Many years ago, (yes – MANY years ago,) when I discovered folk clubs, the music we heard was recognisably ‘folk’. Amplification was a rarity. There was a good smattering of traditional material, cover-versions of American protest songs, and that quaint stuff we’d pinched from The Spinners and Val Doonican. Bob Dylan was considered to perform ‘folk’. We liked recordings of Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton and Peter, Paul and Mary. We had heard of the Copper Family, but they were regarded as an acquired taste. Then, along came Fairport and Steeleye. Some of us went, "WOW!"
There were some die-hard, finger-in-the-ear purists around who opined thus:
“Unless it has been subjected to oral transmission, then it’s not ‘folk’.”
For a while I was one of those.
Now, I detect that we have moved on since those heady days. In the present age of near-universal literacy, readily-available recordings and internet access, that opinion is surely unsustainable.
There were also those polydactyl instrumentalists who seemed to be mainly interested in demonstrating how clever they are, rather than presenting folk music. How I wish I’d had the skill to be one of those. Most of them moved on to make money. How I wish I had!
Come to our gathering on a Friday evening and you will be entertained with music and songs from a variety of genres. Some material is self-penned by those with more expertise than I possess. Beatles and Rolling Stones numbers are often heard. Buddy Holly (RIP) has been dead long enough to be regarded as 'trad'. Occasionally you will hear a hymn from the pen of Charles Wesley, or an ancient carol. Some people perform jazz. (Some perform jazz without really intending to do so!) Music-hall songs go down well. There are some splendid instrumentalists. Then, there’s ‘unaccompanied corner’, occupied by those who find playing an instrument just something else that might go wrong. Once in a while we are serenaded by someone singing from a text on his mobile phone. Sometimes we even tolerate poetry!
Our club has become catholic, (note the lower-case ‘c’,) and all embracing. That’s fine by me. I enjoy being exposed to music that I would not otherwise engage.
My point is this: we call ourselves a folk club. Such we are, by virtue of the fact that we ARE folk. We are a congregation of people who, without any commercial agenda, like to share music - in excellent company.
So, what is folk music?
... It's what you hear at the City Folk Club!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US ALL!