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e f d s s examinations

The Sandman 29 Jul 06 - 07:03 PM
Anglo 29 Jul 06 - 07:39 PM
GUEST,Malcolm at large 29 Jul 06 - 07:40 PM
Doug Chadwick 29 Jul 06 - 07:44 PM
DMcG 30 Jul 06 - 03:30 AM
stallion 30 Jul 06 - 04:10 AM
GUEST,The Vulgar Boatman 30 Jul 06 - 04:21 AM
The Sandman 30 Jul 06 - 04:22 AM
Andy Jackson 30 Jul 06 - 04:39 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 30 Jul 06 - 05:07 AM
Richard Bridge 30 Jul 06 - 06:38 AM
The Sandman 30 Jul 06 - 06:38 AM
The Sandman 30 Jul 06 - 06:48 AM
stallion 30 Jul 06 - 07:01 AM
The Sandman 30 Jul 06 - 10:30 AM
GUEST,Russq 30 Jul 06 - 10:35 AM
GUEST,Brian Peters 30 Jul 06 - 11:01 AM
GUEST,Auldtimer 30 Jul 06 - 11:15 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 30 Jul 06 - 11:24 AM
greg stephens 30 Jul 06 - 11:43 AM
The Sandman 30 Jul 06 - 02:18 PM
GUEST,Brian Peters 30 Jul 06 - 02:26 PM
greg stephens 30 Jul 06 - 02:58 PM
stallion 30 Jul 06 - 03:16 PM
Mo the caller 30 Jul 06 - 03:42 PM
Scotus 30 Jul 06 - 03:54 PM
The Sandman 30 Jul 06 - 04:22 PM
GUEST,Malcolm Douglas (still at large) 30 Jul 06 - 09:21 PM
GUEST,Rowan 31 Jul 06 - 01:19 AM
Manitas_at_home 31 Jul 06 - 01:54 AM
GUEST 31 Jul 06 - 02:45 AM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 08:27 AM
GUEST,Brian Peters 31 Jul 06 - 09:41 AM
stallion 31 Jul 06 - 10:13 AM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 11:28 AM
GUEST,Brian Peters 31 Jul 06 - 12:11 PM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 12:41 PM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 01:23 PM
GUEST,Brian Peters 31 Jul 06 - 01:57 PM
GUEST,Russ 31 Jul 06 - 02:08 PM
MartinRyan 31 Jul 06 - 02:12 PM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 03:38 PM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 03:47 PM
Greg B 31 Jul 06 - 04:03 PM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 04:26 PM
Anglo 31 Jul 06 - 05:03 PM
The Sandman 31 Jul 06 - 05:22 PM
stallion 31 Jul 06 - 07:48 PM
GUEST,Rowan 31 Jul 06 - 09:15 PM
Desert Dancer 31 Jul 06 - 09:36 PM
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Subject: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 07:03 PM

Would it be a good or bad idea, for The english folk dance and song Society, To follow COMHALTAS lead with irish trad music and introduce examinations in english traditional song and dance.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Anglo
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 07:39 PM

Dick, you just have too much time on your hands these days, Don't waste ours as well.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Malcolm at large
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 07:40 PM

EFDSS used to offer qualifications in dance teaching, but gave that up years ago, I think. You'll find that a lot of Irish singers, musicians and dancers, while acknowledging the valuable work that Comhaltas has done, are more than a little dubious about their prescriptive and proscriptive tendencies. I don't know that exams are the way forward.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 07:44 PM

A bad idea, I think. Examinations suggest a right and a wrong according to a fixed and rather narrow interpretation. The folk process is evolution by a series of wrongs. A living tradition cannot be maintained by preserving it in aspic.

DC


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: DMcG
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 03:30 AM

I can't see any real benefits and can see quite a few problems. As an EFDSS member, I'd certainly vote against it if asked.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: stallion
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 04:10 AM

Whats wrong with years of tramping the folk club scene? A theatre director once told me he would rather employ an actor who started their careers with a couple of seasons in Pitlochry and then toured the a play around the western isles than someone straight out of RADA. I have seen and heard some of the graduates of Newcastle and, whilst they may be accomplished musicians and singers, came over to me as wooden, contrived and arrogant. " I have a degree in folk music, I know what I am talking about", just one quote, oh, and "you're a nobody" (maybe that comment was right!) all this because I said that their second set was better than the first and I am glad that I stayed for the second half, I had paid to get in and expected something better, they delivered in the second half but for the self styled "creme de la Creme" it all has to be good. The last time i heard that sort of comment was in a pub in Rawdon (leeds) when someone came up with the most stupid political remark ever followed by "I'm Gary Sprake, I know what I am talking about" (for the uninitiated - the then Leeds United goalkeeper) So, for me ther is no better examination than a paying audience and no better recommendation than word of mouth. My experience of the Newcastle project is that it doesn't work, students need to do a five year "placement" on the folk circuit before attending the course.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,The Vulgar Boatman
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 04:21 AM

And take their pushy parents with them.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 04:22 AM

I too have mixed feelings. An argument could be made in favour of it such as this,that it gives children a focus, something to aim for. and is a better focus than competitions. Competitions can be discouraging for those who dont win, and are generally very subjective. So exams work in classical music, so why not other forms of music.Thirdly the question has to be asked why is the tradition in Ireland stronger than England is it because of the competion and exam system.Personally I feel the exam system is much better than the competion system, The benefits might be that children acquire more knowledge of english traditional music. Iam undecided. Finally to Anglo and his negative comments, if he/ she has nothingmore constructive to say, these comments pretty much sum up anglo him/ her self.I am busy enough doing two gigs a week. plus spending over two hours practice a day, if I wish to raise what I consider might be an important way of encouraging children to discover english traditional music I am going to, and Anglo can sling his hook.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Andy Jackson
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 04:39 AM

This smacks of the competitive Eisteddfod ideal in Wales.Children are taught to perform set pieces parrot fashion. This seems to result in fixed smiles and almost identical plastic performances.
I have been worried for many years that the English "In The Tradition" idea reveres performances by elderly quivery singers and tries to copy the sound. Unfortunately of course we don't have recordings of these same singers when they where in their twenties with the fine strong voices they would surely have had.
Our music must learn from the enthusiasm of those fine old singers for the words themselves. But surely we should not try to mimic the performance itself as I feel has happened in Wales. Examinations have to work to a set sylabus which I am frightened would set certain ideas in stone.

Right well that's upset my friends in Wales and England..next please!!

Andy


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 05:07 AM

Oh, I wish there were people around, on the English scene, who are trying to "copy the sound" of "elderly quivery singers". Everyone I hear, these days, is merely copying the sound of people like Martin Carthy, Nic Jones et. al. (no disrespect to the two fine artists mentioned, by the way, they, at least, sound like themselves!).

The other day a friend played me a recording of an up and coming young singer. Although the recording contained some interesting traditional songs, and the performance thereof was competent, the singer was an M. Carthy clone. This was about the third or fourth M.Carthy clone that I have heard in the last year (and about the 400th in the last couple of decades)!

By all means listen to the great revival singers, and learn from them, but, in addition people need to go back to those "elderly quivery' geniuses, who preserved our tradional songs, and learn from them as well - just as the revivalists did.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 06:38 AM

I think there is a great deal to be said for learning the facts about traditional English vernacular music and dance. Those can surely be examined. I would be very worried indeed that there might be a right or a wrong way of performing them. I cannot speak for the steps of the dance, which I suppose may well have "right" and "wrong" versions, but the concept of folk music demands not only the transmission of the tradition but its modification by transmission.

By way of example I might turn to a recording of Bert Lloyd to find the words and tune of a song, but I certainly don't want to sound like him. I have one particular song I have nearly finished learning where I took the words and the underlying accompaniment sequence from a recording of Martin Carthy, but as I am currently doing it the rythmic delivery is almost more dance-trance. Some like it. Others it offends. Certainly my delivery of the Coppers "Sweep" has some saying the late great man would be turning in his grave, and others say they could imagine him grinning broadly at it.


Naturally one performance of a modified version of a song or tune might be more or less pleasing to a listener than another, but I am not clear that the difference is properly to be examined. "Taste" is very hard sensibly to examine.

The potential upside - continuity and knowledge. The potential downside, ossification and alienation.

How about English folklore and traditional culture as a GCSE?


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 06:38 AM

I agree. Harry Cox, Phil Tanner, Sarah Makem EliZabeth Cronin, Margaret Barry, Joseph Taylor,JeannieRobertson, these could all be required listening for an examination. It doesnt mean that they have to be copied exactly, but used to expose children      and others to certain types of singing. this is exactly what I did when I started singing, as I know Martin did too. the same could be done on the instrumental side, Jinky wells, Stephen Baldwin,Oscar Woods, Billy Bennington, Billy Pigg. marks not to be given for copying someone exactly, but for some influence in style. Although copying someone exactly is not necessarily bad if its used as a stepping stone rather than a final goal, some people have achieved a style of their own by taking certain things from two or three traditional performers.creating their own hybrid.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 06:48 AM

As someone who has tramped the folk scene for many years, I see Stallion s point of view, the university of life is in my opinion the best university. however I can see some pluses to an exam system if it exposes children to older styles and traditional music in general. its certainly preferable to competitions.I am still listening to Traditional singers but have my own distinctive style. I am sure Martin Carthy is too. the point is Carthy sounds like Carthy, not an exact clone of Joseph Taylor.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: stallion
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 07:01 AM

In part i agree with Shimrod, but then for youngsters there has to be a starting point, Carthy is a one off and who can blame people for paying homage to his style, (Dylan, Rusby et al), we have a young singer who in one set would have passed for Dolly Parton or Kate Rusby, honest, eyes shut one could barely have told the difference, now she has developed her own style in her vernacular, which, ironically, is only a stones throw from Kate Rusby's roots. Even trying to be themselves still gets comparisons with other more well known artist, that is because it is used as a substitute for a richer narrative, otherwise known as "influenced by" Spot on observation about the singing styles, my elderly aunt was a club singer in the sixties, she is in her seventies and still singing, she still holds and carries a tune but the power and vibrato have gone, she did explain it technically to me but I didn't really take it in. I have serious doubts about " who sings folk songs" I think everyone did and so there was never a set style or sound, perhaps trained singers avoided folk songs because anyone could sing them. I think Carthy sang, and sings, songs with feeling for the songs and to the best of his ability as everyone would and should do, I think it might be a contradiction to actually sit in judgement on any song or singer, if I had been judged in the early years I would definately have got NIL POINTS.
applause is better than medalions and certificates, so an education policy/ crusade, nay an evangelistic campaign for folkies to applaud the slightest whiff of interest from anyone under twenty five might be better than exams!


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 10:30 AM

Staliion are you saying that you think its ok to have exams in classical music but not in traditional music, or not in any music at all.Ithink we need to analyse why there are more young children playing traditional music in Ireland than in England. Is it because of the competition and examination system comhaltas have introduced,If it is so, then while it may have many faults, It may well be the right thing for EfFDS to introduce Personally I would rather an examination system than the re introduction of competitions. I would like to see comhaltas get rid of their competions and just use examinations.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Russq
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 10:35 AM

An Exam system, like everything else, is a trade-off.
A person's response to such a system tells us more about that person's priorities than the exam system itself.

Clearly, one of the results of examinations is standardization and homogenization.
Is that a pro or con?

You say, "He sounded like Martin Carthy. Cool!" I say, "He sounded like Martin Carthy. Yawn."

When it comes to music, I personally favor that which promotes diversity and feel negatively about that is promotes homogenization.

My purely personal preference is partly a response to a world where the organizations keep getting bigger and the choices keep getting fewer. To me it does not matter that the store is the size of a jumbo-jet hanger and the prices are the lowest in the world if there is no selection and I cannot get the product I actually want.

When something gets academicized and credentialized I think that is a sign it has become severed from its traditional sources. It has taken on a life of its own and become to some extent an artificial construct.

Pro or con?
When it comes to music, I find that I personally do no care much for the results of such a process.

Examinations would make learning folk music like learning classical music.
Pro or con?

I agree that "exams work in classical music." But a goal of classical training is to get everybody playing the same sequence of notes in the same way. When it comes to non-classical music, that's not what I want to hear.


Anglo,
To state the obvious...
In the context of Mudcat OTHER people cannot waste YOUR time.
Any time wasting on Mudcat is about YOU, not the thread creator.

Russ (usually silent GUEST, and with good reason)


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 11:01 AM

>> I have been worried for many years that the English "In The Tradition" idea reveres performances by elderly quivery singers and tries to copy the sound. Unfortunately of course we don't have recordings of these same singers when they where in their twenties with the fine strong voices they would surely have had.
<<

Several questionable assumptions there. One, that singers peak in their twenties and decline thereafter. My experience of singers in general, and of traditional songs in particular, is that they get better as they get older. A "strong voice" is not the main attribute needed to put a song across. And, down there in Miskin, I'm sure you're not unaware of Phil Tanner who in recordings made when he was in his seventies possessed range, accuracy, power and drama to shame many a younger singer.

The only seriously quivery singer I can think of offhand would be Fred Jordon, and that was a vibrato he cultivated, nothing to do with age or infirmity.

Then, as Shimrod pointed out, who exactly are the revival singers copying the quivery old men? I don't get to hear them. The Devil's Interval have certainly studied source recordings, but they've managed to distil the important bits from the styles, not tried to sing like old folks.

Jeff Davis gave a workshop at Pinewoods Camp some years ago in which participants were given a tape of various source singers and invited to copy the style of a singer of their choice. The idea was not to make the present-day singer into a clone of the traditional one, but to make people understand the kinds of techniques the old singers were using. Techniques that could then be incorporated into their own repertoires. Style matters.

If you want examinations in traditional music there is always the degree course in Newcastle (where The Devils' Interval and many other good young musicians have been studying) and others in Scotland and Ireland. I can't see EFDSS wanting to get involved in that kind of thing. I'm sorry Stallion had a bad experience with some Newcastle graduates but the ones I know are eager to learn, including from us folk veterans. A few years gigging experience might well benefit some of them, but I've also heard performers who after decades on the road can't string a coherent intro together or plan a set properly.

>> someone came up with the most stupid political remark ever followed by "I'm Gary Sprake, I know what I am talking about" (for the uninitiated - the then Leeds United goalkeeper) <<

For the uniniated, the Leeds United keeper famous for throwing the ball into his own net when under no apparent pressure. I don't think I'd trust him any more on politics than on goal custodianship.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Auldtimer
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 11:15 AM

Who guards the guards? Who tests the testers? Who examines the examiners?
In the past folk music collectors'own taste, preferences and ideas of propriarty and decency dictated what was "OK" and included and what was left unnoted or edited. Who knows what has been lost; songs, tunes and styles. So who is going to draw the line in the sand between right and wrong? Who decides if that the line has been crossed? What are the punishments going to be? Are folk clubs and festivals only going to be able to book "qualified" performers?


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 11:24 AM

The idea of exposing those unfamiliar to the traditions of folk singing is valuable. Some can apply these techniques of singing to their interpretations. Many who attempt this process can possibly hurt their voices by straining or belting.

Examinations begins to sound like the testing system in education. Personal thought is put on hold. Exams for folk singing are not a true indicator as to the musical value of a unique interpretation to a song. Copying trad singing styles may have some value in the understanding of vocal nuances and ornamentation but stressing a uniformity and conformity to someone's idea of what is "authentic" appears to be arbitrary and open to question.

What is the scale to be used and who gets to apply it?

Someone in one part of the village might say that the folks in the other part of the village are not "authentic" and don't get it.

Ultimately, when an audience hears a performer, they are not so interested in the standards but whether they are moved by the artist.

Comhaltas does a great service in promoting Irish music. It may possibly do some harm by discouraging creative innovation.
(Tommy Peoples?) (Riverdance?) (Bill Whelan?)(Davy Spillane?)
(Andy Irvine?) etc.

If exams encourage such as in fiddle contests, than they may have use but should not be applied rigidly. If they motivate musical people to examine the traditional heritage of Irish or any other music, then they may have some use.

Frank


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: greg stephens
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 11:43 AM

In a word, in response to the original question: bad.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 02:18 PM

I mentioned EFDSS because they are a national organisation and the English equivalent of comhaltas. They are supposed to be the guardians of English Folk Song, I would like to ask Brian Peters why/ he doubts if they would be interested.finally no one has been able to say why the Irish instumental tradition is stronger than the English. Comhaltas must be doing somrething right. Remember the first fleadh was in 1951 when irish music was in danger of extinction, now its flourishing.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 02:26 PM

>> I would like to ask Brian Peters why/ he doubts if they would be interested <<

I don't speak for EFDSS but I suspect that lack of resources would be a factor even if they were interested in such an idea. Personally, I agree with Greg anyway.

Many cultural reasons why the Irish might more interested in their traditions than the English. Maintaining cultural identity in the face of the hegemony of an oppressive neighbour might be one of them (see the Cajuns, the Quebecois, the Bretons, the Basques, etc.) But the barbie's lit and I haven't time for all that just now.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: greg stephens
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 02:58 PM

Not only do I think it's a bad idea, I cant think of anything worse.
The odd fiddle competiton with a £500 prize at county shows and similar events would be a bit of fun though. But spare us the selfappointed arbiters dishing out diplomas, whetehr at EFDSS or anyone else.
Studying folk music structure, or history, or whatever, is a perfectly reasonable acadamic topic, and obviously needs exams if people want degrees or doctorates in it. But I seriously dispute the need for exams(especially organised by EFDSS) in the performance aspects of it.
Folk music is only to be judged by the folk:OK?


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: stallion
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 03:16 PM

I saw Gary Sprake throw the ball into his own net at elland road!


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Mo the caller
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 03:42 PM

I have come to the conclusion that you can only benefit form being taught what you have already worked out for yourself.
Whether you want to become a preschool worker or a dance caller (my part time jobs) any course you take has to go side by side with 'work experience'. If you haven't seen the problems, you can't appreciate the solution. (ok exageration)
Folk is such a wide subject, and people come to it from such differing backgrounds. Your syllabus would be full of simplifications or omisions.
Who would take the exams anyway?
The fact that the 'Gusto' programme didn't get off the ground shows that people are too busy 'doing'. Though we turn up at workshops as part of festivals (if there's a callers workshop I go to it, the singers must go to the workshops at Chippenham else they wouldn't keep putting them on). I suppose we learn from each other - what to do and what to avoid. Those interested buy the books, listen to others, ask questions on Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Scotus
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 03:54 PM

I'm a bit surprised no one has mentioned the excellent degree programme in Scots music which has now been underway at the RSAMD in Glasgow for some 6 or 7 years. Many of the graduates are acknowledged as very fine performers despite (in some cases) their youth (Emily Smith et al). The lecturers are among the finest of the 'revivalists'(including Alison McMorland and Pete Clark)- as for the examiners I cannot comment as I was one for 4 years. The programme is led by Brian McNeill, which also says something for its quality.

Then there is the Traditional Music Centre of Excellence at Plockton High School led by Dougie Pincock - this acts as something of a feeder to the RSAMD Degree.

As for England, I hear good reports of the programme at Newcastle University run in conjunction with Folkworks.

Jack


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 04:22 PM

To greg stephens,folk music is to be judged by the folk, how do you define the folk.So it appears to be working in Ireland, Scotland and Newcastle. so maybe its not such a daft idea after all.Maybe the EFDSS are not needed at all,.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Malcolm Douglas (still at large)
Date: 30 Jul 06 - 09:21 PM

More to the point, it isn't something that EFDSS see as part of their remit nowadays; nor should it be. They used to provide qualifications for dance teachers so that there was a standard that users could rely on to ensure that they were using teachers who knew what they were talking about. No more than that. Comhaltas (and the Mod in Scotland, for example, for Scots Gaelic song) are far more formal and conservative, as I've already said.

EFDSS is needed, but not for this sort of thing. I don't much care for competitions, and have frequently been quite baffled by the criteria involved in judging them. That, I think, would be a common experience.

Finally, don't dismiss Anglo's comments just because you don't like them. He knows what he is talking about, and has, I suspect, at least as much experience as you do. Likely rather more. It's always difficult when people won't use their real names in places like this; so many misunderstandings ensue that wouldn't happen if we knew who we were talking to from the start.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 01:19 AM

Malcolm Douglas (still at large) wrote "Finally, don't dismiss Anglo's comments just because you don't like them." I couldn't find any posting from Anglo in the thread; is there something my browser is missing?

More to the point of the topic, I'd like to take Frank Hamilton's questions further, after first stating my prejudices. All of my experiences with examinations (from both sides of the table; candidate and examiner) has reinforced my belief that examinations really test only one's ability to do exams. If you are trying to create a 'competency benchmark' you'll have to create a set of criteria of competency that is defensible and then create assessment tools that are valid, reliable and equitable. Anyone for cans of worms?

As a complete outsider (I used to be a member of EFDSS but it lost its relevance to me after a while) I'd have to tug my forelock to the decisions of the English in such matters. In Australia we have music examinations run by AMEB with all the strengths and weaknesses mentioned above and we have Eisteddfods (ditto) but most learning is at the University of Hard Knocks, despite the fact that some universities (ones with Vice Chancellors and Academic Bawds) have music departments who will supervise useful postgrad theses.

There has been a lot of talk about the working class roots of folk music. Leaving aside the truth/worth/relevance/etc of such talk I'd reckon the best way to get rid of any vestiges of working class roots would be to have representatives of the muddle class setting themselves up as dragon gate-keepers with middle class rites of passage.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 01:54 AM

Anglo's posting is way up top, he has nothing to say on the topic and is just having a dig at Dick. There is no evidence in the thread that he knows what he is talking about.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 02:45 AM

Assuming that there is anybody in EFDSS capable of adjudicating on traditional music and song, and that's an awfully big assumption (I would be hard pushed to identify such an individual or group of individuals), people would be well advised to take a close look at the damage done to Irish music by Comhaltas in imposing a set of rules and standards in order to meet with official acceptance and win competitions. The mind boggles at an English equivalent of Riverdance!
There is little doubt that Comhaltas once played a great part in preserving traditional music, but as one of the leading authorities on the music once remarked "it is now an organisation with a great future behind it".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 08:27 AM

Yes Jim,I have my criticisms of comhaltas too. Which is why I said I would prefer they dropped competitions[ for children anyway]. and replaced them with exams.I dont see any harm in competions for adults [ who are mature enough to realise they are very subjective ]and just use them as a focus. But for all comhaltas faults the Irish musical tradition is now flourishing and comhaltas have played a fairly large part in this.all I am suggesting is that Those people who are interested in english traditional dance and song, should analyse comhaltas acheivements and errors and try and strengthen the English tradition . Perhaps examinations are better than competitions. perhaps we should Abdicate responsibility rather like EFDSS. seem to do. at least in 1951 comhaltas didnt abdicate reponsibility and lots of people have had great pleasure from the fleadhs. Finally I adress this to anglo there have been 20 other posters on this subject,Irest my case.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 09:41 AM

I find myself agreeing with Greg Stephens again. Degree courses in the wider aspects of folk arts are a different thing from examinations merely in musical expertise. I certainly don't believe that traditional music skills are picked up casually, and value greatly the input of people like Harry Boardman, Roy Harris and Martin Carthy, who gave me pointers along the way. Institutionalising that kind of mentoring within the context of a course like that at Newcastle is OK by me.

But what, in any case, would a certificate from such an exam qualify the holder for? Can anyone see Dick Dixon or Alan Bearman or Bob Berry picking their festival bill on the basis of exam grades? Would I have to present a certificate before being allowed to play for a dance? Like it or not, the paid performers amongst us operate in a market. That doesn't mean that the busiest professionals are necessarily the best ones, but it does mean that those able to put on a performance (which often includes factors beyond musical skills) are more probably going to find themselves in work.

To Dick: traditional music in England is stronger now than it's been for years, without any intervention in the form of exams.

When I was around ten years old I had piano lessons from the archetypal battleaxe music teacher, aimed solely at pushing me through a series of grades. It ground out any pleasure I might otherwise have taken in music-making, and it was only later when I discovered that traditional music was actually fun, that I began to take a pride in my own playing. Keep it fun, I say.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: stallion
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 10:13 AM

I think Dick is concerned about the level of participation in folk music and Efdss exams could be a doorway in, much the same as the star system we used on our four year old grand daughter to encourage her to eat greens and fruit. This isn't a joke or a dig, my kids did ballet for exams and medals etc but were under no illusions that they were going to be ballerinas ( well, not after the age of thirteen!) Just maybe a folk art exam/level of achievement award system might work for the three to thirteen age group and may achieve a greater level of participation later in life. It may also help impoverished folkies to supplement gigging with lessons! I think it is worthy of debate and it may work, it would certainly raise the consciousness of vernacular music and art, I would also include memory tests to encourage the oral tradition!
Peter


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 11:28 AM

No of course I dont see bob berry , or anyone else booking people at festivals because of exam certificates and as Stallion says that was not what I meant at all. I see it as an alternative to competitions for children, to give them a focus and get them interested in traditional music.Music can be fun if its taught in the right way, exams are only stepping stones, the final goal being nothing to do with earning a living at it, but enjoying music purely for the sake of it,feeling good about being able to do something well, being able to enjoy playing music for fun but acquiring technique to do this through examination. Unfortunately its a minority of children who are self motivated enough to not have to have an enforced sense of discipline.Discipline does not have to be unpleasant, in fact the carrot rather than the stick as Stallion points out, is much more successful. but we as musicians have all learnt that without practice we would not have got where we are. this is another useful lesson for children to be good at something to aquire a skill requires endeavour,but depending how its taught.can also be fun. Finally I disagree with you Brian about Traditional music in England never being stronger, It seems no stronger than at the beginning of the folk revival, it may have chaned in emphasis from clubs to festivals.The average man in the street hadnt heard of Martin Carthy then and he hasnt heard of him now.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 12:11 PM

Sorry, Dick, if I got the wrong idea about the point of this, but I remain sceptical. My 13-year old son has just taken his grade 5 saxophone exam. He worked hard for weeks on the performance pieces and scales, had them more or less note-perfect then, in the exam room with a piano accompanist he'd barely met, panicked and "fell off" the most complicated piece for several bars. We await the results with trepidation but the experience was not a positive one for him. I go along with his teacher's exam-oriented agenda because that's all there is on offer, but to me it seems that he gets a lot more enjoyment playing in the school band than rehearsing exam pieces. I agree that younger kids can't rely on self-motivation alone, but doesn't the regular lesson and occasional band performance fulfil that function whether or not exams are involved?

>> Finally I disagree with you Brian about Traditional music in England never being stronger, It seems no stronger than at the beginning of the folk revival <<

Well I wasn't there at the beginning of the folk revival, which is why I said "stronger than it's been for years". I refer to the number of young people I see - yes, at festivals rather than folk clubs, but also in informal local sessions - playing English music on fiddles, melodeons and all the rest. I don't mean just the young concert performers, but kids doing it for fun, and honing their skills just for the sake of being good at what they do.

>> The average man in the street hadnt heard of Martin Carthy then and he hasnt heard of him now. <<

I'm not sure what that fact signifies. Sure the English don't value their traditions sufficiently, but as I said I would look towards long-standing cultural factors rather than the absence of structured learning and examination.

(From Stallion)
>> It may also help impoverished folkies to supplement gigging with lessons! <<

Many of us already do that, exams or no.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 12:41 PM

Yes Brian your right, not all children are suited by exams, but I still think they are better than competitions. I wish your son well with his results. you will probably find he,s passed, most examiners are quite sympathetic, and it sounds like only a small section of the exam.in fact I will bet you hes passed and in six months time willhave put the experience behind him . I remember seeing Elvis Presley forget the words to Are You Lonesome Tonight, he said I must have sung this a million times, and laughed, that was the first time I really liked him. regards to all.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 01:23 PM

When I was at primary school, we used to do english folk singing and dancing as part of the curriculum. But in those days education was viewed somewhat differently, we werent examined in the subject, we just did it twice a week. However modern day educationalists and governments seem obsessed with the idea that education is just about getting a job, not the overall development of a child culturally as well. Idoubt unfortunately that folk singing could be reintroduced in schools because of the present governments fixation with league tables etc, But maybe this is another alternative we should be pressurising for.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 01:57 PM

>> When I was at primary school, we used to do english folk singing and dancing as part of the curriculum. <<

Yes, I remember that too - was it "Time and Tune" on the radio? I heard a lot of traditonal songs back then. Some of them I liked, some of them I didn't (or not, at least, until many years later), but it was at least some kind of exposure to the tradition, albeit with posh voices and clodhopping piano accompaniments. More folk music in schools is something I'm completely in agreement with you about. It exists, but it's very patchy and usually seems to depend on an existing member of staff being an enthusiast. The national curriculum doesn't help, I'm sure.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 02:08 PM

I find this thread perversely fascinating.

I am a Yank and I confess that I am baffled by the suggestion that "examinations" might get children interested in traditional music.

I am baffled on many levels.

It has not been my purely American experience that children get interested in things because they are exited by the prospect of taking a test.

But even if it were true that there is a causal relationship between the offering of examinations and interest in traditional music, it seems to me that an examination system would be the most cumbersome and least efficient way to produce the desired effect.

If you're going to encourage people to do things, why wouldn't you simply pay musicians to play and/or children to listen rather than examiners to examine?


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: MartinRyan
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 02:12 PM

Aah, come on Jim! You can hardly blame Comhaltas for Riverdance! Now, do we have a copy of Joe Mulhern's (sp?) "Free State Adjudicator" around here anywhere?

Regards


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 03:38 PM

Aye, Yes, Martin the same thought had occured to me, Idont think Comhaltas have got any connection with Riverdance, in fact riverdance has had an un fortunate effect on comhaltas dancing competitors in that theyre all starting to wear silly wigs.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 03:47 PM

To Russ, Yes but its better than the competition system, which is more subjective, the problem with competitions is that only a very small percentage can come first or second. children can become discouraged, with an exam a child can feel satisfied with a pass a merit or a distinction, the exam is also done in private so the child is less likely to feel a failure and the results are private , a good teacher can then bolster the childs confidence and encourage them. whereas in a competition the child may have come fifth and feel shes/hes done poorly.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Greg B
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 04:03 PM

I maintain that "having" to do something is the best way
of taking all of the joy out of it. And turning a pastime into
a competition comes a close second.

The approach that some of the Irish have taken exemplifies this.
It may have helped to preserve the music but what's the point of
that if in the process people (especially children) have been
made terribly unhappy and had the joy sucked out of what should
have been one of life's great pleasures? You see these kids at
some place called 'Cathleen O'Reilly School of Irish Dance' all
done up in stiff pseudo-irish costumes with far too much green
looking positively miserable except when they're supposed to
plaster a smile across their poor faces. The other day I saw
a program from Kennedy Center where some of the 'school of
dance' girls were attending one of their rare non-competitive
shows. One of them said 'oh this is so wonderful because you
aren't competing against other schools and you can just have
fun dancing and not have to worry all the time about being
perfect.' How sad that in most of her dance, which is a celebration
of the human spirit, this little girl '[has] to worry all the time
about being perfect!' She'll probably grow up into the same
hyper-critical snot-rag that her teacher is, if she keeps at
it long enough. Every time I see 'all-Ireland' this or that
champion on a performer's resume I'm at once attracted and
repulsed. I know he or she will be technically good, but that
they'd be involved in such a thing kind of takes them down a
peg or two personally, in my view, and I know it's not their
fault, coming from a system where culture is taught like catechism
and some think that's a good thing.

The idea that the culture of classical music is a good thing and
ought to be emulated in folk is purely wrong-headed. In fact, it's
not a nice thing at all. It's really quite nasty, and makes the
majority who come under its influence feel like failures.

Folk music is supposed to be about something different. It's about
giving and receiving pleasure in the music. That's why 'folk' did
it in the first place. Hell, most 'folk' had enough in their lives
that was unpleasant without having to wield music like a personal
scourage.

Similarly, it's not about competing against one another to prove
who's best, but about appreciating one another and enabling one
another so that the whole (in ensemble playing) is greater than
the some of the parts. And if a champion is to be crowned, it will
be by that person's peers and those who like to listen.

Mind you, I see nothing at all wrong with the academic study of
folk music and lore, and if that study includes learning to
emulate traditional methods and styles without variation, great.
Provided that's what the scholar wants to do. But never ever
should sight be lost of why the original musician did it...because
it gave him and his listeners pleasure. And, I would submit that
you can't emulate a traditional style without emulating the joy
of the traditional player. The idea of sitting before a panel of
judges precludes that, in my opinion. And, by the way, it seems
to me that many things that have earned such learned panels'
endorsement have neither more nor less merit than something entirely
different.

It's rather like my being informed, upon bringing a D/G melodeon
to an Irish session, that it wasn't 'traditional.' Well, old Pat
was holding a red mother-of-toilet seat Paolo Soprani tuned to B/C,
which he considered 'traditional.' Never mind that his particular
tuning was adopted by a set of players between the wars who were
looking for something a bit easier to deal with than the D and
D/G boxes that had found their way into Irish households. Now we
have a couple of generations of folks who think that they're
playing like Brian Boru's own squeezbox player when they do things
'properly' on a B/C box. 'Traditional' for most people means 'the
way it was done when I first heard it.'

Most things that are enjoyable, be they sailing, fishing, rowing,
whittling, riding, hiking, flying, etc. are at their best when they
aren't hampered by examinations, qualifications, and competition
beyond what is required to preserve safety and societal order. To
that I'd add music.

Then again, I always thought that a sailboat race was a technique for
messing up a perfectly nice afternoon of sailing.

Maybe I'll never amount to much.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 04:26 PM

I agree with a lot of what you say, but many children enjoy classical music lessons based around exams and some of them seem happy with the comhaltas examination system. I will try and find a syllabus so everyone can know the way comhaltas approach it ,which im sure has imperfections.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Anglo
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 05:03 PM

OK, so I was feeling a little short-tempered when I made my initial posting, but the idea did not seem to have any redeeming features,as well as being impractical, and to no particular end. Setting up a straw man for a schoolboy debate.

There is a network of classically trained music teachers, all plying their trade publicly and privately, passing on their hard-earned knowledge and ability to later generations. A body of knowledge that has developed overr several hundred years. It's fairly easy to see that if you're going to learn the violin, there has been enough accumulated knowledge to have a fairly consistent way of learning. You learn the basics, easy pieces, and move on to harder pieces. And you practice a lot. "Standardized" tests help teachers to make sure they're on the right track, and if a kid moves from one school to another, his new teacher knows where to put him.

Now, a violinist needs to be able to play scales and arpeggios, and needs to be able to sightread fluently. It is my experience that some "good" folk performers can read music fluently, some can't read it at all. Not just singers, some of the leading Cape Breton fiddlers for exxample, as well as their piano accompanists. They learned by ear. We don't know if many of the long-gone traditional singers we revere could read music or not. Joseph Taylor probably could - he sang in a church choir. Many of the literate ones might well have also been literate in tonic sol-fa, good enough for Sam Henry in his newspaper column (the abc notation of yesteryear?). So should reading music be an exam requirement? Should NOT reading music be a requirement? Or is it irrelevant?

What is relevant? Should you lose points for not knowing C. Sharp's collected version of 'The Seeds of Love'? (even if you just want to be a traditional fiddler). Or not being able to identify William Kimber when you are played the recording of 'English Country Gardens' when you just want to sing ballads? Should you be required to know Child numbers (or Laws numbers, or Roud numbers)?

How about performance? Would unaccompanied songs be part of a lower grade test than self-accompanied songs? (Or the other way around?) Would guitarists need to be able to use a barre chord? Should concertinists be judged on whether they're playing 2-note chords or 3-note chords?

How many more examples do we need? There just isn't a unified body of knowledge that you would test on.

It has been pointed out that even if these obstacles were overcome, we still have the problem of resources. And interest, I would think. How many people might sign up for nightschool classes in the syllabus? Or are we addressing just kids? Should this be a unit of elementary music education? A bit different than singing from Sharp's book to the music teacher's piano!

And exams as encouragement to learn. I do like Guest Russ's take on that.

My own interest in folk music started in secondary school, when some friends went and started a folk club. I decided to learn to play guitar. My progress, such as it has been, has been fairly random, learning different instruments as I saw the need, or rather use, for them. Directions I have taken have been influenced by people I have met. Looking back, I haven't always made the right choices. Perhaps I needed the guidance of a graded system of folk music tests. Hey, if I'd lived in London I could have joined the Critics Group. But I've learned what I know on my instruments not by taking the classical approach of learning its capabilities from the ground up, but by practicing what I need to play a particular tune or song. So my instrumental work has lots of holes. Different again from the holes you'll find in any "folksinger's" arsenal. Would these tests have made sure these holes were filled, and made me a better musician.

If Newcastle can come up with a syllabus that people want to pay money for, more power to them, and it might give a few retired folkies a supplement to their pension. I don't know what the students get out of it other than the skills anyone gets taking a degree course in general arts. And I'm sure the ones who do go include many talented and motivated enough to succeed even without the university. I doubt it'll make it easier to get a folk club gig. Maybe the university letterhead will actually tease a reply out of a club organizer, even if it's a "no." But a nationwide system of graded tests on the general topic of folk music? The mind boggles.

My two denarii.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 05:22 PM

Dear anglo , I made it clear that I did not think the purpose should be to get folk gigs . and am also suggesting it should be   used to replace Competition by comhaltas. A lot of your other questions would be answered if you obtained comhaltas exam syllabus. lastly even if you wake up short tempered in the morning you have no right to take it out on me.at the moment you know nothing of comhaltas examination system, the examination system could be based on comhaltas but be open to adaptation. I suggest that if your genuinely interested study comhaltas system which is working well even though it may have imperfections , or study the newcastle or scottish system. meanwhile I would appreciate an apology for your earlier bad tempered posting.


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: stallion
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 07:48 PM

Forgive me, I am under the influence. In march this year we did a concert (supporting his nibbs, Martin Carthy) For the Auden Society - we had to select songs from the Oxford Book of Light Verse, edited by Auden and another The Poets Tongue, also edited by Auden. Martin, bless him, (he is 65!) kept uttering, "Oh this one is in the national song book, we sang these in school". So, what happened to the "National Songbook" and why isn't it being sung in school, is it?


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 09:15 PM

Now that he's posted a cogent argument I understand Anglo's position; he fleshed out the problems I glossed and I can't disagree with most of his thesis. And I thank him for a reference to "English Country Gardens" which mentions William Kimber instead of Percy Grainger. This might have confused the academics at Melbourne Uni's Conservatorium (the Grainger museum is next door) if they'd been involved in the examination system as applied to folk music.

Having experienced a music teacher similar to the one described as a battleaxe I share Guest Russ' bafflement at some of the propositions above and heartily endorse GregB's "I maintain that "having" to do something is the best way of taking all of the joy out of it. And turning a pastime into a competition comes a close second." Even so, for some situations such things can have benefits. The Kapunda festival in South Australia started in the mid-late 70s and was modelled on the Irish competitions. Tim Whelan played tin whistle and wanted to encourage others to play the music he'd grown up with in Ireland so he started classes in one of the folk pubs and, after a while, got the Kapunda Festival going as a competition for instrumentalists playing "Celtic" music. Australia being the sort of place it is, "Celtic" had to be rather inclusively defined and this meant that 'competition' occurred in a similarly inclusive context. While the competition part of the weekend was taken 'seriously', the sessions were where most of the action (and thus learning) occurred. On balance I think Kapunda's effect on the playing of instruments and traditional music was very positive. Sadly, Tim is no longer with us but his music is alive and well.

Captain Birdseye wrote "modern day educationalists and governments seem obsessed with the idea that education is just about getting a job" and this inability to differentiate clearly between "education' and 'training' is one of the nubs of the discussion. Even some Vice Chancellors (especially those who see themselves as extensions of government policy) seem unaware of the differences. Most of the current music teachers I've seen in operation appreciate that the major part of what they're doing with kids is best described as training and the best of them do it in a way that encourages the kids to become musically educated. My daughters are luckier than I in that they have good teachers of their instruments and (in the case of the daughter at high school) great music educators. Even so, I make sure their informal experience of music is extensive by taking them to Nariel and the National. I don't give a hoot whether or not they ever make a quid out of music (although their busking has been very profitable, experientially and financially) so long as they have a positive relationship with music as an activity with emotional, intellectual, social and historical components.

Captain Birdseye also wrote "we as musicians have all learnt that without practice we would not have got where we are". He's right about "practice" but too many confuse it with "Practice". I lean towartds Paolo Friere's notions of "praxis" as a personal preference but "horses for courses" applies. From other threads I learn that Captain Birdseye plays and teaches English concertina and, as an Anglo player, I've long wondered whether the two systems appeal to different temperaments. From their postings to this thread and the comment from Manitas at home I gather there is some history between Captain Birdseye and Anglo and am wary of being leadfooted on thin ice but my experience of concertina players is that those who prefer English or Duet keyboards are, as a group, much more comfortable with the written forms of music and that those who prefer Anglo keyboards are, again as a group, much more comfortable with aural transmission. There are spectacular exceptions (John Kirkpatrick's first record includes a Bach fugue as a poke in the eye to those who dismissed Anglo concers) but, if there is any substance to my perception, examinations in their playing wiil have a difficult time avoiding bias.

There was (maybe still "is") a player of English concertina in Australia who used to teach a lot and was very keen on the sort of approach used by many teachers of instruments used in (what we a pleased to call) classical music. This character commented (in my presence, to an audience mostly of folkies) "Folk music is next to the sewer!" and represented in an extreme form, the sort of attitude that many folkies have had to contend with from the wannabes rather than the real afficcianados.

From this and other threads I get the impression that Captain Birdseye is a real afficcanado and not at all like that Australian player. I also get the impression that he has a preference for aspects of formality in learning. And that this informs his interest in exploring the formalities of examinations or competitions as a way of lifting the profile of the music he loves. I wish him well but think that such an approach is unlikely to be as successful as his intentions deserve.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: e f d s s examinations
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 31 Jul 06 - 09:36 PM

And, Captain, not all of us happen to have a copy of the the Comhaltas syllabus handy (they don't provide it on their web site), so if you could present some examples/details of what you're referring to, that would help us understand what you're suggesting and provide a clearer response to the many points that have been made against the proposition.

I'm willing to believe that exams are better than competitions, as you keep saying, but whether either are the answer to promoting a familiarity and love of traditional music, I'm not so sure.

~ Becky in Tucson


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