Frankie Armstrong

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Frankie Armstrong (born 13 January 1941 in Workington, Cumberland, England) is a singer and voice teacher.

She has worked as a singer in the folk scene and the women's movement and as a trainer in social and youth work. Involved with folk and political songs from the 1950s, she has performed and/or recorded with Blowzabella, The Orckestra (with Henry Cow and the Mike Westbrook Brass Band), Ken Hyder's Talisker, John Kirkpatrick, Brian Pearson, Leon Rosselson, Dave Van Ronk and Maddy Prior. She is blind from glaucoma.

Biography[edit]

Frankie Armstrong moved to Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, as a young child. She began singing in a group with her brother singing Elvis Presley and Little Richard numbers, and in 1957 joined the Stort Valley Skiffle Group which a few years later changed its name to the Ceilidh Singers as its repertoire moved towards folk music. The group founded the Hoddesdon Folk Club.

In 1963 she began working with Louis Killen and performing solo, then in 1964 she joined The Critics Group directed by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. (Louis Killen's advice led to her developing the harder voice quality for which she is noted.[1]) In 1965 sang at the Edinburgh Festival "Poets in Public", with John Betjeman, Stevie Smith and Ted Hughes. Her first recording, in 1965, was at the invitation of Bert Lloyd who as director of Topic Records was putting together an album of erotic songs with Anne Briggs, released as The Bird in the Bush (12T135, 1966).

In the mid-1970s Armstrong pioneered workshops based on traditional styles of singing. She was a member of the Feminist Improvising Group (FIG), co-founded in 1977 by vocalist Maggie Nicols, bassoonist Lindsay Cooper, keyboardist Cathy Williams, cellist and bassist Georgina Born, and trumpeter Corinne Liensol. Armstrong collaborated within the accomplished FIG after 1978, and also with free jazz pianist (and partly percussion playing) Irène Schweizer, saxophonist (and film maker) Sally Potter, trombonist and violist Annemarie Roelofs, flutist and saxophonist Angèle Veltmeijer, and saxophonist and guitarist Françoise Dupety.

Discography[edit]

Solo[edit]

  • Lovely on the Water, Topic 12TS 216, LP (1972)
  • Songs and Ballads, Topic 12TS 273, LP (1975)
  • Out of Love, Hope and Suffering, Bay 206, LP (1973)
  • And the Music Plays So Grand, Bay Records BAY206, LP (1980)
  • I Heard a Woman Singing, Fuse Records CF 389, LP (1985)
  • Ways of Seeing, Harbour Town Records HAR009 (1990) - CD (1996)
  • Till the Grass O'ergrew the Corn (A collection of Child Ballads), (1996)
  • The Garden of Love (1999)
  • Encouragement (2008)

Collaborations[edit]

  • The Bird In The Bush (Traditional Erotic Songs), Topic - with A.L. Lloyd and Anne Briggs
  • Nuclear Power No Thanks, Plane Label IMP2, LP (1981) - with Roy Bailey, Martin Carthy, Ron Elliott, Howard Evans, Chris Foster, Sandra Kerr, John Kirkpatrick, Alison MacMorland, Brian Pearson, Geoff Pearson, Leon Rosselson, & Roger Williams
  • Tam Lin, Plant Life PLR 063, LP (1984) - with Brian Pearson, Blowzabella and Jon Gillaspie
  • My Song is My Own Plane Label TPL 0001 (1980) - with Sandra Kerr, Alison McMorland and Kathy Henderson
  • Let No One Deceive You - the songs of Bertold Brecht (1992) by Dave Van Ronk, The Red Onion Jazz Band and others. Recorded in the USA but apparently never available in UK, even as an import.
  • Fair Moon Rejoices, Harbour Town Records HARCD027 (1997) - with Joan Mills, Biddy Wells, Peter Stacey, Ben Lawrence, Geoff Haynes and Darien Pritchard
  • Darkest Before the Dawn, Harbour Town Records HARCD 045 - with Sarah Harman & Shanee Taylor

Reissues[edit]

  • Lovely on the Water, a reissue of Frankie's first solo LP, with extra tracks from the 1960s & 1970s (FECD 151).
  • Ways of Seeing (solo, duo and group apace women's voices HARCD 009).
  • I Heard a Woman Singing, a reissue by Rounder Records, USA (CD FF 332) of an early 80s LP of Frankie's, is distributed in Britain by Topic Records.
  • The Bird in the Bush, (TSCD 479) with additional material from Louis Killen and Norman Kennedy.

Books[edit]

  • My Song is My Own, Kathy Henderson, Frankie Armstrong and Sandra Kerr. London: Pluto Press, 1979. One hundred traditional and composed women's songs from the British Isles, with select bibliography and discography.
  • Autobiography As Far as The Eye Can Sing, edited by Jenny Pearson, published by Women's Press in 1992 (ISBN 0-7043-4294-4)
  • Well Tuned Women: Growing Strong through Voice Work, co-edited with Jenny Pearson, containing essays from leading international women voice trainers and artists, is also published by Women's Press (ISBN 0-7043-4649-4).

Literature[edit]

  • Julie Dawn Smith: Playing like a Girl - The queer laughter of the Feminist Improvising Group. In: Daniel Fischlin and Ajay Heble (Editors): The Other Side of Nowhere: Jazz, Improvisation, and Communities in Dialogue. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press in 2004 (ISBN 0-8195-6682-9), p. 224-243.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Lifton, Sarah (1983) The Listener's Guide to Folk Music. Poole: Blandford Press; p. 23

External links[edit]