Between 1915 and 1918, Cecil Sharp and his assistant Maud Karpeles made several trips to the Appalachian Mountains of North America to search for songs and tunes that had their origins in England. He found 1,600 of them.
This was the inspiration for eight musicians from England, Scotland, USA and Canada to spend five days in a farmhouse in Shropshire creating new music together.
The Cecil Sharp Project (2011) was a co-commission between Shrewsbury Folk Festival and the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS). For Shrewsbury this followed on from their successful Darwin Project of 2009, and for EFDSS it was their first foray into commissioning.
Artists involved were:
At the end of the residency they performed at Cecil Sharp House and Severn Theatre Shrewsbury with a third performance planned for Shrewsbury Folk Festival and gained a four star review from The Guardian.
The project received a great deal of national coverage with features in Guardian and on BBC R4 Front Row and BBC R3 In Tune, and the album and DVD release in August 2011, critical acclaim. The result was a UK tour January 2012 that played in Bristol, London, Derby, Burnley, Buxton and Glasgow’s Celtic Connections Festival.
“Then there’s a fine modern murder ballad from Caroline Herring, and – best of all – ‘The Ghost of Songs’, a moving tribute to all those who gave Sharp their songs.” Songlines CD Review 2011
Individual songs from the project have seen life on studio albums including Show of Hands, Caroline Herring and Jim Moray.
Jim Moray’s version of Earl Brand that he wrote in the project was renamed ‘Lord Douglas’ for his own solo album and won best traditional song at the 2013 BBC Folk Awards.