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Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4

GUEST 22 Aug 06 - 02:51 AM
The Sandman 21 Aug 06 - 11:25 PM
GUEST 21 Aug 06 - 05:12 PM
The Sandman 21 Aug 06 - 05:05 PM
GUEST 21 Aug 06 - 02:51 PM
The Sandman 20 Aug 06 - 06:28 PM
The Sandman 20 Aug 06 - 06:22 PM
GUEST 20 Aug 06 - 05:10 PM
The Sandman 20 Aug 06 - 07:52 AM
Marje 20 Aug 06 - 07:24 AM
The Sandman 19 Aug 06 - 04:36 PM
Marje 19 Aug 06 - 09:44 AM
GUEST 19 Aug 06 - 03:57 AM
Marje 18 Aug 06 - 07:28 AM
GUEST 17 Aug 06 - 05:26 PM
nutty 17 Aug 06 - 08:06 AM
The Sandman 17 Aug 06 - 05:53 AM
GUEST 17 Aug 06 - 04:41 AM
The Sandman 16 Aug 06 - 05:49 PM
The Sandman 16 Aug 06 - 05:40 PM
Marje 16 Aug 06 - 03:49 PM
GUEST 16 Aug 06 - 02:26 PM
The Sandman 16 Aug 06 - 01:01 PM
The Sandman 16 Aug 06 - 12:32 PM
GUEST,Pandora Box 16 Aug 06 - 06:56 AM
The Borchester Echo 16 Aug 06 - 04:15 AM
GUEST 16 Aug 06 - 03:38 AM
The Sandman 15 Aug 06 - 06:21 PM
Tootler 15 Aug 06 - 05:49 PM
sian, west wales 15 Aug 06 - 04:22 AM
GUEST 14 Aug 06 - 04:49 AM
GUEST 07 Aug 06 - 05:04 PM
The Sandman 07 Aug 06 - 03:08 PM
GUEST 07 Aug 06 - 09:59 AM
Snuffy 07 Aug 06 - 08:38 AM
nutty 04 Aug 06 - 06:18 PM
The Sandman 04 Aug 06 - 06:04 PM
8_Pints 04 Aug 06 - 05:41 PM
nutty 29 Jul 06 - 04:48 PM
John MacKenzie 29 Jul 06 - 04:26 PM
GUEST,The Vulgar Boatman 29 Jul 06 - 03:57 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 28 Jul 06 - 08:12 PM
The Sandman 28 Jul 06 - 07:58 PM
GUEST 28 Jul 06 - 07:20 PM
melodeonboy 28 Jul 06 - 06:19 PM
GUEST 28 Jul 06 - 06:04 PM
melodeonboy 28 Jul 06 - 05:22 PM
Liz the Squeak 28 Jul 06 - 02:41 PM
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The Borchester Echo 28 Jul 06 - 07:27 AM
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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Aug 06 - 02:51 AM

Guest,
Who read it for you?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Aug 06 - 11:25 PM

TO GUEST, august 20 2006 was playing a gig at goleen festival for over two hours, got plenty of fresh air, gave people some pleasure, and had some fun, although I was playing tradional music[ it was not in a folk club] but to people who were neither dead or boring. most of the gigs I do here in IRELAND are not in folk clubs. get your facts and your spelling right,you impertinent twerp, you clearly cant or havent read these posts properly as both Jim Carroll and I live and spend most of our time in IRELAND, JUST BECAUSE ive spent five minutes writng this letter, it doesnt mean ,that I spend the other 23 hours 55 minutes of the day at the computer. you have scored an own goal as jim carroll, states he doesnt go to folk clubs very often,now go back to your graveyard.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Aug 06 - 05:12 PM

Reading all that crap written by captain Birdseye and Jim carroll tells me exactly why Enlish folk music clubs are dead because the people are dead and boring. Get a live the pair of you, breath some fesh air and listen to new musicians or just shut up and die off.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Aug 06 - 05:05 PM

I agree with you jim,. I have never let anyone other than myself decide how I should sing a songAND I have frequently decided to sing a song unaccompanied because theres no better way of doing it. however there are some songs that I perform , for instance[Just as the tide is flowing] That I think work better with my concertina accompaniment.
Many years ago at a club in the rochester,kent area, Nic JONES made a comment to me, a girl singer asked the audience what she should sing. Nic said, you should never do that, you should do what you want to do and perform it well enough to convince the audience you were right [ have a belief in your material]. SO WE AGREE ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS JIM .


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Aug 06 - 02:51 PM

Dick,
As a listener, whether or not you have to earn a living is immaterial, it is the end result that concerns me, and I would guess any other traditional song enthusiast.
I am delighted at the idea that some people can make a living from the music; it indicates that there is a following for it, but if performers are subject to pressures from the market place, that's another thing altogether. The performer should always decide how a song is performed, not the punter, otherwise the performer becomes a living juke-box where the coin is put in the slot and out comes the product.
The fantasy of Harry Cox as a professional performer is far beyond my imagination I'm afraid.
I'm sorry to say Martin Carthy's guitar playing sums up perfectly everything I feel about accompaniment. As good a technician as he is, and as dedicated as he is to traditional song, his playing is always too tricksy and intrusive for me and always gets inthe way of his songs - sorry again - my opinion.
Jim Carroll
PS I don't play an instrument and I no longer sing, but on the other hand I don't make films or write books, but this doesn't stop me from having an opinion on what is a good film or book.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Aug 06 - 06:28 PM

The wilsons are very fine singers individually[ apart from as a harmony group]and have been for twenty years, if you havent heard them where have you been.I recommend ken, mike ,chris, particuarly.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Aug 06 - 06:22 PM

[reasons for accompaniment should always be made on artistic grounds rather than commercial ones]Jim do you play an instrument or sing yourself. I think not,you have never been in the position of a professional folk songer, wondering where the money for the next phone bill comes from.It is hard enough to earn a living as a professional folk singer,but to try and do it as a purely unaccompanied singer is out of the question. I have stated before that I think most people sing better when they only have to concentrate on singing only, But I think that the majority of audiences prefer to hear contrast, perhaps a guitar backing, a concertina backing, and an unaccompanied song.if Harry Cox were alive today and chose to be a professional folk singer, he would have to accompany himself to get gigs,.Just because one of the reasons to use a backing instrument is a commercial one, it doesnt follow that the accompaniment cant be an artistically sensitive one.Finally I repeat there is no earthly reason why accompaniments cant be both commercial and artistically sensitive, look at some of the Beatles arrangements, or Nic jones or Tony rose
   If you bought any of my c ds or l ps [MartinCarthy played guitar on one]you would realise that you were teaching your grandmother to suck eggs, my concertina accompaniments are generally considered skilful and sympathetic to the song.I have also bought out a song accompaniment tutor for the concertina that stresses just that, that accompaniment is accompaniment,the tutor is called The Concise English concertina. DickMiles


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Aug 06 - 05:10 PM

Marj,
Sorry, I know you said you didn't want a long argument - now you seem to have hold of Br'er Rabbit's tar baby and can't let it go. It's partly your own fault for putting up such good arguments.
I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree.
I see no reason why people can't go on enjoying and appreciating traditional music without having to claim that they are part of the process that created and perpetuated it. It's not a value judgment, merely a question of definition of where we stand in relation to it. I believe that we revivalists bear a responsibility to the music we have borrowed; at least to the extent of passing it on as it was passed on to us. The best summing up I know is that we should treat it as if we are looking after something precious for a friend.
I have spent the last thirty odd years recording traditional singers and I know that many of them who gave us their songs and stories, placed a value on them and wanted them to survive; many were far more conservative than I am about how they should be performed.
From your posting, I think we are in total agreement about most other things.
Dick
I haven't heard the Wilsons; I believe they were over here earlier in the year (the Spalpín weekend?), but couldn't make it. I did hear mixed reports about them but I wouldn't want to comment without having heard them myself. If they are, as reported, a harmony group, I'm afraid I overdosed on harmony a long time ago. For me, apart from the odd ritual song, harmony militates totally against the narrative nature of the tradition. The Watersons were fine on ' Frost and Fire' but when they harmonised everything I'm afraid they succeeded in doing what I have often heard folk song performers often being accused of; making everything sound the same.
I wonder why you think Harry Cox would have used accompaniment if he had been born fifty years later. He had every opportunity to do so; he could play melodeon and fiddle and there were certainly enough people around him who would have been happy to encourage him, if only to prove us stick-in-the-muds who claimed that the British song tradition was an unaccompanied one. Walter Pardon also could play fiddle and melodeon, but again, he made no attempt to accompany himself and he told us on several occasions that, while he had a couple of enjoyable evenings with friends who accompanied his songs at private house-gatherings, he always regarded it as a bit of fun, but totally unsuited to his way of singing.
I'm sure you are aware that there have been a number of Irish traditional singers who also play instruments – Mary Anne Carolan, one of the finest singers, played concertina, but never attempted to accompany herself.
I do remember early efforts to accompany traditional singers as being utter disasters, the foremost one being Robin Hall accompanying Jeannie Robertson – oh dear!!!
I won't mention what I think of Peter Kennedy's arrogant vandalism in dubbing accompaniments on the BBC field recordings.
Accompaniment is fine, but it requires a great deal of skill, otherwise it doesn't - (accompany that is) it dominates the song and at best is unnecessary and at worst, intrusive.
Reasons for accompaniment should always be made on artistic grounds, never commercial ones.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Aug 06 - 07:52 AM

I agree marje,.it was more to jim, I was suggesting going to stockton club[to revise his opinions of folk clubs]                and seeing the wilson family, examples of fine singers individually and as a unit.my otherpoint re harry cox is that his approach might have been different if he had been born fifty years later, he did play the fiddle, alithough not as far as i know to accompany himself.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: Marje
Date: 20 Aug 06 - 07:24 AM

Not sure what you mean, Dick, I'm already a big fan of the Wilsons. Unaccompanied harmony singing is my favourite music of all. I've also got nothing against a simple accompaniment (I also accompany myself sometimes, just to make a change from naked vocals). And I love it if I'm singing solo and someone puts in a harmony.

What I'm less happy about is when a perfectly good traditional solo singer who already accompanies him/herself decides to get a group of instrumentalists around them and becomes a just a lead vocalist in a band. It may sound fine for some songs, but if they do this for their whole repertoire, it doesn't do justice to many traditional songs, or indeed to the singer.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Aug 06 - 04:36 PM

Dear Jim and marje,Iam someone who loves songs ,    particuarly traditional songs, and I do feel I sing best unaccompanied ,however about 1978 I realised that in order to keep doing this and to get gigs at clubs and festivals,for variety sake I needed to accompany myself. now i have also got great satisfaction from accompanying myself on the concertina,and hopefully given other people pleasure.and do not regret this at all.But for commercial reasons I had to make this decision, as undoubtedly harry cox etc would have done if they had been born fifty years later.
   Next time you go to england, go to the middlesborough ,stockton area.look up the wilson family[great unaccompanied singers]and visit Ron Angels club in Stockton , I think you will revise your opinions.DickMiles.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: Marje
Date: 19 Aug 06 - 09:44 AM

Jim-
I think the ground has shifted a little since we began this discussion, or maybe I didn't make myself clear, sorry. I don't think there's any reasonable grounds for dispute about what is or is not traditional material. Like you, I prefer traditional music and song and get dispirited when there is too much pop-style singer-songwriter stuff, blues etc presented as "folk". (And like you I've got A L Lloyd's book on my shelf along with quite a few others).

What I thought was "narrow" was not your view of the material itself; what I was querying was your assertion that the singers and musicians who now make and value traditional music are no longer part of the tradition - that's what seemed narrow to me. I see the modern process as a tradition that uses different means of transmission in addition to the old ones, and takes place in different social settings, but as a traditional process nevertheless. It's quite distinct from what happens in the wider popular music scene or the classical world, and something very special.

Yes, of course it's worth trying to change the situation - we need, for a start, to try resist the pressure towards over-orchestrated, over-amplified music that the audience listens to passively. I've been thinking about this and I'm concluding that the "band" phenomenon has a lot to answer for. You know the pattern: singer, let's call him/her XY, has reasonable success and gets noticed for good-quality singing and material, perhaps with a bit of guitar, perhaps no accompaniment. Next thing you know they've formed the "XY Band" and there's a fiddle and a bass player and maybe a squeezebox and some drums, and the songs are lost in a wall of sound - probably quite well played and put together, but the song and the singer have become just part of a much larger sound. I don't think this does any favours for the tradition, and I don't see it as a traditional means of making music.

There are, on the other hand, lots of singers and musicians who do care about finding the right way to treat traditional material, and who try to develop it and share it in the community, but I don't think it's helpful to tell them they're simply too late now to ever be a part of a living tradition. If we tell them that "the tradition" is dead, it's hardly going to encourage anyone to care much about what they do with the songs - they might as well just turn them all into pop songs with a noisy band, and intersperse them with music-hall and Beatles numbers.

Those who do care about traditional song and music need all the encouragment they can get. We need to promote and reward more participative and thoughtful engagement with the music, and encourage people to respect for where the music came from as well as where it's going to. That, in my view, would be a fitting way of carrying on the tradition, and I've met plenty of others who feel the same.

Best wishes,
Marje


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Aug 06 - 03:57 AM

Marj,
Don't feel obliged to respond to this - but I've started, so I'll finish!
Nothing personal, but I've become a little tired of hearing the word 'narrow' - I prefer 'accurate'. The term 'traditional' when applied to song and music means something as specific as 'mushroom' when applied to soup. I have a few hundred books on my shelf on traditional song and music, all referring to a certain body of songs and tunes; these are the things that caught my interest half a lifetime ago and they continue to interest me and give me pleasure.
I also get pleasure from jazz, blues, classical music, and a host of other types of music, but I know where to find them when I want them.
This is no longer the case with folk or traditional music. There was a time when I could (and did) go to a folk club and know what I was going to hear - ballads, shanties, broadsides, you name it - a whole wide rainbow, all falling within that 'narrow' definition. Now, that is no longer the case. Over my last years aa a regular at folk clubs I was served up music hall, pop songs of an uncertain age and a whole host of undefineable types of song and music that didn't interest me in the slightest (mostly badly, or at best indifferently) performed. So I voted with my bum, took it off my seat and stopped going.
I'm sure that the absence of my bum isn't going to make the folk world rock on its axis, but there are thosands like me who also stopped going. The number of clubs reduced dramatically and audiences dwindled. I was used to attending clubs who boasted full (or at the very worst), half-full houses; the last few I attended had no more than a dozen people in the audience.
I have to be in London in a couple of weeks and whereas at one time I had the choice of dozens of clubs, there miiiiiiiiight be one worth making the effort for.
Surely it's worth trying to change that situation.
Best wishes yourself,
Jim Carroll
PS I think Nutty is a very lucky chap (or chapess) to have heard all the arguments, personally, the day I stop learning is the time I flop in the armchair and settle down to wall-to-wall 'Love Island'.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: Marje
Date: 18 Aug 06 - 07:28 AM

Thanks, Jim, for taking the trouble to explain what you meant. I think you use the terms "tradition" and "traditional" in quite a narrow way, maybe not the way they're more widely understood. I'm not interested in getting into heated arguments about this, I just see it a bit differently. For me, there is still an element of "tradition" in the modern folk process and the institutions that serve it (clubs, sessions, singarounds, festivals etc). The communities that share these songs are no longer settled groups that live and work together, but more transitory communities that hold together in different ways, relying on travel, leisure, and even the internet for survival and coherence.

I agree very much with what you say about the inappropriate use of musical accompaniment and bands. Not that I don't like these, but there are certain songs that lose something important when subjected to over-orchestration. Harmony's another matter, and in most cases I don't feel it dilutes the song in the same way (maybe this is partly an Irish/English difference, as Irish singers tend to use ornamentation rather than harmony?).

And yes, the old songs have still got a lot to offer - in many cases, they're much superior to recently-composed songs that have mot been subjected to any sort of selection via the folk process.

Best wishes,
Marje


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Aug 06 - 05:26 PM

Isn't discussing it also passing it on in our own way.
I've met a lot of Traditional singers over the last thirty years - Walter Pardon, Tom Lenihan, The Stewarts, Duncan Williamson, Bob Cann, Nora Cleary.......................et al, and they were never reluctant do discuss it - and we've got the recordings to prove it.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: nutty
Date: 17 Aug 06 - 08:06 AM

I've been involved in folk music for 40 years and for that amount of time I have heard these arguments tossed back and forth. Like with politics and religion, these are entrenched views that are unlikely to be resolved.

I'm just glad that the people I meet on the folk scene are only interested in celebrating the tradition and passing it on in their own way.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Aug 06 - 05:53 AM

yes and they disqualified me for singing ned of the hill[because it was a translation, but nevertheless there are people singing tradional material in the english language in their competitions.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Aug 06 - 04:41 AM

Marje,
Hope I don't go on for too long.
As far as I can see there hasn't been a great deal written about the song tradition; Lloyd's book, 'Folk Song In England' is probably the most comprehensive work on the English one. My own opinions have been formed mainly through our work in rural Ireland where the tradition survived to a far later date, among the Irish Travellers who still had a tradition as late as 1973 (though, thanks to portable television introduced into the caravans, they had lost it by 1975); also through our extensive interviews over 20 years with Norfolk singer Walter Pardon.
The tradition, as I understand it operated in close communities (farming, fishing, travelling, mining etc) and acted, not just as an entertainment, but as an oral literature, a means by which members of that community could give voice to things that concerned them, politics, wars, work, local loss of life, crime - you name it, there's a song about it. The deciding factor as to whether it became a folk song depended on it being taken up and put through the 'folk process'. In addition to these were existing songs which were adapted to suit local conditions.
If you accept ballad scholar David Buchan's theory, (The Ballad And The Folk) the ballads were not set texts, but merely plots backed up by commonplaces (lily white hand, milk white steed etc) and an arsenal of devices such as incremental repetition, poetic runs etc. Each performance was a re-creation. This is backed up to some degree by the story of Sir Walter Scott being accused by James Hogg's mother of killing her songs by writing them down.
Literacy was a double edged sword; while it gave access to more material, (broadsides, garlands) it had the effect of fixing the texts to a degree so the singers tended to sing them as they received them.
The tradition began to die with the opening up of the closed communities; the Industrial Revolution, the railways, road improvement. The serious decline came with radios and an access to mass entertainment. We got a story from Sam Larner's village of Winterton, of the time the local pub, The Fisherman's Return, where the singing used to go on, got a radio for the first time. An old man spotted it behind the bar and asked what it was. On being told it was a device for bringing all the latest news and entertainment from London, he reached over with his walking stick and hooked it onto the floor, smashing it to pieces. It wasn't replaced for decades.
Eventually mass entertainment won and the tradition became a memory, first of those who participated, and later by people who remembered the people who participated.
In this respect Walter Pardon was particularly interesting. His song tradition came almost exclusively from his family; he remembers singing taking place in his home prior to WW2. After the war he lived a home with his uncle, Billy Gee, a singer, and began to write down Billy's and other family members' songs. The only song Walter ever and himself at home was 'Dark Eyed Sailor' because "nobody else wanted it". Walter's repertoire was made up entirely of the songs he wrote down, with the exception of 'Topman and The Afterguard' - he wouldn't sing the one he'd learned in the army because it was 'obscene'.   
I believe our knowledge of the tradition comes from a period after it had died, or certainly greatly deteriorated. With notable exceptions, our informants were those who had not participated but had remembered the songs from relatives or neighbours (Song Carriers). Whether they had also learned the style of singing is debatable.
When MacColl, Lloyd and others started the revival (encouraged by Alan Lomax) they believed that there was still a great deal of mileage in the old songs and that they could still entertain and enthrall audiences; (I'll go along with that - the hairs on the back of my neck still tingle when I hear MacColl singing Sheath and Knife, or Mary Delaney singing Buried in Kilkenny.!) They also believed that the forms in which the songs were created provided a blueprint for the making of new songs (at least Ewan did). To a degree these ideas took, and the sixties and part of the seventies were very exciting for people like me who were swept along by the whole thing.
For me, (a personal opinion) things started to go sour when the songs were pushed into forms for which their NARRATIVE quality were not suited – over accompaniment, harmony, electronics. The storytelling aspect of the songs gave way to the musical performance of them. Much of that has now disappeared with the decline of the clubs, though it still lingers in places. It seems to me that the revival is at a crossroads. Many of the old songs have been rejected and other forms have replaced them (was the night of Beatles songs which was put on at one Northern club really a legitimate programme for a 'folk' club?)
I still go along with MacColl's belief that there is still a great deal of mileage in the old songs, and I believe it is possible to create new songs using the old forms.
On the question of tradition and the passing on from parents to children, sure, there are family traditions, but the one we are talking about was far wider and encompassed the whole community. What interests and concerns you as a parent or grandparent, does not necessarily have any significance to the wider population. If it does and it is taken up by them – well, that's a different matter.
I have gone on too long – sorry.
Jim Carroll
PS Above are mainly my own thoughts; they are not a criticism of what goes on in many clubs, merely an attempt on my part to define it.
PPS Cap'n Been to and enjoyed the Spalpeen, not Skibbereen.
By and large the singing promoted by Comhaltas (especially for competitions, has little to do with the traditional song I've been listening to for most of my life. Do you know that they refused to give John Reilly (the Traveller who gave us Well Below The Valley and who died shortly after from malnutrition) a booking because he wasn't 'Sean nós'!


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Aug 06 - 05:49 PM

Dear jim, go to the spalpeen fanach,the cork city singers club every sunday night, you will hear both irish song in the english and the irish language, like wise the skibbereen singers club. Go too to comhaltas competions, and comhaltas seisuns ,again you will hear both. the english tradition has all but disappeared, well not in cork it hasnt.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Aug 06 - 05:40 PM

Exactly Marje,for example Roy Harris[ Considered to be arevival singer]but approximately the same age as Bob Lewis considered to be a traditional singer,yet both of them sing in unaccompanied english traditional material, where does it all begin or end, or take myself I sing in an unaccompanied tradional style, some of the time, but Iam considered to be a singer of tradional songs rather than a traditional singer[though ive listened to and absorbed ]harry cox phil tanner sarah makem etc].
    to jim carroll you said the tradition is dead[you didnt specify where]what difference does it make if theyre revival, traditional, if theyre singing in sean nos or traditional unaccompanied style.oF COURSE IKNOW THAT JIM MCFARLANE AND KEVIN MITCHELL ARE IRISH, all these categories just get in the way of music.what is more important is that people are singing in a certain style[ and that too evolves]nothing especially music remains    static it only remains static to folksong collectors and academics ,to musicians and singers everything is changing, I dont sing a song exactly the way I sang it twenty years ago. AND I KNOW HARRY COX AND FRED JORDAN SANG SONGS DIFFERENTLY EVERY TIME THEY PERFORMED THEM.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: Marje
Date: 16 Aug 06 - 03:49 PM

It's an interesting distinction you're making, Jim, and one that's often made without much explanation. It's never seemed very clear to me where tradition ends and "revival" or "song-carrying" begins.

Is it, as you use the terms, to do with the means of learning or transmitting the songs (oral vs written/recorded?)Or to do with the social context in which the songs are used and passed around? Or is it more about whether the songs themselves are old and from an anyonymous source? Or is it to do with being old - is it possible to be a traditional singer only if you were born before a certain, fixed date? (and if so, why?)

It all seems quite blurred to me. I've learned loads of songs just from hearing other people sing them - some from older members of my family, some from friends, some from strangers in clubs and sessions and festivals. I also learn loads more from books and records and the internet. I sing them mostly at these folk events but also sometimes at social occasions or parties, or to my children and grandchildren.

It doesn't seem to me to be so very far from the way songs have always been passed on and used. The means of transmission available to us are now more varied, but the time-honoured old processes still continue too. If I sing my granddaughter a lullaby my Mum sang to me (and probably her Mum to her), isn't that a tradition?

When there was a live "tradition" by your definition, people must at some points in history have learned and introduced new songs, surely? When did these become traditional - after x years? After a generation?

If you say "tradition" is now dead and simply doesn't exist, when did it stop, and how? What was it that used to happen and now doesn't and can't? Or does it happen in Ireland and not in England?

Sorry about the string of questions, you don't have to answer the lot - I'm just trying to get at what people mean when they say that "traditional" folk song is something quite distinct from "revival", and something that is dying or dead.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Aug 06 - 02:26 PM

Countess.
Sorry, I should have specified song, not music - we've got it wall-to-wall here in the West of Ireland. Have to admit I'm not well up on the English music scene.
Captain-
Two of those you mention are Irish - and revival. While the Irish language tradition is doing well-ish, the English tradition has all but disappeared in Ireland.
The others are song carriers rather than traditional singers - I'll be happy to debate that with you sometime.
The tradition was an essential cultural part of a way of life that has long disappeared.

Jim Carroll
PS It's very refreshing to be allowed to make a controversial point without howls of 'purist' and 'folk police'.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Aug 06 - 01:01 PM

oh yes and The wilson family, both individually and as a unit.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Aug 06 - 12:32 PM

the tradition is long dead, well I disagree.I hear many fine unaccompanied singers here in ireland and in england too[ if thats how you define the tradition]jim mcfarlane,Kevin mitchell will noble, geoff wesley, bob lewis,      TO NAME BUT A FEW. Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST,Pandora Box
Date: 16 Aug 06 - 06:56 AM

Not a bad programme - but wouldn't it have been so much better if it had been presented by David Robert Bulmer - custodian of great folk music and friend of all folk musicians!


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 16 Aug 06 - 04:15 AM

Jim said: Of course the tradition is dead – long dead

What he's talking about is a particular traditional style of singing and he's right (or almost. There still exists the misguided floor spot who tries to sound as if they're 150 with straw in their hair and just strolled in from the horse-drawn plough but for every one of those there are several hundred who are re-interpreting with modern instruments and recording techniques and re-telling the old stories without the arcane language in a way intelligible to their contemporaries. There's that . . . and the Young Coppers. Not a lot of this gets anywhere near the 'f*lk clubs', however, where organisers (with a few notable exception) do behave like sheltered home wardens who think they know what their charges want.

The dance music scene though is rather different where I would argue there is still very much an unbroken, living tradition. Younger players are still learning from the legacy of their 'elderly forebears' (I cite the Dartmoor Pixies and Mawkin as prime examples from opposite sides of the country) and judging by the vibrant, roaring success of e-ceilidh and the recent upsurge in Morris revival among young people, I don't see any need to revert to Year Zero to determine what to do with our cultural legacy.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Aug 06 - 03:38 AM

I was disappointed at the somewhat limp-wristed response to Peggy Seeger's statement that there was no longer a passed-on tradition - Owen Hand, Louis Killen, Red Sullivan, Cyril Tawney – for crying out loud. As worthy as (some of) these singers are/were, not even their best friends would describe them as traditional singers. Like the rest of us they came to the tradition second hand; I doubt if any of them would claim to be of part of the tradition; rather than having borrowing from it (in fact I know from personal discussion that at least two of them definitely didn't).
Of course the tradition is dead – long dead. I consider myself lucky to have been around in time to hear its last dim echoes, but even then its was from singers well advanced in years and past their best, people like Harry Cox, Sam Larner, Charlie Wills – and the great Walter Pardon, who gave the revival (that's what we've got) a transfusion of material and examples of singing that could have given the revival its second wind and kept the songs going for another generation or so. As far as I have seen the jury's still out deciding whether that transfusion took; but as far as I can see the prognosis isn't hopeful.
The last time I visited a folk club in the UK it was a little like visiting an elderly relative in sheltered accommodation who wasn't quite sure where they were and why.
The sooner we come to realize that the tradition is a thing of the past and decide what we are going to do with our legacy, the better, as far as I can see.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Aug 06 - 06:21 PM

to guest7 august 06 5 04 pm   Woody guthrie was a fine songwriter, in my opinion he was only an o k singer and guitarist, your point doesnt seem to have much relevance, he might have been a beetter singer if he hadnt played an instrument, but that wasnt what he was about . what WOODY GUTHRIE[ correct spelling]was about was the social comment of his songs,and he was able to get that message across without being a great singer or instrumentalist virtuso,he had something important to say .


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: Tootler
Date: 15 Aug 06 - 05:49 PM

I was discussing the series at Folkworks summer school last week and someone made the point that the programmes were not about the music, but about the people - or some of them at least. This could explain a great deal of the dissatisfaction with the series as there was a major mismatch of expectations.

Now a series about the music, especially if it looked at the British Isles as a whole and not just London and the South East - that would be something worthwhile.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: sian, west wales
Date: 15 Aug 06 - 04:22 AM

As mentioned above, here are the details for the Radio Wales programme - Traditional Music of Wales - which starts Thursday.

I still think that it was commissioned at least in part because of those of us who drew the BBC's attention to the Anglo-centric nature of Folk Britannia. OK, I'd rather this was on Radio 4, but it's a start ...

sian


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Aug 06 - 04:49 AM

Big John Said
"I think the Pogues are defunct now but 'TMTCH' are still out there and front man Swill, although very quiet in the interview, is also producing cutting edge folk as a solo artist."

I think you're wrong there John, The Pogues are still performing just without the toothless wonder Shanne McGowan. The Men They Couldn't Hang are indeed still out there and recently headlined the 'alternative stage' at The Rhthym Festival in Bedford (Jerry Lee Lewis headlined the Main stage and Seth Lakeman also played). TMTCH vocalist Swill has just released a new album on Irregular Records and is reviewed in this months FROOTS magazine.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 05:04 PM

Snuffy, so Woody Guthry should have sung unaccompaned?


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 03:08 PM

Yes, snuffy that was exactly what I meant


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 09:59 AM

Isn't Billy Bragg just dreadful? He can't sing, can't play the guitar, writes truly awful populist songs. What a bore!


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: Snuffy
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 08:38 AM

That's not how I understood Dick's comments. I took hum to mean that nobody can concentrate 100% on the song if they are also accompanying themselves: something has to suffer. If you want an accompaniment, you should get someone else to play it, so you can concentrate on getting the song across.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: nutty
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 06:18 PM

I have to admit to enjoying the programmes much more the second time around.
Perhaps, because I have overcome the indignation I felt at the glaring ommissions when I first saw the programmes.

This time I am enjoying the performers and their performances ... I'm certainly enjoying the nostalgia,(I went to my first folk club 40 years ago), and still experience that sense of belonging.
This is my music .... it gladdens my heart.

Some bits I like more than others, some performers I like more than others, but folk music is in my soul and I have to admire people like Martin Carthy for their dedication to the genre.

I have to disagree with Dicks comments above... I suspect that had folk been purely about song, it would have been dead and buried a long time ago.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 06:04 PM

Ihave not seen the programme. but I agree with tootler I believe martin carthy sings better without his guitar, in fact I think most people do. The question of accompaniment is a compromise, as part of an evenings entertainment, I include guitar and concertina and unaccompanied songs, which provides more contrast. but most people are at their best when they have only one thing to concentrate on. I heard the clip of martin singing georgie and I didnt like it.He is an excellent gutarist and singer and I must say its unusual for me not to like martins accompaniments. I can still listen and enjoy jeannie robertson, harry cox,they were great singers who could hold me riveted without needing to use a musical instrument other than their voice. DickMiles


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: 8_Pints
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 05:41 PM

Saw the last episode tonight and found the evolution very interesting.

The performance clips were relatively short. The cutting in of premature narrative did annoy me somewhat.

There was a hint of dissent over Jim Moray's interpreation of traditional folk that could have been expanded. Maybe not!

Much to commend it, however.

Bob vG


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: nutty
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 04:48 PM

There were wonderful things happening in Scotland as well, but, when you regard London as the Centre of the Universe, you tend to have a limited view.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 04:26 PM

They weren't writing the sort of songs that fitted the McColl/Seeger straightjacket.
We all know people like that, who only speak to people who play the game according to their rules.
G.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST,The Vulgar Boatman
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 03:57 PM

And on the subject of Peggy Seeger and the lack of good songwriters, I seem to recall there was this chap called Alex Glasgow who was doing a bit around that time...you might have thought she'd remember him.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 08:12 PM

Amen Dick!

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 07:58 PM

I remember playing as a support act for Ewan Macoll and Peggy Seeger.An interesting experience.I had a conversation with Peggy, this was 1987, I think,. And she said the same thing then about the lack of good songwriters in the British Isles, at the time I was flabbergasted, because performing regularly at festivals were Leon Rosselson, Peter Bond, Cyril Tawney , Bill Caddick, Richard Grainger,Pete Morton and many other fine song writers. When Ithought about her statement I understood. Ewan and Peggy isolated themselves from a large part of the folk world, they didnt like to have support acts,they tended to only go to the singers club, They didnt go to festivals unless they were booked, they didnt go to other folk clubs. so they were unaware of what was really happening. I must say I was surprised, they must surely have heard of Leon Rosselson, I found the whole conversation INCREDIBLE.Then Ewan said to me I really admire you, Dick, I couldnt do what you do , away from home, night after night at folk clubs ,it would be too lonely.It was the journeyman professionals who were in touch. and Peggy is still talking the same nonsense twenty years later. Yes EWAN WAS AGREAT SONGWRITER and they were a very good duo, but if they had mixed abit more with the rest of the folk world they would have been better infomed about other song writers. Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 07:20 PM

"The Highland Sessions" demonstrated the usual self-indulgent Celtic navel-gazing. Although some of the music was great, why did they not provide subtitles to the incomprehensible Celtic lyrics? We switched over and went in search of something more accessible to an English-speaking audience.


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: melodeonboy
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 06:19 PM

Indeed, Sian.

By the way, I did, of course mean "Britannia", not "Brittania"!

(Yours pedantically)


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 06:04 PM

Lots of strange stuff about early(ish) broadcasting. Apparently the first ever Welsh language folk music radio programme was produced in and broadcast from the Irish Free State, fronted by Welshman WS Gwynne Williams.

Also strange but true.

sian


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: melodeonboy
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 05:22 PM

Thanks, Sian, for the info about the forthcoming series on Welsh music; that sounds interesting (and long overdue).

I noticed while watching "Highland Sessions" this evening (a wonderfully lo-fi, no-frills programme with excellent Gaelic music), which was on before Folk Brittania, that it was produced by BBC Wales although it features only Scottish and Irish music! Strange but true!


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 02:41 PM

But it was over 20 years ago...... more like 40.

Watched it last night (or rather, early this morning) and found it interesting enough to keep me mostly awake til 2.00am.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: John Routledge
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 12:09 PM

Yes CR - Richard Thompson's performance of Adieu,Adieu was the highlight of the programme. And I didn't think that I was a fan of his :0)


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Subject: RE: Review: Folk Britannia repeated on BBC4
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 28 Jul 06 - 07:27 AM

Not a lot like Davy Graham either. The page is well worth clicking on for the video clip of Richrd Thompson doing Adieu, Adieu.Whoever it was on some other thread that said RT 'hadn't done a f*lk song in 20 years' ought to be made to watch this.


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