Do you (or any of Musical Traditions' readers) have the sheet music for a 19th/early 20th century comic song titled Sixteen Blades and a Corkskrew? It was sung at the opening of Talbot House Concert Hall (the First War soldiers 'home from home') in Poperinge, Flanders. If anyone even knows of the song or has only a bit of information about it, it would be really helpful.
Georgina Boyes - 4.11.10
I enjoyed Steve Gardham's article, as I always do. Tom Munnelly told me once that, in conversation, Seamus Ennis had suggested to him that one of the Irish versions must have been the inspiration for the old cowboy song Git Along Little Dogies. While not thematically linked, it's easy to see the lyrical connection. Check YouTube for one example.
Finbar Boyle - 30.10.10
Mike Yates - 22.9.10
As mentioned to you a while back, my long term project of researching Harry Cox of Norfolk and his singing friends is (belatedly) entering a new phase. I am trying to interview anyone who actually visited Harry or saw him perform. This is difficult, as he died in 1971, but an enquiry via English Dance & Song has brought in several interesting and valuable replies which I have been folowing up. So I am now appealing to the more 'senior' readers of MT. If anyone visited Harry or saw him perform and would be willing to share their reminisces with me, please contact me in the first instance at: email@example.com
Chris Heppa - 22.9.10
I would not usually write in direct commentary on remarks made about me and my views, magically invoked in recent pieces about Fred Jordan, but feel moved to do so in a very mild protest. Derek Schofield makes one or two steps towards assumptions that my innocent request (vraiment) for more attention to Fred and his legacy do not lead to. I have not ignored Derek's efforts nor anyone else's. I'm not sure how a wooden bust affects the world's perception, mind; but cannot but grant its validity as a memorial.
I do mean 'critical assessment'. Proper discussion that would most certainly have explored the term 'critical' in my case, would have followed if and when I managed to get my own review-article of the Veteran CD done (I apologise for the tardiness).
Mike now hints at my ignorance over Derek's CD notes (I wouldn't suggest that Mike's was a deliberate implication).
But hold on, boys ... Don't my articles include a thorough notice of all aspects of the particular subject in view? I'd certainly hope so. So, whilst arguing the toss yourselves - and good luck to you - leave the door open and give me and others a chance.
There. That's done. Feathers are settling. Coffee pot at hand. I think that we can all imagine what Fred might have said - if anything.
Roly Brown - 6.7.10
Oradour sur Vayres, France
And, while I am on the subject of note writing, may I add a comment about something else that I find increasingly troublesome. Some recent CD booklet song note compilers seem only able to quote a Roud number, together with a listing of the number of broadsides and song collections that Steve gives for a particular song in his index, and they seem unwilling, or unable, to tell us anything else about the song in question. Often there is little given about the song's history or its meaning within the society that produced the song in the first place. Steve Roud's index is a vital tool when it comes to folksong study, but it does not, indeed cannot, tell the whole story. That should be the job of the people who write the notes for CDs.
Now onto a couple of Derek's points. Derek seems to think that I though Peter Kennedy's 'handling' of Fred Jordan to be similar to the way that John Lomax treated Leadbelly. I have reread what I wrote and I cannot see how Derek has reached this conclusion. I said that Lomax 'took' Leadbelly north, where he 'used' him. I then said that Peter Kennedy 'invited' Fred Jordan to sing in London. There is , I think, a world of difference in these words and there is just no way that one could compare Kennedy's relationship with Fred Jordan with the Lomax/Leadbelly relationship. As to the time between Peter Kennedy recording Fred Jordan and later inviting him down to London, it would seem that my memory was at fault and that there was a greater span between these events than I remembered. The point that I was making, though, was that Kennedy was important in introducing Fred Jordan to a wider audience.
When I first met Peter Kennedy I asked him all manner of questions about how one should set about collecting. I had read something that Peter had written about being told of Fred by a neighbouring blacksmith. Why, I asked Peter, had he approached the blacksmith in the first place. With hindsight that was, I now see, a rather stupid question. Blacksmiths do, of course, come into contact with lots of country people and no doubt know a lot about what is going on. Anyway, Peter was rather vague with his answer. Later, after I had recorded some songs from Fred Jordan, I wrote to Sandy Paton of Folk-Legacy Records in America asking him if he was interested in issuing an album by Fred (this was before I contacted Gerry Sharpe of Topic Records). I sent Sandy some notes, along with a proposed track-listing, and Sandy replied that he believed that Alan Lomax had first met the blacksmith and Fred Jordan. Sandy had, of course, visited Britain and had met several of the singers that Alan Lomax & Peter Kennedy had been recording. So I had no reason to doubt what he said. I think that Sandy also said that Lomax had been unable to record Fred at that time and so, having lost Fred's address, gave the blacksmith's details to Peter Kennedy.
Over the years one or two other people mentioned the Lomax connection to me and I have to say that I did, at times, wonder if people were becoming confused with the fact that a couple of Fred's songs appeared on the Caedmon series of LPs that Lomax & Kennedy edited for publication in the States. It was clearly stated there that they were using recordings of Fred Jordan that had been made by Peter Kennedy. But were people confusing Lomax with Kennedy? Lomax was, after all, far better known in the States than Kennedy.
Derek, like many other people, clearly likes his facts to be precise. Sadly, life is not always so clear cut.
Mike Yates - 5.7.10
You are probably thinking of The Sweet Bann Water, which Len Graham and Joe Holmes recorded together (Roud 179, Child 248), and which appears on their LP After Dawning, Topic 12TS 401. I'm sure there are other versions with that ending, but you might also want to check Gale Huntington/Lani Herrman - Sam Henry's Songs of the People for one from Valentine Crawford of Bushmills. His verse went:
I explained the Sam Henry connection and this guy, who was full of knowledge about Crawford's scientific experiments (and other endeavours) was flabbergasted. He had no idea that Valentine Crawford sang, or that he had given songs to Sam Henry, or that he possessed such a beautiful song as The Sweet Bann Water.
Fred McCormick - 12.6.10
I'm currently doing the notes for a CD of Sarah Makem, and am working on the song Derry Gaol. Sarah's first verse:
Can any of you help, please?
Rod Stradling - 10.6.10
Many thanks to Andy Turner and to you for posting the review of my book, The Anglo-German Concertina, A Social History (13.05.10). It is most helpful to have one's work receive that visibility amongst the Musical Traditions commmunity.
Andy raised a small issue over my discussion of the songs of nineteenth century songwriter, concertinist, and Irish comic Tom Maguire, a little-known figure who has seemingly been largely overlooked in most accounts of late nineteenth century popular song. Maguire surfaced in some newspaper accounts I found of his arrest and arraignment at the Bow Street Magistrate's Court in 1907, for blocking pedestrian access on a London footway while he played the concertina and his wife sold song sheets. These accounts describe Maguire and his previous accomplishments in some detail. Andy pointed out that other observers of more recent vintage (on the Internet) had credited authorship of two of Maguire's purported songs (Spare the Old Mud Cabin and especially Wait Till the Clouds Roll By) to other composers. As I commented to Andy in a follow-up note, there is a lot more in terms of research on Maguire that was not included in the book, including accounts of what several musicologists have termed nineteenth-century 'fakes' by one of these pretenders, that tend to back up the old first hand newspaper accounts of 1907. I'm sure that you will be shocked - shocked! - to hear that were occasional copyright and ownership issues in late nineteenth century English popular song ...
I've now written up a little note on that side research, and on Tom Maguire in general, that is posted at http://angloconcertina.org/files/Maguire_research_note.pdf. I note that the name Tom Maguire has come up on your website before, most recently in a letter by John Moulden dated 27.1.10. Perhaps this research note will be of use to him as well. If any of your readers have suggestions or further information on Tom Maguire, I'd be most happy to hear of it; there is an email link at my website, www.angloconcertina.org.
Finally, here is a link to the introductory chapter (Introduction and Summary) of my Anglo concertina book, which also includes (in Acknowledgments) a complete listing of the nearly twenty content reviewers and copy editors on four continents who helped me by reviewing various portions of the book: http://angloconcertina.org/files/introsummary.pdf. I am very grateful for their considerable help in maintaining the overall accuracy and regional appropriateness of the material presented.
Dan Worrall - 4.6.10
I really want to express a personal satisfaction that articles appear to have come in recently on a steady scale. I know that this was mentioned in your editorials and in comments from others but it's so good to see. I've spoken (written, that is) to several people indicating my concern that, somehow, commentary on all matters traditional had not been forthcoming and that I feared for the future of MT just a tad.
Inevitably, MT is a lone voice (of its kind)... I recall Tony Engle surprising me with information on the small numbers of 'records', as they were then, that were being bought, and with the thought that very few people could be relied on to push this side of exploration of heritage. I hardly need to congratulate you on the obvious but I'm sure, notwithstanding, that you welcome support and a small acknowledgement now and then. I'll be very patronising and say 'Keep it up!'.
In this connection, I'm very pleased that Mike Yates has begun again. He must have a significant amount of material with which to play - good luck to him. And for exiles like me (!) it's encouraging to see that the work - whatever it is - continues.
So, for what it's worth, you're assured of my continuing interest as far as I'm able. Increasingly, I'm finding things difficult since I simply can't afford to come over to libraries for material nor yet buy it. This is why an article like John Reilly has taken so long to put together (I made an early essay way back in 1997-8). You can expect some more songs to come under scrutiny and I hope to offer quite a bit more on individual printers, given the problems of acquiring information. I'd like to get back to Baring-Gould at some stage but fear that second and third checks, the norm as far as I'm concerned, may be beyond me... We'll see.
Then - at last - on to Fred Jordan. Surprising, isn't it, that, since his death, there hasn't been a peep in terms of commentary. Another hero bites the dust; but, at least, Veteran's CD remains.
Here's wishing you a happy and relaxed Bampton.
Roly Brown - 28.5.10
He's not wrong about the steady stream of articles, which has continued since my Editorial. From 1st January 2010 to the present we've had 20 new articles - that's in just 4½ months! Keep it up you authors! - Ed.
A Night of Traditional Music, Song and Dance will be held in the Ballymacscanlon Hotel, Dundalk County Louth on Friday 9th of April, 2010 at 8.00pm. It will feature a host of Local and International artists and the 3 hour concert will be presented by Singer songwriter Tommy Sands (Downtown Radio). A short Céilí and a long session will follow the concert.
Musicians and friends will converge from all over Ireland and Britain on the Ballymac Hotel for what promises to be a great gathering of Friends of Austin, and the concert will conclude with a gathering and performance of the Marks Bar Band.
Confirmed artists include Gerry O'Connor, Jim Johnston, Fra Kieran, John Hoban, Paul Brennan, Eoghan Murphy, Conor McBride, Peter Short, Marty Garland, Alphie Mulligan and Family, Síle Boylan, Finnian O'Connor and the list is growing daily!
Kevin Boyle and the London Gang are coming over; Liam Farrell, Paul Gallagher, Michael O'Connell. Noted piper Neillidh Mulligan was amongst the first to offer to play at the concert and he makes a welcome return to Dundalk. Len Graham is coming up for a song or two. Connie Cullen in making a rare trip home from Wesport to sing a song for his old fello band mate. Brendan Larrissey will return to his hometown to share a few tales and tunes
Tickets are €20-00 with €10-00 concessions (OAP, Unemployed Students etc.) available from Toals Bar, Crowe St, Dundalk and McCrystal's Shop, Jenkinstown, many friends of Austin, and also on the door on the night
Gerry O'Connor - 6.4.10
Subsequent discussion with Mike Yates revealed that all those members of the Brazil Family who sang the song - Harry, Lemmy, Tom, Angela (and so, presumably, her father Weenie) - used the name Tom Dixie, and called the eponymous girl 'Sally Marone'. The only exception to this was Angela (and Weenie?) who pronounced her surname Marow. Her text was also slighly different from the rest of the Family in terms of partivular words and phrases used (unsurprisingly, since she had lived outside the Gloucester area for most of her life), though the shape of the story was unchanged. She also used a markedly different tune.
Here's Harry's text, which may be seen as the 'standard' Family version, as recorded by Mike Yates in 1978:
I'm afraid I can't cite instances, but I'm sure I've heard other English Gypsies and Travellers use the names Tom Dixie and Sally Marone, too - though Steve Roud has no such other instances in his Folksong Index. Roly's article makes it clear that the song is of Scottish origin and relates to a real-life incident ... do any readers know of singers to use these, surprisingly un-Scottish, names in their versions of the Sally Munro ballad?
Rod Stradling - 17.3.10
It may be worth adding that Daniel Morgan (Alfred Williams' source for the text of Sally Monroe) was a traveller and that his opening line mentions 'Tom Dixey', the same name that is in the Brazil texts. So, there could be some connection between the Morgan family (Daniel was from Wiltshire) and the Brazils, who were from Gloucestershire.
Mike Yates - 17.3.10
Very interesting article on The Bold Richard / Weymouth Frigate. I have been singing this song since the early '70s and have done some research on its various manifestations. You were right to conjecture several printings of TWF by the Anguses. I have a copy printed by M Angus and one printed by George Angus, and in fact another just 'Angus'. Two are in the Robert White Collection and another in The BL (11621 a 5. 39.2).
These naval/privateer engagement ballads of the 18thC are notorious for being rewritten several times with the proper names changed. You conjectured re: the updating to sell copies because of connection to current events, and I'm certainly with you on this one. I can quote other similar ballads that have gone through the same processes. There are at least two other earlier ballads that use the same text with different ship and personnel names.
Probably the earliest I have seen can be viewed on the Bodleian website, Harding B22 (75) England's Glory or The French King Strip'd. This has Captain Roberts and the privateers Prince Frederick and the Duke. The French ships are not named. This one was also reproduced in Ashton's Real Sailor Songs, p29.
Another I didn't actually have time to copy is at the BL and I will get a copy next time I am in. The ref is BL 11606.aa.24. 88.2. 88 is a garland called The Flowers of the Forest and the second song is The Polly Frigate (of Leith). The garland was printed by Robertson of Glasgow in 1802.
It's often worth Googling the names given. There are lots of historians working on these matters.
Steve Gardham - 4.3.10
Congratulations to Rod for providing the space and the contributors for such diligent research. I salute you all and look forward to further additions.
Steve Gardham - 23.2.10
But I am surprised that Ray does not comment on the song's title. Most singers call it something like Awake, Awake you Drowsy Sleepers, but here we have the opening line 'Wake, oh, wake, you sleepy desert'. The line, in its own way, does make sense. But I love the way that, over the years, the words 'drowsy sleepers' have become 'sleepy desert'. Truly an example of the 'folk-process' at its best!
Mike Yates - 8.2.10
I'm distinctly surprised at your review of Songs from the Sperrins. I acted as consultant in respect of its text transcriptions, references and song and performance histories. I had a hand in the production but no editorial input and some of my suggestions were not followed. I was also asked to provide a 'blurb' and, since only a little of it was used, I've given it below. It was written before the album was published, and before your review, and is as unbiased as any subjective view can be. I wonder how it could be that you and I see the same item in such different ways?
The forty songs on these two CDs were recorded in mid-Tyrone, in Ireland between 1980 and 1991. Most of the singers were in their seventies but, far from being 'past it' their performances are very fine and some are among the most exciting that it's been my fortune to listen to in over forty years.That set of opinions followed my listening carefully to the recordings several times - over a period of weeks. It also followed my discussing its purpose with Peter Smith, the collector of the songs and the mind behind the project. This was essentially a community project, intended to remind a community of an aspect of its past, to allow it to be proud of that past and to encourage it to re-engage with it (see final paragraph of the note on the CD box). I see that you received the CDs on the morning of Sunday17th January and had written and posted your review on the Musical Traditions website before the day was out. I tend to think that, in reviewing it for one community, the community of those interested in musical traditions, you failed to take account of the native, the local, community, I also fear that you didn't give yourself time to savour the quality of the songs and their singers. It may be relevant that the first performance of which you approve, You rambling boys of pleasure, is the first song on the CD with which you might be expected to have heard before; the previous four are local songs, designed to serve the local people. If you want to know how the community assessed some of the performances listen for the applause and laughter that accompany those that were recorded at a ceilidh, especially disc one track 17, I am a wee lad, sung by Lizzie Clarke.
I hope that the songs will be learned and that people will be reminded of the honourable tradition of local song making. Most strongly, though, I hope that the songs and the singers will be listened to with great care. These songs were hundreds of years in the making, the singers spent decades learning their trade; savour the wonderful way in which Lizzie Clarke paces her songs drawing from them the utmost meaning and emotion, and notice how Jimmy Devlin, with the cunning of a life-time of performance, keeps our attention throughout his songs - especially in Lord Beichan, until, at the end, he apologises for his aged voice by raising it till it cracks. This is the Irish song tradition in the fullness of the last moments before its functions were usurped by the mass media.
In comparison with others, this area has been neglected by song collectors. This collection entitles the people of the locality to be proud of their culture; the compilers may also be proud that their enterprise fills a hole in our knowledge of the Irish song tradition.”
You are, of course, entitled not to like these singers, the songs or their performances but I would ask you to take account of a couple of statements, one by Peter Kennedy, concerning the attitude of some members of EFDSS to the singing of Harry Cox, “At the first hearing of Harry Cox you may remark on the 'dry' impersonality and monotony of his style; for many of us in the Society it has taken five, ten or even twenty years to appreciate the subtleties of his performance.” (Folk Legacy FSE-20, DTS LFX 4, EFDSS LP1004), and by Ginnette Dunn, in the early part of chapter 6 of The fellowship of song, describing the aesthetics involved in singing performance in the Suffolk communities of Blaxhall, Butley and Snape, and, by implication, performance in any community. The chapter is called: 'The Primary Aesthetic: Performance' and states that “the primary aesthetic emerged, that performance is good in itself.”
I would also ask you to consider your statement that you reached track, five, Ita Loughran's Rambling Boys, “before I heard someone who seemed to understand and care about what they were singing”. My hearing of the tracks you disdain is of singers who sing coherent texts and sing them clearly: it is impossible under these circumstances that they should not care or understand what they are singing. The result, in traditional singing, of not understanding or caring, is that songs get sung to tatters or are forgotten entirely; that is not the case here.
Traditional music and song do not respond well to we aficionados imposing our aesthetic upon them, we have to appreciate them on their terms, those of their communities and of their performers. One definition of 'the folk' reads:
[The folk are] a group of people united permanently or temporarily by shared common experiences, attitudes, interests, skills, knowledge and aims. Those shared attitudes are elaborated, sanctioned and stabilised by the group over a period of time. Any such group or group shaped culture trait might be the subject of folklore study.By this definition, the community served by Musical Traditions is such a group but one with different common experiences, attitudes, interests, knowledge and skills from that of the Sperrins. The sponsors, Rocwell Natural Mineral Water, and the Cappagh-Badoney Comhaltas (Ceoltoirí Éireann), are a part of the Sperrin community. Rocwell Natural Mineral Water, based in Pomeroy is owned by the Quinn family who are natives of the town. This was not just a commercial sponsorship but an investment in a culture to which the Quinns themselves are native. The Comhaltas branch will receive all profits and these will be applied to the furtherance of the singing tradition of the area. These are matters which might not be known to anyone from outside the area but their possibility, which should have been obvious from the involvement of the CCÉ branch, should, I think, have impelled a more sensitive review. These singers were the mothers, uncles, cousins and neighbours of people yet alive. They were not professional singers, setting themselves up to be criticized; they had been judged by their community and were valued; these CDs represent the tradition of a community. To deal with them as you have, even if you felt that the choice of performances made by the producers was poor (actually it was representative), threatens to devalue a community.
Linda Degh, quoted in Paredes, A and E J Steckert, The Urban Experience and Folk Tradition (1971) p.54-5
The song notes are another matter and I agree they are not above criticism, but I remember beginning a review of Seán Ó Baoill The Irish Song Tradition and slating it until I realized that I was measuring it against my expectations rather than its author's intentions; the review I wrote was very much more positive than the one I started.
You refer to many anomalies in the notes and mention a few. Most of these puzzle me. You say, of Jimmy Devlin's The Gallant Dragoon, that “ … the briefest glance at Roud's Index would have shown Peter Smith that it is usually known as, More Trouble in my Native Land, and he would also know that it was written by Tom McGuire …”. Roud gives 15 entries for this song. I don't think Peter Smith noticed either that one of them is duplicated (one of those with the title, More trouble, and a reference to it having been sung by Dan Crawley) and that another, the only one ascribing the song to Tom McGuire, is given three times. I did; I also noticed that the title of another of the 'More trouble' entries was imposed by Steve Roud himself - Bob Pegg gave it as An old song. Under these circumstances, I'd be by no means sure of either the usual title or the author, and, since neither is a matter of interest in traditional terms, would be inclined to leave them out. The reference to the book, Old-Come-All-Yes, in this context, was more a way of introducing the much more interesting information that, as well as this one, it contains five others of the songs on the CDs - and therefore a hint that the book was instrumental in their introduction to, or their sustenance within, the tradition of the area. Incidentally, I can find no other reference to Tom McGuire, in Roud or in Michael Kilgarriff Sing us one of the old songs, though, as Tom Maguire, another of the 4-page songbooks in the Hewins collection gives him as author of Three leaves of shamrock (Roud 3769). I do, however, find reference to the same song in Bill Williams 'Twas only an Irishman's dream (p.107). There it's attributed, not to T McGuire but to J McGuire; I need to do a bit more work on who this McGuire was and what he actually wrote.
Actually, it was my advice not to overload the booklet with references, most people don't want them and those who do can look up Roud on-line for themselves. One of my joys is that a Roud reference saves me from all kinds of pedantic effort; well, I thought it did!
Another decision was that, if standard references were not given in the notes, they should be given somewhere. And that they have, perhaps obscurely, but page 92, one of those that index the songs by first lines, has the information about The Beggarman that you complain is missing - it is indeed Roud 118 and, - I missed this until just now - the entry for Far, far away on the banks of the Nile gives the titles as 'The Gallant Dragoon'/'There's Trouble in my Native Land'/'More Trouble in my Native Land'.
I'd really prefer to leave it there with a comment about giving singers, compilers and yourself a bit more time before being so roundly condemnatory but there's a crack at the end of your review that I think is downright unfair. It concerns the note about the transcriptions - an admission that attempts to transcribe traditional singing are fraught with difficulty. In the 1908 Journal of the Folk Song Society Percy Grainger made a well-known and valiant effort, setting out the tune as it was used in each verse, trying to give every variation of tempo and attempting to show every slight raising or lowering of a note from its staff value. He still didn't make it but, because he was Percy Grainger and because we can see the care he went to, we excuse the deficiencies - he made every effort 'to render them as close to their original settings as possible.' The note you complain of does no more than to say this. The staff notations for this project were finalized by Colette Moloney, who is best known as the compiler of the catalogue of the Edward Bunting manuscripts, a PhD in music and lecturer in musicology at Waterford Institute of Technology, generally reckoned to be among the best ears in Ireland, commended by Harry Bradshaw, also among the best ears in Ireland but not himself a transcriber. The reason for the note is that she was not absolutely satisfied with one of the transcriptions. I'm sure she would be grateful if anyone in the Musical Traditions community could offer anything more accurate. As it is, the note was candid but, perhaps, given a bit of ill-will among reviewers, a touch ingenuous.
I really do regret that, for a second time, I've felt impelled to defend an Irish production in face of a review in Musical Traditions. Here, as I did in the case of The Songs of Elizabeth Cronin, I feel that the problem is that Irish producers and students of traditional music have different priorities from their English counterparts. It's a community thing again; might we not benefit from making common cause?
Those who would like to judge these recordings, these singers and their documentation for themselves, may obtain them (£20.00) from Kathleen Burns at The Institute of Irish Leadership, 20 The Diamond, Pomeroy, Co Tyrone - (028) 87757800 - firstname.lastname@example.org The pack is issued by Beaghmore Publications and, although they have no web presence, they invite you (on the back of the CD box) to seek further information from email@example.com I'm sure you will be pleased to know that more than 500 have already been sold and that the project is in profit.
John Moulden - 27.1.10
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