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2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act

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Backwoodsman 28 Dec 19 - 08:29 AM
The Sandman 28 Dec 19 - 09:51 AM
Dave the Gnome 28 Dec 19 - 10:39 AM
Backwoodsman 28 Dec 19 - 10:59 AM
The Sandman 28 Dec 19 - 12:14 PM
GUEST 28 Dec 19 - 12:14 PM
Dave the Gnome 28 Dec 19 - 12:20 PM
Backwoodsman 28 Dec 19 - 12:49 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 29 Dec 19 - 06:06 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 29 Dec 19 - 06:21 AM
Dave the Gnome 29 Dec 19 - 06:39 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 29 Dec 19 - 07:17 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 29 Dec 19 - 07:21 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 29 Dec 19 - 07:27 AM
Big Al Whittle 29 Dec 19 - 08:28 AM
The Sandman 29 Dec 19 - 04:00 PM
The Sandman 29 Dec 19 - 04:02 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 29 Dec 19 - 04:42 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 30 Dec 19 - 04:40 AM
The Sandman 30 Dec 19 - 04:45 AM
GUEST,Derrick 30 Dec 19 - 04:51 AM
Iains 30 Dec 19 - 05:10 AM
The Sandman 30 Dec 19 - 05:14 AM
Dave the Gnome 30 Dec 19 - 05:17 AM
The Sandman 30 Dec 19 - 05:18 AM
The Sandman 30 Dec 19 - 05:27 AM
Dave the Gnome 30 Dec 19 - 05:38 AM
GUEST,Derrick 30 Dec 19 - 05:46 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Dec 19 - 05:59 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Dec 19 - 06:10 AM
Dave the Gnome 30 Dec 19 - 06:51 AM
GUEST 30 Dec 19 - 07:15 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Dec 19 - 08:15 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Dec 19 - 08:46 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Dec 19 - 09:02 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Dec 19 - 09:05 AM
The Sandman 30 Dec 19 - 09:05 AM
GUEST,Derrick 30 Dec 19 - 09:40 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 30 Dec 19 - 11:02 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Dec 19 - 11:05 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 30 Dec 19 - 11:08 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Dec 19 - 11:08 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Dec 19 - 11:20 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Dec 19 - 11:25 AM
The Sandman 30 Dec 19 - 11:35 AM
GUEST,Derrick 30 Dec 19 - 12:07 PM
Vic Smith 30 Dec 19 - 12:40 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Dec 19 - 12:45 PM
The Sandman 30 Dec 19 - 12:52 PM
The Sandman 30 Dec 19 - 02:08 PM
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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 28 Dec 19 - 08:29 AM

At least MacColl wrote intelligible English.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Dec 19 - 09:51 AM

backwoodsman[ what is your problem], i have never met you, yet you are intent on some kind of vendetta against me.
if you said this to me quote.."At least MacColl wrote intelligible English" to my face.... i would tell you to fuck off, please keep your petty snide remarks off this thread.
QUOTE
“The decision to lay down guidelines for what you could sing on stage was not made by Ewan MacColl - it was made by the residents and members of the B&B Club (later known as the Singers Club). If it became hewn in stone - well, that's the way things go.

This policy was meant for OUR club, not for other clubs. The policy was simple: If you were singing from the stage, you sang in a language that you could speak and understand. It didn't matter what you sang in the shower, at parties, while you were ironing or making love. But on stage in The Ballads and Blues Folk Club, you were a representative of a culture - you were interpreting a song that had been created within certain social and artistic parameters. Incidentally, along with this policy came the request from our newly-formed Audience Committee that we not sing the same traditional song more than once every three months… they were getting tired of hearing the same songs week after week. This forced us residents to learn new songs at an unholy rate. But it brought out lots of new songs and ballads and really got us thinking about how we sang what we were learning.”



https://www.folkmusic.net/htmfiles/edtxt39.htm


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 28 Dec 19 - 10:39 AM

Dick, you do not have the authority to tell people what they can and cannot post on Mudcat threads. If there is something another poster has done that you don't like I suggest you take it up with the management rather than starting a flame war.

Don't take my word for it though. Read the Mudcat's own advice pages

/mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=19340&messages=139#flamer


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 28 Dec 19 - 10:59 AM

Dick, I made a comment about MacColl’s writing skills, you were not mentioned. If anyone has a problem, it seems you be you having a problem understanding a single, simple sentence.

And I recommend you to refrain from making personal threats against me, either here or face to face. It is completely unacceptable, loutish behaviour. If you really do need to have a dust-up you’ll have to find another victim.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Dec 19 - 12:14 PM

what a pair of wankers. back to topic.

Ewan MacColl Controversy - by Peggy Seeger
I confess, I confess! I was the one who started the whole 'policy' debate. The Ballads and Blues Club had been going really well since 1953. I arrived in London in 1956. The club met at the Princess Louise in High Holborn at that time and there was an impressive list of residents: Alan Lomax, Ralph Rinzler, Isla Cameron, Fitzroy Coleman, Seamus Ennis, Bert Lloyd, Ewan MacColl, et al. Bert was singing English, Australian, N. American and Scottish songs; Ewan was singing 'Sixteen Tons' and 'Sam Bass' alongside 'Eppie Morrie' and 'The Banks of the Nile'; I regularly sang French, German and Dutch songs alongside 'Barbara Allan' and 'Cumberland Gap'. Fitz and Seamus stuck, respectively, to their Jamaican and Irish material. Alan only sang songs that he and his father had collected in the USA. There were many floor singers who came and went - the Weavers turned up from New York and sang in three or four different languages; a west London couple came regularly and sang in Yiddish, a language which they did not speak; two French students would sing Spanish Civil War songs; and so on. It was a free-for-all and I will admit that it was a lot of fun. More about that at another time.

It was that Cockney lad singing Leadbelly who started the rock rolling downhill. Was it 1960 or so? Yes, it was that poor fellow whose rendition of 'Rock Island Line' reduced me to hysterical laughter one night. I was literally doubled over in my seat, gasping. I had to be taken out of the room. Most unprofessional, but I couldn't help it. I am North American. Woody Guthrie, Jean Ritchie, Big Bill Broonzy, Leadbelly, et al, used to come to our house in Washington. I knew what the song should sound like and the manner of delivery and the insertion of Cockney vowels into a southern USA black prisoners' song just sounded funny.

I was reprimanded by several members of the audience at the end of the evening. When I explained my reasons, one of the French students pointed out that the insertion of my American vowels into French songs was also quite laughable. I then mentioned that Ewan's rendition of 'Sam Bass' verged on parody. My children have since pointed out that my Scots accent (on a number of Seeger-MacColl records) is not exactly impeccable. But I am straying… the Cockney singer then confessed that he loved Leadbelly's songs but was losing his confidence in singing them. He was getting bored. I declared that I preferred singing songs from the Anglo-American traditions and only sang the French/German/Spanish songs for 'variety'. The discussion heated up and was a main topic of conversation for several weeks following. We laid the matter in front of all the residents and interviewed the folks who paid at the door on the subject. The decision to lay down guidelines for what you could sing on stage was not made by Ewan MacColl - it was made by the residents and members of the B&B Club (later known as the Singers Club). If it became hewn in stone - well, that's the way things go.

This policy was meant for OUR club, not for other clubs. The policy was simple: If you were singing from the stage, you sang in a language that you could speak and understand. It didn't matter what you sang in the shower, at parties, while you were ironing or making love. But on stage in The Ballads and Blues Folk Club, you were a representative of a culture - you were interpreting a song that had been created within certain social and artistic parameters. Incidentally, along with this policy came the request from our newly-formed Audience Committee that we not sing the same traditional song more than once every three months… they were getting tired of hearing the same songs week after week. This forced us residents to learn new songs at an unholy rate. But it brought out lots of new songs and ballads and really got us thinking about how we sang what we were learning.

Shortly afterwards, the Critics Group was formed, at the behest of several singers who also found that they were losing their way in singing traditional songs. We began to attract singers who wanted to study folksinging. You know, there is no set discipline for folksinging - it's an 'anything goes' area even though real dyed-in-the-wool field singers are very specific about how they sing and what they sing. The purpose of the Critics Group was to make it possible for the singers who had not been brought up in the 'folk' tradition to sing the songs in a way that would not abrogate the original intention of the makers. It was an attempt to keep the folksongs folksongs, not turn them into classical pieces or pop songs or anything-goes songs. We analysed accompanimental and vocal styles, tried to expand our abilities to sing in different styles so that we could tackle different kinds of songs (within the languages and dialects that we spoke) and still keep the songs true to themselves. Once again, we were not initially telling other singers how to sing - just deciding how WE were going to sing. If we became evangelical and sounded dictatorial, well - that's the way things go. The intentions were honourable.

I must admit that I am still going that way and tend to be rather intolerant of female singers lilting 'Ranzo Ranzo Way Away' as if it were a lullaby or a love song; of a band of instrumentalists producing 'Sir Patrick Spens' (which had been unaccompanied for several centuries) with four fiddles, two double basses, drums, electric guitar and unintelligible lyrics. It was such a good song… but OK. Just don't call it folk song. And while you're at it, listen to some of my own early recordings - say on the Fellside album "Classic Peggy Seeger". Listen to me in my early years singing so fast that even I (who know the words of the songs) cannot understand what I am singing. Or listen to me accompanying Ewan on sloshy guitar or overharmonising with him on 'Lassie Wi' the yellow Coatie'. We all do these things in our youth and before we have understanding (just wish I hadn't recorded them). Ewan did this himself in his early recordings and never pretended that he didn't. What he was really trying to do in his later years (and I will be the first to admit that sometimes we could both be hamfisted about it) was encourage understanding of where these songs came from and how easy it is to ruin them, to turn them into something else. Kind of like what's happening to the earth right now. We're all doing just what we want to a beautiful piece of natural art (aka nature) - and only just now beginning to worry about having to live with the mess. Unfortunately, that's the way things go. And so many of the intentions are not honourable.

I've done my share of 'changing' the folksongs. Had to. I wasn't brought up on the front porch of a cabin in the Appalachians and I don't care to pretend that I was. I had a middle-class classical musical training and that's hard to shake. But I don't pretend to be a folksinger or that the folksongs (as I sing them) are 'ur' versions. I am a singer of folksongs and I hope that my lullabies are lullabies and the words of my ballads are intelligible. Ewan MacColl was one step nearer to being a folksinger than I, having been brought up in a Scots community in Salford. He is a man who is a perfect example of the old saying "stick your neck out and someone will chop your head off". I didn't know, until after he died, just how many enemies and ex-post-facto critics we had made. WE. Please remember that he and I were in this together and you can now aim your missiles at someone who is still here and who is quite articulate on the matter. Pity more folks didn't have the courage and the knowledge to talk with him while he was alive. He was actually an interesting, approachable person and was happy to talk to anyone who approached with a less-than-hostile attitude. I learned so much from those years… and, of course, I am biased! I am also fed up with people who criticise him with only hearsay and second (third, fourth, umpteenth) knowledge on which to base their opinions.

The editor wants to know "Who are Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie?" They were members of the Critics Group for most of the life of that group. They were two of the most loyal, industrious and intelligent members by far. It is possible that they have inherited some of Ewan's intransigence and argumentative temperament (that's the way things go?) but there is no doubt that their work in the folksong world has been invaluable and dedicated. Most of the collectors who've done that have had a kind of tunnel vision, without which their work would not have been as productive. They stuck their necks out and their heads are getting chopped off. They are in good company.

Like Ewan, I've always got lots more to say but I don't care to argue all this out nitty blow by gritty blow. By the way, I'm just finishing up a book of his songs. 200 of them. 'The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook' (Music Sales, autumn 2000). Those of you who have followed or partaken in this controversy might find my long critique of him as a person and an artist enlightening. It won't be what you expected from the person who was his lover and working partner. Information is on my website: www.pegseeger.com.

Peggy Seeger, Asheville
North Carolina
Living Tradition Homepage


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Dec 19 - 12:14 PM

Posturing with a pugilistic past to follow, probably.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 28 Dec 19 - 12:20 PM

Suit yourself, Dick. You damage no one but yourself.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 28 Dec 19 - 12:49 PM

Another one to ignore, Dave.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 29 Dec 19 - 06:06 AM

I think this long and interesting quotation from Peggy Seeger has been posted before. In a sense the discussions it continues illustrate the fact that different people have different memories and views of the Critics Group and its 'policies'. So while some see the group as having been democratic, others see it as being dominated by MacColl. The recordings I have heard tend to confirm this, with one showing MacColl setting homework to be done for the next time. There is also with the information that he often gave long lectures.

We can't seem to get the full 'backstory' about the quotation. Why did 'the editor' ask who Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie were? You cannot find out by looking at the web site in question.

Some view the 'policy' as being a group decision, not something dictated; MacColl himself, as in the quoted comment from the sleeve notes mentioned earlier, seems at the very least to have come to see the 'policy' as something he personally insisted upon.

It interests me that Seeger says that it wasn't until after MacColl died that she realised how many 'ex post facto' critics they had made: the book gives an account of the ending of the Critics Group that suggests that at the time Seeger and MacColl were not aware of the unhappiness that had built up. If I remember aright, this was after a theatrical production: the members agreed to see the project through to its end, and then took away all the equipment, and that this came as a surprise to Seeger and MacColl.

It does seem to me that not all of the criticism was 'ex post facto' as some people tried the Critics Group and did not like it at the time, as opposed to afterwards as implied by the 'ex post facto' label.

On the point of how 'democratic' decisions within the group were, the idea of MacColl as a 'guru' of some sort (as opposed to his being a participant in some democratic enterprise) seems implied by Seeger when she says: 'What he was really trying to do in his later years (and I will be the first to admit that sometimes we could both be hamfisted about it) was encourage understanding of where these songs came from and how easy it is to ruin them, to turn them into something else.'

To go off tangent for a while, Seeger mentions Sir Patrick Spens; a song whose origins have been studied and which remain, as I understand it unclear, so nobody has a full understanding of where it came from, though there are theories about it ...   

Not everybody would agree with Seeger when she says that MacColl was always willing to discuss stuff with people who took different views, if they came with a 'less than hostile' approach. One thing that seems to come out of the biography was that MacColl often did not like it when people disagreed with him. It gives a list of people missed out of his autobiography on the basis (the biographer asserts) that they had upset MacColl.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 29 Dec 19 - 06:21 AM

I have made this point often on Mudcat but there is an error in the above article by Peggy.

The Ballads and Blues Club WAS NOT LATER KNOWN as the Singers Club.

Ewan and Peggy departed from the Ballads and Blues Club in 1961. They opened up a new club which they ran and called it The Singers Club.

The Ballads and Blues Club continued until May 1965.

The decision was NOT made by members of the Ballads and Blues club.
I was there at the time when Ewan refused to allow Lisa Turner to sing an American song. He did NOT ask us.

I should also remind people that Peggy had been teaching many of us how to play the five string banjo and the guitar. Both very common in traditional British folk song of course.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 29 Dec 19 - 06:39 AM

five string banjo and the guitar. Both very common in traditional British folk song

Not according to some! ;-)


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 29 Dec 19 - 07:17 AM

Thanks, Hoot, sorry if I have got things wrong.

To clarify, I was referring to an incident recounted in Harker's book and dated to New Year's Day 1972. It relates to the theatrical ambitions of MacColl and The Festival of Fools.

MacColl had had a health crisis the previous winter, following which Charles Parker recorded a long conversation (page 212 of biography). MacColl, the book says, repeatedly berated himself for his 'self-isolating and dictatorial manner'. He came up with plans to re-cast the critics group. However, Harker comments that though this was intended to be a new start, there was little consultation about the new start, and the style was still top-down with MacColl doing the talking. He also issued a reading list for the new group. Parallel singers workshops were still maintained, but MacColl's main enthusiasm was for the theatre project. 'Many Critics had already fallen by the wayside; many were still licking wounds inflicted during MacColl's rages' says Harker. Harker quotes Seeger as telling him that MacColl had not learned to be challenged. Sandra Kerr said that people were not always treated like 'grown ups'.


At this time an ATV documentary showed Seeger explaining that she stands on the side of Mao Tse Tung and expects a basic elemental jungle struggle for a while. TV reviewer Nancy Banks-Smith, rather unkindly perhaps, described Seeger as 'A musician through and through and madder than a wet hen'.

At the New Year's Day meeting key members of the Critics Group decided to see out the run of the current production. The atmosphere behind the scenes had got so bad that this was the outcome. Then, while MaColl and Seeger were talking to the press after the last show, the group stripped the room of 'all the equipment they'd accumulated over the years'. Sandra Kerr is quoted as saying it all ended horribly, 'literally shaking fists at the stage door'.

This does not look to me like 'ex post fact' disagreements, though there may have been some of those too, of course.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 29 Dec 19 - 07:21 AM

I took Hoot's comments about the banjo as sarcasm ??

Harker says some former Critics Group members continued to appear at the Singers' Club, but not while MacColl was around. 'As far as he was concerned they were now persona non gratae'. I have wondered just where Mackenzie and Carroll fitted into all this, but this is probably not a line of enquiry liable to lead to a peaceful discussion. And all credit is due to them for what Seeger describes as their loyalty to MacColl, which I don't think anybody could doubt.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 29 Dec 19 - 07:27 AM

I speak as an ex 5 string banjo player. As to why, lack of talent.

The banjo can be amazing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=38&v=6QNQGGhRInY&feature=emb_logo


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 29 Dec 19 - 08:28 AM

I think its up to the singer how you sing a song.

After all we don't have to haul up anchors when we sing shanties.

I love the gentle way The corries used to sing Lowlands.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Dec 19 - 04:00 PM

The Critics Group did not break up badly
At the end of 1971 the Group agreed to divide into two parts - one went off to form an acting group and the other continued working on singing
The acting group had no name (Big Red Eye was suggested but never taken up)
After a year the acting group broke up and the equipment disappeared apparently the equipment had been paid for by everyone in the two groups.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Dec 19 - 04:02 PM

according to a posting from Mike Grosvenor Myer, it was not Lisa Turner but Isla Cameron who was asked to sing songs from her own background -
Mike claimed that he was there on that particular occasion


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 29 Dec 19 - 04:42 PM

"The Critics Group did not break up badly"

The dates Sandman gives tally with those in Harker's book. I suppose partly this depends on how you define 'badly' and 'break up'.

To quote a little more from the book, Harker gives Peggy Seeger's account (interview with author) of the encounter after the last show of the 1971/72 run, following on from the New Year's Day meeting. Peggy said she and MacColl asked 'Where is everything gone?' and 'they' replied 'It's in the truck and you'll never find it'. Harker also quotes Mike Rosen (in another interview as saying: 'Ewan said something to the effect of "Fuck the lot of you. I shall carry on on my own. I'll start again. I don't get knocked down." And he walked out'

Harker says that the former Critics branded themselves as 'Combine' and they started various projects. Combine lasted three years according to Harker.

Harker quotes three members of the family as commenting on how profoundly shaken MacColl was by this. So 'badly' seems a fair descriptor?

One good thing about this time was that the song 'The First Time Ever' became a hit in 1972, transforming MacColl's fortunes.

Sorry if people feel I am not giving a fair account of what the book says, but please read it to check! I did find it fascinating and am trying to summarise what it says fairly.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 04:40 AM

Sandman / Dick:

Re the Lisa Turner incident, she was told in no uncertain terms NOT asked. I WAS THERE.

In Isla Cameron's case she knew of MacColl's attitude and would deliberately sing an American song but this was before he decided to make it a club policy.

Pseud:
No need for an apology from you it was the Peggy Seeger article put up by Sandman Dick which I was trying once again to clarify.

And thanks for explaining things to D the G. But I don't know what he means by ;-) so perhaps it wasn't needed. Call me old school.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 04:45 AM

my feeling whilst reading the above post was one of sadness.
ON a positive note Sandra Kerr has had a successful career as have some of the other members of the group, MacColl and Seeger continued to perform and write good songs, and their previous help and influence probably had been a contributory element as regards the success of some of the other members of the group


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Derrick
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 04:51 AM

From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Dec 19 - 04:02 PM

according to a posting from Mike Grosvenor Myer, it was not Lisa Turner but Isla Cameron who was asked to sing songs from her own background -
Mike claimed that he was there on that particular occasion

Because it was a club policy to encourage singers to perfom material from their own background I think that the above would have occurred more than once and probably happened to several singers.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Iains
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 05:10 AM

The Wiki entry on the critics could do with some correction and addition.
One interesting part of the entry is something that I had no previous knowledge of, and reinforces his political activism.
At MacColl's instigation, members(critics group) formed a sub-group for the purpose of creating and transmitting radio programmes to Vietnam, aimed at the thousands of GIs who were already questioning why they were there in the first place.[4] From 1970 to 1972 four programmes, all called "Off Limits" were made. They were produced by Charles Parker, adapting the celebrated Radio Ballad docu-drama form on which he had collaborated with MacColl an Seeger. The programmes were allegedly sent to Vietnam through the North Vietnamese Charge D'Affaires and acknowledged by Ho Chi Minh himself. In 2016 the Australian Broadcasting Company transmitted a documentary by producer Gary Bryson, who had worked with Parker, telling the story of these forgotten programmes and the people who made them.

http://www.talkinghistory.org/
scroll down until:Segment 2 | Earshot: Off Limits (2016)
Download: MP3


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 05:14 AM

Sandra said in an interview in Living Tradition quote. the Critics group and the Singers Club were not just about studying the tradtion they were also trying to encourage creativity. Ewean encouraged this to get people to write from their own position their own political stance.
       instead of focussing on the break up and the negative aspects, is it not better to focus on the positive achievements of group members and the positve role that MacColl and Seeger had, by encouraging and developing creative writing

    By comparison    Dave Harker has written a book that has had mixed reviews,and is of little consequenceimo he is imo an intellectual pygmy


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 05:17 AM

The ;-) is a winking smile, Hootenanny. I hoped it would indicate that my remark was in keeping with your irony but I obviously failed. Sorry :-( (sad face) I did like the mental image of some people going apoplectic on reading how guitar and banjo were traditional English instruments :-D (laughing)


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 05:18 AM

Derrick , yes you may well be right , i was not there on any occasion, i chose not to go to the club.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 05:27 AM

of course there is a possibilty that psuedonymous is Dave Harker. here ius a review of dave harker fakesong which is not complimentary’m not a true believer in ‘folk’; I don’t believe there’s an identifiable thing called ‘traditional song’, and I certainly don’t think there’s anything inherently radical about traditional songs. When I was Culture Editor for Red Pepper, one of my proudest achievements was running an article by Steve Higginson challenging the myth (as he saw it) of radical folk. Higginson pointed out that a lot of radical folk songs had only been discovered because members of the Communist Party had gone looking for them, motivated by opposition to US cultural imperialism more than by commitment to Britain’s heritage. On the other side of the Atlantic, the radical credentials of country music were very thin – much thinner than those of, say, the young Frank Sinatra, whose music was also considerably more popular among actual working people, in Britain as well as the US. Higginson’s conclusion was that we were welcome to write radical songs if we wanted, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves that we were connecting with the history of working class struggle, let alone with the present. I particularly liked that part, as contemporary radical folk songs were a bit of a bugbear of mine. (Still are, in fact; I’ve never believed that cartoonish simplifications help radical causes, or that trying to be Flanders and Swann with street cred has much to do with folk.)

Anyway, I agreed with most of the points Higginson was making – although truth to tell it was a slightly disjointed article, with a bit of lashing out in all directions – and thought that it represented an interesting viewpoint, which ought to be heard. Not everyone agreed. In all the time I was Culture Editor I never got a bigger Letters Page response – all of it negative. The partisans of radical folk were not pleased, and they made their feelings known in numbers. Happy days, eh?

So the idea of a book, written from a left-wing perspective, debunking illusions about English folk song wasn’t anathema to me when I picked up Dave Harker’s 1985 book Fakesong: The manufacture of British ‘folksong’, 1700 to the present day. Admittedly, by the time I read it I’d already read a couple of detailed and hostile reviews (by C. J. Bearman and David Gregory), which identified inaccuracies and unexplained omissions in several areas. But I wasn’t inclined to take everything Gregory and Bearman said as gospel; in particular, I thought (and think) that Bearman’s argument that Harker’s views on Cecil Sharp were necessarily untrustworthy, given his “Trotskyite” politics, was ridiculous. (I’m a Marxist myself, as it goes. Carlus amicus sed major amicus Veritas; Rosa is my aunt but Truth is my sister.) All in all, I think I went in with a reasonably open mind.

Reading the book wasn’t a particularly happy experience. Getting through it has taken me about six months; I didn’t find it un-put-down-able, to put it mildly. One chapter (on Francis J. Child) I disliked so much that I put the book down after reading it and left it untouched for several weeks. (My enjoyment of the book picked up after that, happily.) All in all it was a difficult book to get through, and I can’t really say I’m glad to have read it – except in the sense of being glad no longer to be in the position of not having read it yet. (I remember feeling something similar when I finished The Faerie Queene.)

So what was the problem? There were a number of things…

Hostility
The title should perhaps have warned me: it’s no part of Harker’s brief to celebrate folksong as we know it. Rather, Harker’s argument is that folksong is a myth – an ideological fiction – and always has been. This is a story of two and a half centuries of ‘mediators’, all of whom (Harker argues) share similar assumptions about their material and its authors. With rare and partial exceptions, this is the story of people who

    ‘mediated’ working-class culture to an aristocratic or bourgeois audience, often for personal gain of some sort
    believed that ‘folk’ song was the authentic product of pre-industrial vernacular English and Scottish culture; but
    believed that ‘folk’ song had ceased to exist in the wild, or at best had ceased to flourish, when they came along to celebrate and preserve it; and consequently
    believed that a line could (and should) be drawn between good and bad products of contemporary working-class culture, the former being ‘folk’ or its relics; and
    believed that they were capable of drawing that line, without generally being able to describe how they did it

Harker is opposed to working-class culture being mediated by anyone to anyone (point 1), and does not believe in ‘folk’ song as an identifiable thing (point 2 and by extension points 3-5); his presentation of the ‘mediators’ and their world-view effectively sets them up as enemies. The book, as he acknowledges in the Conclusion, is more or less a ground-clearing exercise: a study of concepts that would be better abandoned.

This kind of destructive critique isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but if I was going to do that, I wouldn’t write this book. It’s not organised conceptually but chronologically: as a study of (at a quick count) 36 ‘mediators’, from D’Urfey to Bert Lloyd. Four – Child, Sharp, Alfred Williams and Lloyd – get a chapter to themselves; the rest are dealt with more or less briefly, in chronologically-arranged groupings. The problem with this is twofold. On one hand, the mediators’ approach (or approaches) to folk song never really comes into focus; we are left in little doubt that Thomas Percy got it wrong, Peter Buchan got it wrong and Frank Kidson got it wrong as well, but the chronological sweep of the book never gives Harker much time to stop and discuss who got what wrong in what way. On the other hand, Harker’s more or less biographical approach, combined with his hostility to what the mediators did, tends to result in hostility towards the mediators themselves. A debased version of materialism runs through a lot of the life stories, highlighting a profit turned on a collection or a donation from an aristocratic friend as if these details were damning in and of themselves. (We make our own history but not in circumstances of our own choosing – and that goes for bourgeois mediators in search of a patron as well as working people in search of a job.) The spirit of the narrative is more one of debunking than of critique, and – since it’s the mediators rather than their work which is being discredited – Harker often seems to use any ammunition available: anything that looks like class condescension is highlighted, along with anything that looks like nationalism, anything that looks like sexism, anything that looks like prudery. A fuller sub-title would have been The manufacture of British ‘folksong’, 1700 to the present day, seen through the lives of the ignorant bourgeois reactionaries who manufactured it.

Inconsistency
What stopped me in my tracks when I read the chapter on Child was Harker’s handling of the issue of definition. The early collectors did not theorise what they were collecting; when Child was writing, the definition of terms like ‘folk song’ and ‘ballad’ was still a live issue. Child’s monumental collection The English and Scottish Popular Ballads could be seen as a case study in grounded theorising, developing theoretical constructs from the properties of the material being studied rather than imposing them on it. And if Child himself did not theorise the ‘ballad’ even to this extent, the collection itself gives us all the materials to do so: to go by Child, is a ‘ballad’ metrically regular? does it rhyme? is it narrative in content? is it typically found in multiple variations? And so on. Harker does none of this; instead, he derides Child’s failure to formulate any precise definition of how he was proceeding, and accuses him of taking his theoretical apparatus wholesale from the Danish scholar Grundtvig. Harker’s mockery of Child as a person and his scant attention to the actual content of TESPB represent a huge missed opportunity, suggesting that Harker’s hostility to the ‘mediators’ was strong enough to outweigh any real engagement with their material.

The question of definition recurs much later, when Lloyd is criticised for endorsing the famous (or notorious) ‘1954 Definition’ of folk music:

    Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission. The factors that shape the tradition are: (i) continuity which links the present with the past; (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group; and (iii) selection by the community, which determines the form or forms in which the music survives.

    The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community.

    The term does not cover composed popular music that has been taken over ready-made by a community and remains unchanged, for it is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it its folk-character.

Whatever else can be said of this formulation, it is a definition; it fairly clearly rules some songs in (Let No Man Steal Your Thyme, The London Waterman, Swing Low Sweet Chariot) and others out (Angels, Streets of London, the Grand Conversation on Napoleon). On that basis Harker might have been expected to welcome it. Actually he rejects it, first for being too narrow (“this is not an analysis but a prescription“) and then for being so broad as to be meaningless (“Why do not continuity, variation and selection represent the conditioning factors for all artistic production, amateur or professional?”). The weakness of Harker’s argument here is striking. The first criticism is meaningless – to say that a definition is ‘prescriptive’ is simply to say that not everything in the world is defined by it. The second is irrelevant; the definition refers specifically to a musical tradition evolved through oral transmission, within which those ‘conditioning factors’ operate. The two are inconsistent with each other – a definition that applied to ‘all artistic production’ could hardly be called narrow (or prescriptive). More importantly, they’re also hard to square with Harker’s earlier criticism of Child (and others) for not having a definition. Harker attempts to connects the two – “As with Child, we are told what is not folksong, not what is” – but this is a very strained reading of a formulation which was designed precisely to define folk music in positive, inclusive terms.

What’s at work here, I think, is Harker’s underlying conviction that anyone writing about ‘folksong’ is writing about something which does not exist as a topic in its own right: there are societies, there are class relations and class conflict, there are cultural forms including songs and tunes, but nowhere can anything identifiable as folk song be found. If we start from this assumption, Harker’s approach makes sense: after all, it would be quite reasonable to mock one writer for imagining he could detect the healing effects of crystals without being able to define how they worked, then mock another for imagining that he could define how they worked. Describing the Emperor’s new clothes in detail is just as absurd as saying they’re ineffably gorgeous. The trouble with this underlying conviction is that, although it runs through the entire book – and although Harker periodically scores points in its favour – it’s never argued properly. It’s certainly never confronted with any evidence that might challenge it – such as, perhaps, the existence of a body of songs, collected in multiple forms and from multiple locations, and suggesting the workings of continuity, variation and selection within a process of oral transmission.

Superficiality
This brings me to my other main criticism of the book, which is that it doesn’t tell me very much about folk songs. As it happens, I’m really interested in the question of where traditional songs come from. Were some of them created in oral culture as well as being preserved and modified that way? Or are they all almost all of them ultimately broadside balladsderived from some form of commercial publishing, as Steve Gardham has argued? (Thanks for the clarification, Steve.) In the early 19th century Robert Chambers identified Young Waters and (horrors) Sir Patrick Spens as entirely spurious ‘folksongs’, composed (in about 1725) in what was then believed to be the style of a ‘ballad’: was he right? How many other ‘traditional’ ‘ballads’ could be disqualified – or rather, re-qualified – in the same way? Or take a song like The Grand Conversation on Napoleon – if a folksong originates in a broadside and has never been collected in a form differing from the broadside text, is it still ‘traditional’? How about songs with known authors, like Sally Wheatley or the Trimdon Grange Explosion?

I think this would be an interesting discussion. It’s not one that Harker’s interested in having, though. In the earlier chapters of the book, describing eighteenth- and nineteenth-century collectors, there are several references to collectors drawing on printed sources, as well as passing references to individual songs either being contemporary compositions or having been rewritten by their collectors. The impression is that some (many? most?) purported folk songs were not in fact taken from oral tradition, but an impression is all it is. This approach would in any case hit difficulties in the twentieth century; whatever else we can say of Sharp and those who came after him, nobody has ever suggested that they didn’t collect songs. (Harker does allege rewriting by Sharp in some cases, but several of these have been disputed.)

The underlying problem is, I think, that Harker is committed to erasing the line that song collectors have always drawn between ‘folk’ and ‘not folk’, and hence to denying the relevance of any criteria that make it possible to draw that line. Oral transmission – qualified by continuity, selection and variation – offers a metric by which one group of songs can fairly reliably be distinguished from all others. (Not everything that people call ‘folk’ would fall on the ‘right’ side of the line, admittedly, but that’s an inevitable side-effect of applying a definition to a term that’s used less formally.) Harker cannot reasonably deny that some songs came down to the twentieth century through oral transmission, so he takes a more oblique approach: as well as identifying songs with printed and/or contemporary roots, he suggests that ‘oral transmission’ is indefinable or meaningless (a discovery which would make the entire discipline of folklore studies redundant) or else that it is irrelevant.

At this, final, point the closed loop of Harker’s argument comes into focus. For oral transmission is irrelevant to the study of working-class culture in a given time and setting; it’s only important if you’re studying folklore, including folk song. But Harker starts from the assumption that ‘folk’ song cannot be distinguished from non-folk forms, making it a non-subject. If you don’t share this starting-point, however – if you’re positively interested in studying folklore and folk song – then there are ways and means of defining it, the role of oral transmission among them; from that starting-point, broadening the focus to the whole of contemporary working-class culture would be the distraction.

Dave Harker set out to show that folk song did not exist. In the end, all he demonstrated was that he didn’t want to study it


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 05:38 AM

Who's review was that, Dick? I know it says "When I was Culture Editor for Red Pepper" but I don't know what Red Pepper is, let alone who its culture editor was.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Derrick
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 05:46 AM

Dave, See link below.
                  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Pepper_(magazine)


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 05:59 AM

I recently saw a TV interview (UK with Naga Munchetty) in which Seeger referred to Big Bill Broonzy as a talented 'jazz' guitar player. Wherever that came from, it made me think twice about how my ideas of genre and those of Seeger might differ.

Broonzy was, for those who do not know, chosen by John Hammond to replace the now legendary Robert Johnson at a famous concert in the Carnegie Hall. He subsequently became part of what is sometimes described as a US 'folk revival', sometimes more narrowly as a 'blues revival', appearing with Pete Seeger among others, and he also performed at many British clubs in the early 1950s.

Not being around in those days, I knew of him initially via the Allman/Clapton version of his 'Key to the Highway'.

I have read articles suggesting that Broonzy was to some extent 'packaged' as a country blues man, even though he had moved on musically in line, perhaps, with the changing tastes of his record buying public, to the extent that the clothes he wore were chosen to fit this image. Nobody denies his musical and songwriting talents, and all credit to Seeger for flagging up his talents on 21st century TV in the UK, but why refer to him as a 'jazz' guitarist?

Sorry I have gone off-topic.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 06:10 AM

But while off topic, Bert Jansch said Broonzy was an influence, and here is a track which for me suggests how some UK 'folk guitarists' were influenced by Black American musical styles including Broonzy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=37&v=gSHBcOyjsUk&feature=emb_logo

The setting, darkened club, (I think it is in France), the holding of (votive?) candles, seems so retro/dated now!

And another, more 'poppy'...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okkkLyRSy0Y

Still not jazz?


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 06:51 AM

Thanks Derrick. I now know Red Pepper but it doesn't mention who the culture editor was.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 07:15 AM

Derrick

Re your post at 04.51; It WAS NOT the policy at the Ballads ans Blues.

Probably the main reason why he and Peggy left to form the Singers Club.

The Ballads and Blues continued in a more open minded way. I was the person responsible for booking the singers and pickers from September 1961.

Pseud:
A couple of points re Broonzy (I was fortunate enough to see him on two or three occasions):
He normally appeared in concert venues not clubs although he did appear in Jazz Clubs as a solo act but the jazz musicians appearing on the same evening might join in for one or two numbers. Bill did show up at the Blues and Barrelhouse club run by Cyril Davis at the Roundhouse in Wardour Street, London on a night off.

Peggy was probably confused because he had appeared with saxes and a trumpet in the 1940's

Re Bill being "Packaged" he was doing what any professional musician needs to do to earn a living, adapt. Like many blues singers he also had some 'pop' material in his repertoire
Regarding his clothing, he always wore a suit and tie in concert. Yes, there is one photograph of him in dungares which I believe was a photoshoot to promote his record "Mopper's Blues" from 1951.

The film which you refer to I believe without checking that it was in Belgium.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 08:15 AM

Hello Guest, of course you are right, Belgium. Thanks for your other information too: I have no objection to any musician earning a living, by the way! And Broonzy was good (well I think so) and therefore deserved success. I wish I had been able to see him! I got the information about his 'numerous' performances in British folk and blues clubs from Wikipedia. Of course, wiki isn't always right! Wiki cite a piece linked below which has an image of poster for a Broonzy concert run by London Jazz club:

https://allthirteenkeys.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/on-a-kind-of-vacation-reexamining-african-american-blues-musicians-visits-to-britain-1950-58/

Not sure what he is wearing in this pic, but it isn't a suit or tie!

best wishes


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 08:46 AM

Not only am I not Dave Harker, I haven't even read Dave Harker yet, only a couple of reviews, both negative. Another expensive book, even second hand! I'm sure there is an interesting discussion to be had of that book if it is possible to discuss without the usual...

When Ben Harker wrote this book on MacColl he was, aptly enough, at Salford, and his web site at
The University of Manchester is here:

https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/ben.harker.html

Given that Dr Ben Harker's interests include aspects of Marxism and left-wing theatre he seems to have been a good choice for a cultural and political biography of Ewan MacColl.

At the risk of repeating myself, it is an interesting book, which helps the reader to situate MacColl and his life in the twentieth century context(s) he lived through.

A person who finished The Faerie Queen certainly has stamina and determination: I was only set a couple of sections to read when at Uni and found it hard to stay awake! The exam question asked what relevance Spencer's work might have for the modern day. I believe I did rather badly on that paper. Respect, therefore, to Mr Sandman!


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 09:02 AM

I cannot work out where Sandman's own words end and his quotation from a blog start. The original seems (emphasise seems) to be here, written by somebody called Phil Edwards?


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 09:05 AM

https://52folksongs.com/2015/08/09/fakesong-dave-harker-1985/

Sorry here is the link to the post I feel Sandman may have been quoting.

I now realise that Sandman probably wasn't claiming to have read the whole of Spencer's Fairie Queen. Woops! Apologies all round! Ha ha the joke's on me (again!)


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 09:05 AM

BROONZY played a particular finger picking style which involved somme off the beat thumb bass, quite different from missippijohn hurt or mance lipscomb or piedmont style, it gives a bassy swing to the music, however my personal opinion is that blind blake played in a more jazzy chord style ,
however there are overlaps between different genres and to describe broonzy as jazzy is true to a certain extent, primarily because of hiss use of off the beat bass, however he did not improvise in the same way as true jazz guitarists like wes montgomery or django.
,DAVE GNOME i have no idea, you are very clever. i am sure you will find out on your own


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Derrick
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 09:40 AM

Guest at 07-15, (Hootenanny I'm guessing?)
I am a little confused as to Peggy and Ewan's story with the two clubs
as is Peggy it seems herself in the her article above.
As I understand it the Blues and Ballad Club came first.

Did they found the club?
What was their role,were they committee members?
Was the critics group part of the club or was that formed at the Singers Club.
Was the theatre group also set up as part of the Singers Club?
At which club did the Lisa Turner episode take place?


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 11:02 AM

Yes Derrick,

Apologies to all for accidentally omitting any I.D.

The Ballads and Blues Club came first around the mid fifties. It ran at The Princess Louise Pub in Holborn which previously housed a skiffle club. I first attended in 1956 or 57.

Ewan and Peggy were virtual residents, but there were numerous other singers and pickers British, Irish Scottish, American, Canadian and West Indian for instance.

There was no committee that I was ever aware of and I was there almost every week. Ewan made his move insulting Lisa Turner (who had appeared regularly)in 1961 and went off and formed the Singers Club.

I did the booking at the Ballads and Blues from September 1961 and certainly never had a committee. I booked people that our audience found to be entertaining.

I only attended the Singer's Club on about three occasions. So cannot answer those questions I am afraid


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 11:05 AM

I had guessed it was Hootenanny too.

One thing the book made clear to me was that The Critics group did various things; both providing a focus on how to sing folk songs and serving as the basis for organising theatrical enterprises which became almost annual events, the Theatre of Fools. Some members joined for the theatrical bit rather than the singing bit; I think Michael Rosen (another talented person whom I admire) was in this group. This is how come the Critics Group split when the last Theatre of Fools had been done. Is this where some of the confusion comes in (I know I was a bit muddled about this before reading the book; I had not been aware of the theatrical activities of the Critics Group.)

Harker seems to say that MacColl and a man called Nixon were important in setting up the Ballads and Blues. He also says that even in 1958 MacColl was trying to impose a rule about people should restrict themselves to songs from their own national heritage. Initially they used a big venue and then moved to a pub, The Princess Louise in High Holborn. MacColl was writing to Seeger at this time. He and Nixon used to argue about which acts to put on and MacColl would annoy Nixon (the book says) by not calling his acts. MacColl developed a reputation for ruthlessness. Harker quotes from a programme that features the term 'Hootenanny' which I thought when I saw it might be the origin of the user name on this forum. I also noted and thought of some Mudcat discussions when I noted it, that song sheets were handed out. It was so successful that they had an overflow evening; this, the book tells us, was the time when Pat Mackenzie got hooked. MacColl was not so keen on the use of the term 'hootenanny' as Nixon was. He did not like the raucous participatory aspect and wanted to improve standards partly to resist American cultural imperialism (presumably part to toe the party line??). You have to read the book, I cannot type it all out. Eventually MacColl left his wife and set up house with MacColl.They both headlined at the Ballads and Blues club. But relations between MacColl and Nixon went from bad to worse, Nixon lost interest in the Ballad and Blues club, and MacColl seems to have thought that Nixon had sold out and did parodies of him on stage. MacColl then palled up with Bruce Dunnett a Scottish communist and they set up what came to be called 'The Singers Club'. It had a manifesto style statement published in Melody Maker and Sing Magazine in (and I think this date is right) summer of 1961.It was supposed to be a bulwark against commodification and to maintain performance standards.

Hope this is helpful in answering questions that have been posed.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 11:08 AM

Pseud,

The link you give above re Broonzy's attire doesn't work for me I'm afraid.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 11:08 AM

Sorry for typo: obviously when MacColl left his wife he set up house with Peggy Seeger! The point in the book was that this was a difficult time for MacColl being apart from Peggy whom he was strongly in love with at this point but could not be with when he wanted to.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 11:20 AM

Sorry about the link: it works for me because I am registered with the 'wordpress' site. IT is on a blog by a researcher called Lawrence Davies of King's College London. He is interested in researching the influence of the British jazz and folk ‘revival’ movements on the early reception and performance of the blues in Britain.


I can describe the poster: it is for a concert at Kingsway Hall, London on 22nd September 1951, organised by the London Jazz Club. It says it will be a 'recital' of folk songs, ballads and blues. The programme costs sixpence. Broonzy seems to be wearing a denim shirt, open at the neck, sleeves rolled up, (like a working man I guess is the intended 'image') and holding a guitar, but it only shows him waist up so I cannot tell if it is overalls or not!


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 11:25 AM

I note we have not had any arguments recently and I for one have found the comments of others interesting. So thank you to all.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 11:35 AM

Should we regard Harker as 1oo per cent truthful or accurate. prsonally iu doubt that it was as early as 1958, that MacColl imposed a rule.
other people who are stil here and were around at the time, have a different version? does it matter now anyway, or are MacColls other achievements more important?[ such as the help he gave to performers such as Kerr andFaulkner] which sandra kerr herself ackinowledges


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Derrick
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 12:07 PM

Hootenanny,
Thanks for clarifying that,Peggy's article confused me.
The more I read about Ewan and some of his behavior and opinions the more
I understand why he was and still is so controversial.
A man who did so much to promote folk music certainly knew how to rub people up the wrong way,a victim of his own ego.
Having said that he does have some devout followers.
A Marmite character to say the least.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Vic Smith
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 12:40 PM

The turn that this thread has taken recently makes a section of an article that I wrote for the current Living Tradition seem relevant here; the one that I wrote on Sandra Kerr. We have seen earlier in the thread that Sandra has expressed mixed feelings about Ewan MacColl over the years but it was clear from my interview with her in June of this year that overall, she gained a great deal from him.
Here is the section of the article that deals with Ewan, Peggy and The Critics Group: -
I started with the obvious question about how she became involved in the first place.

“I was in a skiffle group at school. Then some other friends who were also in a skiffle group took me to The Singers Club when I was about 17 and I was immediately converted. I heard Ewan (MacColl) and Peggy (Seeger) and Bert (Lloyd). I can remember thinking what extraordinary tunes the songs they were singing had; they did things that other tunes I knew didn't do. I know now that this was because they were modal, but I just remember their strangeness. There was no instrumental music, just songs, and one that stuck out in my mind was Van Diemen's Land - Harry Cox's version which Peggy accompanied on the guitar and Ewan sang. I was struck by its beauty.”

I reminded Sandra that it was 30 years this year (2019) since Ewan died, but somehow, he still manages to be a controversial figure. “Always was; always will be,” she said. “I'm not actually sure that he didn't court controversy. However, there is a lot of misconception about where he was coming from, but for all his contentious nature, I would not have missed the chance that I had under his kind of teaching; he was wonderful. I was so lucky because I was only 20 when Ewan and Peggy asked me to go there and live with them in Beckenham. I was a kind of live-in au pair to help with the children, but at the same time I was having one-to-one lessons from both. It was amazing; to this day, I can't believe that this happened. It was wonderful.”

It must have been around these years that Sandra became involved with The Critics Group. I had a feeling that the approach they adopted was very different to the usual folk song and music workshops that are run today; like, for example, those on song accompaniments on concertina which Sandra would be running in my home town, Lewes, exactly a week after our conversation.

“The Critics Group was different in the sense that it was a passion, a renewal, to learn from the tradition, to go as far back as we could go so that we could hear what these great singers were doing, the likes of Joe Heaney and Elizabeth Cronin. We could hear what they were doing and try to emulate that, try to get it back. I think that at that time there wasn’t a lot of discussion about how you should sing those songs, without being dictatorial. People can spend hours talking about a fiddler's technique and style, but I don't think that at that time people were thinking about vocal style in the same way. So that was a revelation, and was totally encouraged by Ewan.”

“We spent a lot of time during that seven or eight years listening to the field recordings that Ewan and Peggy had in their wonderful library. This led to all sorts of exercises. Ewan brought to the group the things they had been taught at the Theatre Workshop by the best movement and vocal teachers, so we were taught all that, as well as relaxation exercises, how to improve diction and projection, using Laban’s Theory of Efforts in singing - he transferred all of this into vocal terms, which was a very useful tool in describing how a singer was using their voice; how the voice was moving through the air. It was fascinating stuff, and I still use it to this day e.g. using Laban’s terminology to describe what a singer is doing: things like ‘this is a gliding effort’ or ‘he’s using a thrusting effort’. It's all very useful.”

I asked if what Sandra had learned then had been useful in the way she has run community choirs and week-long festival events, both of which she has been doing for many years.

“No, I wouldn't say that necessarily; because the Critics Group finished in 1971 and I have done and learned a lot of other things since. But where it has been most useful has been in talking to university students about approaches to singing. Let's say that you are singing a ballad; let's say The Banks Of Green Willow. You have to think about who you identify with here, what sort of mood you want to create with the ballad. You take them back to, let's say, the wonderful singers that Cecil Sharp recorded in the Appalachians. One singer had just sung Henry Martin to him. When she’d finished she said: ‘When I am singing these songs, I feel like I'm the feller it’s all happening to.’ That's wonderful, that total identification.”

The Critics Group and the Singers Club were not just about studying the tradition, they were also trying to encourage creativity. “Absolutely!” said Sandra. “Ewan encouraged this to get people to write from their own position, their political stance. The first song that I ever wrote was when I was living with them, pre-Critics Group, but that was one of the tasks that Ewan gave me. He asked me to find a theme that you would find in a traditional song and then bring it up to date, so I wrote a song called What’ll The Neighbours Say about a young girl getting in the family way and saying, ‘This is my child and I don't want all this...’ and so on. Anyway, 15 years later when Frankie Armstrong, Kathy Henderson and I were putting together a song book, My Song Is My Own (Pluto Press), someone sent us that song from Scotland saying, ‘You ought to put this in your book; it's traditional’.” In some ways Sandra ought to have been delighted. “I was delighted. It was the best accolade! A song that you have written to be regarded as traditional!”


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 12:45 PM

I don't suppose Harker got everything right, which is why it is interesting to hear other points of view. I wonder why Sandman finds the 1958 date too early? One key piece of evidence for it would be the words MacColl wrote on sleeve notes to an LP in 1961: 'At the hundreds of concerts and hootenannies where I have sung or acted as chairman I have made a point on insisting on the rule that singers do not sing anything but the songs of their own native traditions'. This must take us back to the days of the Blues and Ballads, though it does not mean that all Blues and Ballads meetings did follow it: it is said to be one of the things that Nixon and MacColl disagreed on, though no specific reference is given for this.

I'm not sure why people regard this as so important: I was aware of some disagreement about whether it was something 'imposed' by MacColl or something democratically agreed upon.

Are MacColl's other achievements more important? Maybe so, but as I have tried to suggest, this book seems to take a balanced, pros and cons approach, and I don't think anybody could finish reading it without seeing that MacColl, though 'marmite' perhaps, had many talents and achieved a great deal.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 12:52 PM

Thankyou, Vic.my apologies for not crediting you. idid not see your name mentioned as being the author of the article


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Dec 19 - 02:08 PM

I can only speak for myself , one of the reasons i sought out traditional songs from the British Isles, was the influence of people like MacColl, Tawney,Lloyd, who suggested we took notice of tradtional singers like Cox


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