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traditional songs - best for learning?

Andy7 27 Dec 18 - 06:58 PM
GUEST,Nick Dow 27 Dec 18 - 07:13 PM
FreddyHeadey 27 Dec 18 - 08:34 PM
Andy7 28 Dec 18 - 04:24 AM
G-Force 28 Dec 18 - 05:05 AM
Dave the Gnome 28 Dec 18 - 05:23 AM
GUEST,Terray 28 Dec 18 - 09:29 AM
Andy7 28 Dec 18 - 01:05 PM
GUEST, miles 28 Dec 18 - 01:18 PM
GUEST,Gerry 28 Dec 18 - 01:21 PM
beachcomber 28 Dec 18 - 01:24 PM
GUEST,Nick Dow 28 Dec 18 - 01:52 PM
Jim Carroll 28 Dec 18 - 02:31 PM
Jim Carroll 29 Dec 18 - 04:17 AM
The Sandman 29 Dec 18 - 04:44 AM
GUEST,Nick Dow 29 Dec 18 - 05:10 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Dec 18 - 05:38 AM
GUEST,Nick Dow 29 Dec 18 - 06:28 AM
Tattie Bogle 29 Dec 18 - 07:26 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Dec 18 - 11:59 AM
GUEST,Nick Dow 29 Dec 18 - 12:41 PM
GUEST,Nick Dow 29 Dec 18 - 12:46 PM
Jim Carroll 29 Dec 18 - 01:27 PM
Jim Carroll 29 Dec 18 - 01:49 PM
GUEST,Nick Dow 29 Dec 18 - 02:09 PM
Vic Smith 29 Dec 18 - 02:12 PM
Jim Carroll 29 Dec 18 - 02:40 PM
Vic Smith 29 Dec 18 - 02:44 PM
GUEST,henryp 29 Dec 18 - 05:20 PM
Steve Gardham 29 Dec 18 - 07:23 PM
Steve Gardham 29 Dec 18 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,Miranda 29 Dec 18 - 11:40 PM
Pamela R 30 Dec 18 - 12:41 AM
Jim Carroll 30 Dec 18 - 04:45 AM
The Sandman 30 Dec 18 - 05:01 AM
GUEST,Nick Dow 30 Dec 18 - 05:36 AM
The Sandman 30 Dec 18 - 05:42 AM
Jim Carroll 30 Dec 18 - 05:54 AM
GUEST,Nick Dow 30 Dec 18 - 05:56 AM
Jim Carroll 30 Dec 18 - 06:52 AM
Dave the Gnome 30 Dec 18 - 06:54 AM
GUEST,Nick Dow 30 Dec 18 - 07:00 AM
Dave the Gnome 30 Dec 18 - 07:09 AM
Jim Carroll 30 Dec 18 - 07:37 AM
Dave the Gnome 30 Dec 18 - 07:50 AM
Jim Carroll 30 Dec 18 - 08:17 AM
Andy7 30 Dec 18 - 08:23 AM
GUEST,Nick Dow 30 Dec 18 - 08:29 AM
Richard Mellish 30 Dec 18 - 08:41 AM
Andy7 30 Dec 18 - 08:43 AM
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Subject: traditional songs - suggestions for learning?
From: Andy7
Date: 27 Dec 18 - 06:58 PM

One of my NY resolutions for 2019 is to learn by heart, and perform at singarounds and folk music weekends during this coming year, 2 or 3 genuinely traditional folk songs that I've not sung before.

I've limited myself to 2 or 3, so that I can really work at learning them, knowing them and interpreting them well.

A few criteria that I've set for myself:

1: I much prefer ballad-style songs, as they best suit my style of singing; so I won't be trying to learn any fast-tempo songs. I do enjoy those in 3-time, although 2- or 4-time is okay too.

2: I usually dislike singing tragedy songs, and miserable folk songs generally (although there are already a couple in my repertoire). Such songs hold an indisputably important place in the folk tradition, to be sure! It's just that I don't much like singing them myself, so I won't want to spend hours and hours of my time learning such songs.

3. I'd like my 'new' songs to be easily accessible to others in the sessions; preferably with a chorus that's already well known, or at least, a chorus that's easy to pick up and join in with.

So ... which traditional songs would fellow Mudcatters suggest I might enjoy learning and performing?

Thank you in advance for your suggestions!


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 27 Dec 18 - 07:13 PM

Couple of questions Andy. Who is your favourite traditional singer, and do you read music?
Have you ever heard the Song Carrier Programmes (broadcast in the 1960's but widely available) all of this I can help with if you are interested.
Nick


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 27 Dec 18 - 08:34 PM

Song Carriers thread, links to mp3s
thread.cfm?threadid=155666


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Andy7
Date: 28 Dec 18 - 04:24 AM

I can't really say who is my favourite traditional singer; although I've heard lots of excellent singers over the years, it's not a genre I've ever studied or collected recordings of.

Yes, I do read music.

Thanks for the link to the Song Carriers programme, I'll look into that.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: G-Force
Date: 28 Dec 18 - 05:05 AM

A lot depends on whether you want standard English or whether you're OK with singing in one of the British regional dialects.

Anyway. 'Fair Flower of Northumberland' isn't too miserable.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 28 Dec 18 - 05:23 AM

Shanties can be good starter songs. Lots of repeats and choruses.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,Terray
Date: 28 Dec 18 - 09:29 AM

I'm not sure what side of the Atlantic you're on but here's a few of the first ballads I learned to play and sing. They're all fairly easy and they all have that lovely language found in many of those old songs. I think they'll work no matter your locale although not all of them meet with your criteria:

Fennario
House Carpenter
Jackaroe
Lily of the West


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Andy7
Date: 28 Dec 18 - 01:05 PM

Thanks for all the suggestions so far, I'll check them all out.

I do like the idea of making one of them a shanty.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST, miles
Date: 28 Dec 18 - 01:18 PM

IMO Shanties are easiest for learning then story ballads


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 28 Dec 18 - 01:21 PM

The Devil's Nine Questions, aka Riddles Wisely Expounded, aka Lay the Bent to the Bonny Broom. Brian Peters, live.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: beachcomber
Date: 28 Dec 18 - 01:24 PM

You might look up "Johnny I hardly knew yeh" ; lyric in the listings of this site. It can be sung very effectively with varying tempo and expression and, it has a great chorus, easily picked up by an audience (provided you've grabbed them first !!! :-))
I can't tell you which war it refers to but it is definitely in the "Anti-War" catagory.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 28 Dec 18 - 01:52 PM

If you read music, take a look at the Full English Website. Use the Roud index to find a version of a song you like that appeals to you.
Best of luck and let us know how you get on. Feel free to take any song from me. After all, where did I get them if I didn't learn them from other singers.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Dec 18 - 02:31 PM

Familairise yourself with the story and the tune
Work out the phrasing by speaking it through a few times
Familiarise yourself with unfamiliar words or apparent contradictions - it took me a while to work out how and why you could break a gold ring in half, but finding out why is almost as pleasurable as singing about when I did
The same with young women (sometimes pregnant) wanting to or believing she could go off to war or to sea with here lover.
It helps if you can decide why the song was made in the first place - what was its objective and emotional drive - try to sum this up in as few words possible anger, hatred - love - indigence - amusement.... and much more
Working out why Andrew Lammie was sent to Edinburgh has guaranteed that I will continue to enjoy Tifties Annie till I run out of puff or memory

There are threads running through all traditional songs which have kept them relevant from generation to generation - it does't take much to find what they are

Some of these ideas are not essential to the singing of the song, they can be sung as good stories or beautiful tunes - but it does help to keep them in your repertoire for much longer - it makes them your own

The mechanics of absorbing and learning anything more than tune and poetic structure have to be your own; I avoid learning a song fully from another singer, particularly one I like - it has to be your song and interpretation, not someone else's

I endorse Nic's 'Song Carriers' suggestion wholeheartedly - plenty of learnable songs covering the entire spectrum of the British tradition and analyses that have never been bettered over the fifty-odd years since the programmes were made

If you want a help of building a repertoire I'm happy to send some from our archive if you name your type preferences
- can also give you 'The Song Carriers' if they are not readily available elsewhere
Bon voyage
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 04:17 AM

Had some thoughts on this
In my opinion, one of the milestones of the early revival (along with The song Carriers) was the 10 album Caedmon/Topic series, 'Folk Songs of Britain' edited by Peter Kennedy and Alan Lomax
Despite the fact that it is slightly flawed by having the songs edited by cutting out verses in order to get as much on as possible, the accompanying booklet give all of the songs in full
It remains, in my view, a magnificent selection of British and Irish songs traditional songs - pretty well the best of the best
Since Topic put it out it has never been re-issued (due to greed)

I have it digitised and some time ago I started to put in full versions of the songs from our own archive.
For a learner it is a dream for a learner - many of us cut our teeth on them ten categorised albums - Courtship, Seduction, Sailors, Solders, Poaching, Ballads (2), Ritual, Animals and Magic, .... - long overdue for improvement and re-issue - though now longer the revival seems to have forgotten what folk songs is, it probably never will be
Happy to pass on what I have done so far and update as I proceed
Anybody interested can PM me their e-mail address and I'll put it in PCloud for them

"Roud"
Would agree in general, but sinc it now includes non-folk songs it's not the superb and reliable guide for the newcomer as it once was
Jim


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 04:44 AM

Familiarise yourself with unfamiliar words or apparent contradictions - it took me a while to work out how and why you could break a gold ring in half, but finding out why is almost as pleasurable as singing about when I did
The same with young women (sometimes pregnant) wanting to or believing she could go off to war or to sea with here lover.
It helps if you can decide why the song was made in the first place - what was its objective and emotional drive - try to sum this up in as few words possible anger, hatred - love - indigence - amusement.... and much more."
spot on,and never sing a song unless you enjoy singing it.
Jim, how do you break a gold ring in two?


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 05:10 AM

Jim, Please could you explain a little more your views on the Roud index if you don't mind? Do you mean Broadside versions as 'Non Folk'?


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 05:38 AM

Roud now works on the basis of what singers sang rather than what folk songs they sang, so now former pop songs, Victorian tear-jerkers, music-hall pieces.... etc., are being given Roud numbers
The llogic of this, of course, is that it will have to include C&W - I knew severl traditional singers who sang, 'Your Cheatin' Heart' (as I'm sure, you did Nick
The index remains invaluable as a research tool for finding printed sources and for linking up variants of songs but, as far as I am concerned, it is no longer a source of reliability for distinguishing between folk songs (which were included) and non folk songs (which were not)
A sad loss to our understanding of folk song, I sorry to say
Manty folk songs eneded up on broadsises and some originated there, but despite claims, nobody knows which and how many

"Jim, how do you break a gold ring in two?"
The songs were based on the practice of lover's exchanging 'Gimmel Rings' which were made in two (sometimes three) parts which were separated when parting, each lover retaining a half - and joined together again when they united
Chambers's 'Book of Days' has a remarkable essay on them, v complete with illustrations
Some were beautifully made and expensive, but the cheap ones were riveted together and were deliberately scratched in a certain place by the lovers so they corresponded when they were rejoined - they were sold widely at the Country Fairs.
Jim


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 06:28 AM

Thanks Jim...The problem with definitions is that the goal posts move too regularly. If you were to ignore Music Hall songs that have entered the tradition, then you would lose a good 30% of the songs in most collections. As a quick example, The Country Carrier, The unfortunate Tailor, Lamorna, immediately spring to mind. If we are to ignore stage songs from the 18th century we would lose another 50%, off goes The Rose Bud in June, Cupids Garden, Searching for Lambs, Green Bushes. The rest originated in Street Literature, or highbrow ballad literature. There is a misconception that a 'Folk Song' becomes less 'Folk' if we can trace it's writer. This therefore means that 'Folk Art' is less artistic if we know the artist.
Gypsy Ambrose Cooper rewrites Jimmy Rodgers songs with words of interest to travellers. One of his songs was collected with different words again, sung by Derby Smith. I'm afraid it's a Folk Song. It might not be pretty as Searching for Lambs. Is a Zoologist supposed to ignore Warthogs because they are not as attractive as Birds of Paradise. Then of course there are Rugby songs! Horrible sterile and loveless, just like the ballad Lambkin. I'm afraid subjective selection is our fate unless of course you are a Folklorist then God help you! Nobody else will.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 07:26 AM

Apart from all of the above good advice, one other suggestion made by singers I have encountered, is to choose songs YOU like, not necessarily ones that people have told you "you really should sing   xyz". It is much easier to make make a convincing and appealing rendition of a song that grabs you yourself, and tell people why you think it's relevant to you.
That doesn't mean you don't need to work at it: as Jim has said, there's still making sure you understand the song, phrase it well, put your heart into it, etc.
Note down any that you hear in sessions that you think you might like to do: fortunately these days we are blessed with many online resources, as indicated above (and let's not forget Mudcat itself - my first ever online resource for song lyrics.)


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 11:59 AM

".The problem with definitions is that the goal posts move too regularly."
Not a problem if you remember you're talking about a specific music and not football
Folk song has nothing to do with tase or "prettiness" - it's a song which has evolved in certain circumstances and has passed thought a "process" i order to have become folk
Whatever people choose to call fork, it if hasn't undergone that process, it ain't folk - not a value judgement, just a fact

What you describe with your Traveller depends on what happens to the songs he made and the state of the Tradition when he made them - if the tradition is in good shape and his mates took his nongs up and made them their own yo have a folk song - if niot, they're just songs made by a Traveller and any song that anybody made could be described as folk

Music hall songs tend not to change and adapt - they remain as written and the fact that they are/were usually copyrighted, they remain the property of the composer - not the folk

The language only works if those using it agree on what the words mean - if they don't, we stop talking to each other and - in the case of folk, all the clubs stop functioning because nobody can agree what they can expect when they turn up to one

It is misleading to say the old singers didn't differentiate (certainly when you are talking about living or not long dead traditions)
The singers may have sung every type of song but that didn't mean they couldn't tell the difference between the songs Harry Cox sand and those sung by Harry Champion

We seem to have reached the situation now where 'Nellie Dean' is a folk song and long ballads are "inappropriate" - or so I've lately been informed
Folk song comes with a lot mor baggage than "just repetition" - if it didn't, we'd better send all our books to Oxfam
Jim


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 12:41 PM

I think it might be best to re-read what I submitted Jim. However I don't want this thread to go off at a tangent from Andy's original question, so I'm stopping this argument now.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 12:46 PM

That said... and it is relevant to Andy, please will you give me a title of one song you consider to be a Folk Song. Preferably English because I know more about it, and we'll see where it leads us. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 01:27 PM

I responded to them earlier and have done interminably Nick
In the main, we don't have the slightest idea where these songs originated (including 'Rosebud in June' by the way), that they appeard on stahe or on broadsides is no indication that they wren't adapted from earliest songs
That is not my point, which is that now songs that have experienced an oral tradition in any way. shape or form are now claimed as folk songs and being given Roud numbers - which was my reply to your question

"please will you give me a title of one song you consider to be a Folk Song"
Work your way through those which appeared on teh aforementioned 'Folk Songs of Britain' Series
I'd happily sit through an evening of them raher than Victorian tearjerkers like Nellie Dean
Jim


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 01:49 PM

Can I just make my point again before this goes away
It's not a matter what I or anybody else likes - I don't like all folk songs by any means
i love ballads, but don't get me started on
'Maid freed from the gallows'

When Lomax and later the BBC went ou in the fifties they didn't carry a check list to tell them what to record and what to reject - they knew what they were looking for and that;s what they brought back
When Topi set up way beck when they knew what folk song was and that's what they issued

When Greig put together his massive collection he knew what he was after and that's what he wrote down

Carpenter - Child - Sharp - Motherwell, Peter Hall, Hamish Henderson..... from the pioneers to the moppers-up = all had an understanding of what folk songs was - many wrote about it
Now we are told that by and large, they were romantics who got it wrong - Child apparently didn't know his folk arse to his formal poetry elbow
Any art form that relies on rejecting former knowledge experience and opinions to make room for new ones can have no future - learning and understanding has to be a continuum otherwise the subjects that we apprentice ourselves to can never have a solid identity

That's me on that one
Jim


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 02:09 PM

I'm afraid you are fighting a rear guard action to a romantic illusion. No doubt you will defend it to your dying breath with your mind firmly closed, so I am wasting my time.
For Andy did you get a copy of the Song Carriers OK?


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 02:12 PM

In the hope of rescuing an interesting thread that threatens to descend into the unresolved 'what is & what isn't a folk song' morass, would it be possible to just state without prejudice that current views on the subject differ according to how much emphasis is placed on whether the origin or the process of change in a song is more important?

That would enable contributors to concentrate on enlarging on the excellent advice that has already been given in the posts at 28 Dec 18 - 01:52 PM, 28 Dec 18 - 02:31 PM and 29 Dec 18 - 07:26 AM


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 02:40 PM

"In the hope of rescuing an interesting thread that threatens to descend into the unresolved 'what is & what isn't a folk song' morass"
Yer man asked for Traditional songs Vic - I don't consider that "descending" anywhere - on the contrary - It's refreshing to read someone making such a positive request

Origins are what it says on the tin - change is a sign that the songs have moved around the folk who sang them
One's as important as the other in my opinion
Jim


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 02:44 PM

One's as important as the other in my opinion
Jim

I am very pleased to hear you state this - thank you.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 05:20 PM

Four suggestions, Andy7 - I hope you are still with us.

Ghost of Willie-o
Sweet Nancy
Lish Young Buy-a-Broom - has a chorus
Go to Sea Once More - also has a chorus

These are the titles used in the DT collection, where you can find the lyrics and tunes. Use the box at the top of the Lyrics and Knowledge page.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 07:23 PM

Origins/change, one as important as the other. Whilst this is just an opinion it does not accord at all with the 54 definition.

'...can be applied to music that has evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.'
I interpret this as 'origins' being irrelevant.

Put together by Maud Karpeles in 54 after much debating and disagreement over 7 years by the Council. She managed to get this accepted by a majority on the Council but there were still many members who disagreed, and this is to be expected as they all came from different cultures where the processes and influences were different. For instance Pat Shaw was happy to accept Shetland tunes that were currently being made up in their community and one can see why.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 07:35 PM

The Tailor's Britches. A very good version with repeated lines on our 'Yorkshire Garland' website with recording, dots, lyrics and provenance.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,Miranda
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 11:40 PM

A couple of songs that are fairly easy to learn (repetitive). Not all of them are folk songs I think, but they kinda do fall into that category.

Also I notice a lot of these are Jacobite songs but then again, they are ballads and they are easy to do:


'The Skye Boat Song' - Either by Harold Boulton or Louis Stevenson
'Aikendrum'
'The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond'
'Fear a Bhata' - Gaelic song, but with English translation
'Flower of Scotland' - Roy Williamson (this is the national anthem)
'Cock of the North' - there are multiple versions
'Ye Jacobites By Name'
'The Bricklayer's Song'
'Cam Ye By Atholl'
'Rise, Rise'
'The White Cockade'
'The Bonnie Earl o Moray'
'By Yon Castle Wa' - Robert Burns
'Heigh Johnnie Cope are ye Wauking Yet?'
'The Massacre of Glencoe'
'Oro Se Do Beatha Bhaile' - an Irish Gaelic song but not difficult
'Amhran na Bhfiann' - Irish Republic's anthem also in Irish language
'Men of Harlech' - Welsh song but with many versions
'The Song of Roland' - usually sung in Norwegian or Swedish
'Roses of Prince Charlie' - By the Corries again
'Twa Recruiting Sergeants'
'Wild Mountain Thyme'
'Lord of the Dance'
'Dark Lochnagar' - a Byron poem set to music
'Scotland the Brave'
'Danny Boy' - An Irish song that is similar to:
'Red is the Rose'
'Londonderry Air'


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Pamela R
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 12:41 AM

After learning quite a few tragic ballads I made it a point to acquire some non-tragic ones. I know just enough about ballads to know that saying a song is (or is not) traditional is going to get me in trouble with someone, so without any such labels, I will simply mention:

False Lover John
Willie O' the Windsbury
Jock O' Hazeldean

or if a lighter tone appeals to you:

Well Sold the Cow/The Crafty Farmer
Feein' Day/Hiring Day


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 04:45 AM

"I interpret this as 'origins' being irrelevant."
Not to the people who sang it, it didn't
In the thirty odd years of field work we did with Traditional singers, the over-riding feeling we were left with was that the singers regarded the traditional songs as 'theirs', as distinct from those they picked up from print (not many of those from settled singers - none from the non-literate Travellers)
It was an identifiable part of their interpretation of the songs when they sang them and (especially with the under-constant-threat Travelling Community, it was part of their self-identification

The definition Steve mentions makes the condition that the song be "absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.'
No great argument with that if the songs are not just repeated parrot-fashion, but put through an adaptation process which makes them "theirs" - simple repetition does not do this.

Nick mentioned a Traveller making songs to Jimmie Rodgers tunes - a perfect example of what I am talking about and something we encountered time and again among Irish Travellers - of course these songs have a claim to the 'folk' title if the community absorbs them
These examples are also living proof of 'the people's' ability and desire to make songs rather than relying on buying them

I believe this to be important to our modern singers of folk songs in how they can visualise songs from surroundings that they may not be familiar with - rural life, the sea, the army....
Wherever the songs came from, when you analyse them you realise they are all basically about feeling that touch us all
All the 'big' singers we interviewed 'believed' their songs and saw them in terms of their own lives - they weren't flights of fantasy, as fantastic as some of them might be.   
The were what moved them as human beings, they rang bells with their own sympathies, desires, aspirations, indignations....
I recently stumbled across the Harry Cox interview with Lomax and MacColl, where he talks about 'Betsy the Serving Maid' - "and that's how the buggers treated us - that's what they though of us" - an angry man singing about how people like himself were treated and regarded
That's why the songs were made in the fist place, it's why they survived as long as they did - in my opinion, it's why they still have life in them in the 21st century
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 05:01 AM

Here is a song that i call a folk song, the seeds of love, this was a very important song in other ways, it was the song that inspired Cecil Sharp, to collect.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 05:36 AM

Of course it's a Folk Song, and a very well travelled and beautiful Folk Song You sing it very well Dick. It's origins were probably 'Non Folk' which matters not one jot. However the point I was making (to Jim) was that (arguably) less beautiful creations should not be excluded from the Roud index just because of their origins. Also that a Folklorists or indexers job is to be non judgmental, which I agree is a rotten job. All the rest is subjectivity. Not a crime of course, and not relevant to any singer, be he or she Traditional or Revivalist. A silly argument about definitions just clouds the waters. By the way none of this means you Dick, so don't think I'm having a go at you or anyone else.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 05:42 AM

I agree Nic, however where does one draw the line, for example the infamous pie song sung by notts county supporters[ there may be more than one]which use the air of on top of old smokey, well it hardly stimulates the intellect, but accordint to 1954 definition it is a folk song...but one apart from football supporters at a football match would want to sing it


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 05:54 AM

"It's origins were probably 'Non Folk' "
I very much doubt it - if it doesn't matter it need not be mentioned - bound to case tears before teatime
Roud claims to be a folksong index - it should not contain non folksongs no matter how beautiful they are -totally irrelevant
I love Nessun Dorma, but would be furious if it got a Roud number
"Folk" has a specific meaning - of the folk -
Once we lose sight of that fact we may as well all fold up our tents and go home because our music and song will have no future and will be indistinguishable from any other form that anybody cares to hang the label "folk" on
We've already seen the damage that that has done to the folk scene
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 05:56 AM

Bang on Dick!! Thank you! Some sense at last! That's just it, drawing the line is always subjective. There's the rub.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 06:52 AM

I do wish people would stop erecting straw men here
There is no argument whatever about non folk tunes being used to make folk songs
It's pop songs songs that have never undergone absorption or change being claimed as folk songs that is the problem
Wheter songs are good, bad or indifferent has no bearing whatever as to wht type of song they are
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 06:54 AM

I agree with that entirely too, Nick.

These arguments are always about where the line is drawn and always subjective. Subjective involves a matter of opinion and differing ones will never be agreed on. There always has been and always will be good songs to sing in folk clubs that will be disputed.

Harry Robertson's Penguin Eggs
Ralph McTell's Streets of London
Eric Bogle's The band played Waltzing Matilda
And, of course, Ewan MacColl's Dirty old town

Are all fine examples of non-traditional songs that sit well in any folk club.

Bellowhead's Byker Hill and Thousands or more are far more traditional songs but can we envisage an eleven piece band complete with brass section at the local folk club?

Just arguing about where the line should be gets us nowhere and certainly doesn't help the OP learn anything but how difficult it can be to please some!


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 07:00 AM

Thanks Dave and Dick. It's a waste of time arguing with Jim he just doesn't get it, and never will.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 07:09 AM

I don't think that the pop song measure can be applied in all cases either. In much the same way that some pop singers have had hits with folk music (Rod Stewart springs to mind), folk singers can give pop music the "folk treatment". Ever heard Richard Thompson's interpretation of "Oops I did it again" for instance? Or Phil Hare's medley involving Ray Davies and Turlough O'Carolan?


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 07:37 AM

The tradition is long dead (with the few wexceptions among Travelers0
Whatever treatment a folkie gives to a song is immaterial - we are talking about a no longer functioning tradition which we are borrowing from
If you care to check on Roud he doesn't include Folkies in his list, he never has
This is yet another Red Herring - we are discussing what constitutes a folk song, not what folkies choose to do with them
I think if you check, you will find many/most bands -copyright their arrangements so they can can never belong to anybody but themselves
All this undermines the cultural and historical importance of our folk traditions - no wonder the revival is in such a state
Gone from here
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 07:50 AM

The recent folk revival has been astounding in its success. Bands like the previously mentioned Bellowhead with founder members Spiers and Boden. The Young 'uns. Eliza Carthy and dozens of others have brought folk music to the attention of more people than many of the earlier artists. Not decrying anything that has been done before but we should not complain that these young (well, far younger than us) acts are 'spoiling' folk. Far from it.

Just reminded myself too. Going back to Andy's original question, you could do a lot worse than take a listen to the Young 'uns.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 08:17 AM

When you can't guarantee finding folksongs at folk clubs any more, as has long been the case, you haven't got a folk revival - the name has become meaningless
When all you can find on the website of the English folk dance on song society by way of recordings is a few poor singer-songwriters, you have been sold out
The fact that all you can offer by way of clubs is "cole to Yorkshire" or "Edinburgh" or Lewes" if you want to hear good singing indicates just how "healthy" the scene is
You talk about the few who have who have made it to the top - where are the thousands of folk clubs, album labels magazines, and most important of all punters who have offed the scene because it can no longer give them what they came for in the first place
This sort of complacency is what has killed the scene - may it Rest in Peace
The fact that there is no longer a home for Walter Pardon and his ilk and you can't give away a traditional song archive says everything that needs to be said
My offer still stands to anybody interested, but I don't hold out a great deal of hope
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Andy7
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 08:23 AM

Thank you all again, for so many excellent suggestions! I've already listened to many of them, and it's so difficult to choose which 3 to start learning! But I do intend to make my selection only from songs/performers suggested in this thread.

I don't want to get involved (again!) in the 'What is a folk song' debate; except to say that my intention, this year, is to learn, and sing, 3 genuinely traditional folk songs - songs that come 'from the folk', that have a long pedigree, that don't have a known writer, and that are not copyrighted. I don't mean to denigrate, in any way, the thousands of excellent songs that don't fit those criteria; it's just that they don't fit my personal 2019 resolution.

Btw, I will definitely not be posting, on this thread, my final choices, as though this is some kind of folk music beauty contest with 'winners' and 'losers', with me as self-appointed arbiter.

But if you happen to visit a couple of folk clubs somewhere in south Hampshire during the next year or two, you just might hear me singing one or more of the songs. And I hope I do those songs justice, and show respect to their unknown writers, and to the long tradition of folk song singers who have gone before.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 08:29 AM

I'm on at the Foscle in Southampton in March. See you there?


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 08:41 AM

The OP seems well on the way to making his choices, but let me add my three ha'p'orth.

If he is like me he will find it easier to relate to a song that he has heard someone sing somewhere, some time, whether live or on radio/TV/Youtube/CD/etc, rather than to bring to life a song that he has only seen in print. So there's one consideration.

A second consideration that I apply, though many don't, is to avoid songs that I often hear other people sing. If a song is being sung, that will do, and I see no point in adding to the numbers of people singing it. I would encourage the OP (and anyone else) to apply the same policy.


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Subject: RE: traditional songs - best for learning?
From: Andy7
Date: 30 Dec 18 - 08:43 AM

What date in March? I can't find a 2019 calendar on their website.


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