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At the heart of English folk

Folk Music Journal: Volume 11 Number 3

Volume 11 Number 3 (2018) contains the following pieces 



Brian Peters Myths of ‘Merrie Olde England’?  Cecil Sharp’s Collecting Practice in the Southern Appalachians

The huge collection made by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles in the Southern Appalachian Mountains a hundred years ago, although widely acknowledged as a monumentally significant contribution to folk song research, has been subjected to considerable academic criticism on the grounds of its alleged selectivity, anglocentric bias, and contribution towards an inaccurate view of mountain ethnicity and culture. In this essay I attempt to give a fuller picture of the entire collection, both in print and manuscript, than the simplistic caricature presented by some critics, and examine Sharp’s writings for insights into his attitudes towards the singers, their songs, racial issues, and mountain life in general. I also explore the most popular ballads and their possible origin in the British Isles around the time of the Appalachian migration.

Arthur Knevett Folk Songs for Schools: Cecil Sharp, Patriotism, and The National Song Book

The Folk-Song Society (FSS) was founded in 1898 during a period that witnessed a general air of despondency and uncertainty. During its first few years its activities were overshadowed by political and military developments. British industry was under threat from foreign competitors, and in October 1899 the South African War, or Second Boer War, was declared. Efforts were being made to revitalize patriotism and a sense of national identity. Such efforts, however, were not coordinated but came from diverse quarters. A special day to celebrate the Empire was first mooted in 1896, but it was not until 1902 that the establishment of such a day was finally agreed. Just prior to that, in 1901, the Education Department instructed that knowledge of Britain’s colonial possessions should be included in the school curriculum, and following on from the 1902 Education Act the 1904 Code for Elementary Schools promoted the singing of national and folk songs as part of the curriculum. The FSS was approached to contribute to the choice of songs to be included in a song book for schools. What should and should not be included in the list was of particular interest to Cecil Sharp, and his stance on the issue led to bitter disagreement with Arthur Somervell, Inspector of Music to the Board of Education, and most of his FSS committee colleagues.

David Atkinson Street Ballad Singers and Sellers, c.1730–1780

Street ballad singers in the eighteenth century appear in records relating to the law and criminality, reports in the periodical press, inferences that can be drawn from the ballad trade itself, and references in works of a broadly literary kind, as well as in some visual depictions (most famously in the works of William Hogarth). Ballad singers are frequently, perhaps mostly, described in terms of criminality, vagrancy, and vagabondage, and yet there was clearly a market for their wares even among the more respectable classes. Ballad singers need to be understood as being also ballad sellers, with a part to play in the eighteenth-century economy, and while the evidence is certainly incomplete and metropolitan in its bias, it is nonetheless possible to sketch in something of the contemporary experience.

Angela McShane Drink, Song, and Politics in Seventeenth-Century England

In January 2017 I was honoured to be invited to the Vaughan Williams Library to talk about my work. The lecture drew upon an article that was published in Popular Music in June 2016,1 and was illustrated musically by a number of recordings commissioned by the AHRC Hit Songs of Seventeenth Century England project, in which I am engaged along with Christopher Marsh of Queen’s University Belfast and Andy Watts of the Carnival Band. The project has identified the most popular (or at least most published) 100 songs of the seventeenth century, their print, publication, and musical histories. The Carnival Band and a host of well-known guest singers have professionally recorded these songs. The recordings will be freely available on the project’s website, along with a wealth of contextual material when it launches later in 2017.



Peter Cripps; Michael Yates  ‘Dr Bearman’s “meticulous scholarship”’

Gordon Ridgewell; G. Idwal Williams  ‘The Pat Shaw Archive’


Reviews — Books

Vic Gammon 

Folk Song in England (Roud)

Paul Cowdell 

Southern Harvest: The Constant Lovers & The Foggy Dew (ed. Purslow, rev. Gardham)

E. David Gregory 

The Forgotten Songs of the Newfoundland Outports (ed. Guigné)

Dave Townsend 

Percy Manning: The Man Who Collected Oxfordshire (ed. Heaney)

Sara Hannant 

Once a Year: Some Traditional British Customs (Sykes)

Colin Quigley 

One with the Music: Cape Breton Step Dance Tradition and Transmission (Melin)

Arthur Knevett 

Cat-Gut Jim the Fiddler: Ned Corvan’s Life & Songs (Harker)

David Atkinson 

Living English Broadside Ballads, 1550–1750 (ed. Fumerton)

Steve Roud 

Cheap Print and Popular Song in the Nineteenth Century: A Cultural History of the Songster (ed. Watt, Scott, and Spedding)

Dave Laing  Peggy Seeger: A Life of Music, Love and Politics (Freedman)
Derek Schofield  I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival (Massimo)
Simon Furey 

Miracles & Murders: An Introductory Anthology of Breton Ballads (Constantine and Guillorel)

Fintan Vallely  Out of Darkness: The Blind Piper of Inagh (Marshall)
Chris Haigh  Fiddler’s Dream: Old-Time, Swing, and Bluegrass Fiddling in Twentieth-Century Missouri (Marshall)
Dave Arthur  Johnny Handle – Life and Soul (Wood)
Fintan Vallely  A Few Tunes of Good Music (Hall)
Malcolm Taylor Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World (Bragg)


Reviews — CDs 

Andy Turner

The Theme, the Song, the Joy: A Feast of Village Carols

Paul Burgess 

Boshamengro: English Gypsy Musicians

Jeff Davis 

When Cecil Left the Mountains: Historic Recordings of Appalachian Singers and Musicians 1927–1955

Finton Vallely   It Was Mighty: The Early Days of Irish Music in London(ed. Hall): It Was Great Altogether: The Continuing Vison of Irish Music in London (ed. Hall)


Cover illustration Cecil Sharp’s portrait of Mrs Townsley, of Pineville, Kentucky (Courtesy of VWML)

Editor: David Atkinson
Guest Editorial: Vic Gammon