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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Deckman How Many Verses? (49) RE: How Many Verses? 21 Dec 16

I believe the song should continue just as long as it takes for the tale to be well told. If we're talking about "traditional folk ballads", those songs can continue for far longer than our modern day ears ( and brains ) are accustomed to. However, I feel that our shorter attention span is a result of our modern day input of T.V., sound bites, commercials, rapidity, etc.

Someone early on in this thread mentioned the olden ballad of "Mattie Groves." I have perhaps a unique acquaintance with this murder ballad. And by my sharing of this story, perhaps I'll prove my point:

My folk music mentor, starting in 1949, was a radio sidekick of "Haywire Mac." They shared the same mic for several years broadcasting live on a San Francisco radio station in the early thirties. His name was "Bill Higley." His radio moniker was "Willi Waw Willy".

Early on in my training with him, he insisted that I learn several of the long ballads. He said that these would sharpen my mind and build attention to my powers of memory. I was only able to spend a few weeks with him during the summers of my teen age years. So when I went to visit him occasionally for more training, I always had several 'long ballads' carefully memorized. One was "Mattie Groves."

When I first performed it for him, I got through the first 29 verses from memory, and also with very good diction (remember that Bill Higley was a radio man"). On the very last verse, I stumbled on ONE WORD. He stopped me and said: "What did you say?" I repeated (spoken) that mispronounced word. He said: "DO IT AGAIN!"

As I started to sing that verse again, he stopped me and said: "DO IT AGAIN ... FROM THE FIRST VERSE!"

I did, and I've also never forgotten that lesson.

As many others have said far better than I can, your passion for the story, the song, the enjoyment and respect of the music can carry most audiences through any long ballad, as long as you enjoy it also.

A few years ago, I had the great pleasure of singing "The Braes of Yarrow" to 150 teenagers in Idaho. Using every skill that I didn't know I had, I kept them captivated for EIGHT MINUTES as I sang, and told, and acted out, this incredible saga.

... would that commercial television would disappear we could get back to what we can do to truly enrich out lives and educate those who follow in of shadows. CHHERS, bob

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