Session/Séance 3b: CSTM Panel 2. Thursday/jeudi 25 May 2017. 4:00PM-5:30PM, EJB130
The Labour of Innovation and the Work of Class Movement in Folk Revivals
Chair: SHERRY JOHNSON (York University)
1. What Did (or Didn’t) You Do in the Strike? The Absence of the Folk Revival in the 1984 Miner’s Strike, and the Making of Billy Bragg
Dana Wylie, University of Alberta
The British folk scene has long displayed a fascination with industrial song, sustained by the foundational work of Ewan MacColl and A.L. Lloyd, pioneers of the “second folk revival.” Yet, a divide persists between largely middle- class folkies and the actual working classes, indicating an irreconcilability between “the folk” as an ideological and aesthetic category and the complex, dynamic communities from which industrial song derives. This paper views that irreconcilability through the lens of the 1984-5 miners’ strike, in which music played a huge role, but in which the folk scene was largely uninvolved. Many rock and pop musicians, by contrast, were heavily involved, most notably Billy Bragg, who has since been roped into the story of British folk. An exploration of this historical moment, in which Bragg and other rockers truly connected with working people, reveals much about the perennial failure of the folkies to do so.
2. The Godfather of Celtic Music: John Allan Cameron as Canada’s Folk Music Revivalist
Heather Sparling, Cape Breton University
John Allan Cameron (1938-2006) was one of Cape Breton’s first major stars. I argue that Cameron’s success was a result of his music being both familiar within the context of the American, British and Irish folk revivals while simultaneously offering a distinct contribution that only an east coast Canadian could produce. Cameron was in some ways a conventional revival artist with his performances of Child ballads, industrial labour songs, Gaelic- and English-language folk songs, and traditional jigs and reels. What made him distinct was the fact that he was from Canada, that he drew largely on Scottish-derived culture in diaspora, and that he was himself one of “the folk.” His extraordinary guitar renditions of instrumental tunes more typically heard on the fiddle or pipes were also important as they mediated between folk fingerstyle guitarists in the UK and folk guitar styles common in the USA.
3. “In the Heat of Youthful Blood”: Tradition, Disruption and the Next Generation of Shape Note Singers
Frances Miller, York University
Shape Note singing is a choral tradition rooted in the American Bible Belt where church-goers have gathered for centuries, outside their time of worship, to sing from the oblong book known as The Sacred Harp (1844). In recent years Shape Note singing has, somewhat curiously, enjoyed a growing, secularized popularity within urban centres across the northern United States and Canada. Key to this resurgence have been young enthusiasts (ages 20-35) who are branching off from established groups and bringing the Shape Note tradition into an entirely secular space of hip- novelty; a phenomenon that is seeing this music move out of churches and into bars and house parties. My paper will present a comprehensive look at this phenomenon as it exists in Toronto. I will carefully document this northern, secular revival through interviews with young Toronto-based enthusiasts and ethnographic examinations of the new ways they are presenting this music.