The Festival of the Arts
AT THE TIME of this article going to print our college is officially called Battersea College of Advanced Technology, a name under which it has flourished for some years. In a few months, however, we are due to become Surrey University, the first technological university of its kind. To mark this occasion, our annual "Arts Week" has been expanded to a "Festival of the Arts". This year as never before, we plan to dispel the myth that science students have no cultural appreciation of the Arts, but live in a world of equations and formulae.
You have attended our folk concert and for this we are very grateful. But how many other events of our festival are you planning to support? Culturally you may be as one-sided as science students are reputed to be. We are making an effort to prove to everyone that we have an all-round appreciation of the Arts, for almost every facet is represented in the festival. So if there is an art form here of which you have had no previous experience, try to attend the event, and widen your field of appreciation as we are doing.
The Dubliners consisting of Ronnie Drew, Cairon Bourke, Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna and John Sheahan are Ireland's most popular Folk Group and presently the top long playing recording artists in Ireland. They were formed following the Edinburgh Festival 1963 and since then have gone from strength to strength. Their recording label is Transatlantic for whom they have made two LP's, three EPs and two singles and they have LP's out on the M.G.M. and Vanguard labels in the U.S.A. They are going to the United States for a tour this summer.
The Ian Campbell Folk Group and the rest …
The Ian Campbell Folk Group
The Ian Campbell Folk Group is Britain's leading folk group. In both repertoire and personnel, they represent the best of both the tradition and the revival. Ian and his sister Lorna are fine traditional singers from an Aberdeen musical family. Before he joined the group, Brian Clark was one of the leading figures in the folk revival in the Midlands, and John Dunkerly is without peer as an accompaniest on the banjo. Dave Swarbrick, fiddle and mandola-player extraordinaire, is one of Britain's most distinctive and spectacular instrumentalists, combining traditional styles with his own unique almost gypsy-style flair.
The Ian Campbell Folk Group records for Transatlantic, and Elektra is proud to have been selected to release their recordings in the U.S.
Tom Paxton is now one of the most well-known American song-writer-singers. This is his second visit to England. He is originally from Oklahoma and began writing songs during the boredom of the American equivalent to National Service. His songs are now sung by Folk singers everywhere, but sung best of all by Tom Paxton — as we will hear tonight.
Hedy West is a traditional singer, having learned her songs from her family and backgronnd in the North Georgia Hill country from which she comes. She is also an extremely well-educated young woman — a graduate of Columbia University; concerned with today's politics and world events. She recently toured Israel with great success and has become one of the most popular American performers in British Folk Clubs. Her repertoire consists of songs from Georgia song and the Appalachians and also of Union songs and modern songs.
Bill Clifton's long interest in the acceptance of American Country, Mountain and Bluegrass style music outside of the United States brought brought him to England two years ago. During this time he has travelled extensively in an effort to acquaint British audiences with this music and broaden its appeal. He has been active in the field on radio, television and playing the Country Music shows and parks with his group The Dixie Mountain Boys since 1949. His first record was released in 1953 and since 1961 he has been joined by the Country Gentlemen and Mike Seeger on all recordings. Of interest, his was the first Bluegrass EP ever to be released in this country. In 1963 it was his undertaking as one of the Directors of the Newport Folk Festival to help in the selection of groups and individuals representative of this segment of American folk music. Tonight marks the first time Bluegrass has been played in a major concert in this country.
The Echo Mountain Boys
The Echo Mountain Boys, from the Sevenoaks School in Kent, were formed in 1963. The initial interest of Richard Townend, and then Mick Audsley in Bluegrass brought the others together, and with Richard's general knowledge and leadership they started playing together until today their high standard and repertoire is hard to match in this country. They have appeared in a number of folk clubs alone and with Bill Clifton, and this past summer won the open competition at the Cambridge Folk Festival. Individually competent musicians Richard Townend, 17, plays banjo and guitar, Mick Audsley, 16, guitar, Peter Green, 15, autoharp, guitar and mandolin, Derek Bleyberg, 16, bass, and Andrew Townend, 14, mandolin and fiddle. Andrew has played also on B.B.C. radio's Folk Room and Settle Down.
John Gregson, our guest compere for this evening is known to us all as an actor of repute, the proverbial star of stage, cinema and television. He last appeared on the West-end stage in the long running Difference of Opinion at the Garrick Theatre and has starred in a score or so of films including, of course, the ever popular veteran car film Genevieve although he likes to pretend that was his father. He will be remembered for his recent T.V. series Gideon's Way which makes a welcome return to the screen this month. "I've always been mad about folk music without realizing it," he says, "I mean I've loved ballads, good honest to God ballads with a story, with a message, all of my life. It was five years back we sat around rapt over Joan Baez and there was Woody Guthrie and so forth but now it's all the folk cult isn't it? So my generation think my enthusiasm is in bad taste. They think I'm trying to prove something weird to myself. Funny isn't it ? There ought to be a song about people who protest about protest songs."
Roy Guest studied at the Central School of Speech & Drama at a time when that School held its classes in the upper reaches of the Royal Albert Hall! Since that time he has spent five years in professional Theatre and five years as a folk singer touring Britain, Europe and America. He is now best known as an Agent and promoter of Folk Song events, but his ambition is to promote Theatrical and Festival events as well. He is convinced that there is a need for a National British Dance and Song Company, firmly based on the traditions of the British Isles, a similar company to those sponsored by about 70 other more enlightened countries.
How important is a label?
When you know exactly what artiste you want to hear and exactly which LP you want to buy, naturally you will purchase the record no matter what the label. In the record business, as in any other type of manufacturing, final product is more important than motive. But you can't listen to every record on the market in order to decide which you want to buy. And if you are interested in folk music, you will want to hear more singers than just those that sing at your favourite club or that you have heard in concert. It can be a help in deciding which records you want to listen to if you consider why they were produced. A major label which produces records of all kinds, may often release masterpieces of folk music recording. But this is more often fluke than actual policy or planning. The major companies react to a demand. Folk music is popular so they issue folk music records. When folk music leaves the hit parade, the folk music releases from major labels will grow fewer. Records already released will be deleted from the catalogue. The independent folk labels try to create a demand, not react to it. They are in existence solely for the purpose of making available the music which they believe is worthy of being heard. Artistes whose popularity has not yet caught up with their excellence will usually record for an independent label. Their records will continue to be available long after the peak of popularity has passed. The three independent folk music recording companies in Britain, TOPIC, TRANSATLANTIC and ELEKTRA, are truly interested in folk music and their catalogues show it. When you see a record on any of these labels, you know that it was produced by people for whom folk music is a full-time occupation, not a passing fancy.
Elektra Records, the firm that is sponsoring this concert, is a fairly recent immigrant to Britain. Long known as an American label whose records, though good, were too dear, ELEKTRA is now a full-fledged British company complete with Soho premises and a new list price of 35/- for LPs. During 1965, it became increasingly obvious that many of the trends in the British folk revival were following a similar pattern to the American revival. Authentic traditional music was becoming more and more widely accepted by audiences, and among the younger singers, those who wrote their own material were becoming far and away the most important contributors to the folk revival. Since it is just these two areas that Elektra is most interested in, it seemed natural that Elektra should open up a British office. The first job is to make sure that British record buyers can buy the records currently in the catalogue. Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Mark Spoelstra, Dick Farina, Pat Sky and the other singer-songwriters in the catalogue are now in most good record shops as are or soon will be, the Library of Congress recordings of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly — probably the two most important foundation documents of the American folk music revival. Many other items from the Elektra catalogue will soon be in the shops at 21/-on the Bounty label, an Elektra subsidiary. In the not too distant future, the first British records will begin to appear. Two fine young songwriter-singers for whom Elektra is planning recordings will appear tonight just after the interval. In short, Elektra hopes that in the future it will play just as important a role in the revival of interest in good folk music in Britain as it has for the past fifteen years in America.