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blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)

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NOT IN THE BOOK


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The Fooles Troupe 17 Mar 06 - 12:11 AM
The Fooles Troupe 17 Mar 06 - 12:09 AM
The Fooles Troupe 17 Mar 06 - 12:04 AM
The Fooles Troupe 17 Mar 06 - 12:00 AM
Ron Davies 16 Mar 06 - 11:09 PM
Don Firth 16 Mar 06 - 03:29 PM
Snuffy 16 Mar 06 - 07:50 AM
Joe Offer 16 Mar 06 - 02:15 AM
The Fooles Troupe 15 Mar 06 - 11:41 PM
Ron Davies 15 Mar 06 - 11:40 PM
Ron Davies 15 Mar 06 - 11:37 PM
GUEST,Joe_F 15 Mar 06 - 09:48 PM
Stewart 15 Mar 06 - 07:50 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Mar 06 - 07:11 PM
The Fooles Troupe 15 Mar 06 - 06:42 PM
The Fooles Troupe 15 Mar 06 - 06:31 PM
GUEST,Joe_F 14 Mar 06 - 09:16 PM
Barry Finn 14 Mar 06 - 01:51 AM
Ron Davies 14 Mar 06 - 12:04 AM
Barry Finn 13 Mar 06 - 11:46 PM
Ron Davies 13 Mar 06 - 11:25 PM
GUEST,Joe_F 13 Mar 06 - 10:00 PM
Ron Davies 12 Mar 06 - 10:16 PM
Northerner 12 Mar 06 - 05:03 PM
Stewart 12 Mar 06 - 04:43 PM
JudyB 12 Mar 06 - 02:24 PM
TonyK 12 Mar 06 - 12:36 PM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Mar 06 - 12:22 PM
Charley Noble 12 Mar 06 - 11:48 AM
Ron Davies 11 Mar 06 - 08:51 PM
Ron Davies 11 Mar 06 - 08:48 PM
Stewart 11 Mar 06 - 08:37 PM
Don Firth 11 Mar 06 - 06:48 PM
Don Firth 11 Mar 06 - 06:31 PM
Deckman 11 Mar 06 - 03:31 PM
Joe Offer 11 Mar 06 - 03:05 PM
GUEST,mg 11 Mar 06 - 02:21 PM
Ron Davies 10 Mar 06 - 11:06 PM
Deckman 10 Mar 06 - 10:27 PM
Charley Noble 10 Mar 06 - 09:28 PM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Mar 06 - 06:18 PM
Joe Offer 10 Mar 06 - 03:00 AM
Bert 10 Mar 06 - 02:41 AM
Joe Offer 10 Mar 06 - 02:36 AM
The Fooles Troupe 09 Mar 06 - 11:39 PM
Ron Davies 09 Mar 06 - 11:28 PM
Ron Davies 09 Mar 06 - 11:19 PM
Deckman 09 Mar 06 - 10:49 PM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Mar 06 - 07:55 PM
Bill D 09 Mar 06 - 05:34 PM
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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 17 Mar 06 - 12:11 AM

Bugger! May as well hang up the shovel, I'm just getting deeper!


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 17 Mar 06 - 12:09 AM

SPWLL CHECKWER! DAMMIT!


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 17 Mar 06 - 12:04 AM

Soporific???? Bloody speel checker - Scintific! - sorry, that was due to my glasses - the ones I wear!


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 17 Mar 06 - 12:00 AM

Pedantically, one will point to the other one painting away from the one pointing to it.

Soporific minds will understand how magnets behave - the 'North seeking' pole of one 'points towards' the 'South seeking' pole of the other, and Vikky Versa (met her before?)


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Ron Davies
Date: 16 Mar 06 - 11:09 PM

Community singing was done before RUS. We used to do it--and we still do--without RUS. Several of us know "Hang on the Bell, Nellie" all the way through-- I think many learned it from Joe Hickerson, who had it on an early LP. When we do it we also ham it up unmercifully. But the leader (and some others) knows the song. It can be done--and it isn't that hard. It's a question of priorities--either learning songs is important or it's not.

And using "cheat sheets" or even books is not the end of the world. (Nor is using RUS--but you can see it from there). The only thing we object to is RUS at a sing, especially as a hymnal--which is a pattern all too easy to fall into.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Mar 06 - 03:29 PM

This may sound a bit like I'm back-pedaling, but not so.

I have no objection to a group of people and singing out of RUS or whatever they like, if that's what they want to do. As Joe points out, people can have a lot of fun with it. It's just that, apart from when I go to church and sing out of the hymnal along with the rest of the congregation, that kind of singing doesn't particularly appeal to me, especially if that's all that happens at a given song fest.

Apart from the song book thing, I have no particular objection if someone wants to keep a notebook of lead-sheets for songs already learned, and keep it in easy view so it can be glanced at from time to time if need be.

I don't think my memory is failing, even if I have become one of The Ancient Ones. But I find that I have occasional "senior moments" with songs that I've sung perhaps hundreds if not thousands of times in the past. Most annoying! For about a decade, during the Fifties and Sixties, I sang somewhere almost every week, usually several evenings a week: coffeehouse, concert, or some other gig, or if not there, at a "hoot" or song fest in someone's house. Except for learning new songs, I rarely had to practice because I hardly needed to. I had a pretty large repertoire, but singing as much as I did, it wasn't hard to keep it up to snuff.

But that was awhile back. Although I try to limber up my fingers on the guitar, warm up my voice, and sing a bit every day, I don't sing anywhere near as often or as much as I used to: maybe eight or ten times a year altogether at get-togethers at Bob's or at Alice's or at our place, rather than two or three evenings a week.

Frustratingly enough, the songs tend to slip away if they're not sung with some regularity. It especially seems to be a case of "last in, first out." The songs I've learned most recently are the ones that I have the occasional "senior moment" with, even though I learn them thoroughly and practice them a lot before I try them in front of other people. So it seems to me that the reasonable thing to do is to keep lead sheets within easy view and give it a quick glance when needed. Since the song has already been learned, the occasional glance is not the same as having to read it off, or sing it out of a book.

In professional theater and at the opera, there is the prompter hunkered down in the prompter's box, ready to quickly and quietly feed a line to an actor or singer if they blank out, as everyone does from time to time. Symphony musicians know the music and are well rehearsed, but they all have the score in front of them. On television a decade or two back, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Jacqueline du Pré, Zubin Mehta, and Daniel Barenboim did a bravura performance of Schubert's "Trout Quintet," and they each had the music on a music stand in front of them. They rarely glanced at it, but it was there, just in case. Luciano Pavarotti knows the scores to fifty or sixty full operas and dozens and dozens of other songs. On television specials, unless it's a fully staged opera, he usually sings with a music stand within easy view. He doesn't sing from the music, but now and then, he may give it a quick glance. And he's not the only one. He certainly knows the music and is obviously well-rehearsed when he goes before the cameras, but no one, not even he, can be absolutely sure they won't have a temporary lapse. Better to have a quick reminder unobtrusively within view than to blow it on national TV.

So if I start showing up at song fests and hoots with a three-ring notebook full of lead-sheets, that's why. But they won't be songs I have not already learned well and sung a lot.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Snuffy
Date: 16 Mar 06 - 07:50 AM

Pedantically, one always points away from the other... :-P

Pedantically, do you mean "each always points away from the other... "?

If not, which one is it that points away, and where does the other one point?


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 Mar 06 - 02:15 AM

Well, while many of you keep saying how horrible it is, we keep having a rousing good time doing it. It's community singing, a different dynamic from the singing I've experienced in many other places. Last Friday, we hammed it up outrageously on "Hang On the Bell, Nellie," and "Titanic." Mary, who is developmentally disabled, wanted us to sing "Oh, No, John" - and you should have seen the joy and enthusiasm on her face as she sang that song with us (with just the women singing "on, no, John.") During the break, a group of us clustered around Ingrid the German Lady and sang "Die Gedanken Sind Frei" and "Freiheit." Almost every session, we sing "Today" in memory of long-time member Carlos, who died of post-polio syndrome a couple years ago. Yeah, Carlos always chose "Today," and another guy usually chooses "Waltzing With Bears," and another guy used to choose "I Feel Pretty" all the time.
Oh, and this time we did a great job on Woody Guthrie's "Do-re-mi" - usually, we blow that one.
So, I suppose there's some sameness, but there's also something fresh and new every session, even though most of our songs are from the book. So, we have 40 to 50 people show up most months, and we've been doing it for almost 20 years, still with the "blue book."
That can't be all bad.

I'm glad for all the wonderful experiences I've had with folk music in San Francisco and in Washington, DC - but most of the people in our song circle wouldn't fit into the DC or San Francisco groups.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 15 Mar 06 - 11:41 PM

"Two compasses point at each other"

Pedantically, one always points away from the other... :-P


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Ron Davies
Date: 15 Mar 06 - 11:40 PM

Joe F--

That's fascinating --about Hans Johst and the origin of that quote.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Ron Davies
Date: 15 Mar 06 - 11:37 PM

Those of us who've criticized the use of RUS in singing sessions are ONLY criticizing that one book--and its use as a "folk hymnal". Nobody, as far as I know, is dead against the appearance of any piece of paper at a session.   For one thing, it shows at least some preparation was made. Showing up with a copy of RUS shows no preparation whatsover. And sure enough, it can result in plowing through all the printed verses with only a guess at the tune--not really a musical experience--and easily avoided with just a little preparation.

A real hymnal is actually usually better--since there are frequently printed harmonies which work. RUS is a guess at the melody and a snapshot of the words--neither of which are necessarily right--but still may be cited by RUS devotees as the only correct way to sing a given song.

And nobody is trying to stamp out the use of RUS--just saying that a session does use it, it's likely to lose the best singers-----quickly. The only reason for good singers to stay at a RUS session is if they really like the people, and don't mind the lack of musical satisfaction.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: GUEST,Joe_F
Date: 15 Mar 06 - 09:48 PM

McGrath: Indeed, I have inscribed that quotation in my book of Browning's poems. However, FWIW, the original (Hans Johst, 1934) was "Wenn ich Kultur höre...entsichere ich meinen Browning". That makes it unlikely that a pun was intended. I suspect that whoever made up the English version changed "release the safety catch on" to "reach for" to avoid wordiness (English not being blessed with a single word for that action), and changed "Browning" to "revolver" precisely to avoid a distracting suggestion that a Nazi would regard Robert Browning as the epitome of culture. (People who know about such things have informed me that revolvers seldom have safety catches and Browning never made revolvers, so it is a very free translation.)

--- Joe Fineman    joe_f@verizon.net

||: One compass points north. Two compasses point at each other. :||


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Stewart
Date: 15 Mar 06 - 07:50 PM

I have no objection to people using crib sheets or even sheets of printed words/music at sessions if they put some time into practicing the music before hand so that they do not stumble over words and notes, and they get acceptable phrasing. And in doing so they should improve in the art of singing. And eventually they will be singing their own music and not just notes or words on a printed page.

What I do object to is people who come to song circle as a purely social event, and have not given one thought to the music before they come. They have no idea of what to sing, so they open the book and quickly thumb through the pages until they find something that catches their eye. Then they ask others who may or may not know the song to help them. I have no patience for that. But I would have patience for someone who is making a real effort to learn the music, even though they might not be the best singer.

I play in instrumental sessions where you have to be prepared or you are asked not to play. Why should singing sessions be any different? I am all for helping and encouraging beginners, but I would like to see some effort on their part and then improvement will follow.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Mar 06 - 07:11 PM

As I've heard that quote it was "When I hear the word culture, I reach for my Browning", leaving open the possibility of a degree of word play, involving a reference to the poet.

Of course, like all quotes it may have been adjusted and readjusted and reattributed several times.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 15 Mar 06 - 06:42 PM

BTW, for most songs I have written, but not all (and I haven't written many worth keeping!), I MUST have the words in front of me, or else I can't remember them - once put on paper and 'tidied up', the words tend to disappear from my memory totally without recall.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 15 Mar 06 - 06:31 PM

In view of the serious negativity often expressed against the use of printed musical memory aids of any type in any circumstance, I won't repeat the statements about classical music and recording hacks, and 'untrained folkies'. Neither will I repeat the negativity that such publicly negative people aren't 'real musicians'...

When I began to receive music lessons in the 1950s, I experienced the 'ruler across the knuckles' trick, until I complained to my father - a good quality amateur classical violinist. BTW, he COULD play without music when soloing, but when playing in any 'formal' ensemble he used music. He had little 'folk music as it is assumed here' experience, but also during the 1930-40's had 'parlour party' experience - sheet music was not always used in such 'informal' ensembles. When we played piano & violin duets, we also used music - which was useful as my often apparently ADHD type memory when younger meant that I often 'lost my place; and needed to 'vamp' till I could resynchronise - usually to my father's annoyance - although also his respect for keeping the beat going reliably.

During my music training, I had to play from the music at times, and also had to play things from memory - both situations, as well as sight reading were part of the Piratical Exams. One also had to memorise several tunes each year for the Theory Exams - you were asked to transpose a certain tune into a specified key and then harmonise it.

As a Church organist and Sunday School Pianist, I played from music always - when accompanying large groups of singers, the last thing you need is a momentary lapse of memory, especially if the tune is not a commonly played one. In such circumstances, one rarely looks at the page anyway, and often I would close my eyes while playing anyhow (or 'vague out' with my eyes open!). I also used to be able to transpose 'on the fly' at the keyboard, but I am a bit out of practice at that skill these days.

As a result of my training, especially the painful part, I have a need to have ready access to the page for SOME of my repertoire, but with SOME other of it, I have it in memory. I know so many tunes that I can play - and I also used, when in good practice, to be able to play almost any tune on sight, or with 5 minutes 'rehearsal' - that I often forget on what note (or relative note of the scale a tune (both instrumental and vocal) starts, and often how the damn things goes. I now have compiled a small indexed note book that has the tune name, the key, the first note and the direction in which the tune moves - this assists greatly for memory work.

I DO sympathise with some of the complaints, and I DO understand that some of you may have suffered greatly with lazy people who have deluded themselves that they are great musos, but if you reject my talent when I pull out my memory aids - well you can sod off then, as to me, you appear very narrow minded, and you also don't appear to be very tolerant of those who are not as 'perfect' as you! :-)

:-P


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: GUEST,Joe_F
Date: 14 Mar 06 - 09:16 PM

No, excellence had not been mentioned, and I do not own a revolver. I am not actually a curmudgeon on the other side; I am a curmudgeon on the fence. I agree with Barry about the charms of that type of sing, but I can enjoy an evening in RUSsia as well.

It may be worth explaining that "I reach for my revolver" was a catchphrase in the years around 1940. A character in a Nazi play had said "When I hear the word culture, I release the safety catch on my Browning", and that was mistranslated as "...I reach for my revolver" & misattributed to Goebbels. I myself have a fair number of revolver words.

--- Joe Fineman    joe_f@verizon.net

||: If you insist on working like a badly programmed computer, you will have plenty of cheap competition. :||


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Barry Finn
Date: 14 Mar 06 - 01:51 AM

The laws of song gravity.
Not to serious here, but

Sings will seek out the lowest common denominator, pull out 3 or 4 of those books at a singing session & anyone who you really wanted to hear just left the building.

Using more than 3 of those books in a crowd larger than 4 will not drive anyone to excel in singing ability, memory gain or verse retention, it actually causes the reverse. If you sing without those books but can't carry a tune then you'll be lifted be the others who well not only back you & your play but will also push you along to make the ride more enjoyable for you & the rest. Try that with the books & everyone will be dying for you to finish so they can kill the next one.

The more effort you spend trying to have fun the more fun you'll have. Want to have fun singing, make the effort to learn songs & practice them until you feel that they will be enjoyed by all not just the bookies.

It takes time, patience & practices to bring a singing community to a level of decency, don't let that book rush it you'll never get there by taking the easy, boring, repeating path. Tell Dick & Jane you're moving on to a more interesting subject matter. Otherwise you'll be in the same rut for decades.

Those books will never attract good or great singers that you'd like to attract to a sing, most would rather die alone & songless. Toss out the books & you might find that there are some who would love to sing with your group & with them comes their knowledge, background & mostly their encouragement for the group to go places that they've never been before, you might even find them attracting even better singers & before you know it everybody's getting better all the time.

A song gathering is not a book review at the library, get out there & kick some ass, don't allow books turn your time into a parlor sing that stings rather than a power sing. It's not a classroom, though you may learn more by tossing the books out.

If the book can't fit into your pocket don't bring it, carry a few cheat sheets that will. If you have to carry it in your hand & it's not a refreshment leave it at home. Otherwise someone may choke on it. Beginners even know how to roll up enough sheets of music to shove in a side or inside pocket or pocketbook to get them through the night; don't forget if you try you'll get there sooner.

OK just a couple of personal observations.
Probably 35 yrs ago I started going to sings (weekly & monthly) people brought in papers & notes to join & try with; fine we all started some where. These were eventually compiled. New singers used these & referenced these & they were updated. But the more seasoned singers always brought in new songs or refreshed old ones & kept away from the reading material. For the betterment of the whole, so things didn't go stale. In time the beginners where using the printed materials less often & so the group always grew


& stayed fresh, like mint. I started to go less often, not because of the group but there where other things to attend. As the years went by the group some how took these RUS books to their bowels & it's been years, ages since these song sessions have had the smell of freshness or the sound of sweetness about them, just smells & sounds like shit.

Some of the best sings I've ever heard were at places where not a piece of paper could be seen (of course I don't know about pockets). There was no set order & no set leader, usually just free for alls.
Most, usually sung songs with choruses, so everyone could sing. The more seasoned the singers the more ripe the singing that leads to the natural growth of seasoned leaders, if you'd like, will pull the less seasoned along & push them to lead once & a while, so they get to sing alot & lead a bit too. It brings the life of the party to a higher & better standard, hopefully. This is only one way IMHO to continue a cycle of singing that'll maintain itself over the years & stay a place were all of the talent & enjoyment can be kept to a level where everybody gets enough & more from all present which should be plenty of reason to keep all coming back.

That said, don't shoot, I'm just a messenger.

Barry


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Ron Davies
Date: 14 Mar 06 - 12:04 AM

Actually I don't believe "excellence" was mentioned. What was mentioned was "learning songs". I hope that doesn't call for revolvers.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Barry Finn
Date: 13 Mar 06 - 11:46 PM

& sometimes exceptable.
Barry


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Ron Davies
Date: 13 Mar 06 - 11:25 PM

OK--revolvers are very persuasive.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: GUEST,Joe_F
Date: 13 Mar 06 - 10:00 PM

I go to sings in which people routinely use cribs, including The Book; and I go to sings where cribs are against the norm, tho they are tolerated in recognition of the fact that none of us is getting any younger. I enjoy both types, but am marginal in both, as I am in all groups, including especially the human species; so perhaps I can contribute some perspective.



In the commune I belonged to 30 years ago, the national sport was volleyball. It was played without teams (the entire court rotated after each point), but of course some players were better than others, and after some discussion they were allowed to form their own league in which they could keep the ball in motion more of the time. They managed to do so without disparaging the duffers who continued to have fun at their own level.



Group singing is not quite like volleyball; it is a little more like rockclimbing, in that there is some built-in handicapping that allows a mixture of levels of competence to be enjoyable: the more skillful and knowledgeable ones can lead. However, there are limits to that kind of satisfaction, as there are to all kinds, and it is well within reason for people who want to look at each other while singing to seek each other out.



If I were a mainstream RUS addict, I think I might respond to get-your-nose-out-of-that-book agitation like this: Life is too short to learn a lot of songs. Singing is important, but so is snowboarding, or making borsht, or getting laid, or keeping my children out of bad company, or whatever. I have a sense of proportion, and my proportions are not yours. The ability to enjoy oneself at a low level of competence is a precious resource for happiness, not something to be ashamed of or bullied out of, particularly when the alternative is mechanized tantrums coming out of loudspeakers. When I hear the word "excellence" I reach for my revolver.

--- Joe Fineman    joe_f@verizon.net

||: There is nothing wrong with devil theories in politics. Just look to the devil in the mirror. :||


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Ron Davies
Date: 12 Mar 06 - 10:16 PM

As long as everybody knows in advance whether a given session will have RUS or not, everybody can make plans. The people you sing with are far more important than whether a book will be used or not--but there's a lot more spontaneity without RUS, and more people could wean themselves of it--if they would only try.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Northerner
Date: 12 Mar 06 - 05:03 PM

I'm having to use a crib sheet to get me started singing again. It's not something that I like but it's giving me the confidence to sing songs again. I do actually know the song but it's just nervousness. When I first started many, many years ago, I never used a crib sheet (they were actively discouraged) and it took me a very long time to get past my nervousness. I am generally able to discard the crib sheet after the song has been sung once or twice. My progress is much faster than first time around. Singing a song helps it to go into memory.

Ironically I also tell stories and I don't use crib sheets for those at all. Mind you, it helps that stories are in your own words and not learnt word for word. Most storytelling circles ban books.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Stewart
Date: 12 Mar 06 - 04:43 PM

I really don't mind people bringing their blue books (RUS) to song circle, I just refrain from going to those sessions myself. But I'm perfectly tolerant.

When I'm playing backup guitar or fiddle and I don't know the music that well, I don't mind using the notes on a music stand since I'm not the focus of the music - the singer or lead player is the one of interest and probably shouldn't be using written music. Besides I may be called at the last minute to back up something I'm not familiar with, so I don't have time to learn the new music.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: JudyB
Date: 12 Mar 06 - 02:24 PM

It's interesting - I usually do all right remembering the lyrics of any song I plan to sing at a session (though if someone asks for something I haven't done in a while and hadn't prepared and I'm fool enough to do it I can get in trouble). When I sing at our local open mike I'm more apt to have the words on stage with me, though I've almost never referred to them - something about the spotlight in my eye that makes me fear my brain may go out the window. They're within reach (though out of sight) to minimize the time spent getting back on track in case I do get in trouble - a security blanket that I rarely use.

However, remembering the chords for Charley's songs when I play guitar to back up his banjo is a whole lot more challenging for me - I learned to play by picking out tunes from songbooks, so reading music is fairly easy for me while playing by ear comes very hard (when it comes at all). I'm much more likely to have a sheet in front of me or a scrap of paper with the chords for the songs he plans to sing when I'm playing backup than when I'm leading a song.

And you'd better believe I had the sheets in front of me when we recorded his CD - though he didn't because (as many other folks have said) he sounded much better singing from memory even with an occasional flub. It meant we occasionally did a second (or third) take - we thought it was well worth the extra effort.

JudyB


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: TonyK
Date: 12 Mar 06 - 12:36 PM

I'm for tolerance on this issue. I've spent a lot of energy on trying to show other people the error of their ways and I found out it was my own stuff. Without the books, some people I know wouldn't come to sing. The Book has its place and so do I. I don't have to put anybody in theirs. Doesn't do any real good, anyway.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Mar 06 - 12:22 PM

The whole idea of a bunch of people sitting round and singing songs out of individual copies of the same book does seem pretty strange, outside the context of a church service, and I don't think it's found it in many cultures.

But perhaps it should be recognised as yet another expression of a type of activity that is characteristic of the particular culture in which it has emerged. Maybe it reflects the fact that Americans may tend to come from a more diverse set of backgrounds than people in other places, and from less settled communities, and that sitting in church and singing from hymn books is a much more familiar activity for them anyway.

In other words, this blue book stuff is a kind of tradition of its own, and deserves the same kind of tolerance we extend towards other traditions that can seem a bit ridiculous to outsiders. For example Morris Dancing.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 12 Mar 06 - 11:48 AM

It's true I have several editions of RISE UP SINGING in my bookshelf and I even consult them occasionally to recheck lyrics or a reference. But I'd never bring one to a song circle unless it was to show the book to someone else.

I do sometimes bring a songsheet with me to a song circle as a prop when I haven't fully digested a song, and I sometimes pass out song copies to others so they can learn the song as well. But all singing improves when the singer has fully internalized the song. Good singers still makes mistakes, starting in the wrong key or forgetting a word, but we're talking about song circles rather than recording sessions and mistakes are not as crucial in that context.

I do think we need to encourage less experienced singers in song cicrcles, but we should be encouraging them to learn more, not just get past their turn. And I do love to see people develop their singing. But I acknowledge that I am less patience with those who demonstrate no progress, month after month.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Ron Davies
Date: 11 Mar 06 - 08:51 PM

But I agree with you , Stewart--I try to bring no paper to a singing session--or at least stick the paper in my pocket when I sing the song. You want to contact with your audience----totally impossible with RUS.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Ron Davies
Date: 11 Mar 06 - 08:48 PM

A lot of us have no pretense to professionalism, have no CD's we are trying to sell, and still like to sing. And we appreciate people who have made efforts to learn songs. Bringing a copy of RUS to a session shows absolutely no effort in learning a song. And we are indeed getting together in groups, parties etc.--where even cheat sheets, possibly little books of lyrics of songs you like to sing--which you therefore have shown some effort in compiling, etc. are fine--but RUS is not.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Stewart
Date: 11 Mar 06 - 08:37 PM

Don, several years ago here in Seattle someone organized a pub sing, an open jam with only one rule - NO BOOKS! It went on for several months, but finally died. The last session consisted of myself and the person who started the session. But I thought it was a good idea, and it really made me rethink my ideas about singing, and convinced me to sing as many songs as possible from memory rather than rely on written words. So when I come to a session now I rarely bring any paper with me. It's a very freeing sort of thing not to worry about where the words are and lugging around lots of books. If I don't know a song well enough to sing without printed words, I don't sing it. And if I sometimes make a mistake or drop a word, that's the way it is, I don't worry about it.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Mar 06 - 06:48 PM

Rereading what I just posted, I don't think I made what I was attempting to say in the last paragraph too clear. The idea is that if people like me and the last John Dwyer prefer the way the Seattle Song Circle used to operate, perhaps we should contact like-minded folks and organize a new song circle. With an additional stipulation:   leave the songbooks at home.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Mar 06 - 06:31 PM

". . . but it won't get me out on a Sunday evening." Exactly so, Mary.

I describe HERE how the Seattle Song Circle first got started in 1977 and give something of a run-down on how the meetings were conducted. But I hedged a bit about why Barbara and I dropped out after a few years.

For one thing, once a week got to be a bit much. We enjoyed it, but there were other things we like to do too, and that held for a lot of the other regulars as well. That, by itself, wouldn't have kept us from coming frequently. But what began to reduce out enthusiasm was that an increasing number of people, mostly new people who were coming into the group, seemed to be there primarily for the social aspects rather than the singing, and wanting to participate, they would arrive at meetings with loads of songbooks under their arms. When their turn came up, the rest of the group would be treated to "Well, this is a song I just found this afternoon, and I don't know the words yet and I'm not sure of the tune, but. . . ." And what would follow would be someone rehearsing in front of the group, complete with uncertain groping for pitches and lots of "I'm sorry. Let me start that verse again."

Well, I'm sorry if it makes me some sort of elitist or folk-Nazi, but I came from of a tradition that says, "Know the song before you try to sing it for other people." Reading the song out of a book and groping around for a partially learned melody was something I do at home in the process of learning the song.

Now, I teach, so I'm used to listening to people in the process of learning words, tunes, guitar pieces, all that. In that context, no problem. But I went to Song Circle to sing and to hear other people sing. I don't want to keep a couple of dozen other people waiting while I do what I should have done at home, nor do I particularly care to sit there while half-a-dozen other people, in turn, do the same thing. When Seattle Song Circle first started, people sang songs they knew. New people, who had never sung before a group before, were encouraged. But these new people rightfully assumed that they should learn a song and practice it up before attempting to present it to the group. It's nice to watch somebody develop a repertoire of songs over a period of time and get good at singing them.

What tipped it over for Barbara and me was that, after numerous sessions of hearing several people fumble around with songs they didn't know, a couple of people suddenly got hung up on Jacques Brel, and insisted on rehearsing Jacques Brel songs in front of the rest of us. Now Jacques Brel songs are fine, but c'mon!!

Rise Up Singing hadn't put in an appearance yet, but apparently it wasn't very long. I remember John Dwyer's general disgust at the direction the Seattle Song Circle seemed to be taking, and like him, sitting around group-singing out of a songbook is not anything that appealed to me. As I mentioned above (and a couple of years ago), at John's memorial song circle meeting, a copy of RUS was disassembled and fed to a shredder as a tribute to him. I notice that on their current web site (HERE), they mention bringing "Rise Up Singing (AKA 'The Blue Book') or other songbooks" to the meetings. (Sigh)

Now, I have a copy of Rise Up Singing. I have a bookcase with about nine feet of shelf-space devoted to songbooks I've accumulated over five+ decades. RUS sits there among the others. I leave them all right there when I go to a songfest.

If people want to get together for a community sing and all sing out of the same book, fine. But as Mary says, "It won't get me out on a Sunday evening." I'd rather get together with other singers (including beginners) and swap songs we already know. And if you want to have a party, then have a party. I like parties.

It was our decision to drop out. The character of the Seattle Song Circle had changed, and it no longer met our interests. But if it meets those of other people, fine.

Barbara and I host a writers' group one Sunday afternoon per month. The idea is for people to read something they've written during the month to the rest of the group for mutual critique, suggestions, and, hopefully, encouragement. Over the past year, a few new people joined the group. Some of them, it turned out, didn't write. To attempt to justify their existence there, they would often read something they had found in a magazine or newspaper, with the excuse that "I though this was really interesting!"   They were obviously there, not because they were interested in writing, but because they seemed to be more interested in a straight social gathering (and maybe the refreshments). The group was a) straying from its original purpose, and getting unwieldy in size. Less time was being spent reading to each other and more time in general conversation. So we found a reason to disband it. After a month or so, we contacted the people we knew who were serious about their writing, and without general announcement, the group has reformed. But it's no longer "open invitation." Too bad we have to do it that way, but that seemed to be the only way we could get back to our original purpose.

Don Firth
(bitch bitch bitch)


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Deckman
Date: 11 Mar 06 - 03:31 PM

Very good comments Joe ... I applaude you. I think Mary comes close when she says there's sings and then there's sings ... my words, not hers. Back in the mid fifties, several of us founded an earlier version of what is now the "Seattle Folklore Society." Back then, we WERE much more about encouraging community singing. We even had our own self published music song sheets.

I guess all I'm trying to say is that ... these days ... I seek out the better singers at private gatherings and hoots.

I didn't mean to imply that one is better than the other. And yes, I do agree with you that there is an air of elitism expressed. It's an old critism and justified.

CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 11 Mar 06 - 03:05 PM

Well, we had our monthly Sacramento Song Circle last night. Yeah, the sound was awful on about half the songs, and it was a strain to keep people in the same key and on the same tempo, and the out-of-tune autoharp and the off-tempo guitar added to the strain - but the forty people there had a great time, and a few of the songs we sang came off very well. People seem to depend on me to carry the singing much of the time, and I interact with a few others to support the singing of the rest. It's hard work sometimes, but I think it's worthwhile. Sometimes I worry that I'm too dominant in the song circle, so I try to back off when the singing is OK.

A number of the better folk musicians in the Sacramento area come only occasionally, usually when the song circle is hosted by somebody significant. At times, we can have six guitars and a dobro and a cello and sixty singers crammed into a living room. It's a struggle when there's that many people crowded together, and the singing doesn't get good until after the 9 o'clock break, when half the people go home. But the singing DOES get good, even though it's still mostly dependent on Rise Up Singing.

The orientation of our song circle is community singing, and we've always had a policy of encouraging nonsingers to participate. Very few of our people would feel comfortable at gatherings of the San Francisco Folk Music Club - but they do have a great time at our song circles. I suppose the Founding Father of our song circle was Bob Fitch, an activist who worked as a freelance recorder traveling with Martin Luther King, Jr., and later with Cesar Chavez. Bob was instrumental in establishing song circles in Sacramento, Reno, Santa Cruz, and other places in Northern California. I suppose I was Bob's Designated Heir when he left town. We still have an air of activism in our song circle community, and we have provided many singers for the Sacramento Labor Chorus and for peace rallies over the years. Hey, I got to sing a solo on the steps of the State Capitol once...

I have to say that there's an air of elitism in many of the comments that criticize the use of Rise Up Singing. This sort of singing serves people who wouldn't be comfortable in a folk music club - would you prefer that these people not sing at all, that they just shut up and buy your CD's?

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 11 Mar 06 - 02:21 PM

"but isn't it also wonderful when ordinary nonmusical people at least try to sing in a group?"


Well,it depends on what aspect of it you call wonderful. The sense of community etc. is wonderful, but it won't get me out on a Sunday evening. The sound usually is awful.   And there are people for whom the sound is the most important..it is a sensory thing after all..and there are people for whom the social aspect is the most important...both are valid but not really overly compatible. I too flee the RUS sessions and I especially hate it when they don't just say the page number and proceed but patientently and sometimes aggressively wait until you have found the page and will shove a book in your face. What is wrong with humming etc. if you don't know the words if you are in the group....

To avoid hurt feelings etc. it is important to be brutally honest about a bb policy if you are doing a song circle, camp or whatever...and in a camp certainly there are opportunities for people to have sessions using the book...but tell them ahead of time how you feel and they can adapt or start a different group. mg


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Ron Davies
Date: 10 Mar 06 - 11:06 PM

"If it (singing out of the RUS hymnal) makes for an enjoyable session, fair enough". Indeed, fair enough. Just make sure those of us who don't in fact look forward to an evening of people stumbling through every blessed verse of a song they have possibly never seen before, and whose melody they may or may not have an inkling of, are warned--we'll stay away.

I repeat--even in RUS circles there must be some people who actually don't need that crutch--which is much worse than a "cheat sheet"--at least with a cheat sheet, you have prepared a bit to sing. It's not just open to the book to page 34 and sing the second from the bottom.

And being able to plow through all verses proves only that the singers can read English. There is not necessarily anything musical about the experience.

It's a question of priorities. ANYBODY who can carry a tune can learn a song. Then you learn another. It's easier for some than for others--but it gets progressively easier. Anybody who takes a shower every morning can learn songs--and if you sing the same one every day in the shower--where you even have friendly acoustics-- it probably won't take long. There have already been threads on how to do it--and we can continue them. It's not a question of showing off by singing a 25-verse ballad. I don't know anybody who does that. Most of us, I suspect, like to sing songs with choruses--and like to sing harmony and hear others do so.

As Stewart points out, in every RUS circle especially if the same songs are often sung, there are people who already have picked up several songs by osmosis.

RUS was never meant as a hymnal--it's absurd to treat it as one--and, as indicated by many already, doing so will drive away the better singers.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Deckman
Date: 10 Mar 06 - 10:27 PM

I'd like to add a comment that has been hinted at, but I don't think it has really been addressed yet. I AM a singer. I have a large repertoire. I worked hard to attain that repertoire. Why would I want to waste an evening ... listening to people singing songs out of ONE book ... when they can't even sing the song from memory ... let alone tell it's background ... or sing ten varients ... and give the history of those ten varients?

To me, the varients and their history is what the search for the wiley folksong is ALL about. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was swapping songs with a small group of singers in Seattle. I was very excited to hear THREE NEW SONGS I'd NEVER heard before!

To me ... that's VERY exciting!

(what ... it's NOT IN THE BOOK ... WHO GIVES A RAT'S ASS)!

Bob


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 10 Mar 06 - 09:28 PM

I've even been told by well-meaning folks that I'm singing one of my own songs wrong, because they heard someone else cover it and they sang it differently. I suppose it would be flattering if one of my songs were collected in a later edition of the Blue Book but I prefer what I get back from more contemporary folk-processing. Sometimes there's even an improvement!

I do remember a circle in Portland-West, a few years back, that appeared very confused when I led "West Indies Blues" and no one could find it in the book. Well, they just had never met Ella Robinson Madison, nor my mother who learned the song from her. And there are still some songs that are "wild" like that, lurking in the shadows of the singing circle.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Mar 06 - 06:18 PM

Using a crib when you song a song, that's common enough, and it's even traditional - the Copper Family used to for example. It can be overdone; it should be used as a way of helping you sing a song you already know to sing, only the words are a bit slippery or rusty, not for songs you don't know.

But what seems strange is the idea of a bunch of different people using the same words book. But then, if it makes for an enjoyable session, fair enough. Singing isn't about competing to see who's got the best memory.

Actually it can be when you know a song so that you sing it without making any effort to remember it, just open your mouth and the words come out naturally, (which is by far the best way to sing), that it's handy having the words there in black and white. Those are the very times when you are liable suddenly to find they are missing in your head. If it's a song you are consciously remembering that's much less likely to happen. But the effort of remembering, while successful, tends to get in the way of giving the song its head.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 10 Mar 06 - 03:00 AM

Yeah, Bert, but "The Barley Mow" isn't in Rise Up Singing. And besides, that's one song that can be more song when you goof it up, especially after you've had a few pints and half-pints and so forth...
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Bert
Date: 10 Mar 06 - 02:41 AM

That's right McGrath, The book is called "Rise Up Singing". Actually it's a really good book for getting people started. But some folks take it too far.

Ah yes Dick, I remember singing "The Barley Mow" at a Philadelphia Folk Song Society circle one time and a guy said just that - "you sang it wrong". And I'd learned the song before he was bloody born.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 10 Mar 06 - 02:36 AM

Well, it's true that some people misuse the Blue Book. I can't argue with that. And yes, I suppose I've encountered some people who insist there's no other way to sing a song - but most of the songs in Rise Up Singing do have known authors, and the book usually does give an accurate representation of the lyrics.

And yes, those who commit such sins are to be as despised as the guy who refuses to use a written source of lyrics, and then starts a song three times over and can't ever finish a song because he can't remember the lyrics.

Maybe it's better to just let people sing, however they want to do it, and not be so damn judgmental. Sure, it's wonderful when virtuosos can remember a 25-verse song and sing it perfectly - but isn't it also wonderful when ordinary nonmusical people at least try to sing in a group?

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 11:39 PM

""You're singing it WRONG! "

... to which you calmly reply - "the book has the wrong version!" - and just keep on going...


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Ron Davies
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 11:28 PM

That was a bit unfair. The best singers won't flee when the first song is sung at a RUS session. But only if they know that it is a RUS session. And if they do, there's a good chance they won't show up in the first place.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Ron Davies
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 11:19 PM

Yes, but there are some differences. In church there's frequently a choir who knows what they're doing, and can guide the congregation musically. In RUS circles there's no guarantee that anybody has any idea of the tune or the words--but they're likely to plow through all verses regardless. It must give them a sense of accomplishment.

Another difference is that when the hymn starts, the best singers don't usually flee.


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Deckman
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 10:49 PM

Yes ... they REALLY do that! I guess you could say that the music has gone ... dare I say it ... FULL CIRCLE! Bob


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 07:55 PM

You mean you really have song circles where people use a book of words like a hymn book in church? Not kidding?


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Subject: RE: blue books revisited (Rise Up Singing)
From: Bill D
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 05:34 PM

...but they shout it in perfect unison! (never seen more than 3 at a time, myself...YOU wouldn't exaggerate any, would you, Dick?


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