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To introduce songs, or not, and how?

BB 03 Jun 09 - 10:02 AM
Tug the Cox 03 Jun 09 - 10:10 AM
Banjiman 03 Jun 09 - 10:16 AM
Leadfingers 03 Jun 09 - 10:19 AM
manitas_at_work 03 Jun 09 - 10:22 AM
BB 03 Jun 09 - 10:26 AM
PHJim 03 Jun 09 - 10:27 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 03 Jun 09 - 10:38 AM
Bill D 03 Jun 09 - 11:05 AM
Anne Lister 03 Jun 09 - 11:45 AM
Rifleman (inactive) 03 Jun 09 - 11:54 AM
GUEST,Russ 03 Jun 09 - 12:02 PM
Liz the Squeak 03 Jun 09 - 12:04 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 03 Jun 09 - 12:10 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 03 Jun 09 - 12:27 PM
NormanD 03 Jun 09 - 12:43 PM
PoppaGator 03 Jun 09 - 01:36 PM
Richard Bridge 03 Jun 09 - 01:42 PM
reggie miles 03 Jun 09 - 01:50 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 03 Jun 09 - 01:57 PM
Tim Leaning 03 Jun 09 - 02:41 PM
reggie miles 03 Jun 09 - 02:53 PM
catspaw49 03 Jun 09 - 03:05 PM
Phil Edwards 03 Jun 09 - 03:23 PM
Don Firth 03 Jun 09 - 03:49 PM
Jack Blandiver 03 Jun 09 - 03:49 PM
kendall 03 Jun 09 - 03:55 PM
Banjiman 03 Jun 09 - 03:59 PM
Tim Leaning 03 Jun 09 - 04:33 PM
JWB 03 Jun 09 - 04:57 PM
GUEST,PeterC 03 Jun 09 - 05:27 PM
Don Firth 03 Jun 09 - 05:31 PM
Dave Sutherland 03 Jun 09 - 05:36 PM
Uncle_DaveO 03 Jun 09 - 05:49 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 03 Jun 09 - 05:51 PM
GUEST,Dave Hatton 03 Jun 09 - 06:00 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 03 Jun 09 - 06:17 PM
The Vulgar Boatman 03 Jun 09 - 07:10 PM
Tug the Cox 03 Jun 09 - 07:38 PM
Don Firth 03 Jun 09 - 07:46 PM
The Vulgar Boatman 03 Jun 09 - 07:51 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 03 Jun 09 - 08:24 PM
Ian Fyvie 03 Jun 09 - 08:50 PM
Leadfingers 03 Jun 09 - 09:13 PM
GUEST,Guest- Helen 04 Jun 09 - 01:02 AM
Artful Codger 04 Jun 09 - 02:30 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 04 Jun 09 - 03:49 AM
Nigel Parsons 04 Jun 09 - 06:53 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 04 Jun 09 - 08:17 AM
Tim Leaning 04 Jun 09 - 10:37 AM
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Subject: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: BB
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:02 AM

In another thread that got rather bogged down, the subject of introducing songs came up, and it was suggested that a new thread should be started, so I've taken my life in my hands and done it!

Someone said that they never use more than ten words to introduce a song. I said: "I find that very sad. I'm not suggesting lectures, but conversationally toned intros. just putting songs in context is surely going to enhance an audience's enjoyment of the songs. Obviously too one picks where one does that - i.e. it needs to be somewhere where the audience is actually quiet enough to listen to the intros. - a (folk) club, concert or village hall - not a pub gig or anywhere where the audience couldn't give a damn.

And this doesn't just apply to 'folkie' audiences - it's been my experience in village hall gigs with not a folk enthusiast in sight. In fact, those are the very people who sometimes need the songs put in context, because they're not used to the genre, and it helps them to understand where these 'strange' songs are coming from.

And how do I know what they think? - because they've come and told me afterwards how much they've enjoyed the fact that we do tell them something about the songs - sometimes with the words, 'I didn't think I liked folk music, but ...'

No, introductions are not for all people, circumstances or venues, but they have their place, and with skilled introductions can make a real difference to people's perceptions."

So what does anyone else think? What are the pros and cons? Should they be introduced, how, to what extent, why, in what circumstances?

Barbara


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Tug the Cox
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:10 AM

As with everything, use good judgement. if you are able to get a good feeling for your audience you will be able to gauge how much info they need. Watch their reaction to your first effort....interest or boredom......totally ignore the rentamob folkie who shouts 'get on with it.'


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Banjiman
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:16 AM

Thank you Barbara.

I think a short attrubution is always polite...... who wrote the song (if known)and where you got it and any arrangement from. It's then down to style amd judgement.

I really don't like it when the intro becomes the feature and the song almost an after thought though. I once saw a set by a fairly well known singer who managed to get only 4 songs (not especially long ones!) into a 45 minute set and spent the rest of the time talking about them. I felt a bit cheated. He did better in the second half..... 5!


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:19 AM

And ALLWAYS credit your source ! If the song is Traditional , a mention of the collector may fit , but at least say who you got it from .
If its a Composed piece it is only polite to credit the writer .


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: manitas_at_work
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:22 AM

I used to introduce a particular tune as being learn at my mother's knee and then tell people we were listening to the Light programme at the time.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: BB
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:26 AM

Yes, Terry, if you've learnt it directly from a singer or recording. If you've got it from a book, which we quite frequently do, I think it depends then on the circumstances - to say at a village hall do that 'this song was collected from so-and-so' probably won't mean a thing to the audience, unless perhaps it's a particularly local song.

I couldn't agree more, Paul! We reckon to get at least 9 or 10 songs in a 45-min. set, but I do think putting a song in context can be important, so 'where a song came from' may be more than just composer and where you got it.

Got to go out - I'll take a look at this later.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: PHJim
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:27 AM

In most of the venus I play, the songs require a bit of introduction. If I'm singing or playing someone else's song/tune, they deserve a mention or if I'm singing or playing a song/tune that I learned from someone else, they'll also get a mention (if I can remember). Some tunes have interesting stories that go with them, maybe what prompted me to write them or learn them. This leads to audience interaction and makes me much more comfortable.
As an audience member, I always enjoy a bit of patter from the performers. A performer who plays 5 or 6 songs with no interaction with the audience won't hold my attention unless (s)he's exceptional.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 10:38 AM

It all depends on how well it's done.

I love Vin Garbutt's singing and playing, but I'd happily pay to hear him do just one song in each half - his patter's that good.

There are other performers who keep their intros to a bare minimum, and are very wise to do so!

If you're wondering how good your intros are, record a gig and count the 'um's. There shouldn't be any at all!

Certainly it pays to spend as much time thinking about intros (and sequencing) as about music - it's just as much part of the performance, and if you make aim to keep the audience's attention as tight when you're talking as when you're singing or playing you'll not go far wrong.

I feel I'm booked as much these days as a storyteller as a singer, and get as many positive comments about the intros as I do about the songs. So I'm not ashamed of doing about 7 in a 45 minute slot. That said, not all the songs have long intros. Some are just a few words, and there are times I go straight into one with nothing said.

Intros don't have to be funny, but like jokes they rely on punchlines and



















timing


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Bill D
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 11:05 AM

It simply depends on how well-known the song is and how knowledgeable the audience might be....and whether you have a 'different' version....and whether it has strange words in it...and who you got it from....and

wait, maybe it ISN'T simple.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 11:45 AM

I'm with Tom - I'm also considered as much a storyteller as a singer, but I try not to have long introductions for every song in the set and still reckon to get 8 or 9 songs into a 45 minute set.

I put the chat in for various reasons, and a major reason is to allow me to make the mental transition into a new song and new mood - and to enable the audience to do the same. I still remember a gig when I was at uni with the wonderful Sandy Denny. Not a single intro, and as a result I couldn't tell you even at the time which songs she sang. Great music, but unseparated and therefore for me at least lacking any "frame" or definition.

Anne


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 11:54 AM

"count the 'um's. There shouldn't be any at all!"

I'll continue to include a couple of ums regardless od what Tom Bliss says, it gives the illusion that you're thinking about something when infact you have the between song chat down pat. It can be quite funny as well, if used properly.

Ummm....right that's about it then...the next song is a little piece we learned from...


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 12:02 PM

What Leadfingers said.

It's ok to say a bit about why you sing the song, but keep it short, e.g., "This is my favorite infanticide ballad."

It's also ok to do a little proactive clarification of possible obscurities, but if the explanation is longer than the song, maybe you shouldn't be singing it.

I am annoyed by introductions that tell the story in detail. Let the song speak for itself.

Russ (Permanent GUEST and traditional singer)


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 12:04 PM

Yes, you should, but you should keep it short. You can always back announce it once you're done if you find yourself noodling onstage and it develops into the tune.

I used to introduce one song I do as being learned at my father's knee... we were too poor to afford paper so he wrote it on his knee (OK so I stole it from the Two Ronnies' alter egos 'Jehosophat and Jones' but it's still funny)!

LTS


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 12:10 PM

Time for the dreaded "It depends...."

Some of the very best performers I've known and seen pick and choose their spots for introductions. You can sometimes segue' from one song into another without an introduction, especially with familiar pieces. But I think you can establish rapport, not to say credibility, with an audience by giving them a little background, historic context and, where appropriate, a little humor in speaking of your next song in a set. Not all of us are comfortable as storytellers, but it is a craft worthwhile practicing.

On the other hand, if your material is all composed, especially if it is your own compositions you're doing, intros might not be as important. Lightfoot, for example, is fairly spare with his remarks between songs. A humorous comment here and there might be all that's needed. More is not expected.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 12:27 PM

Yes Russ, can indeed be a difference between introducing a traditional song, specially a well-known one, and one of your own.

I usually keep trad intros to a bare minimum because they shouldn't need much beyond an attribution (essential), unless there's a special story to the finding or arranging of that version, such as with 'Rue.' And, yes, you should certainly NEVER spoil the drama by telling the story of the song in the intro (it's amazing how many people do make this mistake though)! A little background to set up the tale is ok if it's necessary, but most trad songs are self-contained. (That said, there is sometimes a real life story behind or suggested by some trad songs which can be worth sharing).

I specialise in true tales, and could write a slim novel around most of my songs. When I compose the piece I write the intro and song together: Some facts go in the spoken section, some in the sung part, and I take a great deal of care to get it right so the song delivers double the punch it would have done on the radio or a CD with no intro. I'll let others decide if that works or not.

George P and I were discussing this at our workshop in Chippenham the other day. He doesn't tell stories so much actually in his songs, they are more vignettes - but there's often a great story in the inspiration - and the song is vastly more effective if he shares it (as he usually does - and most powerfully too).

Not everyone has this gift though, so caution is required.

One really important thing about intos is to understand how to launch a song. There comes a point in your patter where the audience is cued to expect music next. If you go on talking or tuning or mucking about after this moment (as bands often do), they become confused and frustrated. I know of some great artists, specially duos, who regularly make this mistake. They know they haven't finished, but they've accidentally triggered the audience. It's like a bowler stopping during his run-up. It makes the intro seem longer than it is, whereas if you cruise to the launch smoothly they think it's shorter than it was.

Tom


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: NormanD
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 12:43 PM

I always now think of the film A Mighty Wind when The Folksmen have to stall for time, and so give that long, rambling introduction to their song about the Spanish Civil War.

The few times I have performed publicly I have the beginner's shakes. I always say something, partly to make a link with the listeners, but mainly to calm myself down. Nothing too long, just enough to warm my hands of lead up on the guitar. It's worked well (so far).


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 01:36 PM

It depends, of course, on a lot of things ~ mostly the audience, and your repertoire.

If you sing traditional songs, or contemporary songs written on historical topics, and if the venue draws listers who are as interested in historical context as they are in music, by all means talk at length between songs.

On the other hand, if you sing mostly familiar songs, much less commentary is required. And if you perform your own originals, intros are entirely optional (although there is probably, for most, an inclination to talk too much rather than too little about your own creations).

I'm sure that I err on the side of not speaking enough. Most of my experience as a performer has been on the street, where the object is to continue making music uninterruptedly ~ most listeners are passing through, so those who would hear your spoken intro will be gone by the time you resume singing. The best bet for grabbing someone's attention so they'll stop and listen is to be making music, not speechifying.

I suppose I've let my old habits remain in place when I perform indoors on a stage (which is only an hour or two a month). I sometimes get a question or comment from the listeners after having finished a song, and so wind up doing more "out-tros" than intros.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 01:42 PM

Funny, I'm sure I posted, but here it isn't.

The bitbucket in the sky or enemy action?


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: reggie miles
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 01:50 PM

Some intros are my favorite parts. Some of my introductions are in fact more entertaining than the songs that follow them. Songs can get bogged down in too much musical structure but intros are free form verbal calisthenics.

The line between storytelling and song singing doesn't, in my mind, have to be so separate as to demand a short intro but I agree that taking note of the attention level of the audience is probably a good idea. Beyond that, if you've got a captive bunch and you enjoy adding more non-musical stories along with your songs, I say, go for it.

For my part, I enjoy the blending of music, stories and songs. Songs are just stories with music. Therefore, I can't see the harm in presenting some non-musical stories along with those that have musical accompaniment.

Story songs are among my favorites to listen to. Those that have music but are not sung but rather recited, or perhaps even have a little of both singing and recitation. That harmony of musical accompaniment and story is quite an art form to master.

Every entertainer has their own balancing act regarding this aspect of their presentation. It isn't always a perfect mix. Sometimes the magic works and sometimes it doesn't. The audience and venue plays an important role in that result.

Stories and songs are created, through trail and error. It can be a struggle to fit a word or phrase here or there, to make our point and adding music can be the same kind of struggle. It's not always a perfect fit the first time. Formulaic approaches don't always create the best result. It's an organic process that seems to defy our best efforts at streamlining.

Do all songs need intros? No. Do intros have to contain specific info? No. They can be total nonsense, just as the message of any song can. The choice is up to each of us as to what we wish to offer via our talents.

I enjoy offering intros and make them as long or as short as I see fit. It is, after all, my choice. I don't always present them the same way to every audience. I curb my presentation to fit. I've enjoyed writing and presenting some intros more than the songs that follow them.

Instead of adding an intros to some of my songs I've included some non-singing parts in the middle of a song or at the end. There are no rules that state what you can offer in your songs or how you must present it. Nor are there rules regarding whether your messages have to be sung or spoken. Those decisions all fall into the realm of artistic freedom.

You can, as some have suggested, offer the name of the writer of the particular song and perhaps add what influenced you to sing it. If you don't know the author, making one up can be a fun too. I've always enjoyed someone that can add humor to their intros but that approach won't fit all songs.

I'm interested in some of the background of some songs but unless that aspect can be presented with care, delving into too much historic minutia can become less interesting to me. I don't need to know the date a song was created unless it somehow relates to the message in some important way.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 01:57 PM

Gosh Reggie - reading that I thought for a moment I'd written it!

snap

(though I don't make up writers' names - I assume you mean the Bloody Gardener was written by Allan Titchmarsh, sort of thing)?


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 02:41 PM

Hmmmmm
As audience I find a short intro is good.
The Guy who co wrote a song ,then told us the story of the song,why he wrote the song,then the words of the song ,then sang the bloody song ,then told us about the song again.
Doesn't get my vote.
Neither does the guy who turns his gig into a lecture about ....zzzzzzzz.
It is nice to know the title + who wrote it if known.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: reggie miles
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 02:53 PM

I meant that the kind of folk/blues that I play can sometimes be impossible to trace to an exact source. Offering the names of several authors who have written versions of the same song might be interesting to some but I'd have to say that the number who would be interested would be few. I don't really believe that most enthusiasts are as interested in such detail as they are in my particular version and presentation.

Here's an example. Many blues enthusiasts know the version that Skip James offered of "I'd Rather Be The Devil" but few know that Kansas Joe McCoy recorded a similar but different version under the title, "Evil Devil Woman Blues" with Memphis Minnie. That's because he recorded it under the name, The Mississippi Mudder. Fewer still probably know of the same song being offered in a slightly different version under the title, "The Devil's Got My Woman". So, rather than try to delve any deeper into who wrote or recorded what first and spout such minutia to our audience, a friend and I came up with this intro.

This next song is about THE DEVIL! But if you play it backwards it's, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus."


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: catspaw49
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 03:05 PM

I think formal introductions are always nice............

Lord Randall, may I introduce Miss Barbara Allen?
Miss Allen, this is Lord Randall.


Spaw


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 03:23 PM

There comes a point in your patter where the audience is cued to expect music next. If you go on talking or tuning or mucking about after this moment (as bands often do), they become confused and frustrated.

Interesting thought. I'd like to say my intros carry on till they reach that point, but I don't always get that far before I dry up.

Then there are the acts who know perfectly well they're dragging it out too long, & effectively try the audience's patience for comic effect - doesn't always work, but it's very funny when it does.

I guess there are as many different kinds of introduction as there are kinds of act. Since Billy Connolly and Jasper Carrott got started there have always been people honing their patter in the hope that they'll get asked to do more of it - fair enough if you can do it, but some people would be better off working on the songs. (There's a guy I know who does what ought to be very funny songs, each of which he gives a long intro which includes - and explains - all the jokes in the song; it's a bit counter-productive.) Then there are people who just want to say where they got the song or when they wrote it, and people who just want to raise a quick laugh so that they can feel the audience is on their side. And people who just want to sing.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 03:49 PM

It sounds like most people here have the hang of it.

One should avoid the situation where people say afterwards, "I knew he was a folk singer because he'd spend about fifteen minutes each introducing songs that lasted two and a half or three minute songs." However, a few "program notes" from time to time can substantially add to the interest, especially if you are judicious about which songs to introduce and you work out ahead of time what you're going to say rather that just rambling on.

I don't do it for every song. I usually open without an intro and just launch into the song, but I choose one that generally doesn't really need an intro. Then, maybe about the third song, I'll give a few program notes: a sentence or two. Then, maybe someplace along the line I might give a more elaborated intro, but that depends a lot on the song. Is it historically significant? And interesting? But again, have it all worked out beforehand.

It's always a judgment call. Depending on the situation and the audience response, sometimes I'll just sing one song after another and generally keep my mouth shut otherwise. But other times, it can be very appropriate to give some very long dissertations on the songs. I've sung in situations, such as at the Overlake Friends of the Library, where that's exactly what they wanted me to do.

I think a performance of folk songs should be both entertaining and informative. But the balance of information and entertainment should depend on the audience, the circumstances, and just good judgment.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 03:49 PM

Does this thread apply to singing in singarounds? I tend not to say anything unless anyone asks afterwards, preferably in the interval. This is partly because I never really know what I'm going to sing until I start singing it; I pick up my wee (Black Sea) fiddle and improvise until something occurs to me. In solo gigs (storytelling & ballads)the energy of the performance is pure improvisation, bouncing off the audience & getting into a spontaneous roll in which I never know quite what's coming next - so very little by way of introduction unless anyone asks about it afterwards. Working with Rachel tends towards a more conventional approach, although there's been a few gigs we've done where we've done unbroken sequences of upwards of 40-minutes - one of which at least resulting in a standing ovation, though not with a folk audience. In folk club & festival conditions however, we're consummately orthodox!


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: kendall
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 03:55 PM

Brevity is the soul of wit.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Banjiman
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 03:59 PM

OK


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 04:33 PM

k


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: JWB
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 04:57 PM

I put a set list together carefully, often with a thread of some sort stringing two, three or four songs together. The intro to each song then helps make the connections visible to the audience. But paramount is that I'm there to entertain, not educate (unless that's what I'm being paid to do), so short, sweet and with some humor works best of all.

With a tougher audience, I've found that giving them something to look for in a song can help them focus: "This next song will give you gents a sure-fire technique for picking up dairy maids." That technique is great with kids, of course, but their 'rents sometimes need that extra hook, too.

I hear so often that "stage presence" is what makes a performer truly enjoyable for an audience. The patter is part of the performance, and it's a crucial piece of one's stage presence. Thinking about your intros in advance, as much as practicing the songs, is the surefire way of doing it well.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,PeterC
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 05:27 PM

As much as I like a song to be put into context I do recall on of the finest singers I hever heard who just stood up, sang and sat down.

Walter Pardon


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 05:31 PM

Excellent, Jerry. Exactly so!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 05:36 PM

You could say the same about Fred Jordan


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 05:49 PM

Yes, I always do.

How? Here's approximately how I introduce Jan's Courtship:

"As you've noticed, I like to sing the old songs. This is from Devonshire, in England, from maybe two to three hundred years ago as best I can make out.

"It seems that a young man named Jan (pronounced 'John') has just come of age, and his father gives him some good advice . . . "

And then the first verse starts this way:

"Coom 'ither, zon Jan
As thou art a mon
I'll gie the the best counsel in life
Coom zit down by me
And my ztory will be
I'll tell 'ow to get thee a wife,
    Iss I will, man I will, zoor I will,
    I'll tell 'ow to get thee a wife
    Iss I will.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 05:51 PM

Singarounds are different. You have to take a cue from the others re the house rules. But even if intros are out of bounds there's always time for a couple of words between the last note and the applause.

Many people on the folk scene murmur the title of the song in that moment, and for a trad song that can often be enough.

What does frustrate me, though, is when people sing a 'cover' - a song by a living writer - but still just mutter the title at that point. (Frustrate? It makes me blinking fume)!

The other day someone actually said the name of the songwriter in that moment. I nearly got up and hugged him!


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Dave Hatton
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 06:00 PM

It really does depend, as everyone says. If I'm in a singaround environment I always say a few words because I'm amongst folkies and they are interested in what's being sung but I'll keep it brief - after all a lot of them will already have heard the song from years earlier.
When working my way through a longer set I'll chat a lot more but wouldn't dream of going into detail about what the song was about as it'd be telling everyone what they would be about to hear. I was pretty much introduced to folk music by Hughie Jones and The Spinners and a lot of people (particularly, Hughie reckons, the Americans) appreciate his stories as much as his songs. I'm not as good a showman so would never dream of trying to entertain more than through an odd line of banter but if there's an interesting history to a song I see it as rude not to let people know it. Otherwise I feel like I'm excluding some of the audience and I'm not doing what I really want - to give other people the full experience of the songs I love and to encourage them to find more of their own.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 06:17 PM

I can recall some groups, Bud & Travis and The Limeliters in particular, who excelled at this sort of introduction and stage patter. The Limeliters' Lou Gottlieb, as some may recall, played the part of the rather lofty professor, using many 25 cent words and seeming singularly amused at his own erudition, as some of our real professors were. It came off as funny as hell. Most of us may not have that sort of lightning wit and vocabulary to match, but we can all have fun and loosen ourselves up along with the audience.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: The Vulgar Boatman
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 07:10 PM

Great thread. Bless you Barbara - you've been credited in my intros.
My rules -
honesty - don't pretend otherwise if you really found it on a recording;
if you had the fortune to be given a song by another singer, acknowledge them;
likewise if you stole a song - most of us, from Homer onwards have done (spot the Kipling link...);
if you really love a song or genre of songs, tell the people why - briefly.
All these can engage an audience. Then, save lectures for the wonderful occasion when you are engaged to do a lecture recital...and, be lucky - I had the great fortune to do a concert on International Talk Like a Pirate Day. At a maritime festival. What a gift. (It's September 19th BTW)


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Tug the Cox
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 07:38 PM

Look, horses for courses, gigs for gigs. I was recently asked to do a spot at a not specifically folk audience ' folk gig.' ( It was part of a wider arts and music festival. The organiser wanted me to tell stories about songs with stories. I gave a little talk, punctuated and illustrated with tunes and songs, about the variety of ways in which folk music was developed and used. I quite enjoyed the challenge. Tried to keep the talking short, but intersesting, and made sure the songs fitted the storyline. I was actually pleased with what I did, and had good feedback. Why do people ask questions which presume that there is a single answer when there very rarely is.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 07:46 PM

It often precipitates a good discussion.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: The Vulgar Boatman
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 07:51 PM

Thanks for that Don.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 08:24 PM

I'd say it depends on the audience how long, and what kind of an introduction you give. If I'm introducing a song in a nursing home it's quite different than it would be introducing it to a knwoledgeable folk audience. I don't feel good about "practiced" introductions. I've heard some folk singers do the same word for word introduction to a song over a period of several years. The audience notices it and makes snide remarks about singers performing on auto-pilot. I know one musician who tapes every concert and memorizes the lines that get the most laughs. I'm sure that Disney could reproduce him. Each audience is unique, so canned introductions are likely to miss the mark.

I've had people say after a concert, "I don't know if you're a story teller who sings songs or a singer who tells stories." And yet there are times when my introductions may be very brief. It depends on the setting and the audience. If you're not responding to your audience, then you're just doing a "show."

Jerry


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 08:50 PM

We run three singarounds a week with an 'extended family' of singers.

Amongst our supporters a consensus seems to have developed where we say about of sentence before the song. Some singers say virtually nothing, just start. I ask these singers next round: "would you like to tell us a bit about your song?"   

For a singaround this feels about right. Having only one sentence per round this seems to maintain a nice flow, though we don't dictate anything.

In a guest club situation I really get bored with artists who ramble on about stuff. I (use to) go to such clubs to hear songs - not a Jasper Carrott or Fred Wedlock comedy act (nothing against these two excellent musical comedians).

I stopped going to guest folk clubs in the 1980's and when I think back to that era my stomach turns when I remember those awful 2/3 songs-per-half-hour-set merchants.

On crediting your song?

All my songs are obscure except to regular supporters*. My repetoire is mainly own compositions, co-written songs and other songs I've collected written by unknown singers I've actually met and liked.

The difficulty I have is that club supporters often think that everything I sing is "one of mine".   So I either mention the writer or co-writer as part of the brief introduction, or shout something like "words by XYZ" as the applause dies down.

* I keep a few well known songs in the repetoire for Punters, special occasions or a bit of fun.


Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Jun 09 - 09:13 PM

My 'Intro' at a Folk Club Singers night this evening was -

This song is for Jack Ross ! I saw On Line that he Died yesterday - the last Australian survivor of Gallipoli ! So One day No one will march there at all has arrived .

And went straight into "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda"


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Guest- Helen
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 01:02 AM

I think if you do not introduce song or songs it is an insult to audience and when you do introduce them make it brief so as not to bore them to much. I dont make my intros too long i let the song do the talking as i think a lot of audiences are intelligent enough to work it out most of the time. If they were unhappy with what you did they will certainly let you know.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 02:30 AM

Now that so many people are connected to the Internet, I've thought it would be nice if performers supplemented their generally skimpy song intros (mind you, I'm not complaining about that) and liner notes (skimpiness here I do mind) with expansive notes on their web sites. Seems like it would address both worlds: the folks who dislike patter/chatter and the folks who want to know rather more.

It would also be helpful if performers would describe the alterations they've made to songs, not just say "adapted" or "arranged". For comparison, wouldn't you like to see the original version(s) they followed?


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 03:49 AM

"if performers supplemented their generally skimpy song intros (mind you, I'm not complaining about that) and liner notes (skimpiness here I do mind) with expansive notes on their web sites."

Some of us have been doing that for years!

It's sad to read comments like "I really get bored with artists who ramble on about stuff," and others of a similar ilk above. I wonder if this is an expression of a specific intolerance to speech in a 'music' setting, or if it refers only to people who do merely ramble, rather than entertain.

Time is a strange beast in these situations. A long well-delivered intro will seem shorter than a brief but poorly-delivered one.

I recently had a case where I was taken violently ill before one of my one-man story and song shows, and was rushed to hospital for painkiller injections and other stuff. My sound engineer, a great singer of traditional songs and a top-flight musician (a FAR better player than me), with excellent stage patter (so NOT a poor-deliverer at all), held the fort for me.

He did 45 minutes, then I got back and did 80 (only ten less than my contracted 90 - and that was only because we'd run out of time).

But the promoter asked for a fee reduction on the basis that he had 'covered for most' of the evening.

He had in fact done a terrific spot. The audience absolutely loved him and would probably have preferred him to continue when i arrived back. But my show is designed to keep up the narrative throughout the event, speech and music, and it never drops off the pace - so people always report that they don't notice the evening passing at all. Therefore, ironically, it seemed to them that I'd been on stage for a much shorter time than he had been.

Tom

(I did get our money in the end)!


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 06:53 AM

Say something, even if just to allow time for the MC to get off the stage and away from the mikes!


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 08:17 AM

The other major issues are whether the song is traditional (not a need for a long introduction, for the most part,) or original (may need a longer introduction if it is a story song that needs a setting.) Not all original songs need a lengthy introduction, but some do.

I don't think there's a "right" or "wrong" to this whole issue. The length of the introduction is determined by the audience and their interest, and the individual song, not by a discussion on mudcat, no matter how interesting. Cripple Creek doesn't need a long introduction, while The Battle of New Orleans does. If you're performing at an outdoor arts festival with a roaming audience, neither of them do.


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Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 04 Jun 09 - 10:37 AM

"The other day someone actually said the name of the songwriter in that moment. I nearly got up and hugged him!"

Was it one of your s mate?
I get a buzz when someone sings one of mine.


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