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New Book: Folk Song in England

GUEST,jag 30 Aug 18 - 10:18 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 30 Aug 18 - 09:07 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 27 Aug 18 - 10:18 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 27 Aug 18 - 10:04 AM
Brian Peters 27 Aug 18 - 09:45 AM
Vic Smith 27 Aug 18 - 05:56 AM
Brian Peters 27 Aug 18 - 05:48 AM
Brian Peters 27 Aug 18 - 05:28 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 26 Aug 18 - 05:23 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 26 Aug 18 - 05:10 PM
Phil Edwards 26 Aug 18 - 04:33 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 26 Aug 18 - 11:50 AM
Brian Peters 26 Aug 18 - 11:38 AM
Steve Gardham 26 Aug 18 - 10:37 AM
Steve Gardham 26 Aug 18 - 10:35 AM
Steve Gardham 26 Aug 18 - 10:25 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 26 Aug 18 - 07:45 AM
Vic Smith 26 Aug 18 - 07:30 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 26 Aug 18 - 05:16 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Aug 18 - 05:11 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Aug 18 - 04:49 AM
Brian Peters 25 Aug 18 - 06:22 PM
GUEST,John Bowden (not a typo!) 25 Aug 18 - 05:49 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 25 Aug 18 - 03:52 PM
Vic Smith 25 Aug 18 - 02:25 PM
Richard Mellish 25 Aug 18 - 01:25 PM
Jim Carroll 25 Aug 18 - 11:31 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 25 Aug 18 - 11:21 AM
Tootler 25 Aug 18 - 10:05 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 25 Aug 18 - 09:31 AM
GUEST 25 Aug 18 - 09:31 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 25 Aug 18 - 08:42 AM
The Sandman 25 Aug 18 - 04:05 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 24 Aug 18 - 07:57 PM
GUEST,paperback 24 Aug 18 - 07:32 PM
GUEST,paperback 24 Aug 18 - 07:28 PM
Vic Smith 24 Aug 18 - 06:49 PM
GUEST,Walter and his rhythm sticks 24 Aug 18 - 11:29 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 24 Aug 18 - 09:44 AM
Richard Mellish 24 Aug 18 - 09:22 AM
Lighter 24 Aug 18 - 09:20 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 24 Aug 18 - 08:59 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 24 Aug 18 - 08:22 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 24 Aug 18 - 08:12 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 24 Aug 18 - 08:02 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 24 Aug 18 - 07:46 AM
Vic Smith 24 Aug 18 - 07:40 AM
Vic Smith 24 Aug 18 - 07:11 AM
Howard Jones 24 Aug 18 - 02:42 AM
The Sandman 24 Aug 18 - 02:03 AM
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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,jag
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 10:18 AM

Since it is back I will ask what I was going to ask just as it paused.

Is there a term for the subset of 'what the folk sang' (and of what falls within the 1954 definition and what as revived in the post 1950 folk clubs) that has been the centre of discussion in this thread?

Almost all the songs mentioned here were sung (and revived) by solo singers. No-one seems inclined to discuss wassail songs, work songs, local carols, drinking songs etc.

They tend not to have the catchy tunes and easy-to-join-in-with rhythms of the music hall, pleasure garden or stage tunes that are known to be such. As discussed above scanning the words into the tune can be tricky.

There melodies often feature modes other than the major and minor of 'art music' and often use gapped scales.

From the descriptions of and by many collectors there seems to have been a collection bias towards these features and a tendency of source singers to offer them.

If, in a parallel with Lloyd's eastern European truck driver, a carter had heard the lads of the town singing something from the pleasure garden then gone home and wrote a little song to a similar tune would we identify it as a 'folk song'? Or would it be regarded as just another example of popular song?

Is there a name for this 'sub-genre'. It is almost as if the collectors and revivalists had selected for 'unpopular song'.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 09:07 AM

Steve, while on the topic of books, do you know 'Folk Song and Music Hall' by Edward Lee? Is it worth reading, if so? (NB it can be got relatively cheap 2nd hand, but if it isn't any good why waste money?)

Hoping you'll have time to reply. Thanks

Tzu


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 10:18 AM

I found myself thinking that the strong sense of rhythm in USA folk versions of British originals must have come from African influences

I doubt the US and UK evolved all that differently. Military culture has always been a huge presence in the US (and still is, to an extent unimaginable here - who has ever heard of a kid being sent to a "military academy" in the UK?). The early jazz musicians were military trained and used military instruments, and fife bands survived into the middle of the 20th century when Bayard researched them in western Pennsylvania - their idiom was not that different from the Irish or Scottish sectarian flute band style. African-American musicians can't have been immune to influence from military music of European origin.

Quite possibly Irish music was more similar in this respect than is generally recognized. My great-grandfather was a peasant from Mayo who joined the British Army at 14 and learned to play the flute in Afghanistan; there wasn't anything extraordinary about this. The British Army was where almost all flutes used in Irish music came from. Military rhythms must have influenced Irish dance music rhythms.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 10:04 AM

some of Sharp's 'tradition bearers' apparently could not recognise their songs when he had 'harmonised' them ie, put simply, had fitted chords for piano to the tunes.

I am no sort of tradition bearer but I often can't get any idea of the tune from the MIDI harmonizations on the contemplator.com site. The melody note could be any pitch in that overcomplicated texture of homogeneous organ sound.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 09:45 AM

"That's what our friend in the White House does."

Obviously he's my main role model these days, Vic.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 05:56 AM

Brian, you really need to call a press conference and explain how you MISSPOKE! That's what our friend in the White House does.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 05:48 AM

Aargh, should have said UNwise in line 1 above!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 05:28 AM

Phil: Yes, I agree that an unaccompanied singer would be wise to try and reproduce someone's performance that was originally dependent on a guitar accompaniment. But then I'd always prefer to back to an original source (Walter Pardon recording, book, VWML online archive etc) anyway.

"But are we agreed that 'as written' the thing needs work?"

In the case of the St George ballad, and also the Peterloo material I'm working on right now, I'd say a definite 'yes'.

"And has my idea that in *some* cases singers may not have made the tweaks successfully sunk without trace?"

I fear it has, since I can't find it. But, yes, I'm sure it's possible to find recordings of singers who are having some difficulty bedding the words into a tune. Though this may be partly a matter of memory: as I've said before, some 'source singers' visited by collectors may not have actively sung a song for many years. And many of them were not 'performers' in the sense we understand it now, so achieving a polished rendition may not have been a priority.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 05:23 PM

Evening Brian

First, your post set me interested in knowing more about how ballads/broadsheets changed: I've read a few but not thought much about historical order/changes apart from what is in Roud/Bishop's book.

I get what you mean about changing things; I actually do this from time to time and one thing I/we did it with accidentally got 'collected'. But enough said there. It wasn't folk, not really, probably....

Funnily enough, I can 'imagine' a 'singable' version of the St George if the audience could be relied on to pick up on the references. My instinct would be to make it an ironic take on jingoism.

But are we agreed that 'as written' the thing needs work?

It's strange: I did some theory of music as a kid and very young you were expected to write a tune to fit set lyrics (key and time signature supplied) ensuring that significant words fell on a stressed beat as opposed to something like 'and' (and I know in some contexts even 'and' can be significant.

And has my idea that in *some* cases singers may not have made the tweaks successfully sunk without trace?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 05:10 PM

Brian and I seem to have 'cross posted'. So I had not read his thoughts on St George before my post.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 04:33 PM

Evening all.

Brian: My opinion on this rhythmic irregularity is that it wasn't a matter of consistent 'broken rhythm', but more a case of single phrases sung in consistent rhythm, but with extended gaps at the ends of the phrases.

I think that's a big part of it. I also think - just from my own experience singing songs unaccompanied - that it gets to be quite natural to add a beat, or (perhaps more frequently) drop a beat, if a particular line doesn't have the right number of syllables. If you're accompanied there's a lot more pressure to keep a steady rhythm, if necessary by compressing two syllables or stretching out one.

Being a latecomer to this whole thing, I learned The Holland Handkerchief from the Waterson:Carthy recording. Initially I sang it exactly as Norma did, but without guitar accompaniment to hold the shape it sounded forced and artificial. It only came alive for me when I let the words drive the tune, dropping or adding beats where necessary. (The tune's still there, it just doesn't sound exactly the same each time round.) A friend asked if I'd got it from Packie Byrne, which I took as a compliment!

The other pitfall for unaccompanied singers - and one which may account for the impression that folk songs aren't foot-tappers - is the equal and opposite danger of learning a song note for note, and stress for stress, from somebody who's already buggered about with it (technical term). Peter Bellamy, God rest him, is a terrible source for song tunes - wonderful to listen to, but you try singing them and very often what you learn won't actually be the original tune at all. Several times now I've got a song off pat from a Bellamy version, only to realise some time later that there's a simpler - and more metrically regular - tune lurking in there somewhere.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 11:50 AM

Hello Steve

Re ballads and rhythm.

I really did select one more or less at random but forget how. It is a Bodleian one starting Why should We boast of Arthur and his Knights, called St George and the Dragon, and the version was printed in Coventry. It would be just my luck to come up with an atypical example, but you could check it out as it comes up if you go to the site and search for St George. Happy to be corrected if wrong on this.


I accept your points, they make sense to me.

In Roud, Bishop comments that it is interesting how 'ballads' printed without named tunes do turn up sung to different tunes, but that surprisingly many have rather similar tunes, or similar phrases within them.

A fascinating detail from Roud was that some of Sharp's 'tradition bearers' apparently could not recognise their songs when he had 'harmonised' them ie, put simply, had fitted chords for piano to the tunes.

I'm not sure that having motivation and time are two important factors, and also, importantly, the question of whether this is a practice one has contact with.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 11:38 AM

Pseudonymous:
"...suppose you have in front of you a ballad sheet with no tune on it. It might not be written in a regular metre... You try to fit it to a tune you know, and end up with something lacking rhythm, or where the emphasis of the tune falls on words that aren't naturally stressed in spoken English. You also end up having to change the tune when there are more words than your original tune has notes for."

Firstly, the ballad you mentioned (Roud V2800) is a blackletter broadside from the mid-17th century, although it does seem to have been printed up until at least 1800 in unaltered from (interesting to see some illustrative woodcuts that actually reflect the content of the ballad, by the way!). Steve Gardham knows far more about this than me, but my experience is that texts from this early period were invariably long and wordy, and actually quite hard to sing - the evidence that anyone actually sang them in that form is scanty. The broadside texts that correspond most closely with collected folksongs (Henry Martin, or Sweet Primroses, to use two examples already discussed) were much later - probably the first half of the 19th century - and far shorter and less verbose.

The second thing to say is that traditional singers were pretty good at fitting lyrics to tunes, amending texts if necessary. My old friend Gordon Tyrrall wrote a dissertation many years ago which compared the texts of songs in the Copper Family's repertoire with the corresponding broadsides, and found that the songs as sung by the Coppers had had a lot of awkward edges knocked off to make them more singable. The other thing that can be done is to lengthen certain words if the text is too short to fit the melody line, or insert extra syllables into words if there are too many notes in the melody. Joseph Taylor did the latter: "Poacher bold as I uddenfold", and so on. But, if push came to shove, and the text had too many words to fit into the tune, singers would sometimes simply lengthen the line as much as necessaryto accommodate all the words. There's no problem doing that if you don't have a rhythmic accompaniment.

I've set more than a few broadsides (including some 'unsingable' ones!) to existing or new tunes in the past. For what it's worth, if I was forced to perform your St George ballad, I could make it fit a tune I wrote very recently in 4:4 for a 19th century Chartist song, by lingering on certain words, or inserting an extra one where there are too few to fit the line, or by squeezing in a word before the first beat.

The opening lines:
"Why should we boast of Arthur and his knights
Knowing how many men have performed fights"

...are particularly clunky, but you might get around the problem of the stresses in line 2 by squeezing in the 'knowing' ahead of the beat - so the first-beat stress falls on how, then singing per-form-ed as three syllables to fill the gap. If it were me I'd be more radical and edit it to something like "When so many other heroes / have fought for what is right..." [stresses underlined]. There's always a way.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 10:37 AM

Howard,
I really liked the way you expressed your thoughts on the 23rd 0340. Thankyou for that.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 10:35 AM

Harry 23rd 8.44. Apologies if I was dismissive. No-one has said that ordinary (non song writers) were not capable of writing songs. It's very likely that almost anyone is. It's having the motivation and the time that are the first obstacles. Then in order to become a folk song the song has to pass through oral tradition and that can be a big stumbling block for the song. Your songs if sung by others in the mess or concert room, by my definition, will have become folksongs for a short period of time, but if they didn't get beyond that mess or fo'c'sle into other fo'c'sles they would not have survived long enough.

Cyril Tawney's RN songs have survived largely because he was a professional performer and that they were put into print and spread in this way nationally. They are folksongs in the wider sense of the word as they are a massive part of the Folk Scene, but I doubt if they are still sung in mess rooms other than by Revivalists.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 10:25 AM

Some great discussion here now, too much to respond to in one go. And most of it well-informed anyway.

Tzu, if you turned up a broadside ballad without a strong rhythm then you were extremely unlucky. The vast majority at least have a reasonable rhythm and form, and those that don't soon acquire it if the song content is usable. I am guessing here and basing this on my own songwriting but a useful ploy in writing this material is to have a tune in mind while you're writing, regardless of whether that tune is eventually used.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 07:45 AM

Nice story, Vic

I'm looking back at Chapter 20 of Roud. It starts with a quotation from Sharp to the effect that singers might not comment on tunes, but this does not mean that they were not aware of them or did not appreciate them, albeit that this might be at a subconscious level.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 07:30 AM

Pseudonymous asked:-
On 'melody', I am wondering whether you can have a song - as opposed to a recitation, say, without it?
September 1970.
2 Yeaman Street, Rattray, Blairgowrie
The home of Belle & Alex Stewart, the parents in the famed family, The Stewarts of Blair.
It was a house ceilidh with virtually everyone there high status Scots traveller performers. Belle, Alex their daughters Sheila and Cathie, Davie Stewart, Big Willie McPhee, Shug & Bella Higgins and others who sang and played really well but were not so well known - well I didn't know who they were anyway. We were only invited because we has already organised a couple of tours for them in England and were in Blairgowrie for the festival which had finished the day before. Tina and I sat on the floor and kept very quiet; we didn't want to sem like intruders.
There was a very old lady sitting by the fire. Cathie seemed to be looking after her and later I heard that she had married into this woman's family.
Belle approached this woman and said, "Whit aboot you, ma dear? Ye've got some fine sang. Will ye no gie us ane o' thon?
"Ach, Belle. Ah'm that auld Ah canna sing ony mair.... bit Ah'll say yin... jist as a poetry."
She then recited in a slow stately voice a beautiful and dramatic rendition of a very full version of Lord Lovell - the sort of performanance that you would never forget. When we came back a few days later to see Belle and Alex, we found out that her name was Charlotte Higgins. Subsequently, we found that she had been recorded by Isabel Sutherland in 1954 in some of the first made for the School of Scottish Studies at the U. of Edinburgh. I learned some of Charlotte's songs from Isabel and her Lord Bateman and Susan Pirate, I think of as the finest version of that ballad and it is the one that I sing.
I often think of that night and the wonderful music we heard. Actually, I had my little cassette tape recorder with me but I had enough sense to realise that it would have been inappropriate to get it out.
I also remember how we were teased and tested by them. We had never met Micky McGregor, Sheila's husband before that and he came to sit with us on the floor and told us that he knew the sort of songs that we liked and were after and he sang "South of the border, down Mexico way.... " keeping a close eye on us for our reaction, but I never flinched. When he finished, I told him it was great, that Frank Sinatra was one of my mother's favourite singers and that she was always playing that record.
Micky said.l " Well, I canna' fool you" and then sung a stunning version of The False Knight on the Road which I remember as being similar to the one collected from Bella Higgins.
At another point in the evening, Big Willie came and sat by us and he had picked up Davie Stewart's melodeon. He prentended to try and play it and said to Tina, "Ah canna' get a note out of this thing." Somewhat embarrassed Tina pointed out that he was holding it upside down. "Och! It's the ither way up." He turned it round and tried pressing the buttons again. "It still doesna' work!" Tina pointed out the clasp that held the bellows closed. "Oh! There's a wee strappie at the top!" He undid that. "It srill...." Tina leaned over and undid the strap at the bottom. "Anither yin..."
He then drew out the bellows and played a stunning version of Lady Elspeth Campbell Halfway through playing, he turned to Tina with a huge smile on his face and said, "Ah can play it fine now!"


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 05:16 AM

Thanks for these interesting responses. I listened to a couple of Joseph Taylor and there does seem to be more of a sense of rhythm here. I note Brian's point about their being no single style.

Not being a singer, I would maybe use 'listenable' rather than 'singable', and Taylor's two pieces are quite listenable.

Pondering this, suppose you have in front of you a ballad sheet with no tune on it. It might not be written in a regular metre. I turned up one at random on the Bodleian, and in fact it isn't in a regular metre. Roud V9800 about St George and his Knights. It doesn't even have a regular number of stresses syllables per line, leave alone syllables. You try to fit it to a tune you know, and end up with something lacking rhythm, or where the emphasis of the tune falls on words that aren't naturally stressed in spoken English. You also end up having to change the tune when there are more words than your original tune has notes for.

This is without any ornamentation you decide to add to the tune, though it is of course possible to add ornamentation without losing the rhythm of the piece)

On 'melody', I am wondering whether you can have a song - as opposed to a recitation, say, without it?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 05:11 AM

Rather than 'rhythm', it is 'pulse' that seems to be the distinguishing feature of traditional song interpretation
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Aug 18 - 04:49 AM

Every single singer we ever asked described themselves (in so many words) as storytellers whose stories came with tunes - Walter was the most articulate in doing so
That, in my opinion, made him one of our most important traditional singers

Where the singing tradition is still living in Ireland, [particularly in the Gaeltachts, they talk about "telling" a song rather than "singing" it
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Brian Peters
Date: 25 Aug 18 - 06:22 PM

Pseudonymous wrote:
"I could not tap my feet to much of what Walter Pardon sang, and I found myself thinking that the strong sense of rhythm in USA folk versions of British originals must have come from African influences. Am I incorrect in noticing a lack of rhythm, and how typical in your view is that relatively rhythmless delivery of 'traditional' English singing?"

Good question. Walter Pardon was probably the least toe-tapping singer you could find in recorded English traditional folk song. He consistently broke up his rhythms, to the extent that a dogma, based on his singing, became established to the effect that British folk singers characteristically used broken rhythms. Like most dogmas, this one fell apart as soon as you listened to a few other singers. I repeat, there is no single traditional singing style!

Willie Scott's 'Banks of Newfoundland' on Topic's 'Voice of the People', for instance, is set in a driving, bang-on-the-beat 3:4 time. Other singers like Joseph Taylor and Phil Tanner, as Vic Smith has already pointed out, could be very rhythmic most of the time but still break the rhythm in places. We know that collectors of the Sharp era often struggled to render the rhythms they were hearing in conventional music notation, hence the startling changes in time signature observed in their renditions of a single verse.

My opinion on this rhythmic irregularity is that it wasn't a matter of consistent 'broken rhythm', but more a case of single phrases sung in consistent rhythm, but with extended gaps at the ends of the phrases. These people weren't accompanying themselves with guitars or other rhythmic instruments, so they paused at the end of the phrase only for as long as it took to inhale. Though you do also find instances where the pause at the end of the phrase is shorter than modern ears expect because, again, there is no guitar to fill in a couple of empty beats in the 'regularized' rhythm, and the singer moves on halfway through the bar.

Going back to Pseu's original comment, American singers began using rhythmic accompaniment on banjo or guitar a lot earlier than English ones, for reasons at least partly connected with the recording industry. The rhythm they used was largely 4:4 (which is the characteristic time signature of a frailed banjo) or 3:4. This sort of thing didn't start to happen in England until skiffle and the second folk revival.

I think there is some discussion of the need not to apply the values of 'art'music to folk in Julia Bishop's chapters in Roud, but surely people liked to tap their feet. Traditionally, rhythm and metre were supposed to be part of the ways within the oral tradition that supported memory?

Again Vic has beaten me to it on this one. I would say that rhythm and metre were largely subservient to storytelling in British Isles folk song, although songs used in a social setting like a pub sing might acquire some regularity owing to the need to sing the chorus in time. Vic's quote from Hamish Henderson ["Listen to Jeannie (Robertson), to Jane (Turriff) and you will find that the words that they need to tell their story are what comes first.... the tune just has to fit in with what the words demand."] is very telling, although I would add the caveat that, to singers like Walter Pardon and Joseph Taylor, melody was clearly very important as well as the words.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,John Bowden (not a typo!)
Date: 25 Aug 18 - 05:49 PM

About While Shepherds/Ilkley Moor...

Ian Russell's note on the tune "Cranbrook" (While Shepherds..) in the programme for the 2016 Festival of Village carols in Grenoside says:

"Cranbrook - Formerly widespread in South Yorkshire but now rarely heard except in Grenoside. Words by Nahum Tate (!700). Earliest carol text permitted to be sing in church - a paraphrase of Luke's Gospel. Tune by Thomas Clark, the Canterbury shoemaker (1775 - 1859: 1805" [i.e. the tune was composed/published in 1805].
"The tune is used for the well-known parody of Yorkshire dialect, 'On Ilkla Moor Baht'at': earliest reference 1916, but thought to date from late 1870s".

So "While Shepherds..." was being sung to Cranbrook a good 70 years before Ilkla Moor was composed. We still sing it at the Top Red Lion, Grenoside, during the season, and often have to explain that we are NOT singing it to Ilkla Moor, but that it's the other way round!


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 25 Aug 18 - 03:52 PM

On Ilkley Moor is probably a folk song as my mother taught it to me and when the family and I drove near Ilkley I taught it to them. Three generations, and we never wrote it down. :)

In my hymnal (1889) While Shepherds Watched has the tune 'Gabriel'


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 25 Aug 18 - 02:25 PM

Several websites suggest that you are quite right, Richard. I didn't know that! I rather like the rather sniffy comment on Wiki which states that it is no longer widely recognised as a hymn or carol tune in the United Kingdom.

Ah well! I will just have to go back to singing Whilst Shepherds Watched... to the tune of Somewhere Over The Rainbow.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 25 Aug 18 - 01:25 PM

Vic said
> Think of the carol, Whilst Shepherds Watched...There used to be a time in folk clubs when every Christmas folk club meeting had it sung to the tune of Ilkley Moor Bar 'tat

I believe that tune was originally one of the umpteen tunes written for While Shepherds, and the Ilkley Moor words were written as a spoof, which however became far better known than the original.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Aug 18 - 11:31 AM

Just escaped form Dublin before the Pope arrived
Whew!!!

"Turning to 'Cupid the Pretty Ploughboy', as sung by Pardon,
First off it has a change from first to third person, which makes it unusual,"
WWho on earth told you that ?
It's one of the common devices in folk song making
I have not been vitioloc not have I been insulting (unless you regard contradicting wht I elieve t be wrong - I know at least one of you who does
Wlater's 'Cupid' is pretty obviouly a broadsing but despite that, he is skill made it into a half-decent song
Jim


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 25 Aug 18 - 11:21 AM

Hello and thanks Tootler.

John Wilmott was, of course, the Duke of Rochester, as you will know; just clarifying for other readers. I'm sure I've seen 'dildos' or something like them on classical artifacts etc.

On the topic of rhythm, in Roud chapter 9 (19th century) page 324 there is an account by Waugh of pub singing with two references to people beating time to the singing. On that basis I can maybe conjecture that not all English 'folk' singing lacked a foot-tappable rhythm.

Tzu


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Tootler
Date: 25 Aug 18 - 10:05 AM

Your quibble about the dildo reminded me. I have Lucie Skeaping's book of 17th century Broadsides and one of the songs is called "For Want of Dildo" so I did a quick check using that fount of dodgy knowledge, Wikipedia. Actually very useful as long as you bear in mind the necessary health warning.

It mentions "Signior Dildo" which was written by John Wilmot and also a poem by Thomas Nash from the 1590s called "The Choice of Valentines, Nashe's Dildo or The Merrie Ballad of Nashe his Dildo". This was not printed at the time, due to its obscenity but it was still widely circulated and made Nashe's name notorious.

The entry suggests that Dildos have been around since forever and that the when and where the term originated is unknown.

Now back to the serious stuff.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 25 Aug 18 - 09:31 AM

Sorry the above quibble was me.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Aug 18 - 09:31 AM

I have a minor quibble with something Roud says at the bottom of page
288 in the 18th century chapter. He says that dildo was a new invention. I suspect not. Certainly the Earl of Rochester wrote a poem called Signior Dildo in the 17th century and according to his biographer Rochester owned some of these.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 25 Aug 18 - 08:42 AM

The Sussex Traditions site is interesting. I note the bit about the Tester family. My grandfather is not known to have played in dance bands, but two of his sons who were also military bandsmen in their turn used their skills on civvy street: one played music at a theatre, and the other played with dance bands at the seaside. A third died at Ypres.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Aug 18 - 04:05 AM

Vic Legg singing while shepherds to the laughing policeman, I would love to hear that


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 07:57 PM

Hello Vic

I really appreciate your going into so much detail. Much food for thought, and many suggestions for more listening and reading.

As I may have said one of my grandfathers was a military band leader. He died in 1940 aged 86. We never met! His newspaper obituary stated that he could play every instrument in a military band, and he made a career out of it, but I had not thought of the peacetime performances in public parks as being recruitment oriented, though this makes sense I suppose. But this was late 19th early 20th century.

I think the Roud chapter that started me on this was 17th century as Playford was mentioned. But I have had 'folkie' friends who hate 'Playford', though I know people 'do' it.

Thanks again.

Tzu


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,paperback
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 07:32 PM

Oh wait, that wasn't the poet - that was me! anyway, may the road rise to meet you...


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,paperback
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 07:28 PM

Hey Jim Carroll, job jobbed keeping this thread alive and as for yourself : the poet said, if they're not trying to kill you you're not doing your job.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 06:49 PM

Right, home again. Can I take you back to my post at 24 Aug 18 - 07:40 AM where we were getting in the way that dance tunes and song tunes were interchangeable and in many cases changed their function from rhythmic dance tune played for their function and freer way they were used by singers and the question was asked Am I incorrect in noticing a lack of rhythm? because this question implies that the answer should be 'yes' or 'no'.
There are a number of points I want to make about this and other things that Pseudonymous mentioned in that post:-
* Tunes interchanged between folk song and dance but that was only two aspects of their interchangeability. Other tunes that were taken for for song and dance came from a variety of sources - the more obvious would be those the tradition obtained from the stage hornpipes that travelling companies took to towns and villages throughout the country, mainly for an ' entr'acte' function. This was a two-way process as folk tunes were adopted by those who wrote for stage shows with John Gay's Beggers' Opera being a prime example.
* Songs that first appeared in the Pleasure Gardens also made this two way adaptation.
* In the early days of that most amazing resource of English dance tunes The Village Music Project, I was interviewing the originator and director, John Adams. Towards the end of the interview after we had covered a great deal of the methodology, I asked John if there were any initial conclusions that he could draw from his work so far. He must have anticipated that question because his immediate reply was:-
Napoleon called England 'a nation of shopkeepers' but if we are talking about the music of English dance - and many songs for that matter - we are a nation of soldiers. So many of our dance tunes came from those that were made for the militia bands that each town and county had to raise to encourage young men to 'take the shilling'.

This struck a bell with me straight away as in a much earlier interview with the great concertina player Scan Tester, he told me that as a boy, probably in the 1880's and '90's he had played the keyed bugle in a militia band. Many of the unnamed polkas that Scan played for dancing seemed to me to have been adapted from marches as John Adams was suggesting to me.
So when Pseu suggests I found myself thinking that the strong sense of rhythm in USA folk versions of British originals must have come from African influences. he can only be talking about the era of recorded sound and any strong rhythmic influence was, in my opinion, more likely to have come from military bands who had playing for marching as their functionality.
We are very fortunate that some of the earliest recordings of English singers, those made by Percy Grainger at Brigg were of singers who almost certainly never heard a recording of music so only had ever heard other singers and musicians. Listen to Joseph Taylor, George Wray et al. and then try and reproduce their sense of rhythm in your own singing afterwards. If you are like me, you will find the way they wander between a strict rhythm and some freer passages very difficult to reproduce.
Hamish Henderson (another interviewee) said to me, "Listen to Jeannie (Robertson), to Jane (Turriff) and you will find that the words that they need to tell their story are what comes first.... the tune just has to fit in with what the words demand."
Think of the carol, Whilst Shepherds Watched... At school we were told that this carol was sung to either melodies called 'Cranbrook' or 'Winchester Old' but the common metre of the carol means that it fits to very many tunes and many village carol singers have used different tunes for it, There used to be a time in folk clubs when every Christmas folk club meeting had it sung to the tune of Ilkley Moor Bar 'tat though a personal favourite of mine is the devastatingly funny way that Vic Legg sings this carol to the tune of The Laughing Policeman!

A lot of what I am trying to say here has been well stated by Richard in his response to Pseu where he wrote (more succinctly than I do):-
Rhythmic or not varies a lot, depending on the particular song and the particular singer. Instrumental accompaniment, which is very common in the revival and was pretty rare in the tradition, tends to impose a fairly regular rhythm, though there are accompanists who can avoid that.

Finally in this overlong post could I link you to the Introduction to Music on the 'Sussex Traditions' website. I was asked to write the draft introduction and then to circulate it to other committee members. They all seemed to think that it was OK apart from one.... the person who really mattered and that was Steve Roud. He said that would have to be totally rewritten, I felt rather miffed at this. A couple of days later I received another email from him apologising and saying that actually at 75% of it was fine but he did not want to have the quotation from John Kirkpatrick at the start and that what I had said about church music was largely wrong.
In the end we had a meeting and thrashed out the final wording between us. The John K. introduction. Steve accepted when I gave my reasons for it but there were areas where his knowledge was far superior to mine. In the end we thrashed out the wording and both our names were put to it. Working closely with him in this way was both stimulating and very demanding and I learned never to make any suggestion in what I wrote that could not back up with evidence. Coming to understand his methodology in this way increased the impact of his book when I read it later in the year,


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Walter and his rhythm sticks
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 11:29 AM

Walter was footloose and fancyfree with his vocals, what would Jim say


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 09:44 AM

Absolutely know what you mean about relief. Apologies for having been provoked into a toys out of the pram moment as this is how it seems to have come across.

I often follow the bass player, though once had an odd experience playing spoons when a drummer said he had been following me (down the garden path probably I though). But follow the singer, yes.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 09:22 AM

Ah, what a relief! A succession recently of thoughtful and constructive posts instead of people misquoting each other

Rhythmic or not varies a lot, depending on the particular song and the particular singer. Instrumental accompaniment, which is very common in the revival and was pretty rare in the tradition, tends to impose a fairly regular rhythm, though there are accompanists who can avoid that.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Lighter
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 09:20 AM

If we're talking about "tradition" per se, singability is obviously a requirement but it isn't the whole story.

"Napoleon's Farewell to Paris," for example, is "singable" in the sense that some few singers actually memorized and sang it. But its place in tradition, in contrast with that of "Barbara Allen" and the other usual suspects, was - so far as we can tell - minimal.

One feels that for most singers, "N's F to P" and its like were quite unsingable, and thus only peripheral to "tradition" in general, no matter how those who did sing them learned and (perhaps) passed them on.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 08:59 AM

"I found myself thinking that the strong sense of rhythm in USA folk versions of British originals must have come from African influences"

I knew, of course, even as I thought it that it was an odd thought.

Just saying - as this topic is another hornet's nest I would not want to be disturbing.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 08:22 AM

By the way, the post of 21 Aug 18 - 03:16 PM above was from me. I forgot to give it a name, but hopefully the context makes it obvious.
Tzu


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 08:12 AM

Vic
Thanks for thoughtful and interesting response.
Awaiting developments with interest.
You are probably going to blow our minds with a very clever analysis of rhythm other than the regular foot-tapping variety, but I should not try to guess.
Tzu


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 08:02 AM

I wrote "The emphasis is so much on words, not music." I was referring to the emphasis in discussions especially on Mudcat, rather than to Pardon.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 07:46 AM

Thanks for the responses and suggestions for further listening. Thanks too for not being angry at my responses to Walter Pardon's interpretations, or accusing me of 'attacking him'.


There is a sense of humour in some of his delivery, I know, which is a good point (to me at any rate).

Something about the delivery reminds me of other early 20th century singing I have heard, perhaps some of the stuff my parents' generation might have heard in theatres and on the radio. The emphasis is so much on words, not music. If I remember aright, it has even been asserted that the music is not relevant, that only the words matter, and here again Roud is useful, though maybe there is room for a focus on singing styles, types of ornament (and Pardon does use some) and I don't recall much of this from Roud. I might come back with examples from specific Pardon songs? Or would that be too tedious?

What I am realising is that any 'topic' seems to come with different ideas and approaches and/or with something that almost looks like its own folklore. Two recent examples would be a) Annie of Finty's mill, with people making claims about statues of the character on the roof of Fyvie castle and stones in the church wall which turn out to be untrue in one case and 'Pictish' in another and b) the question of whether Pardon's songs came from broadsheets, with Pardon apparently on record as saying he believed they did to one collector, yet another collector hotly denying that Pardon said this.

I'm guessing shanties would have been rhythmical, the ones (or imitations) we were taught as kids were) but my understanding is that African American sources are now being claimed for many of these with arguments about them as well ..... :) As one prone to sea-sickness I tend to feel a bit quesy at the thought of shanties.

I'm not much of a singer, more of a musician, and I was quite shocked to read on a Mudcat thread that the music wasn't important. Roud points out that some tunes got associated with particular topics, this is obvious when you consider the death march, but I did not know about Lilibullero (can't spell it, sang it often at school, didn't understand a word of it).


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 07:40 AM

I'll try again and try to press the right key this time....

Pseudonymous writes:-
I was looking at Roud again and he said in one chapter that a lot of tunes served both as dance tunes and as song tunes. Now dance presupposes rhythm. Yet I could not tap my feet to much of what Walter Pardon sang, and I found myself thinking that the strong sense of rhythm in USA folk versions of British originals must have come from African influences. Am I incorrect in noticing a lack of rhythm, and how typical in your view is that relatively rhythmless delivery of 'traditional' English singing?

This is a very interesting question which calls for a thoughtful answer, particularly the part that says Am I incorrect in noticing a lack of rhythm? because this question implies that the answer should be 'yes' or 'no'.

One of the greatest influeneces on my thinking on anything - not just the area around folk music has been the writings of the great American novelist, philosopher and thinker, Robert Pirsig. I read his Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as a young man and I have re-read it more times than any other book I have read. It led me on to read all the other things he has read. I must admit that I sometimes find his ideas difficult and I struggle with the concepts, but usually I find the truth in what he is saying. On this point, particularly if you haven't read his greatest book, you might like to have a look at the extracts that deal with this aspect on the Awakin website. Basically what Pirsig is saying that the answer to a question of this nature should be 'yes', 'no' or 'mu'
Mu means "no thing." Like "quality" it points outside the process of dualistic discrimination. Mu simply says, "no class: not one, not zero, not yes, not no." It states that the context of the question is such that a yes and a no answer is in error and should not be given. "Unask the question" is what it says.

Elsewhere Pirsig suggests that an answer of 'mu' implies that you are asking the wrong question and I believe that you are in this case. I really have to go out now, but I want to try to answer this point more fully when I come back home.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Vic Smith
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 07:11 AM

Pseudonymous writes:-
I was looking at Roud again and he said in one chapter that a lot of tunes served both as dance tunes and as song tunes. Now dance presupposes rhythm. Yet I could not tap my feet to much of what Walter Pardon sang, and I found myself thinking that the strong sense of rhythm in USA folk versions of British originals must have come from African influences. Am I incorrect in noticing a lack of rhythm, and how typical in your view is that relatively rhythmless delivery of 'traditional' English singing?


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: Howard Jones
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 02:42 AM

The facts are that we have a corpus of songs collected from the tradition and which generally regarded as "folk songs", and that the overwhelming majority of them were at some point published on broadsides. There is also evidence from traditional singers themselves that they sourced songs from broadsides. This is not new to Roud, Lloyd made the same point. Are we to suppose that the songs the 'folk' took from broadsides were only those which had been taken from the tradition in the first place, and that they rejected everything else, including the most popular songs of their day? That seems unlikely to me.

The measure of whether a song is singable or not is whether it is sung. We are concerned only with those which were found in the singing tradition, so clearly these were singable. We can ignore that part of the output of the broadside presses which may have been unsingable.


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Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 02:03 AM

Yet I could not tap my feet to much of what Walter Pardon sang,'
As i jnderstand it Walter was trying to stop the songs from being forgotten and had not sung the songs out very much, perhaps he is not the best example to use, how about listening to willie scott, or bob roberts, plenty of rhythm there, or some of the songs plough boys/farm workers used during work different songs and ryhthms for different jobs, eg hand milking ,ploughing etc how about shanties?tradtional songs were used for work, windy old weather was a net hauling song


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