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100 Years since Cecil Sharp heard 'Seeds of Love'

DigiTrad:
SEEDS OF LOVE


Related threads:
Important new article on Cecil Sharp (107)
Sharp and tunes (12)
Cecil Sharp and Scotland (13)
Sharp's Appalachian Harvest (38)
Contents for Sharp/Karpeles book (12)
Contribute to Cecil Sharp's Collection! (96)
finding a manuscript written by C Sharp (7)
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Les in Chorlton 11 Oct 03 - 04:37 AM
The Borchester Echo 12 Oct 03 - 04:32 AM
The Borchester Echo 12 Oct 03 - 04:42 AM
Willie-O 12 Oct 03 - 11:13 AM
DMcG 12 Oct 03 - 11:28 AM
Nerd 13 Oct 03 - 01:58 AM
Dave Bryant 13 Oct 03 - 05:23 AM
DMcG 13 Oct 03 - 05:53 AM
GUEST 13 Oct 03 - 07:28 AM
Wolfgang 14 Oct 03 - 03:38 AM
Dave Bryant 14 Oct 03 - 12:03 PM
Willie-O 14 Oct 03 - 03:27 PM
Les in Chorlton 15 Oct 03 - 02:31 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 Oct 03 - 06:04 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 Oct 03 - 06:12 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 Oct 03 - 06:15 PM
Malcolm Douglas 15 Oct 03 - 06:23 PM
Les in Chorlton 15 Oct 03 - 06:29 PM
Malcolm Douglas 15 Oct 03 - 07:35 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 Oct 03 - 10:00 PM
GUEST,Les in Chorlton 19 Oct 03 - 08:07 AM
GUEST 19 Oct 03 - 08:30 AM
Marje 19 Oct 03 - 01:48 PM
GUEST, Mikefule 19 Oct 03 - 03:43 PM
Malcolm Douglas 19 Oct 03 - 09:25 PM
Nerd 20 Oct 03 - 02:00 AM
The Borchester Echo 20 Oct 03 - 05:58 AM
GUEST,Dan abnormal 20 Oct 03 - 07:49 AM
GUEST 20 Oct 03 - 08:19 AM
Marje 20 Oct 03 - 08:20 AM
Nerd 20 Oct 03 - 02:34 PM
GUEST,Dan Abnormal 21 Oct 03 - 05:32 AM
GUEST,Les in Chorlton 22 Oct 03 - 01:12 PM
Le Scaramouche 03 Jul 05 - 10:59 AM
breezy 03 Jul 05 - 11:51 AM
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Subject: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 11 Oct 03 - 04:37 AM

We went to see Ashley Hutchins and friends in Shaw, Oldham, UK with his celebration of the 100 years since Cecel Sharp heard John England sing the Seeds of Love.

Great night, great venue, great music. Where do we go from here?


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 12 Oct 03 - 04:32 AM

'As I Cycled Out on a May Morning' tour dates:
http://www.folkicons.co.uk/ashnews.htm where you go next.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 12 Oct 03 - 04:42 AM

Here's that link again, working hopefully.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Willie-O
Date: 12 Oct 03 - 11:13 AM

So, what's the significance of this anniversary? Who was John England? What is "Seeds of Love"? What did Sharp do upon hearing it? Sounds kind of 19sixties, perhaps I've overslept again.

W-O


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: DMcG
Date: 12 Oct 03 - 11:28 AM

Perhaps the shortest answer, Willie-O, is to refer you to this thread.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Nerd
Date: 13 Oct 03 - 01:58 AM

Actually, that thread does nothing to answer Willie-O's question. It assumes you know what Sharp did, and does not even mention John England...

This Somerset site, while perhaps a bit effusive, gives a better explanation of the importance of the event. It reads in part:

He is quite simply one of the most important people in Britain's traditional folk culture.

You could even call him the god-father of folk. He is Cecil Sharp and his collection, conservation and preservation of our traditional and cultural musical heritage began in Somerset 100 years ago this summer.

Cecil Sharp was visiting a friend, Charles Marson, the vicar of Hambridge, when on August 22nd 1903 he heard the vicar's gardener John England sing 'The Seeds of Love'. That song began a lifelong quest to collect not just English Folk songs and dances - but also American, particularly from the Appalachian Mountains.

Travelling by train and bicycle Cecil Sharp collected more than 1500 songs from 311 Somerset singers, with a further 3500 songs from the rest of England and the USA. His musical journey also led him to found the English Folk Dance Society in 1911.

The Centenary celebrations this year run from Wednesday 20th to Sunday 24th August and take the form of an international conference at Dillington House, near Ilminster, and a Festival in the village of Hambridge itself.

John England's descendant Doug England, is travelling across from Canada to join the festivities. With a line up including local and national artists such as Waterson-Carthy, John Kirkpatrick, Dr Faustus, Eddie Upton and George Withers and a programme of music, dance and theatre, local crafts and Somerset food and drink - there truly will be something for everyone.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 13 Oct 03 - 05:23 AM

Sharp was not the only or even first collector of the British Folk Tradition. He did however manage to both encourage others and help to organise and consolidate the movement on both the song and dance fronts. The London headquarters of The English Folk Dance and Song Society is justifiably named after him.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: DMcG
Date: 13 Oct 03 - 05:53 AM

Apologies for the misleading thread. I had followed up some of the links in it which do mention John England, but I have to admit the thread itself doesn't.

The "Still Growing" book recently issued by EFDSS includes a introduction by Vic Gammon which gives a good account of Cecil Sharp's position in folk music, and also gives his view that the John England meeting is perhaps slightly less influential on Sharp than is commonly thought. It is perhaps more appropriate to think of it as releasing an attitude and approach in Sharp that had been building for some time than as an epiphany.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Oct 03 - 07:28 AM


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Subject: Lyr Add: C SHARP SHUFFLE (Les Barker)
From: Wolfgang
Date: 14 Oct 03 - 03:38 AM

C SHARP SHUFFLE

(LES BARKER)

Take your partners for the C Sharp Shuffle
for old C Sharp was a person of note
honour your partners, one pace forward,
everybody raise one arm and vote.
One pace forward, two steps backward,
three steps sideways behind the scences;
those on the right don't move from London;
everybody else go to Milton Keynes.
Those in the front hand in resignations;
now who takes the helm of the sinking boat?
Next in line hand in nominations;
everybody raise one arm and vote....

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 14 Oct 03 - 12:03 PM

I was on the National Executive of the EFDSS when the idea of selling CSH was first mooted - we ended up spending more time discussing it than Folk Music - what a waste of time !


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Willie-O
Date: 14 Oct 03 - 03:27 PM

Thanks for the info. It's not like I don't know who Cecil Sharp was...

W-O


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 15 Oct 03 - 02:31 PM

Ashley Hutchins, who provoked this thread,and thousands of other more and less known mortals, have been singing and playing the tunes that Sharp and lots others collected. Everybody adds a bit on the songs are around to enjoy.

I don't want to get Ashley/Albions out of proportion but they have done a lot of imaginative and creative work.

The revival that started in the 50s/60s was a very good thing. But, where do we go from here? Do we carry on as we are - same kind of venues/events same kind of arrangements or ............... what?


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Subject: Lyr Add: SEEDS OF LOVE
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 Oct 03 - 06:04 PM

The Clancy brothers version of "Seeds of Love," in the DT, lacks an important part of the song, when the singer is "pierced to the heart." I am not sure if these lines were in the version collected by Sharp in Somerset, but they are in versions in the broadsides at the Bodleian Library, as well as in Robert Bell, ed., "Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England." The version that follows is taken from there.

Lyr. Add: SEEDS OF LOVE

I sowed the seeds of love, it was all in the spring,
In April, May, and June, likewise, when small birds they do sing;
My garden's well planted with flowers everywhere,
Yet I had not the liberty to choose for myself the flower that i loved so dear.

My gardener he stood by, I asked him to choose for me,
He chose me the violet, the lily and pink, but those I refused all three;
The violet I forsook, because it fades so soon,
The lily and the pink I did o'erlook, and I vowed to stay till June.

In June there's a red rose-bud, and that's the flower for me!
But often I have plucked at the red rose-bud till I gained the willow tree;
The willow tree will twist, and the willow tree will twine,-
O! I wish I was in the dear youth's arms that once had the heart of mine.

My gardener he stood by, he told me to take great care,
For in the middle of a red rose-bud there grows a sharp thorn there;
I told him I'd take no care till I did feel the smart,
And often I plucked at the red rose-bud till I pierced it to the heart.

I'll make me a posy of hyssop,- no other I can touch,-
That all the world may plainly see I love one flower too much;
My garden is run wild! where shall I plant anew-
For my bed, that once was covered with thyme, is all overrun with rue?

A slightly different version from the Bodleian Ballads:

Lyr. Add: SEEDS OF LOVE

I sowed the seeds of love, it was all in the spring,
In April, May, and June, likewise, when the small birds they did sing,
My garden planted was with flowers everywhere,
I'd not the liberty to choose the flower I lov'd dear.

My gardener was standing by I ask'd him to choose for me,
He chose the violet, the lily and pink, but I refus'd all three:
The violet I forsook because it fades so soon,
The lily and pink I overlook'd, I vow'd to stay till June;

For in June there is a red rose bud, that is the flower for me,
For oft have I pluck'd the red rose bud, till I gain'd the willow tree.
The willow tree will twist, & the willow tree will twine,
I wish I was in the young man's arms that once had this heart of mine.

My gardener standing by, told me to take great care
For in the midst of a rose bud there grows a sharp thorn there.
I told him I did take no care until I felt the smart,
For oft I've pluck'd at the red rose bud till it pierc'd me to the heart.

I'll get me a posey of hyssop, no other flower I'll touch,
That all the world may plainly see I lov'd one flower too much.
I lock'd my garden gate & resolved to keep the key
But a young man came a courting to me and stole my heart away.

My garden is all run wild, and what must I plant now,
My beds that once were cover'd with thyme, they are all run o'er with rue.
Come all you false young men that have left me here to complain,
The grass that once was trodden under foot, give it time 'twill rise again.

Ballads Catalogue 2806 c.17(381), Swindells, Manchester, c. 1796-1853. Another variant, printed in Liverpool, is dated c. 1857-1877. It is likely that both date from the mid-1800s.
The song obviously is a composed piece but the name of the lyricist has been lost.
Nelson-Burns (Contemplator) considered it to be a more "modern" version of "Sprig of Thyme," words written by Mrs. Fleetwood Habergam around 1689 (but not credited until much later?). Robert Bell says the song is a favorite with the peasantry, but that as a consequence of being introduced into the modern dramatic entertainment, "The Loan of a Lover," it has obtained popularity in "higher circles."   
I doubt that it was originally folk.
Note: violet = modesty, pink = courtesy, lily = purity, red rose = true love, the willow was symbolic of sorrow.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 Oct 03 - 06:12 PM

Robert Bell, editor, "Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England" at: Robert Bell


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 Oct 03 - 06:15 PM

Robert Bell


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 15 Oct 03 - 06:23 PM

The Habergam attribution was asserted in Dr Whittaker's History of the Parish of Whalley (1801) and repeated by Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time, 1855-9, II, 521). I expect Lesley got it from Chappell, but I don't think it's taken too seriously now. Chappell himself said: "If I were required to name three of the most popular songs among the servant-maids of the present generation, I should say, from my own experience, that they are Cupid's garden, I sow'd the seeds of love, and Early one morning.

The more we find out about the history of popular song, the fewer "folk" songs remain which may actually have arisen among "the folk". That doesn't really matter; it's what happened to the songs after they escaped captivity and began, so to speak, to breed in the wild that is particularly interesting. Whatever people think of Cecil Sharp as a person, this forum -for example- wouldn't be here if it weren't for his work, and the folk music revival simply wouldn't have happened.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 15 Oct 03 - 06:29 PM

The more we find out about the history of popular song, the fewer "folk" songs remain which may actually have arisen among "the folk". That doesn't really matter; it's what happened to the songs after they escaped captivity and began, so to speak, to breed in the wild that is particularly interesting. Whatever people think of Cecil Sharp as a person, this forum -for example- wouldn't be here if it weren't for his work, and the folk music revival simply wouldn't have happened.

Malcolm,
was ever more wisdom expressed! And thanks Q for so much but...........

.......But, where do we go from here?


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 15 Oct 03 - 07:35 PM

For one thing, it needs to be no longer a self-conscious and deliberate thing, something you go out and do on purpose on, say, Thursdays and at no other time; but something which is an integral part of your life and as natural and normal as hoovering the stairs (well, perhaps having a beer is a better analogy. I don't hoover the stairs that often, though I gather there are people who do).

As you know, I'm very interested in the background, and the minutiæ, of the whole thing; but that's because it's a study of something living. I'm not interested in history for its own sake, but because it's the history of people like us and their lives, and that makes us what we are now. If we lose sight of where we've been, we are likely to get lost. That's why, I think, so many people are lost; they think they exist in a discrete, separate "now" in which only they are real. "There is no such thing as Society", a famous and rather regrettable person once said; "only individuals." That was a grotesque and destructive heresy. You might as well say "There is no such thing as an Individual; only molecules."

Folk music, if we are to call it that, is best preserved by living it, rather than doing it. Not necessarily in arts centres, but just in the normal course of everyday life. Capitalism tends either to ignore those things which do not lead to immediate profit, or which cannot readily be made into private property; or to fear and despise them (hence all those half-witted jibes from "clever" journalists about beards and so on). If it is not "product" then it is beyond their control, and that diminishes both their self-image and self-importance.

Cecil Sharp believed that he, and those like him, were saving from oblivion something important and beautiful which possessed an inherent regenerative power. Whether or not we agree with that, or with how they went about it, we have the results of their work. The majority will no doubt continue to snigger; be damned to them for the fashion-victims that they are. Live it, be passionate about it; believe in it. That's the way to make converts in the long run.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 Oct 03 - 10:00 PM

Nice midi here: Seeds of Love

Cecil Sharp collected some 100 songs just in Somerset, I believe. He was one of the great collectors and deserves our greatful thanks. I find it a little odd, however, that so much is made of this particular lyric, which, although deservedly popular, does not seem to have undergone much of a folk process. Most collectors include some lyrics that they know are composed pieces, because the people that they collect from don't know that- and don't care- if they like the song, they sing it. A collector would turn them off if he insisted some song was not worthy of collection.   

George Butterworth (Folk Songs from Sussex, no. 3, Sowing the Seeds of Love) prepared a version, and Ralph Vaughn Williams set it for solo and chorus.

At this web site, are notes from lectures by Peter Kennedy. A version by Bill Squires is noted (recording available?), and it is said that his father sang this song to Sharp (England not mentioned in the notes shown here):
Seeds of Love


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: GUEST,Les in Chorlton
Date: 19 Oct 03 - 08:07 AM

But, where do we go from here? Do we carry on as we are - same kind of venues/events same kind of arrangements or ............... what?

I ask this question again because I really don't know what the answer is. I don't suppose Sharp could have guessed what came to happen in the 50s & 60s. The second revival happened because a whole set of circumstances, of which many have happened.

I am quite happy to listen straightforward songs and tunes but Hutchins and lots of others have done lots of good things, as have Edward II / E2K, the Afro Celts and so on. Many minority ethnic communities have rich and alive musical traditions. what, with sensitivity and respect, can we learn and enjoy from and with their traditions?


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Oct 03 - 08:30 AM

Sorry that was even more incoherent than usual.

Try again.....?
But, where do we go from here? Do we carry on as we are - same kind of venues/events same kind of arrangements or ............... what?

I ask this question again because I really don't know what the answer is. I don't suppose Sharp could have guessed what came to happen in the 50s & 60s. The second revival happened because a whole set of circumstances, of which many have written.

I am quite happy to listen to straightforward songs and tunes but Hutchins and lots of others have done lots of good things, as have Edward II / E2K, the Afro Celts and so on.

Many minority ethnic communities have rich and alive musical traditions. What, with sensitivity and respect, can we learn and enjoy from and with their traditions?


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Marje
Date: 19 Oct 03 - 01:48 PM

What a lovely thread this has been, lots of interesting stuff. I like Malcolm's comment about songs finding an independent life, breeding in the wild, and I believe that's an important characteristic of folk songs and tunes. They have to be strong and hard-wearing enough to withstand different interpretations and treatments, and adaptable enough to evolve to meet new circumstances.

So one of the things that would help is to keep a distinction between traditional material (or stuff that has, so to speak, been set free to breed in the wild) and commercial music. It's becoming common to hear songs and tunes attributed to a particular performer, but if it's basically a traditional song or tune, we're not doing it any favours if we keep linking it up with one particular version known from recordings or stage performances. Once we label a traditional song (not a recently composed one) as "a Steeleye song" or "a Kate Rusby song", we limit it, and cut ourselves off from part of our heritage.

Many people who know nothing of Sharp's work, and who are suspicious of purely traditional music, have no idea that many of the songs he collected have contributed to the repertoire for successful, innovative singers and bands.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: GUEST, Mikefule
Date: 19 Oct 03 - 03:43 PM

Another way of looking at it: Cecil Sharp is a legendary figure, and the stories attached to him have taken on the characteristics of myth. Ironically, he has become part of our folklore.

For example, as every skoolboy kno, Cecil Sharp first saw Headington Quarry Morris Men on Boxing Day Morning 1899, busking outside the vicarage. He immediately fell in love with the tradition and rushed out and single handedly saved the Morris tradition. ("Burn him in effigy!" I hear you cry...) Yet I've been told by people whose knowledge I trust that Sharp didn't start seriously collecting Morris dances for some considerable time after the mythical incident. (I say 'mythical', not 'fictitious'. The difference is important.)

Note also that those quarry workers busking for money on Boxing day were Sharp's first sight of what we now "know" to be a pagan May Day custom to promote the growth of the crops... Can't blame Sharp for that, but it's clearly a late Victorian overlay of whimsy.

All of us involved in the Morris, and in folk song, owe Cecil Sharp a real debt of gratitude for what he did. However, there's part of me which says he 'saved' the tradition by changing it forever.

Folk song / dance becomes something else when it is written down, deliberately preserved, archived and taught; when it is learned and performed by people from other sections of society.

To my mind, Sharp (and his like) preserved the material, but changed the context in which is was transmitted and performed - and I think the context is the defining characteristic of 'folk' or 'traditional' music and dance.

A century later, 'folk' has become a niche market - one music/dance/ethic among many. The 'folk' (the great unwashed, the every day people, the majority of the population, call 'em what you will) have no meaningful connection with what WE call 'folk' music.

And even within our 'folk' ghetto, we have come close to losing contact with 'tradition'. To me, a song about a jolly ploughboy, or factory girl, is an (entertaining) historical relic, with no direct relevance to my everyday life. On the other hand, I see a gradual crossover from other genres of music, so that in a Morris pub session, it is not unknown for a bit of Buddy Holly, or Lonnie Donnegan, to be sung. Also, several songs written during (or after) the 'revival' have become standards. So there is now a new context, new material, and a new tradition developing. Good.

None of which could have happened without Sharp. So, imperfect or not, his legacy is a great one.

And The Seeds of Love? A nice first verse; the rest is barely comprehensible nonsense - although the unkind might suggest that this is a defining characteristic of folk song. ;0)    I wonder whether it really was the first folk song Sharp heard? The surname, England, is too good a coincidence to be entirely above suspicion.

Nice story though.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 19 Oct 03 - 09:25 PM

The incident has assumed mythic status over the years, as you say; it was probably not entirely fortuitous. There seem to be grounds for thinking that Marson set up the meeting, and that Sharp was forewarned to some extent; though perhaps only on the lines of "You watch out for my gardener; you might hear something rather special".

On similar lines, Vaughan Williams, later in the same year, was invited to a Parish Tea at Ingrave so that he could meet some real traditional singers; until then his experience of folk music seems to have been through print only; though he had begun to give public lectures on the subject. He, too, reckoned to have had an epiphany on the lines of Sharp's, though in his case the singer was a Mr Pottiphar and the song was Bushes and Briars.

All new movements need, and inevitably develop, loci of this sort. They are very useful tools in that they provide identifiable points of resolution and of focus; the point at which hitherto inchoate impressions become a theory or, indeed, a revelation. They don't come out of the blue, though in retrospect they may seem to have done. On a more grandiose level, we have the revelation of the ten commandments, or, more recently, the dream of the double helix.

Withdrawing now from such rarified heights, I should explain Peter Kennedy's notes as referred to by Q. These relate to a series of illustrated lectures given by Kennedy. His reference to Bill Squires' father singing The Seeds of Love to Sharp might be misleading; certainly his father Jim Squires did sing it to Sharp, but that was in August of 1904. Kennedy later recorded it from his son, and used that recording in his lectures. John England was not mentioned in those notes because he was not recorded.

England was not an uncommon surname in the area, though of course it all contributes to the story. John England later emigrated to Canada (where one of his great-grandsons became Bishop of Toronto) and has descendents still living. England was also the maiden name of sisters Louie Hooper and Lucy White, both of whom were important singers with large repertoires, as had been their mother Sarah. We don't know, I think, if they were related to John; but it doesn't seem all that unlikely.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Nerd
Date: 20 Oct 03 - 02:00 AM

To pick up on what Marje said, I entirely agree that we shouldn't see songs as, say, a "Steeleye song" or a "Kate Rusby song." But all too often in the world of professional folk groups people play essentially the arrangement of a previous group. So the Waterboys, and now Nickel Creek, perform what is obviously to me Planxty's version of "Raggle-Taggle Gypsies." I always wonder, why don't (some) younger groups do serious listening (to field recordings, more obscure revivalists, etc) instead of rehashing Steeleye, Fairport, Planxty et al?

It's interesting to discuss mythic moments in folklore history, the folklore of folklore so to speak. The idea of a manuscript literally being used to light fires before being saved by the heroic collector has attached itself to Bishop Percy and his famous folio manuscript, but it is also there in the histories of other manuscripts. At some point you begin to wonder: did this actually happen? It's the same with the great collector and his sudden epiphany; this trope is so common that Sharp is said to have had TWO of these defining moments, one for Morris and another for folksong!


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 20 Oct 03 - 05:58 AM

Jim Moray, one of the 'newer' performers of traditional material, though he has been brought up on the music all his life and is no slouch at researching sources, begins his first major UK tour soon.

In going back to the heart of the music which he believes, rightly, to be the property of all of us, he achieves through his interpretations a startlingly fresh insight into songs which, in other hands, have become frankly boring.

'Raggle Taggle Gypsies' is a case in point. Owing nothing to Planxty, Jim's rendition has the effect of prompting the listener to hear, perhaps for the first time, just what the song is really about. Likewise with 'Early One Morning' and, indeed, 'The Seeds of Love'. See him if you can.

Tour details here


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: GUEST,Dan abnormal
Date: 20 Oct 03 - 07:49 AM

As you say, many performers do perform what is obvously the 'Steeleye version' or 'planxty version' of a song. But how exactly is this different to Martin Carthy performing the 'Seamus Ennis' version of Henry Martin compared to, say, the 'Phill Tanner' version etc...

To take this to its logical conclusion, how is this even different from Fred Jordan singing the version of "Young and Growing" that he learned from his sources, rather than the same one Walter Pardon learned from his sources. Steeleye and Planxty ARE source singers - they are my generations source for learning songs, just as I would imagine Jim Moray, Jon Boden and Tim Van Eyken will be source singers for a folk revival in 2033. It is no less authentic to learn a song from 'revival' groups because these people are/were just a link in the path that the song takes, just as Phill Tanner/Seamus Ennis/Walter Pardon were.

I feel that far too much significance is placed onto 'Source' singing and the 'original' versions of songs, much of which was Sharps doing. Yes, the routes have changed (you don't need to meet a person to learn a song from them) and the transmission process is more infalable (the accuracy of recorded performance vs the ambiguity of written music) but what you're seeing now, right in front of you is traditional music becoming an oraly transmitted form of music again, as it was for hundreds of years before Cecil Sharp... We're basicly back to where we started the 20th century. Who said tradition was dead?


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Oct 03 - 08:19 AM

Why is the transmission process less fallible when you learn the song from a Steeleye Span recording? You are learning from Steeleye's arrangement, which is likely to contain many musical ideas of their own that were not in the version that they learnt it from.

Note that I don't call the latter 'the original version' because there is no such thing unless you can track a song back to the person who wrote it. But there is much to be learned from investigating other versions of a song and tracing it back as far as possible, as there is also from listening to the few available recordings of 'source' singers. When you do that and then go back to Steeleye's version (or Carthy or whoever) you then hear what they have done to the song. Whether you choose to emulate the later performers' idiosyncracies is up to you, but at least you have an informed choice and it may give you the perspective for an imaginative and completely new idea of your own. Surely that's better than slavishly copying one band's very stylised interpretation?

Anahata


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Marje
Date: 20 Oct 03 - 08:20 AM

Dan, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with a performer choosing to do a Planxty" version or a "Carthy" version of a song. What I was warning against is coming to think of the song as belonging to that artist, or regarding that version as the only definitive or correct one. Or (worst of all) attributing the song to the artist and forgetting that it's actually traditional material with a long and often interesting history.

I agree completely with what you say about "source" singers as compared with more modern, "revival" ones. I just can't regard it as a real distinction. The real sources are unknown to us, and mostly much older than the early field recordings - these just happened to be the versions that were current when the collectors started writing down and recording this material. As you say, our sources are what we hear now, and they're just as valid as any other versions or styles. This doesn't mean that we've nothing to learn from listening to older versions or field recordings, but we can also learn from listening to new treatments of the old songs.

And yes, the oral tradition is alive and well. Loads of people who sing and play traditional music can't read the dots at all, and learn everything by ear. Even those who do read music will all have songs and tunes they know but have never seen written down. Literacy (including musical literacy) and the use of modern technology all make the processes- transmission,learning and record-keeping - much easier and more efficient, but the oral/aural tradition is still at the heart of a lot of our music-making.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Nerd
Date: 20 Oct 03 - 02:34 PM

Dan,

I'm not saying that as a rule people should avoid Planxty's version of a song if it's a good one. But I think people should do a little more listening to decide which version is best for them. My only problem with people doing the "Planxty" version of RTG, for example, is that so many people have done it before that it's kind of boring. I had the unenviable job of reviewing small-label and self-produced "Celtic" albums for about ten years, so I must have heard thirty different groups playing that version of that song.

In more general terms, the problem with a lot of the self-produced Anglo or Celtic albums out there is that they sound like cover bands: Silly Wizard's version of this and Planxty's of that and Battlefield's of this and Carthy's of that and Archie Fisher's of this and pow, we have an album. But for those of us who know the sources it's a bit of a bore. So while I do think there is a viable distinction between source and revival singers to be made, I don't think one should be limited as to sources merely by that distinction.

Now if you take what Martin Carthy does with songs, that to me is admirable.   He goes to printed sources, to source singers, to other revivalists, and then he works on the song and makes it his own. So even when he's doing essentially Nic Jones's arrangement of Sir Patrick Spens it's never a bore.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: GUEST,Dan Abnormal
Date: 21 Oct 03 - 05:32 AM

O.K. I agree with you about relying too heavily on Plantxy arrangements, but I would call that lazy musicianship which is unforgivable in any circumstances. I was referring to a slightly higher class of 'borrowing'... :)

What we're all saying, in effect, is that there are a vast number of rubbish bands out there. I was trying to make a wider point about source snobbery - the same old "It was better/more authentic in my day" argument.

Meanwhile I do truly believe that this is a really good time for folk music right now. There are artists recording albums full of this stuff, who are aware of the history and importance of the songs and what they stand for. In the last year and half there are two or three new artists I could name who stand a chance of actually breaking into the mainstream conciousness and making the general public aware of this stuff, without compromising any of what makes the music great. And that is not something we have had for a very very long time.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: GUEST,Les in Chorlton
Date: 22 Oct 03 - 01:12 PM

Thanks a lot......... so where next?


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 03 Jul 05 - 10:59 AM

I was doing a search on C Sharp and came across this old thread.
The thing about source singers is they are the closest thing we have to how the songs would have been sung (well depending on time and region).
I'm just in my 20s and to me, Walter Pardon's Dark-Eyed Sailor is far more exciting than Steeleye's, which is nice and all, but very 1960s. Source singers can help you better interpret the material for your own age than most of the Revivalists.   
Using source singers brings in fresh air, and when combined with the better elements of the revival, you get mighty fine music.
Songs about jolly ploughboys or factory girls, aren't so quaint and irrelevant when you consider what is at the core. We live in an age when thousands of children slave away in sweatshops and who knows how many young girls become pregnant every day, the same issues in songs like the Lark in the Morning.
Take the Unfortunate Rake family of songs. Perfectly relevant for today.
Just my 2 cents worth.


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Subject: RE: 100 Years since Cecil...
From: breezy
Date: 03 Jul 05 - 11:51 AM

spot on scarry bush


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