Second Time Around: the focus for some academic research
I’d like to thank John Chambers and everyone present at the club in the relevant weeks in March and April for giving me the opportunity to record and write about The Second Time Around as part of my MA in Traditional Music at Sheffield University. I’ve summarised a few findings and arguments from my project below, which I hope might be of interest.
My three-week study of The Second Time Around focussed on participation. I looked at participation in terms of three aspects: firstly, the number of people attending who perform their own floor spot, secondly, the extent to which those listening join in with singing choruses, and thirdly, other forms of joining-in, e.g., instrumental accompaniment.
It’s important, however, to avoid the assumption that participation is the main thing valued by those organising or attending the club. The MC has a triple responsibility: to ensure that there are opportunities for joining in, to ensure that performers who want their performance to be heard without participation are catered for, and that the needs of the whole audience, including the non-performing minority, are considered via attention to the variety of music during the evening.
Nevertheless, I found that in week 2, 84% of the people present performed on the night, compared to 61% and 71% respectively on the other two occasions. These are all high proportions! The question of how many of those present perform on any given evening is largely down to who attends that week - only five people attended all three weeks, but 60% of all attenders in the fieldwork period attended at least twice. I think if I’d chosen a different three-week period, that number and proportion might have been higher.
Only some performers routinely sing chorus songs, arguably the ideal type for participation, and therefore their absence can have a negative effect on the amount of audience singing. I’d suggest that there is an additional relationship between song type, individual performers, and the placing of those performers in the evening’s running order.
One thing that particularly interests me is whether traditional British/Irish songs have a special value in terms of participation. I think ‘the jury is still out’ on this: there are plenty of other sorts of songs that people join in with at Beeston, and personally I sing many traditional songs that don’t have choruses.
Nevertheless, there are some performers at the club who sing a lot of traditional songs, or songs that have characteristics in common with the traditional type, who are particularly good at getting the audience to join in. (For those less familiar with the club, it’s important to know that Beeston is not a ‘traditional club’ – I reckoned that the material performed that might be viewed as traditional British/Irish averaged out at no more than 30% over the three weeks.)
We shouldn’t forget the instrumental joining-in that takes place. This is perhaps a less obvious feature of club nights – and it doesn’t always go perfectly if people misunderstand keys or chord progressions! Nevertheless, both the ‘interval sessions’ and the occasional (by invitation) collective accompaniment of a floor spot all add to the variety and the ambience of the evening. It is those very features of variety and atmosphere that help make the club a special place.