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At the heart of English folk

Folk Music Journal: Volume 10 Number 1

Volume 10 Number 1 (2011) contains the following pieces:



Martin Graebe Gustav Holst and Songs of the West

Although Gustav Holst never collected English folk songs himself, he was very familiar with them through his friendship with Ralph Vaughan Williams and other collectors such as Cecil Sharp and William Gillies Whittaker. He used a number of them in his compositions and made several arrangements of folk songs collected by others. His first work founded on folk song was Songs of the West, based on Sabine Baring-Gould's collection of songs from Devon and Cornwall – a companion piece to Somerset Rhapsody, which was based on Sharp's collection. While Somerset Rhapsody went on to become one of Holst's better-known works, Songs of the West has been largely forgotten.

Holst arranged sixteen songs from Gardiner's Hampshire collection for the Novello series 'Folk Songs of England', as well as creating a number of choral arrangements of traditional songs. Through his friendship with Sharp he became a strong supporter of the English Folk Dance Society and taught at a number of their summer schools. His choral ballet The Morning of the Year introduced traditional English dances under the direction of co-producer Douglas Kennedy, and was performed in 1927 by the EFDS in support of the Cecil Sharp Memorial Fund. This article considers Holst's engagement with English folk music, the genesis of his Songs of the West, and his wider contribution to the folk music movement in the early part of the twentieth century.


Vic Gammon Farmyard Cacophonies: Three Centuries of a Popular Song

'Old MacDonald Had a Farm' is an immensely successful popular song. In this essay I explore the life of this song from its earliest known version as performed on the English stage in the early eighteenth century, its development as a vaudeville and blackface minstrel song in the nineteenth century, its place in oral tradition, commercial recordings of the song in the 1920s and later, and its status today as a modern 'children's favourite' in a variety of forms. I consider the song in the context of other pieces that list animals, animal parts, and sometimes animal sounds. I look at the way innuendo and satire can be read in versions of the song and the way the song relates to the relationships of humans to animals. I explore examples of the parodies, transformations, and translations the song has spawned, and hypothesize on the reasons for its enormous success. I emphasize that any sound history must look for continuity as well as change but also be aware of the ways in which texts can take on different meanings in different historical situations.


Stephen Miller   'You will be interested to hear of a project to form a Folk Song Society': W. H. Gill and the Founding of the Folk-Song Society

William Henry Gill (1839–1923) is best known for his Manx National Songs (1896) and, to a lesser extent, Manx National Music (1898). With his brother, John Frederick Gill (1842–99), they collected traditional song in the Isle of Man. W. H. Gill's reputation was sufficient for him to be present at the founding of the Folk-Song Society and to be involved later as a committee member. A letter to his brother provides a hitherto unknown eyewitness account of the 27 January 1898 gathering called by Kate Lee, as well as an account of the provisional committee meeting of 8 February 1898. A unique copy of the Folk-Song Society prospectus has survived. This article discusses the background of W. H. Gill; his involvement, through A. P. Graves, with the Irish Literary Society, where he became known to Kate Lee; his activities with the Folk-Song Society; and his subsequent involvement in collecting songs in Sussex, the county to which he had retired. There he encountered Henry Burstow, and in 1917 published his Songs of the British Folk.


Amanda MacLean The Sad Fate and Splendid Career of the Trumpeter of Fyvie

The enduring popular appeal of the old Scots ballad 'Mill of Tifty's Annie' is due in part to the traditional belief that it tells a true story. Although scant, evidence from previously known sources supports the historical existence of five of the song's six key characters. The sixth character, the trumpeter Andrew Lammie, has until now been known only from the ballad and its accompanying traditions. Archive documents, however, demonstrate that a man by the name of Andrew Lambie, or Lamb, lived in Scotland throughout the last quarter of the seventeenth century and on into the eighteenth, and that he had the right name, age, profession, and marital status to be the Andrew Lammie of the ballad. Furthermore, he was living in the right place, Edinburgh.

But while the historical evidence supports the ballad story in one way, it contradicts it in another, for in most versions the trumpeter dies of grief soon after the death of his sweetheart in 1673. Rather than relating the bare historical facts, this ending can be understood to satisfy an emotional need for both singer and audience.


Keith Chandler 'Probably the most widely known gipsy for many a mile around': The Life and Musical Activity of Thomas Boswell, aka Tommy 'Gypsy' Lewis (1838–1910)



Debbie Felton

An Early Roman Analogue for the 'Shoe my Foot' Stanzas?

Gordon Ridgewell

The Whorlton Sword Dancers


Reviews — Books

Roy Palmer Hamish Henderson, A Biography, Vol. 2: Poetry Becomes People (1952–2002) (Neat)
E. Bradtke

Sing It Pretty: A Memoir (Hawes)

Working Girl Blues: The Life and Music of Hazel Dickens (Dickens and Malone)

Life Flows On in Endless Song: Folk Songs and American History (Wells)

Simon Furey

Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Dance Music in the Basque Country (Bikandi)(Wood)

Emma Robertson

Work Songs (Gioia)

Máire O'Keeffe

The Definitive Collection of the Music of Paddy O'Brien 1922–1991 (O'Brien)

Jonathan Leach

The Anglo-German Concertina: A Social History (Worrall)

Vic Smith  The Musical Ear: Oral Tradition in the USA (McLucas)
Desi Wilkinson The Musical Traditions of Northern Ireland and its Diaspora (Cooper)
Helen Phelan Oral and Written Transmission in Chant (Kelly)

Sigrid Rieuwerts and Vera Ruttmann

Sookin' Berries: Tales of Scottish Travellers (Smith)

Pilgrims of the Mist: The Stories of Scotland's Travelling People (Stewart)

Margaret Bennett

Folksongs and Folk Revival: The Cultural Politics of Kenneth Peacock's Songs of the Newfoundland Outports (Guigné)


Reviews — CDs


Graeme Kirkham France: Une anthologie des musiques traditionelles
Andy Turner Break Forth in Song! Village Carols from the Blue Ball Inn, Worrall


Reviews — DVDs 

Philip Heath-Coleman The Grenoside Traditional Sword Dancers
Vic Smith

'Ye'll Nae Beat Cullerlie': The Traditional Singing Weekend at Cullerlie, 2008


Reviews — Electronic resources

Michael Heaney Take Six



Ken Hunt Ate Doombosch
Margaret Steiner Edward Dawson (Sandy) Ives


Cover illustration Cartoon of Gustav Holst by William Rothenstein, 1925. Courtesy of Holst Birthplace Museum.

Editor: David Atkinson


National Youth Folk Ensemble

National Youth Folk Ensemble


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