Festival to celebrate Norfolk folk singer Walter Pardon who was discovered at the age of 59.

Folk singer Walter Pardon. Picture; ARCHANT ARCHIVE Folk singer Walter Pardon. Picture; ARCHANT ARCHIVE

Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE
Monday, January 6, 2014
9:00 AM

A three-day festival is planned to mark the centenary this year of a traditional north Norfolk folk singer.

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Martin Carthy folk performerMartin Carthy folk performer

Walter Pardon, who lived from 1914 to 1996, of Knapton will be remembered at a series of events from February 28 to March 2.

They will include a concert at North Walsham’s Atrium arts centre starring top English folk performers Martin Carthy and Tim Laycock, both of whom knew Walter.

Other events during the festival include folk sessions at pubs which Walter knew, an exhibition about Knapton during Walter’s lifetime and talks and screenings of rare film footage of the singer.

Festival organiser Brian Gaudet of North Walsham said: “Walter was only discovered at the age of 59 but turned out to be one of the most important traditional singers in England.

Tim Laycock friend of Walter PardonTim Laycock friend of Walter Pardon

“He was a wonderful performer, with a simple, straightforward, understated style, and had a real treasure store of songs in his repertoire.”

Walter’s own recordings of his songs can be heard on current CDs and many of the songs collected from him are now sung by folksingers around the world.

The main festival day will be Saturday March 1 with a full afternoon programme at The Atrium, followed by an evening concert.

As well as Norfolk singers and musicians entertaining, there will a special afternoon gathering of experts who knew Walter.

Walter Pardon factfile

Walter Pardon was born in Knapton on March 4 1914 in a cottage where he lived for the rest of his life.

He only came to national prominence in the folk-song world in the early 1970s, when he was 59, after a relative persuaded him to record 20 songs after hearing him perform The Dark-Eyed Sailor at a family party.

Within a couple of years Walter had completed further recordings, joined a group of English folk singers at the American Bicentennial Celebrations in Washington, and appeared at a range of folk festivals and clubs.

Much of his repertoire came from his uncle, Billy Gee, who in turn had learnt songs from his father - a repertoire stretching back to the early part of the 19th century. Although he left school at 14 to become an apprentice carpenter, Pardon was very well-read, and had a remarkable memory for songs - in all about 150 songs were recorded on five albums. Pardon was also filmed by the American film-maker John Cohen in 1983, in a documentary called The Ballad and the Source.

His songs included classic ballads, music-hall songs, and several rare songs from the early days of the Agricultural Workers Union.

He died on June 9 1996. An obituary said Walter Pardon’s style of singing reflected his personality - a sensitive, private man, whose singing let the song speak for itself.

Distinguished folksong scholar A L Lloyd described Pardon as “the pick of the bunch”

They will include noted folk record producer Bill Leader who recorded Walter at his Knapton cottage and issued his first two LPs – “A Proper Sort” and “Our Side of the Baulk” in the 1970s.

The rare film footage of Walter will be screened during the afternoon and the Atrium will also present the photo exhibition.

Martin Carthy, who with his wife Norma Waterson accompanied Walter on a trip to America to mark the USA bi-centenary, and also sang at his funeral, will head the evening concert bill.

Supporting him will be Dorset singer Tim Laycock who befriended Walter while a student at the UEA, and Norfolk duo John and Sue Griffiths.

Tickets for the Saturday events will be £14 (all day) or £12 (concert only).

The pub sessions, at venues to be confirmed, will be free.

Festival enquiries to brian.gaudet@btinternet.com

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