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Is there an English singing style?

GUEST,vielleuse 19 Apr 07 - 07:56 PM
Malcolm Douglas 19 Apr 07 - 09:17 PM
Georgiansilver 20 Apr 07 - 02:48 AM
The Sandman 20 Apr 07 - 03:17 AM
George Papavgeris 20 Apr 07 - 07:25 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 20 Apr 07 - 07:26 AM
pirandello 20 Apr 07 - 07:28 AM
George Papavgeris 20 Apr 07 - 07:39 AM
Spot 20 Apr 07 - 07:45 AM
Liz the Squeak 20 Apr 07 - 08:00 AM
Spot 20 Apr 07 - 08:14 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 20 Apr 07 - 08:30 AM
Stringsinger 20 Apr 07 - 10:14 AM
Malcolm Douglas 20 Apr 07 - 10:51 AM
GUEST,robots for tea 20 Apr 07 - 10:54 AM
Mary Humphreys 20 Apr 07 - 10:59 AM
Stringsinger 20 Apr 07 - 11:01 AM
Malcolm Douglas 20 Apr 07 - 11:41 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 20 Apr 07 - 12:14 PM
pirandello 20 Apr 07 - 12:19 PM
GUEST,meself 20 Apr 07 - 12:38 PM
stallion 20 Apr 07 - 12:38 PM
Stu 20 Apr 07 - 12:42 PM
The Sandman 20 Apr 07 - 12:53 PM
Malcolm Douglas 20 Apr 07 - 01:11 PM
GUEST,vielleuse 20 Apr 07 - 01:12 PM
Malcolm Douglas 20 Apr 07 - 01:25 PM
Big Al Whittle 20 Apr 07 - 01:54 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 20 Apr 07 - 02:11 PM
Big Al Whittle 20 Apr 07 - 04:36 PM
GUEST 20 Apr 07 - 08:55 PM
Nick 20 Apr 07 - 09:03 PM
GUEST, Mikefule 21 Apr 07 - 02:12 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 21 Apr 07 - 03:42 AM
pirandello 21 Apr 07 - 08:13 AM
GUEST,meself 21 Apr 07 - 08:32 AM
johnadams 21 Apr 07 - 09:11 AM
Big Al Whittle 21 Apr 07 - 09:13 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 21 Apr 07 - 12:07 PM
GUEST,George 21 Apr 07 - 02:51 PM
oggie 21 Apr 07 - 05:04 PM
Stringsinger 21 Apr 07 - 06:36 PM
johnadams 21 Apr 07 - 06:47 PM
Big Al Whittle 21 Apr 07 - 07:12 PM
johnadams 21 Apr 07 - 07:19 PM
Malcolm Douglas 21 Apr 07 - 07:34 PM
Malcolm Douglas 21 Apr 07 - 08:13 PM
oggie 22 Apr 07 - 01:12 AM
The Sandman 22 Apr 07 - 04:59 AM
BB 22 Apr 07 - 02:23 PM
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Subject: Is there an English singing style?
From: GUEST,vielleuse
Date: 19 Apr 07 - 07:56 PM

People often say to me when I sing that I sound Irish/Celtic etc. Now this may just be because they don't know anything about folk music, and all folk music sounds Celtic to them (which is often the case), but when I analyse the kind of decoration I do, I do wonder whether I haven't picked it up from Irish singing.

Is there a distinctively English style of ornamentation, and if so what is it?


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 19 Apr 07 - 09:17 PM

Back in 1998, I went to a conference where an American postgraduate student presented a paper entitled 'Is There a Scottish Singing Style?' I won't trouble you with the abstract, which contained some pretty dubious assumptions; but in essence her conclusion was 'Er, no, there isn't. But there are Scottish singing styles.' It had taken her quite a long time, and a great deal of careful analysis, to reach that stunningly obvious conclusion.

Exactly the same thing can be said of English tradition. It varies from one part of the country to another; and, back when there were still quite a lot of traditional singers, it often varied radically from one village to another.

Some of the early C20 collectors (Sharp, for example) encountered very little ornamentation, and assumed that English singers generally didn't use it; others (Grainger, for one) found quite a lot. The point is that they were working in different areas, and there is not (and never has been, so far as can be told), a 'national' style in any country in this world.

People who don't know much about folk music will always tend to assume that anything you sing or play, if they like it, must be Irish. As you will know, 'Celtic' is a meaningless term as applied to traditional music, though it is a useful marketing tool.

Of course, you may very well have picked up a style of ornamentation that sounds Irish, particularly if you get your songs from recordings made by Revival performers, many of whom have (it would seem) never listened to an English traditional singer in their lives, but instead sing in the hybrid 'folk club' style that developed in the 1960s. There is nothing wrong with that style, of course; except that it doesn't really reflect the way traditional singers actually sang.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 02:48 AM

Considering some of the renditions of different folk songs we hear from different performers...can we say any two of them are the same? I suggest there are as many styles as there are performers.....and each persons style may change with the actual type song they are singing at the time........


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 03:17 AM

Malcolm Douglas is right,every country has many different styles,including IRELAND,
Bess Cronin,Sarah Makem,MargaretBaRRy,PaddyTunney,JoeHeaney.are examples
there are a number of revival performers who sound as if they have listened to traditional singers, Roy Harris,Lou Killen,Harry Boardman,Ian Woods Nic Jones[early recordings] ,Kevin Mitchell,Sean Cannon,Ron Taylor Anne Briggs,IsobelSutherland,BrianPeters,FredJordan PeterBellamy.
as traditional singers were frequently unaccompanied,the use of ornamentation in the voice is fairly important.
When a SINGER accompanies himself he has the added option of chordal harmony,and consequently doesnt have to use as much interpretation,
there are of course exceptions Peter Bellamy[highly ornamented whilst accompanied].Bob lewis GeoffWesley[unaccompanied small amount of ornamentation]


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 07:25 AM

Geoff Wesley, not there's a voice I like! Very little ornamentation, but the purity and sweetness of that sound!


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 07:26 AM

I must say I agree strongly with Mike.

There are at least as many styles as there are singers, and I do find that my own styles vary according to what I am doing at the time.

There are, however, some combinations of music and song which are, IMHO, quintessentially English (as just one example:- Shanties accompanied on concertina). I am sure that there are many others, and I suppose some of them would be sufficiently alike in tone and texture to be placed in a category named "English Style".

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: pirandello
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 07:28 AM

There does seem to be a predisposition to singing in a peculiar nasal style with a non-descript, generic 'Archers' regional accent.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 07:39 AM

That's a privilege that comes from half-knowledge, like those who will sing arias as if they have a hot potato down their throat.

What I find fascinating is how many people "put on" a singing voice that is very different to their speaking one; as if they are play-acting or trying to be someone else.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Spot
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 07:45 AM

Allo everybody..

                For me , as long as English singers don't affect a phoney American accent, anything goes!!!

                Regards to all...Spot    :-)


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 08:00 AM

That's exactly why Chas and Dave now sing in their original cockney tones... they got sick of being thought American because they sang their songs like that.

They actually got more bookings and eventually, more money and fame, once they dropped the US tones.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Spot
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 08:14 AM

Allo

   Good for them's what I say!!   (rabbit rabbit or whatever it was!!) They're good , those guys - I think I have one of their cassettes somewhere - must look it up...

             Regards to all....Spot :-)


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 08:30 AM

"There does seem to be a predisposition to singing in a peculiar nasal style with a non-descript, generic 'Archers' regional accent."

This is very true, but this style is usually affected by those singers who are attempting to imitate their favourite revival
singer(s). It seems unlikely to me that such people have ever listened to a traditional singer - or, if they have, it never seems to have occurred to them that there is anything to learn from such singers. This is a big mistake. Many traditional singers were recorded when they were quite old and I have heard them dismissed as "croaky old gits" and other such ageist drivel. The thing is that their recordings tend to be a world away from slick modern presentations of popular music, including stuff under the marketing category "Folk" (which often has nothing to do with 'real' folk music - see endless 'what is folk?' threads on this board).

After a lifetime of listening to recordings of traditional singers I am convinced that the best of them (Sam Larner, Harry Cox, Joseph Taylor etc., etc.) were great artists and we revival singers still have much to learn from them. If I was asked to define the difference between much modern marketed 'folk' music and recordings of trad. singers it is that the former tend to be obsessively concerned with the overall 'sound', rather than the content, of a song, whereas a traditional singer tends to focus exclusively on unpretensiously communicating narrative and melody. For my taste this is a more satisfying and authentic form of music.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 10:14 AM

One of the defining aspects of vocal style is its relationship to a cultural sub-group community. England may not have retained much of this or permitted it to become known. As in the States, the music becomes eclectic and based on a kind of show business standard common to folk clubs and coffee houses. Ethnic groups are downplayed, here in the States because the presenters usually don't have a clue about what these cultural groups are.

For example, bluegrass, which was only popular after the second world war, is only a small part of the Appalachian culture from which it purports to have occurred. It has become a representative of that culture and some would say that it is the US equivalent to the Riverdance approach to Irish culture.

If there is an English style, I don't know much about it although I have heard North Country performers and those from Cornwall in "Oss Oss Wee Oss" festivals and they seem uniquely characteristic of true English folk style. I am unfortunately ignorant because there has not been an opportunity to hear real English folksinging styles because what is presented is usually controlled by academics with an agenda or promoters who are not unlike those in the popular music field who trade on personalities they think will put butts into seats.

These ideas can be found in a great little book called "Cultural Democracy" by James "Bau" Graves, recommended reading for anyone interested in sub-cultural presentation by ethnic communities.

There seems to be a muddled view about the word "ethnic". It doesn't always mean Mid-European or alien. It represents English and American groups as well

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 10:51 AM

Plenty of recordings of real English traditional singers are available, but as a rule you have to seek out specialised record labels for them; they are produced and issued for love, not money. I don't know who the 'academics with an agenda' Frank refers to are, but they always seem to get blamed for everything that can't be put down to the mysterious 'folk police' anyway.

Of course, many of the recorded Revival performers one hears are at least semi-pro; their performances need to be polished if they are to make any sort of a living. The old singers were, in the main, just ordinary people with day jobs who happened to know some old songs, and comparing them on the same terms is fairly pointless; though some were indeed musicians of some stature. To Cox, Larner and Taylor I'd add Walter Pardon, Fred Jordan and Phil Tanner; but there were many more. There were also some remarkable stylists such as Henry Burstow, of whom no recordings survive. There is a surviving cylinder recording of David Clements singing 'The Banks of Green Willow', though, which can be heard (in two instalments) at the British Library's Collect Britain website:

EFDSS Cylinder No.97 and EFDSS Cylinder No.104

The collector George Gardiner was extremely impressed with Mr Clements' singing. He was about 80 when recorded; just think how he would have sounded in his prime. Martin Carthy was no less impressed, and it is Mr Clements' version of the song that he sings.

That nasal style wasn't much used, so far as we can tell, by English traditional singers. A lot of Travellers use it, though, and the early Revival seems to have picked it up from them. It is much more common in Ireland. The 'folk club' style is, essentially, a modern construct made of bits and pieces from all over the place. It has been reinforced by the tendency of younger performers to get their repertoire from records made by other revivalists, though of course there are honourable exceptions.

Concertina accompaniment for shanties may sound 'quintessentially English' to some people (and perhaps it is, now) but it's another product of the Revival rather than the tradition. It goes back about 50 years.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: GUEST,robots for tea
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 10:54 AM

You sing through your nose, put in a west country or scotch accent and pronounce man as mon and other pretntious shit. Then look down your nose at normal singers and ay "That's not traditional"


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Mary Humphreys
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 10:59 AM

Has anyone heard Mrs Humphries of Ingrave Essex sing her version of Tarry Trousers on the EFDSS Century of Song EFDSS CD02, 1998?
She certainly didn't sing in a nasal accent. More classical, if you ask me.
Mary


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 11:01 AM

Malcolm Douglas, the academics I refer to are the ones who instead of considering the community and the sub-culture from which these trad singers come have a vested interest in displaying their sometimes irrelevant knowledge about specific individual favorites. They claim knowledge of a culture without actually promoting that culture. They quote other academics as being important sources but often ignore the cultural-subgroup and community that fosters these singers. Academics usually have an axe to grind since they are part of an educational system that prizes a certain anal retentive kind of knowledge.

I would suggest that anyone really interested in English trad music go and live in that community from whence it originates and get to know the needs of the people there instead of commenting as an outsider to frame an agenda. Maybe then they will really know the music.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 11:41 AM

Are you talking about America or England, Frank? Or is it just a blanket condemnation of everybody who studies anything in depth without also being a social activist? Post-war demographic changes mean that there are precious few communities left where the old traditions survive; in Norfolk, for example, the singing at Sutton pretty much died with Harry Cox (the closure of the village pubs put the lid on it), and the step-dancing at Briston is only a distant memory.

Around Sheffield, where I live, there is still an active tradition, and most of the 'academics' I know who have studied it also engage in it as ordinary participants. The local Carol tradition might not have survived at all if it hadn't been for Dr Ian Russell's support over the years, and there are plenty more examples.

I don't doubt that things were very different in the past, but it isn't really fair to criticize today's 'academics' for the perceived failures of their predecessors.

On another point, there is a possibility that that recording of 'Tarry Trowsers' may actually be Lucy Broadwood rather than Mrs Humphries.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 12:14 PM

"On another point, there is a possibility that that recording of 'Tarry Trowsers' may actually be Lucy Broadwood rather than Mrs Humphries."

Well, Malcolm, that is a bombshell indeed!! It makes sense, though because:

-I have read that Lucy Broadwood occasionally provided sung illustrations for RVW's lectures on folk music.

-When RVW returned to Ingrave to record Charles Potiphar (who sang 'Bushes and Briars' to him in 1903), on wax phonograph, he found that Potiphar had died.

-The recording that Mary Humphreys refers to above also includes a version of 'Bushes and Briars' but RVW's listing of Mrs Humphries' repertoire doesn't include that particular song (it does include 'Tarry Trowzers', though).

-This would explain why 'Mrs Humphries' sounds so 'posh'.

Problem is, though, why should RVW pass off a recording of Lucy Broadwood as by Mrs Humphries? I suppose we will never know.

I have to say, though, that, posh or not, Mrs Humphries/Lucy Broadwood was a bloody good singer!


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: pirandello
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 12:19 PM

Malcolm, the old traditions you speak of will, like everything else, evolve, change and die out. In a couple of hundred years I daresay some of the things we find commonplace today will be treated with the same academic reverence and preciousness that yesterdays everyday stuff is, today.
I'll bet some of the old singers are laughing in their graves...


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 12:38 PM

"I'll bet some of the old singers are laughing in their graves..."

Oh my goodness - I hope there's something better to do on the other side than sit at your computer reading the Mudcat Forum ... I mean, that's okay for this life, but ...

On the other hand, I kind of like the idea of lying in my grave laughing ...


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: stallion
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 12:38 PM

what goes round comes round, as we stumble about with the genre the important thing is that the words and music are available, as for style , well surely those early recordings were the singers making do with the best voice they had and perhaps in their own dialect, took me years to be comfortable with my own voice and I do the best with what I have and try to improve on it, however it is essentially me and not in the style of Taylor, Carthy, Makem or Paxton and good as they may be I have no ambition to sound like any of them. I think though, where a style can be noticed is when a large group of people are singing and perhaps there is a discernible style which is worth reproducing, possibly best demonstrated by the Coppper family. Other than that I think all singers are unique in their own way.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Stu
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 12:42 PM

Excellent links Malcom.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 12:53 PM

there are many English singing styles,and really in my opinion,when it comes to unaccompanied singing,there is not a lot of difference between English and Irish Scottish and welsh,phil tanner.,Harry cox,John Mearns,paddy tunney,all use ornamentation,allput over a story well.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 01:11 PM

And all do it differently.

The point about the cylinder recordings is that they didn't have full details on the labels; at some point dates were put on them, but these may not all be accurate. Many of the identifications are just informed guesswork made long after RVW's death; he didn't 'pass them off' as anything. It was perfectly reasonable to ascribe 'Tarry Trowsers' to Mrs Humphries when 'A Century of Song' was issued, as it is certainly her version; but the presence of 'Green Bushes' on the same cylinder has always been puzzling, as has the singing style. Schoolchildren were taught to sing in a very precise way, so the enunciation and 'educated' accent of itself is not necessarily a bar to it being Mrs Humphries; but it does sound rather like Lucy Broadwood (assuming that another recording at the BL site is, as seems likely, her).

The possibility came as a surprise to me, too; the comment is made on the BL website I referred to earlier.

As to singers laughing in their graves: well, perhaps some of them are. Laughing with amused pleasure, though, I suspect, rather than in mockery as 'Pirandello', whoever he or she may be, seems to think. On the whole, they were immensely pleased that people were taking an interest in the old songs that they loved and which their own children and grandchildren so often sneered at as old-fashioned and irrelevant. In a good few cases, their descendants have been able to re-learn those same songs, forgotten in their own families, from the collections made in the early years of the C20.

The rather snobbish anti-intellectualism of some 'folk revivalists' has always been a puzzle to me. The whole point, surely, is that there is room for everybody?


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: GUEST,vielleuse
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 01:12 PM

I had a feeling this might generate a few replies! Thanks for them. It's true I should go back and listen to "source" singers more. Can anyone suggest (easily available) recordings I should listen to? (Preferably female singers as I find it easier to relate.) I've been meaning to visit the sound library at CSH but of course it's only open when I'm at work.

As for accent and pronunciation, I struggle with the kind of generic folk accent many singers seem to adopt, and try to sing just as myself.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 01:25 PM

And that is certainly the right way; it's what the original singers did, after all. The point in listening to them isn't (as some people seem to think) in order to copy their accents, but to understand the way they interpreted the material, unfiltered through the relatively modern 'folk club' style.

Apart from the Musical Traditions cds, try also Veteran, Kyloe, Rounder Records and Topic Records; all of which have recordings of English traditional singers available (see their websites for more detail). There's also the late Peter Kennedy's FolkTrax label (basically cdrs of field recordings made in the 1950s and '60s); I don't know what its current status is, though.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 01:54 PM

George

Surely you are entitled to be someone else when you are singing a song. Its like a speech in a theatre. Its someone's impassioned statement - not necessarilly your own.

People don't say to Ian McKellen or Helen Mirren - that's not your voice. they are quite legitimately trying to express a character other than their own.

I have no real quarrel with people using a 'traditonal' voice. I just object to their endless contention that it is somehow less of an imaginative creation than Ziggy Stardust.

The thing is, that several traditional songs are best known in this country through singers that voices which have American mannerisms. Nottanum Towm - surely best known from Bert Jansch, being a good case in point. Also the Childe Ballads - many of us got to hear them first off from Joan Baez.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 02:11 PM

"The rather snobbish anti-intellectualism of some 'folk revivalists' has always been a puzzle to me. The whole point, surely, is that there is room for everybody?"

I totally agree!
Mind you, in some circles it's just not fashionable, or 'cool', to think, reflect, research or analyse.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 04:36 PM

Yes, I don't think you'd get many votes for intellectualism though!

Its a sensual thing. Like capital punishment. You just know what you believe. Empiricism and cerebration won't really convince anybody - believe me, I've tried.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 08:55 PM

Drink less before you sing and you will be less likely to be mistaken for Irish. Hike up your knickers, high, into your crotch and you are more likely to be mistaken for Scott. Sing off-key and they will know you are a Brit.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Nick
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 09:03 PM

Which part of England?

Which part of England is the English singing style?


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: GUEST, Mikefule
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 02:12 AM

I was born and raised in England, and, until I became interested in folk music, pretty much by accident, I never ever came across English traditional song, music or dance in any form whatsoever.

The only exception was that I have a vague recollection of seeing Morris dancing in Norfolk in the late 1960s - and from what little I can remember, that was Cotswold dancing and must have been a revival side. Oh and we did some non-descript country dancing at school.

So for the first 20 years of my life, English traditional singing simply did not exist for me, despite having lived in a small rural village for a few years, and in a poor working class urban area for the rest of the time. It was never on the radio. My parents didn't sing at home. I had no opportunity to absorb a traditional English style through the "traditional process".

In the 24 years since, I have never once come across "English traditional singing" outside the confines of a folk club or Morris event. That suggests to me that there is little or no English traditional singing outside of the folk subculture.

Only a small number of people are born into the folk subculture and learn the songs in something approximating to the tradtional way. Most people who are interested in traditional music become so as adults, and go to clubs/festivals or buy CDs to find out more about it.

So the styles that exist are a product of the folk subcluture: a hybrid of ideas picked up from the few genuine traditional singers who "do the circuit"; from recordings; and mainly from hearing each other, and copying what sounds good to them. And what works.

We've all heard singers putting on a nasal Mummerset "folk voice" because they think it is de rigeur.

But if you step outside of the folk subculture and look at "England" you will find that a Geordie, a Norfolk "good ol' boy", a Cockney and a Cornishman all speak very differently. The rhythms of speech, the grammar, the syntax and the vocabulary vary enormously. I have a work mate who is from Barnsley and have had English customers complain that they couldn't understand her on the telephone.

Accents and dialects are still genuinely part of English regional culture, even though there is some "cross-contamination" these days.

If accents and dialects are that different, then it must follow that when singing was an established part of mainstream culture, the styles must have varied accordingly. Singing in Geordie or singing in Cockney must be as different as playing a guitar or playing a banjo. Different styles and ornaments will naturally "fall into place".

We are not one country, except for political and dadministrative purposes.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 03:42 AM

"Yes, I don't think you'd get many votes for intellectualism though!"

What's this, WLD? A personal attack - I would have thought you were above that sort of thing!


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: pirandello
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 08:13 AM

I recently took the opportunity to visit a website concerned with acoustic, fingerstyle country blues guitar and I could not believe the anal depths of analysis of, for example, Robert Johnson's, songs; down to the last inflection and nuance-even to the point of having to tune your guitar slightly sharp in order for it to sound 'authentic'.
When I responded that it was unlikely that RJ ever played a song exactly the same twice in a row they were horrified.
They couldn't accept that the SPIRIT of the song was paramount in its performance rather than a rigorous adherence to the minutiae of the recorded work.
There's a danger in over-intellectualising music and tearing it apart in the cause of 'research'. These were simple tunes, simply sung and treating them like the Dead Sea Scrolls does them a disservice and ignores their fundamental purpose.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 08:32 AM

Different strokes for different folks. It is in the nature of some people to take an intellectual approach to whatever catches their interest. Often they have little patience with people who are uninterested in their sort of understanding. It is in the nature of some other people to avoid intellectualising, and to just DO. Often they have little patience with people who have an intellectual turn of mind. Both types have much to contribute, and much of what they have to contribute is BS. It's just the way of things; no use to rail against either group, they can't change. If the "over-intellectualising" gets on your nerves, just avoid it, 'cause you're not going to make it go away.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: johnadams
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 09:11 AM

Pirandello wrote:

There's a danger in over-intellectualising music and tearing it apart in the cause of 'research'.

Many people deconstruct musical performances in order to give themselves a new set of tools to bring to their own performances. This often enriches the experience for all of us who listen to these performances. While I agree that there is a lot of academic clap trap around, one has to be careful not to throw babies out with bathwater.

These were simple tunes, simply sung and treating them like the Dead Sea Scrolls does them a disservice and ignores their fundamental purpose.

Sorry but...... this is the phrase that makes me really cringe. Folk music all over the world is often but not always based on simple themes but invariably it takes a huge amount of effort and sometimes lifetimes of experience to bring the subtle techniques to bear. Nobody can just walk up and replicate a Joseph Taylor performance. Chris Coe has spent hours teasing out the little techniques that he used and helping students bring those techniques into their singing toolkit. Listen to a classical violin player attempting a 'simple' folk dance tune and you soon realise how far away they are from playing it in any way that suits its 'fundamental purpose'.

We've lost hundreds of techniques in the past decades/centuries. Some people are interested in reclaiming them and using them again.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 09:13 AM

No Shimrod - no attack.

You can't downplay the part intellectuals have played in preserving folksongs. They have the'nous' to see thatits an important artistic movement.

I just think their antics (occasionally you can see it on mudcat) like nuns at college dance superintending what is 'proper' and telling us what no one has the right to regard as folk music - is not always to the general benefit of the movement.

Theres a famous filmed interview with Ewan MacColl where he tells of how he sometimes has to sit through hours of old people singing their repertoire of pop songs, before they remember that they know a folksong. Quite why modern singers shouldn't be allowed the same latitude as the oldsters, I really am not sure.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 12:07 PM

OK WLD, no offense taken (I would never claim to be an intellectual, anyway - just a stroppy old git who has something of a horror of received wisdom).
I also suppose that I'm not particularly interested in old or new pop songs - they don't give me that buzz of excitement that 'real' (and let's not get into that again!!) folk songs do. And, let's be honest, if I'd been Cecil Sharp I would have ignored the pop songs as well and if I'd been Ewan MacColl I would have been bored and impatient with such stuff also. But then over the last 40 years I HAVE patiently sat through hundreds of hours of 'not-folk' in folk clubs waiting for that precious moment when someone DOES sing a 'real' folk song - and sings it well with passion and understanding.

I also agree with everything that John Adams says. A lot of people seem to mistake the lack of slickness in recordings of trad. singers/musicians for lack of skill - but they were often very skillful indeed - you just have to learn to approach their music in a very different way.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: GUEST,George
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 02:51 PM

I find the Martin Carthy type singing, i.e, a bit behind the bar, extremely affected and irritating.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: oggie
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 05:04 PM

re Joseph Taylor.

It is possible that he was not at all representative of Lincolnshire "Folk" singers of that time. He was a "professional" competitor in singing competitions and may have developed his style in order to win. His style is extremely complex and ornate and compsred with the other examples I've heard, "Unto Brigg Fair" is one source, seems out of kilter with the others and to singers I heard in Lincolnshire in my youth.   He was, however, a brilliant singer.

All the best

Steve Ogden


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 06:36 PM

Cecil Sharp when he collected what he thought were English folk song fragments completely ignored the five-string banjo and considered it a "bowlderized" instrument taking away from the purity of the unaccompanied ballad. Therefore in his mind, the five-string banjo was not a folk instrument.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: johnadams
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 06:47 PM

re Joseph Taylor.

It is possible that he was not at all representative of Lincolnshire "Folk" singers of that time. He was a "professional" competitor in singing competitions and may have developed his style in order to win.


Hmm. Does that mean that he wasn't 'traditional'?

Maybe he just had ALL the tricks and techniques that were going at the time.

If a clog dancer works hard and wins clog dancing competitions with lots of fancy steps, we still probably regard what (s)he does as 'traditional' dancing.


We can't believe it has to be unaccomplished to be traditional. There's too much evidence to the contrary.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 07:12 PM

Many beliefs about the nature of English traditional music are predicated on Taylor's singing.

The trouble is that that's all they are: beliefs.

Try saying that on Mudcat and you'll soon have a veritable wolfpack of traddy intolerance snapping at your heels.

This awful situation where an 'informed minority' has hi-jacked the style in which folksong must be sang and in doing that has deprived the English of their folksongs - I can't believe it would be tolerated in any other country.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: johnadams
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 07:19 PM

I believe that there are lots of lovely techniques to enjoy using or listening to.

That'll do me.

J


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 07:34 PM

Frank:

Presumably you are talking about Sharp's collecting in America. I rather doubt that he ever used the term 'bowdlerised' in relation to any musical instrument; and he certainly didn't say that the banjo wasn't 'a folk instrument'; neither did he ignore it. The diaries he kept during his Appalachian trip clearly show that he heard the banjo being played on a number of occasions. He heard it used for dance music, however, not for song accompaniment. Neither did he despise the instrument, as is sometimes suggested by people who perhaps want him to have; as it happens, he taught himself to play the banjo (though probably not the 5-string form; I'd guess at the tenor, which was popular in England at the time) during one of his recurrent bouts of illness.

I'm not at all sure what all that has to do with any discussion of English (as opposed to American) singing styles, mind.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 21 Apr 07 - 08:13 PM

Joseph Taylor may not have been typical, but then, neither (for example) were Jeannie Robertson in Scotland or Joe Heaney in Ireland. They are all looked to as models of excellence, however, and I don't see anything wrong with that; so long as they are recognised as exceptional practitioners rather than representative of the norm. The fact that not all violin players are up to Paganini's or Kreisler's standards doesn't invalidate those players as role models, after all.

It was Joseph Taylor's son who was a regular (prize-winning) competitor in singing competitions (as a solo tenor). Taylor snr. did enter the folk song competitions at Brigg, though. He sang in the church choir as well. Grainger made it quite clear that Taylor used ornamentation 'more than almost any folk singer I have ever come across', but also was quite clear that the Licolnshire singers whose songs he noted (and sometimes also recorded, fortunately for us) mostly used a lot of ornamentation; with the exception, for some reason, of the Gouldthorpe brothers. See Grainger, 'Collecting with the Phonograph' in Journal of the Folk-Song Society, III (12) 1908, 147-242; in particular some of his detailed notation.


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: oggie
Date: 22 Apr 07 - 01:12 AM

I wasn't implying that there was anything wrong with his virtuosity, in fact I like his material, just that it might not be typical. Thank you for the reference re Grainger.

All the best

Steve Ogden


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Apr 07 - 04:59 AM

Ithink ther is something in JohnAdams post and also in Pirandellos.
good TRADITONAL SINGERS and also good BLUES SINGERS,managed to convey feelings and emotion,almost certainly sang the song differently each time without thinking about it,it was something that occurred naturally.
It is possible to teach singing technique and style and this is praiseworthy.but singing with feeling is something that has to come from inside,some people have it, some dont.
Futhermore some people can have it one day but not the next.the muse can be fickle


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Subject: RE: Is there an English singing style?
From: BB
Date: 22 Apr 07 - 02:23 PM

WLD said, "This awful situation where an 'informed minority' has hi-jacked the style in which folksong must be sang and in doing that has deprived the English of their folksongs - I can't believe it would be tolerated in any other country."

I really don't understand this statement. English traditional songs are sung in any number of styles, from people inspired by the likes of Joseph Taylor or other 'source' singers, to Devil's Interval, to Nic Jones, to Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention, and lots of others in between.

*Please* explain what you mean. I'd really like to know.

Barbara


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