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Karine Responds To Email Complaint

Mike Harding | 14:30 UK time, Monday, 17 August 2009

Karine Polwart writes:

I received an email today from someone who'd come to one of my gigs and, it seems, had a pretty rotten time.

The reason? Bad songs? Bad sound? Bad performance?

All of these would be perfectly understandable. I don't expect everyone to like what I do.

And everyone is entitled to their own tastes.

But no,.she had a rotten time because I'd encouraged the audience at a recent gig (as, indeed, at all gigs) to join in with the three or four chorus songs I sing in the course of a night and they had done so with great gusto.

Unfortunately, they'd done so also with slightly shaky attention to pitch!

The woman concerned had been sitting next to an old fellow who sang along out of tune on these three or four occasions and the experience had ruined her night.

Now, I'm not a fan of the out of tune singing either. And nor do I think mass singing is obligatory at public events. I think it can be overdone.

But the bulk of my songs are intimate listening affairs. They require attention. They can be a bit draining. So, tactically and emotionally I think it's important to have songs that are a wee sigh of relief.

I've written and recorded several songs which are designed to be sung by lots of people.

Indeed it's the only point of those songs. I wouldn't sing them otherwise.

I've tried to overcome my initial reaction to this mail: that the person concerned just doesn't get what motivates me at all. But I can't get past it.

Being involved in a performance not just as listeners but as participants is at least 50% of why I like folk songs and singing so much.

And it's a key part of what I do. Just as much as the quiet and subtle intimacies of a dark song. So, my advice to anyone who'd rather hear the songs like on the CD? In reverent silence?

Buy a nice bottle of wine. And stay at home on your own.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    I was at the Innerleithen gig on Saturday night and must say that I found the joiny-in bits so wonderful and moving that I almost yelled an expletive at the appropriate moment of "I'm Gonna Do It All". I'm now glad I didn't since your ears would be burning for that!

    From the other 99% (or just little me, really): thank you for the chorus songs. There are no words to how beautiful it feels inside to be part of them.

  • Comment number 3.

    I believe the saying here might be 'you can't please all of the people all of the time'!
    You please an awful lot of people though...an awful lot of the time...with all kinds of songs (whether quite listen-ins or big loud singalongas). Most of us love all of them.

  • Comment number 4.

    That "complaint" email reminds me of one of the moans about this year's Abbotsbury, when apparently Kingsley the Vet didn't feed the 1500 from 5 loaves and 7 fishes, turn water into wine and wash all the attendees' feet!

  • Comment number 5.

    Karine, I'm sorry you had this e-mail, but please don't dwell on it too much. Rest assured that there are thousands of people who love your 'joining in' songs and the whole experience of being at a live gig, where it's not like listening to the CD. We should all write and tell you. Keep on doing what you're doing.

  • Comment number 6.

    As with the others already commenting here, plus all the people who've loved your live concerts and those with tickets in happy anticipation of seeing and hearing you; I just want to add my praise for the privilege of being able to join with the choruses at your beautifully balanced concerts in the past - off key, I probably am - but always felt included by the family of the audience. No-one to stop me singing along at home either!

    Am really looking forward to The Darwin Concert at Shrewsbury FF where, I suspect, we will be holding our breaths again as you all come together to bring us those amazing songs for the second time.

  • Comment number 7.

    Karine, I was at the Innerleithen concert too and had a really good evening. I can't believe that someone complained about the 'joining in' bits as most people expect to sing along in the appropriate places at a concert. Personally, I get annoyed with people who insist on singing along with the singer to show the rest of us that they know all the words, but it would be a sad concert if there were no joining in with the choruses, when invited to do so, and several of your songs do have choruses.

    On another subject, weren't the two support acts good? Very talented and wonderful voices.

  • Comment number 8.

    Everyone's entitled to their opinion, I suppose, but that's an odd complaint, all the same. (I've heard odder complaints, though.)

    I, along with the vast majority of your audience, really enjoy your joining-in songs. Looking forward to seeing you at Towersey, and if I find that the person next to me sings out of tune too badly, I'll go and sit somewhere else :-)



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