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New Book: Folk Song in England

GUEST,Hootenannny 27 Sep 18 - 11:57 AM
GUEST,Jon Dudley 27 Sep 18 - 09:26 AM
GUEST 27 Sep 18 - 05:38 AM
Steve Gardham 11 Sep 18 - 04:01 PM
Vic Smith 10 Sep 18 - 10:21 AM
Steve Gardham 05 Sep 18 - 05:13 PM
GUEST,jag 05 Sep 18 - 09:30 AM
GUEST,jag 05 Sep 18 - 09:28 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 05 Sep 18 - 08:22 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 05 Sep 18 - 08:15 AM
The Sandman 05 Sep 18 - 07:55 AM
Jack Campin 05 Sep 18 - 06:40 AM
Brian Peters 05 Sep 18 - 06:17 AM
Steve Gardham 04 Sep 18 - 05:39 PM
GUEST,jag 04 Sep 18 - 04:56 PM
Steve Gardham 04 Sep 18 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,jag 04 Sep 18 - 11:36 AM
Jack Campin 04 Sep 18 - 11:33 AM
Steve Gardham 04 Sep 18 - 10:58 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 04 Sep 18 - 05:59 AM
The Sandman 04 Sep 18 - 02:05 AM
Lighter 03 Sep 18 - 08:49 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 03 Sep 18 - 08:23 PM
Brian Peters 03 Sep 18 - 02:56 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Sep 18 - 02:29 PM
Brian Peters 03 Sep 18 - 02:08 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Sep 18 - 01:16 PM
GUEST 03 Sep 18 - 06:22 AM
Will Fly 02 Sep 18 - 10:36 AM
Steve Gardham 02 Sep 18 - 09:39 AM
Steve Gardham 30 Aug 18 - 06:33 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Aug 18 - 06:21 PM
Steve Gardham 30 Aug 18 - 06:05 PM
Steve Gardham 30 Aug 18 - 05:52 PM
GUEST,jag 30 Aug 18 - 03:17 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Aug 18 - 01:58 PM
Jack Campin 30 Aug 18 - 10:50 AM
GUEST,jag 30 Aug 18 - 10:18 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Aug 18 - 09:07 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 27 Aug 18 - 10:18 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 27 Aug 18 - 10:04 AM
Brian Peters 27 Aug 18 - 09:45 AM
Vic Smith 27 Aug 18 - 05:56 AM
Brian Peters 27 Aug 18 - 05:48 AM
Brian Peters 27 Aug 18 - 05:28 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 26 Aug 18 - 05:23 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 26 Aug 18 - 05:10 PM
Phil Edwards 26 Aug 18 - 04:33 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 26 Aug 18 - 11:50 AM
Brian Peters 26 Aug 18 - 11:38 AM
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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Hootenannny
Date: 27 Sep 18 - 11:57 AM

Seeing this thread re-awaken today I expected it to be in reference to Ian Hislop's BBC 4 TV programme last night regarding the "idealised vision of the countryside celebrated by writers, painters and musicians"
There was discussion with and a tune or two by Vic Gammon and some film of C Sharp himself the expert on country dance poncing(sorry)prancing around and not getting it quite right. There was also some interesting information on Morris Dancing and WW1 which I was completely unaware of.

The programme will probably be available on I-Player.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Jon Dudley
Date: 27 Sep 18 - 09:26 AM

Vic's correction re. Bob and Ron Copper, has a good tale attached...
The two were booked incorrectly to appear as the Copper brothers, unfortunately Ron was indisposed and son John stood in for him which led Dominic Behan, the compere to introduce them thus -
"And now we have the Copper brothers...and if you're thinking that one Copper brother is a lot older than the other Copper brother, that's because the older Copper brother is the younger Copper brother's father..." Priceless!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Sep 18 - 05:38 AM

I hesitate to chip in again when this thread had finally gone quiet for a whole two weeks, but I think it's worth mentioning one aspect of the upcoming Lewes workshop with Bob Lewis: "we'll discuss ... where the songs come from ...".


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 Sep 18 - 04:01 PM

>>>>Some songs either are or were intended as duets as with some dialogues where the obvious singers are a male and a female.<<<<

In researching my next book just came across another good example in Kidson's 'Traditional Tunes' in reference to 'Colin and Phoebe' which occurs in several collections from oral tradition. Kidson was of course a collector AND a music historian, unlike many of the other collectors of the time. p73. (writing in 1891 by the way)


'With the few remaining old-fashioned singers in country places, songs of the type of 'Colin & Phoebe' are still favourites. They are a survival of the school of fashionable music and song when Mr. Lampe and Dr. Arne composed, and when Mr. Beard and other singers delighted Vauxhall audiences with these composed productions. 'C&P' used to be sung in Yorkshire, and on the Lancashire and Cheshire borders, in the correct old-fashioned style. It being 'A Dialogue' a male and female singer took their respective parts, one as Colin and the other as Phoebe, and put as much archness and tenderness into their performance as the part warranted.'

He then gives 2 oral versions and the original from 1755.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 10 Sep 18 - 10:21 AM

PEDANTS' CORNER
Dick wrote:-
i uderstood that bob and ron copper and ther father an uncle....
Actually Bob & Ron were cousins, not brothers. Jim was Bob's dad and John was Ron's dad. This is a very easy mistake to make as you will find a number of places where Bob & Ron are referred to as "The Copper Brothers" - including the sleeve notes of a Tony Rose album.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 05 Sep 18 - 05:13 PM

I get the impression that most of these contributions to the folk canon started off in London as one might expect, the song cellars, glee clubs, Music Halls, pleasure gardens. Of course it wouldn't take long for them to be imitated in other large urban centres. Also London was the centre for printing with many more printers per sq mile than anywhere else in Britain and it follows that that's where most of the ballad writers were.

One genre that definitely started elsewhere was the minstrel troupe genre which came from America but soon hopped over to London c1840.

Yes, I believe the glee clubs were originally a middle-class thing, as you needed to be able to sight read. Books of glees, catches and rounds were very popular. Many of the glees were published singly in sheet music form, e.g., 'Dame Durden'. The earliest version of 'The Derby Ram' I have seen is on a glee sheet. I couldn't state that's where it originated, but it's possible.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 05 Sep 18 - 09:30 AM

"... they were eventually found in the villages and town taverns..."


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 05 Sep 18 - 09:28 AM

Roud, when discussing glees comments that they "were on their way down the social scale , and the were eventually found in the villages and town acverns and even on the streets of London" and quotes Alfred Williams' Folk Songs of the Upper Thames:

Glees were usually sung my those having slightly superior taste in music; that is, by those of above average intelligence among the villagers, or by such as had been trained at some time or other to play and instrument, it may have been a fiddle or cornet in the local bands, or in the choir on Sundays in church.

(If one of the collectors born into the middle classes had said that would they have been criticised for being condescending?)


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Sep 18 - 08:22 AM

http://www.alfredwilliams.org.uk/folkhero.html

He was educated at Ruskin (albeit it seems at a distance). Fascinating.
Thanks for the idea, Sandman.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Sep 18 - 08:15 AM

So, a folk song in Scotland would perhaps include sections on the history of collectors in Scotland, and a century-by-century account drawing on contemporary accounts of practices, and, perhaps, some discussion of the 'Scottish snap' controversy?

There's a web site about Alfred Williams, which mentions Bellowhead, and the first song I found on it, Betsy Baker, seems to have come from a broadside. But this isn't 'in depth' research!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Sep 18 - 07:55 AM

it may help to understand social historyin relation to fok song is to investigate in depth the collector alfred williams.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Sep 18 - 06:40 AM

Worldwide, harmony singing and solo ballad singing often seem to be exclusive. Among the Kartvelians and the Svan of Georgia, and the Tosk of southern Albania, you get three-part harmony singing but no solo ballads. Among the English, the Laz of southwest Georgia and the Gegs of northern Albania, you get long epic solo ballads but no harmonized folksongs. There are other examples. I'm not suggesting a grand theory but there does seem to be a correlation. And it doesn't seem to be a regional or ethnic one, as the proximity of these divergent cultures suggests. (Instruments may affect it; the Laz and the Gegs both use droney fiddle accompaniment so maybe they don't need voices doing the job).

Did the Welsh ever have a solo narrative ballad tradition, or are they another of the harmonized-only cultures?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 05 Sep 18 - 06:17 AM

The idea that singers might have been members of church choirs is certainly true of Joseph Taylor, and it might have helped to contribute to the quality of his voice. Could he harmonize spontaneously? I don't think we know.

The 'communal harmony singing' question has come up on Mudcat before; I did a bit of listening to the recordings I had here of singing pubs, and wasn't able to make out much harmony. OTH, my 'Wild Rover' researches turned up a version from the songbook of Thomas Hardy's father, which was scored for two parts.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Sep 18 - 05:39 PM

Perhaps so, jag, but going back as far as we can the folk have always borrowed from popular music (just as popular music occasionally borrows from folk), and we also have to remember that musical genres overlap so it's best to picture this in the form of Venn diagrams rather than something with hard and fast boundaries. There are those who want to say 'this song is a folksong because of blah blah' and 'this song isn't a folksong because of blah blah' but it's not as simple as that with every song in the canon. Some songs fulfil all of the criteria and some only fulfil some of them.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 04 Sep 18 - 04:56 PM

Steve. On that basis the singing described in Roud's quotes from Fred Kitchen (b. 1891) and William Woodruff (b. 1916) in chapter 11 (Folk Song in the First Half of the Twentieth Century) does seem to be more akin to 'popular music' than 'folk song' and not much different to singing 'Caledonia' on the back of a late night bus.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Sep 18 - 01:05 PM

Thanks for coming back in, jag. The evidence in the book and other evidence we have would seem to suggest that communal singing of full songs was rare in oral tradition. Regardless of what category you would put coach parties and the practice of community singing in, this is not normally regarded as part of our folk song tradition, though it could be argued that it is. The over-riding feature of this type of singing is it relies on singing medleys of choruses. It certainly was/is a practice of the 'folk' but it has its own features. The vast majority of what has been recorded as folksong in this country is narrative, the ballad, and generally, but with a few exceptions as we have seen, this is one singer, one song. Even the iterative catalogue songs more often than not need a lead singer with others coming in on the bits of refrain and repeats.


The short answer to your question is that communal singing would seem to be much more a feature of the revival than anything earlier in oral tradition.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 04 Sep 18 - 11:36 AM

Thanks for your comments Brian and Steve regarding the communal singing.

I was meaning 'no-one' saying much about communal singing (to that point) in this thread about a book covering 'what the folk sang'.

I am unclear about the extent to which the informal communal singing I have experienced while the second revival has been going on is a creation of the revivals (BBC singing for schools, Clancy Brothers records etc) and how much just a continuation of what had gone on before. If it had been going on before did it qualify as part of 'English Folk Song'?

The same might apply to harmony singing as it came to be heard in performance. As 'The Sandman' has pointed out some people sang in church choirs. When church attendance was almost universal in rural areas how often was the local 'song carrier' also a chorister and how many of the congregation could accomodate a hymn in the wrong key for them by singing an octave, or a fifth, or somehting that harmonised, for awkward notes.

I bought Roud's book because I was interested in the social history of song and I wasn't dissapointed.

I understand that collectors might be seeking out the remnants of a dying 'folk art' but the line between art and craft (including the craft of the broadside and stage-show writers) can be a fine one and very much in the eye of the observer.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Sep 18 - 11:33 AM

Chris Wright and Steve Byrne have the expertise but they probably don't have the time.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Sep 18 - 10:58 AM

I presume you mean 'Folk Song in Scotland'. An interesting thought. Certain sub-genres and periods are well covered but an overall insight would be very welcome. The Roud Indexes of course cover most of the English-speaking world where these songs are found. Is there anyone left still in Scotland who has that sort of knowledge and commitment? Hamish Henderson springs to mind but he's no longer with us.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 04 Sep 18 - 05:59 AM

It's a pity there isn't a Scottish equivalent of Roud, I was thinking the other day.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Sep 18 - 02:05 AM

i uderstood that bob and ron copper and ther father an uncle all sang in the church choir, so tir neighbours were possibly used to harmonies in church services


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Sep 18 - 08:49 PM

This adds nothing of substance, but I feel the need to mention that when I heard the Watersons' debut album, "Frost and Fire," here in the States in 1967, I thought the a cappella harmonies nothing less than electrifying.

I'm guessing that the Coppers' neighbors reacted similarly, when they first heard the Coppers' harmonies.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 03 Sep 18 - 08:23 PM

I wonder whether the 'family' set up has something to do with it. When we were kids we would sing with mam, whether it was nursery rhymes, or songs she knew from 'community song' books, or the radio, etc, 'folk songs' learned in schools thanks to Sharp. Maybe if people sang in families and with kids then group singing was more common, but those from whom collectors collected songs were often past child-rearing stages of life (with a few exceptions of families being found).


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 03 Sep 18 - 02:56 PM

Indeed, Steve.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Sep 18 - 02:29 PM

>>>>>wassail songs, work songs, local carols, drinking songs<<<<<

Apart from local carols which are well-documented, which of the other 3 have examples of being sung in any other way other than by a lead singer singing the verses? Other than the examples already given here I might add. Even chanteys were always as far as we know a solo lead singer. Where we have recordings of strong traditional pub sings (East Anglia in particular) the rule was 'one singer, one song' with the others joining in the chorus. Bob Roberts was sometimes present at these as a young man, with his melodeon, but he only used it to accompany step-dancing and his own songs.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 03 Sep 18 - 02:08 PM

"Almost all the songs mentioned here were sung (and revived) by solo singers. No-one seems inclined to discuss wassail songs, work songs, local carols, drinking songs etc."

I'm not sure whether your 'no-one' refers to this thread or to the collectors, Guest jag, but Cecil Sharp for one collected dozens of carols, wassails, shanties and a good few songs about ale, and also lectured on the first two. Lloyd talked a lot about them as well, and I think most people regard them as an essential part of the 'folk' canon. Baring-Gould collected a lot more in pubs than the others, and heard more communal singing, also a few specific instances of two-part harmony.

None of that changes my view that English traditional singing is primarily unaccompanied, but pub singing does need to be taken into account - for example, Cyril Poacher appears to have added a refrain to 'The Broomfield Wager' only when he sang it in the pub.

"From the descriptions of and by many collectors there seems to have been a collection bias towards these features [modal and gapped scales] and a tendency of source singers to offer them."

I'd say more a publication bias than a collection bias, though of course we'll never know for certain.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Sep 18 - 01:16 PM

Thanks, Vic
It's useful to know of these other examples. Of course there may have been other examples in other parts of Britain that weren't so heavily visited by collectors. I remember George mentioning this family at a TSF meeting but we didn't get to hear much about them after that which is a pity. To be honest it would be really odd if the Copper Family were the only ones to do this.

In comparing the source singer traditions with those of the Revival (and perhaps even the First Revival) harmony singing in the latter is much more prevalent (thankfully). What would make an excellent study is the history of influences on the harmony singing that has blossomed in the current revival since the 50s. It would probably include glee singing, carols, American influence (Carters), popular music, hymns, choirs etc....Watersons, Young Tradition, Cropper Lads and others from the 60s.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Sep 18 - 06:22 AM

This is Vic Smith speaking cookie-less and briefly from Corsica -
The excellent Copper Family are probably unique in Britain.
Not quite, Steve. I know of three other examples of their glee harmony folk singing in Sussex. Isabel Sutherland told me of some that she had heard in the Rotherfield area. They were a family of pig farmers. The Lewes singer George Townsend reported singing in this sort of harmony with his father and others when his father kept the 'Jolly Sportsman' four miles outside Lewes at Eaat Chiltington in the late c19. Luther Hills collected by Bob Copper in the 1950s was blacksmith in East Dean and said that he sang in harmony with his father and others and fially there is the family (Millin or something similar?) that George Fraanpton recorded in Kent


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Sep 18 - 10:36 AM

"A Song For Every Season" by Bob Copper is, to my mind, essential reading for anyone who wants to get some idea of how traditional songs could be embedded and sung within a community.

Bob describes various seasons of the year and the songs that were sung at the time, with references to lambing, shearing, harvesting, and descriptions of the people within the village and within the Copper family who sung them. Songs are included in the book. It's a wonderful book and one I read and re-read. Like many in my area of Sussex, I knew Bob and occasionally attended the Copper's evenings in the Central Club in Peacehaven on the Sussex coast. His son (and some family members who came along) were recent guests at the Brighton Acoustic Session.

Another book of his, describing his song collecting in Sussex and Hampshire, is "Songs and Southern Breezes" - also a good read. Both books contain Bob's excellent b&w line drawings. Bob was also a devotee of jazz and blues, and he once told me that his Dad's favourite song was "Brother Can You Spare A Dime"!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 02 Sep 18 - 09:39 AM

Hi Tzu
The excellent Copper Family are probably unique in Britain. Their style seems to have evolved in some way from the glee clubs of the early nineteenth century although I strongly suspect developed further by the family. I say this because some of their songs are indeed from this glee club repertoire but most are certainly not. There are plenty of families who have been recorded right up to the present day, but all the ones I have heard of have been solo singers with the occasional solo singer being accompanied on instrument by another member, but even this is rare. Hundreds of singers have been recorded either in writing or by sound recording since the 1880s and to the best of my knowledge there are no others.

However, arguably there have been performing families of musicians in Ireland who have sung together, such as the McPeakes. Whether they sang together in this way before they became performers I couldn't say.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 06:33 PM

Most of the songs we discuss are indeed ballads which in Britain usually means a solo singer with perhaps the opportunity to join in with a chorus if there is one, but there are specialist areas where group singing is the norm. Carol singing is perhaps the most obvious of these and sometimes similar ritual pieces. Some songs either are or were intended as duets as with some dialogues where the obvious singers are a male and a female. In communities which were still alive and singing in living memory (e.g., hunt suppers) solos, duets and group singing were common enough. A good example, listen to Will Noble and John Cocking of the Holme Valley Beagles singing Gossip Joan as a duet, very effective and entertaining. Obvious duets are pieces such as 'madam I am come a courting' and 'The Keys of Heaven'. Many of these country pieces were staple repertoire of village productions where the singers dressed up for the performances.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 06:21 PM

Hello and thank you Steve.

Oop North is where I am. I'll look for your paper online.

Extremely unlikely to be in London on 10th November, but hope it goes well.

Jag

Interesting point about the focus on sole singers: in Roud it says most 'trad' singing seems to have been like this, though it also discusses glees and rounds, and the Copper family are mentioned, with question about how typical they may have been. I found some of their work on youtube.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 06:05 PM

>>>>>>Is there a term for the subset of 'what the folk sang' (and of what falls within the 1954 definition and what as revived in the post 1950 folk clubs) that has been the centre of discussion in this thread?<<<<<<

jag,

You have identified in this question one of the much-discussed bones of contention. Terminology for our genre is rife with difficulties. Part of the problem is that some people don't want to accept that most words in the English language have multiple meanings/definitions and 'folk song' is no exception. In fact like the language itself the meaning of 'folk song' is continuing to evolve. All 3 of your subgenres can and do use the words 'folk song' to describe them. Most of us are happy to use the words to describe all 3 and use extra adjectives to narrow things down, such as 'contemporary song' 'traditional song'. This has been discussed and argued on many threads and again will continue to be so.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 05:52 PM

I thought I had Lee's book but on searching apparently not so I'd better not comment. The relationship between the two genres is quite complex and songs and influences move both ways. Like most genres Music Hall was influenced by a wide spectrum of other mostly smaller genres such as glee singing, London tavern singing, the coal cellars, burlesque in the theatre, American Minstrels and much more. Burlesquing folk songs and ballads predates the Music Hall but continued into the Music Hall era. Many Music Hall songs imitated folk songs and some were eventually taken up in oral tradition, classic example, Jim the Carter Lad by Harry Linn. Another example, a tavern song 'Little Pigs' was widely printed on broadsides and eventually oral versions were used in the Music Hall culminating in the 1920s recordings on 78s as 'The Old Sow'. 2 of the most prolific writers of the Music Hall era, Harry Clifton and Joe Geoghegan, had many of their songs continue in oral tradition. I don't know where you're based but I'm giving a presentation on the relationship between the 2 genres at Cecil Sharp House in London on the 10th November. There is also an earlier paper I wrote, with examples, on the TSF website.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 03:17 PM

Maybe drifting off topic (or back to dialect poets...), but what is the relationship to Auld Daddy Darkness in the last line of which Wee Davie makes his appearance. Is one referring to the other or are they both older Scottish 'characters'?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 01:58 PM

Aha, Jack, this "Wee Davie Daylicht" seems to have a Roud number, and if it is the same song, it was printed as early as 1890 and credited to Robert Tennant.

Roud Broadside Index (B116744)

Tzu


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 10:50 AM

An example of the sort of thing "jag" was talking about: Hamish Henderson collected a lullaby "Wee Davie Daylicht" in southwest Scotland and published it in "Tocher" with no information about its origins beyond the singer he got it from. In fact it was written in the 1920s (or maybe a bit earlier) and published in a book of songs of the "national" or "community" song genre.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 10:18 AM

Since it is back I will ask what I was going to ask just as it paused.

Is there a term for the subset of 'what the folk sang' (and of what falls within the 1954 definition and what as revived in the post 1950 folk clubs) that has been the centre of discussion in this thread?

Almost all the songs mentioned here were sung (and revived) by solo singers. No-one seems inclined to discuss wassail songs, work songs, local carols, drinking songs etc.

They tend not to have the catchy tunes and easy-to-join-in-with rhythms of the music hall, pleasure garden or stage tunes that are known to be such. As discussed above scanning the words into the tune can be tricky.

There melodies often feature modes other than the major and minor of 'art music' and often use gapped scales.

From the descriptions of and by many collectors there seems to have been a collection bias towards these features and a tendency of source singers to offer them.

If, in a parallel with Lloyd's eastern European truck driver, a carter had heard the lads of the town singing something from the pleasure garden then gone home and wrote a little song to a similar tune would we identify it as a 'folk song'? Or would it be regarded as just another example of popular song?

Is there a name for this 'sub-genre'. It is almost as if the collectors and revivalists had selected for 'unpopular song'.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 09:07 AM

Steve, while on the topic of books, do you know 'Folk Song and Music Hall' by Edward Lee? Is it worth reading, if so? (NB it can be got relatively cheap 2nd hand, but if it isn't any good why waste money?)

Hoping you'll have time to reply. Thanks

Tzu


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 10:18 AM

I found myself thinking that the strong sense of rhythm in USA folk versions of British originals must have come from African influences

I doubt the US and UK evolved all that differently. Military culture has always been a huge presence in the US (and still is, to an extent unimaginable here - who has ever heard of a kid being sent to a "military academy" in the UK?). The early jazz musicians were military trained and used military instruments, and fife bands survived into the middle of the 20th century when Bayard researched them in western Pennsylvania - their idiom was not that different from the Irish or Scottish sectarian flute band style. African-American musicians can't have been immune to influence from military music of European origin.

Quite possibly Irish music was more similar in this respect than is generally recognized. My great-grandfather was a peasant from Mayo who joined the British Army at 14 and learned to play the flute in Afghanistan; there wasn't anything extraordinary about this. The British Army was where almost all flutes used in Irish music came from. Military rhythms must have influenced Irish dance music rhythms.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 10:04 AM

some of Sharp's 'tradition bearers' apparently could not recognise their songs when he had 'harmonised' them ie, put simply, had fitted chords for piano to the tunes.

I am no sort of tradition bearer but I often can't get any idea of the tune from the MIDI harmonizations on the contemplator.com site. The melody note could be any pitch in that overcomplicated texture of homogeneous organ sound.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 09:45 AM

"That's what our friend in the White House does."

Obviously he's my main role model these days, Vic.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 05:56 AM

Brian, you really need to call a press conference and explain how you MISSPOKE! That's what our friend in the White House does.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 05:48 AM

Aargh, should have said UNwise in line 1 above!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 05:28 AM

Phil: Yes, I agree that an unaccompanied singer would be wise to try and reproduce someone's performance that was originally dependent on a guitar accompaniment. But then I'd always prefer to back to an original source (Walter Pardon recording, book, VWML online archive etc) anyway.

"But are we agreed that 'as written' the thing needs work?"

In the case of the St George ballad, and also the Peterloo material I'm working on right now, I'd say a definite 'yes'.

"And has my idea that in *some* cases singers may not have made the tweaks successfully sunk without trace?"

I fear it has, since I can't find it. But, yes, I'm sure it's possible to find recordings of singers who are having some difficulty bedding the words into a tune. Though this may be partly a matter of memory: as I've said before, some 'source singers' visited by collectors may not have actively sung a song for many years. And many of them were not 'performers' in the sense we understand it now, so achieving a polished rendition may not have been a priority.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 05:23 PM

Evening Brian

First, your post set me interested in knowing more about how ballads/broadsheets changed: I've read a few but not thought much about historical order/changes apart from what is in Roud/Bishop's book.

I get what you mean about changing things; I actually do this from time to time and one thing I/we did it with accidentally got 'collected'. But enough said there. It wasn't folk, not really, probably....

Funnily enough, I can 'imagine' a 'singable' version of the St George if the audience could be relied on to pick up on the references. My instinct would be to make it an ironic take on jingoism.

But are we agreed that 'as written' the thing needs work?

It's strange: I did some theory of music as a kid and very young you were expected to write a tune to fit set lyrics (key and time signature supplied) ensuring that significant words fell on a stressed beat as opposed to something like 'and' (and I know in some contexts even 'and' can be significant.

And has my idea that in *some* cases singers may not have made the tweaks successfully sunk without trace?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 05:10 PM

Brian and I seem to have 'cross posted'. So I had not read his thoughts on St George before my post.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 04:33 PM

Evening all.

Brian: My opinion on this rhythmic irregularity is that it wasn't a matter of consistent 'broken rhythm', but more a case of single phrases sung in consistent rhythm, but with extended gaps at the ends of the phrases.

I think that's a big part of it. I also think - just from my own experience singing songs unaccompanied - that it gets to be quite natural to add a beat, or (perhaps more frequently) drop a beat, if a particular line doesn't have the right number of syllables. If you're accompanied there's a lot more pressure to keep a steady rhythm, if necessary by compressing two syllables or stretching out one.

Being a latecomer to this whole thing, I learned The Holland Handkerchief from the Waterson:Carthy recording. Initially I sang it exactly as Norma did, but without guitar accompaniment to hold the shape it sounded forced and artificial. It only came alive for me when I let the words drive the tune, dropping or adding beats where necessary. (The tune's still there, it just doesn't sound exactly the same each time round.) A friend asked if I'd got it from Packie Byrne, which I took as a compliment!

The other pitfall for unaccompanied singers - and one which may account for the impression that folk songs aren't foot-tappers - is the equal and opposite danger of learning a song note for note, and stress for stress, from somebody who's already buggered about with it (technical term). Peter Bellamy, God rest him, is a terrible source for song tunes - wonderful to listen to, but you try singing them and very often what you learn won't actually be the original tune at all. Several times now I've got a song off pat from a Bellamy version, only to realise some time later that there's a simpler - and more metrically regular - tune lurking in there somewhere.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 11:50 AM

Hello Steve

Re ballads and rhythm.

I really did select one more or less at random but forget how. It is a Bodleian one starting Why should We boast of Arthur and his Knights, called St George and the Dragon, and the version was printed in Coventry. It would be just my luck to come up with an atypical example, but you could check it out as it comes up if you go to the site and search for St George. Happy to be corrected if wrong on this.


I accept your points, they make sense to me.

In Roud, Bishop comments that it is interesting how 'ballads' printed without named tunes do turn up sung to different tunes, but that surprisingly many have rather similar tunes, or similar phrases within them.

A fascinating detail from Roud was that some of Sharp's 'tradition bearers' apparently could not recognise their songs when he had 'harmonised' them ie, put simply, had fitted chords for piano to the tunes.

I'm not sure that having motivation and time are two important factors, and also, importantly, the question of whether this is a practice one has contact with.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 11:38 AM

Pseudonymous:
"...suppose you have in front of you a ballad sheet with no tune on it. It might not be written in a regular metre... You try to fit it to a tune you know, and end up with something lacking rhythm, or where the emphasis of the tune falls on words that aren't naturally stressed in spoken English. You also end up having to change the tune when there are more words than your original tune has notes for."

Firstly, the ballad you mentioned (Roud V2800) is a blackletter broadside from the mid-17th century, although it does seem to have been printed up until at least 1800 in unaltered from (interesting to see some illustrative woodcuts that actually reflect the content of the ballad, by the way!). Steve Gardham knows far more about this than me, but my experience is that texts from this early period were invariably long and wordy, and actually quite hard to sing - the evidence that anyone actually sang them in that form is scanty. The broadside texts that correspond most closely with collected folksongs (Henry Martin, or Sweet Primroses, to use two examples already discussed) were much later - probably the first half of the 19th century - and far shorter and less verbose.

The second thing to say is that traditional singers were pretty good at fitting lyrics to tunes, amending texts if necessary. My old friend Gordon Tyrrall wrote a dissertation many years ago which compared the texts of songs in the Copper Family's repertoire with the corresponding broadsides, and found that the songs as sung by the Coppers had had a lot of awkward edges knocked off to make them more singable. The other thing that can be done is to lengthen certain words if the text is too short to fit the melody line, or insert extra syllables into words if there are too many notes in the melody. Joseph Taylor did the latter: "Poacher bold as I uddenfold", and so on. But, if push came to shove, and the text had too many words to fit into the tune, singers would sometimes simply lengthen the line as much as necessaryto accommodate all the words. There's no problem doing that if you don't have a rhythmic accompaniment.

I've set more than a few broadsides (including some 'unsingable' ones!) to existing or new tunes in the past. For what it's worth, if I was forced to perform your St George ballad, I could make it fit a tune I wrote very recently in 4:4 for a 19th century Chartist song, by lingering on certain words, or inserting an extra one where there are too few to fit the line, or by squeezing in a word before the first beat.

The opening lines:
"Why should we boast of Arthur and his knights
Knowing how many men have performed fights"

...are particularly clunky, but you might get around the problem of the stresses in line 2 by squeezing in the 'knowing' ahead of the beat - so the first-beat stress falls on how, then singing per-form-ed as three syllables to fill the gap. If it were me I'd be more radical and edit it to something like "When so many other heroes / have fought for what is right..." [stresses underlined]. There's always a way.


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