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e f d s s examinations

The Sandman 29 Jul 06 - 07:03 PM
Anglo 29 Jul 06 - 07:39 PM
GUEST,Malcolm at large 29 Jul 06 - 07:40 PM
Doug Chadwick 29 Jul 06 - 07:44 PM
DMcG 30 Jul 06 - 03:30 AM
stallion 30 Jul 06 - 04:10 AM
GUEST,The Vulgar Boatman 30 Jul 06 - 04:21 AM
The Sandman 30 Jul 06 - 04:22 AM
Andy Jackson 30 Jul 06 - 04:39 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 30 Jul 06 - 05:07 AM
Richard Bridge 30 Jul 06 - 06:38 AM
The Sandman 30 Jul 06 - 06:38 AM
The Sandman 30 Jul 06 - 06:48 AM
stallion 30 Jul 06 - 07:01 AM
The Sandman 30 Jul 06 - 10:30 AM
GUEST,Russq 30 Jul 06 - 10:35 AM
GUEST,Brian Peters 30 Jul 06 - 11:01 AM
GUEST,Auldtimer 30 Jul 06 - 11:15 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 30 Jul 06 - 11:24 AM
greg stephens 30 Jul 06 - 11:43 AM
The Sandman 30 Jul 06 - 02:18 PM
GUEST,Brian Peters 30 Jul 06 - 02:26 PM
greg stephens 30 Jul 06 - 02:58 PM
stallion 30 Jul 06 - 03:16 PM
Mo the caller 30 Jul 06 - 03:42 PM
Scotus 30 Jul 06 - 03:54 PM
The Sandman 30 Jul 06 - 04:22 PM
GUEST,Malcolm Douglas (still at large) 30 Jul 06 - 09:21 PM
GUEST,Rowan 31 Jul 06 - 01:19 AM
Manitas_at_home 31 Jul 06 - 01:54 AM
GUEST 31 Jul 06 - 02:45 AM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 08:27 AM
GUEST,Brian Peters 31 Jul 06 - 09:41 AM
stallion 31 Jul 06 - 10:13 AM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 11:28 AM
GUEST,Brian Peters 31 Jul 06 - 12:11 PM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 12:41 PM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 01:23 PM
GUEST,Brian Peters 31 Jul 06 - 01:57 PM
GUEST,Russ 31 Jul 06 - 02:08 PM
MartinRyan 31 Jul 06 - 02:12 PM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 03:38 PM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 03:47 PM
Greg B 31 Jul 06 - 04:03 PM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 04:26 PM
Anglo 31 Jul 06 - 05:03 PM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 05:22 PM
stallion 31 Jul 06 - 07:48 PM
GUEST,Rowan 31 Jul 06 - 09:15 PM
Desert Dancer 31 Jul 06 - 09:36 PM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 03:12 AM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 03:57 AM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 04:00 AM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 05:27 AM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 06:49 AM
manitas_at_work 01 Aug 06 - 07:09 AM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 07:49 AM
manitas_at_work 01 Aug 06 - 08:07 AM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 08:23 AM
Kevin Sheils 01 Aug 06 - 08:41 AM
manitas_at_work 01 Aug 06 - 08:42 AM
Kevin Sheils 01 Aug 06 - 08:44 AM
Marje 01 Aug 06 - 09:34 AM
Anglo 01 Aug 06 - 09:35 AM
Anglo 01 Aug 06 - 10:00 AM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 10:22 AM
Scotus 01 Aug 06 - 10:28 AM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 10:30 AM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 10:36 AM
GUEST,Russ 01 Aug 06 - 12:20 PM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 12:47 PM
Marje 01 Aug 06 - 12:50 PM
GUEST,Russ 01 Aug 06 - 03:18 PM
JamesHenry 01 Aug 06 - 04:25 PM
greg stephens 01 Aug 06 - 05:31 PM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 05:39 PM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 05:48 PM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 05:57 PM
JamesHenry 01 Aug 06 - 06:03 PM
Bat Goddess 01 Aug 06 - 06:51 PM
GUEST,Rowan 01 Aug 06 - 06:56 PM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 10:17 PM
The Sandman 01 Aug 06 - 10:56 PM
GUEST,Rowan 02 Aug 06 - 04:31 AM
The Sandman 02 Aug 06 - 06:56 AM
GUEST,Brian Peters 02 Aug 06 - 11:30 AM
The Sandman 02 Aug 06 - 01:07 PM
Scotus 02 Aug 06 - 04:05 PM
The Sandman 02 Aug 06 - 04:17 PM
GUEST 03 Aug 06 - 04:05 AM
The Sandman 03 Aug 06 - 10:37 AM
GUEST 04 Aug 06 - 04:52 AM
Mo Bradshaw 04 Aug 06 - 05:00 AM
Betsy 04 Aug 06 - 05:18 AM
Mo Bradshaw 04 Aug 06 - 05:27 AM
The Sandman 04 Aug 06 - 08:09 AM
Mo Bradshaw 04 Aug 06 - 01:14 PM
GUEST 04 Aug 06 - 01:23 PM
The Sandman 04 Aug 06 - 04:24 PM
The Sandman 04 Aug 06 - 05:07 PM
GUEST 05 Aug 06 - 04:11 AM
The Sandman 05 Aug 06 - 08:11 AM
The Sandman 06 Aug 06 - 06:42 AM
shepherdlass 06 Aug 06 - 07:24 PM
The Sandman 07 Aug 06 - 06:42 AM
shepherdlass 07 Aug 06 - 06:40 PM
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Subject: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 07:03 PM

Would it be a good or bad idea, for The english folk dance and song Society, To follow COMHALTAS lead with irish trad music and introduce examinations in english traditional song and dance.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Anglo
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 07:39 PM

Dick, you just have too much time on your hands these days, Don't waste ours as well.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Malcolm at large
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 07:40 PM

EFDSS used to offer qualifications in dance teaching, but gave that up years ago, I think. You'll find that a lot of Irish singers, musicians and dancers, while acknowledging the valuable work that Comhaltas has done, are more than a little dubious about their prescriptive and proscriptive tendencies. I don't know that exams are the way forward.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 07:44 PM

A bad idea, I think. Examinations suggest a right and a wrong according to a fixed and rather narrow interpretation. The folk process is evolution by a series of wrongs. A living tradition cannot be maintained by preserving it in aspic.

DC


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: DMcG
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 03:30 AM

I can't see any real benefits and can see quite a few problems. As an EFDSS member, I'd certainly vote against it if asked.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: stallion
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 04:10 AM

Whats wrong with years of tramping the folk club scene? A theatre director once told me he would rather employ an actor who started their careers with a couple of seasons in Pitlochry and then toured the a play around the western isles than someone straight out of RADA. I have seen and heard some of the graduates of Newcastle and, whilst they may be accomplished musicians and singers, came over to me as wooden, contrived and arrogant. " I have a degree in folk music, I know what I am talking about", just one quote, oh, and "you're a nobody" (maybe that comment was right!) all this because I said that their second set was better than the first and I am glad that I stayed for the second half, I had paid to get in and expected something better, they delivered in the second half but for the self styled "creme de la Creme" it all has to be good. The last time i heard that sort of comment was in a pub in Rawdon (leeds) when someone came up with the most stupid political remark ever followed by "I'm Gary Sprake, I know what I am talking about" (for the uninitiated - the then Leeds United goalkeeper) So, for me ther is no better examination than a paying audience and no better recommendation than word of mouth. My experience of the Newcastle project is that it doesn't work, students need to do a five year "placement" on the folk circuit before attending the course.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,The Vulgar Boatman
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 04:21 AM

And take their pushy parents with them.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 04:22 AM

I too have mixed feelings. An argument could be made in favour of it such as this,that it gives children a focus, something to aim for. and is a better focus than competitions. Competitions can be discouraging for those who dont win, and are generally very subjective. So exams work in classical music, so why not other forms of music.Thirdly the question has to be asked why is the tradition in Ireland stronger than England is it because of the competion and exam system.Personally I feel the exam system is much better than the competion system, The benefits might be that children acquire more knowledge of english traditional music. Iam undecided. Finally to Anglo and his negative comments, if he/ she has nothingmore constructive to say, these comments pretty much sum up anglo him/ her self.I am busy enough doing two gigs a week. plus spending over two hours practice a day, if I wish to raise what I consider might be an important way of encouraging children to discover english traditional music I am going to, and Anglo can sling his hook.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Andy Jackson
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 04:39 AM

This smacks of the competitive Eisteddfod ideal in Wales.Children are taught to perform set pieces parrot fashion. This seems to result in fixed smiles and almost identical plastic performances.
I have been worried for many years that the English "In The Tradition" idea reveres performances by elderly quivery singers and tries to copy the sound. Unfortunately of course we don't have recordings of these same singers when they where in their twenties with the fine strong voices they would surely have had.
Our music must learn from the enthusiasm of those fine old singers for the words themselves. But surely we should not try to mimic the performance itself as I feel has happened in Wales. Examinations have to work to a set sylabus which I am frightened would set certain ideas in stone.

Right well that's upset my friends in Wales and England..next please!!

Andy


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 05:07 AM

Oh, I wish there were people around, on the English scene, who are trying to "copy the sound" of "elderly quivery singers". Everyone I hear, these days, is merely copying the sound of people like Martin Carthy, Nic Jones et. al. (no disrespect to the two fine artists mentioned, by the way, they, at least, sound like themselves!).

The other day a friend played me a recording of an up and coming young singer. Although the recording contained some interesting traditional songs, and the performance thereof was competent, the singer was an M. Carthy clone. This was about the third or fourth M.Carthy clone that I have heard in the last year (and about the 400th in the last couple of decades)!

By all means listen to the great revival singers, and learn from them, but, in addition people need to go back to those "elderly quivery' geniuses, who preserved our tradional songs, and learn from them as well - just as the revivalists did.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 06:38 AM

I think there is a great deal to be said for learning the facts about traditional English vernacular music and dance. Those can surely be examined. I would be very worried indeed that there might be a right or a wrong way of performing them. I cannot speak for the steps of the dance, which I suppose may well have "right" and "wrong" versions, but the concept of folk music demands not only the transmission of the tradition but its modification by transmission.

By way of example I might turn to a recording of Bert Lloyd to find the words and tune of a song, but I certainly don't want to sound like him. I have one particular song I have nearly finished learning where I took the words and the underlying accompaniment sequence from a recording of Martin Carthy, but as I am currently doing it the rythmic delivery is almost more dance-trance. Some like it. Others it offends. Certainly my delivery of the Coppers "Sweep" has some saying the late great man would be turning in his grave, and others say they could imagine him grinning broadly at it.


Naturally one performance of a modified version of a song or tune might be more or less pleasing to a listener than another, but I am not clear that the difference is properly to be examined. "Taste" is very hard sensibly to examine.

The potential upside - continuity and knowledge. The potential downside, ossification and alienation.

How about English folklore and traditional culture as a GCSE?


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 06:38 AM

I agree. Harry Cox, Phil Tanner, Sarah Makem EliZabeth Cronin, Margaret Barry, Joseph Taylor,JeannieRobertson, these could all be required listening for an examination. It doesnt mean that they have to be copied exactly, but used to expose children      and others to certain types of singing. this is exactly what I did when I started singing, as I know Martin did too. the same could be done on the instrumental side, Jinky wells, Stephen Baldwin,Oscar Woods, Billy Bennington, Billy Pigg. marks not to be given for copying someone exactly, but for some influence in style. Although copying someone exactly is not necessarily bad if its used as a stepping stone rather than a final goal, some people have achieved a style of their own by taking certain things from two or three traditional performers.creating their own hybrid.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 06:48 AM

As someone who has tramped the folk scene for many years, I see Stallion s point of view, the university of life is in my opinion the best university. however I can see some pluses to an exam system if it exposes children to older styles and traditional music in general. its certainly preferable to competitions.I am still listening to Traditional singers but have my own distinctive style. I am sure Martin Carthy is too. the point is Carthy sounds like Carthy, not an exact clone of Joseph Taylor.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: stallion
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 07:01 AM

In part i agree with Shimrod, but then for youngsters there has to be a starting point, Carthy is a one off and who can blame people for paying homage to his style, (Dylan, Rusby et al), we have a young singer who in one set would have passed for Dolly Parton or Kate Rusby, honest, eyes shut one could barely have told the difference, now she has developed her own style in her vernacular, which, ironically, is only a stones throw from Kate Rusby's roots. Even trying to be themselves still gets comparisons with other more well known artist, that is because it is used as a substitute for a richer narrative, otherwise known as "influenced by" Spot on observation about the singing styles, my elderly aunt was a club singer in the sixties, she is in her seventies and still singing, she still holds and carries a tune but the power and vibrato have gone, she did explain it technically to me but I didn't really take it in. I have serious doubts about " who sings folk songs" I think everyone did and so there was never a set style or sound, perhaps trained singers avoided folk songs because anyone could sing them. I think Carthy sang, and sings, songs with feeling for the songs and to the best of his ability as everyone would and should do, I think it might be a contradiction to actually sit in judgement on any song or singer, if I had been judged in the early years I would definately have got NIL POINTS.
applause is better than medalions and certificates, so an education policy/ crusade, nay an evangelistic campaign for folkies to applaud the slightest whiff of interest from anyone under twenty five might be better than exams!


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 10:30 AM

Staliion are you saying that you think its ok to have exams in classical music but not in traditional music, or not in any music at all.Ithink we need to analyse why there are more young children playing traditional music in Ireland than in England. Is it because of the competition and examination system comhaltas have introduced,If it is so, then while it may have many faults, It may well be the right thing for EfFDS to introduce Personally I would rather an examination system than the re introduction of competitions. I would like to see comhaltas get rid of their competions and just use examinations.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Russq
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 10:35 AM

An Exam system, like everything else, is a trade-off.
A person's response to such a system tells us more about that person's priorities than the exam system itself.

Clearly, one of the results of examinations is standardization and homogenization.
Is that a pro or con?

You say, "He sounded like Martin Carthy. Cool!" I say, "He sounded like Martin Carthy. Yawn."

When it comes to music, I personally favor that which promotes diversity and feel negatively about that is promotes homogenization.

My purely personal preference is partly a response to a world where the organizations keep getting bigger and the choices keep getting fewer. To me it does not matter that the store is the size of a jumbo-jet hanger and the prices are the lowest in the world if there is no selection and I cannot get the product I actually want.

When something gets academicized and credentialized I think that is a sign it has become severed from its traditional sources. It has taken on a life of its own and become to some extent an artificial construct.

Pro or con?
When it comes to music, I find that I personally do no care much for the results of such a process.

Examinations would make learning folk music like learning classical music.
Pro or con?

I agree that "exams work in classical music." But a goal of classical training is to get everybody playing the same sequence of notes in the same way. When it comes to non-classical music, that's not what I want to hear.


Anglo,
To state the obvious...
In the context of Mudcat OTHER people cannot waste YOUR time.
Any time wasting on Mudcat is about YOU, not the thread creator.

Russ (usually silent GUEST, and with good reason)


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 11:01 AM

>> I have been worried for many years that the English "In The Tradition" idea reveres performances by elderly quivery singers and tries to copy the sound. Unfortunately of course we don't have recordings of these same singers when they where in their twenties with the fine strong voices they would surely have had.
<<

Several questionable assumptions there. One, that singers peak in their twenties and decline thereafter. My experience of singers in general, and of traditional songs in particular, is that they get better as they get older. A "strong voice" is not the main attribute needed to put a song across. And, down there in Miskin, I'm sure you're not unaware of Phil Tanner who in recordings made when he was in his seventies possessed range, accuracy, power and drama to shame many a younger singer.

The only seriously quivery singer I can think of offhand would be Fred Jordon, and that was a vibrato he cultivated, nothing to do with age or infirmity.

Then, as Shimrod pointed out, who exactly are the revival singers copying the quivery old men? I don't get to hear them. The Devil's Interval have certainly studied source recordings, but they've managed to distil the important bits from the styles, not tried to sing like old folks.

Jeff Davis gave a workshop at Pinewoods Camp some years ago in which participants were given a tape of various source singers and invited to copy the style of a singer of their choice. The idea was not to make the present-day singer into a clone of the traditional one, but to make people understand the kinds of techniques the old singers were using. Techniques that could then be incorporated into their own repertoires. Style matters.

If you want examinations in traditional music there is always the degree course in Newcastle (where The Devils' Interval and many other good young musicians have been studying) and others in Scotland and Ireland. I can't see EFDSS wanting to get involved in that kind of thing. I'm sorry Stallion had a bad experience with some Newcastle graduates but the ones I know are eager to learn, including from us folk veterans. A few years gigging experience might well benefit some of them, but I've also heard performers who after decades on the road can't string a coherent intro together or plan a set properly.

>> someone came up with the most stupid political remark ever followed by "I'm Gary Sprake, I know what I am talking about" (for the uninitiated - the then Leeds United goalkeeper) <<

For the uniniated, the Leeds United keeper famous for throwing the ball into his own net when under no apparent pressure. I don't think I'd trust him any more on politics than on goal custodianship.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Auldtimer
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 11:15 AM

Who guards the guards? Who tests the testers? Who examines the examiners?
In the past folk music collectors'own taste, preferences and ideas of propriarty and decency dictated what was "OK" and included and what was left unnoted or edited. Who knows what has been lost; songs, tunes and styles. So who is going to draw the line in the sand between right and wrong? Who decides if that the line has been crossed? What are the punishments going to be? Are folk clubs and festivals only going to be able to book "qualified" performers?


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 11:24 AM

The idea of exposing those unfamiliar to the traditions of folk singing is valuable. Some can apply these techniques of singing to their interpretations. Many who attempt this process can possibly hurt their voices by straining or belting.

Examinations begins to sound like the testing system in education. Personal thought is put on hold. Exams for folk singing are not a true indicator as to the musical value of a unique interpretation to a song. Copying trad singing styles may have some value in the understanding of vocal nuances and ornamentation but stressing a uniformity and conformity to someone's idea of what is "authentic" appears to be arbitrary and open to question.

What is the scale to be used and who gets to apply it?

Someone in one part of the village might say that the folks in the other part of the village are not "authentic" and don't get it.

Ultimately, when an audience hears a performer, they are not so interested in the standards but whether they are moved by the artist.

Comhaltas does a great service in promoting Irish music. It may possibly do some harm by discouraging creative innovation.
(Tommy Peoples?) (Riverdance?) (Bill Whelan?)(Davy Spillane?)
(Andy Irvine?) etc.

If exams encourage such as in fiddle contests, than they may have use but should not be applied rigidly. If they motivate musical people to examine the traditional heritage of Irish or any other music, then they may have some use.

Frank


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: greg stephens
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 11:43 AM

In a word, in response to the original question: bad.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 02:18 PM

I mentioned EFDSS because they are a national organisation and the English equivalent of comhaltas. They are supposed to be the guardians of English Folk Song, I would like to ask Brian Peters why/ he doubts if they would be interested.finally no one has been able to say why the Irish instumental tradition is stronger than the English. Comhaltas must be doing somrething right. Remember the first fleadh was in 1951 when irish music was in danger of extinction, now its flourishing.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 02:26 PM

>> I would like to ask Brian Peters why/ he doubts if they would be interested <<

I don't speak for EFDSS but I suspect that lack of resources would be a factor even if they were interested in such an idea. Personally, I agree with Greg anyway.

Many cultural reasons why the Irish might more interested in their traditions than the English. Maintaining cultural identity in the face of the hegemony of an oppressive neighbour might be one of them (see the Cajuns, the Quebecois, the Bretons, the Basques, etc.) But the barbie's lit and I haven't time for all that just now.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: greg stephens
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 02:58 PM

Not only do I think it's a bad idea, I cant think of anything worse.
The odd fiddle competiton with a £500 prize at county shows and similar events would be a bit of fun though. But spare us the selfappointed arbiters dishing out diplomas, whetehr at EFDSS or anyone else.
Studying folk music structure, or history, or whatever, is a perfectly reasonable acadamic topic, and obviously needs exams if people want degrees or doctorates in it. But I seriously dispute the need for exams(especially organised by EFDSS) in the performance aspects of it.
Folk music is only to be judged by the folk:OK?


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: stallion
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 03:16 PM

I saw Gary Sprake throw the ball into his own net at elland road!


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Mo the caller
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 03:42 PM

I have come to the conclusion that you can only benefit form being taught what you have already worked out for yourself.
Whether you want to become a preschool worker or a dance caller (my part time jobs) any course you take has to go side by side with 'work experience'. If you haven't seen the problems, you can't appreciate the solution. (ok exageration)
Folk is such a wide subject, and people come to it from such differing backgrounds. Your syllabus would be full of simplifications or omisions.
Who would take the exams anyway?
The fact that the 'Gusto' programme didn't get off the ground shows that people are too busy 'doing'. Though we turn up at workshops as part of festivals (if there's a callers workshop I go to it, the singers must go to the workshops at Chippenham else they wouldn't keep putting them on). I suppose we learn from each other - what to do and what to avoid. Those interested buy the books, listen to others, ask questions on Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Scotus
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 03:54 PM

I'm a bit surprised no one has mentioned the excellent degree programme in Scots music which has now been underway at the RSAMD in Glasgow for some 6 or 7 years. Many of the graduates are acknowledged as very fine performers despite (in some cases) their youth (Emily Smith et al). The lecturers are among the finest of the 'revivalists'(including Alison McMorland and Pete Clark)- as for the examiners I cannot comment as I was one for 4 years. The programme is led by Brian McNeill, which also says something for its quality.

Then there is the Traditional Music Centre of Excellence at Plockton High School led by Dougie Pincock - this acts as something of a feeder to the RSAMD Degree.

As for England, I hear good reports of the programme at Newcastle University run in conjunction with Folkworks.

Jack


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 04:22 PM

To greg stephens,folk music is to be judged by the folk, how do you define the folk.So it appears to be working in Ireland, Scotland and Newcastle. so maybe its not such a daft idea after all.Maybe the EFDSS are not needed at all,.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Malcolm Douglas (still at large)
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 09:21 PM

More to the point, it isn't something that EFDSS see as part of their remit nowadays; nor should it be. They used to provide qualifications for dance teachers so that there was a standard that users could rely on to ensure that they were using teachers who knew what they were talking about. No more than that. Comhaltas (and the Mod in Scotland, for example, for Scots Gaelic song) are far more formal and conservative, as I've already said.

EFDSS is needed, but not for this sort of thing. I don't much care for competitions, and have frequently been quite baffled by the criteria involved in judging them. That, I think, would be a common experience.

Finally, don't dismiss Anglo's comments just because you don't like them. He knows what he is talking about, and has, I suspect, at least as much experience as you do. Likely rather more. It's always difficult when people won't use their real names in places like this; so many misunderstandings ensue that wouldn't happen if we knew who we were talking to from the start.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 01:19 AM

Malcolm Douglas (still at large) wrote "Finally, don't dismiss Anglo's comments just because you don't like them." I couldn't find any posting from Anglo in the thread; is there something my browser is missing?

More to the point of the topic, I'd like to take Frank Hamilton's questions further, after first stating my prejudices. All of my experiences with examinations (from both sides of the table; candidate and examiner) has reinforced my belief that examinations really test only one's ability to do exams. If you are trying to create a 'competency benchmark' you'll have to create a set of criteria of competency that is defensible and then create assessment tools that are valid, reliable and equitable. Anyone for cans of worms?

As a complete outsider (I used to be a member of EFDSS but it lost its relevance to me after a while) I'd have to tug my forelock to the decisions of the English in such matters. In Australia we have music examinations run by AMEB with all the strengths and weaknesses mentioned above and we have Eisteddfods (ditto) but most learning is at the University of Hard Knocks, despite the fact that some universities (ones with Vice Chancellors and Academic Bawds) have music departments who will supervise useful postgrad theses.

There has been a lot of talk about the working class roots of folk music. Leaving aside the truth/worth/relevance/etc of such talk I'd reckon the best way to get rid of any vestiges of working class roots would be to have representatives of the muddle class setting themselves up as dragon gate-keepers with middle class rites of passage.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 01:54 AM

Anglo's posting is way up top, he has nothing to say on the topic and is just having a dig at Dick. There is no evidence in the thread that he knows what he is talking about.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 02:45 AM

Assuming that there is anybody in EFDSS capable of adjudicating on traditional music and song, and that's an awfully big assumption (I would be hard pushed to identify such an individual or group of individuals), people would be well advised to take a close look at the damage done to Irish music by Comhaltas in imposing a set of rules and standards in order to meet with official acceptance and win competitions. The mind boggles at an English equivalent of Riverdance!
There is little doubt that Comhaltas once played a great part in preserving traditional music, but as one of the leading authorities on the music once remarked "it is now an organisation with a great future behind it".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 08:27 AM

Yes Jim,I have my criticisms of comhaltas too. Which is why I said I would prefer they dropped competitions[ for children anyway]. and replaced them with exams.I dont see any harm in competions for adults [ who are mature enough to realise they are very subjective ]and just use them as a focus. But for all comhaltas faults the Irish musical tradition is now flourishing and comhaltas have played a fairly large part in this.all I am suggesting is that Those people who are interested in english traditional dance and song, should analyse comhaltas acheivements and errors and try and strengthen the English tradition . Perhaps examinations are better than competitions. perhaps we should Abdicate responsibility rather like EFDSS. seem to do. at least in 1951 comhaltas didnt abdicate reponsibility and lots of people have had great pleasure from the fleadhs. Finally I adress this to anglo there have been 20 other posters on this subject,Irest my case.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 09:41 AM

I find myself agreeing with Greg Stephens again. Degree courses in the wider aspects of folk arts are a different thing from examinations merely in musical expertise. I certainly don't believe that traditional music skills are picked up casually, and value greatly the input of people like Harry Boardman, Roy Harris and Martin Carthy, who gave me pointers along the way. Institutionalising that kind of mentoring within the context of a course like that at Newcastle is OK by me.

But what, in any case, would a certificate from such an exam qualify the holder for? Can anyone see Dick Dixon or Alan Bearman or Bob Berry picking their festival bill on the basis of exam grades? Would I have to present a certificate before being allowed to play for a dance? Like it or not, the paid performers amongst us operate in a market. That doesn't mean that the busiest professionals are necessarily the best ones, but it does mean that those able to put on a performance (which often includes factors beyond musical skills) are more probably going to find themselves in work.

To Dick: traditional music in England is stronger now than it's been for years, without any intervention in the form of exams.

When I was around ten years old I had piano lessons from the archetypal battleaxe music teacher, aimed solely at pushing me through a series of grades. It ground out any pleasure I might otherwise have taken in music-making, and it was only later when I discovered that traditional music was actually fun, that I began to take a pride in my own playing. Keep it fun, I say.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: stallion
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 10:13 AM

I think Dick is concerned about the level of participation in folk music and Efdss exams could be a doorway in, much the same as the star system we used on our four year old grand daughter to encourage her to eat greens and fruit. This isn't a joke or a dig, my kids did ballet for exams and medals etc but were under no illusions that they were going to be ballerinas ( well, not after the age of thirteen!) Just maybe a folk art exam/level of achievement award system might work for the three to thirteen age group and may achieve a greater level of participation later in life. It may also help impoverished folkies to supplement gigging with lessons! I think it is worthy of debate and it may work, it would certainly raise the consciousness of vernacular music and art, I would also include memory tests to encourage the oral tradition!
Peter


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 11:28 AM

No of course I dont see bob berry , or anyone else booking people at festivals because of exam certificates and as Stallion says that was not what I meant at all. I see it as an alternative to competitions for children, to give them a focus and get them interested in traditional music.Music can be fun if its taught in the right way, exams are only stepping stones, the final goal being nothing to do with earning a living at it, but enjoying music purely for the sake of it,feeling good about being able to do something well, being able to enjoy playing music for fun but acquiring technique to do this through examination. Unfortunately its a minority of children who are self motivated enough to not have to have an enforced sense of discipline.Discipline does not have to be unpleasant, in fact the carrot rather than the stick as Stallion points out, is much more successful. but we as musicians have all learnt that without practice we would not have got where we are. this is another useful lesson for children to be good at something to aquire a skill requires endeavour,but depending how its taught.can also be fun. Finally I disagree with you Brian about Traditional music in England never being stronger, It seems no stronger than at the beginning of the folk revival, it may have chaned in emphasis from clubs to festivals.The average man in the street hadnt heard of Martin Carthy then and he hasnt heard of him now.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 12:11 PM

Sorry, Dick, if I got the wrong idea about the point of this, but I remain sceptical. My 13-year old son has just taken his grade 5 saxophone exam. He worked hard for weeks on the performance pieces and scales, had them more or less note-perfect then, in the exam room with a piano accompanist he'd barely met, panicked and "fell off" the most complicated piece for several bars. We await the results with trepidation but the experience was not a positive one for him. I go along with his teacher's exam-oriented agenda because that's all there is on offer, but to me it seems that he gets a lot more enjoyment playing in the school band than rehearsing exam pieces. I agree that younger kids can't rely on self-motivation alone, but doesn't the regular lesson and occasional band performance fulfil that function whether or not exams are involved?

>> Finally I disagree with you Brian about Traditional music in England never being stronger, It seems no stronger than at the beginning of the folk revival <<

Well I wasn't there at the beginning of the folk revival, which is why I said "stronger than it's been for years". I refer to the number of young people I see - yes, at festivals rather than folk clubs, but also in informal local sessions - playing English music on fiddles, melodeons and all the rest. I don't mean just the young concert performers, but kids doing it for fun, and honing their skills just for the sake of being good at what they do.

>> The average man in the street hadnt heard of Martin Carthy then and he hasnt heard of him now. <<

I'm not sure what that fact signifies. Sure the English don't value their traditions sufficiently, but as I said I would look towards long-standing cultural factors rather than the absence of structured learning and examination.

(From Stallion)
>> It may also help impoverished folkies to supplement gigging with lessons! <<

Many of us already do that, exams or no.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 12:41 PM

Yes Brian your right, not all children are suited by exams, but I still think they are better than competitions. I wish your son well with his results. you will probably find he,s passed, most examiners are quite sympathetic, and it sounds like only a small section of the exam.in fact I will bet you hes passed and in six months time willhave put the experience behind him . I remember seeing Elvis Presley forget the words to Are You Lonesome Tonight, he said I must have sung this a million times, and laughed, that was the first time I really liked him. regards to all.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 01:23 PM

When I was at primary school, we used to do english folk singing and dancing as part of the curriculum. But in those days education was viewed somewhat differently, we werent examined in the subject, we just did it twice a week. However modern day educationalists and governments seem obsessed with the idea that education is just about getting a job, not the overall development of a child culturally as well. Idoubt unfortunately that folk singing could be reintroduced in schools because of the present governments fixation with league tables etc, But maybe this is another alternative we should be pressurising for.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 01:57 PM

>> When I was at primary school, we used to do english folk singing and dancing as part of the curriculum. <<

Yes, I remember that too - was it "Time and Tune" on the radio? I heard a lot of traditonal songs back then. Some of them I liked, some of them I didn't (or not, at least, until many years later), but it was at least some kind of exposure to the tradition, albeit with posh voices and clodhopping piano accompaniments. More folk music in schools is something I'm completely in agreement with you about. It exists, but it's very patchy and usually seems to depend on an existing member of staff being an enthusiast. The national curriculum doesn't help, I'm sure.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 02:08 PM

I find this thread perversely fascinating.

I am a Yank and I confess that I am baffled by the suggestion that "examinations" might get children interested in traditional music.

I am baffled on many levels.

It has not been my purely American experience that children get interested in things because they are exited by the prospect of taking a test.

But even if it were true that there is a causal relationship between the offering of examinations and interest in traditional music, it seems to me that an examination system would be the most cumbersome and least efficient way to produce the desired effect.

If you're going to encourage people to do things, why wouldn't you simply pay musicians to play and/or children to listen rather than examiners to examine?


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: MartinRyan
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 02:12 PM

Aah, come on Jim! You can hardly blame Comhaltas for Riverdance! Now, do we have a copy of Joe Mulhern's (sp?) "Free State Adjudicator" around here anywhere?

Regards


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 03:38 PM

Aye, Yes, Martin the same thought had occured to me, Idont think Comhaltas have got any connection with Riverdance, in fact riverdance has had an un fortunate effect on comhaltas dancing competitors in that theyre all starting to wear silly wigs.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 03:47 PM

To Russ, Yes but its better than the competition system, which is more subjective, the problem with competitions is that only a very small percentage can come first or second. children can become discouraged, with an exam a child can feel satisfied with a pass a merit or a distinction, the exam is also done in private so the child is less likely to feel a failure and the results are private , a good teacher can then bolster the childs confidence and encourage them. whereas in a competition the child may have come fifth and feel shes/hes done poorly.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Greg B
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 04:03 PM

I maintain that "having" to do something is the best way
of taking all of the joy out of it. And turning a pastime into
a competition comes a close second.

The approach that some of the Irish have taken exemplifies this.
It may have helped to preserve the music but what's the point of
that if in the process people (especially children) have been
made terribly unhappy and had the joy sucked out of what should
have been one of life's great pleasures? You see these kids at
some place called 'Cathleen O'Reilly School of Irish Dance' all
done up in stiff pseudo-irish costumes with far too much green
looking positively miserable except when they're supposed to
plaster a smile across their poor faces. The other day I saw
a program from Kennedy Center where some of the 'school of
dance' girls were attending one of their rare non-competitive
shows. One of them said 'oh this is so wonderful because you
aren't competing against other schools and you can just have
fun dancing and not have to worry all the time about being
perfect.' How sad that in most of her dance, which is a celebration
of the human spirit, this little girl '[has] to worry all the time
about being perfect!' She'll probably grow up into the same
hyper-critical snot-rag that her teacher is, if she keeps at
it long enough. Every time I see 'all-Ireland' this or that
champion on a performer's resume I'm at once attracted and
repulsed. I know he or she will be technically good, but that
they'd be involved in such a thing kind of takes them down a
peg or two personally, in my view, and I know it's not their
fault, coming from a system where culture is taught like catechism
and some think that's a good thing.

The idea that the culture of classical music is a good thing and
ought to be emulated in folk is purely wrong-headed. In fact, it's
not a nice thing at all. It's really quite nasty, and makes the
majority who come under its influence feel like failures.

Folk music is supposed to be about something different. It's about
giving and receiving pleasure in the music. That's why 'folk' did
it in the first place. Hell, most 'folk' had enough in their lives
that was unpleasant without having to wield music like a personal
scourage.

Similarly, it's not about competing against one another to prove
who's best, but about appreciating one another and enabling one
another so that the whole (in ensemble playing) is greater than
the some of the parts. And if a champion is to be crowned, it will
be by that person's peers and those who like to listen.

Mind you, I see nothing at all wrong with the academic study of
folk music and lore, and if that study includes learning to
emulate traditional methods and styles without variation, great.
Provided that's what the scholar wants to do. But never ever
should sight be lost of why the original musician did it...because
it gave him and his listeners pleasure. And, I would submit that
you can't emulate a traditional style without emulating the joy
of the traditional player. The idea of sitting before a panel of
judges precludes that, in my opinion. And, by the way, it seems
to me that many things that have earned such learned panels'
endorsement have neither more nor less merit than something entirely
different.

It's rather like my being informed, upon bringing a D/G melodeon
to an Irish session, that it wasn't 'traditional.' Well, old Pat
was holding a red mother-of-toilet seat Paolo Soprani tuned to B/C,
which he considered 'traditional.' Never mind that his particular
tuning was adopted by a set of players between the wars who were
looking for something a bit easier to deal with than the D and
D/G boxes that had found their way into Irish households. Now we
have a couple of generations of folks who think that they're
playing like Brian Boru's own squeezbox player when they do things
'properly' on a B/C box. 'Traditional' for most people means 'the
way it was done when I first heard it.'

Most things that are enjoyable, be they sailing, fishing, rowing,
whittling, riding, hiking, flying, etc. are at their best when they
aren't hampered by examinations, qualifications, and competition
beyond what is required to preserve safety and societal order. To
that I'd add music.

Then again, I always thought that a sailboat race was a technique for
messing up a perfectly nice afternoon of sailing.

Maybe I'll never amount to much.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 04:26 PM

I agree with a lot of what you say, but many children enjoy classical music lessons based around exams and some of them seem happy with the comhaltas examination system. I will try and find a syllabus so everyone can know the way comhaltas approach it ,which im sure has imperfections.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Anglo
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 05:03 PM

OK, so I was feeling a little short-tempered when I made my initial posting, but the idea did not seem to have any redeeming features,as well as being impractical, and to no particular end. Setting up a straw man for a schoolboy debate.

There is a network of classically trained music teachers, all plying their trade publicly and privately, passing on their hard-earned knowledge and ability to later generations. A body of knowledge that has developed overr several hundred years. It's fairly easy to see that if you're going to learn the violin, there has been enough accumulated knowledge to have a fairly consistent way of learning. You learn the basics, easy pieces, and move on to harder pieces. And you practice a lot. "Standardized" tests help teachers to make sure they're on the right track, and if a kid moves from one school to another, his new teacher knows where to put him.

Now, a violinist needs to be able to play scales and arpeggios, and needs to be able to sightread fluently. It is my experience that some "good" folk performers can read music fluently, some can't read it at all. Not just singers, some of the leading Cape Breton fiddlers for exxample, as well as their piano accompanists. They learned by ear. We don't know if many of the long-gone traditional singers we revere could read music or not. Joseph Taylor probably could - he sang in a church choir. Many of the literate ones might well have also been literate in tonic sol-fa, good enough for Sam Henry in his newspaper column (the abc notation of yesteryear?). So should reading music be an exam requirement? Should NOT reading music be a requirement? Or is it irrelevant?

What is relevant? Should you lose points for not knowing C. Sharp's collected version of 'The Seeds of Love'? (even if you just want to be a traditional fiddler). Or not being able to identify William Kimber when you are played the recording of 'English Country Gardens' when you just want to sing ballads? Should you be required to know Child numbers (or Laws numbers, or Roud numbers)?

How about performance? Would unaccompanied songs be part of a lower grade test than self-accompanied songs? (Or the other way around?) Would guitarists need to be able to use a barre chord? Should concertinists be judged on whether they're playing 2-note chords or 3-note chords?

How many more examples do we need? There just isn't a unified body of knowledge that you would test on.

It has been pointed out that even if these obstacles were overcome, we still have the problem of resources. And interest, I would think. How many people might sign up for nightschool classes in the syllabus? Or are we addressing just kids? Should this be a unit of elementary music education? A bit different than singing from Sharp's book to the music teacher's piano!

And exams as encouragement to learn. I do like Guest Russ's take on that.

My own interest in folk music started in secondary school, when some friends went and started a folk club. I decided to learn to play guitar. My progress, such as it has been, has been fairly random, learning different instruments as I saw the need, or rather use, for them. Directions I have taken have been influenced by people I have met. Looking back, I haven't always made the right choices. Perhaps I needed the guidance of a graded system of folk music tests. Hey, if I'd lived in London I could have joined the Critics Group. But I've learned what I know on my instruments not by taking the classical approach of learning its capabilities from the ground up, but by practicing what I need to play a particular tune or song. So my instrumental work has lots of holes. Different again from the holes you'll find in any "folksinger's" arsenal. Would these tests have made sure these holes were filled, and made me a better musician.

If Newcastle can come up with a syllabus that people want to pay money for, more power to them, and it might give a few retired folkies a supplement to their pension. I don't know what the students get out of it other than the skills anyone gets taking a degree course in general arts. And I'm sure the ones who do go include many talented and motivated enough to succeed even without the university. I doubt it'll make it easier to get a folk club gig. Maybe the university letterhead will actually tease a reply out of a club organizer, even if it's a "no." But a nationwide system of graded tests on the general topic of folk music? The mind boggles.

My two denarii.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 05:22 PM

Dear anglo , I made it clear that I did not think the purpose should be to get folk gigs . and am also suggesting it should be   used to replace Competition by comhaltas. A lot of your other questions would be answered if you obtained comhaltas exam syllabus. lastly even if you wake up short tempered in the morning you have no right to take it out on me.at the moment you know nothing of comhaltas examination system, the examination system could be based on comhaltas but be open to adaptation. I suggest that if your genuinely interested study comhaltas system which is working well even though it may have imperfections , or study the newcastle or scottish system. meanwhile I would appreciate an apology for your earlier bad tempered posting.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: stallion
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 07:48 PM

Forgive me, I am under the influence. In march this year we did a concert (supporting his nibbs, Martin Carthy) For the Auden Society - we had to select songs from the Oxford Book of Light Verse, edited by Auden and another The Poets Tongue, also edited by Auden. Martin, bless him, (he is 65!) kept uttering, "Oh this one is in the national song book, we sang these in school". So, what happened to the "National Songbook" and why isn't it being sung in school, is it?


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 09:15 PM

Now that he's posted a cogent argument I understand Anglo's position; he fleshed out the problems I glossed and I can't disagree with most of his thesis. And I thank him for a reference to "English Country Gardens" which mentions William Kimber instead of Percy Grainger. This might have confused the academics at Melbourne Uni's Conservatorium (the Grainger museum is next door) if they'd been involved in the examination system as applied to folk music.

Having experienced a music teacher similar to the one described as a battleaxe I share Guest Russ' bafflement at some of the propositions above and heartily endorse GregB's "I maintain that "having" to do something is the best way of taking all of the joy out of it. And turning a pastime into a competition comes a close second." Even so, for some situations such things can have benefits. The Kapunda festival in South Australia started in the mid-late 70s and was modelled on the Irish competitions. Tim Whelan played tin whistle and wanted to encourage others to play the music he'd grown up with in Ireland so he started classes in one of the folk pubs and, after a while, got the Kapunda Festival going as a competition for instrumentalists playing "Celtic" music. Australia being the sort of place it is, "Celtic" had to be rather inclusively defined and this meant that 'competition' occurred in a similarly inclusive context. While the competition part of the weekend was taken 'seriously', the sessions were where most of the action (and thus learning) occurred. On balance I think Kapunda's effect on the playing of instruments and traditional music was very positive. Sadly, Tim is no longer with us but his music is alive and well.

Captain Birdseye wrote "modern day educationalists and governments seem obsessed with the idea that education is just about getting a job" and this inability to differentiate clearly between "education' and 'training' is one of the nubs of the discussion. Even some Vice Chancellors (especially those who see themselves as extensions of government policy) seem unaware of the differences. Most of the current music teachers I've seen in operation appreciate that the major part of what they're doing with kids is best described as training and the best of them do it in a way that encourages the kids to become musically educated. My daughters are luckier than I in that they have good teachers of their instruments and (in the case of the daughter at high school) great music educators. Even so, I make sure their informal experience of music is extensive by taking them to Nariel and the National. I don't give a hoot whether or not they ever make a quid out of music (although their busking has been very profitable, experientially and financially) so long as they have a positive relationship with music as an activity with emotional, intellectual, social and historical components.

Captain Birdseye also wrote "we as musicians have all learnt that without practice we would not have got where we are". He's right about "practice" but too many confuse it with "Practice". I lean towartds Paolo Friere's notions of "praxis" as a personal preference but "horses for courses" applies. From other threads I learn that Captain Birdseye plays and teaches English concertina and, as an Anglo player, I've long wondered whether the two systems appeal to different temperaments. From their postings to this thread and the comment from Manitas at home I gather there is some history between Captain Birdseye and Anglo and am wary of being leadfooted on thin ice but my experience of concertina players is that those who prefer English or Duet keyboards are, as a group, much more comfortable with the written forms of music and that those who prefer Anglo keyboards are, again as a group, much more comfortable with aural transmission. There are spectacular exceptions (John Kirkpatrick's first record includes a Bach fugue as a poke in the eye to those who dismissed Anglo concers) but, if there is any substance to my perception, examinations in their playing wiil have a difficult time avoiding bias.

There was (maybe still "is") a player of English concertina in Australia who used to teach a lot and was very keen on the sort of approach used by many teachers of instruments used in (what we a pleased to call) classical music. This character commented (in my presence, to an audience mostly of folkies) "Folk music is next to the sewer!" and represented in an extreme form, the sort of attitude that many folkies have had to contend with from the wannabes rather than the real afficcianados.

From this and other threads I get the impression that Captain Birdseye is a real afficcanado and not at all like that Australian player. I also get the impression that he has a preference for aspects of formality in learning. And that this informs his interest in exploring the formalities of examinations or competitions as a way of lifting the profile of the music he loves. I wish him well but think that such an approach is unlikely to be as successful as his intentions deserve.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 09:36 PM

And, Captain, not all of us happen to have a copy of the the Comhaltas syllabus handy (they don't provide it on their web site), so if you could present some examples/details of what you're referring to, that would help us understand what you're suggesting and provide a clearer response to the many points that have been made against the proposition.

I'm willing to believe that exams are better than competitions, as you keep saying, but whether either are the answer to promoting a familiarity and love of traditional music, I'm not so sure.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 03:12 AM

Dear Rowan,re Anglo    I dont want to comment on anyone who hides behind the petticoats of anonymity.I try to adapt my teaching methods to suit the pupil, I dont insist on them reading music, I will teach people by tab or a b c, or tonic solfa, I always Make it clear that with ttraditional music the best way to memorise it is to sing or diddle it, so my methods are not all that formal , more a question of trying to suit the pupils particular needs. What I do think is important is for people to understand what they are doing. this doesnt mean people have to read music, its not my preferences that are important but the pupils, after all they are paying.Personally I think the very best idea is for FOLK MUSIC to be included in the national curriculum , For four or five years at primary school[ as the jesuits used to say, catch them before their Eight and they are yours for life]. in the meantime the examination system is in my opinion the next best thing. I will now try and find the comhaltas syllabus. if Scotus could give us an idea of the scottish syllabus that would be useful too.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 03:57 AM

This book is 50 pages long.on the back of the book it says for further information contact SCTexaminations         comhaltas ceoltori eireann.32 belgrave suare. monkstown. co dublin.
phone3511280 0295 fax35312803759. email; enquiries @ comhaltas. com
       elementary cycle 1
    performance
casndidates will be asked to playany two tunes of their own choice[here are a few examples]Maggie in the wood. Rakes of mallow, shoe the donkey,sheebeag, sheemor,The foggy dew. napoleon crossing the alps, and more. divided into sections of marches,dance tunes and airs.
   Aural awareness. candisates will be asked.
1.to clap the rhythym of one bar in 4/4 as demonstrated three times by the examiner.
2.to differentiatebetween high and low notes[ between the root d and the d1above[not less than a fifth apart] played twice on an Instrument by the examiner.
3.to differentatebetween loud and soft notes, and long and short notesplayed twice on an instrument by the examiner.
   informal musical discussion.
candidates should be ableto talk brieflywith their examinerabout their interest in traditional music, including how and where they learn and how much time they spend at it[ a clever child could bullshit this].Itcould be beneficial tohave someknowledgeof other traditional instruments.
   literacy.
candidates, shouls be able to recognise where d and d1 are on their instrumentsfrom written examples.
Thats it there is elementary cycle 1 2 and 3. junior cycle with five levels .senior cycles with four levels. suggested melodies for all levels, and useful listening material and discography. and a list of advised topics for written submission.Unfortunately the way the melodies are chosen does not allow for different difficulties in different instruments.but i still think its been carefully structured . if you want further detail contact above as I am going to play some music . I dont suppose i,ll get a thankyou from anglo, or an apology, as i say I DONT know who he / she is

fortunately


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 04:00 AM

corrections , it should be square noy suare. and the phone no is3531280 0295, not3511.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 05:27 AM

to greg b, I would say that I get pleasure when I perform something well,But this means I have had to work hard at it to get it right. Yesterday I wrote a song, the guitar accompaniment is quite jazzy chordally, but after hours of work some satisfaction was derived .Part of the problem in Ireland now, is that parents want their children to have oppurtunities that they never had[ [nothingwrong with that]. but they then encourage their children to have so many activites on different nights of the week, that they cant do any of them properly, and they just get a superficial knowledge and end up doing nothing very well. Personally I have never wanted to do anything apart from play music[ Apart from a brief period of four years when I was under the misguided influence of that dangerous man Timothy O leary].


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 06:49 AM

Malcolm Douglassays he doesnt think its EFDSS role to do this, what is their role/ is it solely to run a saturday night dance club and a tuedsay folk song club.Ithink they should be pressurising this government to at the very least reintroduce folk song in primary schools through the reintroduction of national folk song book, and country dancing . Brian Peters says I doubt if they have the money, if thats the case they should get off their backsides and have a recruitment drive,, and members should be standing up at the annual general meeting and asking why isnt their the money for these ideas.and what is membership money being used for. if COMHALTAS can do it in Ireland with a population of four million and englands population is 50 million, what are EFDSS doing . they are supposed to be the english folk dance and song society, if it s not their job whose job is it, its not the international concertina association s job, nor is it the job of the royal preservation of english monuments.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: manitas_at_work
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 07:09 AM

EFDSS doesn't run the Tuesday night folk club!

Have you looked at their website lately? They did get folk dancing on the national curriculum even if it isn't specified as English folk but they have quite a lot going on on the education side as well as being responsible for the Vaughn-William library.

Also, these are not government organisations, although they do get grants, and it's not their 'job' to do anything - it's done for the love of it.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 07:49 AM

I am glad to hear they are doing things on the education front, so the have got folk dancing on the national curriculum[ in how many schools]. what about folk singing, people pay membership to EFDSS they have a right to know how their money and grant money was spent. correct me, if Iam wrong but EFDSS are not run entirely by volunteers, do they not have paid staff , if they do it is their job. why is folk dance given priority above folk song. Comhaltas manage to promote each equally.Istopped being a member of EFDSS because of their withdrawal of support for folk song festivals, dont they still run dance festivals and dance clubs, if they do then perhaps that shows their bias.out of curiosity who is their patron now, it used to be Princess Margaret.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: manitas_at_work
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 08:07 AM

They don't run dance festivals or dance clubs. Dance clubs can be affiliated as can song clubs but are independent. EFDSS does have paid staff but they act as the members (or the committee elected by the members) direct them. That's their job. The job of EFDSS as an organisation is to carry out it's declared aims and objectives.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 08:23 AM

I apologise manitas,i am happy to use the word remit, if its mutually acceptable, would you mind giving me your time to tell me their declared aims and objectives . I would be much obliged thanks.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Kevin Sheils
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 08:41 AM

http://www.efdss.org/aims.htm

I'm passing no comment as I'm still reading them but thought I'd post the link quickly.

The 2 thread may get confused but the question was asked in this one!


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: manitas_at_work
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 08:42 AM

here we go http://www.efdss.org/aims.htm


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Kevin Sheils
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 08:44 AM

Snap Paul

Just reading them it's a bit thin on detail.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Marje
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 09:34 AM

Having skimmed through all the above posts, I can see why some people object to the idea of examinations in traditional music, but the more I think about it, the more the idea appeals to me.

I can't see the problem in setting up a series of graded tests that could run in parallel with the RCM grades that exist for classical music. Some of the core stuff (the aural tests, the "practical musicianship" etc) would be broadly similar, but when it came to playing, it would cater for traditional instruments, tunes and playing styles. Sure, there would have to be some tricky decisions taken as to what tunes, what styles, what techniques should be promoted, but it wouldn't be an impossible task and could be very rewarding.

I'd like to see, for instance, more emphasis on aural learning and memory as well as written notation; more encouragement of use of both instruments and voices (all instrumental players should have a go at singing, and vice versa); more emphasis on improvisation and on ensemble playing or harmony singing.

As to repertoire, there's a huge wealth of songs and tunes out there, some of which are already used in the classical syllabus (and given the plonky-plonk piano accompaniments with fancy chords that we know so well). Wouldn't it be great to hear these tunes being learnt by students as folk pieces and played in traditional styles?

I'm not suggesting that taking exams in instrument or voice should be forced on children, but some kids do enjoy the challenge of graded tests and are motivated by getting through the grades. The children who take exams in classical music don't all end up hating it and finding it a chore - on the contrary, many go on to keep it as a lifelong hobby. Why not offer them the opportunity to try studying and making music of a different genre?

And I don't think it would be beyond the wit of EFDSS and/or associated organisations to seek to define some aspects of English tradtion that all children in schools could usefully and enjoyably study. I'd like to see our children learn about, say, how sea shanties came into being and were used; how broadside ballads were used and popularised; who collected and passed on the tunes and songs we now regard as traditional, and how this was done; what accompaniments were used, if any, for songs in the past; when the various instruments now used in traditional music came into being, and some of the distinctive features of each one (e.g how many people in England actually know that there are any bagpipes other than the Highland pipes?); the origins and background of traditional dances (morris, maypole, rapper, country dances, etc). And if they don't know who Martin Carthy is (or Ewan MacColl, or Shirley Collins) it's about time someone told them.

I'm getting quite excited now - can I write the syllabus? It could really be very worthwhile and interesting.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Anglo
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 09:35 AM

Rowan, there is no animosity between Captain Birdseye and myself, we've never met, we live on opposite sides of the Atlantic and as far as I know this is the first thread on any forum that both of us have said something. So there is no "history" between us at all.

The Gigue on John K's first LP, by the way, is by Johann Mattheson rather than Bach. His musicianship has always amazed me. I couldn't play like that in a million years, even if hell were filled with anglos rather than out-of-tune accordions.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Anglo
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 10:00 AM

Captain Birdseye, I do regret my early hasty remark on this thread, as I tried to express before.

This is the Mudcat forum - I am a reasonably long-standing member of Mudcat. I have always used my handle of "Anglo." Many of the other contributors to this thread have handles which do not identify them, I don't know who most of them are either. But I wouldn't go around accusing them of "hiding behind the petticoats of anonymity."

If you're so desperate to know who I am, I'm sure you can find out by searching through some of my Mudcat history for threads where my personal identity was relevant; I have not tried to hide it. I choose not to advertise it, as I'm sure many others here do.

Perhaps you should also search after the personal identity of Scotus - I mean, he was an examiner. For myself, I thought about being a judge, but I didn't have the Latin :-)

But hark! Marje (whom I don't know either) has just appeared as an ally on your campaign. But then she would have you learn about MacColl, Carthy and Collins, rather than, say, Pardon, Elliott and Taylor. Would you have her do the syllabus as she offered?


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 10:22 AM

Here I give you page 44 of comhaltas syllabus, because its not too long.LIST OF ADVISED TOPICS FOR WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS [ SENIOR CYCLE ONLY]
musicians a early musicians.
         b 1950to 1970.
         c. Present day.
    a patsy touhy, Micheal Coleman, james Morrisom,, Hughie Gillespie,, John Mckenna, Johnny Doran, Paddy Killoran,William Mullally.
    b Felix Doran, Paddy Cronin, Denis Murphy, Sean Mcguire,Georgie Ross,Ciaran Kelly,Paddy o Brien.and another 16 others.
    c MATT MOLLOY,joe Burke, sharon shsnnon paddy keenan,Seamus Creagh, and another15 others.
musicians from the candidates own locality, or musicians not on the list but known to the candidate or family, can also be used, provided they are of similiar interest or standard as the abovelist.
cont information about instument makers in the locality at national or international levels.
informatiomn about collectors local or otherwise. e g o neill, giblin, bunting, breath nach,etc
information about composersand up to modern times,paddy fahy , sean o riada, sean ryan liz carroll etc.
sean nos singers,30 examples.
qther names will be accaeptedif of similiar interest and standardas with traditional singing, eg paddy tunney and nine other examples.
festivals of traditional music, willy clancy week etc.
groups and their development of their music, THE CHEIFTAINS DE DANNAAN ETC
    Miscellaneousset / ceili dancing and theirdevelopment, teaching methods in music, tutors, music and computers, and12 others
    it is also possiblefor the candidateto selecta topicof own choice, provide it isof similar interestand stansard to those listed above.
I THINK THAT IS FAIRLY WELL STRUCTURED.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Scotus
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 10:28 AM

Captain B - I don't have a copy of the RSAMD syllabus, but I do know that students must study two instruments plus either Scots or Gaelic singing. During their studies they are tutored by recognised 'masters' in the various fields they are covering and they are also placed with mentors in their home geographical area for part of each year when they are also expected to carry out field research.

Jack


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 10:30 AM

well, as you will see comhaltas adress this one pretty well, pardon taylor,in one section. macoll, carthy, collins. in another no problem.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 10:36 AM

Well it looks like the promotion of english dance AND SONG is within their remit, and they ought to get their finger out and start pressurising this government to include english song in the primary school curriculum, as either an examined or non examined subject.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 12:20 PM

Captain Birdseye,

"...its better than the competition system, which is more subjective"

I agree that the competitions system is subjective.
I assume that everybody who is involved in a competition system agrees.

However, for me that is one of its most significant advantages.
Not the subjectivity, but the universal knowledge of that subjectivity.

Perhaps newbie contestants might not know but it is something that is quickly learned.

So, here is my STRONG claim:
An examination system is JUST AS SUBJECTIVE.

You might think I am talking about the examiners, but I am not.

I am referring to the system itself.

A number of participants in this thread have made the same point. I am just going to be blunter.

The creation of a curriculum dealing with traditional music will be just as much an exercise in arbitrary subjectivity as the judging of a competition.

For me that is one of its most significant DISadvantages.
Not the subjectivity, but the fact that it is not as obvious as in the case of competitions.

Here's a thought experiment. I'll use a hypothetical example from my own musical background.

Suppose your examination system comes into being and I look over the curriculum.
I notice that J. P. Fraley (Eastern Kentucky) is on the list but Ernie Carpenter (Central WV) is not. I an intimately familiar with the music of both fiddlers. I know, from my own experience, that both are equally excellent fiddlers. However, they sound as different as two people can sound who are playing the same instrument. So, what conclusion do I draw from the curriculum? Simply that whoever created it prefers J. P.'s sound. That preference is just as arbitrary and subjective as any contest judge's. I don't have a problem with that preference per se, but I do have a problem when that person's (or committee's) personal preferences become a norm.

I am not suggesting that subjectivity can or should be eliminated, but we should always be up front about it.
At least, in a competitive system, nothing is hidden behind the curtain.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 12:47 PM

ah but with an examination system as I pointed out earlier there is not just two winners, Children can feel good about acheiving a pass or a merit or a distinction, particuarly if the parents and teacher handle it properly, furthermore its done in private unlike the competition system, I am convinced that fewer children will be discouraged with an examination system than a competition system.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Marje
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 12:50 PM

Anglo, I wasn't suggesting that the three names I gave should be a definitive list, to the exclusion of all others. It was because someone up there remarked that few people had heard of Martin Carthy that I mentioned him and the other two, off the top of my head, as an examples of "revival" singers who deserve to be better known outside the folk world. Of course there could be a place for the "source" singers and musicians too, although there is less good quality recorded material to draw on, which could be a problem.

Of course there would always be disagreements about what should/shouldn't be included in a core curriculum, but that's no reason for never attempting it. Whatever was decided would have to be provisional and flexible, so that the syllabus could adapt to new ideas and suggestions as it went along.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 03:18 PM

Captain Birdseye,

It all comes down to priorities.

For me, the fundamental subjectivity problem is telling.

For me, as a con, it outweights all the pros.

For me, it is better that traditional music be allowed to die a natural death than to promote a particular arbitrary subset of it. That turns "traditional music" into a caricature and an artificial construct. Not a good thing, to me.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: JamesHenry
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 04:25 PM

An interesting thread with some equally interesting ideas but really, what planet are you living on regarding inclusion in the curriculum? It's my observation that teachers are under enormous pressure to deliver ever improving results to satisfy the insatiable appetite of that monster called the SATs. It seems that Literacy, Numeracy and Science monopolise a childs' education up to KS2 level and every other subject has to fight for whatever time is left.
I suppose that dance could find a slot within the P.E. syllabus but who's going to teach it? Budgetry restraints and lack of expertise within the average primary school would make this a non starter except possibly as a one-off experience. Literacy could, I suppose, accommodate a unit dealing with traditional music but I can't see this having the effect that some posters seem to envisage.
Dancing round the maypole might be ok in rural schools or schools in the leafy suburbs but in some inner city schools where in the case of boys, if you still have your own teeth at 10 then you're sexual orientation comes into question, then I can see a great reluctance to participate.
Then the suggestion that Martin Carthy should be imposed on children, who need excitement and stimulation, is another no-no. Martin Carthy is an aquired taste much better left until an individual decides for themselves if that is the road that they want to take.
I think the best that any of us can hope for is if individual schools have the will or the forsight to expose children to the delights of country dance and traditional song but as in the case of RE, methinks other cultural traditions will compete, rightly so,for equal exposure.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 05:31 PM

There is an amazing suggestion earlier in this thread, that people ought to study Martin carthy, Ewan McColl, and Shirley Collins(this in the context of a discussion about exams in traditional music). Now, I am a huge admirer of Carthy, McColl and Collins. But I am perfectly sure that none of the three would describe themselves as traditional musicians. They do stuff with material of traditional origin, as did Vaughan William, Benjamin Britten and Percy Grainger before them. But that does not make them traditional musicians, which is another thing altogether (of course, it all depends on what you mean by "traditional". or "folk", for that matter).


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 05:39 PM

ha ha ,Now the planet where I come from,I would impose Tony Rose on them , in my opinion the greatest folk singer of the 20 century they could have, dave burland , nic jones, martin carthy, Peter bellamy.louis killen and uncle Tom cobbleigh and your goodself.probably an improvement on rap. England has a cultural heritage, the same as Ireland and Scotland and Wales and this should be encouraged.Now if i went to saudi arabia, I expect to respect their culture, I wouldnt drink alcohol,I expect to be able to hear the traditional music of Saudi Arabia, if people go to Ireland they expect to hear the traditional music of Ireland, So whats wrong with coming to England and hearing the traditional music of England, and the best way to keep that going is to encourage it in the primary school curriculum whereever possible. now i dont mind encouraging other cultures too in fact I am very fond of Indian music. but if I Went to Saudi Arabia I bet I wouldnt be encouraged to listen to English traditional music. these things have to be reciprocated. political correctness can sling its hook.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 05:48 PM

To Greg stephens, the irish dont mind studying later musicians look at my thread, page c44 of comhaltas syllabus, why shouldnt people study Martin Carthy as well as Joseph taylor, Carthys singing style is partly derivative of taylors . so its perfectly logical. Shirley collins and Ewan macoll, have also been greatly influenced by traditional singers, so again not lacking in logic.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 05:57 PM

to Greg Stephens, Folk music is only defined by the folk. [Chongo chimp.] what do you mean by the folk. you still havent answered. and is folk music in your opinion Joseph Taylor but not martin carthy, or is that just traditional music, is Joseph taylor TRADITIONAL MUSIC and Martin Carthy NOT. for crying out loud .


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: JamesHenry
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 06:03 PM

I'm a bit miffed Captain that you've put me after uncle Tom Cobblers.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 06:51 PM

Captain Birdseye --

I know who Anglo is (and I'm sure a lot of other musicians and folkies on both sides of the pond do, too) but I have no idea who you are , so who, exactly, is "hiding behind the petticoats of anonymity"?

Linn


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 06:56 PM

In the conversation so far the references to Martin Carthy et al seem to describe them as representative of 'an English tradition'. I've got no quibble with such a representation but it seems to me to be beside the point as far as exams in traditional/folk music are concerned. Captain Birdseye's listing of the Comhaltas test contents struck me as very similar to the Grade 1 Theory exam run by the Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB) which all the music teachers around here put students (including my daughters) through. I think it was Scotus who listed a similar set of initials above and I suspect many countries have similar arrangements. There are also practical exams along the same lines. But they're almost always done 'out of school' and as extras to the government school system.

This means there are two quite different types of learning going on. The school music teachers try to teach in an educational context while the extracurricular music teachers try to teach in a more 'training' context and usually have particular specialisations. The content of the AMEB courses strikes me as concentrating on understanding and technique and, given that the repertoire is mostly 'classical' (or 'high', 'art', or any of the usual euphemisms) there is a concentration, not on any performers but on composers. In the town I live in (population ~25k but, importantly, with a university) the extracurricular music teachers encourage students to participate in Eisteddfods, which are basically competitions. Here the categories of music are much wider and include 20th century, pop, jazz etc so that the classical 'lump' is somewhat leavened. But again, while the emphasis is on the student's performance there is still a need to provide the adjudicator with a written score against which the performance is measured. Most of these are by known composers but there is one local who listened to my playing of the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance and went and arranged it for a recorder consort so some trad stuff gets in.

The reason for the length of this rave is that almost all of the people named above as terrific exemplar,s and thus who ought to be more widely known in a populace regarded as 'educated' in (specifically) English folk music, are "performers" rather than "composers". Now I know the more experienced among you will be able to quote items that each of the above has composed but I hope I've made the point.

And to use Martin Carthy as a particular example of a related point, a friend of mine had a tape of Martin singing "January Man" in Coventry Cathedral that he'd bootlegged at the performance. It was very clear that Martin started singing the piece in his consummately polished style but, two lines into the song, recognised the acoustic qualities of the sound space as offering potential for something spectacularly different and then delivered spectacularly.

An adjudicator measuring against a score would have marked the performance down. An examination wouldn't have even recognised it. A Certificate IV in audio and video production (a Vocational & Educational Trainiing Board industry qualification) might prepare a performer to be aware of acoustic potentials and a BA (Trad & Now) might write an excellent review of the event. And some others who heard it and who have better credentials than I may vehemently disgree with my perception of the event.

Exams may be helpful to some but as Russ pointed out, they're deceptively subjective and, as he also pointed out, have an amazing ability to fossilise outlooks.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 10:17 PM

To bat goddess, if youd gone back over some of my other postings, you would have seen that I have sometimes signed my name. Anglo was rude and negative, He has subsequently apologised, so as far as I am concerned the matter is ended. I am Dick Miles, I still dont know who Anglo is and am no longer concerned.your posting adds nothing of value to this discussion.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 10:56 PM

Rowan , do you think it would be a good idea if Comhaltas replaced competitions with exams. Comhaltas have since they were formed managed to prevent the irish music and singing tradition from dying and turned it into a flourishing and strong position, they have given alot of people pleasure and done many good things, mainly through the competition system.They have also altered the tradition they have tried to preserve by giving so many marks for ornamentation[ some competitors believe that they have to have more and more ornamentation,] the exam system doesnt put so much stress on ornamentation, I see that as a good thing.By the way I dont think I have once called Martin Carthy a traditional singer, it may have been implied, the whole point is that comhaltas exams [see page 44,] show that whether a performer is tradional or revivalist is not that important, another healthy sign, the one flows into the other.I mentioned it as being EFDSS REMIT. because they are supposed to be the guardians of english folk dance and song. however newcastle university seem to be taking a more positive attitude at the moment. In Ireland the irish folk tradition ,including maypole dancing is taught in most primary schools.The facts are that comlhatas have been responsible with a much smaller population ireland 4million, england 52 million,in preventing the disappearance of irish traditional music. england can analyse, look at some of their ideas, and draw inspiration from the irish example, as scotland and Newcastle university have done.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 04:31 AM

"Captain Birdseye" aka Dick asks some questions of me and makes a couple of explanatory comments. In response I offer the following.
The caveats are;
1   I'm not English (so my comments may not be pertinent),
2   I have no intimate experience of the Irish system apart from being in Ennis for the major Fleadh of the relevant year (ditto)
3   I have biases based on experience of both exams and competitions (again, ditto), and
4   I an interpreting all of this from a very southern hemisphere perspective.

So here goes!
EFDSS & and the notion of a remit;
My recollection of EFDSS is that it is an institution with a constitution (and thus Aims & Objectives), members are volunteers who elect a Management Committee which sets policies, makes decisions and employs staff to execute/implement said decisions. I haven't read the documentaqtion for some years and don't have the time at the moment to deal with web searching. If the aims include lobbying government then their remit is as you describe and much of what you suggest as desirable is capable of being put to the management commitee and voted up or down.

EFDSS as "the guardians of english folk dance and song"
I get very uncomfortable when I hear people talking about "guardians" of anything, let alone such tenuous entities as "english folk dance and song". After all, look at what us 'colonials' in Australia have done to things the English have regarded as perfectly good. And then look at what those ex-colonials west of the Atlantic have done to them. If you were to replace "guardians" with "promoters" (which is what I think you really meant anyway) you'd be on a better wicket.

So, how should EFDSS promote english folk dance and song? Best?
To get at this properly I think I'll first have to get past the proposition that Comhaltas is responsible for managing "to prevent the irish music and singing tradition from dying and turned it into a flourishing and strong position".

You may well be right but I suspect there's a lot more to it than Comhaltas. The Irish diaspora helped quite independently of anything Comhaltas may have achieved. Three jumbo (Boeing 747s) loads of people coming to Ennis, just from one US city (Boston) just for a weekend (which is what I saw) had nothing to do with Comhaltas. It was the engagement with the music, 'the crack', that got beginners hooked. Back in Australia the sessions were red hot. For some they still are and neither competitions nor exams were responsible really. In fact, many Irish sessions are so exclusive that those who can't trot out the very latest reel at high speed can be given the cold shoulder. Some years ago the predominance of such 'Irishness' (and I mean no disrespect to the multitudes of really nice players - in all senses) that "The Old Empire Band" was started as a reaction. This was an eclectic collection, in any city and at any occiasion, of characters who were prepared to play specifically English dance tunes in sessions and at dances. I think 43 players on stage at once was the record and it was a mighty spectacle of concers, melodeons, accordions, bass trombones, whistles, flutes, fiddles, mandolins, banjos and even a french horn. all in perfect accord.

My suggestion about enlivening the understanding of English folk dance and song would concentrate on getting people engaged in its liveliness. Would EFDSS be the best mob to do this? I don't know but I suspect not. I hesitate to draw on Australian experience here because so many things here are different from both UK (50 million, in your estimate) and US (250 million plus) as well as Ireland (4 million?); we have 20 million spread out across much the same area as the contiguous US. This affects one's approach to folk festivals, in ways that I think engage people in the music.

When I lived in Victoria I was 7 hours' drive from Adelaide & Kapunda, 8 hours' drive from Canberra and 10 hours' drive from Sydney and I could easily attend weekend festivals or perform at dances/concerts in any of them. Maldon (1 hour away), Nariel (3 hours away; BTW Sidmouth I gather is only six months older than Nariel's festival) and Numeralla (5 hours away) were the only regional festivals I concentrated on apart from the National. These days I can get only to a couple so I go to Nariel (between Christmas & New Year, 12 hours away) and the National (at Easter & permanently sited at Canberra, about 10 hours away) and the characters of these two are a bit different from most northern hemisphere offerings I've come across. The main thing about Australian festivals is that they tend to dismantle the distinction between "producers" (the musicians, performers, organisers etc) and the "consumers" (the audience). Participation, by all comers, in all things is different at each festival but routinely encouraged and well managed.

To me, this would be far more productive in achieving Dick's desires than either competitions or exams but the English context may well require levels of such things that might not be welcomed or required in Australia. This may not be very helpful to Dick so I'll try to directly address his request re 'exams vs competitions'.

I suspect both would work better for children and younger adolescents than for anyone else and I suspect that neither would work particularly well unless there was active parental engagement in the traditions as part of the family's normal activities outside the context of the exams or the competitions. School teachers are already overloaded and under resourced but the effects of their "educational" endeavours on english folk dance and song might be mightily assisted by EFDSS or the Newcastle graduates developing and producing teaching materials that utilised english folk dance and song. If I sat down for half an hour I guess I could produce a collection of Australian music to illustrate any topics in the history/ social studies/ geography/ personal development/ PE curriculum. Maths and science might take me a little longer but I reckon its doable and that's with only 200 years of material behind me. Doing it for England should be a doddle!

Despite my protestations and biases there'll always be a place for both exams and competitions when teaching/learning theory and/or technique. It's just that I don't have much confidence in their ability to inspire and inspiration of the young (and old) seems to be what's needed.

A bit of a rave, and possibly not as helpful as you wanted but it's offered with good intentions.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 06:56 AM

Thats all very useful comment.
    Since efdss have given up promoting folk festivals [ a mistake in my opinion]Sidmouth is a good example,the festivals that they used to run have become much more commercial, bums in seats orientated. this has good points and also bad points, the main one being the more minority interest of folk music gets jettisoned because its not commercially viable.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 11:30 AM

To be fair, even when it was the Mrs Casey behemoth of previous years, Sidmouth provided smaller-scale venues where proper traditional singers could be heard in an appropriate setting. It might not have been what the majority of festival goers necessarily sought out, but it was there. Whitby, another festival formerly run by EFDSS, has always included its fair share of traditional performers too.

I'm not in favour of a shameless bums-on-seats booking policy either, but large-scale, well-run festivals certainly attract encouraging numbers of the younger people you're hoping to enthuse.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 01:07 PM

Fair comment, however I have been heartened,tosee,the hallamshire inititaves, and whats happening inwales too . see efdss role in the c21 century


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Scotus
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 04:05 PM

I should have explained that the RSAMD is the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. These days it is really a University of the performing arts. The students following the degree programme in Traditional Scots Music are encouraged to build onto that a teaching qualification. My information is that successful graduates become full-time performers, arts officers in local authorities, music teachers in schools etc. Personally I think that having music teachers in schools who have a thorough appreciation of traditional music is an enormous plus (so is having arts officers in LAs with that background, I'd have thought).

Onward and upward,

Jack


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 04:17 PM

YES, I would agree with you, people sympathetic to traditional music in local authorites is very important as well.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Aug 06 - 04:05 AM

The suggestion of exams for traditional music raises a number of questions in my mind, the foremost being 'why? What would such exams achieve?' If exams inspired further interest in a subject the world would be full of people with an avid desire to find out more about literature, mathematics, languages, algebra, science, religion…… you name it, I sat the exams (and failed).
Who would oversee such exams - ? Captain Birdseye answered himself when he questioned the role of EFDSS. Holding Saturday night dances – you got it right there. This is the activity that seems to be the raison détre of that august body. Any attempts to divert them from their purpose may be judged by the events surrounding the proposed sale of Cecil Sharp House some years ago and the resulting manoevers. Sure, the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, thanks in the main to its librarian, offers a wonderful service, but this, it seems to me, is despite the Society rather than because of it. The last contact I had with EFDSS, was in the form of a somewhat conspiratorial round robin from the editor of one of its publications; the subject - Ewan MacColl's war record! The idea of discussing his contribution to traditional song appears to be as far away as it ever was.
So if not EFDSS – who? Nobody springs immediately to my mind.
There has been some (little) mention of our source singers (notably an insulting dismissive "elderly, quivery" one), but much of the discussion seems to centre around whether it is desirable to sound like Martin Carthy – is he really the yardstick with which we judge good and bad traditional singing nowadays – oh dear!   
Such a project pre-supposes a consensus of opinion on what we mean by good traditional music and singing – of course, no such consensus exists – we don't even appear to have a consensus on what the tradition is, never mind what is good or bad.
Now if the preparation for such an enterprise meant efforts would have to be made to reach a consensus – now there's a thought. However, that won't happen. Today's revival has a built in defence mechanism consisting of terms like 'folk police', 'finger-in-ear' and 'purist' to ascertain that the status quo is maintained. I still have fond memories of the mind-numbing if predictable response to Pat Mackenzie's and my efforts to get a debate going on the pages of 'The Living Tradition' some years ago.
Bert Lloyd suggested in 1967 that a re-definition of folk song might be necessary. No re-definition has ever taken place but there seems to have been a drift so far away from the original definition that the term has become meaningless. Until it is decided what should be taught and examined it seems to me to be futile to attempt such an enterprise.
Incidentally, Comhaltas did not "prevent the Irish music and singing tradition from dying and turn it into a flourishing and strong position". Many rank-and-file branch members played their part in passing the music on, but nowadays the Irish traditional music scene has taken feet of its own and is flourishing without (and in some cases in spite of) Comhaltas. There are a number of striking similarities between Comhaltas and EFDSS, the main one being the lack of understanding of the leadership of both organisations regarding traditional music. The difference between the two bodies is the enormous sums of money at CCE's disposal to promote their somewhat idiosyncratic view of that music.
Jim Carroll
PS Hello Martin.
It is true that there is no firm evidence linking Riverdance and Comhaltas, but as we speak our SOCO team is sifting through what we have so far and we are confident of an arrest in the not-to-distant future. I don't believe it was a coincidence that Riverdance got such a warm mention in O'Murchu's 1998 report on Irish music and it has always seemed to me a that their performance is a natural development of what passes for traditional dance in Comhaltas.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Aug 06 - 10:37 AM

Much of what you say is good,however you are too harsh on comhaltas. they do in their own way try to encourage song as well as dance, you may not think it is the right way thats only your subjective opinion. others would disagree with you [ including the thousands who go to all the fleadhs[[ many of these are not competitors]]and get great pleasure from the informal sessions which are a spin off]sorry, but Comhaltas is the rank and file members as well asthe paid staff and they were responsible for the prevention of the extinction of irish traditional dance and song , along with people like the pipers society.It may be flourishing now but thatis a reult of comhaltas and the piper societys past efforts. My advice to you is to join comhaltas and try and change the things that need changing from the inside, somebody in comhaltas is doing the right things by introducing seisuins nationally throughout the summer introducing exams as an alternative to, or as well as competitions.and locally my comhaltas branches have informal sessions round the fireside for children and adults, as well as assisting and promoting tradional music in schools. The difference between the two societies is that comhaltas is much more active[ this is not just because of funding]its about the enthusiasm at grass roots level of the members to promote song and dance]Finally if efdss isnt getting the funding that is probably through their own mis management and lack of government pressure and lack of enthusiasm, however even in efdss i see some positive encouragement of dance which is good even though it could be more.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 04:52 AM

Sorry Captain,
I didn't sign up to tilt at windmills, especially huge stone-built ones that don't move when you try to push them. I think that you will find that in the case of both organisations their policy is writ in stone and is protected from above. Neither strike me as democratic organisations which bend readily to the will of the membership.
You might like to recall what happened to the West London branch of CCE in the 70s (supported by catholics, protestants and heathens like myself - I wasn't a member). The leadsership decided to collect money for a plaque commemorating Pearse, the branch said they didn't wish to raise money for a political cause, the leadership disagreed, the branch was expelled en masse, became the West London Irish Traditional Music Association and ran highly successful sessions which included Bobby Casey, Roger Sherlock, Raymond Rowland, P J Crotty, John Bowe, Tom McCarthy - the cream of London Irish music.........
The Willie Clancy Summer School is the most successful Irish music event in Ireland. From the beginning Comhaltas declined to participate because the founders refused to hold competitions! The truth is that Irish music no longer needs Comhaltas.
A whole generation of young musicians has now sprung up and are doing very nicely thank you without the need of Comhaltas, many of them taking teaching students themselves and ensuring that the music will survive for at least another generation (and not a competition in sight).
That the leader of CCE is a state senator is not a million miles away from the fact that his organisation has ready access to large amounts of funding.
Now maybe if an EFDSS member could be elected MP - now there's a though....
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Mo Bradshaw
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 05:00 AM

I have just picked up on this thread and probably haven't read it carefully enough, but there are a couple of points I'd like to make.

Not sure about exams as such, however,it is possible to be assessed in other more realistic and less threatening ways, through observation and portfolio as in NVQ,(National Vocational Qualifications), or OCN(Open College Network). I have witnessed the power of a recognised achievement on the self esteem, to say nothing of future prospects, of people who had previously thought they were not capable of participating in further learning. With the correct support, everyone is capable of achieving at an appropriate level.

Also, as a member of both EFDSS and Comhaltas, and with several years experience as the parent of a competitive Irish dancer, I decided to study the issue of competitions in traditional music, song and dance for my MA dissertation.
My view is that competition in itself is a natural element of human behaviour, and is a motivating force for many. Also, standards are improved, and innovation within the boundaries takes place. If it becomes too restrictive it stultifies development, and I know this is one of the criticisms of Comhaltas - one that I do not entirely agree with, however.
What is important,I believe, is that the competitions are only a part of a wider group of activities, where the skills gained in the competitions not only have an outlet, but a social function. You only have to witness the sessions at a Fleadh, (from regional to All Ireland level) where youngsters who have been competing,their teachers and adjudicators, along with other musicians of all ages and standards, meet and play together, to realise that there is a lot to be gained.
The Irish dancing scene, however, is mainly focused on competions, and has produces a very stylised form of dance. It is governed, not by Comhaltas, as has been implied, but by two other organisations, the most significant being An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha. My perception from involvement in Irish dancing competitions and Comhaltas is that there is very little communication between the two organisations, certainly in England. The main effect of this is that there are dancers who compete, and ex dancers, who don't! The social occasions for using skills are not there, and I have experienced 'champion'dancers who could not dance to live music at a session because they are only used to dancing to very strict tempo playing(mostly from CD)
This is a very long post, for which I apologise, but I wanted to contribute to a fascinating thread.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Betsy
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 05:18 AM

......and then fill festivals bills with ONLY people who have passed their exams ........?
The Folk scene has been sanitised enough by pseuds over the years .
Sing and play, what you want, when you want, and how you want, and as much as Martin Carthy is a good, honest bloke and performer, save me from the increasing R-soles who copy his manner and style of singing.
What a wonderful thread to bring some of the loonies from under the floorboards.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Mo Bradshaw
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 05:27 AM

You don't get any other job just on the qualifications passed. Ability to perform and entertain surely should be the booking criteria.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 08:09 AM

If my earlier threads had been read carefully, it would have been noticed That isaid that the purpose of the exams should have nothing to do with getting a job. After all iam an unqualified professional folk singer. my only qualifications are that i have been singing playing ,and hopefully giving people pleasure for over thirty years.But exams can be useful for retired or elderly people too, helping to keep the brain active etc, and they may well want to do exams in traditional music, people like lucy who recently passed her classical violin exam, [see that thread]. no one should be made to do exams , adults are capable of making their own choices, but shouldnt the choice be there, thats what comhaltas should be praised for, and perhaps less of you would be against the idea if efdss introduced it for adults only, and it is another way of bringing in revenue.thankyou betsy I appreciate eccentrics and loonies too.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Mo Bradshaw
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 01:14 PM

My comment re jobs was in response to Betsy's post - not in relation to the thread in general.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 01:23 PM

I don't know how it is in the UK - having moved to the West of Ireland eight years ago.
I know that the number of youngsters playing music here has increased enormously over the last few years and many of them are now taking pupils themselves.
Last Saint Patrick's day here in Miltown Malbay there were around fifty school-aged children on the parade playing instruments, nearly all pupils of local volunteer teachers. There isn't a local Comhaltas branch here.
I have seen the competition ethic drive hundreds of youngsters away from music while I was living in London - killing their interest forever.
It seems that now youngsters are playing purely for the love of it.
Long may that continue to be the case.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 04:24 PM

Well I tend to agree with you jim, i suppose there will always be children who enjoy competing and they should have the oppurtunity if they so wish, the problem is the parents[ and not all parents dothis]who are too pushy. Competitons are perhaps better for adults and elderly people who use the competition as a focus and are mature enough not to be upset by the results, the same could be said for exams. although I think exams, because of their private nature ,and the wide scope of marks between pass and distinction, are an alternative for the less competitve child, I am convinced less children will be put off by the examination systemthan they are by the competitin system.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 05:07 PM

Well I have given Jims comments some more thought, but before that , I would like to add that .
I have myself gone into local primary schools on an unpaid basis[ and not as amember of comhaltas] and taught and played for maypole dancers.
    I see an analogy with comhaltas and efdss         and the philosophical idea of the state politic .that the state should disappear when its not needed any more. many communists believed this should happen in an ideal world, the lack of state was known as anarchy, not chaos. but each person being responsible and mature enough not to need any guidance from the state. whether it would ever work is like x, an unown quantity we havent got there yet.but maybe in milltown melbay they have in the musical sense.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Aug 06 - 04:11 AM

I really don't want to give the impression that I am either anti-EFDSS or Comhaltas. There are merits (or potential merits) in both. Comhaltas did play a great part in protecting the music in the dark days and I have nothing but respect for the wonderful members who devoted and still devote their time to passing on the music; many of them are or were my friends.
The same goes for the pioneers of English traditional music.
In the case of both organisations it seems that somewhere along the way they have gone astray; EFDSS has become a nonentity and CCE have evolved into an influential and wealthy bureaucracy who has taken it upon itself to re-invent Irish music (and particularly dance).
As things stand at present Ireland does not need Comhaltas as the music is undergoing a tremendous renaissance without it.
I believe England does need an authoritative and knowldgeable body to pull together all the disparate threads and give traditional music some direction.   
Jim Carroll
PS Miltown Malbay (the home of traditional music!)


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Aug 06 - 08:11 AM

I would agree with that jim. i hope you too have noticed that efdss remit regarding song is not just resricted to england.Iam still awaiting replies as to what they have done nationally and internatiionally to instigate tradiional or folk songs. come on efdss prove to us that you are not a nonentity, as a former member i would be very pleased to be proved wrong.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 06:42 AM

Iwould suggest a suitable person to lobby is the mp for romford Mr rosindell see efdss promotion thread.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: shepherdlass
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 07:24 PM

Interesting thread. It seems logical that, if you can do a degree in traditional music, then you could conceivably do graded exams too - so long as they're not deadly dull (I have awful memories of bashing away at the same 3 classical pieces for 3 or 4 months at a time).

Would it be traditional? Who knows, but then that same question applies to almost any activity within the modern scene (eg, "are festivals traditional?"; "is touring traditional?", or indeed "is Martin Carthy traditional?" etc).

As for whether you CAN effectively grade this kind of music, perhaps we can learn from other non-classical forms. To shed light on this, does anyone have experience of the Associated Board's jazz exams?


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 06:42 AM

No unfortunately ,I dont. But I do think comhaltas examination system
is fairly well done, apart from taking into consideration the difficulty of the peices for differrent instruments.DickMiles


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: shepherdlass
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 06:40 PM

The problems with judging different instruments are probably the same whatever the genre - I clearly remember being praised twice in classical singing exams for my wonderful breath control: this showed the examiner to be a non-singer/non-wind player or they'd have noticed asthmatic old me cheating all the way through. And then, examiners who are pianists are often thrown by how much trickier scales can be on, say, a clarinet. So, yes, it's easy to see that things could get even more problematic with umpteen varieties of pipes, concertinas, etc.


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