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Obit: Sydney Carter (1915-2004)

DigiTrad:
CROW ON THE CRADLE
EVERY STAR SHALL SING A CAROL


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Vicar is a Beatnik (Sydney Carter) (11)
Putting out the Dustbin (Sydney Carter) (2)
Sidney Carter's Down Below melody (8)
Tune Origin: When I Needed a Neighbour (S. Carter) (6)
Lyr Add: One More Step (Sydney Carter) (3)
(origins) Origin/Meaning: Crow on the Cradle (Sydney Carter) (23)
(origins) Origins: Bells of Norwich (7) (closed)
Lyr Req: The Telephone Song (Sydney Carter) (26)
Lyr Req: Like the Snow (Sydney Carter) (20)
Lyr Req: Say Who You Are Love (Sydney Carter) (9)
Lyr Req: Bells of Norwich? / Julian of Norwich (7)
Sydney Carter Recordings & Books (9)
(origins) Licensing-S.Carter: Every Star Shall Sing a Carol (5)
Lyr Add: Marilyn Monroe (Sydney Carter/Rory McEwen (13)
Lyr Add: Run the Film Backwards (Sydney Carter) (5)
Lyr Req: I Want To Have a Little Bomb like You (3)
Was 'Lord of the Dance' anti-semitic? (353)
Lyr Add: The Man with a Microphone (Sydney Carter) (12)
(origins) Origin: Judas and Mary (Sydney Carter) (10)
Tune Req: Judas and Mary (Sydney Carter) (39)
Lyr Req: The White Buck of Epping (Sydney Carter) (21)
Help: Man with a Microphone (Sydney Carter) (15)
How to get permission fm Sydney Carter (12)
Tune Req: Julian of Norwich (Sydney Carter) (14)
Lyr Req: I Want To Have a Little Bomb like You (10)
Lyr Req: Bells of Norridge? (answered) (6)
Sydney Carter ill (10)
(origins) Origin: The Man with the Microphone (Sydney Carter (4)
Lyr Add: George Fox (Sydney Carter) (28)


Little Robyn 13 Mar 04 - 05:25 PM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Mar 04 - 05:38 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 13 Mar 04 - 05:41 PM
Bob Bolton 13 Mar 04 - 05:45 PM
Little Robyn 13 Mar 04 - 05:51 PM
Jeanie 13 Mar 04 - 05:56 PM
Jeanie 13 Mar 04 - 06:01 PM
Bob Bolton 13 Mar 04 - 06:13 PM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Mar 04 - 06:21 PM
Willa 13 Mar 04 - 06:37 PM
Leadfingers 13 Mar 04 - 06:43 PM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Mar 04 - 06:50 PM
vectis 13 Mar 04 - 06:53 PM
Micca 13 Mar 04 - 07:12 PM
Jeanie 13 Mar 04 - 07:41 PM
GUEST,Arkie 13 Mar 04 - 07:42 PM
Joe Offer 13 Mar 04 - 08:31 PM
Barbara 13 Mar 04 - 09:01 PM
rich-joy 13 Mar 04 - 09:03 PM
matai 13 Mar 04 - 10:20 PM
GUEST,Pat Cooksey. 13 Mar 04 - 11:31 PM
Peace 14 Mar 04 - 01:40 AM
John MacKenzie 14 Mar 04 - 05:48 AM
Nessie 14 Mar 04 - 05:51 AM
Micca 14 Mar 04 - 06:01 AM
Mrs.Duck 14 Mar 04 - 06:12 AM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Mar 04 - 06:45 AM
RoyH (Burl) 14 Mar 04 - 06:47 AM
Willa 14 Mar 04 - 06:48 AM
Kevin Sheils 14 Mar 04 - 06:53 AM
greg stephens 14 Mar 04 - 06:57 AM
Flash Company 14 Mar 04 - 07:53 AM
Dave Sutherland 14 Mar 04 - 08:13 AM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Mar 04 - 08:38 AM
Tam the Bam (Nutter) 14 Mar 04 - 11:38 AM
maire-aine 14 Mar 04 - 11:47 AM
Mr Red 14 Mar 04 - 12:05 PM
Nigel Parsons 14 Mar 04 - 02:48 PM
GUEST,Leon Berger 14 Mar 04 - 04:47 PM
GUEST,JohnB 14 Mar 04 - 07:39 PM
Barbara 14 Mar 04 - 08:11 PM
GUEST,Dick Wolff, Oxford 15 Mar 04 - 07:22 AM
Dave Bryant 15 Mar 04 - 07:39 AM
Compton 15 Mar 04 - 08:29 AM
Steve Parkes 15 Mar 04 - 08:32 AM
red max 15 Mar 04 - 08:32 AM
Hawker 15 Mar 04 - 09:39 AM
Leadfingers 15 Mar 04 - 10:22 AM
vectis 15 Mar 04 - 03:38 PM
Frankham 15 Mar 04 - 03:46 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Mar 04 - 04:17 PM
Barbara 15 Mar 04 - 04:57 PM
GUEST 15 Mar 04 - 05:23 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Mar 04 - 05:49 PM
Barbara 15 Mar 04 - 08:56 PM
Margret RoadKnight 15 Mar 04 - 09:04 PM
IanC 16 Mar 04 - 04:26 AM
Flash Company 16 Mar 04 - 11:14 AM
Dave Bryant 16 Mar 04 - 12:07 PM
GUEST,Dick Wolff, Oxford 16 Mar 04 - 05:12 PM
GUEST,Peter Flemington 16 Mar 04 - 05:45 PM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Mar 04 - 06:47 PM
McGrath of Harlow 17 Mar 04 - 05:51 AM
A Wandering Minstrel 17 Mar 04 - 08:06 AM
GUEST,elf (guest) 22 Mar 04 - 09:46 PM
nutty 23 Mar 04 - 06:21 AM
GUEST,family and friends 24 Mar 04 - 06:12 AM
Leon 24 Mar 04 - 08:55 PM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 25 Mar 04 - 05:45 AM
GUEST,"And now it is so early" 27 Mar 04 - 05:59 AM
Bob Bolton 27 Mar 04 - 08:16 AM
GUEST,felicity collins 06 Apr 04 - 08:22 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Apr 04 - 05:03 PM
GUEST,BobMetcalf@blueyonder.co.uk 14 Apr 04 - 06:13 PM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Apr 04 - 08:09 AM
GUEST,Rob Smyth 26 Mar 05 - 08:31 AM
The Borchester Echo 26 Mar 05 - 08:41 AM
GUEST 01 Jul 09 - 03:08 AM
SylviaN 01 Jul 09 - 06:07 AM
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Subject: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Little Robyn
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 05:25 PM

Our radio news has just announced that Sydney Carter Has died.
Does anyone know any more?
For those that don't recognise the name, he wrote Lord of the Dance - the song that so many people know and love (and sing and dance to). He wrote many other songs that were topical in their time and he also sang them himself at folk clubs and on the radio.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 05:38 PM

That's sad, but it's not sad. He was a lovely man, as well as a great maker of songs, and a fine thinker and writer as well. I'm sure he'd have felt it was time he moved on.

It'd be a better world if there werte more people like him.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 05:41 PM

Talented chap. Once had a nice chat with him 30 odd year's ago. His song about mixed up( i.e.confused)middle-aged men rings more and more true as the years pass by.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 05:45 PM

G'day Little Robyn,

I'm sad to hear that he has gone ... but he had been suffering from Alzheimer's for some years now - after a career where he was still gigging into his eighties! I first met him when he was in Australia and appeared at the (Australian) National Folk Festival in 1972 or ~3 ... then he sang later on in Sydney. I gave hime some of my photographs of his concerts and we briefly corresponded.

I have always loved his songs ... and supplied many to 'Catters - but his latter-day publishers "Stainer & Bell" won't let them be posted on lists like the Digital Tradition (our DT) ... thus continuing the unfortunate trend for groups to record badly remembered version - claim them as "Trad" - and pay no royalties!

Ah well, at least it's no longer cheating Syd ... only the fools at the helm of "Stainer & Bell"!

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Little Robyn
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 05:51 PM

Hi Bob. Maybe now we can slip the correct versions into threads here, without having them in the DT??
Robyn


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Subject: Lyr Add: ONE MORE STEP (Sydney Carter)
From: Jeanie
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 05:56 PM

I'll second everything you have said, McGrath. Here is my favourite of his songs, about that very thing: Moving On

ONE MORE STEP

One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go,
from the old things to the new
keep me travelling along with you:
And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me travelling along with you.

Round the corners of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn,
all the new things that I see
you'll be looking at along with me:
And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me travelling along with you.

As I travel through the bad and good,
keep me travelling the way I should;
where I see no way to go
you'll be telling me the way, I know:
And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me travelling along with you.

Give me courage when the world is rough,
keep me loving though the world is tough;
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me travelling along with you:
And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me travelling along with you.

You are older than the world can be,
you are younger than the life in me;
ever old and ever new,
keep me travelling along with you:
And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me travelling along with you.


Sydney Carter 6th May 1915 - 13th March 2004

*   *    *

Bon Voyage, Sydney Carter, on the next step of your journey, and thank you.

- jeanie


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Jeanie
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 06:01 PM

I was typing out the lyrics from my copy of 'Baptist Praise and Worship' (publ.Oxford University Press 1992) while Bob Bolton was posting his thread, and I hadn't read it. I was unaware of the problems about posting them. Apologies if this causes difficulties - please delete them if necessary, Joe or somebody.

- jeanie


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 06:13 PM

G'day Jeanie and Little Robyn,

Quite a lot of the lyrics requested should still be alive in the threads where I have posted them ... but not in the DT.

I hate to see wonderful writers like Sydney Carter cheated of their credit by being lumped as "anon"/"trad" ... as much as it may be a tribute to their solid tradition of their compositions.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 06:21 PM

There's no problem with having the words in the threads, just on the DT. Trying to understand why that is the case is a bit hard, but that's how it works.

I think that posting a link in the DT to a thread with the lyrics whenever there was a problem with posting the lyrics in the DT would probably be considered a no no.

Here's a link to a post with another of Sydney's best songs in it, John Ball;
and here is a link to anither, George Fox; and here is Julian of Noirwich.

I'm sure there are more of them around in the Mudcat, and also elsewhere on the net. Maybe other people wpoidl,like to hunt up a few more.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Willa
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 06:37 PM

One of my favourites: http://www.crixa.com/muse/unionsong/u115.html


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Leadfingers
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 06:43 PM

Well that settles SOME of the songs I will be doing at Dog Days Afternoon tomorrow. I wonder if the Torygraph will do an Obit .


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 06:50 PM

Down Below


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: vectis
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 06:53 PM

Sad day. I'm still singing a few of his songs and they still get a good reception.


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Subject: Lyr Add: LIKE THE SNOW (Sydney Carter)
From: Micca
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 07:12 PM

I searched for a certain Sydney Carter song for many years, I heard Martin Carthy sing it on a Sunday afternoon TV show that had Carter and Nadia Cattouse as the principle performers,and it stuck(or part of it did) I asked Martin at a festival for the words, and he said he couldnt help as he had only learned it for that performance and didnt keep it in his repetoire. I found it through a link provided in the Mudcat a few years ago and it seems very apropos at this time.
Mr Carter may you find, beyond the door, that which you would wish for,

Like the Snow
By Sydney Carter

Tell me, where did Helen go?
Here is where she had her dwelling.
She has vanished like the snow -
Where, there is no way of telling;
Here is where she had her dwelling.
All the while they come and they go -
Where, there is no way of telling;
She has vanished like the snow.

What became of Heloise?
Abelard - he was her lover -
Notre Dame or Saint Denys;
Where he went I can't discover.
Abelard, he was her lover.
All the while they come and they go -
Where, there is no way of telling;
She has vanished like the snow.

Joan came riding from Lorraine -
Everybody knows the story.
England burnt her in Rouen;
Theirs the shame and ours the glory,
Everybody knows the story -
All the while they come and they go -
England's shame and France's glory,
She has vanished like the snow.

Where the time and where the place is -
That is what I'd like to know,
Where their glory and their grace is
When they vanish like the snow.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Jeanie
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 07:41 PM

That's a beautiful song, Micca. Here is a link to the 15th century French poem, 'Ballade des dames de temps jadis' by Francois Villon, on which these lyrics are based, giving the text in medieval French and in English: Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan?

- jeanie


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: GUEST,Arkie
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 07:42 PM

LONDON (Reuters) - British composer Sydney Carter, author of the popular song "Lord of the Dance," died in London on Saturday aged 88, according to a spokesman for his family.
Carter, a Christian poet and folk singer, adapted a melody from a Shaker hymn when he wrote the song in 1963.

A church and school choir favorite, the song has become a modern classic, rerecorded many times as well as lending its name to American dancer Michael Flatley's hit musical show.

Writing about the song in 1974, Carter said: "I see Christ as the incarnation of the piper who is calling us. He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality."


He shall be missed on this side of the ocean as well.
Arkie


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 08:31 PM

Click here for a very nice page on the Lovely in the Dances CD.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Barbara
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 09:01 PM

Curiously, we appear to have eight Sydney Carter tunes in DT, so perhaps either the publisher has relented, or decided to ignore us.
These are:
SILVER IN THE STUBBLE
JULIAN OF NORWICH
WALK IN THE LIGHT
RAT RACE
LORD OF THE DANCE
MAN WITH A MICROPHONE
EVERY STAR SHALL SING A CAROL
CROW ON THE CRADLE
And many more in the threads. Here is my favorite: John Ball
Good journey and Godspeed, Sydney Carter.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: rich-joy
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 09:03 PM

Our a cappella harmony group "Work-in-Progress" is working on the lovely "Julien of Norwich" at present (Denis and Lyn Tracey,in Oz, always did a nice version of this one).

"Silver in the Stubble" has long been a Folk Club favourite - and long before most of the singers could truly relate to its content!!!

I remember concerts of Frankie Armstrong's where she did a few of Sydney's numbers : "Girl in a Garden" (viewed from a train and with the train's rhythm) and "I Come Like a Beggar" both spring to mind.

Tunesmith, that song you remembered may have been "Middle-Aged, Middle-Class, Mediocre" - I have it in the Galliard Ltd publication from 1969 : "Songs of Sydney Carter, In the Present Tense, Book 2"

Vale, Sydney ...



Cheers! R-J


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: matai
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 10:20 PM

I have always loved his 'Crow on the Cradle' which I have performed many times with a small refrain that I added to the tune of rock-a-bye baby: Rock-a-bye on the tree top
          When the wind blows the cradle will rock
          When the bomb fall the baby will die
          No one will live to kiss her good-bye
A bit dire I know but it works.
My son who claims he learned the song from me plays it as a rock song and he's added another nursery rhyme: little boy blue, come blow up your horn, the sheep's down the meadow, the cows are all gone: (or something like that)it works too.
So how's that for a bit of digital tradition. Thanks Sydney, we have so loved that song.. in spite of/because of what we've done to it.
Matai


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: GUEST,Pat Cooksey.
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 11:31 PM

Cheers Syd. Farewell to a decent, honest man, who was part of a
tradition that sadly no longer exists.
Sydney lived the latter part of his life unaware of the influence
he had on others, those who knew him knew otherwise.

R.I.P.

Pat.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Peace
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 01:40 AM

I first heard Lord of the Dance in Montreal. It was and is a remarkable song. I think also I may have heard Louis Killan play it. I am sadden that a good writer has passed on, but happy that he stopped by.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 05:48 AM

Bon Voyage Sydney Carter, we will not meet in the after life, as I'm sure you're going upwards.
John.... Favourite song.. Putting out the Dustbins


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Nessie
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 05:51 AM

He made his mark, and lives on.
RIP


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Micca
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 06:01 AM

Jeanie,thanks for the link, I think it shows what a masterful songwriter Carter was, how he took the essence of Villons original and re-phrased it, Many, many thanks


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Mrs.Duck
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 06:12 AM

Never realised he wrote 'One More Step'which we used to sing in the school where I teach (only a couple of verses though). I always enjoyed that one so may revive it and even learn the other verses for myself.
He will not be forgotten while we sing his songs.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 06:45 AM

"Curiously, we appear to have eight Sydney Carter tunes in DT, so perhaps either the publisher has relented, or decided to ignore us.


No we don't - just check. In place of the songs there's a notice saying that the song in question isn't allowed in the DT because of the publishers. Most of them seem to be in the Mudcat threads though.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 06:47 AM

I remember that my old friend George Belton, traditional singer from Sussex, loved Sydney Carter's songs, particularly 'Mixed Up Old Man'. He gave it as much respect as any of the old songs in his repertoire and sang it with great relish. 'It's a good song' was his verdict, and therefore worth singing. I am saddened by the loss of this thoughtful and creative man. How ironic that he should end in the fog of Alzheimer's disease. But a look at the list of the songs he wrote shows that he will not be forgotten as long as folks like to sing. A legacy left by a remarkable man. May Rest in Peace.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Willa
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 06:48 AM

Found this quotation on the Stainer site:
Sydney's faith is contained in this quotation from his poem Interview:

"So what do you believe in?
Nothing fixed or final,all the while I travel a miracle. I doubt,
and yet I walk upon the water"

http://www.stainer.co.uk/carter.html


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Kevin Sheils
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 06:53 AM

A fine and talented man who will be missed, but whose songs will keep him with us.

The only song of his I've sung regularly over the years is "The Telephone Song" but of course these days you have to explain to some of the audience what buttons A and B on a payphone were all about and the fact that telephone exchanges had names.

I remember the TV programme Micca referred to above very well, what a sursprising amount of Folk we had on TV in those days.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: greg stephens
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 06:57 AM

Lovely man, a real sweetie and a true original I've been singing "Down Below" for years, a song which escaped into mainstream entertainment via Ian Wallace's splendid recording.
   I have just spent four days making what one might term healing or reconciling music in a Quaker Meeting House, so this seems a very good time for me to be thinking about Sydney Carter.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Flash Company
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 07:53 AM

Sorry to hear of S.C's death, Anyone recall his entry in the EFDSS artists list? It went 'I sing my own unaccompanied songs and occasionaly ring a bell'
In my singing days I sang his song about Eros & London
One leg up and one leg dahn
Like an old Cock sparrer
Filing ove Piccadilly wiv me bow and arrer!

He will be missed

FC


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 08:13 AM

Somebody once told me that Sydney Carter was "too nice a person to be on the folk scene" that is probably true, but I am certainly glad that he was on the folk scene.He will be sadly missed.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 08:38 AM

"...too nice a person to be on the folk scene" - I think it's more a question of his being a remarkably nice person, even by the standards of the folk scene.

I don't know how these things work, but I think that, largely because of the impact of people like Sydney over the years, the "folk scene", in this part of the world anyway, continues to be much more humane and decent than we are probably entitled to expect. Role models, if you like. (The same is true of Martin Carthy, just for one.)

There are always some nasty people around, here as everywhere, but we shouldn't give them too much importance.

As Auden put it:
Private faces in public places
Are wiser and nicer
Than public faces in private places.


Sydney Carter was a private face in any public place he ever appeared in.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Tam the Bam (Nutter)
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 11:38 AM

It's sad when a fellow singer-songwriter/musician/songwriter dies.
I like Sydney Cater's songs the Lord of the dance and silver in the stubble are just two of the songs that he wrote which I like.

Farewell Sydney Carter wherever you are.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: maire-aine
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 11:47 AM

Rest in Peace, Sydney. Your songs have seen me through some very difficult times.

Maryanne


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Mr Red
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 12:05 PM

passing of an era


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 02:48 PM

I only wish I'd seen this thread last night.
I'm sure we could have changed a couple of hymns this morning!

He'll be missed by many!


Nigel


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: GUEST,Leon Berger
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 04:47 PM

As you've all heard by now Sydney died yesterday at 4.00pm. I knew him through my friendship with Donald Swann (who incidentally died 10 years ago this very month)- they served in Greece together as Concienstious Objectors with the Friends Ambulance Unit during the war and remained friends and musical collaborators. Donald transcribed and notated most of Sydney's music for him.

I am currently writing the authorised biography of Michael Flanders and, of course, Donald and Sydney figure heavily in the story.

Sydney was a very gentle, thoughtful man with a wickewd sense of humour - we'll all miuss him

Leon Berger (Administrator)
THE FLANDERS & SWANN ESTATES


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: GUEST,JohnB
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 07:39 PM

A friend of mine wrote a Morris Dance to Lord of the Dance, we shall have to dance it in his memmory at the next Cat's on Fire practise.
Aways wanted the albumn "Songs of Sydney Carter" it's an older one with Maddy Prior, John Kirkpatrick and the like on it. Includes a great song I only heard once about 15+ years ago "Carol of the Animals" or something like that. The song has stuck with me ever since, it's either a great song by a great writer, or I really am infatuated with Maddy Prior. Probably both. Known Siver in the Stubble for way too many years, it's a too true now.
His song books are available somewhere on the web.
JohnB


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Barbara
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 08:11 PM

Ah, McGrath, you're right. I should have looked first. But you didn't check either. Four of them are there.
We sang John Ball at Merritt's this morning, and if he's not careful, he'll have to get the ceiling supports replaced. I swear I saw it go up at least a couple inches.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: GUEST,Dick Wolff, Oxford
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 07:22 AM

I think I may have been responsible for Sydney's last public performance when I invited him to Warwick Folk Festival in about 1993. Eccentric, charming, tremendously affirming guy, and too modest. I tried, about a year ago, to persuade Continuum to prepare to republish his book 'Rock of Doubt' (also published in paperback as 'Light in the Darkness') as a tribute when the inevitable happened. I wrote to them :
"It would be wonderful if, when he eventually dies, he could be given some credit for being the thinker that he was, and 'The Rock of Doubt' is a fine example — as far as I know, the only example (other than the commentary in 'Greenprint for Song') of his theology and philosophy ever printed. It reveals him to have been a man thirty years ahead of his time."

The reply was :

"I am afraid I see no prospect of being able to reissue Rock of Doubt. We just could not find a sufficient market for it, I fear."

It would be great to prove them wrong. Continuum are, I believe, willing to release the copyright to Stainer & Bell.

I regularly use Sydney's songs in church worship, and my folk group 'Three Pressed Men' include his material in our repertoire, some of which is recorded.

He had the remarkable knack of expressing deep theology in words that children can understand, without being trite or condescending. He anticipated 'liberation theology' (e.g. "I come like a beggar with a gift in my hand") and feminist theology ("Come, Love, Carolling along with me . . I carry the maker of the world in me"). It would be a pity if obituaries were to concentrate on the one song which, as I recall, he himself valued somewhat less, and to which he didn't write the tune.

Sydney's theology has had a huge influence on me, and I'm sure I'm not alone. I cannot see that his more theological songs will ever date.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 07:39 AM

A lovely man - I first heard him at Hampstead Folk Club (The Enterprise) in the early 60s. I have always been impressed with how he managed to write wonderful songs in so many different genres - Religious, Protest, Romantic, Comic etc. Perhaps "Silver in the Stubble" sums him up. He always said that it was influenced by St Augustine's prayer - "Lord make me chaste - but not yet !"


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Compton
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 08:29 AM

I recall, unto numbers of years ago the ITV programme on the God Slot..Hallelujah..that had Sydney Carter, Nadia Cattouse, Isla Cameron and a young Martin Carthy!
The Spinners(!!) on a vinyl LP" Folk at the Phil" sang Silver in the Stubble"
Last televised appearance on Sydney Carter was on a programme about Rabbi Lionel Blue (who used to visit him in old folks home)..He didn't really know where he was then.
However, if he's only known for one thing...Lord of the Dance will do.
So long Syd, it's been good to know you!


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 08:32 AM

How sad. I didn't catch it on the news, so I've only just heard. As Kevin McGrath says, the world would be a better place for a few more like him; but it's a better place for just the one of him. He was one ofthose rare folks who restore your faith in human nature. God bless, Sydney.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: red max
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 08:32 AM

By pure coincidence I was listening to the LP "And now it is so early" this morning. It was recorded with Bob & Carole Pegg, and features some excellent arrangements and accompaniments


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Hawker
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 09:39 AM

God Bless you Sydney!
He will be sadly missed
Sing John Ball, Go tell it to them all!
Lucy


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Leadfingers
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 10:22 AM

Managed to get Putting out the Dustbin sung on Sunday - A lot of people at the session had missed the announcement of Sidney's death.
It is a shame his last years were clouded by Altzheimers, but he will
long be remembered for the wealth of wonderful songs he left us.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: vectis
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 03:38 PM

The Torygraph, dismally, failed to carry an obit on him.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Frankham
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 03:46 PM

A brilliant song is "Walk In The Light" about Quaker leader George Fox. We sing it for children as part of an American history program in the schools.

It always gets an appropriately good response.

A great talent lives on through his songs.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 04:17 PM

This one, I take it - George Fox - to an old Morris tune, Monk's March. (Which links it with tee period, sinc ethe Monk in questioin woudl be General Monk.

One of my favourite songs.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Barbara
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 04:57 PM

Curiously enough, present day Friends(Quakers) have cleaned up the chorus so that it now goes: "Walk in the light, wherever you may be (2x)With his old leather breeches and his shaggy, shaggy locks, 'I am walking in the glory of the light', said Fox".
Now I don't mind the text substitution in the first two lines, but I am sorry that Friends are unwilling to claim "I am pulling down the pillars of the world, said Fox".
I prefer the original, and sing it that way.
Carter has made an amazing contribution to the lexicon, and I would like to see his book reprinted. If we can't have that, we have the theology of his songs, which makes us all that much richer.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 05:23 PM

At this time I thought, perhaps, you might like to read the notes to Sydney's (and Sheila Hancock's) LP 'Putting out the Dustbin', particularly the last paragraph:-

Notes for LP - PUTTING OUT THE DUSTBIN - Transatlantic TRA 106 (1962)
An LP on which he was joined by the actress - and singer - Sheila Hancock.

SYDNEY CARTER has written songs for a number of West End revues. Some of these continued in orbit after the revue shut down. The Youth of the Heart (from the Globe Revue) is still sung by Irish tenors and by Donald Swann. Down Below (from "The Bells of St. Martin's"), fruit of a descent into the London sewers for the B.B.C, is nobly sung on record by lan Wallace.
   None of the songs on this record have ever been in a revue (except Waiting for the Film to Come, and that only in America). They belong to a kind of No Man's Land somewhere between Folk Song and Cabaret; a musical equivalent of the Gray's Inn Road, where no one is supposed to live, but where Sydney Carter lives, (Putting Out The Dustbin), and really does put the dustbin out three nights a week.
   Sydney is presently occupied part-time with the National Book League, trying to think up ways of making people read more books, (Better Take a Book to Bed).
Though political, he is allergic to all party propaganda. Socialism In Our Time upsets some Marxists when he sings it. "That's a very unconstructive song" they tell him. But, his frequent uncomplimentary references to all other political groups have the effect of isolating him almost entirely. Nor has his attitude to juvenile delinquents, (Mixed Up Old Man), endeared him to the judiciary.
   Most of his songs are autobiographical, (My Mum was a Woman). "I have never yet been an old lady" he admits, (Watch 'em Nell), and I can't say "my father was a cupid" (song of the same name) but My Last Cigarette tells the bitter truth and I have marched to Trafalgar Square, (Coming Down From Aldermaston).
Though one or two of these songs have been printed in unlikely spots like "Peace News" and "The Tatler" the versions on this record are different. "I never sing the same song twice" says Sidney Carter. "Every time I sing it, its different. So am I. Nothing will be fixed or final till I'm dead; and, I hope, not even then."


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 05:49 PM

Yes, when I sang George Fox, using Sydney's words, in the Friends Meeting House in Hertford a couple of years ago in a concert some of them were quite surprised at them. But they joined in the chorus all right. (Except that, the way I know it and sing it, the chorus ends "You are pulling down the pillars of the world, George Fox", as an accusation by the worldlywise, rather than a boast. Which I think works better. Less arrogant.)

I wouldn't take any notice of any amendments some committee somewhere might have tried. I'm afraid I'd be inclined to call that change "messing up" rather than "cleaning up". Though Sydney Carter took some pride in being told he never sang his own songs twice the same way, so I'd not be the least surprised to hear he might have sung it this way on occasion. (He definitely sang "You are pulling down the pillars...")


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Barbara
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 08:56 PM

You are right, it is "You are...". I haven't looked at my words in a while. Would you, or someone, be willing to post "Putting Out the Dustbin"? I haven't heard that one, and I'm curious about it.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Margret RoadKnight
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 09:04 PM

Stainer & Bell Ltd put out a great CD in 1998
- "Sydney Carter's Lord of the Dance", produced by Jeremy Taylor
- with 13 poems (two read by Sydney)
and 13 songs, sung by the Swingle Singers, Norma Winstone, Martyn Joseph, amongst others.

I opened for him in Melbourne in '72 (which led to being signed up for my first album - thanks Sydney) and visited him in London several times (thanks Nadia).
My singing group sang "Julian of Norwich" and "Crow on the Cradle" last night in honour of him, special man that he was!


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: IanC
Date: 16 Mar 04 - 04:26 AM

Barbara

Quakers usually sing the version as published in the "Quaker Songbook". Sydney, I believe, produced various versions of the words (as authors oftn do) and these were the ones which found themselves in print.

Why are so many people willing to think that people deliberately change things, when it often simply happens by accident?

:-)


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Flash Company
Date: 16 Mar 04 - 11:14 AM

Telegraph Obit today, one day late, but better late than never.

FC


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 16 Mar 04 - 12:07 PM

Linda and I went out for a drink at one of our favourite pubs last night and the landlord asked us if we wanted to sing (he quite often does). We sang a set of songs all composed by Sydney:

Lord of the Dance
Down Below
Port Mahon
The Telephone Song
Crow on the Cradle
Eros
Silver in the Stubble

The audience loved it, but were very sorry to hear about Sydney's death. It seemed like a fitting little tribute.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: GUEST,Dick Wolff, Oxford
Date: 16 Mar 04 - 05:12 PM

Could people post up info about obituaries that they see? Telegraph (as has been noted) published one today (Tuesday 16th) which makes specific reference to the 'Rock of Doubt' in its closing para. (The book I'd like Continuum or Stainer & Bell to re-publish as a tribute). Doesn't look like Guardian, Independent or Times has yet.

Can't understand the re-write of 'George Fox' chorus — whole point was that this is the rabble having a go at him.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: GUEST,Peter Flemington
Date: 16 Mar 04 - 05:45 PM

Thank you, Mudcat, for enabling this outpouring of memories of Sydney and gratitude for his work.

I first met Sydney in 1967 when I made films for Canadian television about him, Donald Swann, Nadia Cattouse and others involved in the carol/folk renaissance of the time.

I last met Sydney in 1998 when, conscious that he was beginning to succumb to the ravages of Alzheimer's, I filmed him again, along with some of his favorite singers (Maddy Prior, Martin Carthy) performing his work.

I am so glad I did, although with all of this material of this gifted and provocative man it's virtually impossible to generate interest among broadcasters. It's similar to the situation faced by Dick Wolff (above) in his attempts to encourage a reprint of Rock of Doubt.

Condolences to his life partner, Leela and son, Mike. Sydney will live in his music, his recordings, his poetry, and in the memories of us all. Thanks be to God -- or, in the words of one of his classic pieces for TWTWTW -- "to I really don't know who."


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Mar 04 - 06:47 PM

The version I sing is the version in Sydney Carter's book Greenprinbt fior Song, published in 1974 (with "You are pulling down the pillars of the world..."). Since, so far as I can see, the Quaker Song Book wasn't published till 1981, someone might have thought the chorus was preferable.

Sydney Carter wasn't into being proud about that kind of thing, so he could well have agreed to it. However it seems pretty evident that he liked the version he put in his own book. (The fact that he preferred it woudln't have meant he insisted on imposing it on the Friends, if those words worried them.) I think it's a good idea to sing it that way - more especially because it seems to me a much better chorus.

I remember Sydney from Cecil Sharp House in the eary sixties, and Oxford Heritage after that, and from a concert he did for us in Harlow. All in all, if I was put in a corner and forced to decide, I'd rank him as the songwriter I admire most of all. (But he'd have undoubtedly disagreed with that judgement.)


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 05:51 AM

Today's Guardian has a really lovely obituary for Sydney, by fellow pacifist Canon Paul Oestreicher.

It brings out the range of his songs, and of the quality of his other writing. The most moving passage for me came when Oestreicher touched on the last phase of Sydney's life:

"When, in 1999 the mists of Alzheimer's disease began to close in, Sydney's second wife, Leela, lovingly cared for him and interpreted him to others. The past gradually receded into the strange land of lost memory. His friend Rabbi Lionel Blue wrote that now "our only contact is a thin thread of memory and his songs. I start singing them, and he joyfully joins in - and I leave him as he continues singing."

And he quotes what he describes as Sydney's "own epitaph, written more than 30 years ago:

Coming and going by the dance, I see
That what I am not is a part of me.
Dancing is all that I can ever trust,
The dance is all I am, the rest is dust.
I will believe my bones and live by what
Will go on dancing when my bones are not.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: A Wandering Minstrel
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:06 AM

McGrath, I believe you are right. I know that when QFA started putting The Quaker Songbook together they ran into some copyright issues. One of my own contributions (an awful parody song he said modestly) turned up with a completely different tune because they couldn't get publishing rights for the original.

I've always sung George Fox with the "Pulling down the pillars..." chorus. Silver in the Stubble, Knocking on the Window and Crow on the Cradle are all still in my repertoire and I shall sing them often in Sydney's memory


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: GUEST,elf (guest)
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 09:46 PM

I'm so sorry I only found out about Sydney's passing yesterday. I discovered the fabulous LP of Lovely in the Dances a long time ago. It was one of those magic things. They just happen and you grab at them as they go flying by. I think I had to purchase the record from England, Sydney was so little known in the US.

Of course, we all know that tiresome Lord of the Dance, and The Bells of Norwich has been well known here since Bok, Trickett and Muir brought it out in the '60s on an early LP. And the Quakes know George Fox, what ever version.

But my favorite is I Come Like a Beggar, partly because of the tender and tenuous voice that sings it on Lovely in the Dances. Just imagining that frail man singing to himself at the end of the recording makes me certain of his consummate importance.

Thank goodness he has finally been released.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: nutty
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 06:21 AM

His songs are due to be featured in Songs of Praise (BBC1) this coming Sunday.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: GUEST,family and friends
Date: 24 Mar 04 - 06:12 AM

thanks for so many good thoughts,
Sydney's only son buried his baby son last month and his father today.
I know that the fact his father touched so many peoples lives will be a great comfort.
Think of him and his mother today, and keep enjoying the legacy of thoughts tha Sydney Carter has left to all of us.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Leon
Date: 24 Mar 04 - 08:55 PM

Sydney had a splendid send-off today at St Paul's Church, Herne Hill- his 'local'. The hymns chosen were Sydney's favourites 'Be still for the Presence of the Lord' and 'Jeruslem'. Psalm 23 was read. Martin Carthy sang Sydney's 'Glass of Water' and the congregation sang 'When I needed a neighbour were you there.

Mike Carter, his son, gave an affectionate and hilarious account of growing up with his wonderfully eccentric and thoughtful father before leading us all in 'One More Step'.

Friends from all walks of life attended; representatives from the Flanders & Swann families, Nadia Cattouse, Jeremy Taylor, Cindy Kent and many friends, colleagues and neighbours. The committal was held at West Norwood Crematorium where 'Lord of the Dance'was the final sing-a-long.

A generous gathering assembled at Sydney's home afterwards for private celebration and reminiscences.

Leon


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 25 Mar 04 - 05:45 AM

What a wonderful celebration! Thank you Leon for telling us about it.
And GUEST, family and friends, we're glad we could add to the love that must be pouring in on behalf of this great man

Allison


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: GUEST,"And now it is so early"
Date: 27 Mar 04 - 05:59 AM

The LP "And now it is so early" recorded with Sydney Carter and Bob & Carole Pegg is one of the rarest (= highest priced) folk records around - 350 US dollars, 18000 yen...

does anyone know if a reissue would be possible?


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 27 Mar 04 - 08:16 AM

G'day "And now it is so early",

It's a great record ... I really marvelled at how well Bob & Carole Pegg's treatments worked on Sydney Carter's songs ... I certainly regard this as my favourite Sydney Carter LP.

Now - a reissue ... Do we approach the minimalist publisher Stainer & Bell ... who own the rights to all of Galliard's titles ... and tell them what to do with the Swingle Singers ... ?

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: GUEST,felicity collins
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 08:22 PM

I have been given the task (in my Poetry lesson) of commenting on the use of poetic devices such as imagery, rhyme, rhythm etc in Lord of the Dance. Can anybody help - and soon?


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 05:03 PM

Sydney Carter intentionally used a Shaker tune for this,Simple Gifts, or Tis a Gift to be Simple". The Shakers were sometimes knwn as "the Shaking Quakers", and here is a site about them, with links to others.

The Shakers believed in dance as part of their relkigion. "I could have written another for the words...but this was so appropriate that it seemed a waste of time to do so. Also I wanted to salute the Shakers."

"Lord of the Dance" is also one of the names of Krishna in the Hindu religion, and Sydney Carter had this in mind as well: "I see Christ as the incarnation of that piper who is calling us. He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality. By Christ I mean not only Jesus; in other times and places, other planets, there may be other Lords ofvtye Dance. But Jesus is the one I know of first and best. I sing of the dancing pattern in the life and words of Jesus."

That (and the other quote) is from Sydney's song book Green Print for Song. Well worth reading the rest of what he has to say about this song, and the others of his collected there.

Hunt around on the Mudcat and there's a fair amount more about this song. Good luck.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: GUEST,BobMetcalf@blueyonder.co.uk
Date: 14 Apr 04 - 06:13 PM

I was a Vicar in Wigan when I heard Sydney Carter sing, accompanied by Donald Swann. He gave me permission to record Lord of the Dance with a microphone in front of the loud speaker. I was struck by the wonderful humility of both - Doanld Swann cleaning the keys of the piano with his handkerchief, and Sydney Carter giving me permission, asking if I felt it was important enough. If not the very first, it was very nearly so, performance of this song and it lives me for all time - in memory and in song which my congregations have sung.
Archdeacon Bob Metcalf


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Apr 04 - 08:09 AM

Just came across my copy of the book "GUEST,Dick Wolff, Oxford" mentioned as The Rock of Doubt, also known as Light in the Darkness. Except my paperback edition of it is called "Dance in the Dark," and isn't quite the same - "Much of the material in this book was first published as The Rock of Doubt"

It struck me as very appropriate for Sydney Carter, having the same book exist in diffeent folk variants... And out of print as well, which is ridiculous. If they can't get a publisher to reprint it, it ought to be online.

Here's just a taster, from a section called "The Jesus Ballad", which seems very relevant to the kind of things we keep talking about here on the Mudcat so often (for example in a current thread such as this one Changing the words ):

Looking for what Jesus actually said and did is like looking for the orignal version of an ancient ballad. The four gospels are like four variants.By the time they started to be written down the folk process had already got to work. You cannot keep a live tradition down: it will go on sprouting new interpretations. If you do not like them, you can call them heresies. But any singer worth the name will keep on reaching for the song behindthe song. You can call that going back, or reaching forward. To interpret you must create.

Though authority may tell you otherwise, there is nothing fixed or final in a live tradition. Petrify it and you kill it. Bibles, churches, song books too, are the sevants of trdaition, If they try to be its master, they become its undertaker.

With songs, a distinction can be drawn between those which have a known composer and are published in a version which can be fairly called correct, and those which are of unknown origin. No one can say whether the latter are correct or not or whether they are the work of a single author and composer or many. Folk songs fall into the second catehory. So does Christianity.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter (March, 2004)
From: GUEST,Rob Smyth
Date: 26 Mar 05 - 08:31 AM

Hello to all who posted their thoughts on hearing of Sydney Carter's death 12 months ago.

You might be interested in a new CD by Franciscus Henri (who toured Australia with Sydney in 1972) devoted to Sydney's songs and poems. Beautiful digipack format, 18 songs and 8 poems, and in my opinion the best recording of Sydney Carter's work yet. I'd better declare my interest in the project, as I wrote the notes for it.

The entire CD was performed live (twice) at Victoria's prestigious Port Fairy Folk Festival in March.   

For more information, go to Franciscus' website - www.franciscushenri.com


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter (March, 2004)
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 26 Mar 05 - 08:41 AM

Thanks very much for this, Rob Smyth. Here's a link to take your straight there.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter (March, 2004)
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Jul 09 - 03:08 AM

I am sorry to report the death of Sydney's widow, Leela, at the end of June 2009.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter (March, 2004)
From: SylviaN
Date: 01 Jul 09 - 06:07 AM

Sad news indeed. My condolences to Michael and all her family.


Sylvia


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter (1915-2004)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 18 Nov 15 - 02:23 AM

I came across a nice obituary article, and I thought I'd post it.
Source: http://www.theguardian.com/news/2004/mar/17/guardianobituaries.religion

Sydney Carter

Sydney Bertram Carter, poet, songwriter and folk musician, born May 6 1915; died March 13 2004
The composer of Lord Of The Dance, his life was a musical journey in search of an unconventional God


The songwriter Sydney Carter, who has died aged 88, achieved the remarkable feat of composing two of the five most popular songs sung in assemblies in British schools. In 1996, a survey of the copyright work most commonly requested for use in collective worship put his One More Step in first place, with his possibly more famous Lord Of The Dance at number five.
Sydney wrote Lord Of The Dance in 1963, as an adaptation of the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts, which features in Aaron Copland's ballet Appalachian Spring. Later, he said that he saw Christ as "the incarnation of the piper who is calling us. He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality. By Christ, I mean not only Jesus; in other times and places, other planets, there may be other lords of the dance. But Jesus is the one I know of first and best. I sing of the dancing pattern in the life and words of Jesus."


Lord Of The Dance will continue to be sung worldwide long after its author is forgotten. To live on through his songs will indeed fulfil Sydney's dreams.

Sydney was a folk poet, a holy sceptic and an iconoclastic theologian - that last description would both bemuse and please him - in the amateur tradition of the folk movement, deconstructing the theology of the academic establishment and bringing it to life. He played a leading role in the folk revival of the 1960s and 70s, and it was then that he wrote most of his songs, composed both to please and to shock. Life, as he embraced it, was for dancing.

From start to finish, he was a Londoner. He was born in Camden Town, and imbibed old English songs at Montem Street school in Islington. He loved community singing and later, as a bluecoat boy at Christ's Hospital school in Horsham, West Sussex, he enjoyed the hymns in chapel - every day, and twice on Sunday. But he loved visits with his father to the Finsbury Park Empire just as much.

In the mid-1930s, Sydney read history at Balliol College, Oxford, where he also started to write poetry and dreamt of becoming a painter or film producer. After graduation, however, he ended up teaching at Frensham Heights school, in Farnham, Surrey - along with the novelist Rex Warner - until 1940.

With the second world war, his critical spirit and abhorrence of violence led him into the Friends Ambulance Unit, with which he served in the Middle East, and, in 1944, in Greece, along with a stim ulating group of pacifists, including Donald Swann (obituary, March 25 1994). If any church could come to holding Sydney's allegiance, it was the Society of Friends, with its rejection of dogma, and its reliance on personal experience and social activ-ism, and its affirmation of God's presence in every human being.

After the war, folk music, both sacred and secular, took Sydney over. Much influenced by what he had heard in Greece, he studied its many forms; then, in 1952, he started writing lyrics for Swann, who needed revue material. "I found out that I could do that," Sydney said, "and get paid for it."

He launched what proved to be a long collaboration by providing lyrics for Swann's composition The Youth Of The Heart, which featured in the Globe Revue in London's West End. In the mid-1950s, he was the lyricist on Swann's children's musical, Lucy And The Hunter.

I was a BBC producer when, in 1960, Sydney wrote his most controversial song, Friday Morning. I believe it was also one of the most profound. In it, the robber, crucified with Jesus, cries out:

It was on a Friday morning that they took me from my cell
And I saw they had a carpenter to crucify as well.
You can blame it on to Pilate, you can blame it on the Jews,
You can blame it on the Devil, it's God I accuse.
It's God they ought to crucify, instead of you and me,
I said to the carpenter a-hanging on the tree.

Classic theology says that it was God, but Sydney lets the irony stand. In this, as in the following stanzas, he piles on the guilt, piles it on to God. It leads to the deepest of all questions: is God in Auschwitz or the Twin Towers, the killer or the victim? If there is a God? I had to fight the BBC management to get that song on the air. A brave, liberal head of religious broadcasting was my ally. Today, the fear of a backlash would be far greater.

In 1962, Carter teamed up with Sheila Hancock for the album Putting Out The Dustbin, one track of which, Last Cigarette, on failing to give up smoking, became a minor hit. The songs on the LP were closer to cabaret than to folk, but the pacifist, political singer was there even then. In 1964, the Donald Swann EP, Songs Of Faith And Doubt, comprised six songs by Carter. In the 1960s too, he worked as a critic for Gramophone magazine.

But it was in 1965 that Sydney recorded his greatest success, the six-song EP, Lord Of The Dance, with Martin Carthy on guitar, the Johnny Scott Trio and the Mike Sammes singers. In the sleeve note, he cautions purchasers about the religious content, in case they should be misled by such earlier songs as Down Below and My Last Cigarette.

Sydney treasured those who brought his texts to life, the whole folk scene, Carthy perhaps most of all, and singers like Nadia Cattouse. And they loved him. Across the years, many other musicians recorded his work, among them the Swingle Singers, Bob and Carole Pegg, Maddy Prior and Sarah-Jane Morris. His anti-war lullaby, Crow On The Cradle, was recorded in 1962 by Judy Collins, and, 17 years later, performed by Jackson Browne, Graham Nash and David Lindley at a No Nukes concert. It turned out to be an unexpected success; Warner Brothers bought the US rights and, many years later, Sydney was amazed to receive £9,000 in royalties.

With irony - though never with bitterness - Sydney satirised every form of self-righteous faith; to be without doubt was, to him, the ultimate in godless pride. In two books, The Rock Of Doubt (1978) and Dance In The Dark (1980), he set out the signposts of his journey in aphorisms, a journey through the holiness of humanity.

"Bibles, legends, history are signposts: they are pointing to the future, not the past. Do not embrace the past or it will turn into an idol." Jesus was central to his experience, but not, in his words, "the official Jesus - but the Jesus who is calling you to liberty, to the breaking of all idols including the idol which he himself has become."

Your holy hearsay is not evidence
Give me the good news in the present tense ...
So shut the Bible up and show me how
The Christ you talk about is living now.

Tall as he was, his head in the clouds and his feet firmly on the ground, there was a lot of dance left in Sydney when he came to my 60th birthday party in 1991 with Donald Swann. They sang their hearts out with The Bird Of Heaven: "Follow where the bird has gone./ If you want to find him, keep on travelling on."

When, in 1999 the mists of Alzheimer's disease began to close in, Sydney's second wife, Leela, lovingly cared for him and interpreted him to others. The past gradually receded into the strange land of lost memory. His friend Rabbi Lionel Blue wrote that now "our only contact is a thin thread of memory and his songs. I start singing them, and he joyfully joins in - and I leave him as he continues singing."

More than 30 years ago, Sydney had written his own epitaph:

Coming and going by the dance, I see
That what I am not is a part of me.
Dancing is all that I can ever trust,
The dance is all I am, the rest is dust.
I will believe my bones and live by what
Will go on dancing when my bones are not.


Leela survives him, as does their son Michael, a neurosurgeon.

· Sydney Bertram Carter, poet, songwriter and folk musician, born May 6 1915; died March 13 2004


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter (1915-2004)
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 18 Nov 15 - 03:58 AM

Who was the author of that obit, please Joe?

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Obit: Sydney Carter (1915-2004)
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 18 Nov 15 - 04:07 AM

Ah, OK, have checked online. It was, for the record, Paul Oestreicher.

FWIW -- I remember once receiving a book of his verse to review for English Dance and Song, journal of the EFDSS -- not an easy project for me, as an atheist, and one who had met him several times but we had never much warmed to one another. I did admire his work for its intrinsic integrity, however; and described him in my notice in some such terms as an exemplary promulgator of faith in a largely faithless age. A bit of a copout, probably; but I aimed to treat his work with the respect which was their due, even tho its basic principles were not in accord with my own.

≈M≈


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