THE NEWslETTER OF TIGERFOLK
Isn’t it dispiriting when you try something that just doesn’t come off? In my case it was only a few weeks ago and I had heard through an agency with whom I am on pretty good terms that one of these bands who call themselves “nu-folk” or similar were going to be playing one of the music clubs in Nottingham. Now for the last couple of years my youngest one has been keeping me abreast of such outfits who might be playing anywhere across the Midlands and he is quite dismayed that I am not exactly kicking the door of the venue down in order to see them; however he hadn’t heard of this particular group. So making the gig headline for my weekly Nottingham Post column I outlined my opinion of this “nu-folk” by saying that they probably get that label due to the fact that they have an acoustic guitar, a banjo and possibly a double bass in the line - up although they probably have never seen the inside of a folk club in their life.
Come the Friday in question I was bracing myself for the backlash of being informed just how out of touch I was and that there are far more places to hear folk music other than folk clubs and it was the attitude of dinosaurs like me who are putting the final nail in the coffin of folk music as we know it. Sadly there wasn’t a single word; either the Post didn’t publish the column that week or maybe nobody read it or nobody felt moved to comment but there wasn’t a peep; not a funeral note!
But just in case there had been some response where are the alternative outlets for folk music these days? I suppose that the most obvious answer is festivals but these have changed immeasurably over the years with a lot of them seemingly just being a collection of concerts with no mention of workshops or participation events. Also a growing trend for festivals is to announce that your main attraction is someone from the pop world.
Then there are sessions and singarounds; music sessions have been around for many, many years and are ideal for the musician who wants to play all night and who is apparently not interested in listening to the odd singer or solo musician. Years ago I heard a really sad comment from a musician who had just joined a very good band who said “The only time I like folk music is when I am playing it”. So is it for this person that the music session exists? Over the years the number of folk clubs who have dispensed with the services of a guest artist in favour of a singaround format have grown at an alarming rate. I can see that the charges on the door in order to meet a guest’s fee might at times appear prohibitive but by presenting a balanced programme over the weeks and months and working within a sensible budget clubs should be able to do this. The guest should be providing something different, a few new songs etc. that would freshen up the club scene; singarounds week upon week how much variety do we have on offer and is there not the risk of the event becoming stale? I know that Tigerfolk present around three such events per year but it is always stressed to the regulars that these nights are in order to give free reign to your repertory or there is a dedicated theme running through the night which should urge the participant to either dig out appropriate songs or try to learn some new ones. I have to admit that it has been a couple of years since I was last at a singaround elsewhere due to the fact that some that I had witnessed had an overwhelming “It’s all about ME” aura about them. You hear tales about performers unashamedly singing from books, tablets or iPhones and once they have finished they spend the ensuing time until their turn comes round again flicking through their book or scrolling through their phone to find their next song, oblivious to whatever else is happening. Another disturbing trait of which I have been made aware is where there are a few Singarounds/Open Mic’s or Busker’s Nights in the same vicinity on the same night that participants get up to perform their stuff and once completed they are off to the next venue – bugger whoever else might be singing or playing next.
But then I might be completely out of touch – if you can tell me where the exciting alternatives exist please do so on firstname.lastname@example.org I would be most obliged.
Sunday 3rd March 2019
Storm Freya was an unwanted visitor to Long Eaton at the beginning of March but at the Stumble we had a very welcome one with our American guest Judy Cook. Judy’s traditional repertoire is rich in history, story and image. Her first full set, for example, began with a trio of songs that put us right in the old Wild West: The Pioneer Stage Driver, and Days of ’49 were followed by the more familiar Darling Clementine (to the also familiar, but not in this context, Cwm Rhonda). Other songs clearly had common ancestry with standards well known here: The Weeping willow Tree being a version of The Golden Vanity, while the Grey Cock had transformed into The Pretty Crowing Chicken. Judy clearly has a delight in word play as shown in the Mermaid of Ontario, a retelling of the story of Sleeping Beauty, and Benedict Gugliani’s One Species also showed a facility for technical terms which was quite educational. There were one or two more contemporary songs, one of which was my favourite of the evening, Si Khan’s Here is my Home. Judy’s singing in this and all her performance was warm, thoughtful and engrossing.
Our own traditions were catered for by a fair number of singers from the floor. Residents Dave Sutherland, John and Sheila Bentham and Paul Mansfield, old favourites Al Atkinson and Harriet Havers, regular Lynn Cooper and (hopefully) new regular John Ledbury, were joined by first time visitors Ed Hulse, and Pete and Pen stopping off from their canal trip along the Erewash. Dennis Cook also contributed songs of river work, and no work, as well as joining Judy for some numbers.
This is a very brief resume of a full and entertaining evening. They are for listening to rather than writing about: come and hear for yourself!
Sunday 7th April 2019
Woody Guthrie & "Old Man Trump"
Google Will Kaufman and up comes the sidebar profile for the Professor of American Literature at the University of Central Lancashire: shome mistake surely? Not at all. This is definitely not going to be an academic lecture, but it is most certainly going to be a night out of the ordinary and not to be missed by anyone, young or old, who loves the place that folk music holds in our society and needs to be reminded about what the past can teach us about the present ,,.
When I was about 14 I picked up two of the three Library of Congress records of Woody Guthrie out of a cardboard box outside a shop on my walk to school for the princely sum of half a crown each, only to have my father immediately buy them off me because he realised what they were really worth (he let me keep the Pete Seeger album bought in the same lot). That was my first indication of how important this guy Guthrie really was and those albums became part of the soundtrack of my teenage years. I am really looking forward to April 7th.
It used to be smoke signals, the beating of the jungle drums, the grapevine humming and the like. Apart from tweeting I have no idea what the rest of the digital age jargon is, perhaps on-facing or facing-on. Whatever it is, it has been pretty busy around these parts since Sunday 17th February on account of “All My Life’s Buried Here”. You might have heard of it but if not let me enlighten you.
This is a documentary film by Stewart Hajdukiewicz that tells the story of George Butterworth and a grand job it does to. But let’s go back to that Sunday, for this was only the second showing of the film following its world premier at the British Library on 26th January this year. As many of you know George was a morris dancer and before the showing of the film, Leicester Morrismen entertained with half an hour of Cotswold Morris thus setting the scene. The Phoenix Arts Cinema in Leicester is an independent so a natural venue for such a film as this and was very well attended which will have pleased all concerned, I’m sure.
A slightly strange opening to the film had me wandering what was to come but it did keep your attention. As the film unfolded we were led through the life of George Butterworth with photographs of his family and early years, school, and university and up to and including his time in the army in the First World War and up to his untimely death. There were snippets of the wonderful Kinora Reels of film showing him country and morris dancing with Cecil Sharp and the Karpeles sisters as well as dancing a solo jig, he claimed that he was “A professional morris dancer”. Now that may not sound over impressive and, to be frank, a bit dry but all this was interspersed with interviews with such luminaries as Anthony Murphy, his biographer, Hugh Butterworth, Vic Gammon, Michael Heaney, Alun Howkins, Katie Howson and Malcolm Taylor. These insights into life at that time along with reminiscences from his contemporaries helped the audience to better understand what made George tick and how composing gradually became such a dominant feature in his life and how folk music and song so influenced his compositions. Beautiful sensitive filming of the countryside further enhanced the experience for the audience but the crowning glory was the use of mainly folk singers, the likes of Peta Webb, May Bradley, Walter Pardon, Bob and Ron Copper, Gordon Hall, Vic Gammon and many more who provided the soundtrack throughout the film. To add variety, Sir Adrian Boult conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra and there were further contributions from Roderick Williams, Iain Burnside, Mark Stone and Stephen Barlow of Butterworth’s compositions. There were also readings by Michael Mears and Mathew Cowan played the part of George in the film both acting and dancing. Much was made of the relationship of Ralph Vaughan-Williams with his young companion, George, and how that relationship developed. With the encouragement of R V-W George got the collecting bug and on his death he bequeathed his collection of over 300 folk songs, tunes and dances to his old friend. The tragic end of his life is told with sensitivity and incredible attention to the facts and details.
Following the film we were privileged to be part of a question and answer session with Stewart Hajdukiewicz, Anthony Murphy and Prof. Robert Colls of De Montfort University where further insights and revelations were imparted.
As stated, the Phoenix is an independent cinema and thus, like all of its kind, well placed to show such a film as this. So if you are interested and have such a cinema, theatre or the like near you it is well worth considering approaching them but for further information go to; www.georgebutterworth.co.uk. I would also urge folk and music festivals to consider including “All My Life Is Buried Here” in their programmes. After all, when Derek Schofield gave a presentation at Whitby the other year on George Butterworth, the Coliseum was packed and many turned away, so maybe a couple of screenings wouldn’t go amiss. What I would also suggest would be a DVD of the film made in due course and that would certainly solve a few birthday or Christmas presents!
See you at the Stumble Inn