To Budding Balladeers

From: FOLK SONG JAMBOREE, Ballantine Books © 1960 by Josef Marais

During our happy career on the concert stage my wife Miranda and I have built a large repertoire. The world store of folklore and folksong is unending and a balladeer should be continuously delving into this valuable heritage. When an old song intrigues him he should take possession of it, fashion it lovingly to his own taste and then present it to his listeners as he would a piece of sculpture of his own handiwork. I do no mean that he should break the chain which links the song to its past: on the contrary, he should keep the background history of the song clearly in his mind as he moulds it to his own purpose. And what is his purpose?

A balladeer is an artist, he sings to people in order to enthrall, uplift or amuse them. A folksinger is a reporter who strives to present his song in the rough, unschooled way he imagines it might have been sung by the simple folk who learned it aurally. The folksinger is an interpreter, but a balladeer is a creator as well as interpreter. His material, which he creates for his own personal use, is as important as the way he performs it.

Since the 13th century, ballads have been undergoing continuous revision by travelling minstrel singers. We hope this process will never stop, for in this way the inherited folk culture of humanity will be relished without abatement.

A budding balladeer who chances upon this book may find these samples of our songs interesting, for we present them in their initial stage of translation and harmonization. This is our first step, our foundation upon which we build our embellishments and modulations. In doing so, we try to be guided by good taste and a sincere love of the traditional ballad. We try to enhance, not violate, the spirit of the basic folk material. We hope [t]his book may inspire many young people to test their ability to perform the folk music of the world.

When the budding balladeer feels ready to make his own contribution, his unique material offering, then he is ready to touch the hearts of his audience too.

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