Mudcat Café message #2984388 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #131826   Message #2984388
Posted By: Jim Carroll
11-Sep-10 - 03:55 AM
Thread Name: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
Subject: RE: Child Ballads survived in oral trad.
"They were entertainers."
It really didn't work like that Steve.
In England, the song tradition was very much in decay when Sharp was doing his rounds at the beginning of the 20th century; this happened much later here in rural Ireland, but by the fifties, active singing within the communities had almost, if not completely gone.
To describe singers like Walter Pardon as a-typical 'entertainers' was well wide of the mark; the same goes for Tom Lenihan in Clare and Mary Delaney and Bill Cassidy among the Travellers.
Those that made it to the folk clubs may have 'entertained' us, but their role was very different within their communities when the tradition was a living one.
Walter only ever sang at family Christmas parties just before (according to him) the traditition died out altogether, alongside family members who had at one time held status as singers within their communities (Walter was too young to have gained that status).
Sam Larner sang every Saturday night at a singing session at his local, The Fishermans Return, but he made a point of telling MacColl and Charles Parker that "the serious singing was done at home or at sea".
Mary Delaney was blind from birth, which limited her role in the Travelling community, but she was considered a major singer there.
Far from these singers being untypical, the evidence suggests that these, and other singers like Jeannie Robertson, the Stewarts, Joe Heaney and Paddy Tunney were very much representitives of how the singing tradition worked when alive. They were singers who had worked at developing their skills, had sizeable repertoires, had an opinion of the importance of their songs and (in the cases of a surviving tradition) had some sort of recogntion in their community as singers.
They were singers with a capital 'S'.
Attempting to draw conclusions on the singing traditions from our experiences in the latter half of the 20th century is a little like trying to assess the skills of a footballer after he has lost his leg in a car accident (sorry about the example - can't think of a better one).
Jim Carroll