Folk singers

I was listening to Martin Simpson singing Dives and Lazarus the other day, and was reminded of one of my many bugbears.  There’s a particular cod Wessex-type burl that folk singers adopt, regardless of where they come from.  It has a vaguely Irish twang (even from English singers), a fairly strong ‘r’, and requires singing through one’s nose.

This ‘accent’ is Folk snobbery.  The ‘r’ locates the accent in the west of Britain/ England, and the Irish twang hints at those all-important Celtic credentials (Simpson has rather dreadful Celtic bunny tattoo…).  But it’s as foreign to the music as RP or American.

A related issue is early musicians’ attempts at Middle English pronunciation.  This ends up being a Wessex burl, too, but of a more ridiculous sort.  I once talked to a Middle English academic and well-known musician about accents:  he knew very little about modern accents, and certainly had made no comparative study between them and the spelling of Middle English texts.

It would be nice to have a bit more honesty about accents.  Folk and early music singers should sing in their own accents, whether they be Scunthorpian or Sloane Square.  Let’s leave the O’Wessex burl alone.

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1 Comment

Filed under Streams of Consciousness

One response to “Folk singers

  1. anna

    heehee thanks for the reminder – vastly improving my afternoon chortling at the absurd vowel distortions of a charming group whose name may be something akin to Ye Avian of Scarlett Hewe.

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