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unaccompanied and accompanied singing

r.padgett 15 Feb 07 - 05:14 PM
The Villan 15 Feb 07 - 04:35 PM
r.padgett 15 Feb 07 - 04:30 PM
GUEST,Val 15 Feb 07 - 01:35 PM
Scrump 15 Feb 07 - 05:09 AM
Barry Finn 15 Feb 07 - 12:39 AM
Uncle_DaveO 14 Feb 07 - 06:37 PM
Uncle_DaveO 14 Feb 07 - 06:31 PM
GUEST,Val 14 Feb 07 - 06:11 PM
The Villan 14 Feb 07 - 05:47 PM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Feb 07 - 05:44 PM
Rowan 14 Feb 07 - 05:35 PM
Barry Finn 14 Feb 07 - 04:52 PM
Barry Finn 14 Feb 07 - 04:40 PM
GUEST,zalby 14 Feb 07 - 01:09 PM
The Sandman 14 Feb 07 - 12:55 PM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Feb 07 - 12:26 PM
Liz the Squeak 14 Feb 07 - 12:12 PM
The Sandman 14 Feb 07 - 10:57 AM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Feb 07 - 09:31 AM
Captain Ginger 14 Feb 07 - 08:02 AM
The Villan 14 Feb 07 - 07:36 AM
The Villan 14 Feb 07 - 07:34 AM
Captain Ginger 14 Feb 07 - 06:45 AM
Scrump 14 Feb 07 - 06:32 AM
The Villan 14 Feb 07 - 06:23 AM
Scrump 14 Feb 07 - 04:48 AM
Alec 14 Feb 07 - 04:02 AM
Captain Ginger 14 Feb 07 - 03:36 AM
Tattie Bogle 13 Feb 07 - 08:09 PM
Rowan 13 Feb 07 - 08:02 PM
MoorleyMan 13 Feb 07 - 07:38 PM
RTim 13 Feb 07 - 07:09 PM
Scrump 13 Feb 07 - 06:35 PM
Richard Bridge 13 Feb 07 - 06:07 PM
MoorleyMan 13 Feb 07 - 05:59 PM
Dave Sutherland 13 Feb 07 - 05:40 PM
Rowan 13 Feb 07 - 04:59 PM
Charley Noble 13 Feb 07 - 04:47 PM
The Villan 13 Feb 07 - 03:39 PM
The Villan 13 Feb 07 - 03:36 PM
MoorleyMan 13 Feb 07 - 02:56 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 13 Feb 07 - 02:52 PM
GUEST,Val 13 Feb 07 - 02:47 PM
GUEST,pattyClink 13 Feb 07 - 02:46 PM
Scrump 13 Feb 07 - 02:45 PM
Charley Noble 13 Feb 07 - 02:36 PM
GUEST,The black belt caterpillar wrestler 13 Feb 07 - 02:18 PM
JohnB 13 Feb 07 - 02:01 PM
Liz the Squeak 13 Feb 07 - 01:58 PM
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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: r.padgett
Date: 15 Feb 07 - 05:14 PM

I do take my cap off to Pete Coe

He is certainly an all rounder although I don't think he falls into Story telling. he has developed over the years

Story telling is certainly an art form in itself and people like Packie Manus Byrne was/is a brilliant singer storyteller and whistle player

Many of the source singers didn't play instruments as accompaniment but could play instruments (such as Walter Pardon) played melodeon

Indeed I was surprised to see that Bob Davenport was/is an Anglo player!

I would argue that on occasion accompaniment with instruments clearly makes a mess of the song and the singer's voice can be pushed unduly due to the noise generated (e.g. Melodeon)

I still contend that the story/narrative/lyrics are and should be all important and that the tune should be used as the vehicle to convey and generally the convention is to keep the accompaniment simple and unobtrusive (unless yer brilliant)

I certainly am trying to improve and experiment with parallel ways of entertaining such as storytelling and introducing songs as I feel that others should do too although these skills dont always go down too well in folk clubs where time is at premium!!

Ray


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 15 Feb 07 - 04:35 PM

>>Flexibility in changing song types, ballads, shanties, stories, jokes, chorus songs, arm waving, juggling, tap dancing or whatever!!
<<

Are you on about Pete Coe there Ray or yourself :-)


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: r.padgett
Date: 15 Feb 07 - 04:30 PM

Which all goes to show that unaccompanied singers have to work hard to entertain.

Flexibility in changing song types, ballads, shanties, stories, jokes, chorus songs, arm waving, juggling, tap dancing or whatever!!

It is somewhat difficult to stop singing/talking even when you cant remember the words without an instrument to fill in the gaps

I do think that extra strings to your bow is important even to the extent of having other back up workshop material and a possibility is to use archival material.

This of course depends on what you and potential clubs or other audiences perceive is or should be your motivation in wanting to sing your choice material

I am thinking obviously that folk song is a medium for learning as much as for artistic interpretation!!

Food for thought maybe and discussion?
Ray


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,Val
Date: 15 Feb 07 - 01:35 PM

"...in some circles when time comes for another verse instead of trying to catch your breath, it's an excuse for some musicians to do their solo parts & if it a 3 verse song, not bad but when it's a 9 verse song ..."

Oh, I agree. I wasn't trying to say that instrumental interludes SHOULD be used constantly. Most good singers oughtn't NEED such a pause in most songs, and a sense of artistry & proportion should dictate how an arrangement is balanced between instrument and vocal. Anything, even good ideas, taken to excess can be annoying.

But there have been a couple of occasions when I (not claiming to be a "good" singer) have been glad to be able to vamp for a measure or two to cover up either lyric fumbles or the fact that I should have phrased my breathing better.

Val


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 15 Feb 07 - 05:09 AM

really got a good kick in the ass (that's a good thing) hearing him/them

Glad you explained that too, Barry. Because that could be taken the other way in this country...

:D


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Barry Finn
Date: 15 Feb 07 - 12:39 AM

Yes McGrath "the balls" is/was meant as a VERY favorable comment. Extremely close to a musical orgasm.

Villan, all 3 with OR without instruments & with OR without their groups, as a trio, that'd be something, ok, maybe at a workshop together, that's a little more a wishfull thought.
I've been lucky enough to have heard both George (not with his group) & Jez live (as opposed to dead?) a number of times & am always thrilled by them. I never heard Duncan but because of his posting here & a thread he contruibeed to I went to his web site, U-Tube & his My Space & gave him a listen & was really taken aback by his perfomences & it's not really my favorite type or style but really got a good kick in the ass (that's a good thing) hearing him/them.

Val, on the other hand, in some circles when time comes for another verse instead of trying to catch your breath, it's an excuse for some musicians to do their solo parts & if it a 3 verse song, not bad but when it's a 9 verse song it's the listeners that are holding their breath waiting for it to get over & it's the singer tthat's falling asleep, espicially if it has a chorus.

All the best
Barry


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 06:37 PM

To amplify my last post, I should say that most of my songs are story songs. If not outright ballads, then songs with a strong narrative feel to them.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 06:31 PM

I sing regularly at an open mike in a coffee house, and typically I'll be told that I can have 20 minutes.

Now my songs are usually fairly short, and 20 minutes, with introductions, means about six songs.

I sing with guitar or banjo much of the time, but in a six-song set I'll probably sing the second and fourth or fifth song unaccompanied.

Some of my songs are such, and my interpretive style is such, that I cannot imagine an instrumental accompaniment doing anything but getting in the way of what I want to accomplish.

Your mileage may vary.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,Val
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 06:11 PM

Just thought of one other fair reason for a solo performer to accompany him/her self on an instrument, which I don't recall seeing yet in the discussion (apologies if I overlooked one of the posts) -

It fills in a space between (or within) verses to allow for catching a breath, or to give time to rack your brain to remember the words of the next verse!

Val
(whose motto is "That wasn't a mistake, that was Jazz")


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 05:47 PM

BF
George, Duncan and Jez, with instruments :-) - wow what a night that would make. I love all three of them.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 05:44 PM

"...it sounds to me like the balls."

To avoid misunderstanding, I take it that's a favourable comment, Barry? Because it could be taken the other way in this country...


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Rowan
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 05:35 PM

Until the mid 70s, if you randomly gathered 500 folkies together in Australia, I'd reckon only about 100 of them would have been players of instruments, and most of that 100 would have been singers accompanying themselves with guitars. So most of the sessions were singing sessions with no instrumental accompaniment.

And they were truly awesome. The PLT at the National in Melbourne, '73 had more than 800 singing in Humphrey Trantor's workshop on rounds and canons and later on, the same number singing spirituals. The main bar of the (now demolished) pub under the Sydney Harbour Bridge had the same number of singers going for about 8 hours on shanties and choruses during the National in '75.

As Barry put it so colourfully, some couldn't carry a note in a bucket but the total effect was truly musical, in every way. As were Jeannie Lewis and Margret Roadknight in their (usually, but not always) accompanied performances.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Barry Finn
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 04:52 PM

Just as an aside to my above comments. Folks that can't sing joinging in with others never takes away for the sound of the group It can only strengthen it, if it's coming from within, with passion , heart & soul. If one listens to the field tapes of group singing in a natrual enviorment; say the field recordings of prison work gangs singing, or of the fishing communities they all didn't have good voices, a good voice wasn't even a requirement for a lead but the sound as a whole IMHO becomes more forcefull, more natural & more complete than those if it were just a roomful of "good singers".

Barry


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Barry Finn
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 04:40 PM

I'd have to say that over here in the Northeast US there are very few singing sessions, except the 7 shanty sings that I know of. The Irish sessions that I know of (unless they're a house session) are mostly instrumental & sing is frowned upon & some of these sessions have some good singers attending that play. I don't know why, maybe it's become an unwritten rule that even the singers are discouraged to sing, I don't attend enough anymore to know. The Press Room in NH is the exception. I haven't been to the UK & last I was in Ireland was 20 + yrs ago but I can fully understand the no instrument policies. When I was in Ireland there was singing at sessions but I can see why all the singer's clubs started cropping up, I wish it would happen here (aside from the shanty sings).
I sing mostly unaccompanied, (I only play a bodhran though I do at times use it to back up some of my songs) so I'm stuck there but I don't mind a sensitive accompaniment on soft, sweet or slow stuff, on rough, rowdy or raunchy stuff I don't care if the house joins in. I do find that because I normally focus my treatment of a song & how to use my voice to put it over that when others join in I sometimes have to block them out if they're not sensitive to how I'm phrasing, my timing, where I'm putting my emphasis on ornamentation, etc. & I do feel like I'm losing a bit in my treatment of the song as a trade off for the accompaniment. Granted if I could play an instrument well I probably could get past that with a lot of practice.
As for listening to unaccompanied singing I could relish in it for days on end depending who's doing it. To me there's nothing like a voice alone. It can vary far more that any instrument IMHO. The variety in voices is an inexhaustible resource for musical sound. I can also listen to the likes of the Watersons the Voice Squad, Finest Kind (Canadian) the Copper Family, Dave & Annie & other of that ilk non stop for months. On the other hand I could sit in ecstasy listening to some singer/songwriters accompany themselves or have a group backing them up like George Papavgeris, Duncan MacFairlane (sp), Jez Lowe, etc. Now some of these folks don't need instrumentation to put their songs over but if they feel that an accompanymentwell give it a bit extra, then by all means they should & I'd have to say that they'd be right about it too.
What I enjoy most is a great singing session where all voices are heard together, swapping leads, the various harmonies, the same melodies being done by different voices or just a step above the other, even those that couldn't carry a note if they had a bucket joining in. I had a friend tell me yrs ago that at sea (1915's-1930's) they'd all join in on the chorus & a good portion of those couldn't hold a note but it all came out as a sort of natural harmony.
What it boils down to is personnel taste & personnel opinion & in my case the voice is by far my musical choice & it is first & will be the last instrument we will use to make music. This doesn't make me a singing snob it's just what I like, I wouldn't go around putting other types or styles of music down but I definitely would ignore one type of workshop for another.

And Villan if I do ever get your way I'd love to drop in on your club, it sounds to me like the balls. Someday I do hope to visit some of the Irish singing clubs too.

Barry


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,zalby
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 01:09 PM

there is a lot to be said about unaccompanied singing, I find it a refreshing change to go into a bar/parlour where a "sing-a-round" is in session. Most memorable from a visit to a traditional Irish pub where someone starts and each person then does a "turn" as the flow goes around the room.
here in Stockport, England we have a folk club that does just that. every Monday is a sing-a-round with each person doing a song/story/monologue in turn. The session is led by the host who interrupts the round every so ften with a song accompanied to his/her musical instrument. But by and large it is great entertainment


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 12:55 PM

mcgrath ,your last statement is absolutely right,I think what happens is that people feel at liberty to chat during tunes.
you can normally get order in a seSsion and people will listen to one unaccompanied song ,providing its not too long.
But they somehow associate instruments with tunes,and start to chat through an accompanied song [im talking about IRELAND now].another reason why singers want to have their own clubs[I think]is that they can attempt longer songs without losing the bar audience attention,because they are in a separate room and everyone who is there has come to listen to songs.
one very good tip for singers in sessions, apart from sticking to unaccompanied songs, is to choose songs that start on a high note,it grabs peoples attention,and to choose songs that only have three or four verses. http://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 12:26 PM

Sometimes in a good singaround, when it gets to someone's turn, and they start opening up a case and tuning a guitar, it really does break the rhythm that can build up around the room. And when the accompaniment drown out the words of a song you'd like to hear, that's annoying too. That can happen even with a really skilfully played accompaniment. In fact that can be even more irritating, because the words get in the way of the guitar, and you lose out that way too.

This is a special kind of situation there - I'm not putting down the idea of singing with accompaniment, still less the art of fine guitar accompaniments.
...........................

One thing I've noticed - in a session which is predominantly tunes, when someone sings a song, it often seems to work much better when it's unaccompanied, for the contrast and the concentration.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 12:12 PM

I must confess to being in some situations where a song might have been appropriate but the sheer number of musical instruments in the room has made me feel totally inadequate - and I'm not exactly quiet! Certainly my two weekends in Portaferry have shown that. The last time I went, 2 years ago, there were a great many more songs sung. This year, there seemed to be a greater number of tunes. I had a fantastic time both times, but I just felt totally overwhelmed by the number of instruments I'd have to sing past this weekend.

LTS


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 10:57 AM

the reason why both these singers clubs in Ireland,have a no instrument policy is this,there are many traditional irish music sessions,where singers dont get much of a look in,but plenty of places where irish musicians can play irish music.
so im fairly sure its an attempt to keep it a singing venue,both of the clubs, the spailpin fanach and the skibbereen singers club are well attended,and had a great variety of singers and styles[even though it was all unaccompanied].
I believe when Sara Grey did the Spailpin club she was allowed to use her banjo.Ipreferred to accept the challenge.http://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 09:31 AM

Unaccompanied non-folk? Meaning without the accompaniment of a musical instrument.

Plenty of church music of various sorts.

But generally speaking, if its unaccompanied it's going to be claimed as a kind of folk music, and we'll probably have an argument on the Mudcat as to whether it should be so included(eg football chants).
..................................

There are some great people booked for Villan's club, and I have every admiration for anyone who can get a viable club going like that. Can't say I agree with having rigid rules about whether people sing their own songs or other people's songs or traditional songs, and whether they use musical instruments or not, but if having rigid rules is seen by him as important for the club I'd shrug it off. Especially if its a way of giving the club street cred with those people who might not be at ease with the types of music excluded.

And a policy like that might well provide the spur for a folk event running in parallel, building up an overlapping set of regulars. Two where there was one.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Captain Ginger
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 08:02 AM

Gracious apology accepted - thanks!
For me the stats are the other way around in that 90 per cent of my live musical experience has been unaccompanied singing or instrumental. Recorded is a different matter - excluding classical music and rock/pop, I'd say maybe 25 per cent of what I've heard has been accompanied.
As for unaccompanied stuff outside the folk world - it is rare, particularly solo stuff.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 07:36 AM

Scrump
>>Some excellent acts there, Villan. Wish I lived nearer myself so I could come to a few of those<<

Thanks for that. Shame you aren't nearer.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 07:34 AM

>>Just because your taste is not the same as mine, there's no reason to accuse me of being up my own arse<<

Sorry CG I thought it was you who was going on about other performers.

In actual fact my taste of music covers most genres of music, from 1950's right the way through to current day. In fact the radio program I listen to most is radio one.

Folk music has its place but it is only a part of the big wide world.
I love music in all forms as for me it makes the world go around.

I can never understand why some people get so blinkered with one sort of music to the detriment of all other forms of music.

Anyway apologies for getting a bit het up.

Anyway here is a question to anybody

Through your life what percentage of all genres of music that you have listened to falls into the following 3 categories.

1. Unacompanied songs
2. Accompanied songs
3. instrumental (tunes)

Mine is
1. 1%
2. 98%
3. 1%

For me, that is why I like accompanied music of all genres.

Some of the instrumental groups that I can think of are such as The Shadows, Johhny and The Hurricanes

Unaccompanied apart from Folk, I am unable to think of anybody taht woudl spring to mind.

Accompanied well I could fill Mudcat with that one.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Captain Ginger
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 06:45 AM

I wasn't whingeing, Villan - merely expressing my own opinions about a club near me which takes itself rather preciously and which is full of people playing self-penned stuff tiresomely.
On the basis of what you said about your club I came to the conclusion that it wasn't for me. Just because your taste is not the same as mine, there's no reason to accuse me of being up my own arse. De gustibus non disputandum est an' all that.
I've heard of most of your guests, of course, and some of them I like. But I also like other music. For me, 'folk' is clearly a broader and more robust church than it is for you.
But good luck with the venture - anyone running a club (and yes, I have done that in my time) needs that. You may need a thicker skin, however.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 06:32 AM

Some excellent acts there, Villan. Wish I lived nearer myself so I could come to a few of those.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 06:23 AM

You have your opinion Captain Ginger, but you are also offensive to performers who put a lot of work in to provide very good music.

I suggest you have a look at the diary for Faldingworth Live before you make snide comments.

I probably put more variety than most clubs and each person on gets 25 mins minimum. A lot of hard work goes in to provide an excellent evening of entertainment with variety. The main guest on a Friday gets 1 hour.
There are 7 resident performers + 2 others who whilst not resident never the less perform on a regular basis.

They are Stitherum, Helian Keys, Steve Newton, Andrew Tiffany, Aimee Robertson, Wild Wolds Women, Gwenda & Terry Cater, John Blanks and The Twanglers.
They rotate during the year and each one does about 6 evenings through the year.

To support each main guest there are 3 acts who each do 25 minutes using the above mentioned plus other performers who play on an occasional basis.

Below is the full program for 2007. Don't know if you know any of them Captain Ginger. If you dont then you must have your head stuck up your bottom. Do you run a club CG or just whinge when somebody won't put you on.

2007
12/01/2007    Friday Jet Skiffle & Blues

Saturday January 20th Jez Lowe & Kate Bramley in Concert

26/01/2007    Friday Helian Keys
9/02/2007      Friday WinterWilson
23/02/2007    Friday Dick Appleton

03/03/2007 Saturday In Concert Allan Taylor

09/03/2007        Friday Dave & Julie Evardson
23/03/2007        Friday Mark Newman
06/04/2007        Friday Copper Kettle
20/04/2007        Friday No Fixed Abode
04/05/2007        Friday George Papavgeris

12/05/2007 Saturday In Concert His Worship & The Pig

18/05/2007        Friday        Daz & Anna Barker
01/06/2007        Friday        Clarty Sough
15/06/2007        Friday        Mary Humphrys & Anahata
29/06/2007        Friday        Hamish Currie

07/07/2007 Saturday In Concert Derek Brimstone

13/07/2007        Friday        Steve Turner
07/09/2007        Friday        Ploughmans Bunch

15/09/2007 Saturday In Concert Bram Taylor

21/09/2007        Friday        Byards Leap
05/10/2007        Friday        Ember
19/10/2007        Friday        Gainsborough Folk Festival

27/10/2007 Saturday In Concert Pete Coe

02/11/2007        Friday        Cara
16/11/2007        Friday        Paul Bellamy & Mark Campbell
30/11/2007        Friday        John Conolly

08/12/2007 Saturday In Concert Flossie Malavialle

14/12/2007        Friday        Edwina Hayes


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 04:48 AM

I think I know what Captain Ginger means about singer/songwriting guitar players, but as a guitarist myself, I hope he's not including us all in that assessment. (I hardly write any of my own material, but maybe that makes me even worse, as not only do I sing and play the guitar, but I pinch other people's songs into the bargain?)

For me, variety is important and I wouldn't particularly want to go to a club where there were only this type of performer, any more than I'd want to go to a club where it was all finger-in-the-ear hardcore traddies singing a cappella; or all concertina players; or whatever. Although I have enjoyed myself in one or two 'single varietal' clubs, but these were exceptionally good at what they do. But generally, I prefer to see different types of performer. But then I appreciate that others may prefer a more limited range of artists.

But there's nothing wrong with a club that decides to 'specialise', as long as people going to it know what to expect. If I go to a club and don't like it, then I can just give it a miss in future.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Alec
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 04:02 AM

I agree with what Captain Ginger says about variety.
I am extremely partial to a well prepared Tikka Balti but would not want to have one at every meal.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Captain Ginger
Date: 14 Feb 07 - 03:36 AM

I think the consensus here is that neither way is 'right', and that both schools have their stars and dunces.
From a listener's point of view, I have to say I'm glad Villan has outlined the policy at the club he runs, because that means that I can comfortably avoid it should I be in the area. There is a similar club near where I live which prides itself on being 'a performance venue' rather than a folk club, and every act there carries a guitar and generally does self-penned material. The overall effect is one of stupefying dullness and twangling onanism, I'm afraid.
Give me variety any day - which, to me, is contemporary and traditional, accompanied and unaccompanied, group and solo - anything but bloody wall-to-wall snigger snogwriters with guitars!


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:09 PM

I sing both self-accompanied and unaccompanied, and find some songs go better with, and others without, accompaniment, while some can reasonably be sung either way (although as others have said, the same song may sound different with/without accompaniment: what should not happen is for the accompaniment to drive the song. We've probably all heard people sing accompanied songs in such perfect meter that you could set a stopwatch to them, but the song becomes devoid of expression and meaning.
As for the ability to play and sing at the same time, it really depends on the skill you have with the instrument (has it become as familiar as driving a car, so you can change gear/chords without thinking about it?): while I can sing while playing guitar or bodhran (as I've been playing them for longer)I cannot sing and play button acccordion at the same time (too many neural connections required!)even with songs I know really well.
And another strange phenomenon, I've come across one or two people who can't sing a song they know well WITHOUT their chosen instrument if they happen not to have it with them: that to me seems really odd, but might be explained by some of the "purist" unaccompanied singers as "hiding behind an instrument".


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Rowan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 08:02 PM

MoorleyMan has unearthed a notion that's completely novel (and foreign) to me, with
"There's no disgrace in an unaccompanied singer taking his/her pitch from (say) a concertina before starting the song" and
" I've found that it's mostly the accompanied singers (and not the "hardcoree traddies") who consider the use by an unaccompanied singer of any instrument (including pitch pipe) to obtain the desired pitch to be "cheating" ! Rather a perverse way of looking at it I'd say...."

Extraordinary!

We routinely used Lynne's recorder to give us a pitch when singing as a group, because many of the harmonies stretched close to the limits of individual members and the songs we sang occupied a variety of keys. At the same time as Pageant was rollicking along from Sydney to Melbourne, Rumbylowe were hitting their straps in Brisbane, with similar repertoire and success. It was a lovely sight to see Martin Gallagher hold his wrist to his ear, diddle a few notes up or down the scale, after which they'd all start singing. His watch was one of the very early digital models where the quartz crystal oscillator was just audible; its note was 3/5 of 5/8 of FA off D, and perfect or the task.

I've heard lots of guitarists whose notion of D was a lot further away than Martin's watch.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: MoorleyMan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 07:38 PM

Scrump - sure, I'm absolutely clear about who is credited with which parts of the quote! No confusion there as far as I saw.

>>As you rightly say, there's no disgrace. I've never thought there was ... The idea of it being somehow cheating or shameful to do this has never occurred to me. I've seen some unaccompanied singers use pitch pipes for the same purpose. Maybe there are a few 'hardcore traddies' around who would frown on this as somehow 'cheating', but I've never encountered any (so far! ...)<<
Well, interestingly enough I've found that it's mostly the accompanied singers (and not the "hardcoree traddies") who consider the use by an unaccompanied singer of any instrument (including pitch pipe) to obtain the desired pitch to be "cheating" ! Rather a perverse way of looking at it I'd say....

Richard Bridge - sure, you're right, >>there are (I fear) more who think they can cut it as a solo unaccompanied singer than actually can<< - well yes, and physiology means no-one can hear themself as others hear them (there was more about that on another thread) .... but (I too fear) your assertion goes for musicians and accompanied singers too - there's always been a misconception that anyone can pick up a guitar and get away with strumming three approximate chords or less and hey presto they're folk musicians, hallelujah! We all know it's what you do with the chords and "between the notes" that makes musicality out of any accompaniment to a song.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: RTim
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 07:09 PM

I would love to contribute to this thread - but as I am only a boring un-accompanied singer 99.9% of the time, I will slide back into my hole.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 06:35 PM

>> "It's true that an instrument helps the singer to stay in the right key throughout the song" is only true if one is able to tune and play the instrument in question<<

Moorleyman, just to be clear: I can only take the credit for the remark in quotes. It was Charley Noble who added the rest. I merely said I couldn't argue with his addition. I don't want to take credit for Charley's thoughts.

I stand by that assessment of Charley's additional comment.

Yes, and that applies too if the instrument in question is the voice itself doesn't it? There's no disgrace in an unaccompanied singer taking his/her pitch from (say) a concertina before starting the song, and neither does that need make him/her a "bad performer", any more than it makes an accompanied singer who's reliant on an instrument a "bad performer".

Just after my original quote above, McGrath of Harlow said: "Often enough I'll use the guitar to get me singing in the right key, the one I've found works for the song, and then I'll put it down to sing the rest of the song."

I agree with that, and it's what I do too, if I sing unaccompanied and I have my guitar with me. It helps me to start in the right key.

As you rightly say, there's no disgrace. I've never thought there was. I simply pluck the appropriate note and off I go, confident in the knowledge I've started in the right key. The idea of it being somehow cheating or shameful to do this has never occurred to me. I've seen some unaccompanied singers use pitch pipes for the same purpose. Maybe there are a few 'hardcore traddies' around who would frown on this as somehow 'cheating', but I've never encountered any (so far! Maybe One of them will reply to this!)

What I said at the top of this post, referred to the fact that an unaccompanied singer can gradually drift off key, especially during a long song. Having some sort of instrumental accompaniment prevents this happening, which was my point.

Charley then pointed out that it was important to ensure you are able to tune and play the instrument in question, in order to accompany yourself when singing. I have to agree, as not being able to do these things would clearly preclude successful accompaniment of the singer.

I hope that clarifies things so far!


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 06:07 PM

I am usually reluctant to sing unaccompanied.

IMHO you have to have a much better voice (bel canto voice) to be as pleasing to the ear as a solo unaccompanied singer than either as a harmony unaccompanied singer or any sort of accompanied singer.

Part of the big problem in persuading the audience to accept solo unaccompanied singer is that there are (I fear) more who think they can cut it as a solo unaccompanied singer than actually can.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: MoorleyMan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 05:59 PM

It seems that an element of defensiveness has crept into this discussion.
Guest, Val - your point about audiences being "desensitized" is well made, and yes, clubs can easily make their own rules regarding instruments or no instruments for a particular theme night or whatever, or experiment just to test the water, that doesn't mean it has to be a permanent change in whatever direction.

Villan - no need to get yr coat, no criticism was intended of any particular club, I and other correspondents were just making observations on trends in and club attitudes in general, in my humble case based on experience of "all three sides of the fence" (and in different geographical areas, though not the States or Canada I'll admit) over a period of some 25-30 years.

>>Why must a club cater for both.<<
I don't think that's what folks here are saying. It's not a case of "must". I'm sure nobody's trying to tell anyone how to run "their" club. Many of us are currently, or have at some point been, in the position of getting a club started and/or keeping it running, and all manner of factors come into play, which may vary from week to week. As Villan rightly says, >>At the end of the day its up to each club to decide what they want and stick to it. It is also up to the audience to decide where they want to go to.<< Yes, but even a "loyal" audience can be notoriously fickle, and you might well get a full house for Mr Carthy, say, if he was to advertise he would do a whole evening unaccompanied!

>>I have always tried to be honest with performers and if their style suited my club, great, if not then I tell them. That doesn't make them bad performers.<<
Both points particularly well made there. Honesty from and among club organisers will always be best policy for the performer, and for the club's audience too (if that can be accurately gauged). Again, the last sentence is the key, and only bears out what we said earlier.

Finally: Scrump - your >> "It's true that an instrument helps the singer to stay in the right key throughout the song" is only true if one is able to tune and play the instrument in question<<
Yes, and that applies too if the instrument in question is the voice itself doesn't it? There's no disgrace in an unaccompanied singer taking his/her pitch from (say) a concertina before starting the song, and neither does that need make him/her a "bad performer", any more than it makes an accompanied singer who's reliant on an instrument a "bad performer".


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 05:40 PM

For ten years I was involved in the running of the very successful South Tyne Folk and Blues where unaccompanied ballads and twelve bar blues stood shoulder to shoulder perfectly integrated. On a typical evening it would not be uncommon to hear songs gleaned from the repertoires of Bukka White, Harry Cox and Roy Harper appreciated equally by the audience. In fact the only time I heard our unaccompanied singers derided was by a no-hope, wanabee guitarist who was so bad we had to tell this person no more floor spots. Over the last forty plus years I have never felt that there is any snobbery attached to unaccompanied singing although I have heard stories circulating, mainly untrue, that certain traditionally based clubs(Nottingham Traditional Music Club suffered from this one) have barred any form of instrumentation, yet I have also seen advertisments for folk clubs declaring "floor singers with guitars welcome". These days as part of Traditions at the Tiger all four of our residents sing unaccompanied; no snobbery and nothing to do with it being "more traditional" we'd love to see more instrumentalists there.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Rowan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 04:59 PM

Lots of thought-provoking stuff.

Solo unaccompanied singing.
Unaccompanied harmonies sung in small ensembles.
Solo singing with one instrument accompanying.
Small-groups singing accomapnied by one or more instruments.

I started off singing unaccompanied because I could sing but not play anything musical. Campfire songs, music hall, shanties, ballads, jingles, forebitters, marching songs, counting/repetition songs; all were grist to the mill. Solo, you were forced into listening to how others made the song work and then put your own efforts into making it work. While I didn't do gigs continuously it was easy enough to vary the pace, style etc and break up the pattern with the occasional recitation. I suspect the story-telling used by some performers between their songs is their subtitute for recitations.

Then I got involved with Pageant, six people from Victoria, Sydney and Canberra, who were all solo singers (two sopranos, two tenors, two baritone/bass) and only the tenors could play instruments; free reed ones, as it happened. We felt that the best songs were ones that stood without accompaniment by instruments, so we sang unaccompanied harmonies. Much, probably most, of our repertoire was UK in origin (two of us were originally Poms) and American friends who've heard our stuff compared it favourably with the Voice Squad. We did lots of gigs for whole evenings/afternoons and the variations in style provided by solo and group singing were easily supported.

Most of us were also dancers and an accident of timing at a National meant we had to become a bush dance band for a TV spot demonstrating some colonial dances. We didn't want Pageant's reputation sullied by a wonky band performance so we changed our name. The broadcast started Higgins Municipal Bush Band on its way and also started us singing to solo and group instrumental accompaniment to some acclaim.

Personally I still find it easier to sing unaccompanied but I'm lucky enough to be able to both hold pitch for an extended song, as well as hold a melodic line against another equally strong melodic line. Some very good singers find both difficult but their vocal qualities still make them superb to listen to. As many melodeon and Anglo players know, these instruments breathe differently to people so I have a limited ability to sing while playing. Interestingly, I find it very easy to call dances while playing the tunes I use for various dances; I suspect I'm using the calling as a singing accompaniment to the playing. I've not heard too many others criticise my paying the way I do.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Charley Noble
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 04:47 PM

;~()


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 03:39 PM

Did I just say all of that oooh errr


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: The Villan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 03:36 PM

Why must a club cater for both.

I set my stall out when I started Market Rasen Folk Club which is now Faldingworth Live.

It would be concert style and accompanied performers that were invited to play, rather than them inviting themselves. The club is very singer/songwriter based.

I have met a lot of criticism over the time from certain people, but have stuck to my guns.

The club hasn't suffered because of it.

Basically as far as I am concerned, if I pronmote and run a club, I do it my way, not how soembody else tells me to do it.

Having said all that, there is no reason why people can't set up A Capella clubs and run it their way.

Likewise somebody who wants to run a singalong club can do what they want to do.

Just like session clubs can do what they want to do.

At the end of the day its up to each club to decide what they want and stick to it. It is also up to the audience to decide where they want to go to.

What it isn't up to, is for somebody to force a club to go in a direction they don't want to go.

I have always tried to be honest with performers and if their style suited my club, great, if not then I tell them. That doesn't make them bad performers.

I have been to some clubs, where a contemporary performer has been in the wrong club and vice versa. I don't think that helps the performer.

I also think it is important that all club organisers explain what style their club is before booking a performer, so that they know clearly where they stand.

There you go. Thats my ten penneth from somebody who doesn't know FA about folk music but has got off his arse and done somethiong about putting live music on the map.

I will get my coat and wait for the abuse. :-)


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: MoorleyMan
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:56 PM

Have just found this thread, and what a sensible and reasoned discussion.

My own view is that in an ideal world/gig there's a place for all - unaccompanied and accompanied song, and purely instrumental music, and indeed monologues and stories. I love all of these, in balance.

The song being performed to some extent dictates the mode of performance. Some songs just don't work unaccompanied, and vice versa is also true. As several of you say, communication of the song /story/emotion is of paramount importance. Yes Mr Padgett, it is after all the traditional way. And some songs need the freedom of phrasing that accompaniment denies them, in order to best communicate that. Some songs are written to communicate best when accompanied however, I won't deny that either - but it's not easy to explain why the complex mix of emotions works better in the service of the song with accompanied chords or harmonies. Whatever, in any performance, accompanied or unaccompanied, surely nothing (whether fussy chords or fake accent) ought to be to the detriment of actually communicating the song.

Sure, as an atrocious guitarist (and fiddle player) myself, I salute any capable instrumentalist. I admire and respect those who can do well what they do, whatever that happens to be. I realise however that "well" is for many not a mark of quality but a personal value judgement that is born of often unreasoned or uninformed prejudice. Which is why most clubs won't even consider booking an unaccompanied singer, even for half of a double bill (probably the best "compromise" if compromise is needed). Sure, there are some who I couldn't "listen to all night". But the truth is that there are also unaccompanied singers who can/would/do carry a night, or extended set, simply due to their breadth or range of material (or variety in delivery/pace).

I too have been bored rigid by a self-absorbed accompanied singer (a professional) yet enchanted by an unaccompanied singer (an amateur) who had a decently wide range of songs and included chorus songs which generated at least some of the necessary variety in texture. Oh yes, and who engaged their audience by communicating interest in the actual songs rather than a dull succession of personal anecdotes to cover interminable tuning of instrument.

But I've also been bored rigid by just one half-hour guest spot by an unaccompanied singer whose repertoire consisted entirely of intentionally comic songs all done in the same manner. Even though I like comic songs!
Jerry's comment >>A full concert of unaccompanied music works as much as anything on the personality of the singer ... and a good mix of humorous, upbeat, ballads and songs with choruses<< rings true here in the UK as in the States.

If I booked acts for a club I'd never just "write off" an unaccompanied performer simply because they don't play an instrument. And I'd not automatically consider a performer more favourably simply because they can accompany themself on one or more instruments.   

There's my two pennorth at any rate.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:52 PM

When working out harmonies with my quartet, the instrument is a distraction. It's a lot easier to hear the harmonies without an instrument, and then to add the instrument to complement the voices.
I also like to drop the instrument (singular) for a chorus, just so everyone can really hear the words and the harmonies. Then, when I bring the guitar back in, it brings another dimension.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,Val
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:47 PM

Just to toss a couple more opinions into the stew...

When a club or venue specifies "absolutely no instruments" for a particular evening, that may not be snobbery. It might be that if they leave it open, they feel the instrumentalists might "take over" or something. In a disorganized sing-around, an instrument also helps a person jump in for their turn (perhaps overriding someone who is vocal only) by launching into a couple of introductory chords. Also, heavily instrumental arrangements may "desensitize" some audience members to vocal subtleties - at first blush, a vocal-only presentation following a band may seem bland, especially to the Great Unwashed Masses. There are probably many more options for instrumental or combined instrument/vocal performances, and relatively few for primarily-vocal without accompaniment - so perhaps they want to stand their ground and say "for THIS evening, NO instruments." Seems fair to me.

As for singing while accompanying yourself, I think it takes both talent and practice to have GOOD instrumental and GOOD vocal at the same time. I suspect just about everyone would say they can put more nuance & subtlety into their performance if they only focus on one or the other.

There is one other variation that doesn't seem to be talked about much so far in this thread ... a duet or ensemble where vocal & instrumental duties are divided. Thus you have the benefits of accompanied singing (pitch reference & more complex arrangement) while still allowing each performer to focus entirely upon their particular part. Of course, that usually DOES call for a bit of prior planning and maybe even making friends with other performers rather than isolating yourself in your own music [grin].

-Val
who sings middling well while playing guitar, rather poorly while playing harp, & generally plays or sings better when that's all I'm doing.

(For those keeping demographic score, I'm in the US)


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,pattyClink
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:46 PM

Thanks for the links George. There were some clips for Dave & Annie and for Metcalfe.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:45 PM

Second, "It's true that an instrument helps the singer to stay in the right key throughout the song" is only true if one is able to tune and play the instrument in question.

I can't argue with that, Charley.


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Charley Noble
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:36 PM

Several thoughts:

First, thanks to Dick Miles for starting this thread!

Second, "It's true that an instrument helps the singer to stay in the right key throughout the song" is only true if one is able to tune and play the instrument in question.

Third, in the States, most of us nautical singers sing the shanties unaccompanied. Forebitters are more commonly accompanied.

I do find it useful to use an instrument when I am puzzling out a new song, trying to learn it. I have no problems accompanying my singing with banjo but singing while playing the concertina is still a challenge to me; I'm sure it's just a matter of practice.

When our group is figuring out harmonies for a song, we usually use a guitar to make sure we are singing within the chords. Then it's usually better for us to just listen carefully to what we're singing without an instrument to achieve a pleasing blend. We may bring back instrumentation later once we've got the song down.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: GUEST,The black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:18 PM

What about the effect of instrumentation on the abillity to learn the words?
I find that I larn and remember the words better of songs that I hear unaccompanied.
Conversely the radio station that I listen to on the way to work has a daily competition where pop song lyrics are read out. I never reconise them even if I know the song well because it's the tune that I listen to, not the words.
Is it something to do with me hearing tunes as a series of chords with a melody over?


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: JohnB
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 02:01 PM

I think that a fairer comparison would be "apples to apples" not "apples to Oranges". If you do not like a whole evening of mediocre to good solo a cappella singing, it should be compared to a whole evening of mediocre to good single instrument playing. It can not be compared to accompanied singing, with better or worse voice to instrument capeability.
I personally woulf by far prefer to sit through an eving of mediocre singing than mediocre instumentals.
I play well enough to piss off a lot of people who play worse than I do but I seldom inflict this on the paying public. I do however sing a cappela frequently, mostly with two other voices, who are both female.
In a crowded pub environment, I have never heard everyone stop talking to listen to any number of instrumentalists on any instrument however good they happen to be. I, and with my a cappella group have totally silenced the busiest of pubs with voice only.
Now! what really anoys me are groups like Crucible for instance who do both equally as well :)
JohnB


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Subject: RE: unaccompanied and accompanied singing
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 13 Feb 07 - 01:58 PM

The one thing that bugs me most though, is when I stand up to sing, just because I don't carry a guitar, doesn't mean the audience should provide guitar backing!

LTS


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