MT logo Letters - Dec 2003 to Jul 2004

Re: Re: Seoltaí Séidte review

Dear Rod,

I would very much like to thank Nicholas Carolan for clarifying points which I made during my review of Seoltaí Séidte.

Nicholas is correct in asserting that the booklet could not have been any longer in terms of page length, but perhaps another designer might have trimmed some of the photographs and so created space for more of the biographical information which he would have liked to have included and I, for one, would certainly like to have read.  However, then the impact of some of those glorious monochrome photographs would have been diminished!

More feasibly, perhaps, the booklet's three-and-a-half blank pages could have been used to extend the biographies and provide the missing discographical details.  As I mentioned in my review, such discographical information is relatively easy to discover regarding the recordings of Seosamh Ó hÉanaí (and I should have probably included Willie Clancy, Denis Murphy, Paddy Canny and Seán 'ac Dhonncha too).  However, this is certainly not the case when considering the recordings of Joe Devlin, Johnny Pickering or Seán McLaughlin.  A web search will not help and, sadly, not everyone has direct access to the Irish Traditional Music Archive.  I do also feel that it would have been useful to know which recordings had been issued illegally in the USA.

My thanks also go to Nicholas for clarifying that he wrote the original notes in Irish, though I hope I don't come a cropper while attempting to climb Kilimanjaro as he is skiing down.

Best wishes,

Geoff Wallis - 17.7.04

Re: Seoltaí Séidte review

Dear Rod,

Thanks for the kind and prompt review by Geoff Wallis of Seoltaí Séidte / Setting Sail, the CD reissue that Harry Bradshaw and I produced for Gael Linn (no longer hyphenated) of their twenty 78s of 1957-61.

Geoff asks (or implies) a few questions and makes a few observations in the course of his review that I should probably respond to for the interest of Musical Traditions readers.

Answers to questions: I wrote the notes in Irish and then translated them into English (a less laborious process for me than the reverse - a bit like skiing down Kilimanjaro rather than climbing up it).  The translations are literal-ish; the general information is the same in both, give or take a nuance or a hundred and two.

Geoff would have liked more information on the performers, and more on the material, and I would have liked to have given it.  But that raises a practical difficulty that I'm sure engages you as a sound and print publisher (although not as an internet publisher) the constraints of the CD format.  The Gael Linn allocation of space for notes was generous 96 A5 pages, far more than a CD normally has (does any Irish recording have a larger allocation?).  And yet, with 17 performers and 63 items of music, I could have easily doubled the amount of information I was able to give, even without footnotes.  But a bigger book wouldn't have fitted within the DVD-size case, the largest container available for sound recordings.  So what to do?

Perhaps we should have risked the wrath of another of your reviewers and produced a book with CDs tucked in at the back.  Or perhaps we should have put the notes and photos on a CD-ROM and risked having no one at all read them.

But at any rate we compromised with a booklet which attempted to give the essential who-when-where-why-what information on the performers and the material.  References to anything but the earliest known appearances of the material were almost always out.  Information that would properly belong to a footnote was out.  Discography was out, unfortunately, as it would have far exceeded the space available.  For instance, a discography of one of the featured performers, Willie Clancy, that I compiled for a recent publication, alone runs to two A4 pages.  I would however defend the shadowy mentions of the performers having recorded commercially sometimes before but mostly after the foregrounded 78s as being essential contextual information about them, albeit information that can only be a departure point for further searching by curious readers.

Finally, a word about the DVD-case format.  Not, I'm afraid, a case of homage to Musical Traditions, but a straight imitation by Gael Linn of Harry Bradshaw's John Feeney Viva Voce CD and booklet of 2003, which they distributed.  The Archive's former sound engineer Glenn Cumiskey (now pursuing medical studies in London, for those who know him) was the first I ever heard recommending such a format for the publication of CDs with booklets.  That was in the mid-1990s, and his inspiration was the boxes of the computer games to which he was addicted at the time.  Perhaps we'll keep going until we reinvent the boxed LP?

All the best,

Nicholas Carolan - 14.7.04

Proposed closure of The Bagpipe Museum

Colin Dunbar, Chief Executive of Castle Morpeth is to propose the closure of The Bagpipe Museum , presently housed in The Chantry.  For such action to be taken would seem to me to be a gross act of cultural vandalism.  Northumberland is one of the only counties in England to have it's own regional instrument, the Northumbrian small-pipes, associated with which are musicians of immense skill and of international reputation.  I understand that a restaurant is poised in the wings to take its place.

If you can, do add your voice of dissent and contact , badger, or generally shake up those in a position to resist the above.

Doc Rowe - 1.7.04

This Old Coat That I've Got On

Just a note to point out that George Frampton, in his article on Fred Cottenham, is wrong to suggest that Fred's song This Old Coat of Mine is lost to posterity.  Den Giddens (a friend and musical associate of Fred's) regularly sings this song, sometimes stripping down to Union Jack underpants and 'mooning' the whole pub!

David Bloxham - 16.6.04

John R T Davies RIP

John R T Davies was an audio remastering expert, whose name will not be familiar to most MT readers.  That is because he operated chiefly in the field of traditional jazz.  Nevertheless, his work was very highly valued by a number of people who regularly visit this magazine, and who will be very saddened to hear of his passing.

Therefore, I would like to tell them that a Daily Telegraph on-line obituary for John can be found at http//   The obituary will presumably be on-line for only a limited period of time.  However, I have taken a copy of the same, so if anyone has difficulty gaining access, do let me know, and I'll pass it on to them.

Fred McCormick - 27.5.04

English country music article

There's a lengthy article with analysis and reminiscences by Roger Digby about English country music (including a discography by Dan Quinn) on the site that might be of interest to your readers.  The address is:   It's not new (from 2001), but new to me.

Becky Nankivell - 13.4.04
Tucson, Arizona

Re: Theodore and the Sunshine Violin Band

I would just like to say that I loved the article on Theodore and the Sunshine Violin Band by Keith Summers.  Chris Theodore was my grandfather and I had no idea he was actually well known.

Sadly, he passed away in 2001.  Having moved back St Lucia, he suffered appendicitis and died not long after.  But he wasn't just a violinist - he was also a great person - he was always there to offer encouragement as I learnt the violin (although I am classically trained), even when I gave up.  The last thing he said to me before he returned to St Lucia from the last of his frequent holidays to England was that he'd told everyone in St Lucia how proud he was that one of his descendants played the violin and that he wanted me to have his violins when he died.  A month later, he was dead.

Needless to say, I have taken up playing the violin again, though I've lost out on some vital years - but I've joined a youth orchestra we're going on tour in the summer.

Thank you for displaying the article about my grandfather on your site.  It has really helped me to see him as others saw him.

Nicole Theodore - 15.3.04

New Zealand folksong book

Readers will recall the recent discussion of New Zealand folksong collections in these columns, during which I mentioned Neil Colquhoun's New Zealand Folksongs; Song of A Young Country.  I've just been informed that a copy of this book is on offer at eBay.  The site addess is and the seller's description, starting price and expiry date are as follows:
New Zealand Folksongs. Song of A Young Country by Neil Colquhoun. Published by Bailey Brothers. Folkestone. 1973. 11x8.5". 64 pages. Text and music on each page with a b/w illustrations. No inscriptions. Contents and card covers a little edgeworn else very good.

Starting bid GBP 3.99. 10-day listing. Ends Jan-30-04 001700 PST.

This book is a long way from being the most exciting I've ever come across.  Nevertheless, for anyone with an interest in English language folksongs, it must consitute an interesting find.

Fred McCormick - 26.1.04

Seeking song info:

I'm seeking information, possible sourcing, and/or text for an English-language song heard during a singers' evening at an outlying pub during the 2003 Willie Clancy summer school.  Unfortunately, I was not able to meet or speak with the singer, and I have very little information about the song itself.  However, it was a strophic ballad, sung unaccompanied, possibly Napoleonic-era; an account of overseas service in the British Army, and with the verse-by-verse tagline 'at Cremona'.

I've not had much luck tracing this through my usual correspondents in the UK and Ireland, and would welcome any leads.

Many thanks.

Chris Smith -

Re: Keith Summers' Three Kentucky CDs review

A number of the British Archive of Country Music (BACM) discs, including the Crockett and the Kazee, but not the Carlisle, have recently been added to Red Lick's mail order catalogue.  Red Lick's price for these is £8.50, against the BACM price of £10.00.  Even allowing for the fact that Red Lick charge for p&p, bulk buyers can expect to make a modest saving.

The full list of Red Lick held BACMs is as folows:

Anyone who hasn't dealt with this estimable company - and I'd better say that I have no financial interest - will find them efficient, friendly, and extremely helpful.  They are at:

Fred McCormick - 9.12.03

Re: Folk Music Collection in New Zealand - 6

Just a quick note to complement some of the recent correspondence on this topic.  When I replied to Keith Summers' original query on the state of folk music collection in New Zealand, I forgot that I own a book called The Games of New Zealand Children (Brian Sutton-Smith, California UP, Berkeley, 1959.)  This book has lain unnoticed on my shelves for years, and in fact I only rediscovered it today while I was doing a bit of pre-Christmas dusting.

The book doesn't concern itself with songs as such, but it contains a large number of sung games, many of which hark back to Britain.  There is also an extensive bibliography, which includes other writings by Sutton-Smith.  Since The Games of New Zealand Children was part of a series, whose overall editors included Bertand Bronson and W R Bascom, one presumes its credentials must be extremely acceptable.

I have done no more than skim through the book at present, so I cannot tell you any more than that.  However, I suggest that anyone seriously interested in New Zealand folk music would be well advised to look this one out.

Fred McCormick - 2.12.03


Rod Stradling - e-mail:  Tel: 01453 759475
snail-mail: 1 Castle Street, Stroud, Glos  GL5 2HP, UK

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