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Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs

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Naemanson 24 Aug 00 - 10:34 AM
Gervase 24 Aug 00 - 10:37 AM
radriano 24 Aug 00 - 11:31 AM
GUEST,Russ 24 Aug 00 - 11:48 AM
Grab 24 Aug 00 - 12:05 PM
MMario 24 Aug 00 - 12:08 PM
GUEST,Jackie B 24 Aug 00 - 12:13 PM
GUEST,Fibula Mattock 24 Aug 00 - 12:20 PM
GUEST,Curmudgeon 24 Aug 00 - 12:22 PM
John Moulden 24 Aug 00 - 12:24 PM
Alice 24 Aug 00 - 12:25 PM
Sandy Paton 24 Aug 00 - 12:26 PM
BigDaddy 24 Aug 00 - 12:36 PM
GUEST,Unk Met/Det 24 Aug 00 - 12:40 PM
Art Thieme 24 Aug 00 - 12:48 PM
Big Mick 24 Aug 00 - 01:02 PM
Jeri 24 Aug 00 - 02:07 PM
GUEST,Judy Cook 24 Aug 00 - 02:26 PM
Peg 24 Aug 00 - 03:54 PM
Sandy Paton 24 Aug 00 - 04:03 PM
Naemanson 24 Aug 00 - 04:07 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 24 Aug 00 - 04:32 PM
Noreen 24 Aug 00 - 04:46 PM
Diva 24 Aug 00 - 04:52 PM
Mbo 24 Aug 00 - 05:26 PM
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Ebbie 27 Aug 00 - 10:22 PM
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Troll 28 Aug 00 - 12:19 AM
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Naemanson 28 Aug 00 - 07:22 AM
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Subject: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Naemanson
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 10:34 AM

I know there are many people here who play some instrument or another to accompany themselves while they sing. And I do too. But I find it detracts from what I can do with my voice if I am concentrating on my guitar.

I once talked with Tom Lewis about it and he said he had tried but found the same problem so he laid the instruments aside for largely unaccompanied singing. He does occasionally use a ukelele and an accordian for some of his songs. But he told me was told by someone who knows him and cares for him that the instruments interfered with his performance more than they added to it.

So here are my questions:

Who out there sings solo unaccompanied?

Why?

What do you sing?

What is your opinion of this kind of performance?


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Gervase
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 10:37 AM

Solo and unaccompanied for me - but mainly because I only play the whistle and the box.
The whistle, well, that's obvious. But the diatonic nature of the box really buggers up my breathing and phrasing when I'm trying to sing.
I can't rub my stomach and pat my head at the same time, either.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: radriano
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 11:31 AM

I do a lot of solo unaccompanied singing. Aside from not being distracted by an instrument, I like the freedom you get when you can alter rhythym to emphasize words. Some songs are better unaccompanied. Sea shanties, I feel, should never be accompanied as well as some ballads and chorus songs. For the most part I approach songs on an individual basis.

Another factor for me has been worsening of a congenital birth defect that has me using two canes. So I also tend to sing unaccompanied more simply because I can't lug around a guitar.

Radriano


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 11:48 AM

Uh Oh! You just pushed a button. Run, Naemanson, Run!!!

I sing some non-ballad songs a capella for lots of different reasons. Some sound best that way to my ears. For some I've never been able to work out an instrumental accompaniment that satisfied me.

However, the songs I sing a capella are mostly what Jean Ritchie once called the "long, dirgey" ballads.

A capella ballads are a passion and obsession I cannot even begin to explain adequately because they hit me right between the eyes and affect me on so many levels, but I'll give it a shot.

To my ears, this is how they sound best. I love what Steeleye Span, Pentangle, et. al., did with traditional ballads, but when you go back, e.g., to Belle Stewart, it is like comparing a fine blend with an awesome single malt.

Singing ballads a capella allows me to get lost in them in a way that I cannot duplicate when playing an instrument.

I think that a capella singing also emphasizes the sheer "alienness" of the ballads. They come from an ancient world so completely different from our own that singing them with a modern accompaniment "falsifies" them to my ears. I love it that singing a capella ballads is so thoroughly un-modern, so completely out of date, so utterly unfashionable.

I love the fact that the a capella ballads are so demanding of both the singer and the listener. The singer has nowhere to hide. The listener has nothing to do but pay attention or leave.

Further, singing them a capella gives them a power they don't have when accompanied. (Even if sometimes it is only the power to sedate an audience.)

If done right, singing them a capella puts the focus on the song, not the singer or the instrument.

In an age where two verses and a chorus or a ten second sound bite are considered an adequate treatment of any story or subject, I love the sheer length and details and "unweildiness" of the traditional ballads.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Grab
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 12:05 PM

It's the coordination thing. I have to really learn the guitar part, so that my fingers will pretty much do it by remote control while I concentrate on the singing. I find I need to concentrate on the singing, otherwise I don't point at the mike, don't sing in tune, forget words, etc. But some songs just sound better on their own, and accompanying them is gilding the lily. There's one song I do though which needs fast, on-the-beat strumming, and that sounds much better if I get my friend to do the guitar and I sing, rather than trying to go like a bat out of hell on the strings and belt out the song as well - doing that just brings down both of them.

Grab.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: MMario
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 12:08 PM

I don't play an instument, so I don't have much choice in the matter. I sing almost everything (and anything) without accompianment. One or two songs where friends have played bodrhan, but that's about it.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Jackie B
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 12:13 PM

There are a lot of Traditional Singing Circles in Ireland and most sing unaccompanied. As you say, NO distractions.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Fibula Mattock
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 12:20 PM

Hiya, is that you Uncle Metal-Detector?? If so, then I can verify that your unaccompanied rendition of "Halfway up the stairs" is the one of the most beautiful solo performances I have ever heard! (That and "Miss Mouse's Ball").


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Curmudgeon
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 12:22 PM

Being of an age where I recall my earliest exposure to the great songs and ballads of tradition as recordings by A.L.Lloyd and Ewan MaColl, I was exposed to unaccompanied songs quite a while ago. And I find more and more that I am tending to prefer to sing more songs with neither my guitar or concertina. A few of the reasons include the freedom one gets by not being dependant on the limitations of an instrument. The voice can do things that no machine can and may be better used without the limitations of keys, modes, tempos, etc. Like a previous respondant, I am also really unable to concentrate on complex singing and playing at the same time. I have found, however, that many audiences get confused by unaccompanied singing. But with enough exposure they too can be trained. A line from the introduction to the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs quotes a Dorset man's comments of a professional singer of folk song, "Of course, its nice for him to have the piano when he's singing, but it does make it very awkward for the listener."


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: John Moulden
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 12:24 PM

Ulstersongs (which I run) exists to promote (in the main) Irish unaccompanied singing. www.ulstersongs.com - but the catalogue is in need of some revision.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 12:25 PM

That is the way I prefer to sing folk songs, especially the Irish songs that are meant to be expressive and unmetered. When I say sean nós here, even at the so called "Irish" session, most people don't know what I'm talking about. Oh, well, it's unfortunate, but in America, unless it's like a barbershop quartet or 4 part harmony street a capella, people expect instrumental accompaniment. I think the subtlety and sensitivity of solo unaccompanied singing is lost on audiences here. They are maybe overstimulated, so they can't hear the beauty of less being more.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 12:26 PM

I have witnessed, many times over the past fifty years or so, a noisy room suddenly become hushed and attentive when a singer began an unaccompanied ballad. I sing many of them that way, and when I do accompany one of the older, traditional songs, I try to keep the accompaniment simple and unobtrusive. Let the story be the important thing. Yes, indeed, Russ, it's the song, not the singer, that really matters.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: BigDaddy
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 12:36 PM

GUEST,Russ...You summed it up rather nicely. I do use a bodhran (judiciously) for accompaniment on "Itches in my Britches," "Up Among the Heather," " The Scotsman," etc. And sing with our guitar player/vocalist (and sometimes piper) on things like "Drunken Sailor," Wild Mountain Thyme," "Broom of the Cowdenowes" or "The Mermaid." But prefer unaccompanied on the old ballads and of course sea shanteys. I learned the early stuff ("Barbara Allen," "Gypsy Davy," "Devil and the Farmer's Wife," etc.) from the singing of my mother and her aunts. They had learned these from their mother, and so on. Although my mother was a marvelous piano player, she would never have dreamed of accompanying herself or anyone else on these songs. It just wasn't the way they were learned or passed along. That's not to say they should never be done any other way. It's a personal thing. Along these lines, I'm currently putting together a one-man performance piece based on the various occupations of all my known ancestors (farmer, soldier, weaver, cooper, cobbler, blacksmith, etc.). This will be done a capella, though I may play a tune between songs (on guitar, fiddle or tin whistle). I think a big reason I'm doing this to prove to myself that it can be done without accompaniment and keep an audience's attention. Jay


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Unk Met/Det
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 12:40 PM

Yep ! I cannot tell a lie, It's 'Bokles kokles' stable boy Thanks for the undeserved praise. It wasn't the first time I sang you to sleep with a song or two. (and everyone else that has heard me) slan Uncle metal detector.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Art Thieme
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 12:48 PM

I do wish you folks could all hear JUDY COOK from the D.C. Folk organization. Her two CDs--all solo al capone and unique variations of songs---are as listenable as any instrumental backed singing I've ever heard. Maybe moreso.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Big Mick
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 01:02 PM

Art, I don't know if this is the same person that I heard last year or not, but this club has a woman who sings sean nos that is wonderful. Liam's Brother was doing an Irish Songs workshop last year at FSGW, and about a half hour before the workshop he comes up to me and asks me if I am ready. I asked him "ready for what?". He sez, "Ready to give me a hand at my workshop". I will get him for that one day....LOL. So I have to throw a couple of songs together quickly. One of them that I chose was MOLLY NA gCUACH NÍ CHUILLEANÁIN which I sang a cappella in Gaelige. This woman stands up and sings a song in Scots Gaelic that was wonderful. She has a lovely voice and sings in a style that is wonderful. I don't know if it is the same person, but she is a member of the DC organization, FSGW.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Jeri
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 02:07 PM

Mick, I'm racking my brains trying to think if it was Judy or someone else. Judy does mostly English songs, but it could've been her. The FSGW has quite a number of very talented people!

Curmudgeon doesn't need any accompaniment - so THERE! (He's a good friend and is as good a singer as anyone you've ever heard on a recording and knows several THOUSAND songs.) The problem is in our session, the people who can't play an instrument along with the singers frequently look at their watches, hold conversations and are a real pain in the ass. I'm waiting for someone to move the glasses of the table and start a crap game...

I sing unaccompanied. I also play fiddle. I'm not mentally coordinated enough to do both at the same time - either the fiddle or I will be out of tune. If given a choice between singing and playing, I'll choose to sing every time.

Why? I love the sound of voices, but even more, I love the FEEL of singing. I love the vibrations in my chest, throat and sinuses. I love releasing sound into the air and having it mix with everyone else's sounds. I love when my head buzzes from the harmonies. It sounds a bit over the top, but it feels very spiritual. I was once at at a folk festival (Fox Hollow, for those who know the name), in a closely packed throng at someone's campsite. We were singing sea shanties very loudly, and I remember thinking I was as close to feeling "rapture" as I was ever going to be.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Judy Cook
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 02:26 PM

First, a big thank you and mutual admiration to Art! I do love singing unaccompanied and hearing unaccompanied singing. And I am finding more and more folks who do, much to my delight.

Mick & Jeri, I feel sure the woman you are thinking of is my friend Linda Rice-Johnston. She's a member of FSGW and sings Scottish songs and ballads unaccompanied in Scots-Gaelic as well as English in a beautiful, clear, high, fluidly-ornamented style. By contrast my "ornaments" are more subtle and my ability to sing in Scots dialect/accent is non-existant.

I haven't asked if she'll be at the Getaway this year, but Dennis & I will be there. We'll just be getting back from the Midwest.

Cheers, Judy Cook


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Peg
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 03:54 PM

interesting thread, since there are so many here who sing songs from the Celtic isles...

I am a singer primarily. I play the boudhran, and some guitar, and a bit of pennywhistle, and recently bought a harp from the MudCat auction so I hope to learn that soon (although I have not received it in the mail yet but that's another story).

As to why sing unaccompanied, after manyyears singing various kinds of music I found traditonal Celtic music and there was, essentially, no turning back, It fit my voice, my sensibility, my emotional landscape, my performing intensity, so many reasons. And while I do dearly love to be accompanied by a good string part or a soft rhythmic drum, I think nothing quite matches the power of the unaccompanied competent voice. By "competent" I do not necessarily mean trained, or even "nice" -sounding; a rough or gravelly voice can be competent, and intent and focus are as much a part of this as phrasing and all the rest of it...

as for singing in Irish or Gaelic, I do both, and I find I am better able to enter the world of the song, when I do not necessarily have a word-by-word translation happening in my head as I sing, by singing a cappella.

Perhaps some of it has to do with the fact that playing and singing simultaneously are hard for me. I am not even sure if I practiced it a lot if it would be easier; not everyone can do it smoothly, and I like focusing on one thing. That said, singing while being accompanied by sensitive instrumentalists, so that we all make the experience of the song as one, not by taking turns "showcasing" our stuff, is a very satisfying and heartlifting experience, if you can find a combo that works...


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 04:03 PM

Judy Cook's CDs are available from Folk-Legacy, or from Judy herself. Send her a personal message for all the information you'll need for ordering them direct from her and her helpful shipping clerk, Dennis.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Naemanson
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 04:07 PM

Thanks to all of you for your input. It seemed as though most of the threads on music were largely about accompaniment or accompanied songs. I couldn't detect anything about people who sang unaccompanied.

My conversation with Tom Lewis occurred right after we had seen a workshop on unaccompanied voice. The workshop had included Louis Killen and four or five others including the members of one of the great British chanty groups (I think it was Hearts Of Oak).

I'm hearing a lot of you saying you sing Celtic music unaccompanied. Is there something special about the Anglo-Irish-Scots music that lends itself especially to the unaccompanied voice? Even the American songs I've heard sung unaccompanied and solo seem to relate to that cultural heritage.

Opinions?


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 04:32 PM

Naemason, when I sing, it's a capella as well.

I don't play any instruments or usually sing with anyone else. When I do sing with someone, it's usually a capella as well. Mostly Gaelic songs, and some puirt.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Noreen
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 04:46 PM

It's how the music developed, I suppose, Naemanson. I was brought up singing Irish traditional songs which have always been unaccompanied and so have a strong melodic line with much, variable ornamentation. They are often modal, so if an accompaniment is added which doesn't take account of that, the whole nature of the song is changed. I do like to sing other songs with instruments, but it depends on the song.

Noreen


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Diva
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 04:52 PM

I sing unaccompanied ballads and a few other folkie things too,for example....Lord Randal, Binourie, Bleacherlassie o' Kelvinhaugh, Bound tae be a row, The wee toun clerk etc etc etc. I have tried singing to an accompniament,but I never sing a song the same way twice. I don't play an instument. In 20 years of singing I have been lucky to hear some of the greats. Belle Stewart,Lizzie Higgans,Willie Scott all sadly gone. I am privilaged to count among my friends and mentors singers Gordeanna McCulloch and Cy Laurie. Through Cy I got to hear the late Sean McDonnagh (sp) of Carna, my first experience of the sean nos style. I don't speak any Gaelic,Irish or Scots but I got the gist of it and it was wonderful. And I got to sing in his company too and he was comlimentary about my singing.....WOW. So big ballads are the business. I love 'em


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Mbo
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 05:26 PM

Oh no! Is this the beginning of the end of accompanied singing? Think I'm gonna be out of a job!


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Noreen
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 05:29 PM

Nah, there's room for all sorts of music Matty, and always will be.

Noreen


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: sophocleese
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 06:31 PM

Well I used to say that I sang unaccompanied because I'd drive anybody who attempted to play along up the wall. Now I sing in a duo with a guy who plays guitar much better than I do. Of late we haven't been practicing as much as we used to and I'm finding that I'm enjoying singing a lot more again without the guitar. I sing differently when I have someone else playing guitar with me. I sing my worst when I try to play guitar for myself.

I'm a lousy beginner guitar player but having the guitar becomes addictive. Soon I start feeling that I NEED the guitar to sing properly. I noticed that I'm not learning tunes as thoroughly because I can rest on the guitar instead of relying only on my voice to stay in tune and not gradually work myself up higher and higher.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: DougR
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 06:38 PM

I've really enjoyed reading this thread. Thanks for posting it Naemanson. Frankly, it never occurred to me to sing without accompaniment ...'til now.

DougR


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: DougR
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 06:43 PM

Sorry. I intended to include this in the thread above. Burl Ives sings a beautiful short song without accompaniment on his "The Wayfaring Stranger" LP that I think would not be nearly as effective with accompaniment; "Colorado Trail." I have sung that one at open mic night at the local pub.

DougR


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,emily b
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 06:49 PM

I sing both accompanied (by others)and a cappella. The a cappella singing tends to command more respect from the listeners. I'm not sure how long this respect could last though. Usually, at least in Houston, we hear one a cappella song among many with accomaniment. So I'm wondering if it is the contrast that makes a cappella singing special. Kind of like "if you want to get someone's attention, whisper."

BigDaddy, I'd love to hear the results of your a cappella evening. Please keep the 'cat posted when you do this.

emily b


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Diva
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 08:10 PM

Until a few years ago it never occured to me to sing WITH accompniment.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Jackie B
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 08:42 PM

The nice thing about singing on your own (unaccompanied) is, 'The poetic licence', depending on your mood (or how much drink one has SWALLIED) you can vary the ballad to suit how you feel. That does make a BIG difference !!! Bush - makes me slur my notes into one another, gin - makes me miss the odd word, Poteen - makes me sing a three part harmony at the same time. I'm working on Rum & coke for the Slieve Gullion weekend coming up in October. Jackie B


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 10:10 PM

there is a previous thread from a couple of years ago on this subject:sean nós singers


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: DougR
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 10:45 PM

Having heard you tonight on "Hear Me," Diva, I can understand why you are comfortable singing unaccompanied. You are very good.

DougR


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: jacko@nz
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 11:06 PM

I've just deleted a whole load of rubbish that I had been going to post here. Suffice to say there is no way at all that I could ever get right inside a song while I was playing anything. I've tried but the amount of concentration on the instrument is just that much that isn't applied to the song, and that's the song's loss.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: rabbitrunning
Date: 24 Aug 00 - 11:17 PM

I usually sing unaccompanied, because I can't play any instrument well enough to sing and play, but mostly because my public singing is generally done to smallllll people who think any song is great if it has hand motions or enough of a beat to wiggle your butt to.

(YES, she's going to sing another chorus of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider! Hoooraay!)


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: campfire
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 12:09 AM

I also sing unaccompanied more often than not. Often it's because I sing in unusual places where I didn't plan to, so don't have my guitar, but I'll admit sometimes I "forget" my guitar on purpose. I'm not that good a player, anyway.

Besides, mostly I sing around campfires and you can't swat mosquitos while you're playing. And I know the words to hundreds of songs that I haven't taken the time to learn on the guitar.

campfire


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Tinker
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 12:10 AM

Lullabyes are bye far my most frequent public singing. If I'm settling a cabin or traveling group of teens the guitar with a steady repetitive pick reinforces the "Lulling" message of the long ballad or lullabye i'm using. But when you get down to the younger hold outs nothing beats the personal message of an acapella lullabye.There's a connection made and the instrument only gets in the way.

Blessings

Tinker


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Bearheart
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 12:35 AM

A lovely thread. I've sung in all kinds of configurations-- unaccompanied, accompanying self, others accompanying-- and enjoy it all. But some of my best memories are of singing in the car on long trips with my family, through snowstorms singing Chritmas carols for instance, and I think that's one of the reasons I like singing without instruments, but with others.

It's true too, as someone said, that singing is a very sensuous experience, the way that it feels in the body, and that can best be felt when singing alone because your attention is totally on the experience and you don't need to think about what your hands are doing or about anyone else's involvement, though there's a different kind of excitement to the experience when it is shared, especially with another singer(s).

I also agree with everything GUEST,RUSS said. Well put.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Mbo
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 12:37 AM

See? I KNEW it! DIE accompanied singing, DIE!!!


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: DougR
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 01:03 AM

Naw, MBO, it's just an alternative. But a bit more intimate than singing with an accompanist. DougR


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Mbo
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 01:17 AM

Please.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Naemanson
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 10:15 AM

(Visualize a sensuous beckoning hand, a dreamy, smoky, sexy voice calls) Follow me, Mbo, away from those instruments and into a world free of their slavery. No more tedious tuning, no more lugging all those cases. Follow meeee...

I had not heard the term "sean nos" before now. I guess I have a lot to learn (no surprise there).

There is a lot to do with sean nos that you cannot do with acompaniment. I have a friend who is working hard to learn to play an instrument so she can sing folk music. She flatly rejects a capella work. On the other hand, othough I do not play the guitar with any kind of finesse I sometimes use it more as an ornamentation or underlayment for a song. When I do "Blackflies" I find the use of the guitar slows me down which is helpful. I love fast tongue twister songs and have a tendency to sing them too fast.

So when I do use the guitar I do it because the song just doesn't seem to stand on its own without it. I still keep the guitar work to an absolute minimum largely because anything else will distract me from my voice but also because the song is more important than the accompaniment.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Fibula Mattock
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 10:33 AM

D'you know, it's strange because when I think of folk songs I automatically think of sean nos singing. Perhaps it's because I grew up listening to such singing from the likes of my uncle and others in all the sessions and fleadhs I was taken to as wee girl. There are so many songs that I couldn't conceive of hearing in any form other than a pure, straight unaccompanied voice. In a different vein to all the ballads I also love the sound of everyone singing together around the fire when I take my Girl Guides camping - it's just a lovely fresh and heartfelt sound, and when people are smiling as they sing you can really hear it!


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Catrin
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 10:51 AM

I love singing unnacompanied. I sing whenever I can. Alone (especially if there is no-one in the house) or in public, if people seem willing to listen. I play penny whistle but never bring it out with me because, given the choice, I far far prefer to sing.

Sometimes people pick up guitars to play along - that can work if the guitarist keeps sort of in the background. Sometimes though (and this might be a gender issue) the guitarist decides that I'm singing it too high/low or whatever and raises the volume, tempo or whatever... This will result in my voice becoming a sort of squawk.

I love singing in a group, in harmony. One of the biggest buzzes there is, is to feel the notes blend and to think I'm part of it all.

I love the stories too but the whole thing culminates in, as prevbiously mentioned, an incredible sensual experience.

Just thought I'd share that.

Catrin (who rarely sings accompanied)


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 11:49 AM

I'm sitting here looking at a postcard recently received from Ennis, Co. Clare, of Custy's Traditional Music Shop. One of the flute players who attends our session, an Englishman who is teaching at the local university, is in Ireland for some music and learning. His postcard describes his trip - "Last night's fun was especially memorable: flute players Paul McGramon, Peter Molloy, Harry Bradley; and box phenomenon Sharon Shannon, all in the local pub! Got home at 3:300 a.m. and they tell me it ended at 5:00! Great sean nos at Gielry's pub, too, Colm O'Donnell from Sligo. Wish you could hear it. - Simon"

Simon understands why I stand up and sing alone without the guitar at our session, and a few others know that there is an actual tradition of sean nos, but I have had to tell people to not try to play along. There is one person in particular who feels compelled to sing along, even when she has never heard the song before. I keep repeating that solo unaccompained singing is an Irish tradition, but somehow, for some people, the message just doesn't get through. I do know that as soon as I start, the room always gets very quiet and attention is held through the song. There is no other solo music that has the ability for keeping attention for so long, because people are hearing the STORY, which they don't hear with instruments. There is more emotion communicated, as well. Joe Heaney, "Say the song".

Alice


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 11:56 AM

I should have written, -There is no other solo music that has the ability for keeping attention for so long, because people are hearing the STORY, which they don't hear with instrumental solos.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Mbo_at_ECU
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 12:11 PM

Someone tell Tom Paxton that he's WRONG!


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Ferrara
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 12:21 PM

Naemanson, you asked whether unaccompanied singing mostly comes from the Scots-Anglo-Irish tradition. Resounding and emphatic no! -- But how many people here sing in any other ethnic idiom?

Last year at FSGW Getaway, Mudcatter uillean and another attendee whose name I'm sure to misspell if I try, did a glorious half hour set of unaccompanied Bavaraian style (If I remember correctly) harmonies with spectacular yodeling thrown in. Of course,it wasn't solo singing so you may say it doesn't count....

I sing two versions of "Bella Ciao" in Italian and always sing them a capella. They are too intense to sing with an accompaniment as far as I'm concerned.

I agree with you all, that to really connect with the subtleties and meaning and feeling of a song, one needs to have one's mind on the song and the singing and nothing else. I often play Civil War songs accompanied by my zither, but when I sang at the Washington Folk Festival it was outdoors and I knew I couldn't rely on the zither, so I sang them unaccompanied. I was amazed at the difference that I get when all my attention is on the song. It's very rewarding.

Rita Ferrara


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 12:30 PM

HearMe last night (8/24) was a ball for me, because the thread talked about unaccompanied singing. Of the nine songs I sang, seven were unaccompanied. I usually only slide in one in a HearMe evening.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 12:41 PM

I think its important to remember that the first "instrument" for music was probably the voice. All through time, people have sung without playing an instrument along with the singing. Most people don't play instruments, but most people can sing, to some degree, anyway.

We've discussed work songs in past threads and this whole notion of keeping silent now that the work place is in public, in offices, no longer so much in fields, mines, forests, barns, ships, and homes. But, singing used to accompany work.

Last night on NPR radio, I was listening to a news report on the type of independent professional (like me and many of you) who work from a computer in a home office. The NPR staff then broke into "The e-works Song", "Logged on this morning, Got to do some consulting..."

I sing around my home while I work. I remember one of our discussions included people talking about whistling as they walked down the hallway at work, etc. I remember hearing alot of people singing in Mexico in markets and especially in Vera Cruz, a city of music, listening to the Coca-Cola delivery man singing as he unloaded his van.

Now I'll have to dig up that NPR song.

Alice


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 12:48 PM

The NPR E-Works song (scroll down the page) E-Work Song (14.4 | 28.8) -- All Things Considered offers a work song for temporary workers that might need an outlet for their pain at having an insecure status in the workforce. CLICK HERE

Alice


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,rabbitrunning
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 01:18 PM

Mbo, don't worry about Tom Paxton. He got it right. But people who sing the same songs unaccompanied are getting it right too. The trick lies in recognizing that both kinds of singing are challenging, and both have merit. And for certain songs, the traditional presentation is unaccompanied. So if you've gone out looking for a traditional presentation, accompaniment is jarring to you.

It's like illustrations in childrens books. For most people the first picture they saw of the three little pigs will forever define the "right way" to draw them. It takes a lot of work to decide that "pigs is pigs", and appreciate a broad variety of interpretations. And even when we've learned to appreciate new ways of seeing things, in our secret hearts we still _know_ what's "right."


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Mbo
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 01:23 PM

Ok, class, we are all going on a field trip over to Jenny/moonbaby's thread about her guitar. And tell her she WASTED her money on a pile of junk that will only impede and detract from her singing and ability to communicate emotion in song.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Barry Finn
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 01:44 PM

I once in awhile accompany myself with bodhran but on the whole it's most always been just voice, it's so easy to cart around with you, I never have to go out & buy new teeth when the old ones get worn down or stop mid song to tune up or down the vocal cords & I never get threats like "if he doesn't stop I'll break his mouth" or "I'll kill his throat" where as I'd sometimes get "will someone break his hand or his arm, that'll get 'em to stop". You can disguise yourself in public & getaway with murder will carrying around an instrument case is a dead giveaway & your bound to get caught & blamed for anything. Terrorists can't use your own voice against you like they could an instrument, like hang you by your own guitar string or beat you about the head with your own banjo or poke you with your own whistle or worst play your concertina in your own ear while tied & gaged & you with no means of escape. You'll never go hungry while there's a song in your heart, for example try to call a pig with a harp or get a sheep to come via bones playing or even convince a goat to give milk by gently beating a bodhran, animals I known aren't all that fond of musical instruments but they do like a song. Ever see a whale or a porpoise or even a bird for that matter playing something, ah, but a song. Never heard of a body haul up a sail with a flute or cut down a tree with a mandola or lay track with a uke or row with spoons or cure cloth with a jews harp ( course I've never seen sick cloth either). Try singing under water, now try playing there or try to sing while your trying to fly, or fall, now try playing. Can you blow a harmonica while skating or play an E string on the fiddle while jumping fences. Ok, so what's more natural? Barry who'sduckingallthoseflyinginstruments


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Jim Krause
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 02:14 PM

Naemanson, There are a few songs that I feel I can put over a little better unaccompanied. Some that come to mind are
Jack Monore
Jolly Grog
A Canadian Boat Song

I started doing Jack Monroe unaccompanied because I thought it had such a compelling, sparse melody that adding anything would take away. And besides, the recording I learned it from was made in the hills around Galax, VA by somebody from the LOC who recorded Crocket Ward and his wife Perline. Mountain music may be equalled, but it would be hard to improve on the Ward family.

As for Jolly Grog when you get the audience roaring along with you, what's the point of bringing in guitars, or mandolins and such? IMHO sea chanties are always best unaccompanied.

And then there's A Canadian Boat Song. The melody for this is a traditional French Canadian voyageur song originally titled Dans Mon Chemin. Thomas Moore learned it while on vacation in the US and Canada from some boatmen. He took the melody and wrote a separate set of lyrics for it, and had quite a hit back in 1803. It is fun to sing this a capella in three part harmony.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Linda Kelly
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 02:25 PM

I sing unaccompanied almost always english traditional. This suits my voice best although I have recently started singing in a three part harmony group. I am troubled by this because I have the concentration of a gnat and find it difficult to maintain the proper tune. I play several instruments too badly for public outings hence the unaccompanied singing. My favourite tunes are Come all ye maids who live at a distance and Farewell to Tarwaithe -both suit my rather plaintive voice well -I only do sad songs since I do not have a robust voice


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 02:40 PM

to answer the question what songs I sing solo acapella, here are some that I think are done best that way:
My Lagan Love
She Lived Beside The Anner
Red Is The Rose
The Quiet Land of Erin
Gartan Mother's Lullaby
Paddy's Lamentation (By the Hush)
Wexford Mummer's Song


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Naemanson
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 03:26 PM

I also started out singing unaccompanied. It is only in recent years that I started to attempt to play my guitar. I felt as if playing the instrument was a required part of folk music, like my friend I mentioned earlier. And my experience has been largely that the instrument is a required part of the genre. There are many tune sessions around here but almost no song sessions. I went to a few of the tune sessions and found I couldn't get a word in edge wise. And I didn't feel like singing was encouraged.

More recently I have decided that my house needs to be the site for a regular song session that I will be calling "A House Full Of Song". Instruments are welcome but the idea is to sing. In the meantime I think I will relegate the guitars to the living room and concentrate more on my voice.

Mbo, I trust your last post was intended to be funny. No one is saying there is anything wrong with accompaniment. If you review a random sample of the music oriented posts over the last few months (i.e., as long as I have been here) you'll see they speak predominantly of accompanied music. I was starting to feel self conscious about my solo unaccompanied singing. I fo one am glad to know there are so many who enjoy it and perform it.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Diva
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 04:29 PM

DougR thank you for the compliment :-) Mbo sang unaccompanied last night on Hearme and did a grand job,we'll have you singing Muckle Sangs yet,Matt


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: DougR
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 05:32 PM

A deserved compliment, to be sure Diva. You have a beautiful voice and use it well.

Sorry I missed MBO's unaccompanied song.

DougR


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Ferrara
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 06:44 PM

Here's a shameless plug for the FSGW Getaway: Both Linda Rice-Johnston and Judy Cook will be doing half hour mini concerts of their wonderful unaccompanied singing, leading or contributing to workshops, and just being part of the music all weekend. Just a small part of the magic of the Getaway. Ok, sorry. I get carried away.

Alice, when I was in Italy I heard a whole lot of the kind of singing you're describing, for example, I would hear women's voices from houses I passed and I assumed they were singing as they cooked, washed and cleaned. Very Italian indeed.

Barry, I don't know about animals but birds do respond to musical instruments. I had a canary that sang loudly when I played the zither. And I used to play guitar and sing at Great Falls Park, on fall evenings when there weren't many people there. I was amazed to see that birds, chipmunks, etc. came very close to me while I was singing. (even a garter snake.) Maybe it's just because I didn't move around very much.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Wotcha
Date: 25 Aug 00 - 11:39 PM

I haven't been "singing" very long but a good chantey commmands awful respect anywhere in the world. I sing unaccompanied cos I can't read music and haven't figured out the concertina yet. Whenever I do an open mic there is an awesome silence ... you can feel people actually listening; an amazing sensation.
I currently sing solo only because nobody knows the songs out here in Chicago -- I do wish they'd join in.
I haven't given up on Chicago yet -- too much good blues and jazz to distract the locals I fear.
Any local 'Catters wanna give this a push?
Cheers,
Brian


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: oggie
Date: 26 Aug 00 - 02:35 PM

I sing unaccompanied most of the time because that's how I learnt the songs before I played instruments. I sing a lot of Lincolnshire songs which I learnt from the Joseph Taylor recordings and other unaccompanied singers which, for me, don't work once they are placed within the rigid framework of guitar or melodeon. For contemporary songs (with a modern feel as opposed to modern trad) I tend to use guitar and for social singing in a non-folk enviroment I use melodeon as it gets more attention than voice alone - the material also tends to be stamp-a-long chorus stuff which works.

The english tradition tends to be overlooked but Joseph Taylor, Harry Cox, Walter Pardon are well worth looking up and of course the Coppers and Fred Jordan (made Seeds of Love sound new and vital!)

All the best

Steve


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 26 Aug 00 - 07:44 PM

When I'm singing my own songs I tend to use a guitar, because it helps me keep in tune, and gives me something to do if I find the next line or the next verse has gone walkabout.

But I know that, when I'm on form, singing unaccompanied is better - the rhythm is freer and the tune can change more easily from verse to verse, which is how I think the kind of songs I sing need to be sung. That's one reason why friends have found it tricky to accompany my singing.

In a non-folky setup, unaccompanied singing tends to confuse people, and gets in the way of them listening.

Accompanied singing for what we'd think of as folk sonmgs is a very recent development in our cultures. Instrumental music has been primarily for dancing, and when it's time for a song the players put down their instruments and listen.

And none of this is to say that there aren't singers who can use their instruments to give their songs greater emotional depth and power. I'm just back today from Whitby Folk Week, and am thinking of people who wereat this year's Whitby, like Vin Garbutt and Tim Laycock and John Kirkpatrick, who showed us how to do precisely that.

But I am also thinking of other brilliant musicians who allow their playing to get in the way of and pretty well destroy their rendering of songs. And I'm not going to name any names here.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Ebbie
Date: 26 Aug 00 - 11:36 PM

In a typical week I take part in several different approaches to music, all in private homes. On Thursday nights 10 or 12 of us get together and have a comfortable mix of instrumentals and vocals. Rarely however is a song or tune repeated. It's a good place to present original works, especially from the semi-professional musicians. It's where we get to hear the cuts from upcoming CDs.

On Saturday nights another group meets and there our focus is on song, sometimes with guitar and/or fiddle but frequently unaccompanied. There are 6 or 8 of us there and we work on harmonies and different presentations until we are all glowing with sound.

Does anyone else here sing Hazel Dickens or Ginny Hawker songs? It's the Primitive Baptist approach, generally speaking, but we also do a lot of their secular songs; we have many favorites. Almost all of those songs we do unaccompanied and they're usually done with one strong vocal lead and everyone else experimenting with harmonies and parts. Awesome.

Ebbie


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Margo
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 01:34 AM

Gee Naemanson, I'd sure like to have heard what Louis Killen had to say about a'capella singing since I think he is a Master of the art. Can you remember anything specific that he said that stuck in your mind? I'd be grateful if you'd share, Margo


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: hesperis
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 01:46 AM

My favorite performance ever was the time when my family sang Christmas Carols in a local mall.
We got a really good response from people, and it was so much fun! I was totally not nervous, and back then, I was usually tied up in knots before a performance.

My stepdad sings bass-baritone on the melody, my mother sings alto on harmony, and I sing alto usually doubling the melody. Sometimes my mother and I switch parts, and sometimes I sing descant if my stepdad feels comfortable carrying the melody by himself.

(The thing that really amazed me was how many people didn't sing along with us!
I still don't understand why they didn't...)

One woman came by with a very young baby. (I don't know babies, so I can't tell how old it was.) My mother sang a song to it, and it stayed quiet the whole time. The woman was amazed. I wasn't, because I know my mother can sing!
(Hey, if she could sing me to sleep, she can sing any baby to sleep!)

We were a capella for the whole thing. We sang for a few hours, and several people thanked us for brightening their Christmas shopping.
It was so much fun!

Sometimes me and my mother sing carols on the bus. Several of the bus drivers in Orillia know me as "that girl with the angel voice." (They're really sweet people.)

~*sirepseh*~


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Naemanson
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 08:41 AM

I'm sorry Margo but I don't remember any specifics. It was a workshop situation and there were four or five people there. Generally they all talked of how they learned to sing in their families as they were growing up, they talked of the rare use of instruments and the strength of the unaccompanied voice, pretty much what everyone else here has been saying right along. And, of course, they all sang some great songs.

Another story of that festival: That evening in the YTB the whole crowd was gathered, around midnight or 1:00 AM, when a fellow stood up and brandished a huge chocolate bar. He said, "I have here a pound of the best chocolate you have ever tasted and you can all have a piece." He grinned at us and continued, "But you have to sing for it!" What followed was an entire evening of largely unaccompanied songs rolling out one after the other almost without allowing us an opportunity to applaud. Louis was the third or fourth to sing and later was heard to say the chocolate went very well with the scotch he was drinking.

McGrath mentioned using the guitar because it "...gives me something to do if I find the next line or the next verse has gone walkabout." One of the reasons (try not to laugh) I started working on playing the guitar on stage is that it gave me something to do with my hands while I sang. I generally end up sticking them in my pockets which my fellow members of Roll & Go tell me I shouldn't do.

What do you do with your hands when you sing sean nos?


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Ann
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 09:47 AM

My but your question has sparked some interest!

The question is 'does the music enhance the song' I sing both unaccompanied and as part of a four part harmony. Most traditional songs and ballads were probably sung unaccompanied (the voice itself being an instrument.)

As an avid listener of other people I feel that on occasion not enough thought goes into accompaniment and the music can detract from the performance and even puts people off joining in choruses.

A subtle accompaniment 'lifts' a song and makes its performance memorable.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 11:52 AM

"What do you do with your hands when you sing sean nos?"

... you hold the glass with your drink. ;-)

Alice


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Naemanson
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 11:59 AM

But Alice, that would require me to be a two fisted drinker! Or am I supposed to have my other arm around someone else?

Signed,

Brett (with little experience in pub singing but lots of interest in gaining some)


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Noreen
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 12:33 PM

Breton singers do that, Brett- two men side-by-side on stage at a fest noz, arms over each others shoulders while they sing 'mouth music' for the dancers. Very supportive.

I find sitting is best as you can lay your hands in your lap, but hands are a problem when standing. Behind your back? Straight by your sides looks best but it's difficult to learn to leave them there!

Noreen


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: WyoWoman
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 12:59 PM

Ebbie-- Yes, I sing a Hazel Dickens song "Fly Away, Little Pretty Bird," and would love to learn more of hers. (Rcommendations?) Lots of Appalachian songs are lovely sung a capella ("Bright Morning Stars" is one of my faves).

And Alison, every time I've stood up and sung a song without accompaniment, the house instantly falls completely quiet -- in a way it doesn't when there are accompanied voices. Maybe it's because it is unusual, but I certainly haven't experienced any unwillingness on the part of audiences to listen to such songs, when they're given the opportunity.

I'm learning to play the guitar now, just because I got tired of limiting myself to only a capella songs and because I wanted to stop driving guitarists crazy when I'd say things like, "No, no. I think it goes UP right there," but I agree with Alice (and me dear ol' mama, the vocal music teacher) that the first instrument probably was the voice and it ought to be honored as such.

And re. having to ask the instrumentalists not to play -- one of the reasons to have well-established rules for singarounds is to let the players know that whoever's turn it is gets to say whether or not s/he wants accompaniment. I've run into a few guitarists who get a bit snooty about this, but generally everyone is respectful and happy to listen.

WW


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 12:59 PM

Standing helps to open up the space for breath support, so stand up, Brett, and FORGET about your hands. Don't clasp them behind your back, just relax. If you need to think about holding them a certain way, or if they are shaking to make you noticeably nervous, bring them up together in front of you in some relaxed way, touch the fingertips together or lightly lace your fingers together to stop the shaking, but however you hold them or if you place your hand against your chest, or let them relax by your side, don't focus on it. Focus on the meaning of the words, and you will eventually find that your hands will unconsciously do what you do when you are talking. When you stand and talk to a friend about something, when you are relaxed, you don't think about your hands. You just need to get to that same comfort zone when you are singing.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: WyoWoman
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 01:06 PM

Oh, and how is sean nos pronounced? Is it equivalent to a capella?

ww


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Naemanson
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 01:06 PM

You are right that I don't focus on my hands when I talk but they move on their own then. I have enough French in me to make sure they try to illustrate my point.

How do you keep a (fill in ethnicity here) silent?

Ties his hands.

We have a member of Roll & Go who used to clasp his hands in front of himself holding his arms straight down such that his clasped hands remained at crotch level. Then he would nervously flick his fingers. It looked like he was playing with himself but we managed to break him of that habit.

I am working on ignoring my hands but when I do that they end up in my pockets when I sing standing up. More work to do but then such is life.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 01:10 PM

"What do you do with your hands when you sing sean nos?"

Well, one thing you see with the real stuff is the singer holds hands with someone else who emotionally (ie not vocally) backs the singer up in wrestling with the song. It sounds a strange idea, and it looks a bit strange too, but it really does help.

And of course you also get singers like Norma Waterson or the late Jeannie Robertson who use the hands as a kind of accompanying instrument. I don't mean they are clkapping or maming a noise, but they are somehow weaving the listener into the song. I don't know how to describe it, but it's very powerful indeed.

But while I'm posting, can I put in once again a strong reservation about using the way term a capella is thrown around. As I understand it, there is a particular style being referred to when the term a capella is used correctly, and it's not the style most of us use when we're singing unaccompanied. And sean nos is a term that is better kept for the styles of singing used in the unaccompanied Irish traditions.

Unaccompanied singing covers everything from sea shanties to flamenco (when that is done without a guitar). That is just to mention two styles for which terms like a capella and sean nos would be grotesquely inappropriate.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 01:45 PM

McGrath, you are right of course, those terms a capella and sean nós have a very particular meaning.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 02:04 PM

W. W., there are several good sites on the net about sean nós. I used to have a link to a sound file of a man's voice pronouncing sean nós, but I can't find it. Here is a good page about it on Ceolas. There is also a thread on Mudcat I linked to earlier in this thread. Styles of Irish Traditional Singing

John Moulden's Ulstersongs website has lots of field recordings of unaccompanied singers in Ireland. He has tapes of musicians, storytellers, and singers, unaccompanied and accompanied. I recommend his site to get tapes. I love the one where a woman is singing in her kitchen and you can hear the chickens in the yard outside the door. There are conversations and discussions of the songs, where they were learned, who taught them in the family, etc. Great resource, listed in Mudcat links. His site is here: http://members.aol.com/jmoul81075/ulstsong.htm click here I particuarly enjoyed hearing the tape of Annie Jane Kelly, neighbor to Sarah Makem, and wish there were many more songs recorded with her singing.

Alice


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: PoohBear
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 03:23 PM

I sing unaccompanied most of the time because my guitar playing is worse than my voice - and I have few illusions about either!

Cheers....PB


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Noreen
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 05:22 PM

Wyo Woman, the pronunciation of sean-n¢s is somewhere between 'shan noess' and shan noss'.

Alice, thanks for refreshing your compilation of other 'singing threads', there's a lot of good reading there. Maybe a link to that thread should be placed in this thread too? One of the links leads to an extract from the book by Tom s O Canainn which is well worth reading for the definition of the Sean-n¢s.

And I agree totally with McGrath- unaccompanied Irish traditional singing is not 'a capella'.

Good thread, still going strong, Brett!

Noreen


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Noreen
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 05:57 PM

Alice, (and others), this Comhaltas book/tape set was mentioned in one of the old threads, and it appears to be still available: TRADITIONAL SONGS AND SINGERS is well worth getting hold of!

Noreen


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 06:13 PM

Noreen, I did place a link to the old thread about sean nós in this thread click here, but this one is getting a little long and may have been overlooked.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Dave Brennan
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 10:13 PM

I'm not sure of the reasons why one would sing unaccompanied. After all if you have a talent for playing a musical instrument then maybe you bring it more alive for your audience.

I don't think I could sing with somone playing along with me. I'd be too worried I'd left her/him behind some way. Maybe when you sing by yourself you get inside the song more.

I can remember Joe Heaney once singing, I think it was the Ship Millross. It was in O'Donohoughs, in Dublin and my mother had asked Maureen to make sure I got a least one hot meal that day, So Maureen told me to come around during the 'Holy Hour' and she'd have something for me. When he was up in Dublin or coming back or for a visit, he usually ate Paddy and Maureen's.

My recollection was that John Kelly, the fiddler from west Clare was there that day, Seamas Ennis too and of course Joe. Anyway, after the dinner and much discussion, Maureen asked if Joe might sing; she loved to hear his voice...we all did. But anyway, he got to the verse where he sung..."a pocket pistol I drew forth and at him I let fly. I gave him have the revolver, Boys, which pierced him through the heart and I let him have the third one there before I did depart."

At the end of that verse, Joe suddenly got off his stool and shouted, "It wasn't me. I didn't mean it."

I think when he was singing, he was there..he was in that cabin onboard the ship, and the horror of what happened was so real. Would it have been the same if Joe had had maybe John Kelly playing too? I don't know, but there you are; that was Joe, God rest him.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Ebbie
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 10:22 PM

WyoWoman, probably my favorite Dickens song is "West Virginia, My Home." I sang it for family once and one of my sisters said, While you were singing, I was feeling so lonesome until I remembered we hadn't lived in West Virginia but in Virginia!

Sung for effect, it's a powerful song. Hazel Dickens' voice is not particularly melodious but she writes some good stuff.

I love instrument-accompanied songs but there are some songs that beg for the purity of voice alone, I think.

Ebbie


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 11:34 PM

great remembrance of Joe Heaney, Dave. thanks very much.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Virginia Blankenhorn
Date: 27 Aug 00 - 11:57 PM

Dave Brennan's post gets pretty close to the truth, I think. (I may be prejudiced -- he's my husband!) But I think one problem that American audiences may have with unaccompanied singing is the intimacy of it. When there's a guitar or concertina, it's entertainment. When it's a singer by himself he is (a) taking a much bigger risk, and (b) asking the audience to connect with the subject matter of a song in a way that's much more emotional -- because unless he sings with intense conviction, the song will be deader than roadkill. That level of participation is asking a lot of an audience, and many Americans (I'm one, so I can speak) are uneasy with that much intense emotion.

There's a curious thing that happens with many songs in Irish, a habit that I think may have derived from the singer's need to distance himself from his material (like Joe Heaney in Dave's story above). Instead of using direct narrative to describe something that happened, in many performances the singer uses an indirect / subordinate clause -- so, for example, instead of saying "our boat was lost at sea" it would be something like "that our boat was lost at sea", as if it were part of a longer sentence that began "and the story goes..." I think it's a way the singers have found to remind themselves that what they're singing is a story. Some singers even go so far as to insert "he says" ad lib in their songs from time to time, for (I think) the same reason -- the singer wants to remind us (and himself) that he's just repeating what he's heard. It speaks volumes about the immediacy of this kind of singing that they need to do that.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Troll
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 12:19 AM

Good point about the closeness to the audience and the risk of being up there all alone Virginia. I can't sing a song unaccompanied unless it touches me in some way outside of the normal range of emotion.
I have a number of songs that I sing unacompanied but I am aware that, most of the time, the audience can only take just so much, so I try to limit them to gain the maximum impact.
Of course, a lot depends on the audience and the venue. I have been in sessions where no one who sang used an instrument and others where the use of instruments was mixed. In each case no one seemed to mind if there were or were not instruments being played.

troll


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: WyoWoman
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 01:53 AM

Well, Ebbie. You inspired me and I just ordered one of Hazel Dickens' CDs -- it has West Virginia My Home on it, so I'll have to add that to my repertoire.

And re. the difference between a capella and unaccompanied singing, etc. -- what's the distinction? Is a capella chamber music for the voice? And what exactly does sean nos mean then?

Curiously, ww


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Naemanson
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 07:22 AM

These last posts about intimacy with the audience have been an eye opener for me. I started out in front of audiences with solo voice because that was all I had. It never occurred to me to ask why the audience became so still when I was singing. Or, in the case of some of the sadder, more emotional songs, it took a few seconds for the applause to start.

I understand what is being said about United Statesians and our discomfort with displays of intense emotion. I guess that makes me realize now, for I didn't realize it before, what a risk I take climbing up on that stage to sing. I hope I can forget that before I go back up there!*BG*


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 11:03 AM

WW. sean nós literally means "old style". There is recently a thread on Mudcat about sean nós dancing, too.

In the US, a capella has lost its original meaning of being in the chapel, and there are lots of groups, competitions, websites, etc., of everything from jazz to rock and rhythm & blues - one example is Rockapella, who use the term a capella, but it isn't solo. Rockapella used to sing on the kids geography game on PBS called Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego? They would do little doo-wop bits throughout the show with lyrics about the game. Lots of kids recognize Rockapella.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 11:20 AM

Here is another page discussing sean nós:

SEAN-NOS

quote in part:
"...All my informants in Donegal sang as they breathed: unselfconsciously and spontaneously. Describing the prevalence of singing in her daily life, Sailí Gallagher exclaimed:

I always sing when I'm working - I never stop singing! I never stop - and somebody'll see us the other day, and I was makin' tea and I was singin' away, and they said, "Well, you're happy, anyway." But I never stop singing - I always keep on! 35

Aine Ní Ghallachóir, recalling her girlhood, remarked, "Oh, I sang everywhere - across the fields and jumping over the ditches - I sang everywhere, to myself!" 36

To the traditional singer, sean-nós is no mere matter of technique or style. It cannot be bounded by concepts of time and space - or even by the folkloristic concepts I have discussed here (function, performance context, repertoire, etc.). Such concepts imply that human behavior and creativity can be separated into discrete units and analyzed accordingly. But to the traditional singer, there can be no such tidy demarcations. To him, sean-nós cannot be detached from the process of living, for it is the stuff of life itself.
Julie Henigan - 14.8.99
This article first appeared in Ulster Folklife No 37 (1991): pp 97-105


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: jeffp
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 11:33 AM

This is such a great thread! I have been singing and accompanying myself on guitar for thirty years, but I'm planning to give unaccompanied singing a try. Of course I've sung unaccompanied walking down the street or through the woods, but not in "public". What you all have written will be a big help to me, and for that I thank all of you.

jeffp


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Ferrara
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 11:46 AM

Threads like this are the heart of Mudcat as far as I'm concerned.

I think I said up above that I sang "a capella" in certain circumstances. Soon as I typed it I thought it should have been "unaccompanied," but hoped nobody would notice... I should have known better!!!


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 11:46 AM

When performing, singing with guitar or banjo, I make a great practice of maintaining eye contact with members of the audience--or if there's too big an audience, of looking around AS IF I were making eye contact. I think this is essential to showmanship, to keep from seeming a mere purveyor of others' songs, to make the song "my own".

Howsomever, because most of the songs I sing unaccompanied are so intense, I can't make that personal contact. I will close my eyes or look off at the ceiling or something. To make eye contact would be unbearable for me, and I think probably for the eye-contactee.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Naemanson
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 12:48 PM

There is a wonderful sense of purpose and accomplishment when one asks a question that elicits such a lively debate. I have enjoyed reading all the responses and feel that I have learned some very important things here that will improve my performances and my enjoyment of singing.

Thanks to everyone for all the input.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Alice
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 01:41 PM

Ferrara, I agree about threads like this being the heart of Mudcat. When you set the forum refresh button for two or three years and read the threads from back then, almost all of them used to be like this thread.

Alice


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: WyoWoman
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 01:54 PM

Dave -- that's true for me as well. I end up closing my eyes when I sing unaccompanied, partly because it keeps me in the song and therefore remembering my words. But also because the contact gets to be too electric too soon if I look someone in the eye. As soon as the song's over, i can do that, but not during.

Thank you for that link and the info re. sean nos, Alice. I also agree that this is the heart of Mudcat and what it STILL is about. If I see a thread that's too much B.S. for me, I just back out of the room and find one of these. There are still plenty and if people in another room insist on quarreling with each other, well, that's their affair and not mine.

BUT ... these threads are hard on my pocketbook. They're always inspiring me to buy one CD or another ...

WW


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: hesperis
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 02:14 PM

Have you ever noticed that a lot of people cough at the most emotional moments?
This happens when listening to songs and watching movies.
If somebody's dying, or the song is at a really tender moment, I'll be sitting there with tears streaming down my face, or just caught up in the magic of it, and there is this HUGE chorus of *hack* *cough* *snort* et cetera.
And then people turn to me saying, "wow, you were really affected by that!" As if I'm the one who's doing something strange...

It's really wierd.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 03:40 PM

This is thread drift maybe, but I find the suggestion that "many Americans ... are uneasy with that much intense emotion" is interesting.

The general impression we get back in the British Isles is that Americans tend to be a lot more open about their emotions than people back here. And that isn't just about the reserved English, it's as true for Irish people in Ireland and in England.

Just have a browse around the Mudcat to see what I mean, and see the different ways we all seem to go about expressing sympathy for someone's troubles or whatever.

Maybe the key word is "intense", and the greater ease with expressing feelings is balanced out somehow when i6 comes to deeper emotions involving strangers. Or maybe being morer open about expressing feeklings makes for a greater degree of sensitivity, which makes strong emotions from others more painful.

An instrument does provide a distancing mechanism, as has been said, makes it more of a performance. It marks it off from daily life, whereas surely singing without an accompaniment is just a normal part of daily life for all of us, even if we only do it to ourselves as we are driving around and so forth.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 04:16 PM

I started in folk music playing the recorder...then the autoharp...then was tempted to sing. And though I still love to play instruments, I soon heard songs I wanted to learn that simply did NOT need anything but voice..."The Twa Corbies" and "Colorado Trail"...and many more. Some songs are okay either way. But the feeling I get when a fine singer really get into an unaccompanied song is special...

and I reserve a special place in Hades..(you know...the room with the accordians & bodhrans playing "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano") for those guitarists and banjo players, etc., who wont LET a singer just sing... and feel compelled to find the key and 'help' them! Please! If a singer wants some help...fine, otherwise sit on your hands!


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Mbo
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 04:20 PM

It's alright Bill, they were just trying to add a little contrast to the 200 verse bore-fest. The reason the audience is so quiet is cause they're all zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: sophocleese
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 04:32 PM

You're right Mbo, bad leads and wrong chords add such an atmospere to a song! Certainly those 30 verse songs are rendered more intense when you add a guitar playing A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A A A D D A A E E A A D D E E A A.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Naemanson
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 05:10 PM

OH NO! Here we go again!


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: DonMeixner
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 05:58 PM

I rarely reply to a thread that has run this long but shall in this case.

I was primarily a guitarist and singer intil I hurt my hand. Then I was primarily a singer until I retraned my fingers. Now I am still a singer but also a guitar accompanist. For the guitar, or banjo is more a tonal and visual aid. It neither detracts nor overshadows what I do. I find that I sing more accapella songs than before but I always sang that way as well.

Its the song that dictates the technique more that anything else. I will always sing "Rhue" " The Burning of Kingston" "Henry the 8th", "Spainish Johnny" and a host of others without an instrument because I feel thats what those songs need and how they suite my voice.

I think an unaccompanied song requires more preparation in many ways to sing well. With out the rhythym of the instrument, the awareness of breathing becomes more critical. Pronounciation does aswell. Vocal emphasis becomes more necessary for reasons of song dynamics.

Without the instrument staying in Key becomes more critical. Rarely does an unaccompanied snger start and end on a perfect tone.

Any one who says you musicianship ruins or detracts frim your singing either is very jelous or is very rude. Sing the song how you hear it, guitar or no.

Don


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: jacko@nz
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 06:08 PM

you might have something there sophocleese:-)) gidday matt


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 07:18 PM

*shaking my head sadly*.....it's NOT a war, Matt


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 28 Aug 00 - 11:20 PM

I usually sing unaccompanied. I find that the solo voice is capable of greater subtleties when not having to compromise with accompaniment. And there is an intensity in the naked voice that gets diluted when instruments join it and draw the focus away the song the voice is singing. That focus and that intensity are too easily lost when instruments join in.

And when in a a group, I enjoy singing a cappella, adding harmonies to a melody, capable of tuning more accurately than a tempered instrument can manage.

One of the great joys of living in the Washington, DC area is that there are many people here who enjoy singing unaccompanied. Most of the occasions when we gather together are opportunities to sing and hear unaccompanied voices. And the Getaway is your chance to join us. Y'all come.

--Charlie Baum


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Bearheart
Date: 29 Aug 00 - 02:15 AM

There's nothing like singing with your full voice in the middle of the woods, alone... especially just as the sun's coming up and all the birds are doing it too.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Aug 00 - 05:40 AM

One thing noone's mentioned so far is that if the norm in a setting is that songs are sung with musical accompaniment, lots of people are effectively excluded from contributing. It means that you have the room divided into performers and listeners - and this isn't on the basis that some people don't have songs they want to sing, but because they don't have instruments they can play.

What a terrible waste. Just think of all the great traditional singers who couldn't play a musical instrument to save their lives, or who prefer to sing without accompaniment. And if you have experience of song circles where unaccompanied singing is customary, think of the great singers who'd be silent if accompanied singing was required.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: sledge
Date: 29 Aug 00 - 06:07 AM

When you listen to someone like Anne Briggs you just know that an instrument can quite superfluous.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Naemanson
Date: 29 Aug 00 - 06:43 AM

Don, I don't think anyone is saying musicianship ruins or detracts from singing in general. I think the general gist of the posts is that for some of us playing an instrument is not an easy flow of the fingers. We have to pay close attention to what we are doing with our hands and that distracts us from our voices.

Add to that the position some of us are in when we are playing. I tend to lean forward to watch my left hand on the guitar neck. This is not a good position from which to sing. Consequently my voice suffers and it is my strongest instrument.

Plus I think a lot of people agree with you that the individual song dictates the need for instrumentation.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 29 Aug 00 - 06:55 AM

I have enjoyed this thread so much, since unaccompanied singing is such a thrill to me. I play the guitar primarily as an accompaniment instrument, for those songs which can benefit from it, especially when song-leading things like "All God's Critters" with 300 school children. But for my own pleasure and for ballads and certain other styles, there's nothing like the pure, unaccompanied voice.
Guest Russ, you expressed my feelings so well on the subject of solo singing that I won't say more.
Charlie, you said it for me on group a cappella singing. That's why my chorus, Animaterra, is a cappella all the way.
Matt, you sound as though you feel a wee bit defensive. Are you ok?


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,eldergirl
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 12:12 PM

I can't believe that everyone has had their full say on this.
In our neighbourhood it seems that singing without an accompanying instrument is viewed as abnormal and downright freakish, or ancient and boring. Certainly for concert-type folk venues. However, at one song session I used to go to, now alas defunct, the silence that fell in the pub for any (reasonably competent and accurately pitched) solo unaccompanied singer was striking. Maybe said session now defunct cos nattering and eating brings in more dosh for landlord? Oh, the trials of modern life.
Have noticed so many cases where earnest guitarist forgets to sing beyond his fretboard. Think of the SONG, not the blighted instrument!! Aaargh!


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 08:22 PM

"Think of the SONG, not the blighted instrument!"
Could not possibly agree more EG
Peggy Seeger is the finest accompanist I ever heard on both English and American songs - I recorded a wonderful (if uncompromising) talk she gave on the subject the year I moved to London in 1969 - I still have that recording, treasure it and listen to it for sheer entertainment, if nothing else.
The statement she made right at the beginning still resonates with me - "The first thing to ask yourself about accompaniment is "Does the song need it - if it doesn't, don't do it".
The other was "The problem with much accompaniment is, it doesn't - it leads, the voice follows.
I hope this thread runs for a thousand years.
Jim


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 08:53 PM

Again---whatever works. Good accompaniment is difficult---but then again, so is good unaccompanied singing.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Ebbie
Date: 07 Aug 13 - 11:39 PM

One song I used NOT to sing because I was never happy with musical instruments accompanying it is 'Leaving this Land'. I heard it done by Suzanne Thomas a few years back and have it on her CD, although she didn't write it.

Anyway, at music one night I mentioned that I'd like to sing that song but never figured out chords that I was happy with, and someone suggested singing without accompaniment. So I did.

Leaving This Land
By Robin and Linda Williams and Jerome Clark
1988 Songs of PolyGram/Brantford Music BMI

"There's a dead stillness around this place
Like the calm that falls in a twister's wake
Precious memories abound
Of loved ones lying in family graves
And working fields all turned to waste
And this old weathered house that's falling down

This farm took everything you had
I watched it come between you and Dad
All he left behind was you and me
The day he came to understand
That life don't care much about our plans
He moved on like a leaf blown from a tree

I've stood with you as long as I can stand
It tears me all apart,
Mama it breaks my heart
To be leaving this land

Wolves are howling at our door
We can't hold them back any more
The dreams are lost, they can't be found
In this old house on this tired ground
Handing me the deed won't set you free
It's time for us to turn the page
On the sorrows of this sorry age
It's time to leave behind this lone prairie

I've stood with you as long as I can stand
It tears me all apart,
Oh, Mama, it breaks my heart
To be leaving this land"



See? It still gives me chills.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: jacqui.c
Date: 08 Aug 13 - 02:32 AM

I'm lucky in having the best accompanist possible for some of the songs I sing. Kendall makes sure that the guitar is a backing instrument,s rather than leading the song, which makes it easy for me.

When he's not around, as when I am in the UK, I sing unaccompanied since I do not play an instrument, although I keep threatening to learn to play the guitar. However, I do find that, in general, solo singing does concentrate the mind of both singer and audience quite well.


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Subject: Review: Amhráin Ghrá, Gael Linn
From: keberoxu
Date: 03 May 16 - 05:06 PM

The compact disc "Amhráin Ghrá" from the Gael Linn label came to my attention, oddly enough, when I was trying to find out what was meant by the term "spinning Eileens." A recording review surprised me with that phrase which I had never heard before. There's a Mudcat thread on the subject now, and it has to do with harp accompaniment for songs like "The Spinning Wheel", with the cabarets in Irish hotels and castle banquets for tourist, and with the 19th-century drawing-room musical convention of singing for salon audiences. The Gael Linn recording company actively profited from such cabaret acts in the 1960's for instance. "Amhráin Ghrá" is in fact an anthology of previously-recorded songs; a few were not previously released, most were released on earlier products; but all of them were Gael-Linn recordings. So the album is a sort of time-capsule for a style of song-performing documented over a period from the late 1950's through the 1980's. Naturally there is harp accompaniment, and here and there, a piano or a guitar.

What caught me by surprise was how many of the seventeen songs on "Amhráin Ghrá" were unaccompanied solos.

I am no traditional-music insider, so the purist opinion is beyond my expertise to express. I can only sympathize when a sean-nós devotée says that the sound of Máire Ní Scolaí singing sean-nós makes her/him burst out laughing. In short, some Mudcat fanciers of unaccompanied Gaelic-language singing will be intensely unhappy with the "Amhráin Ghrá" performances because they conform to popular/commercial tastes of the show-business producers, managers, and mass public of their day, and are at best outdated. So, you know who you are, and you have been warned.

For an ignoramus like me, "Amhráin Ghrá" is downright edifying. True, if I want to encounter what you call "the pure drop," I am forced to look elsewhere. But it interests me intensely to listen to these performances by artists who are translating an oral, traditional form of music into a context that mass audiences could apprehend and learn from, if you see what I mean.

Here are the selections on this album which are sung unaccompanied:

1. Máire Ní Scolaí: An Draighnean Donn
2.      "       "          "         : Seoithin Seotho
9. Marjorie Courtney: An Samhradh ag Filleadh go hEirinn
14. Gráinne Yeats: Grádh Geal Mo Chridh'
15.    "      "         : A Oganaigh an Chuil Cheangailte
17. Mary O'Hara: Róisín Dubh


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 03 May 16 - 06:29 PM

> a sean-nós devotée says that the sound of Máire Ní Scolaí singing sean-nós makes her/him burst out laughing.

Laughter suggests amused disdain, but for what exactly? Pronunciation? Delivery Melodic uniformity? Incongruity of setting and material? All of the above?


It would be interesting to know.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 May 16 - 12:32 AM

with all performance and this includes unaccompanied singing, planning is necessary, give thought to changes of tempo changes of keys, variety of subject material, and include some chorus songs.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 May 16 - 05:38 PM

As an Englishman I'm afraid I can't get my head round overdecorated singing. I'm much happier with one note per syllable. Any more than that to me is moving towards art music. I absolutely love unaccompanied singing and a capella singing but whilst a great tune is important I like to listen to the words, not someone excercising their vocal chords. Having said that, I am quite partial to yodelling but that is something else, using the voice as a musical instrument.

I listened to an accredited Irish singer on tonight's Radio 2 Folk programme. His name was pronounced Derry but spelt something like Dioari. Apologies if I've got that wrong. His first song was unaccompanied and highly decorated and drawn out. The words didn't seem to matter as opposed to showing off the technique. His second song accompanied on guitar (Creggan White Hare) was totally the opposite, wonderful singing, clear diction, wonderful accompaniment, great voice.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 04 May 16 - 06:44 PM

The tracks Steve G heard @~ 36:00 & 46:00

The Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe 4 May 2016  

3:50 "Rhiannon Giddens - Black Is The Colour"

8:30 "Linda Thompson - It Wont Be Long Now"

12:00 "Sam Lee - Lovely Molly (Live at the 2016 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards)"

20:20 "Daoirí Farrell - The Mickey Dam" (with guitar)

~24:-- "Rant - Dads 60th"

27:50 "Chris Wood - This Love Wont Let You Fail"
[ ? the Chris Wood who's Wikipedia says " He is an ardent enthusiast for traditional English dance music,..." ?]

35:50 / 36:10 "Daoirí Farrell - The Blue Tar Road"

46:00 "Daoirí Farrell - The Creggan White Hare" (with guitar)

[46:30 iPlayer crashed]

"Dallahan - Spolkas"

"Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop - Every Songbird Says"


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Anne Neilson
Date: 04 May 16 - 06:56 PM

I'm with Steve on the issue of overdecorated singing - I find it confuses my reaction to a song which 'should' contain some message or communication.

My earliest models (in Scotland) in the early '60s were singers such as Jeannie Robertson, Davie Stewart, Jimmie MacBeath and Willie Scott, and I was easily persuaded of the power of unaccompanied singing, particularly of the great narrative ballads.
And in the ensuing time I have had found no reason to change my mind! Now my main repertoire (covering ballads, lyrical songs, music hall, contemporary) is often unaccompanied.

Many previous posters have mentioned the difficulty of working with an accompanist -- or, at least, one who was less attuned than many. I have been lucky enough to work over the previous decades with a lovely guitar accompanist who actually LISTENS -- he totally pays attention to me (aurally and visually) and is always 'subservient', which is the best word I can think of in the circumstances!

But I would never imagine him accompanying me on a ballad...


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 May 16 - 07:19 PM

"I absolutely love unaccompanied singing and a capella singing but whilst a great tune is important I like to listen to the words, not someone excercising their vocal chords"
firstly all singing is an exercise of the vocal chords, secondly the words were clear enough to me, I did not find the ornamentation interfered with my abilty to understand the words.
Finally what has being an Englishman got to do with anything, since when has being English meant that the singer cannot use a decorated style of delivery.
I am afraid I find this comment from Steve typical of that which pisses me off from some trad music afficianados, talk about a narrow approach, i get the impression from Steve that he thinks all english singers should sing in an undecorated style, he says he is happier with one note per syllable.
here is joseph taylor an english tradtional singer singing in a decorated style, if you do not like it mr gardham, that is tough, but please do not pretend that undecorated singing is not in the english tradition, in both cases[daori and joeph taylor] the decorated style does not interfere withe abilty to understand the lyrics
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f6pXtZ2EEA


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 05 May 16 - 04:44 AM

My hearing is getting a bit fuzzy I think. I love unaccompanied. I quite often find that if a guitar drowns out one critical word I lose interest in the rest of the song. I can still enjoy the performance if the musicians are good.

I like some ornamentation when it sounds un forced.
Steve, what would you say about Anne Briggs here?
Anne Briggs - Gathering Rushes (not a very clear recording though)
or
Jacqui McShee - Cruel Mother 


I understood the words OK on r2.
He's a fine voice and I enjoyed the skill of Daoirí Farrell's - The Blue Tar Road but what I struggle with is the slow pace. I'm prepared to listen to some more though.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 05 May 16 - 05:07 AM

Two 'by the ways'

article about 'a cappella' 

If you don't object to Spotify
an a cappella playlist(99%) 


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 05 May 16 - 05:10 AM

&
A Cappella, Acappella, Acapella, A Capella, Acapella or A Capela?


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Ged Fox
Date: 05 May 16 - 05:47 AM

"I absolutely love unaccompanied singing and a capella singing but whilst a great tune is important I like to listen to the words, not someone exercising their vocal chords"

That's a matter of taste, of course. I sing unaccompanied and try to sing clearly so that people can understand the words. Occasionally, however I'll sing something foreign. I don't expect that the words will be understood, nor do I translate unless asked. However, I don't speak melodeon or violin but that does not prevent me from enjoying their music. Sometimes it is OK just to use the voice like any other instrument and enjoy the music and poetry for the pure sound, rather than the sense.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 May 16 - 08:11 AM

Ged, excellent post


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 05 May 16 - 03:33 PM

Completely agree with you, Ged. Sometimes when I'm on my own in the car I will sing something for the sheer joy of exercising my vocal chords but I wouldn't presume to let anyone else listen.

Dick, please read posts carefully before jumping in. I was simply presenting my own preferences, not running anyone down. That wonderful singer, Joseph Taylor, uses an absolute minimum of decoration and in the few places it does occur it's more of a warble than a decoration.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 05 May 16 - 03:46 PM

Freddy,
Both of the excellent recordings you posted have pretty minimal decoration. The majority of syllables are single note and what decoration there is is both tasteful and doesn't distract the listener from the words.

All of this is of course simply down to opinion and taste. I have little knowledge of Sean Nos singing though I'm very happy just to listen to sounds if I can't follow words being sung for whatever reason, but I still prefer to hear a story if one is being told.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 May 16 - 04:24 PM

i read your post carefully, this is what you said
"As an Englishman I'm afraid I can't get my head round overdecorated singing. I'm much happier with one note per syllable. Any more than that to me is moving towards art music. I absolutely love unaccompanied singing and a capella singing but whilst a great tune is important I like to listen to the words, not someone excercising their vocal chords. Having said that, I am quite partial to yodelling but that is something else, using the voice as a musical instrument."

I listened to an accredited Irish singer on tonight's Radio 2 Folk programme. His name was pronounced Derry but spelt something like Dioari. Apologies if I've got that wrong. His first song was unaccompanied and highly decorated and drawn out. The words didn't seem to matter as opposed to showing off the technique. His second song accompanied on guitar (Creggan White Hare) was totally the opposite, wonderful singing, clear diction, wonderful accompaniment, great voice.
in my opinion based on listening to dioairi, joseph taylor anne briggs and other english singers who do not sing one note per syllable and who use decoration quite a lot, my conclusion is you are talking nonsense.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 05 May 16 - 04:35 PM

Dick, as always you are entitled to your opinion. Thankfully that's all it is.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 May 16 - 06:04 PM

Thankfully your opinion and your uninformed waffle about being an englishman and equating it with an undecorated style is just that uninformed opinion.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Anne Neilson
Date: 05 May 16 - 06:07 PM

Are we heading towards a discussion of what constitutes decoration? And, if so, should we be opening a new thread?

But, since I'm already on here, I'd like to express an opinion about what I'd call florid or twirly-wirly singing which -- IMHO -- says more about vocal gymnastics than communication. (It can be very impressive, but I have to wonder whether it actually engages a listener in the sense that there is a shared message.)

But there are singers (Jeannie Robertson and Lizzie Higgins to name but two, plus other current singers) who seem to have access to a wider range of effects -- snap notes, pauses, leaps, slurs and, inevitably, some twiddles -- which are used to point up the text of a song.

After all, if a song has words, surely they have to have some meaning/value?.?


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: keberoxu
Date: 08 May 16 - 07:35 PM

In response to Lighter's May 3, 2016 reply:

That remark I quoted about a person who bursts out laughing at the sound of Máire Ní Scolaí singing sean-nós: it was a very terse remark and left much to conjecture. However there was an equally laconic sentence there, which said, "not 'trad' enough." And it is no secret that Ní Scolaí had a singing technique that was highly trained and schooled, a technique from an entirely different genre of music. As posts on another thread have stated, Ní Scolaí had a technique of breath support comparable to one of the great classical singers. By this I mean, she learned how to breathe so as to support her own voice resonance with a buoyant yet sturdy column of air, engaging the muscles around the diaphragm and probably the intercostal muscles around the back of the ribcage. You have to train like an athlete in order to breathe like that. The result is more like chanting than like speech. Ní Scolaí's recordings show a voice with a really polished, deliberate sound, which to some ears will seem unnatural to the point of artifice. Maybe that is why it made somebody laugh.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 May 16 - 03:02 AM

There is more than one way of listening to the words of a song, the most obvious way is to listen to the meaning of the lyrics, then.. there is another way listening to words as part of an instrunental performance, examples, mouth music diddling opera[if in a language that the listener does not understand.
I often listen to gaelic traditional vocal music and only understand a few words, but am listening to the beauty of the voice as an instrument.
"since I'm already on here, I'd like to express an opinion about what I'd call florid or twirly-wirly singing which -- IMHO -- says more about vocal gymnastics than communication. (It can be very impressive, but I have to wonder whether it actually engages a listener in the sense that there is a shared message.)"quote.
Ann, it does communicate, it communicates a sound that is pleasant musically.
However in Daoris case, I did understand the words.
to suggest that traditional singers should not use decoration isin my opinion a rather narrow approach.
Steve said sing one note per syllable, again a narrow blinkered approach, every song should be considered differently, some songs such as Cadgwith anthem DO NOT HAVE A CLEAR STORY, SOME SONGS LEND THEM SELVES TO DECORATION SOME.. MAYBE NOT.
Variety, Contrast, expression, musicality, pleasant instrumental vocal sound all are important.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST
Date: 09 May 16 - 02:14 PM

'I can't get my head round overdecorated singing. I'm much happier with one note per syllable.'

I thought I'd better quote exactly the opinion I expressed earlier as Dick insists on misquoting me as usual.

I have at no point suggested that every syllable sung by anyone should be one note. This is not a black and white issue. Some people might be quite happy with 4 or 5 notes on every syllable. I'm not one of those. ecoration when applied sparingly and tastefully can enhance a performance of a song as I think I have demonstrated I am very happy with in subsequent postings.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST
Date: 09 May 16 - 02:17 PM

Dick,
The main problem you have here is that Ann and I were expressing personal preferences, not dictating what should and shouldn't be. Try to read posts more carefully in future!


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: Vic Smith
Date: 09 May 16 - 02:58 PM

But there are singers (Jeannie Robertson and Lizzie Higgins to name but two, plus other current singers) who seem to have access to a wider range of effects -- snap notes, pauses, leaps, slurs and, inevitably, some twiddles -- which are used to point up the text of a song.

Here we have someone, Anne Neilson, who really understands the point of it all, though obviously the fact that she is talking about two of my all-time heroes obviously helps.
I spent a lot of time in the company of both Jeannie and even more with Lizzie who stayed in our house when she was on the tours that we organised for her. To my ears, both these fabulous singers structured their conversations in the same way. All the effects that Anne describes in the admirable way in the sentence that I quote above were present in the way they spoke as well as in the way they sang. Both would sometimes makes a single syllable word into two- or three- beats if it was useful to help them make their points. As speakers and more particularly as story-tellers their use of the pause was dramatic and effective and if they wanted to emphasise a particular word they would slow down and emphasise it.
All the Scots travellers seemed to be happier talking about themes by use of particular examples rather than talking about a subject in a more general way; in a vacuum so-to-speak. I remember in particular a conversation with another hero, Jane Turriff, about men 'bad-using' women and Jane quoted several examples of people amongst her neighbours in Fetterangus and she went on to pour scorn on the man who treated someone called Annie badly. It took me some time to realise that she was talking about her song, Mill O'Tifty's Annie. It brought home to me that they did not just sing their ballads; they lived them. I think that is why I found their ballads to utterly convincing.


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Subject: RE: Solo Unaccompanied Singing and Songs
From: GUEST,Anne Neilson
Date: 09 May 16 - 04:26 PM

And further to Vic's post -- I have a wonderful memory of Jane Turriff's description of how she interpreted a song by "putting in the curves", as useful a description of decoration as many!


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