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elfcape A. L. Lloyd: History and anecdotes? (92* d) RE: A. L. Lloyd: History and anecdotes? 16 Nov 06


My most vivid memory of Bert dates from around 1977 when he came to Cambridge, MA and gave a lecture and a concert.

The lecture was about Bartok's quartets and their provenance in his collecting. It was in the Music Building at Harvard in the afternoon.

Keeping in mind that Bert was a folksinger to the wider world, and one who held a place where the culture was Western European, and that that place was, perhaps, not quite as "high class" as that of those who went into completely foreign cultures and brought back arcane bits, the faculty and students came, but there was an atmosphere of not quite unqualified academic approval.

Bert came armed with a tape player and cassette.

Now many of us know how many pitfalls lie in that combination, especially when one really needs complete control.

Not for Bert. Not only did the little tape machine work, not only could it be heard by everyone in the room, but Bert's understanding of the rituals of the academic ecosystem was complete. He had parsed the quartet movements he wanted to use exactly, and found precisely the most convincing excerpts from Bartok's recordings to illustrate the connections. And he stood there in his suit and tie as though it was the most comfortable environment in his world.

In essence his lecture was just another academically successful presentation, like any of the hundreds I'd attended over the 6 years I passed through a musicology program.

But the presenter was Bert, not any of the myriad scholars accepted in the ethnomusicological world of the time.


After doing his academic task, Bert then swept off to perform in the world which we might consider more comfortable - 200 people crushed themselves into the dining room of one of the Harvard Houses for an evening of English traditional songs. No tape recorder, no lectures - not what we were there for. Instead we heard shaggy dog story after yarn after tall tale - the most groaner punch lines, bawdy puns, and, in between, a song or two or three. Bert did his Bert thing for us for a couple hours and brought the house down. Time vanished while we roared and giggled at the puns and punch lines. The Bert Lloyd of Bartok's heart rending quartets was nowhere to be found, except for the few of us that had actually crossed over the line between that Bert and the folksinger one.

What a contrast.

And what consummate professionalism.


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