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Are there any OLD folkies out there?

06 Oct 03 - 11:39 AM (#1030584)
Subject: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: The Shambles

Despite the intentionally provocative thread title this is just a mild rant and a gentle call for unity to us all.

The music has survived all of our cultural statements – from Arran jumpers and fingers in the ear, to denim caps and lighted cigarettes in the fret-board. It has seen off all of our dubious fashion statements - from tie-dyed tee shirts, to tankards attached to one's belt and has seen off duffle coats, plastic-macs, and sandals. It survives dreadlocks, purple hair, body piercing and flowery printed trousers. It will survive most of what we can throw at it – and at each other. For it has even survived flares – at least twice.

If only we – the one's who play and appreciate the music of this wide church could be as tolerant, flexible and understanding of us, as the music is.

Why do we foster divisions when the music gives us all just about the only opportunity to communicate across all language barriers and unite us?

Why do we tend to feel that in order to praise a type of music that is to our taste, that we have to slag-off a form that may not be?

Why do we tend to continue to foster division between what is and what isn't folk and just about every other division you can think of?

I think that the one that concerns me most is the totally bogus divide that appears to be developing between the music making of those that consider themselves to be young and those who are considered to be old.

Any perceived divisions here are really rather superficial and down to culture, fashion and entrenched positions – rather than any real musical differences. But I find that it is sad to read of young folkies wishing to make music exclusively with other young folkies – as if the music produced by this union is different or better than the music produced by a group of all ages. As if they felt they were excluded from other groupings – a sad state of affairs, if this were true. Is it true?

Are there people or places that discriminate against the younger folk musician (other than Licensing conditions, of course)?

The evidence appears to point the opposite way. There would appear to be a general perception amongst us that young people need encouraging to make folk music and I see young people being encouraged by older folk, just about everywhere I go. There are also many fine schemes, workshops and contests that encourage music making by the young.

However, are these moves actually causing a divide between young and old music making?

Most of these schemes unfortunately exclude older people – and sometimes the age limit is set very low indeed. An effect of this is that now you are considered to be older, (and past it) even younger, if that makes sense? Over the hill at 22?

The word new - seems now to have become interchangeable with the word - young. As if anything that is new – can only be produced by the young. Where new talent means - only young talent and a new group means a young group.

Damn it! A new group can even be comprised of a past-it and crusty collection of 25 year-olds.

I am of course not suggesting that young people should not always be encouraged. I am just looking to the future and suggesting that a more sensible attitude is taken before it is too late – one that does not encourage and foster an undesirable division between music making - one based on age - but encourages all ages to make folk music together.

06 Oct 03 - 11:44 AM (#1030586)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: Amos

Well, Sham, that's very persuasive but I was not aware of the issue you are addressing. I'm all for sensible attitudes, I guess. I've never seen a big issue on the matter of what ages mnay or may not sing folk music. Perhaps its a local issue?


06 Oct 03 - 11:54 AM (#1030595)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: The Shambles

Possibly these divisions generally are more of a UK concern.

Young folkies

06 Oct 03 - 11:57 AM (#1030601)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: The Shambles

Young folkies are out there

06 Oct 03 - 12:01 PM (#1030603)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: The Shambles

Young folkies around Boston

06 Oct 03 - 12:04 PM (#1030604)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: McGrath of Harlow

Perhaps it's an England thing. My feeling is that setting up things specifically "for young musicians" and so forth, which does seem to be increasingly seen as the thing to do, is something that older organisers are responsible for, rather than necessarily responding to a demand from young people.

I think I'd find it a bit patronising and I believe I'd have tended to avoid that kind of thing and hang in with the oldies when I was in the targetted age group, which wasn't targetted in my time of course, because we didn't have the oldies much in evidence.

Mind, sometimes maybe it's that the young ones reckon they are so much better at playing the music (and a lot of the time that's only too true, technically anyway) they don't want to hang around with us.

But one of my favourite quotations is Michael Collins, when he said ""I am much more at ease in the company of old people in the dark than I am with young people in the light." And I like to think that's how I'd have seen it even then.

06 Oct 03 - 12:13 PM (#1030612)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: Shimbo Darktree

Well, now, I suppose I may fit the bill ... I'm 57. How old is old? Our folk clubs have mostly people around, above, and a little below my age, with the odd smattering of younger ones. My "regular" club is happy to listen to anyone (it is a "floor singer" format), and we have had young, old, good, bad, the whole bit. A few of the older ones keep coming back, none of the younger ones. My 20 and 18 year olds, while getting along fine with their parents, wouldn't be seen dead at the club, and have never been. Parent stuff ... yuk!

I wouldn't get wound up about it ... just the way things go. The wheel will turn, and the youth will be mad, dirty, unwashed, sex-mad folkies again, and the wrinklies will scream and tear their hair. (I hasten to add that I myself was not sex mad ... not enough assistants!). Try the following song, which I penned a couple of years ago (hope it comes out OK):

(Words: Ian Clarke. Tune: Blackboard of my Heart)

A young folk singer went down to a folk club Friday night,
He wrote his name up on the board, and hoped he'd spelt it right,
He'd practised his whole repertoire for three months and a day,
And both the songs were perfect, 'cause he'd tried them every way.

   And the MC rubbed his name off from the blackboard on the wall,
   He said, "We want those that we know, and we don't know you at all.
   So take a hike, get on your bike, go home without a fuss,
   The blackboard's for the older crowd, and you're not one of us.

You've not been singing thirty years, like many of us here,
Your hair's not grey, your cheeks don't sag, you don't drool in your beer,
You haven't got a midriff pot, so listen to me mate,
To get onto that blackboard, for thirty years you'll wait."

The young folk singer the next day went to his local bank,
And got a loan to start his own club with his best friend Frank (it rhymes!)
One year and it was a big hit, when through the teenage horde,
Came an ancient balding folkie, wrote his name up on the board.

   And the MC rubbed his name off from the blackboard on the wall,
   He said, "We want those that we know, and we don't know you at all.
   So take a hike, get on your bike, go home without a fuss,
   The blackboard's for the younger crowd, and you're not one of us.

The moral of this little tune should be quite clear to all,
If you long to sing your song at a club or in a hall,
Do not enrage those not your age by pushing in your snout,
Or, like my mate, your final fate will be to get rubbed out.

06 Oct 03 - 12:31 PM (#1030622)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: Dave Bryant

It's always been hard to define 'Folk', and with Old/Young being such relative terms I have no idea what constitutes an Old Folkie or a Young Folkie.

I can only guess that you are referring to different types of material, ie those that are nearer to pop music and those that are nearer to 'The Tradition' (or perhaps the 'Folk Revival' of the 60s/70s). I suppose that I prefer (and definitely perform) the latter, but what of it ? I will be sixty next year, so at least in the eyes of many young performers I count as old. However I often sing at venues which have a variety of styles and find that I can still fit in. OK some of the music I hear, I would hardly classify as folk, but I'm pleased to see that many young people are at least producing their own live music, rather than relying on recorded stuff only.

Before I sang Folk Music, I used to play bass guitar in a pop group and I expect that the sort of material we played would not have found favour at Cecil Sharp House. Gradually, my tastes moved from American, via Scottish and Irish to the more English material that I tend to favour now. Compare the early recordings of some singers to
the way they sing today and I think in many cases you'll notice quite some changes in style.

I must admit that I tend to prefer my sort of folk music, but we all have our slightly different tastes. However, I've had quite a few experiences of young singers coming up to me and saying how much they've enjoyed what I've just sung.

06 Oct 03 - 01:41 PM (#1030667)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: ard mhacha

As McGrath says it could be a problem in England, we have the Ceoltus, Ceoltori na hEireann,.
Young and old are welcome to participate in the music, there are various classes for the young.
In Ireland the music continues to florish, long may this happy state of affairs continue. Ard Mhacha.

06 Oct 03 - 03:02 PM (#1030730)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: GUEST,Peter from Essex

The problem that us "established" folkies have is that we have become very inward looking. We are very open and welcoming to other "established" folkies but people who just want to listen seem to be a nuisance who should be kept out of sessions and singarounds. (assorted threads passim).

How many of us performed on our visit to a folk club? I am sure that most of us served an apprenticeship joining in with the choruses with increasing vigour before taking the plunge at a singers' night.

06 Oct 03 - 03:48 PM (#1030757)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: GUEST,Mikefule

This problem, if problem it is, seems to have its roots in two things:

1) Our society is now divided 'horizontally' on the basis of age, whereas years ago, it was divided 'vertically' on the basis of family, village, trade, etc. Now, tweenies, teen agers, 20 somethings, 30 somethings, baby boomers (and so on) have more in common with their own age groups than they have with other generations of their own families. Years ago, traditions and ideas were passed down the line, and young people had to earn their place in the hierarchy. Now, young people are expected/encouraged to go their own way, rebel, etc.

2) The term "Folk" as applied to music has become a label for a genre or style of music. Folk music is now a minority interest. That is completely at odds with what the term "ought to" mean: the music of the people.

So, what we have is two (or more) social groups, roughly divided by age, each with its own cultural anthems, pretensions, and hang ups, instead of one social group with a shared pool of material, and an occasional 'natural' addition to the pool from the occasional creative individual.

07 Oct 03 - 06:31 AM (#1031117)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: The Shambles

To the young - old(er) people are usually uncool. Even in my day, this is understandable but it does vary geographically, as stated above for Ireland. Although this need to be cool, should not prevent the young from admiring the musical skills of the old - and indeed vice-versa.

For example - Pete and Woody were not as young and therefore not as cool as Bob Dylan but this did not prevent me from appreciating their talents too, along with the talents of many bluesmen who were distinctly elderly by then, if not already terminally so.

My experience of traditional country dances in Shetland in the 70-80s was that that all age groups attended and participated together, even if country and western music was more to the tastes of those in their teens and early twenties.

My first experience of making music was skiffle - when I was age 9 together with my elder brother and his friends, who was 8 years older than me, and my dad. I am sure that I was not considered cool by my brother but possibly my dad was slightly more acceptable to him (for a few more years anyway) as he was more musically skilled.

As for folk being a minority interest, I am not sure that amongst the younger folk, that it is the case now. There are certainly many young folk players who are seen as being cool.

The test as I see it is to try and ensure that the music is still seen to be cool - no matter who - or how old the person making it is. To try and avoid divisions in folk music making that are based more on cultural and fashion than on music.

If a a fity-year old wants to learn to play the fiddle - should they be excluded from a youth beginners workshops because of their age? I mean if you are new to the instrument and have only been playing for say 2 months - should it really matter if you are 50 or 15? It may even encourage a 15 year-old to see a 50 year-old struggle.

07 Oct 03 - 08:55 AM (#1031183)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: MikeofNorthumbria

Hi everybody!

Here's a possible explanation. See if you think it fits the case.

The 17th century philosopher Francis Bacon wrote "Hope is a good breakfast, but a poor supper." Young musicians and singers who are still at a fairly basic level of competence, or who are good, but unappreciated, may survive on hope, and not much else – while they are young.   Eventually, a few will achieve the success they yearn for, but those who grow older without doing any better find that hope soon withers.

Some of us give it up altogether, blaming the Usual Suspects (Marriage, Mortgage, Career, Kids). And some just keep on thrashing the same old chords, and bawling the same old choruses – perhaps because this helps us survive the stresses which the Usual Suspects can inflict on us. But even if some of us keep our ears open to new sounds, and our minds open to new ideas, our fingers are often too clumsy, and our memories too unreliable, for us to pick up any novelties that take our fancy. So most of us make do with nostalgia, and bid farewell to hope.

Even when we're playing and singing relatively well, there can't be much for the young in our sessions and sing-arounds – it's yesterday's news, and they're already looking for tomorrow's.   Can we wonder that they usually prefer to walk away from a bunch of has-beens, might-have-beens, and no-hopers like us?   Especially if the more perceptive youngsters fear that they might turn into something a bit like us, if their reservoir of hope runs dry in a decade or two.

So, to conclude, I find it pleasantly surprising that cross-generational music-making does sometimes break out spontaneously at festivals and other gatherings. Rather than struggling to explain its scarcity, I think we should be encouraging it - very gently – to spread and flourish where we can. But don't expect too much. Heed the words of the poet Belloc:

The young, the lovely, and the wise,
Their face is set towards their going.
They pass me with unclouded eyes
And leave me in a wild surmise
About my losing, and my owing.
The young, the lovely, and the wise,
Their face is set towards their going


07 Oct 03 - 09:31 AM (#1031199)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: McGrath of Harlow

it's yesterday's news, and they're already looking for tomorrow's

Not disagreeing really - but for anyone interested in folk music, yesterdays news, or at least yesterday's music, is likely to be of at least as much interest as tomorrows. And even more so when what's involved isn't tomorrows news and music, but today's, which is liable at all times to be largely froth. (And that's what Michael Collins was on about in that quote, I think, even if it wasn't about music as such.)

Shambles didn't appear to be musing about any lack of cross generational music-making, or about age-separation that happens spontaneously. I took it he was focusing on the assumption, that sometimes seems to be made by organisers, that it's necessary to set up a system of separate provision for different age groups (over and above children's events, which are a different thing).

And I think I'm a lot better as a musician now than I was when I was a lot longer. Which isn't to say too much perhaps. And that probably goes for Mike as well...

07 Oct 03 - 10:49 AM (#1031236)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: Art Thieme

THIS is bigger than just our folkie music scene !!! Indeed, it is reflected in the patterns that have developed among NATIONS and the ethnic and religious and racial and tribal schisms within nations. ALSO, it can be seen as directly attributable to the void and implosion caused by the demise of the Soviet Union.

PLEASE, read the book I am now half into. I found it for .25 in the books my local library is selling off after a certain amount of time without anybody having read it. The author is ARTHUR SCHLESINGER. The title of the volume is THE DISUNITING OF AMERICA---REFLECTIONS ON A MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY (W.W. Norton & Company--New York-London - 1992)

I am finding it to be a truly brilliant book that I had completely overlooked. AND it's insights can be easily extrapolated to the divisions you see in the folk scene----or in Bosnia, or Ireland- or Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Somalia, Niger, Korea---just about anywhere that has erupted in long-held tribal and ethnic festering sores that NO LONGER HAVE THE IDEALOGICAL BUFFER OF COMMUNISM AND CAPITALISM to inhibit their rampant expression all over the globe.

Art Thieme

07 Oct 03 - 10:51 AM (#1031237)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?
From: Dave Bryant

Peter-from-Essex I don't object to anybody coming into a singaround or session just to listen - as long as they do. If they just want to be noisy, then I'd rather they went elsewhere. At the session which Linda and I run, any young performers are always welcome (and encouraged) to perform. On the other hand I wouldn't want to change my repertoire or style just to be more "cool", but if there were a reasonable number of youger people present, I might at least choose some items that I'd think they'd find interesting.

07 Oct 03 - 11:28 AM (#1031262)
Subject: RE: Are there any OLD folkies out there?

There are plenty of "Old Folkies" in our neck of the woods as well as a good, fresh contingent of younger people who are carrying on the interest in the sort of music we present and promote in our "Sing and Play" evenings. For all who would like meet some folk of like mind what better than to come to "Elsie`s" on Oct.18th, 2003 to see Will Noble and John Cocking. Two fine singers from Yorkshire and not to be missed is their rendition of "Gossip Joan". For details of Elsie`s