advisers" are working to communicate to the current generation of singers, whether on university courses or at vocational workshops. I would hope, as I saud before, that young singers re nit programmed into some formulaic way of singing (especially for auditions) and can still "make a song my own". This is the sort of stuff we do in our regular "Singers' Gathering" events organised through the TMSA (Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland): it's not just about learning more songs, technique and self-assessment/improvement) comes into it too.
The evidence of my eyes and ears, at least up here in Scotland, is that many young singers, 45-50 years my junior, are making a grand job of carrying on the tradition, whether they learn their songs at Uni or at their mothers' and friends' (other Bothy Balladeers') knees. (Oh yes, there are some who totally murder well-loved songs by chopping up the words between some funky guitar groove - I'll not name them! ) Thanks to the internet and various comprehensive library collections being available those of today's young up-and-coming traditional singers that I have met are on the whole, very well informed (again, whether via University ot just their own personal research.) And that's not just down to their own initiative, but the inspiration provided by their tutors when talking of just the scenario you describe.
As it happens, I was at the Glasgow Ballad Workshop this afternoon, which was set up by Anne Neilson and Gordeanna McCulloch some 5 or 6 years ago. Some aspects of it, run on similar lines to those you describe re The Critics' Group: and we often get young folk from the Royal Glasgow Conservatoire attending: not so many today as the subject was "Nostalgia" - which did evoke more than one mention of Ewan McColl, Peggy Seeger - and The Critics' Group. There were similar things going on in Glasgow around that time too, which were also mentioned, including " The Ballad Club" in Rutherglen Academy.
Now I'll apologise for a wee bit of thread drift too! ( And complete my evening by listening to the OP's link!)


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Nov 16 - 07:28 PM

"There were similar things going on in Glasgow around that time too, "
There were - the Glasgow group was organised by Miller Frondigoun, who was working with Schoolkids and brought a bunch of them down to perform at The Singers Club one time.
I also know that other groups were using some of the techniques devised by Ewan.
I am not aware that any are using the self-help system that we did in The Critics - certainly not here in Ireland, where singers are now advertising themselves as 'singing teachers'
To be honest, some of those who are make me want to reach for the crucifix, garlic and holy water to ward them off.
One of the most unsatisfactory methods of 'teaching' is the one commonly employed as singing weekends and festivals, where the 'teacher' hands around randomly chosen song taxts and gets the 'class' to sing through them for two hours - whether they like them or not.
Would be interested to learn if any of these grouls have considered, or are using the 'self-help' system I described.
I really don't believe this to be 'thread drift' - for me, any thread about how folk song is being taught needs to be discussed in every aspect to the full.
Rachel Carstairs has all the makings of a good singer, I am left with the impression that she needs to review where she is going - it's a bit early for the cracks that are already beginning to show in so young a singer.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Nov 16 - 11:06 AM

Isee no reason why qualified singing teachers should not teach aspects of singing, such as breath control or good technique.
Why would anyone object to a qualified opera singer teaching good technique for opera, or for any genre of singing.
Teaching Style is a different kettle of fish,imo


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Subject: RE: Songs of the Bothy Balladeer
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Nov 16 - 11:25 AM

"Isee no reason why qualified singing teachers should not teach aspects of singing, such as breath control or good technique."
You don't actually need to be a singing teacher to teach breath control or relaxation
Technique is a different matter.
The uniqueness of Folk song is that is is based on the speaking voice, using natural speech patterns
I've lost count of the number of times we were told by the older singers. "sing as you speak"
Listen to the best of traditional singers and that is exactly what they do (barring breathing difficulties, of course)
Folk technique is based on open tonal singing - "the clean, uncluttered sound of folk".
I can't say I could sit through an entire opera, but I love most operatic voices - as pieces of music rather than the communication of narrative and ideas.
I believe it is difficult enough to find someone from the Folk world cpable of teaching without raising some of the problems I mentioned earlier - ship in an outsider and you multiply those problems tenfold.
I have heard the 'natural, pure' voice describes as "ugly" by classical singers, yet that is the basis of our folk styles.
I am totally convinced that, given co-operation and readiness to accept analytical criticism, we are quite capable of being our own critics and our own teachers.
Jim Carroll


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