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New Book: Folk Song in England

The Sandman 22 Oct 17 - 07:57 AM
Jim Carroll 22 Oct 17 - 04:40 AM
RTim 21 Oct 17 - 07:52 PM
The Sandman 21 Oct 17 - 05:38 PM
GUEST,John Robinson 21 Oct 17 - 05:15 PM
Jim Carroll 21 Oct 17 - 01:17 PM
Steve Gardham 21 Oct 17 - 12:44 PM
Jim Carroll 21 Oct 17 - 11:54 AM
Jim Carroll 21 Oct 17 - 11:49 AM
GUEST 21 Oct 17 - 11:10 AM
Steve Gardham 21 Oct 17 - 11:07 AM
Jim Carroll 21 Oct 17 - 11:02 AM
Steve Gardham 21 Oct 17 - 10:47 AM
Jim Carroll 21 Oct 17 - 04:55 AM
Richard Bridge 18 Oct 17 - 05:52 PM
Steve Gardham 16 Oct 17 - 02:31 PM
Steve Gardham 16 Oct 17 - 02:21 PM
Jack Campin 16 Oct 17 - 01:28 PM
Steve Gardham 16 Oct 17 - 01:16 PM
GUEST 16 Oct 17 - 12:12 PM
Steve Gardham 16 Oct 17 - 11:12 AM
GUEST 16 Oct 17 - 10:31 AM
GUEST 16 Oct 17 - 09:15 AM
GUEST,Christopher Thomas 16 Oct 17 - 05:34 AM
Richard Mellish 16 Oct 17 - 03:52 AM
Steve Gardham 15 Oct 17 - 11:51 AM
GUEST,Christopher Thomas 15 Oct 17 - 10:50 AM
GUEST,Christopher Thomas 15 Oct 17 - 10:44 AM
Steve Gardham 10 Oct 17 - 05:47 PM
Vic Smith 10 Oct 17 - 04:37 PM
Steve Gardham 10 Oct 17 - 03:58 PM
Vic Smith 10 Oct 17 - 03:39 PM
Steve Gardham 10 Oct 17 - 12:21 PM
GUEST,Peter Laban 10 Oct 17 - 11:54 AM
Steve Gardham 10 Oct 17 - 11:47 AM
Vic Smith 10 Oct 17 - 07:07 AM
Steve Gardham 09 Oct 17 - 03:06 PM
RTim 09 Oct 17 - 11:08 AM
RTim 08 Oct 17 - 06:07 PM
RTim 08 Oct 17 - 05:54 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Oct 17 - 05:35 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Oct 17 - 05:33 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Oct 17 - 05:30 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Oct 17 - 04:50 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Oct 17 - 04:15 PM
Richard Mellish 08 Oct 17 - 11:36 AM
GUEST,matt milton 08 Oct 17 - 06:27 AM
Richard Mellish 08 Oct 17 - 04:46 AM
GUEST,matt milton 07 Oct 17 - 05:26 AM
RTim 06 Oct 17 - 07:17 PM
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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Oct 17 - 07:57 AM

RTIM,naturally i am talking from my limited experience as is everyone else including your good self.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Oct 17 - 04:40 AM

I don't know who John Robinson is, but for me, he sums up what books like this should be about - an excellent short recommendation to an important book
Can I just reiterate why I find definitions of folk song so important
As someone who came from a working family, I was educated to believe that people like me had no cultural history and if I wished to acquire a culture I had to go to the great writers or painters or composers - in the case of the latter, the best of those were mostly foreigners.
The general thrust of my education was that culture was not for me anyway - all I needed on leaving school was to tot up my pay packet at the end of the week (one teacher actually told me that when I was late for his class because I had been delayed by a music teacher who kept me back to explain something I had failed to grasp.
My introduction to the finer points of folk song came through Lloyd's book, which suggested that working people might have a culture worth talking about.
That was magnified a thousandfold with the nights I spent in Critics Group meetings - beautiful songs and ballads created, sung and passed on by working people.
That became part of my self-identification, something to be proud of.
That has remained with me ever since , through my contact with Irish land labourers and small farmers, the Norfolk fishermen we met, the village carpenter who gave us all those songs and all that information, gathered from his farm-labouring family, and most of all, from the despised, uneducated, non-literate Travellers who have proved to be the saviours of many of our traditional ballads.
Thirty odd years with them has confirmed everything Ewan and Bert were saying all those years ago.
One of the weakest sentences in Roud's book comes on the page Steve G insited I shouldn't read
"Most songs which were later recorded as folk songs were not written by the singing and dancing throng, or by ploughboys, milkmaids, miners or weavers, but by professional or semi-professional urban song-writers or poets."
Our knowledge of our oral folk song tradition goes back only as far as the beginning of the twentieth century, beyond that, all is a mystery
Nobody has the information to quantify how many of our folk songs were created, certainly not "most" - the information does not exist.   
The term 'folk' was first assigned to the culture of the "lower" classes in the 1840s
Before that it was "popular" - of the people and that goes back even earlier, at least to the 1770s, when John Brand put together his 'Popular Antiquities"
Francis Child assigned his Ballads to the "common" people when he entitled them "Popular" - of the people.
The earlier researchers had no hesitation in recognising the creative merits of labouring people, it's taken 20 and 21st century desk jockeys to tear down that suggestion.
For me, most of our folk songs are obviously the creations of people who knew what they were singing about first hand - so many of the songs come with dirt under their fingernails and an intimate knowledge of tools and work practices.
It took someone with local knowledge to know that Oxborough Banks referred to an area settled by returning Australian transportees when 'Maid of Australia was composed - our songs are full of snippets of information like this
That's why I believe most of our folk songs were made by 'the folk' and, my love of them as beautiful songs aside, that's why I believe them to be as important as I do.
Bob Geldof - eat your heart out!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: RTim
Date: 21 Oct 17 - 07:52 PM

Mr Sandman (ie. Dick.......) although you have been around for many years, and know your stuff - you can't and don't know everyone involved in this music and how much "enthusiasm" they may have for it. Don't assume too much...please!

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Oct 17 - 05:38 PM

"At the Group meetings, we would embark on a night of practical work, at the end of which, Ewan would flop back in his chair, tell us he had had enough and was going to bed, then, more often than not, embark on an hour-long plus soliloquy on something that had been raised during the work we had done.
They were off the cuff and generated by sheer passion for the songs Ewan loved - they would invariably send me home walking a foot above the pavement"
to have that kind of passion for music is wonderful as it is to be able to pass enthusiasm and passion on to others.
I have been sitting down playing music for the last hour and would still do so even if i never had another gig.
I regret to say that much of the enthusiasm and passion shown by lloyd and macColl seems to be not as prevalent on the uk folk scene as it used to be, Carthy always seems to show passion ane enthusism for trad music too


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,John Robinson
Date: 21 Oct 17 - 05:15 PM

Many thanks, as I had no idea this book existed until now. I've recently started to sing and play guitar in my local pub, after being gently coerced by a local session musician, so further knowledge and source material is always more than welcome.

I bought Steve Roud and Julia Bishop's revamped Penguin Book of English Folk songs a while ago, and wish I'd got the hardback version, because my paperback copy is already extremely dogeared.

I find it hard to find 'English' folk songs, but perhaps that's just me. After a bit of digging I often discover that whatever shiny new/old song I've learned was originally Scottish, collected by Francis J Child, but I suppose that's the often cited 'folk process' for you. Still, I fancy learning Brigg Fair: that's closer to home for me.

I think the ambiguous origins of many folk songs are what lend them their appeal, and I tend to avoid overly academic approaches to a musical form which, after all, did not originate in someone's study. 'What is a folk song?' I don't know. I'm too busy singing them to care, or I have no time to ponder, but I passionately love them - and that's what I would like to pass on to anyone who cares to hear.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Oct 17 - 01:17 PM

"Any other usage of the word you don't accept so there is no argument."
You implied that there are many - what are they?
" You appear to be saying that words can only have one meaning. "
That is what this is all about Steve - both here and on the Clubs thread
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Oct 17 - 12:44 PM

Jim, for traditional folksong you already have your 'definition'. I prefer to use the word 'descriptors', but I'm quite happy to use it as A definition.

Any other usage of the word you don't accept so there is no argument.

The other usage of the word 'folksong' as stated above by others is much more loose and defies a definition as do many things that don't have hard and fast boundaries. Even the '54' descriptors are open to interpretation and don't all have hard and fast boundaries as stated by SteveR. You don't accept the wider more loose meaning but you're the only person I know who doesn't.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Oct 17 - 11:54 AM

Sorry nuased up some of thaat posting - some should have beeeen sent to Folk club thread
Never got the hang of multi-tasking
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Oct 17 - 11:49 AM

So we can talk to each other why do you have to put 'Beans' on a tin label?
Why do you people do this - if we bahave as you do you'd be the first to scream 'folk Police'
Nobody is forcing you to participate in this - why not go to another thread and tell them what they should and should not be discussing - or go and burn a few books maybe?
""I think 'Somebloke sums it up- what a lot of bollocks."
Reciprocated, I'm sure Jim
"Beoga and Gatehouse"
Who ?
I prefer the thousands of young kids who are taking it up independently and the Clancy Summer school and the Irish Traditional Music archive as my examples
You only have to turn TV or radio on any night of the week to see the results of the present influx of youngsters - maybe the media hasn't made it up as far as you!
Nowt much wrong with this for
PRIME TIME TV
"Willie McBride" (No Man's Land) with Arthur McBride
Sorry Raggy - a slip
I know what song you are talking about - I used to sing it until it got sung to death
Personally, I prefer Boggles 'Waltzing Matilda'
"You appear to be saying that words can only have one meaning"
No Steve - I'm saying they have to have A MEANING
If my definition is incomplete - what's yours?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Oct 17 - 11:10 AM

Tell me, why is any definition needed ?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Oct 17 - 11:07 AM

That's a silly viewpoint, Jim. Have a good think about it before you press the send button. You appear to be saying that words can only have one meaning. NO LAZINESS and definitely NO INDIFFERENCE!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Oct 17 - 11:02 AM

"What I have always said is that 'folksong' has come to mean different things to different groups of people and denying that is burying one's head in the sand."
As has a lot of words Steve, but if you are serious about your own work and interests you have to go with the established and documented consensus - it is a nonsense to do otherwise
If you involve yourself in something as folk song publicly you take responsibility for it
If you disagree with any aspect of how it is regarded, you either go with it or fight for any changes to be included in the new understanding
We are supposed to be thinking human beings, not sheep
That fact that nobody can agree on a new definition and any confusion is down to laziness or indifference is good enough for me
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Oct 17 - 10:47 AM

I read the chapter and all of the book thoroughly and have already returned to the salient points several times having annotated the bits that were most relevant to my own studies. I have no quibble at all with any of the '54' descriptives and never have had. What I have always said is that 'folksong' has come to mean different things to different groups of people and denying that is burying one's head in the sand. I can deal with this as most words in the dictionary have a whole list of synonyms and I can't see why 'folksong' should be any different.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Oct 17 - 04:55 AM

I thought I'd catch this before it sank entirely out of sight
I still haven't read the book right through - mainly through having to prepare a talk Im due to give in a couple of weeks, so I decided to read through the chapters that interest me most an return to the whole thing later
So far, I find it an indispensable gathering together of facts that I'll find immensely useful in future
I do find myself dipping into Lloyd's book of the same name quite often as I miss his warmth and enthusiasm for the song even when his facts are somewhat questionable
Bert was a singer who never quite made up his mind which side of the fence he was on, but he did love the songs with the passion of a performer, which was obvious to anybody who ever saw him perform live - I have to say I miss that side of things in Roud's book though I may not have come to it yet
I disagree with some of Steve's comments "a folk song is a song sung by a folk singer" being one that sticks out like a sore thumb, though it is qualified somewhat
I can see this statement being used in future as serious an argument as the old "horse" joke to justify putting anything under the "folk umbrella"
Both statements are utter nonsense when taken seriously.
One thing the book has confirmed for me is that there are no messiahs carrying the folk word - there are no conclusive answers to many of the questions and there never will be
THere is some information scattered around out there which, if we are going to fill in some of the blanks, need to be brought together - that requires co-operation, not the type of conflict and evasion that this subject has generated so far
I came to research through MacColl's suggestion that in order to become a better singer we needed to examine and understand the songs
The first suggestion made to a new member of the Critics group was to listen to as many field singers as were available and work out what they were doing - this set Pat and I off on a journey that has never really ended
At the Group meetings, we would embark on a night of practical work, at the end of which, Ewan would flop back in his chair, tell us he had had enough and was going to bed, then, more often than not, embark on an hour-long plus soliloquy on something that had been raised during the work we had done.
They were off the cuff and generated by sheer passion for the songs Ewan loved - they would invariably send me home walking a foot above the pavement
I have recordings of many of those sessions - I still get a buzz and a lump in the throat listening to them - after all this time.
It struck me that a perfect springboard to reinvigourating our music would be a combination of Roud's detail, Bet's fond love and MacColl's informed passion for the songs that have become part of our lives.
Incidentally, Steve Gardham said somewhat insultingly "Jim, avoid this page at all costs."
I read page 13 without being struck down by lightening, I disagree with some of it as it does not all conform with much we learned from our own field work (but am happy to debbate this with Steve Roud or anybody at any time (as long as I am treated as an equal).
Perhaps Steve G and others should read the end of that chapter where Roud says about the '54 definition "apart from a quibble with "oral" in the fist sentence, if I had been at the conference, I would have happily voted in favour of the resolution"
Roud seems not to have the problem of whether Bob Geldof counts as "folk" that many people seem to have
But there again, there are no messiahs
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Oct 17 - 05:52 PM

Bah. I have the book for my birthday thanks to my lovely girlfriend, and I am very grateful to Brian Peters for his comments above - and I am now going to have to read the whole book.

Based on the few bits of the above that I have read I have three comments so far.

1. Nobody seems to give credit for the input of Barry Walker on Lloyd.

2. I wish Malcolm Douglas were still here.

3. Although my blood pressure is but 130 over 80 (not bad at the age of 69) I am going to have to source relevant tablets and some worry beads before reading the whole of this thread. Have the pseuds already appeared? I see some horse definitioners (or close thereto) have.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Oct 17 - 02:31 PM

Is there any evidence that the several strathspeys with the 'Braes' title ever had any words at all prior to Tannahill's which though rarely are found in oral tradition quite widely?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Oct 17 - 02:21 PM

Stenhouse: 'This song, beginning "Fareweel to a' our Scottish fame," is likewise an unclaimed production of Burns.It is adapted to the old air, entitled "A Parcel of Rogues in the Nation" which appears both in M'Gibbon and Oswald's collections. Dr. Blacklock had also written a song to the same melody; for Burns, in a note subjoined to his verses, says, 'I inclose what I think the best set of the tune. Dr. B's words, inclosed may follow the same tune. Johnson, however, omitted the Dr's verses, as he had no room on the plate.

Are you claiming this as a folk song, Jack? I think Jim's definition might exclude it.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jack Campin
Date: 16 Oct 17 - 01:28 PM

many of the songs were older than the broadsides
To pinch one of Jim's most often used arguments: How could he possibly have known that?


Two Scottish examples: "Parcel of Rogues" and "The Braes of Balquhidder". For both, a tune of that name was printed decades before any words we know of.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Oct 17 - 01:16 PM

Jim, You need to reset your cookie. You're guesting at the moment.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Oct 17 - 12:12 PM

Thanks Steve - it really is good to be back - you can tolerate beautiful nurses for so long
"Why don't you learn to split long posts into paragraphs, Jim?"
Dunno guest - put it down to my crappy Secondary Modern education
I tend to go with the flow
Will make an effort
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Oct 17 - 11:12 AM

Welcome back, Jim!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Oct 17 - 10:31 AM

Why don't you learn to split long posts into paragraphs, Jim?

Two or three lines, then a blank line. It makes on-screen reading so much easier.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Oct 17 - 09:15 AM

Hi all
Good to be back
It's amazing what goes through your mind while you're lying on your back with nothing to think about, as I was once told by a female friend
We seem to have moved on somewhat since Steve and I went head-to-head all those centuries ago.
This beautiful statement by the MacColl at the end of the Song Carriers series is what started it all

"Well, there they are, the songs of our people. Some of them have been centuries in the making, some of them undoubtedly were born on the broadside presses. Some have the marvellous perfection of stones shaped by the sea's movement. Others are as brash as a cup-final crowd. They were made by professional bards and by unknown poets at the plough-stilts and the handloom. They are tender, harsh,, passionate, ironical, simple, profound.... as varied, indeed, as the landscape of this island.
We are indebted to the Harry Coxes and Phil Tanners, to Colm Keane and Maggie MaccDonagh, to Belle Stewart and Jessie Murray and to all the sweet and raucous unknown singers who have helped to carry our people's songs across the centuries."

The Song Carriers covered the whole gamut from the song referenced in Wedderburn's Complaynt of Scotland to the WW2 song, 'My Darling Sleeps in England so your sweeping condemnation covers the lot and not just Sharp and his gang
I posted it and Steve asked "do you believe that romantic rubbish?"
I confess - I confess - yes I did, and I still still do, and nothing that has been said since has made me doubt it - for me, it dot's all the folk i's and crosses the t's, for me at least.
Had Steve confined his percentages to what "appeared in print", rather than originated, and addressed those figures to what was collected by Sharp my response would have been "I know that, my mate, Bob Thomson told me that there were a lot back in 1970"
"Origination" is a different ball game altogether.
I believe quite firmly that rural working people not only were capable of having made our folk songs, but our own researches indicate that there is no reason whatever to doubt that they did - but I have always emphasised that we can't possibly know because our working knowledge of the oral tradition goes back no further back than the beginning of the 20th century
I have given an indication of the number of anonymous local songs made in the lifetimes of our singers - they can be heard on the Clare County Library website under 'The Carroll/Mackenzie Collection'
Clare people made songs by the hundreds and, as Peter Laban pointed out, it was almost certainly the same throughout Ireland
Our friend, Maurice Leyden up in Ulster is at present compiling a collection of songs made by textile workers
If they made songs in that number, why shouldn't our known folk songs be numbered among them
We found the same was the case with the non-literate Travellers - songmakers using their skills to express aspects of their lives
Steve offered the excuse that (to paraphrase) English workers were too busy earning a living to make songs
My old friend Harry Boardman compiled an impressive number of similarly made songs when I lived in Manchester in the sixties
AS a singer looking for songs, I walked into Manchester Central Library in 1968 and asked if they had any local songs and was handed a few books of broadsides - I found one singable song
AS I handed them back the nice lady asked me, "have you seen the newspapers we have on microfilm
I spent the next few months peering at editions of 'Black Dwarf' and other political publications, all containing song columns of material (mostly anonymous) composed by cotton workers, spinners, land labourers, teachers, political activists - not all deathless verse by any means, but often a damn signt better than the conveyor belt stuff spewed out by the hacks
Some of the Lancashire weaver poets published, most did not -
I seem to remember Roy Palmer did some similar research in the Midlands; I know people around The Grey Cock Folk Club in Birmingham did.
We know that Bothy workers made songs independent of print Maire Ruadh, or Red-headed Mary was making songs and leading protesters in defiance of those clearing out the crofters, - the BBC even has recordings of waulking songs being composed on the spot
The mining communities produced their own songs and their own stars - Joe Corrie and Tommy Armstrong spring to mind.
Many of these songs were ignored by the collectors because they did not fir the mould - but they certainly fitted the definition of "folk" I choose to work by.
Working people were once natural songmakers - it seems ludicrous to ignore that fact and put the making of our folksongs down to largely ham-fisted hacks churning out largely dross to make money - Child's "dunghill" sums that side of song making perfectly - that man was a star (did you know he actually made a song himself, but I can't imagine him ever singing it?)
It occurred to me while I was incapacitated that what is desperately needed is a forum where thase arguments can take place without acrimony or agenda-driving - a place where we can simply exchange ideas on subjects such as this.
Hugh Shields one established a paper-based 'Irish Folk Music Federation' - we have many of their cheaply produced booklets - invaluable stuff
I see no reason why an on-line site cannot bring people from all over together to thrash out these subjects
Of course, we might be forced to get our act together and come to some understanding as to what we mean by folk song (I'll go and get me tin hat!!)
By the way - the song being discussed above
"Matt, try rereading p13. Jim, avoid this page at all costs."
Insulting as ever Steve
I have now read a large section of Roud's book and so far have found little to seriously disagree with
I don't "avoid" reading anything because I might disagree with it
Try answering some of my points instead of hiding behind referees who agree with you
Hopefully, if we ever get to exchanging ideas we can lose this unpleasantnessd
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Christopher Thomas
Date: 16 Oct 17 - 05:34 AM

Going to the Blog page from the Home page should work! but thanks for your interest


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 16 Oct 17 - 03:52 AM

> That should be : www.broadsidestories.net/blog/folk song in england
But I can't seem to make the blue clicky work! <

That URL gives me a "404", though with a link to the home page http://www.broadsidestories.net/

From the home page, clicking on the "Broadside Stories" tab at the top takes me to a page which says "Click on the Broadside Stories bar above for the full index". But that's what I've already done to get that far. I can't get any further.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 15 Oct 17 - 11:51 AM

Very fair and well-written review, Christopher. I'll have a closer look at your site later.

While searching for this review I found another very different at www.caughtbytheriver.net written by Cally ...... which comes more from the angle of a music historian.

Both reviews I think Steve would be very happy with.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Christopher Thomas
Date: 15 Oct 17 - 10:50 AM

That should be : www.broadsidestories.net/blog/folk song in england
But I can't seem to make the blue clicky work!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Christopher Thomas
Date: 15 Oct 17 - 10:44 AM

There's a few interesting hares in this thread. You might like to look at the review in my blog at


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 05:47 PM

Yes, localisation was one of their tricks, but it wasn't that common. The printers were generally in too much of a hurry to worry about the finer points. The type setting of the ballads was often left to an apprentice. Perhaps this was down to the writers.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 04:37 PM

Steve wrote:-
...the likes of Sharp would have wanted the songs to have a universal appeal in order to sell books which would exclude many songs with a local flavour.

Interestingly, The broadside printers seemed to have the opposite approach; they seemed to want place names to relate to their particular area to increase their local appeal.

In the various Van Diemans Land printings, how many different towns did "Poor Tom Brown" come from?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 03:58 PM

Yes, well worthy of a song collector's attention. As far as publishing goes the likes of Sharp would have wanted the songs to have a universal appeal in order to sell books which would exclude many songs with a local flavour. Perhaps they also had something of this in the back of their minds whilst they were collecting. However songs like 'Lakes of Colephin' reached a universal audience in print and oral tradition. Only a small percentage of both printed and local songs made it into the national corpus and dispersed print certainly had a lot to do with this. Maybe simple chance accounts for a lot of what survived.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 03:39 PM

When I read Martin's comment that I quoted above where he writes:-
He also realised that some singers were capable of creating songs from scratch ? to record a local event, for example.

I couldn't help thinking of Jim's long list from his post on 04 Oct 17 - 08:03 PM. I don't recognise any of these songs from their titles but the content they suggest - elections, fairs, drownings etc. seem to put them in the category that Martin was describing; and well worthy of a song collector's attention.

Yes, Steve, I will contribute to the thread that you have started, but first I have somehow to give an impression of this fascinating, wide-reaching book in a 400 word review.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 12:21 PM

You are absolutely right, Peter, that it is a lovely fillum to watch and listen to and songmaking something like what occurs here undoubtedly went on in other places.

Unfortunately by the time the collectors came along to record this in England any local songs were completely swamped by the printed songs that were being spread around the whole country. I can think of something similar in the Hunt supper gatherings that can still be found in the north. For some of them the repertoire is being constantly added to in this way, but the folk scene has passed it by and is unaware of it. One area where this was very lively was the West Pennine area near Sheffield, but here the local interest has died out and the singers are now part of the folk scene. The carols in the same area is another example of a lively scene still flourishing.

If you look at the wonderful film of the singers in the Blaxhall Ship in East Anglia from the 50s there are no local songs being sung. They are all songs from the general English repertoire. I have given examples of rural songwriters in my local area but none of their songs have survived to become part of oral tradition.

It may well be that 250 years ago England had something like what is shown in Diarmuid's film but if it did precious little has survived.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 11:54 AM

I couldn't help thinking of a part of this discussion when watching this 1981 documentary about Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin. I know, an Irish context but the part where the Muscrai songmakers get mention underlines Jim Carroll's point made earlier. I would find it very hard to believe nothing of the sort would have happened elsewhere.

That aside, it is a lovely fillum to watch.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 11:47 AM

***He came to understand that this was not always the case and that many of the songs were older than the broadsides***

To pinch one of Jim's most often used arguments: How could he possibly have known that? If he was referring to the late 18thc/early 19thc broadsides, yes there's plenty of evidence but mainly from older printed sources. Those in manuscripts are few and far between.

There is also the fact that although SBG spent some time in the BL and had his own collection of 19thc broadsides he did not have access to anything like the resources we have today. This also applies to Frank Kidson who was also very clued up on song origins and histories. These are not criticisms by the way, just observations.

I've just started on the new book, Vic, and looking forward to it immensely. We perhaps need a new thread. I'll start one.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 10 Oct 17 - 07:07 AM

This morning, I finished reading the book about Sabine Baring-Gould by Martin Graebe. It is a mighty read in more senses that one. By the time that I got to page 339 of tiny print, I came to the penultimate paragraph which I reproduce below. I knew that in honesty and fairness that I had to give it here as a counterweight to my post of 03 Oct 17 - 06:01 AM where I quoted that S-B was firmly of the opinion that the majority of the songs that he has collected as a young man were derived from broadsides. In this paragraph Martin writes -
One of Baring-Gould?s characteristics was that he had some mental flexibility and could change his mind if the evidence showed that his hypothesis was wrong. In respect of folk song his mind changed on several topics over the years. Having initially neglected the words of songs in favour of tunes he came to believe that the words were also important and deserved as good treatment as the tunes. Part of the reason for not having valued the words was his initial assumption that most traditional songs were derived from broadsides and other printer sources. He came to understand that this was not always the case and that many of the songs were older than the broadsides and better in many respects than the printed versions. He also realised that some, particularly the younger singers like John Woodridge and Sam Fone, had learned their songs from broadsides and he recognised that not only could singers fit broadside words to tunes that they knew, but that some could compose tunes themselves. He also realise hat some singers were capable of creating songs from scratch ? to record a local event, for example. The flexibility of understanding on Baring-Gould?s part was not a characteristic of other folk song collectors and theorists of the time demonstrated.

I think that the key words are flexibility of understanding rather than approaching this (or any) subject with a rigidity of thinking.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 09 Oct 17 - 03:06 PM

Thanks, Tim
Great interview!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: RTim
Date: 09 Oct 17 - 11:08 AM

Here is a link to an Interview with Steve on Grizzly Folk.......

https://www.grizzlyfolk.com/2017/08/30/what-is-folk-music-an-interview-with-steve-roud/


Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: RTim
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 06:07 PM

Ah - I see it now - Three Hearty Young Poachers - Roud 1690 - and I see what you mean about it appearing local - and both versions from close to Winchester.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: RTim
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 05:54 PM

Steve - Thanks - I thought you might be thinking of Avington Pond (obviously local) - but as you say on one version. You certainly had me searching in both Southern Harvest and the Manuscripts.
I will be looking into Young Henry the Poacher.........3 versions spread over a widish area.....

Best - Tim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 05:35 PM

*** I will use some other method of quoting from previous posts in future*** Just testing.


The text was retrieved and displayed in a simple set of brackets. ---mudelf


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 05:33 PM

04.50 posting.
It would appear the forum is struggling with my use of <<>>>. I will use some other method of quoting from previous posts in future.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 05:30 PM

Tim, struggling. The nearest I can get at the moment is either Avington Pond (but seemingly only 1 version) and Three Hearty Young Poachers (2 versions, perhaps that's the one I was thinking of). I'll have another try. I thought I had plotted the 3 versions of the song I referred to as coming from within a 20-mile radius of Winchester but it might have been just the 2. I've just turned 70 so I'm allowed a little senility.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 04:50 PM

Matt [Another thing that's just occurred to me is there's not much discussion of the Child ballads, which are a pretty canonical part of folk singing today]
Not that many of the Child Ballads actually were found in oral tradition in England in the late 19th/early 20th century. In fact if you look at the Child Ballads, the 305, not many of these seem to have existed in oral tradition in the British Isles for very long. There are obvious exceptions of course. Many of them were revived by the likes of MacColl, but their claim to substantial oral tradition is very slim. Quite a large portion have only been found in print, most of the Robin Hood ballads for instance.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 04:15 PM

Despite it's great breadth, Steve's book is only an overview of the subject. Just think how long the book would have been if at every touch and turn he had included examples. And if he had included even one example it could easily have gone to 50 pages on its own demonstrating the evolution of the song through say theatre, print, oral tradition. If you want chapter and verse on individual songs might I suggest Steve's other recent book The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, or even the Marrow Bones series edited by myself and Malcolm Douglas. Or my Dungbeetle articles on Mustrad.

Matt>>>>it rather begs the question of where they got such gifted talents and broad general knowledge from - being able to knock out so many songs with geographical and technical details about often arcane rural customs and seafaring practices<<<<<<

As Richard writes, these songs only actually form a small percentage of the corpus of material under discussion. The vast majority of the corpus is songs of a generic nature. The writers were obviously literate but generally at the bottom end of the poets scale, sometimes poets trying to turn a quick buck (bob). Writing poetry/songs has always been a precarious existence even at best. Many of the naval engagements were common knowledge and the taverns had plenty of seamen who wished to impart their knowledge of the battle. We have evidence they used newspaper reports occasionally. Of course they recycled older ballads, but as I said, as a rule even these can be traced back to what appears to be an original. Most of the songs attached to customs we have no idea how and where they originated and these form a major part of the 5%. However even some of these have their earliest extant versions in cheap print.

Here's a challenge for you, Matt. Give me a song that is part of the corpus that includes information that would be exclusive to rural dwellers. (Apart from which, we know there was a massive drift of country people into towns and cities to find work at the time when cheap broadsides were at their height. Some of these may have been literate enough to have become broadside writers.)

Tim, will find that song for you shortly.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 11:36 AM

Fair comment from GUEST,matt milton Date: 08 Oct 17 - 06:27 AM! It seems there's plenty of scope for another book. But still I remain grateful for what Steve and Julia have put into this one.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 06:27 AM

I am perhaps in danger of projecting my own predilections outwards here I've never bothered to learn those Colin and Phoebe type songs.

But one frustrating aspect of Roud's book is that I feel he doesn't involve himself in the repercussions of some of his findings. If a wassail song or May song or a seasonal songs relating to winter mendicant traditions was probably written by an urban broadsheet writer, that to me gives rise to all sorts of questions. Did much that we take for granted about the content of those traditions never actually exist in practice? Were broadsheet writers actively intervening/shaping the content of those traditions? Given that such songs are a significant part of what many folk singers today would regard as canonical, it seems odd to me that this wouldn't be explored in a large social history of folk music.

Another omission that I find odd in the book is that, given Roud's scholarship, he's uniquely placed to provide informative demonstrations of the folk process at work: while he mentions the fact that, just because working people did not write the songs, they liked them enough to learn them and shape them, it seems bizarre that he doesn't present any examples of how transformative (or not) this was.

I say bizarre because this is pretty much the key element of folk song. I had generally adumbrated broadsides as flowery, laborious and over-written, as compared to a folk-processed poetic, streamlined economy in a folk song as I have learned it. I mentioned the Streams of Lovely Nancy earlier because it was the most dramatic example I could think of of the folk process at work: a song that common sense suggests probably wasn't first written the way it has come down to most of us. But there are much more lucid examples I can think of off the top of my head: Six Dukes Went A Fishing for example, or the version of 'Brisk Young Sailor' collected in the Vaughn Williams 'Bushes and Briars' book. Or the genuinely weird song 'The Pelican' (collected by Gardiner, I think).

It seems odd to me that someone writing such a mammoth project, entitled 'Folk Song in England' wouldn't want to discuss the folk process more, and provide examples from his considerable research showing it at work. Those conclusions might be "actually, songs don't change that much"; or they might be "it's interesting to note what the song loses in unnecessary detail from this broadside of 1860 to the version collected by Cecil Sharp in..." There's none of that (so far as I've read) in Roud's book. Which is one of many reasons I'm finding it quite a frustrating read.

Another thing that's just occurred to me is there's not much discussion of the Child ballads, which are a pretty canonical part of folk singing today. But I guess Roud would point me to the bit in his introduction where he states that the book is about what folk music was, rather than what it is. I'm increasingly feeling that Roud's own priorities about what's important to discuss, to expand on, to go into detail on, or to include or exclude, are very different from my own interests in folk music. I think I was expecting a very different book to this one.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 08 Oct 17 - 04:46 AM

There can hardly be any doubt that some songs were originally made by people who had been there to see the events described, some were made for the stage or pleasure gardens, some were made by known authors such as Laurence Price, and some by anonymous hacks. We're in danger of focussing on a few examples that clearly fall into one of these categories and generalising to conclude that this category covers a large proportion of the whole corpus.

For example GUEST,matt milton refers to "often arcane rural customs and seafaring practices". How many songs describe such things? Versus how many tell idealised bucolic stories of Colins and Phoebes, ploughboys, love at first sight on a May morning, etc? Or songs that reflect a landsman's ideas of life at sea rather than the experience of real sailors?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 07 Oct 17 - 05:26 AM

"We found a fair amount of evidence that some of them had indeed most likely been taken from oral tradition, but when we traced them back to the earliest extant version this was overwhelmingly a printed or commercial source."

"The fact that printers all lived in urban areas adds to the fact that their suppliers, the ballad writers were close at hand."

I apologise for being a bit of a stuck record on this, but what generally have you considered evidence for composition? ie evidence that a broadside was actually composed by a broadside writer, rather than just supplied?

It does indeed stand to reason that a supplier to a printer would have lived nearby, but, if 90% of those songs were indeed actually composed (rather than just supplied) by broadside writers, it rather begs the question of where they got such gifted talents and broad general knowledge from - being able to knock out so many songs with geographical and technical details about often arcane rural customs and seafaring practices. I don't suppose they had that many research resources, or much time on their hands.

There's also the question of audience demand; what I've read in Roud's book so far corresponds with what I'd expect about the topics popular in broadsides, and no mention has been made (so far, don't want to prejudge!) about often arcane rural customs and seafaring practices in public tastes. If they did indeed compose all those songs, then it seems strange to me that no scholar yet has remarked on what literary titans these writers were, where they acquired their knowledge, and why their subjects so often appear to be out of step with what you'd expect to be commercial. Where did their knowledge and interest in seasonal rural customs spring from? Where did the commercial demand for a song like 'Herrings Heads' spring from?

"generally speaking they had not got ready access to printers and so those creatively inclined did not very often see their work spread to other areas like our folk songs and printed ballads did."

See, it also seems to me that if we allow "ready access to printers" to be a consideration, surely we have to bear in mind that, de facto, a printed version of any given song is more likely to be the earliest extant discoverable version simply because, well, if I write a song down in my diary, that's not as likely to still be findable 100 years later than if it had been printed 300 or more times.

If the earliest printed or written iteration of a song being from a printed ballad is considered to be best evidence of a song's authorship by a professional ballad writer then, de facto, a not-especially-literate populace, with no access to print, cannot have written them ? by default. There's an element of circularity to that logic.

Roud suggests himself that broadside publishers would merrily pillage all sorts of sources: it seems therefore odd to me that they would be pillaging all sources APART from oral traditions, especially considered music is ultimately an auditory one. It is surely far more likely that the existence of songs anomalous to urban tastes and experiences are evidence of pillaging from oral traditions; the alternative would be that London's broadside writers were singular literary titans, creative visionaries with a remarkable general knowledge, and that we should be using the word "genius", not "hack" to describe them.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: RTim
Date: 06 Oct 17 - 07:17 PM

Steve Gardham - I am also intrigued by your note -
"a local song that survived in 3 versions in villages around Winchester" - which song do you have in mind???

This is totally highjacking this thread - but while Jim is having is Hip done - what else is worth talking about (Good luck Jim....)

Tim Radford


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