Sunday, 6 August 2017

Lloyd – A Daughter’s Perspective

Faber  |  18 October 2008

This year marks the centenary of the birth of A. L. ‘Bert’ Lloyd, whose place in the British folk revival in the second half of the 20th century cannot be underestimated. Now, as Folk Song in England sees a welcome return to print, we have a daughter’s perspective of a remarkable musicologist.

Bert Lloyd – journalist, communist, folklorist and singer – was passionate about all music. And, for him, the best performances of folk music anywhere in the world could easily stand shoulder to shoulder with the best performances of classical music, jazz or any other music.

When I was young the call ‘Caroline, come here a minute’ held no foreboding for me; it was always dad’s invitation to listen to some extraordinary piece of music – often such an unfamiliar sound that he had to urge me to ‘listen in’ until I could really hear it.

Bert saw folk music as a vibrant, living culture, strong and flexible enough to reflect changing times. From the 1960s he championed the musicians of the folk revival who experimented alongside the traditionalists. How he would relish what is happening now. How pleased and proud he would be to know that Folk Song in England would be available again now in this different time.

‘Ah, well?’ he would sigh modestly querying the decision but failing miserably to hide a beam of pleasure.

Caroline Clayton also remembers the indexing of Folk Song in England:

The indexing of Folk Song in England was a special occasion in the Lloyd household and took place at the kitchen table. As I remember it, Bert went through the proof copy calling out the references and we wrote them down on little cards with the page numbers. He was always passionate about the subject and was feeling euphoric that he had actually finished the hard, hard work of writing the book.

To my shame, I think I only helped a bit. For my liking (impatient and teenaged then) the business was constantly being interrupted by Bert turning pink and speechless with helpless giggles, or raising his impressive eyebrows in astonished surprise at the range of people, themes and topics that cropped up.
‘Well, what do you know?’ he’d say, beaming with delight at meeting up with some reference again.

And then, of course, he’d have to tell us why he was so pleased. The joy in that index. The feast it hinted at for the text. It may have felt like a slow process at the time but it has lasted as a lovely memory.

Later I realised that my dad had only ever given me one piece of paternal advice. It was ‘Use The Index’. It was fine advice.

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