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Abc music notation tutorial, uk.music.folk FAQ, rauschpfeifes, and more ...
Low whistling at the Red Bull folk club, Stockport Flute & recorders on the hard case Mr Wheatstone's fine invention

uk.music.folk - Frequentlyuk.music.folk - Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated 30th September 2010.

This document is the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document for the Usenet newsgroup uk.music.folk (umf). It is compiled and maintained by Steve Mansfield with the assistance of members of the umf newsgroup community. Individual contributions are credited where appropriate and available - if I have accidentally quoted your words without crediting you please email me and I shall set that right. Please also feel free to mail me if you think there is a question or topic that isn't in this FAQ and should be. Mail me at contact AT lesession DOT co DOT uk - please put 'umf FAQ:' as the start of your subject line ...

Please note that the uk.music.folk newsgroup, like most of Usenet, is now pretty much inactive - this FAQ is preserved as a reference resource. I will, however, continue to keep links updated if notified of changes.


>One does get *such* useful info on uk.music.folk - hardly any need to n A Anderson, writing in the thread 'West African "Scam"' on umf, 7th January 2002.


'Snobs, alemen and weird-beards' - traditional folk music fans according to Uncut magazine, January 2006


uk.music.folk - Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is uk.music.folk?
2. Who said "All music is folk music - I ain’t never heard no horse sing" ?
3. What is all this stuff about horses?
4. What is folk music?
5. What is the name of that flute-like instrument on the soundtrack on Titanic / on the Riverdance CD / etc ?
6. Where can I buy CDs of the music loosely defined by the answer to questions 2, 3 and 4?
7. Where can I buy the musical instruments most commonly used in the music loosely defined by the the answer to questions 2, 3 and 4?
8. I am in such-and-such-a-place next week, where can I find out what clubs / sessions / dances / etc. are happening?
9. Where can I find folk music on the radio, and on radio stations on the Internet?
  9a. I missed a music programme on BBC radio - where do I go to hear it again?
  9b. How do I install a free version of the Real Player software?
10. What is it with Mike Harding's radio programme?
11. Where can I find the words to the song ...
12. Where can I find the notation to the tune ...
14 What is abc?
15. Where can I find ....
 
15.1 The floor singers FAQ?
15.2 Information about morris dancing?
15.3 The English Folk Dance and Song Society?
15.4 A ceilidh (aka barn dance) band for my wedding/ birthday / PTA?
15.5 The Village Music Project?
15.6 Information and advice on running a folk club?
15.7 The report about the economic value of folk festivals?
15.8 The FolkWISE organisation?
15.9 The latest news about Dave Swarbrick?
15.10 Information about the Doc Rowe collection?
16. Who said "You should make a point of trying every experience once, excepting incest and folk-dancing"?
17. What are the implications of the Licensing Act 2003?
18. What is the story of the song 'Why Paddy's Not At Work Today'?
19. What is a session, and what is good session etiquette?
20 Who were the winners of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards?
21. Is there an archive of the postings to uk.music.folk?
22. What is the situation regarding Dave Bulmer and the Celtic Music record label?
23. Why hasn't <Insert album title here> been reissued on CD?
24. What's the difference between a reel and a jig? (And other common tune types)
25. Who said 'The best way to play a bodhran is with a penknife'?
26. Is there an online database of stolen musical instruments?
27. What does IAFWAFIAWMWQ mean?
28. Where can I get MP3s of <insert name here>?
29. I want to sell <insert merchandise here> - can I advertise it on umf?
30. How can I slow recordings of tunes and songs down to make them easier to learn?
31. Why do folk singers sometimes put a finger in their ear?
32. Who have been the winners of the Radio 2 Young Folk Awards?
33. How do I get more bookings for my act?
34. I want to learn <insert instrument name here>, where can I find a tutor?
35. Did Paul Simon steal the song 'Scarborough Fair' from Martin Carthy?
36. Where can I find information about music copyright?
37. My dog / cat howls at the sound of a mouth-organ. Is this unusual?
38. What are the best tunes to learn before going to my first session?
39. Did Ewan MacColl insist that singers should only sing songs from their own locality?
And: Who deserves profuse thanks and full credit for helping with this FAQ?

1.What is uk.music.folk?

The uk.music.folk Usenet newsgroup is for discussion of folk/roots/acoustic music in and from the UK.

Defining folk music has always been a precarious task and most of us who are into this kind of music have very catholic tastes which are reflected by the booking policies of most clubs. Therefore this group covers a broad range of tastes within that genre and embraces all those types of music that you would expect to hear at a folk - folk/blues club or festival in the UK.

The full charter of uk.music.folk is available on Dick Gaughan's site, at
http://www.usenet.org.uk/uk.music.folk.html.

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2. Who said "All music is folk music - I ain’t never heard no horse sing?

3. What is all this stuff about horses?

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations states that in the New York Times newspaper, 7th July 1971, Louis Armstrong is quoted as saying "All music is folk music, I ain't never heard no horse sing a song."

The significance of this quote is that is vastly and repetitively overused as a justification for including (or excluding) any particular artist, genre, or type of music in the remit of umf.

Regulars to umf have become so tired of seeing this quotation used as a justification for just about anything, that the mere possibility of its introduction into the discussion is greeted with ‘Horse’, ‘Horse alert’, or some such. It is umf's very own version of Godwin's Law. It also plays havoc with the viability of any threads concerning songs or tunes about horses.

Shockwave-equipped readers may like to take a detour at this point to http://svt.se/hogafflahage/hogafflaHage_site/Kor/hestekor.swf, where you can find ... some singing horses!

The horse quotation, or the threat of it, has indeed become umf shorthand for the next frequently asked question:

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4. What is folk music?

Folk music, to borrow from the CD reviewing policy of fRoots magazine, is music which has some roots in a tradition.

The word ‘folk’ has acquired multiple connotations, from the use of the phrase by the American record companies to mean ‘anyone playing an acoustic guitar’, to the outsiders image of a form of music exclusively practiced by and listened to by old white bearded men in Arran sweaters singing with one or more fingers in one or more of their ears.

Recent attempts to replace the word ‘folk’ with the word ‘roots’ have gained some but not universal acceptance, and the word ‘Celtic’ has probably suffered more abuse and stretch marks at the hands of the marketing types even than the word ‘folk’.

Anyone wishing for a definition of ‘Celtic’ should at this point go and read the separate rec.music.celtic newsgroup for several months.

Use of acoustic instruments does not automatically mean that the resultant music is folk music, nor does the use of electronic instruments or amplification mean that the resultant music isn’t. ‘MTV presents Motorhead Unplugged’ will never ever be folk music, whilst electronics-dependent music as diverse as the Afro-Celt Sound System, bhangra, and the Cock and Bull Band all are well within the umf definition.

The question ‘what is folk music’ has probably got at least as many answers as there are people who would say that they enjoy folk music. Everyone would agree on the core of what folk music is (by which I mean absolute certainties like Martin Carthy and Kate Rusby). But it is also crucial to appreciate that umf and ‘folk’ is also a broader area in which elements of jazz, classical, and rock music are welcome and furthermore share common artistes, boundaries and genres.

The only answer we have ever agreed on is the one I started with :

Folk music, to borrow from the CD reviewing policy of fRoots magazine, is music which has some roots in a tradition.

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5. What is the name of that flute-like instrument on the soundtrack on Titanic / on the Riverdance CD / etc ?

That’s a low whistle, the larger version of the tin whistle. Bernard Overton and Finbar Furey may or may not have devised the first low whistle, but Bernard Overton was certainly the first maker to name and popularise the instrument. Originally made in D (eg the bottom note is D an octave below the tin whistle) or C, makers have diversified the range to include just about any key, including extraordinary 4-foot-long pieces of scaffolding pole that play low low G or F. We recently discussed various brands of low whistles, click here for the group's thoughts and recommendations.

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6. Where can I buy CDs of the music loosely defined by the answer to questions 2, 3 and 4?

Links to CD distributors, sellers, and individual labels, can be found on

fRoots : http://www.frootsmag.com
Radio 2 : http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/folk

Many UK folk labels are handled by Proper Distribution : http://www.proper.uk.com

Individual shops which have been recommended by umf contributors include :

In the UK:
The Folk Store : http://www.folkstore.co.uk/
The Living Tradition : http://www.folkmusic.net/listeningpost
Fish Records : http://www.fishrecords.co.uk
Cube Roots : http://www.cuberoots.com
Music Scotland : http://www.musicscotland.com
Springthyme Records : http://www.springthyme.co.uk

In the USA:
Andy's Front Hall : http://www.andysfronthall.com/CDindex.html
CD Roots : http://www.cdroots.com
Camsco : http://www.camscomusic.com

In Germany:
Old Songs New Songs: www.oldsongsnewsongs.de

Inclusion in or exclusion from this list is no guarantee of service, quality, reliability, etc etc.

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7. Where can I buy the musical instruments most commonly used in the music loosely defined by the the answer to questions 2, 3 and 4?

Hobgoblin : http://www.hobgoblin.co.uk
The Music Room : http://www.the-music-room.com
Soar Valley Music : http://www.soarmusic.demon.co.uk

8. I am in such-and-such-a-place next week, where can I find out what clubs / sessions / dances / etc. are happening?

England :
Martin Nail's site at http://web.ukonline.co.uk/martin.nail/regional.htm, and the events guide at http://www.folkandroots.co.uk. Jim Lawton has created a clickable map based on Google Maps at http://www.folkmap.co.uk.

Scotland :
Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland, http://www.tmsa.org.uk

Dance-related nation (indeed world) wide:
Webfeet, http://www.webfeet.org

Sessions: have a look at http://www.pubsessions.co.uk, and/or the listing maintained on the Living Tradition site (which seems not to be maintained any more), and/or on FolkMap.

The fRoots site at http://www.frootsmag.com maintains an online listing of festivals worldwide.

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9. Where can I find folk music on the radio, and on radio stations on the Internet?

This list is subject to constant change as new programmes start, old ones change time or are replaced, etc. If (as with all the rest of the FAQ) you find this is wrong, please email me with the correct information.

The first part of this section comprises radio available through your wireless aerial in the UK - click here to go straight to the Internet radio listing. Phil Myers compiled the first section, and Ian Winship the Internet section.

BBC Radio 2
Wednesday at 8pm Mike Harding

BBC Radio 3
Late Junction
Monday to Thursday : 10:15pm
(not all folk / roots / world, but a good percentage is and there's loads of other excellent stuff played too!)

BBC Radio 3
World Routes
Saturday 1pm : World music with Lucy Duran.

BBC Radio Scotland
Tuesday 7pm Celtic Connection
Thurday 7 pm Travelling Folk(repeated Saturday at 10pm)
(also available online and with all of Radio Scotland,
broadcast nationally by Sky Digital)

RTE Ireland
The Evening Session
also available online at
http://www.radio1.ie/evening/latesession/

Celtic Music Radio is an OFCOM-licensed community radio station, broadcasting on 1530kHz around the greater Glasgow area, and online at http://www.celticmusicradio.net. It focusses on traditional and contemporary folk, Scottish and Celtic-influenced music, and broadcasts 24x7.

Regional programmes:-

A listing is maintained at http://www.folknorthwest.co.uk/Wireless_Waves.htm for programmes in the North and North West of England.

BBC Radio Berkshire
Sunday 2pm Irish Eye

BBC Radio Cleveland
Sunday 9pm Alistair Anderson's northern folk

BBC Radio Cumbria
Sunday 9pm Alistair Anderson's northern folk

BBC Radio Derby
Monday 7pm Folkwaves with Mick Peat & Lester Simpson

BBC GMR (Greater Manchester)
Monday 8-9 pm with Ali O'Brien

BBC Radio Gloucestershire
Sunday 3pm Johnny Coppin Folk Roots Show

BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester
Thursday 8pm Fretworks

BBC Radio Kent
Friday 8pm Simon Evans

BBC Radio Lancashire
Thursday 7pm Lancashire Drift

BBC Radio Lincolnshire
Monday 7pm Folkwaves with Mick Peat & Lester Simpson

BBC Radio Merseyside
Sunday 7pm Folkscene

BBC Radio Newcastle
Sunday 9pm Alistair Anderson's northern folk

BBC Radio Oxford
Sunday 2pm Irish Eye

BBC Radio Shropshire
Sunday 8pm The Folk Show

BBC Radio Stoke
Thursday 8pm Fretworks

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Internet radio :

BBC Radio Player
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/index.shtml
(Choose the Folk and Country genre – includes Radio Scotland and Radio
Ulster programmes) - and see FAQ question 9a.

Radio BritFolk
http://www.radiobritfolk.co.uk - an intiative by the FolkWise team, which, to quote the site, 'will operate something akin to an on-line folk festival - with 'Main Stage'-type shows (similar to ones you'll hear on other radio stations), Session-type shows, (which will showcase lesser-known music and artists - often with a strong local slant), and Workshop-type shows (how to play an instrument etc), which you wouldn't hear on other stations. We also aim to offer a balance of music from around these islands, both traditional and new.

The web pages also offer background information, pictures, chat, archives and links, for those who want to carry out research, or contribute in some other way.'

Folk music now (http://www.rowatworks.com/Music/folk/)

Internet Folk Radio List Database (http://www.tcf.ua.edu:591/TIFRL/)

Live365 (http://www.live365.com/index.live)
- not all are free

SHOUTcast (http://www.shoutcast.com/)

The Acoustic Stage (http://www.theacousticstage.net)

Individual stations
-------------------

Blue Grass Country
http://www.bluegrasscountry.org/

Celtic Grove
http://discuss.celticgrove.com/

Dancing on the Air
http://www.dancingontheair.com

fRoots Radio
http://www.frootsmag.com/radio/

KPIG
http://www.kpig.com/

LiveIreland.com
http://www.liveireland.com/

Radio Newfoundland
http://www.radionewfoundland.net/

Radio Television Hong Kong
http://rthk.org.hk

Raidio na Gaelteachta
http://www.rnag.ie/

RTE Radio Ceolnet
http://www.rte.ie/radio/ceolnet/

Traditional Celtic Music on the Radio in the real and virtual S.F. Bay
Areas
http://www.sfcelticmusic.com/resource/radiostn.htm

WFMU
http://www.wfmu.org/

WUMB
http://www.wumb.org/

KUAR FM89 in Little Rock, Arkansas has recently begun live streaming so if you are awake at 0200GMT on a Thursday morning Len Holton presents a programme of folk music with an English focus. Links:
KUAR: http://www.ualr.edu/%7Ekuar/
Programme archives are on line at:
http://home.swbell.net/lholton/fromalbionandbeyond.html

The Traditional Music Hour on Resonance 104.4FM in the London Area from 2.00-3.00 on Thursday afternoons but available to listen at
http://www.resonancefm.com

"Make it Folky", a monthly 1 hour long show of traditional songs & tunes from the British Isles www.209radio.co.uk (a community station based in Cambridge UK). You can listen to this in the archive at http://makeitfolky.209radio.co.uk. Playlists are available in the forums at: http://209radio.co.uk/forum/index.php?board=10.0

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9a. I missed a music programme on BBC radio - where do I go to hear it again?

Apart from the obvious Late Junction, Andy Kershaw, and Mike Harding programmes, BBC radio every now and then broadcast other material of relevance to u.m.f. Someone will often spot it coming up in the schedule and forewarn everybody else - but if you missed the broadcast, or didn't see the post in time, the BBC make the majority of their programmes available online for (at least) a week after broadcast. You can find the index of archived shows at the following:

Radio 2 : http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/radio2_promo.shtml
Radio 3 : http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/listen/
Radio 4 : http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/progs/listenagain.shtml

To listen to the shows you will need software to play Real Audio streamed media, which leads neatly on to ...

9b. How do I install a free version of the Real Player software?

Jim Lawton has published an excellent how-to page on installing the free Real Audio player, which you'll need for listening to archived BBC programmes and other online streaming media - the instructions are primarily for Windows, but the article links to alternative packages for other operating systems. Click here to go to Jim's article.

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10. What is it with Mike Harding's radio programme?

Whilst the old Wednesday night BBC Radio 2 programme ‘Folk On 2’ was not without its faults, the umf and wider folk community only realised what it had lost when, after some dithering, the slot was replaced by Mike Harding’s programme claiming to broadcast ‘the best in folk, acoustic, and roots-based music’.

The basic argument is that in a radio network funded by the entire population and claiming to be public service broadcasting, it is surely not too much to ask that one hour per week of the schedule be devoted to traditional and tradition-based music from the UK. Mike Harding’s programme, by contrast, is far too likely to cover acts of dubious relevance and/or who receive generous airplay elsewhere in the Radio 2 schedule, whilst ignoring home-grown developments until they have been achieved prominence by other routes - too often the programme follows the UK folk circuit rather than influencing and encouraging it.

The programme and its production team do carry out valuable work for the folk community, such as the annual competition for young musicians and bands, the sponsorship of Cambridge and Sidmouth festivals, and the resources available on the Radio 2 Folk website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/folk). The more personal attacks on Mike Harding himself are also unjustified, as it is well known that it is the production company, rather than Mike himself, who dictate the programme’s playlist.

However the fundamental argument remains - one hour a week is surely not too much to ask.

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11. Where can I find the words to the song ...

Try searching Mudcat, home of the Digital Tradition collection of songs, at http://www.mudcat.org. The resources of the Digital Tradition can also be searched through this link.

12. Where can I find the notation to the tune ...

Try searching John Chambers' Tune Finder at http://trillian.mit.edu/~jc/music/abc/FindTune.html.

If you don't know the title of the tune or song you're looking for, but you can make a reasonable guess at when the tune goes up, when it goes down, and when it stays the same, try http://name-this-tune.com/. If you know a bit of the title and/or some of the notes of the tune, try http://www.folktunefinder.com/

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12a: Is uk.music.folk superstitious?

14. What is abc?

abc is an ASCII (plain-text) music notation system: devised by Chris Walshaw, abc is widely used for the notating and distribution of tunes, particularly on the internet. Very popular in traditional music circles, and used by the Village Music Project, it is also gaining in popularity in early music. It looks like this :

X:1
T:Speed The Plough
M:4/4
L:1/8
Z:Steve Mansfield 1/2/2000
K:G
GABc dedB | dedB dedB | c2ec B2dB | A2A2 A2 BA|
GABc dedB | dedB dedB | c2ec B2dB | A2A2 G4 ::
g2g2 g4 | g2fe dBGB | c2ec B2dB | A2A2 A4 |
g2g2 g4 | g2fe dBGB | c2ec B2dB | A2A2 G4 :|

The abc Home Page is at http://www.abcnotation.org.uk and (cue sound of own trumpet being blown) there is a comprehensive tutorial at http://www.lesession.co.uk/abc/abc_notation.htm. Along with the many excellent software packages (for just about any operating system you could possibly want to process abc on) which can be accessed via links on the abc home page, there's also a web page at http://www.concertina.net/tunes_convert.html which allows you to paste in an abc tune and generates a sheet music image online, and John Chambers' invaluable Tune Finder is a quick route to finding the tune you want if it's already available in abc somewhere.

There is currently a serious and viable proposal to 'upgrade' the official abc specification, to include extra features and notation possibilities (without breaking existing tune collections): the draft specification can be downloaded from http://abc.sourceforge.net/standard/abc2-draft.html

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15. Where can I find ....

15.1 The floor singers FAQ?

Hamish Currie has archived and organised the valuable discussion on umf about the do-s and don’ts of floor singing at a folk club. This, along with other words of wisdom gleaned from the postings of practitioners on umf, can be found at Hamish’s website, http://www.hamishcurrie.me.uk/tips/floorsinging/index.htm

15.2 Information about morris dancing?

The combined morris organisations' site is a good place to start, and is at http://www.morrisdancing.org. The
'Internet guide to the rapper sword dance' is at http://www.rapper.org.uk.

BBC2 television celebrated May Day 2005 by having their a set of their station 'ident' animated 2 figures dancing a (Cotswold) morris dance - preserved for posterity at
http://thetvroom.com/video8/WE-05-BBC2-ID-MORRIS.rm (Real Video)
and
http://www.duke1401.myby.co.uk/bbctwomorrisdance.wmv (Windows Media).

15.3 The English Folk Dance and Song Society?

The EFDSS website is http://www.efdss.org. The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library has made some of its treasure trove of resources available online at http://library.efdss.org/cgi-bin/home.cgi.

15.4 A ceilidh (aka barn dance) band for my wedding/ birthday / PTA?

The best way of finding a ceilidh (aka barn dance) band for your wedding, PTA, social event etc is almost certainly word of mouth - satisfied customers will happily recommend a band they found fitted the bill, and similarly dissatisfied customers will soon tell you if the band they booked for their event was not up to scratch.

Local ceilidh bands often also have links with local clubs, morris sides, etc. who will be able to point you in the right direction. Many halls and event venues will also have a list of bands they have previously had good dealings with. If there is a regular ceilidh event in your area, the organisers of that will be able to put you in contact with the local bands and callers.

Failing all that an excellent place to start would be Webfeet, http://www.webfeet.org.

If you are going to work off of other people's recommendations rather than your own knowledge, try to go and see the band at work at somebody else's event before you make a final booking confirmation, and/or get the band to send you a CD or tape. Ceilidh bands come in many different shapes sizes and sounds, so do not assume that the band you pick without any prior experience will necessarily sound like, or know the dances, that you have in your head as the image of the ceilidh you want for your event - so check first, rather than being unpleasantly (or, of course, pleasantly!) surprised on the night.

15.5 The Village Music Project?

This excellent source of the dance music of (mainly) England is at http://www.village-music-project.org.uk/.

15.6 Information and advice on running a folk club?

The Tudor Folk Club site contains lots of good advice, much of it collected from umf : and So You Want To Run A Folk Night at http://members.fortunecity.com/soyouwanttorunafolknight/ is also full of words of wisdom.

If your events then get bigger and you start running a festival you will also want to make use of the resources of, and consider joining, the Association of Festival Organisers, http://www.afouk.org.

15.7 The report about the economic value of folk festivals?

The AFO published 'A Report into the Impact of Folk Festivals on Cultural Tourism' in January 2003. The report can be downloaded in Acrobat PDF format from the AFO website.

15.8 The FolkWISE organisation?

The not-for-profit development organisation run by performers for the benefit of performers can be found at http://www.folkwise.org

15.9 The latest news about Dave Swarbrick?

Regular bulletins are posted to http://www.folkicons.co.uk/swarbnew.htm, and messages can be sent through that site. Details of the series of events raising funds for Swarb can be found on the SwarbAid site.

15.10 Information about the Doc Rowe collection?

The Doc Rowe collection is the fruits of over fourty years of collecting material on folklore, song, dance and cultural traditions, and Doc Rowe himself is a familiar figure at traditional events and traditions. The official website of the collection is at http://www.docrowe.org.uk/.

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16: Who said "You should make a point of trying every experience once, excepting incest and folk-dancing"?

Arnold Bax, quoting 'a sympathetic Scot' in the book Farewell My Youth (1943). The sympathetic Scot in question was the composer and conductor Guy Warrack.

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17: What are the implications of the Licensing Act 2003?

The new Licensing Act came into effect in November 2005.

After a long campaign by many individuals and organisations against the effects of the Licensing Act's restrictions on live music, some minor concessions were won, including a complete exemption for Morris dancing and associated music, and some reduction in the liability to prosecution of musicians in certain circumstances. It is sadly true that the basic starting point of licensing has moved from the old 'two-in-a-bar' PEL exemption, to a new default regime of 'none-in-a-bar'.

The effects on live music, particularly sessions and ceilidhs, remain to be seen, although many sessions and folk clubs have encountered difficulties in the early days of the new regime. It is crucial that any session organiser needs to make sure that their pub's licensee ticks the 'live music' box when their license renewal comes through.

The Musicians' Union Folk, Roots and Traditional Music section has provided a form on their website to report any PEL incidents as they relate to the performance of live music in licenced premises under the new law.

The intent is to collate any information information submitted and present it to the music forum and/or the governement's promised consultation on the operation of the new law. If the new law does have a negative effect on the performance of live music then a body of verifiable incidents will have more weight than uncorroborated, anecdotal accounts. Sadly it would seem that it is highly unlikely that any review would even be contemplated until at least 2010.

You can find the form on the web at http://www.mu-frtm.org/pel-form/.

The precise wording of the exemption for Morris, which is Schedule 1, Part 2, Clause 11, can be found here on the Morris Federation site. A summary of the lack of clarity around 'related' forms of traditional music and performance can be found on the Master Mummers FAQ here.

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18: What is the story of the song 'Why Paddy's Not At Work Today'?

The comic song about the building site labourer who ends up on the wrong end of a rope and pulley attached to a barrel-load of bricks is variously known as The Sick Note, The Excuse Note, Murphy and the Bricks, and Why Paddy's Not At Work Today.

It is a centrepiece of concerts by Sean Cannon and The Dubliners, and has been recorded by them, Iain Mackintosh, Noel Murphy, and others.

The song was written by Pat Cooksey, who credits Gerard Hoffnung as the source. Hoffnung's version, which has thankfully been preserved for posterity by the BBC, was delivered in a speech to the Oxford Union in 1958. Hoffnung in turn claimed to have been inspired by a story in the Manchester Guardian.

The lyrics are on Mudcat : search for 'Excuse Note'.

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19: What is a session, and what is good session etiquette?

A session is what happens when you get a group of people making music together primarily for their own, rather than any audience's, pleasure and edification.

Sessions may be public, eg held in a public place such as a bar, where there will be a core of 'regulars' but newcomers are welcome, or they may be private, eg held in a private place such as someone's house and participants are invited. Any event in which admission is charged for the pleasure of being a member of the audience is a performance, not a session, and similarly any event in which a succession of solo or group performers take it in pre-organised turns to perform pre-rehearsed pieces is also a performance, not a session. Sessions may be all-instrumental, all-singing, or a varyingly proportioned mixture of both.

The question of session etiquette has been addressed in several documents available online, notably the humorous-but-valuable 'Ten Commandments of Jamming' at http://www.geocities.com/flyinfiddler/jam.html (and several other URLs), and 'Oiling The Wheels', the thoughts of members of the UK CCE collected by Ian Beddow, at http://www.g8ina.enta.net/NewsMarApr2001.pdf

Basically the advice boils down to

  • listen to the other musicians,
  • don't dominate or unduly show off,
  • always remember that sessions are co-operative, not competitive, ventures, and
  • fit in with the overall feel and 'repertoire' of the session (eg if everyone else is playing French dance music, don't assume that they are really just waiting for you to turn up to play Irish reels at 240bpm - or, of course, vice versa!)

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20: Who were the winners of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards?

The winners of the Folk Awards 2009 were:
FOLK SINGER OF THE YEARChris Wood
BEST DUOChris While & Julie Matthews
BEST GROUPLau
ALBUM OF THE YEARTrespasser : Chris Wood
BEST ORIGINAL SONGAll You Pretty Girls : Andy Partridge (performed by Jim Moray)
BEST TRADITIONAL TRACKThe Lark in the Morning : Jackie Oates
HORIZON AWARDJackie Oates
MUSICIAN OF THE YEARTom McConville
BEST LIVE ACTThe Demon Barbers
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDJames Taylor
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDJudy Collins
FOLK CLUB OF THE YEARThe Black Swan Folk Club, York

 

The winners of the 2008 awards were:

FOLK SINGER OF THE YEAR Julie Fowlis

BEST DUO John Tams and Barry Coope

BEST GROUP Lau

BEST ALBUM Prodigal Son (Martin Simpson)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG Never Any Good (Martin Simpson)

BEST TRADITIONAL TRACK Cold Haily Rainy Night (The Imagined Village)

HORIZON AWARD Rachel Unthank & The Winterset

MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR Andy Cutting

BEST LIVE ACT Bellowhead

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD John Martyn (

GOOD TRADITION AWARD (for an exceptional contribution to folk music) Shirley Collins

The winners of the 2007 awards were:

Folk singer of the year Seth Lakeman
Best duo Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick
Best group Belllowhead
Best album Seth Lakeman : Freedom Fields
Best original song Karine Palwort : Daisy
Best traditional track Tim van Eyken: Barleycorn
Horizon award Kris Drever
Musician of the year Chris Thile
Lifetime achievment award Danny Thompson
Lifetime achievment award Pentangle
Best live act Bellowhead
Good tradition award Nic Jones
Folk club award The Ram, Claygate
Audience vote: favourite folk track Who Knows Where The Time Goes : Sandy Denny / Fairport Convention


The winners of the 2006 awards were:

Folk singer of the year John Tams
Best duo John Spiers & John Boden
Best group Flook
Best album John Tams : The Reckoning
Best original song Chris Wood & Hugh Lupton : One In A Million
Best traditional track John Tams : Bitter Withy
Horizon award Julie Fowlis
Musician of the year Michael McGoldrick
Lifetime achievment award Paul Brady
Lifetime achievment award Richard Thompson
Best live act Kate Rusby
Most influential album of all time Fairport Convention : Liege & Lief
Good tradition award Ashley Hutchings
Folk club award Red Lion, Birmingham

The winners of the 2005 awards were:

Folk singer of the year Martin Carthy
Best duo Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham
Best group Oysterband: The Big Session
Best album Karine Polwart: Faultlines
Best original song Karine Polwart: The Sun's Comin' Over The Hill
Best traditional track Martin Carthy: Famous Flower Of Serving Men
Horizon award Karine Polwart
Musician of the year Kathryn Tickell
Lifetime achievment award Ramblin' Jack Elliot
Lifetime achievment award - songwriting Tom Paxton
Best live act Bellowhead
Best dance act Whapweasel
Good tradition award Steeleye Span
Folk club award Hitchin Folk Club

The winners of the 2004 awards were:

Folk singer of the year June Tabor
Best duo John Spiers & Jon Boden
Best group Danú
Best album Sweet England - Jim Moray
Best original song County Down by Tommy Sands
best traditional track Hughie Graeme - June Tabor
Horizon award Jim Moray
Musician of the year Martin Simpson
Lifetime achievment award Dave Swarbrick
Lifetime achievment award - songwriting Steve Earle
Best live act Show of Hands
Good tradition award Celtic Connections
Folk club award Rockingham Arms, Wentworth

The winners of the 2003 awards were:

Folk Singer of the Year: Eliza Carthy
Best Album: Eliza Carthy - Anglicana
Best Traditional Track: Eliza Carthy - Worcester City
Best Duo: Nancy Kerr and James Fagan
Best Group: Altan
Best Original Song: Linda Thompson - No Telling
Horizon Award: John Spiers and Jon Boden
Musician Of The Year Award: John McCusker
Best Live Act: Roy Bailey and Tony Benn
Lifetime Achievement award for Song Writing: John Prine
Lifetime Achievement Award: Christy Moore
Good Tradition Award: Oysterband
Folk Club Of The Year: The Edinburgh Folk Club

The winners of the 2002 awards were:

Folk Singer of the Year : Martin Carthy
Best Album : Martin Simpson : The Bramble Briar
Best Group : Cherish The Ladies
Best Live Act : Rory McLeod
Instrumentalist of the Year : Martin Simpson
Horizon Award : Cara Dillon
Best Traditional Track : Cara Dillon: 'Black is the Colour'
Best Original Song : Kate Rusby: 'Who Will Sing Me Lullabies'
Folk Club Award: Nettlebed FC, Berkshire
Lifetime Achievement Award : The Chieftains
Lifetime Achievement Award : Fairport Convention
Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting : Ralph McTell

The winners of the 2001 awards were:

Folk Singer of The Year: Norma Waterson
Best Group: Danu
Best Album: Unity by John Tams
Best Original Song: Harry Stone by John Tams
Horizon Award: Bill Jones
Best Instrumentalist: Michael McGoldrick
Best Live Act: Vin Garbutt
Folk Club Award: The Davy Lamp, Washington Tyne & Wear
Radio 2 Lifetime Achievement Award: Bert Jansch
Radio 2 Roots Award: Taj Mahal
Good Tradition Award: Bob Copper

The winners of the 2000 awards were:

Folk Singer of the YearKate Rusby
Best Album Sleepless - Kate Rusby
Best Original SongA Place Called England - Maggie Holland
Best Traditional TrackRaggle Taggle Gypsy - Waterson:Carthy
Best Group Waterson:Carthy
Horizon Award Nancy Kerr and James Fagan
Instrumentalist of the Year Martin Hayes
Radio 2 Special Award Joan Baez
Radio 2 Special Roots Award Youssou N'Dour
Andy Kershaw Roots Award Joe Boyd and Lucy Duran
Good Tradition Award Topic Records
Folk Club Award Westhoughton
Best Live Act La Bottine Souriante

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21: Is there an archive of the postings to uk.music.folk?

The search engine Google maintains an ongoing archive of Usenet postings, and, having also put back online the archive previously maintained by DejaNews, Google now offers the collected wit and wisdom of most of Usenet for the past twenty years. The Google Groups front page, pre-loaded with pointers to umf, can be accessed through the following link :

http://groups.google.co.uk/group/uk.music.folk/topics?hl=en&lnk=gschg

There is no specific separate archive of uk.music.folk (unless, of course, you know different), although particularly fruitful threads have occasionally been collected into web pages (Hamish Currie's compilations of the Floor Singer's FAQ and the discussion on breathing techniques for singers for example), or made into articles in fRoots magazine.

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22: What is the situation regarding Dave Bulmer and the Celtic Music record label?
23. Why hasn't <Insert album title here> been reissued on CD?

The master tapes and/or distribution rights of many important recordings of the folk music acts active in the late 70s and early 80s, including much of the back catalogue of Nic Jones and the Clan Alba album, are held by Dave Bulmer's Celtic Music distribution company, and are unlikely to be rereleased in the foreseeable future in any format which pays proper royalties to the artists concerned. 'Music By Mail' of Harrogate appears to be the latest trading name adopted by Celtic Music.

The situation is too complicated, and in some areas and details legally disputed, to summarise, but information on the subject can be found in the Google Usenet archive by clicking on these links.

The general CM situation: click here.

Specifically relating to Nic Jones: click here.

Further information used to be available from The Clarrion website, but this site was shut down in July 2003.

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24.What's the difference between a reel and a jig?

Reels and jigs both have two main beats to the bar. In a jig each of these beats is divided into three (or into 2 in a long-short pattern), whereas in a reel each of these beats is divided into 2 or 4.

A jig is in 6/8 time and goes Diddly diddly Diddly diddly : the theme to the Archers (Barwick Green) is a jig.

A slip jig is in 9/8 and goes Diddly-diddly-diddly Diddly-diddly-diddly : The Rocky Road To Dublin is a slip jig.

A reel is in 4/4 time and goes Diddle-iddle diddle-iddle Diddle-iddle diddle-iddle : Drowsy Maggie, Soldiers Joy, Speed The Plough are all reels.

Someone also suggested 'Glasgow Rangers Glasgow Celtic' as an aide-memoire for reel time, and 'Liverpool Everton Liverpool Everton' for jig time.

A hornpipe is also in 4/4 time, but the first note of each pair is often elongated to give the distinctive DIDDle DIDDle DIDDle DIDDle rhythm : Captain Pugwash (aka The Trumpet Hornpipe) is a hornpipe.

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25. Who said 'The best way to play a bodhran is with a penknife'?

Seamus Ennis - near enough. The exact quote would seem to be that when he was asked what was the best way to play the bodhran, he replied 'With a penknife.'

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26. Is there an online database of stolen musical instruments?

Graham Dixon has set up a database for posting descriptions of stolen or lost instruments, or recording details of dodgy-looking offers, at http://www.stolengear.ukart.com. To quote Graham's announcement, 'there is no reason why we should keep this within the 'folk' circle - please circulate to musicians in other genres'. Dave Henson is coordinating the work on developing this idea further, via his web pages at http://www.novamedia.co.uk/solmi.cfm.

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27. What does IAFWAFIAWMWQ mean?

In A Fight With A Fool It's A Wise Man Who Quits.

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28. Where can I get MP3s of <insert name here>?

The great majority of the artists involved in the music would ask that you don't, unless the artist, their record company, or an authorised distributor have put MP3s up on their website for preview or publicity purposes. Following a detailed discussion on umf on the wider implications of music copying and file sharing on specialist musics such as ours, Wendy Grossman took this subject as the theme for one of her net.wars columns – the article, splendidly titled ‘I ain't never seen no horses download it’, is at http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=9148.

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29. I want to sell <insert merchandise here> - can I advertise it on umf?

This is covered in the umf charter, which is available at http://www.usenet.org.uk/uk.music.folk.html.

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30. How can I slow recordings of tunes and songs down to make them easier to learn?

One popular and low-cost option is to

  1. copy the recording onto your computer as a WAV or MP3 file, using applications such as CDex for Windows, iTunes for Mac, or paranoia for linux.
  2. use playback software to play that file and slow the music down (whilst, crucially, either retaining or deliberately altering the original pitch of the recording).

Satisfied users have suggested Transcribe (Windows, Mac, linux), the Amazing SlowDowner (Windows, Mac), and the Audacity audio editor (Windows, linux) supports LADSPA plugins, one of which will do time-shifting.

The Transcribe website also maintains a page of links to other transcribing software packages. Many professional sound editing packages also have this facility of course, but they come with professional software price-tags to match.

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31. Why do folk singers sometimes put a finger in their ear?

Some people find that putting a finger in their ear (or an alternative is cupping a hand over one ear) cuts down external noise, amplifies the internal resonances in the singer's own head, and therefore enables the singer to hear what they are singing better - it therefore gives the the singer more confidence in staying in tune and hearing themselves properly.

Whether it is always done for this perfectly reasonable reason, or whether there is occasionally a degree of affectation involved, is open to debate. And on being asked why he put his finger in one ear when he sang, Dominic Behan is said to have replied "Sure, and I don't like half the stuff I'm singing".

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32: Who have been the winners of the Radio 2 Young Folk Awards?

The Radio 2 Young Folk Award, previously known as the Young Folk Musician Of The Year Award, has been won by the following:

2009 Megan and Joe Henwood
2008 Jeana Leslie and Siobhan Miller
2007 Last Orders
2006 Bodega
2004/5 Lauren MacColl
2003 Jarlath Henderson
2002 Uiscedwr
2001 GiveWay
2000 The Black Cat Theory
1999 422
1998 Tim Van Eycken

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33: How do I get more bookings for my act?

There is no magic formula, but generally the best way is getting on the phone and calling club and festival organisers. Their preferred contact numbers will be printed in the local folk magazines and in the Direct Roots directory. Have a good promotional pack (a reasonable quality CD, photographs, etc.) ready to post to interested organisers, present yourself well during the call, and of course don't assume that it is the organiser's *duty* to give you a gig. While some organisers dislike cold calling and would prefer to be initially approached by post, this should be borne in mind during the call - and equally some organisers dislike unsolicited promotional packages! Doing floorspots is of course also good, but equally obviously impractical for venues at great distances from your base. The general consensus is that the festival circuit is now the proving ground for booking artists into clubs, rather than the other way round.

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34. I want to learn <insert instrument name here>, where can I find a tutor?

Hobgoblin maintains a listing of tutors : Yorkshire Folk Arts has a regional directory : and the Scots Music Group list tutors for the Edinburgh region.

The title of this section is not intended to exclude singing by the way!

35. Did Paul Simon steal the song 'Scarborough Fair' from Martin Carthy?

No. Paul Simon learnt the song from Martin Carthy, and went on to have a massive worldwide hit with it - but Paul Simon has never claimed authorship, nor collected a writer's royalty on the song. The source for this is Martin Carthy himself, in a letter to fRoots (no. 254/255, August/September 2004).

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36. Where can I find information about music copyright?

The two bodies you need to contact are the Performing Rights Society (PRS) and the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS). Both addresses actually point to their joint page here. To quote the websites, the PRS collects licence fees for the public performance and broadcast of musical works. The MCPS collects and distributes 'mechanical' royalties generated from the recording of music onto many different formats.

In other words, for live performances it's the PRS you need to contact, whereas if you're releasing a CD / DVD etc it's the MCPS. This information obviously only applies to the UK.

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37. My dog / cat howls at the sound of a mouth-organ. Is this unusual?

Diligent research over several years by the umf community suggests that the particular frequencies generated by free reed instruments have a strong effect on animal psyches, causing them to howl, yowl, purr, tickle or lick the musician's toes, or just run like hell, whenever music is played. Dogs and cats are particularly affected, with harmonicas and concertinas the most-often reported instrument (although flutes, whistles, recorders, melodeons, bagpipes, rauschpfeifes, fiddles, clarinets and guitars have all also been mentioned).

Opinion is still divided as to whether the animals want to join in, are getting in touch with their primaeval pack instinct, or are just criticising the standard of musicianship.

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38. What are the best tunes to learn before going to my first session?

You've sat on the edges of a room full of musicians playing through what sounds like an endless stream of tunes they all know. You've read the section of this FAQ about 'What is a session'; you're confident enough on your chosen instrument to play a few tunes, and you fancy giving it a go. Good stuff.

It would be nice to go to that first session reasonably confident that there'll be at least a few tunes that you'll know and be able to join in with. Every session is different, and the appearance of any of the following tunes cannot be guaranteed - but ...

For an English music session, the following have been suggested:

Enrico, Speed The Plough, Michael Turner's Waltz, Soldiers Joy, Walter Bulwer's polkas, New Rigged Ship, Harpers Frolic / Bonny Kate, Bacup Coconut Dance, Sweets of May, Captain Leno's, Steamboat hornpipe, Nutting Girl, Maggie in the Wood, Three Around Three, Jimmy Allen, The Keel Row, Captain Pugwash (aka Trumpet Hornpipe), Morpeth Rant, Oyster Girl, Hunt the Squirrel, Queen's Jig, Haste to the Wedding, Smash the Windows, The Man in the Moon, Orange in Bloom (aka Sherbourne Waltz).

For an Irish session, some suggestions were :

Kesh Jig, Morrisons, Tripping Upstairs, Banish Misfortune, Lark in the Morning, Merry Blacksmith, Maid Behind The Bar, Silver Spear, Rakish Paddy, Wise Maid.

An abc file for all of the above tunes can be had by clicking here.

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39: Did Ewan MacColl insist that singers should only sing songs from their own locality?

In 1960 the Ballads and Blues club instigated a rule that, purely as a policy for performers at that one club, if you were singing from the stage, you sang in a language that you could speak and understand. The policy was not 'made' or unilaterally imposed by Ewan MacColl, but he was involved in that he was one of the residents and regulars who took part in the discussions that eventually arrived at that policy. The Ballads and Blues Club later became the Singers Club and kept the same policy. Peggy Seeger's letter to Living Tradition magazine about this can be found here.

For a summary of some of the other opt-repeated stories about Ewan MacColl (He used a stage name as an actor and then kept using it! Not everyone liked him all the time!) see Dick Gaughan's post on the subject at UseNet Message ID <ed9kg291035b2i93d7to0gj4qquhqk2i0k@4ax.com> or this Google Groups link.

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Who deserves profuse thanks and full credit for helping with this FAQ?

In absolutely no order other than that in which their emails/postings arrived, information in this FAQ has been contributed by :

Hamish Currie, Dick Gaughan, Nancy Arvay, Cliff Furnald, Jeri Corlew, Martin Kiff, Marjorie Clarke, Ian A Anderson, Richard Robinson, Jim Lawton, Jack Campin, Mark Bluemel, Martin Nail, George Hawes, David Harris, Andy Seagroatt, Roger Gall, Phil Myers, John Wild, Ken Bradburn, Peter Chadbund, Rainer Typke, Paul Docherty, Jon Hall, Graham Dixon, Ian Winship, Wendy Grossman, Anahata, Martin Banks, Molly, Susanne Kalweit, Neil Murray, Pete Coe, Neil from Hobgoblin, Temprance, Derek Schofield, Steve Wozniak, Len Holton, Elmo Eldridge, Jon Freeman, Nick Wagg. Many of the above deserve to appear in this list more than once.

Their contributions, along with others uncredited either by their request or through my incompetence, have been invaluable and much appreciated, and all errors and mistakes are down to the compiler of the FAQ, Steve Mansfield (contact AT lesession DOT co DOT uk, with 'umf FAQ:' as the start of your subject line).

An extra special thank you to Richard Robinson, who devised and runs the automated regular reminder to the newsgroup of where to find this FAQ.

This FAQ is powered by DreamWeaver, TextPad, an i-Duck, an eclectic array of flutes, whistles, windcap instruments, and an English concertina.

Version 0.0.1 was posted to umf on the 25th November 2001, answering a mere 7 questions, and it's just kept on growing ever since ... and the history of the growth and evolution of this FAQ, if you're really that interested, can be found here.

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