Mudcat Café message #3603817 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #153775   Message #3603817
Posted By: Jim Carroll
22-Feb-14 - 12:47 PM
Thread Name: English vs. American folk culture
Subject: RE: English vs. American folk culture
" in the UK it would also be sung in pubs especially on a Friday or Saturday night and gaining a wider audience before the days of recording. "
Moot point Hoot -
Sam Larner once described how they used to meet regularly in the local pub 'the Fisherman's Return' and sing "everything under the sun", but he insisted that "the real singing was always done at home or at sea".
Walter Pardon never sang in a pub until he was 'discovered' by the revival and he said that he only ever saw it happen in a pub (in the back room) following Agricultural Worker's Union meetings, he watched his uncle Billy sing through the window - otherwise, he only sang at home and at harvest suppers.
I have no idea how long venues like The Eels Foot in Suffolk hosted a singing session and what type of singing took place there, but I suspect that it was not unsimilar to Sam or Walter's description.
I have never been convinced of the general existence of a pub singing scene in England, it defies logic that the long narrative songs and ballads that make up the British repertoire would survive a bar full of drinkers.
The pub sessions that were filmed and recorded by the BBC were deliberately set up by them - hilarious story of Bert Lloyd recording one and being too profligate with the 'entertainment' expenses - end result - a pub full of singers too pissed to sing.
In Ireland, all the singing, dancing and music took place in farmhouse kitchens (rambling or ceili houses) - the kitchens were such an established place for dancing that it is still possible to find 'battering pots' - old cooking utensils or even animal skulls deliberately buried under the floor to provide a 'sounding spot for a dancer to display his skills at virtuoso solo dancing.
One old musician once told us that "the music was ruined when it went into the pubs".
I believe that pub singing was overwhelmingly confined to urban areas; fascinating book on London pub singing entitled 'Tavern Singing in Early Victorian London' (The diaries of Charles Rice for 1840 and 1850)   
It was published by The Society for Theatre Research - difficult to get but well worth the effort.
Jim Carroll