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radio 4 how folk songs should be sung

Vic Smith 01 Dec 14 - 09:08 AM
GUEST,Rahere 01 Dec 14 - 07:49 AM
The Sandman 30 Nov 14 - 12:03 PM
Brian Peters 30 Nov 14 - 11:48 AM
Jim Carroll 30 Nov 14 - 09:54 AM
Brian Peters 30 Nov 14 - 09:32 AM
Vic Smith 30 Nov 14 - 07:31 AM
MGM·Lion 30 Nov 14 - 07:23 AM
GUEST,Rahere 30 Nov 14 - 05:38 AM
The Sandman 30 Nov 14 - 04:00 AM
Jim Carroll 30 Nov 14 - 03:57 AM
The Sandman 29 Nov 14 - 04:29 PM
Brian Peters 29 Nov 14 - 04:24 PM
GUEST,Rahere 29 Nov 14 - 02:28 PM
Vic Smith 29 Nov 14 - 02:07 PM
michaelr 29 Nov 14 - 12:56 PM
Jim Carroll 29 Nov 14 - 11:56 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Nov 14 - 11:44 AM
GUEST,John Foxen 29 Nov 14 - 10:51 AM
MGM·Lion 29 Nov 14 - 10:25 AM
The Sandman 29 Nov 14 - 06:20 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Nov 14 - 05:13 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Nov 14 - 05:04 AM
The Sandman 29 Nov 14 - 04:25 AM
GUEST,Rahere 29 Nov 14 - 04:04 AM
Musket 29 Nov 14 - 03:34 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Nov 14 - 03:04 AM
GUEST,Rahere 28 Nov 14 - 08:57 PM
The Sandman 28 Nov 14 - 05:08 PM
GUEST,Rahere 28 Nov 14 - 03:19 PM
Jim Carroll 28 Nov 14 - 03:06 PM
GUEST 28 Nov 14 - 01:19 PM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 28 Nov 14 - 12:19 PM
The Sandman 28 Nov 14 - 12:15 PM
GUEST,Jon Dudley 28 Nov 14 - 11:59 AM
Jim Carroll 28 Nov 14 - 04:00 AM
GUEST 27 Nov 14 - 04:57 PM
The Sandman 27 Nov 14 - 04:27 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Nov 14 - 03:04 PM
GUEST,Rahere 27 Nov 14 - 02:29 PM
The Sandman 27 Nov 14 - 01:09 PM
Brian Peters 27 Nov 14 - 12:58 PM
Vic Smith 27 Nov 14 - 12:48 PM
The Sandman 27 Nov 14 - 12:36 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Nov 14 - 12:33 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Nov 14 - 12:23 PM
Brian Peters 27 Nov 14 - 12:07 PM
The Sandman 27 Nov 14 - 12:03 PM
Brian Peters 27 Nov 14 - 11:50 AM
Jim Carroll 27 Nov 14 - 11:31 AM
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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 01 Dec 14 - 09:08 AM

I hope that soon I may be able to make a more informed contribution to the everlasting debates...... a review copy of Legacy of Ewan MacColl: The Last Interview has just dropped through the letter box.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 01 Dec 14 - 07:49 AM

It's the emotion which needs judgement, though, and sensitivity to the audience. A caring song in a Rugby Club? Max Boyce: Oh, snaily snail! worthy of Shakespeare...that's where the heart of grabbing the audience lies.
And then there are those who say the important bit is the reminder the CDs are at the back...


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 12:03 PM

Jim, thankyou for your earlier post of 3.57 am, that is useful info.
On the occasions I saw Ewan and Peggy perform I was impressed with their performance presentation, I would appreciate examples if you felt like sending them or any info about their approach to song intros.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 11:48 AM

Always interested in that stuff, Jim.

"[intros] should add something to the song rather than repeat something that's already there, though there is no harm in drawing attention to something that might be missed."

Exactly. In a complicated ballad, some vital detail can certainly be missed if it flies past quickly, or if the wording is a bit opaque. Point it up in advance, and a listener meets it with glad recognition.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 09:54 AM

"Jim, that is just the kind of thing I was hoping to hear about song intros"
Pleased to hear it Brian - will be happy to send you some examples if they are of use
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 09:32 AM

I remember hearing a performance of 'Matty Groves' which had seemed to go on for ever on account of an uninspiring delivery of the 'standard' Fairport version. About sixteen verses in, the singer stopped to announce:
"I can't rememeber the rest, but anyway they all end up dead."

A classic blow-off, indeed.

Jim, that is just the kind of thing I was hoping to hear about song intros.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 07:31 AM

.... and the end the classic blow-off, minor emotional peak.....

There is something about some performances of a song that I can come to call last verse syndrome. A song has been going well; no slips - no forgotten words - no stumbles. You can feel that sense of relief, particularly with inexperienced singers, towards the end of a song and there is a lapse in concentration, a switch off just too soon and that is when the words don't come out or there is a drift off tune or some other slip up.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 07:23 AM

The intro question is vital. I remember once being one of the judges in the Cecil Sharp House London Folk Festival competition, & subsequently writing the experience up for Folk Review; mentioning in particular the difficulty of judging between a good but rather run-of-the-mill group, and a m-f duo whose singing was way above average but the resolute facetiousness of whose intros was a real pain-in-the-arse turn-off.

We judges were pretty-well divided, iirc; and the prize eventually went to neither, but to the agreed runner-up on all our lists.

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 05:38 AM

A lot of it is in voice tone, and perhaps adds importance to the middle 1/3 of a performance, in that the first 1/3 is grabbing them (often using an accessible piece), the middle confirming their loyalty, and the end the classic blow-off, minor emotional peak - recovery - big hit - thank'ee folks.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 04:00 AM

In my opinion introducing songs well is important, one thing I do not like is somebody introducing a song whilst denigrating it, why sing a song if you do not like it? neither can I see the point of telling the story before it has been sung, background info in my opinion is good.
I have noticed that some of the best performers use humour to get the audience on their side.
Prformers like Roy Harris manage to create an intimate feel, rather like a storyteller round a fireside.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 03:57 AM

"The pros and cons of song introductions have been debated here recently"
The question of introductions to songs was a constant theme throughout the time I knew MacColl.
He thought they were essential to prevent evenings from being conveyor belt productions of songs - "next - next - next" - on the other hand, he argued that they should never be too long, nor should they be superfluous - an example was the tendency of some singers to tell the story of the song, then repeat the exercise by singing it.
He limited, (or claimed to limit) his introductions to no more than (I think - have to check) a minute and a half.
I've just been listening to an evenings of ballads at the Singers, where some of the introductions were of the best I've heard - for instance, he introduced The Keach in the Creel, with the fableaux of the renaissance painter's apprentice who fancies his master's daughter and creates a diversion to keep the parents away while he has his wicked way (said to be one of the fore-runners of the ballad) - masterful.
Occasionally he would use the introduction to place a ballad in its historical setting, like The Battle of Harlaw or The Laird of Warriston.
At other times both he and Peggy would link a song and a story, making the latter an introduction to the former.
Introductions in the sessions over here in Ireland are extremely rare, and personally, I miss them very much; I feel you can loose a lot of the song without them.
I found it rather refreshing recently when I attended an afternoon concert of ballads set up by The National Library as part of their 'Man, Womam and Child' project, to hear singers introducing their songs - it added so much to the proceedings.
I think the rule of thumb with introductions is that they should contain relevant information, be entertaining and should add something to the song rather the repeat something that's already there, though there is no harm in drawing attention to something that might be missed.
An example of this that always springs to mind from MacColl, is his savouring the beautiful description of pregnancy in the ballad, Gil Morrice when the wife confesses that Gil is her son, and not her lover, as the vengeful husband suspects "I ance was fu' o' Gil Morrice as the hip is of the stone" (stick your thumbnail into into the thin layer of flesh of a rose hip, and you'll see what I mean)
I've noticed that some of the most interested responses from audiences when we've beeing giving a talk, particularly from those who are not particularly familiar with the folk song genre, have arisen from introductions.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 04:29 PM

"So, at the simplest - and simple is good - we don't just sing the song, we perform it, we colour it to tell a tale. What that tale is is partly in the song, and partly in what we decide to do with it.

And then there's the question of grabbing the audience..."
and there are many was of gettong an audience apart from grabbing them, an example is Roy Harris.
"Yes, true, Michael. This forum would not be here without Max but the other Michael - he of the MGM tag - is also right that the whole folk song movement would not have developed in the way it did without the enormous pioneering work of Cecil Sharp"
my thoughts too, Vic.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 04:24 PM

Interesting post, Rahere. The pros and cons of song introductions have been debated here recently (and I'm with you on the 'pro' side), but I'm now wondering what MacColl had to say on the matter, and whether it came up as a topic in CG. Jim...?


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 02:28 PM

What I'm reviving is the thought that as performers, we have a tale to tell, which needs more than just a dull "next" introduction stringing the songs together, the best performances have a thread running through them. Robin Williamson is a case in point, he engages with the audience in a way which takes them on board and only releases them at the end. It doesn't have to be something deep and meaningful, we can achieve a lot by demonstrating the folly of the world, or what you will. But a simple catalogue of songs does nobody any service, the music least of all.

It was Ewan above all who started us on that track, crossing the boundaries of the theatre. Steeleye's 1974 Tour, for example, introduced a multimedia film performance into the set. This might have headed in the direction of a more integrated performance, meeting up with the Concept Album, had it not been for the overthrow of performer autonomy which happened in 1976-7 with the imposition of punk and hip-hop.

It is slowly returning though: Marvellous Machines, written by Andy Mellon and Pete Flood and performed by most of Bellowhead, earlier this year, was above all else a concept piece. A weird one, but one none the less.

So, at the simplest - and simple is good - we don't just sing the song, we perform it, we colour it to tell a tale. What that tale is is partly in the song, and partly in what we decide to do with it.

Andd then there's the question of grabbing the audience...


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 02:07 PM

...the man but for whom this thread, indeed this very forum, would not exist...

Yes, true, Michael. This forum would not be here without Max but the other Michael - he of the MGM tag - is also right that the whole folk song movement would not have developed in the way it did without the enormous pioneering work of Cecil Sharp.

I am reminded of the extraordinary tribute paid to him by The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain at the 2007 Cambridge Folk Festival.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: michaelr
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 12:56 PM

...the man but for whom this thread, indeed this very forum, would not exist...

Max


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 11:56 AM

Should read
"Bridson, Mitchell and Chilton were all part of that "long and winding road" which now seems to have taken a turn for the worse"
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 11:44 AM

"On the subject of radio pioneers we should raise a glass to Douglas Geoffrey Bridson"
Second that - Bridson's description of the struggle to get the working voice accepted by The BBC is fascinating - Yorkshireman, Wilfred Pickles was once given the job as newsreader, but was removed after complaints that he couldn't be understood.
Bridson, Mitchell and Chilton were all part of that "long and winding road" which now seems to have
Bridson's book is sub-title 'The Rise and fall of the BBC' it's interesting to speculate what the old guard would make of the 'Estuary English' and the loss of word-endings, which now seems to be the standard form of communication (I swear I thought that "brawban" was a Scotsman's support for a boycott!"
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,John Foxen
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 10:51 AM

On the subject of radio pioneers we should raise a glass to Douglas Geoffrey Bridson who used Ewan MacColl in his radio dramas and mentions him in his book Prospero And Ariel. Bridson was desperate to get "ordinary" people on the air in the Thirties but the BBC would not allow the masses to broadcast unscripted. So Bridson would talk to them and write scripts which the folk could read confidently because it was the way they spoke. A cumbersome and complicated method but it did get the voice of the people past the BBC censors and on the air.
There is a long and winding trail to the radio ballads and Bridson, Chilton and many others played their part in opening up the airwaves.
Now the pendulum has swung the other way and hearing a lot of what goes on radio today, in the words of Jim Copper I feel "prostrate with dismal".


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 10:25 AM

From: Leadfingers - PM
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 05:26 AM

If Cecil Sharpe collected over a hundred versions of only one song , which version is 'Right' ??

.,,.,
In interests of accuracy --

          Sharp

≈M≈

Sorry if coming over as pedantic, for which I have been denounced more than once before ("MGM your pedantry is legendary" was one compliment I received); but I do think we should pay the man but for whom this thread, indeed this very forum, would not exist, the compliment and respect of getting his name right.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 06:20 AM

In the opinion of Peter Cox, the fight game has vocal action that is better shared out than on the unbalanced on the edge, Ewans voice and acting abilty are more impressive here.
the above are the words of Peter Cox, not my words.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 05:13 AM

"it means that your satatement is not correct"
It means no such thing - if you re-read the passage you quoted you will notice it refers to a small sequence lasting a few minutes in an hour long Radio Ballad - Cox refers to it as 'the stalking' sequence.
How on earth does one comment by one writer on one sequence of one Radio Ballad contradict what I said.
Shakespeare wrote a few rotten lines, in general, his plays are the finest in English, if not world literature.
Take this further if you wish Dick, for me, it ends here.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 05:04 AM

It wasn't so much the music that was the problem for the production team, rather, it was the actuality.
What they got from the road workers was excellent, probably among the best from people like Jack Hamilton.
The problem, they felt, was the over-long sequences of technical detail from the experts, which they thought interrupted the flow of the whole thing - they were responding to previous criticisms of there not being enough detail of the trade.
I find your comments fascinating Rahere, though I'm not familiar enough with modern theatre production to add much to what you say.
I know the Theatre work done by The Critics was highly regarded in some circles; I got to meet Sam Wanamaker and Joan Littlewood during the Festival of Fools and Ian Cuthbertson appeared at the Singers Club once in a 'Poetry and Song' evening
Ewan's dream was to involve those members of the the Group in a theatre/music combination team, a failure which came to a somewhat undignified conclusion.
I was always interested in theatre, but not enough to be part of the changes in the Group when Ewan shifted the focus away from song; it's often forgotten that it was the theatrical side of the work that collapsed, not the song.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 04:25 AM

I agree the book is very good, the comment is not meaning less it means that your satatement is not correct
"The uniqueness of the Radio Ballads was that they dealt with entire social groups, and communities based entirely on the words of working people without the intervention of a commentator - a seamless commentary with music."
in my opinion the radio ballads are excellent.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 04:04 AM

One detail from a draft I didn't put forwards but should is Ewan's importance as a visionary in making you folks think, much like we were on the burn on the stage. From our side, it laid the foundations for the UK's lead in breaking the barriers down, producing not only a new generation of musical, but the downright outlandish, The Dog in the Night, Billie Elliott, Splatalot...
It even crosses over - Made in Dagenham The Musical, Urinetown the Musical...I wonder what Ewan would have thought of that?


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Musket
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 03:34 AM

Funnily enough, 'Song of a Road" is possibly my favourite. My adaptation of "Fitter's Song" is one of my more regular songs I sing.

Music is an abstraction and if the content of the song reflected the documentary properly and in context but it wasn't a good song, the song wouldn't have survived outside of the programme. The ones that have are testament to the song, not the strength or weakness of the radio ballad itself.

My brother recalls many years ago when he went to folk clubs for a time, and recently said that "Shoals of Herring" was one of his favourite songs and reminds him of happy days in a club where he was living in the early '70s. From our chat, it was clear he had never heard of the radio ballads and hadn't realised MaColl had written it. Music isn't a large part of his life by any means, but for me this is an example of songs standing on their merit rather than context.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 03:04 AM

"apparantly not according to Peter Cox"
Peter's book is one of the most thoughtful and objective books written about MacColl and his work - taking one line about one Radio Ballad is meaningless
The entire book on all the Radio Ballads is dedicated to pointing out exactly how important and unique they where - which is what I said.
All the Radio Ballads had their weaknesses; according to the team who made the Ballads, the weakest one was 'Song of a Road', I'm not sure why.
One of the problems of 'On The Edge' was that the subject matter being dealt with was in a constant state of change; fashions, taste, language were in a constant state of flux and became quickly dated.
None of this in any way reduces their importance and their role in changing the media's approach to broadcasting the working voice; taking comments out of contexts seems to be a little facile.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 08:57 PM

So the world's not perfect. To disable the entire thing by focusing on a detail is incoherent, though: one voice is not the message, indeed the weakness of the narration makes the peoples' voices more powerful.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 05:08 PM

The uniqueness of the Radio Ballads was that they dealt with entire social groups, and communities based entirely on the words of working people without the intervention of a commentator - a seamless commentary with music."
apparantly not according to Peter Cox[set into song, for example page 197] "on the edge" radio ballad, quote, overall its a frustrating piece,much less than the sum of some fascinating parts its design flaw, Ewans intrusive and inappropriate voice" not my words but an extract from set into song.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 03:19 PM

Whoops, 27 Nov 14 - 04:57 PM was me - I was so busy making sure my comments were objective and fair I forgot to sign it! Although I'd spent a good few hours in the VWML beforehand, I only really came across into real folk at Loughborough in the 1970s, taking over Mike Smith's job as Program Controller of the Uni Radio Station so he could help Dave Kettlewell on All The Tunes.

My time on the edge of the theatre was from 69-74, although some chums had been involved earlier - Bob Yetzes (the much bullied Fisher in If, filmed in 1967) and Jeff Sirr (Jai in Tarzan c1966) were mates and we were to some extent educated in the heritage we were going to carry, senior pupils passing the ball down to junior, and it was clear things were expected from us - people like Anne Skelton would do gigs just for fun, so finding myself SMing Queen as a guest band at L'boro a couple of years later was just par for the course (the weekend before the Hammersmith Odeon recording, actually the weekend Rhapsody made #1) - this was the time we were pushing Kraftwerk and Mike Oldfield to Radio 1. ELO, Mud, yep, did them too - not the Stones though. As I've explained elsewhere, Alleyns was the birthplace of the NYT movement - we also count the likes of Leslie Howard, Frank Thornton, David Hemmings, Julian Glover, Simon Ward, Jude Law and Sam West in the number. I say on the edge of the Theatre with a degree of tongue in cheek - where the demarkation in work and thinking on a School Production and ideas going forwards to the NYT and beyond lay is anybody's guess. Jude Law is typical: his first NYT stage credits are from age 14, the same age I was when finding those OWALW uniforms. Oh the innocence of youth...

One other angle I'm trying to think back to - and it is fifty years - is that as far as I can recall, the Coppers were about the last of a wider movement in Rottingdean. I know that one name from my not then too distant past was a maypole expert from the area, Freddie Hambleton, who had also broadcast summat. For the real geeks, he's worked in the LBSCR Eastleigh works and did the paintwork on the renovated Terrier loco Bluebell from memory.

Guest 28 Nov 14 - 01:19 PM is not me.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 03:06 PM

"That would indeed precurse the radio ballads, and by all of seven years."
Fascinating, yes, but not the precursor of the Radio Ballads - I would love to hear it.
Country life programmes involving country people were not uncommon producers such as Olive Shaply and Denis Mitchell did a number of them in the 1940s, the first of these was probably George Bramwell Evens (Romany)
I seem to remember that Winford Vaughan Thomas did one in the 1940s on Phil Tanner entitled 'The Gower Nightingale' and Robin Flower made one in Ireland on The Blaskets which included storyteller, Peig Sayers.
There are accounts of more in back copies of 'The Countryman Magazine' (I might be mistaken, but I think the Copper Family appeared in that publication)
The uniqueness of the Radio Ballads was that they dealt with entire social groups, and communities based entirely on the words of working people without the intervention of a commentator - a seamless commentary with music.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 01:19 PM

"Not to mention the faux Scottish accent, form a Salford lad.
Maccoll grew up in a Scots household, learned his songs from Scots lodgers and neighbors and his Scots parents.


I once went with a colleague to do a job. On the way back he said we were passing near his mother's house, and would I mind if we called in. Of course I wouldn't, and his hospitable Scottish mother regaled us with tea and cakes, and much family gossip. To my surprise, my colleague conversed with her throughout in a strong Scottish accent like hers. When we left, I asked my colleague if he always spoke like that at home. He didn't know what I meant. He did not realise that he changed from a broad local, English, accent when in a family situation. I doubt if this is uncommon.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 12:19 PM

Jon. Fasinating stuff. That would indeed precurse the radio ballads, and by all of seven years.

Would it be possible for you, or somebody, to put it onto the Internet? This sounds like an extraordinary document, and it will be well out of copyright by now.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 12:15 PM

It sounds very interesting, Jon.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Jon Dudley
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 11:59 AM

Far be it from me to get embroiled in this interesting thread, especially with such luminaries as Jim and Brian and 'Guest'. I would ever-so-slightly, and very gently point out that 'The Life of James Copper' broadcast on the Home Service in September 1951 might have pre-dated The Radio Ballads. This was indeed an example of a 'working man's voice depicting working life and conditions' to a tee! What may now be termed a 'docudrama ' (hideous term but reasonably accurate!) this programme was a dramatised version of Jim's life on the farm much of it voiced by him as a verbatim account of his life and times. Was that a similar format for 'The radio Ballads'?

Indeed it was Jim Copper's letter to the BBC remarking on a classical singer performing folk songs on Country Magazine that brought the family to the attention of Frank Collinson who came scurrying down to Rottingdean almost immediately. This led to Jim and Bob and other working people singing songs on that programme. Robert Irwin was the resident classical singer by the way with whom the two got on famously.

Foresightedly (if that's the right expression) Jim put a good proportion of his fee for the programme towards have it 'dubbed' off air at a small specialist studio in Oxford Street onto acetate discs. We have those precious items which he insisted were for his two grandchildren, that they might know something of his working life. He was not to know that his son Bob would become his champion and chronicler in years to come. Sadly, the BBC (considering the great expense of the production) did not keep a copy of this broadcast...fortunately we have it!


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 04:00 AM

Hi Guest
As far as I know, The Radio Ballads were unique in the sense that it was the first time that the working man's voice was used to any great length to depict working life and conditions.
Both Ewan and Charles described how the original aim of the BBC was to collect actuality in order to turn it into a script to be read by actors - Ewan became convinced that the recorded speech was powerful enough to stand on its own, without needing to be 'performed' by actors
Charles took up the cause of "the working voice" and went on to produce a number of important programmes for Midlands Radio.
What you say about Jean Newlove is, I believe correct - it was through her work with Theatre Workshop that she and Ewan got together.
I only got to meet her and Kirsty once, when we were recording choruses for Ewan's South African piece, White Wind - nice people.
I wss interested in your comparison between Stanislavski and Lee Strasberg's adaptation of The Method - don't know a great deal about it, but I was working at Conway Hall in central London (as an electrician) at the time the English Branch of the Stradberg Group had been abandoned by Stradberg's widow and left to their own devices - not a happy time for them, I don't know if they survived.
My memory of the 60s, in the North of England, was of a large working class following for folk song - I was working at the docks and was persuaded to go to my first folk club in Liverpoolby a fruit market porter - the audience was overwhelmingly made up of people like us, though I think the performers (The Spinners and Jackie McDonald) were teachers.
Most of us were evacuees from The Cavern, a wobnderful Jazz club which was being gradually taken over by 'The Mersey Beat'
Thanks for your input
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 04:57 PM

So I should save you? I'll background, that won't use your ammo.

Ewan was part of a movement predating the goggle box: amateur theatricals got quite useful in the 1930s, in my in-laws territory the Chapels created Burton and Hopkins and it has kept going. In Brum it was the Rep, and Ewan part of the Manchester scene. He was right on the edge, and blocked by the authorities as a result - until their cred got shot after WWII, which is a debate still not concluded as these pages show.

You may chose to correct me, Jim, but for me, the pathfinder in the vernacular ballad form which led to the Radio Ballads was Charles Chilton. Ewan had also worked in radio production in the 1930s, and Charles Parker was a strong guide to him. Although we know him as a folkie, he was also extremely well-connected as one of the angriest of the Angry Young Men: for example, his work with Dominic Behan was exactly alongside Joan's with B.

His second wife, Jean Newlove (Kirsty's mum), was Rudolf Laban's first assistant when he came to the UK, and thereby the leading Laban proponent. We should ask GSS for details, as his avatar is one of Ewan's plays from this period.

To think of Method Acting in the extreme framework Newman and Hoffman took it to in the States was not true of the UK acting scene at that time: it was far more intellectual here, conceptualising rather than experiencing. We were far more likely to have to channel the experience of a telephone, as the medium through which a communication happens, than go out and murder a patrician household so we'd know where Long Lankin was coming from!

At the same time, with a few exceptions, one of the problems with the 1960s folk scene was that most of the audience were, frankly, twee. They'd been brought up on the National Songbook and were falling between every stool imaginable, in not following the early steps of hard rock nor yet sticking with classical music. I at least wrote my name in both! What was needed was something which could speak for itself, in neither the Classical mould of the Early Music movement (you discussed Andreas Scholl here recently) nor yet fabulist, in the style which would head towards Marillion. And that was the point of the Critics Group, to find a staging method which would be true to the heritage yet not be banale.

And how they did that, Jim, over to you. Part of what you did led to something superb, Natural Voice, and for that this movement will go down in history.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 04:27 PM

Set in to song Peter Cox, PAGE 175, states, his songs should follow the same discipline as traditional song, no literary language, few adjectives, simple expressions that ordinary people used on a day to day basis, there is a suggestion by Cox that he was working to a formula.
elsewhere in the book the Radio Ballads are discussed and it is suggested that one of his weaknesses which could occasionally date a song was his use of slang, at another page it states that he had a favourite mode for tunes which was the dorian mode[ flat 3 flat 7].


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 03:04 PM

I think Paula will touch on Theatre, but even with 2 hours at our disposal, we are going to have to cut a great deal out.
We have very little by way of live recordings of people talking about his theatre work, we recorded Ewan and Gerry Raffles talking about their work in Theatre Workshop and John Arden made a contribution (all at Ewan's 70th symposium), but I have yet to check the for quality - we'll see.
On the subject - I'm looking for a couple of references to Ewan if anybody has any trace of them
Shaw once described him as "the most promising talnt on the British stage today. apart from myself" - wonder if anybody knows where and when?
Also, MacColl's name appears in Sean O'Casey's Collected Letters - Pat wrote the quote down, but we have no reference to it's source.
Thanks
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 02:29 PM

Jim, is there any reason why you're not going into the theatre side? I don't want to talk about what I saw from a degree of remove, but there are things which need to be added here you're not adding.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 01:09 PM

One day there will be no pubs and no folk clubs, if young people care they need to start running clubs, they need to start looking at the early days of the uk folk revival where clubs booked each others residents. they need to start their own clubs wht will young performers do when there are no old people to run folk clubs?
in my opinion present day folk clubs, should give up trying to entice anyone under 30 and concentrate on getting 40 year olds in.
I cast my mind back to when i was young i went to clubs for the music but to meet other young people.
the next generation [ in my opinion] down from 50 plus are more likely to be more accepting of wrinklies than under twenties or under twenty fives


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 12:58 PM

(Y) Actually, you might manage it these days, Vic, I bet most of those pubs have closed. The Hillgate crawl in Stockport isn't the challenge than it used to be.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 12:48 PM

Brian Peters -
"the reason Keith Marsden's 'Prospect Providence' sounds authentic is because it's based on one person's first-hand experience."


I would have loved to have helped Keith Marsden do the detailed research needed for his famed pub-crawl song Doin' The Manch but then I realised that my capacity for alcohol meant that I was not up to the job.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 12:36 PM

I've always been convinced that the self-help system is one well worth re-trying - who knows"
yes, however with skype and you tube, much can be done on a one to one basis, with skype the people can see each other too. this would have more privacy than the critics group type set up.i think most people can take criticism if it is done privately.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 12:33 PM

Sorry
Meant to add that I think Lyric FM is available on line and we'll be happy to pass on the result of our work to anybody interested
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 12:23 PM

"I hope there will be a way of hearing your programmes for Irish radio, to redress the balance."
I hope so too - but I hope for a bit more than that.
Singing in Ireland has some way to go before it catches up with the popularity of the instrumental music.
Coming back from Oxford, Paula (the producer) and I got into a somewhat intense discussion on how things might be improved (much to the consternation of the other passengers) - Paula is a singer, deeply involved in broadcasting music and song
Some interesting things are taking place - the Goilín Club and the Inishowen people have put up their considerable collections on line, our Clare collection goes up shortly.
On top of this, The National Library is promoting Child Ballads via a series of public performances.
To date, teaching seems largely limited to passing out texts and getting pupils to read from them, with a few singers generous enough to dedicate time to holding classes.
I've always been convinced that the self-help system is one well worth re-trying - who knows
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 12:07 PM

Yes, Dick, I thought of the Chemical Workers' Song too. Jim did have a point, though, about 'Shoals of Herring' being based on good research - the reason Keith Marsden's 'Prospect Providence' sounds authentic is because it's based on one person's first-hand experience, related in detail to the songwriter. Reminds me of MacColl's work, in fact.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 12:03 PM

I can find songs that are not dishonest that are written from the point of view of someone participating in the event examples
chemical workers song [ron angel] whitby whaler richard grainger. otago by greame miles.
"Yes, I know that, Jim, but the actual quote on the programme seemed to be suggesting that any first person narrative is by its very nature bogus. If you accept EMC's statement that to write in the first person is to 'pretend that you were there' you'd have to argue that interviews with a fisherman are a far cry from a lifetime of first-hand experience on a North Sea drifter. Perhaps he just didn't express himself very clearly. At any rate, I think that describing a piece of work produced to EMC's order by a member of the group as 'a bore', 'dishonest' and 'a hoax' oversteps the line of frankness into rudeness and arguably bullying. For all the benefits that some of those singers undoubtedly received, that remark alone made me glad not to have been in that place at that time."
I agree with Brian, furthermore having encountred Ewan and his gauche behaviour in 1969, I decided to give the singers club a wide berth.
however I agree that he contributed a lot to the uk folk revival and both he and Peggy gave up hours to help others, and were most helpful to anyone who wished to visit their house and get info on songs, both were/are good performers and song writers.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 11:50 AM

OK, Jim, you were there, I was not. The BBC programme seems to have had the negative effect on several others that it had on me, but if it was a misrepresentation then I hope there will be a way of hearing your programmes for Irish radio, to redress the balance.


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Subject: RE: radio 4 how folk songs should be sung
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Nov 14 - 11:31 AM

"Ewan MacColl did come across as curmudgeonly in this programme and Peggy Seeger has said a few times that she feels slightly embarrassed now about this period with the Critics"
The programme in no way represented what happened at The Critics meetings - I'm revisiting them at the moment and half a century after they happened they still give an unbelievable lift - a little disturbing to find that lachriomosity is one of the aspects of ageing!!.
I have to say they some selections of the programmes we have passed on to the producer have had a powerful effect on her.
Ewan largely avoided commenting on the performances of singers outside our work - I think I've come across less than half-a-dozen after listening to over 200 tapes.
Analysis (criticism) of singing was confined to member of the Group, and we could go home and take our ball with us any time wewished.
I spent 2 days with Peggy last week being recorded discussing Ewan and the Group with her - this is about as far as it gets from how she feels about them
Ewan listed the work he did with the Critics Group as one of his greatest achievements, which is pretty much how Peggy still feels about it.
"that any first person narrative is by its very nature bogus"
I don't know if this was the case - he was often critical of pastiche representations of people and periods far removed from the experiences of song-makers (and obviously misunderstood)
"Just sing the song to the best of your ability with thought given to the nature of the song"
There's no reason, as far as I can see, that someone shouldn't wish to continue adding to your skills constantly - seems a little complacent not to.
I cut down my singing when we started collecting and eventually stopped altogether.
Over the last few years I started again and realised to my horror that my range had reduced to the extent that I could no longer handle some of my songs (particularly Flying Cloud and Sheffield Apprentice) - a few sessions at the exercises and I got them back.
Jim Carroll


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