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GUEST,Sue Allan Communal folk music or individual? (102* d) RE: Communal folk music or individual? 16 Feb 07


This thread seems to becoming something of a tit for tat argument between two parties. Can I throw in some observations which seem, to me, to indicate that the situation is far less polarised than the two protagonists here seem to be making out.

My experience and knowledge is of music and song in Cumbria, and I would like to point out that many of the 'traditional' singers I have heard eg at hunt and shepherds' meets, or on the 'Pass the Jug Round' album (archive recordings from the 1950s, recorded in north Cumbria)which I was instrumental in getting out as a commercial recording, are in no way unselfconscious, but are generally those who are noted for singing: it is what they do. They regard themselves as performers. Therefore to an extent should be judged on performances. Agreed many were old when recorded, or when I heard them perform, and one does make allowances for this.

There are also hunting song competitions, and ballad competitions at eg Newcastleton Traditional Music Festival which 'traditional' and revival performers take part in. Where do these fit in?

What about Robert Burns' re-workings of traditional songs - or indeed his own ballads, which are theoretically art songs but then 'went back' into the tradition? Robert Anderson 'the Cumberland Bard' wrote many dialect songs in the early 1800s which were so popular locally that they also 'went into' the tradition to the extent that they were ater 'collected' by Vaughan Williams, Lucy Broadwood, Frank Kidson and Annie Gilchrist.

And some of my recent researches into Cumbrian, and some Scottish, broadside ballads seems to indicate that many originally came to prominence as 'art songs' from the ballad operas popular in the 18th century (step forward Allan Ramsay, who was responsible for quite a few!) ... although who can say whether the Allan Ramsays of that world didn't pick up a song or two in the pub and re-work them for the stage? Alternatively they might have been ballad opera pieces performed on stage originally, but after being printed on to broadsides were sung much more widely - and also ended up being notated or recorded by the late 19th and early 20th century collectors, from 'traditional' singers in the depths of the English or Scottish countryside, or from travellers. Fiddlers too took tunes from popular stage 'operas' and made them their own, as some of the surviving fiddle manuscript tune books show.

My point is (and sorry to be so long-winded about it) that there is a huge crossover between so-called art music and so-called traditional music and we should be just grateful for the richly layered wonderful mix that it is.

Sue Allan
(in, and from, Cumbria)


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