Mudcat Café message #3889557 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162917   Message #3889557
Posted By: GUEST,Grahame Hood
21-Nov-17 - 04:42 AM
Thread Name: What is Happening to our Folk Clubs
Subject: RE: What is Happening to our Folk Clubs
I've been trying to think when I first saw someone in a folk club use a crib sheet for lyrics (I've no problem with people reading the dots and chords- when there are more than three of them- I've done a few jazz gigs and never managed to learn a single jazz standard by heart apart from "Summertime") and I can recall a sea shanty singer who used to sing from a book as far back as c.1978. And sea shanties only have two new lines per verse... Re Les Barker, there used to be a spate of floor performers reading his stuff from books, usually very badly. Haven't seen that done lately though.

Anyway I found this quote in Fred Woods' book "Folk Revival- the rediscovery of a national music" published in 1979.

"The structure of a club evening tends to be unvarying wherever you go-and this is one of the weaknesses of the systen as a whole. The evening is opened by the resident arist or artists, who warm the audience up; they are followed by others, indistiguishable from the residents except in the context of club organisation, called floorsingers. Their allotment is usually two songs, and it is with these short spots that the floorsinger gains sufficient experience to graduate to residency or even to full-fledged professional status. The first half closes with half an hour from the booked guest, if there is one. After a beer break, the scond half follows the pattern of the first.
(Now it gets interesting!) The drawback of this kind of presentation is its rigidity, coupled with the fact that too few floorsingers learn new songs with sufficient speed. One hears too frequently the statements 'I sang this last week but...' and 'I only learned this today today so I may forget it.'Ewan MacColl once said that a singer should learn a new song every week; a counsel of perfection, indeed, and I would not expect an amateur singer to live up to that testing demand. But a song a month is surely with anyone's capability, and a repertoire of twenty songs ensures at least a diminuation of the unblushing repetition that is one of the worst hazards of regular attendance at a club. Some clubs are fortunate in possessing a resident group of near-professional standards-the Nottingham Traditional Music Club, or the Grimsby club, are two such- but these are few and far between. The vast majority of clubs have to make do with singers of lesser quality, and as such things are self-feeding, a lesser quality seems to produce musical stasis just as much as a higher produces a continuous improvement.
Such a relatively minor matter would not normally call for extended comment were it not for the unfortunate fact that it has considerable effect on long-term membership and attendance. If a club is in decline
the reason can normally be found in its residents. If they are content to churn out the same old songs week after week, they cvan hardly be surprised when they start churning them out to smaller and smaller audiences. It is a bsic and obvious truth, but it is one against which many resident singers are complacently blinkered."

Apart from the rise of the smartphone, and the reverence with which he treats Mr MacColl, still true?