Singing Around the Fire, & Why It Is Important

Kate and I kind of belong to two ‘communities’ (or should I say subcultures?), the Pagan Community and the Folk Music Scene. They are oddly similar, maybe even a similar size, though its harder to quantify the number of active folk music fans as there are no questions about your musical taste in the Census (though wouldn’t that be cool!). There is also a lot of crossover in membership.

Both Folk and Paganism have a combination of national events and small local groups. They have their own celebrities, who are World Famous in Folk Music or Paganism, though no-one else has heard of them. Occasionally these people get to go on the TV or Radio, where they are mostly treated as special cases and not usually included in the bracket of the ‘normal’. There are also a lot of caravans involved in Folk Music and Paganism..There is one more wonderful thing they have in common, and I will call it by the slightly poncey title of the Complete Right to Amateur and/or Incompetent Creativity. That’s CRAIC for short. Do you see what I did there?

You see we all live in an a world where music is dominated by two factors which kind of feed off each other, firstly, easy access to recorded music and, secondly, the increased professionalisation of performers. The recorded music industry makes available great music, and I am grateful for that. There is an inevitable side effect though, that is especially obvious with instrumental music but also affects sung traditional music.

Obviously the best musicians are going to get recorded most, but it isn’t the case that a really good fiddle player will get to be on say, 10 CDs, whilst a fairly good one will get on 7. No-one wants the fairly good fiddle player on their record, so a small number of excellent musicians will monopolise all the top level recordings. The music industry only needs one or two players of any given instrument or singers of any given style, as, thanks to the wonder of recording technology, those two musicians can be in everyone’s home and car.

This reduces the diversity in style and makes musicians judge themselves, and one another, in comparison to a very small pool of excellent full time professional performers. It also effects audience expectations. If the only whistle music they have heard is Michael McGoldrick or Brian Finnegan, what are they going to think of my humble tootling? Or yours? Now you may say that the fact it is easier than ever to record a CD and market it yourself may end this situation, and I hope that is right, but I still think I have a point.

The worst side effect of this uniformity is that it might put people off playing and singing. Lots of people start, but a lot stop when they realise they may never be ‘as good’ as their favourite musician. These are unrealistic expectations though fuelled by lack of exposure to, and lack of value given to, live, amateur performance.

However that live amateur performance happens, thank the Gods, in spades at the average Pagan Camp and the old fashioned type of Singaround Folk Club, and long may it continue. Let’s use the Pagan camp and the Folk Club’s power of CRAIC™ to resist this sterile cultural hegemony!

The CRAIC™ Manifesto

As Pagans and Folkies let’s encourage everyone’s participation. Artificial boundaries between ‘audience’ and ‘performers’ are harmful to our culture.

Collective performances by everyone are more valuable than solo performances by skilled individuals. Collective performances build community, togetherness and love. And all that Hippy Shit.

Playing and/or performing is rewarding and marvellous in itself, regardless of any outcome. Acts of pointless beauty are to be encouraged.

Singing songs and playing tunes keeps them alive, but it is variation that keeps them evolving.

Listen to others for inspiration, but not comparison.

The ultimate test for any piece of dance music is its ability to get people’s feet moving, not how many notes it fits into any given second.

The ultimate test for any song is how much it moves the audience and the performer, not how in tune the notes are.

Now is a good day to start learning something new.

Remember the Lady says:

and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in My praise., for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on Earth.

  1. kate said:

    Ok, so all together now:
    “One ginger beer, two ginger beer”…

    • carolineclasby said:

      You can’t put your muck in our dustbin

  2. carolineclasby said:

    Thank you Corwen, you put it well. Western cultures are so limited in their appreciation of music. The only time most people sing together is at school, in church or at a football match. Why don’t we give ourselves more more of the feeling of unity, community, togetherness, love and all that hippy shit?
    What is it that persuades normal, friendly people that making fun of somebody because they are singing is OK. If you ever do this, however much you say “I’m only joking”
    STOP IT, you are damaging someone and trying to take away their right to make music outside the normally expected places and times. Even if they are playing the violin badly, or the bagpipes, or the banjo, live with it, at least for a while. Then, if it is still too much to bear, suggest they have lessons:-)
    I believe that making music is something we all need to do and we shouldn’t have to restrict it to a sports crowd or a religious gathering. Unless of course we are lucky enough to know of a Pagan Camp or Folk Club where we can let rip!

    • Well said Caroline. To a lot of cultures saying you ‘weren’t very musical’ or ‘couldn’t dance’ would be like saying ‘I don’t eat’ or ‘I breathe through my navel’, they simply wouldn’t, and couldn’t, believe it!

      The question is why in this culture are we so scared of being musical or expressing ourselves through movement? Why do so many people think these things are ‘something other people do’?

      Being able to sing and dance together is a sign of a healthy culture, and one of the things that make me glad to be Pagan. I think its important not to be complacent though, we have to work at being good audiences for each other and facilitating each others creativity through positive appreciative listening.

  3. I think this is a specific case of the general syndrome of professionals doing things for people which goes way way back…..

  4. Charlotte Rance said:

    Very well written and a very good point guys. Being neither Pagan, nor a Folker, I’m in a prime position to laugh at all that hippy dippy stuff, but I applaud anyone who is willing to share a part of themselves in this way. Throughout the world, throughout history people have come together to share experiences and stories through song. It’s part of who we are. You know I’m up for a sing along any time at all 🙂

  5. Keechy said:

    Well put! Whenever I get a bit embarrassed about my playing and singing when compared to the pros, I try to remember this quote:

    “Use what talent you possess. The world would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.”

    – Henry van Dyke

    And actually making music with other people, however well or badly, is just a pure soul delight. I wish for more people the chance to find that out.

    • Jaxon said:

      That hits the target peytfcelr. Thanks!

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