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At the heart of English folk

Folk Music Journal: Volume 10 Number 3

Volume 10 Number 3 (2013) contains the following pieces 


Paul Dennant The 'barbarous old English jig': The 'Black Joke' in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

This article explores the series of tunes, songs, and dances entitled the 'Black Joke' (or 'Joak'), or similar variant, tracing their origins, distribution, popularity, and influence, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The historical meaning of the word 'joke' as used in the context of this song/tune is investigated. Furthermore, offshoots and variations from the 'Black Joke' tune/song are examined, including the collection of tunes arising from the 'Black Joke' which incorporated the word 'joke' in their title.

Evidence is adduced that the 'Black Joke' became extremely popular from the early eighteenth century, entering many areas of cultural life, including the theatre, both as a lewd song and dance, and ballad operas and songbooks of the day. The tune also became popular in society for country dancing at court, public balls, and masquerades. Additionally, sets of variations on the tune were composed and used as a method of demonstrating musical virtuosity.

'The Black Joke' was published in the eighteenth century both as a country dance and as a bawdy song. It is feasible that the bawdy nature of the song caused the tune to become a signifier for lewdness and, as a consequence, to become extremely popular. Letters, anecdotes, and advertisements in newspapers from the collections of the British Library demonstrate the tune's popularity, distribution, and cultural significance. These newspapers also point to the tune's use in military music, and provide examples of horses and ships named after the tune.


Vic Gammon and Emily Portman Five-Time in English Traditional Song

In this paper we explore the history of the emergence of five-time in collected examples of English traditional song and explore the controversy that they engendered in the twentieth century. We define our research questions through this historical enquiry and we try to settle the controversy that emerged. Early in the essay we give a brief account of the place of five-time within the Western classical music tradition in order to create some understanding of the situation in which the idea of five-time in English folk song emerged.

The key research question that the essay addresses is whether five-time is an imposition on the material gathered by collectors (a kind of fiction) or an observable phenomenon in the performance of English traditional song: was it a reality or some kind of misconception? An answer is attempted through careful listening to a selection of post-1945 recordings of traditional singers, represented as transcriptions.

It is not our ambition to give a comprehensive account of the phenomenon of five-time (or other irregular metres) in English vernacular song, but rather the more modest aim of settling the historical controversy concerning the veracity of five-time in that song tradition. We come to the clear, if qualified, conclusion that a small proportion of songs collected have a five-time base. We are very aware that more research on aspects of this topic is possible and our hope is that the article opens up discussion of an area that has suffered from relative neglect in the past.


Alastair Vannan The Death of Queen Jane: Ballad, History, and Propaganda

Two main ballad traditions survive relating to the death of Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII. One comprises formally composed verse, while the second consists of vernacular ballads that developed through oral tradition. One of the most common themes within these ballads is the suggestion that a caesarean section was employed after a difficult labour, and that this contributed to Jane's death. There has been a great deal of historiographical debate surrounding this topic, which has long been infused with political bias, and the ballads were also influenced by contemporary opinion and ideology. An examination of the historical context reveals that until the early eighteenth century it was commonly accepted that a caesarean section was carried out. However, from the eighteenth century onwards, the prevailing historical view was that the birth had been a natural one and that the rumours of a caesarean section resulted from Catholic propaganda. The surviving historical evidence does not allow us to ascertain with confidence the conditions surrounding Jane's death, but an examination of the ballads in their historical context does provide insights into past understandings of the events and the role of the songs in communicating such ideas.


C.J. Bearman

The Folk-Song Society and the Phonograph

Gordon Ridgewell

The East Holywell Sword Dancers



John Moulden 

Joe Holmes – Here I am amongst you


Reviews — Books

Brian Peters

The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (ed. by Roud and Bishop)

Steve Roud

Bert: The Life and Times of A. L. Lloyd (Arthur)

Michael Heaney

Singing and Dancing Wherever She Goes: A Life of Maud Karpeles (Pakenham)

Irene Shettle

In Search of Song: The Life and Times of Lucy Broadwood (de Val)

Robert Young Walser

Jolly Sailors Bold: Ballads and Songs of the American Sailor (Frank)

Bobbi Bailin

Dancing on the Earth: Women's Stories of Healing through Dance (Leseho and McMaster)

Andy Arleo

ABC, My Grannie Caught a Flea: Scots Children's Songs and Rhymes (McVicar)

Chris Partington

Benjamin's Book: The Complete Country Dance Manuscript of Benjamin Rose (Thompson and Laycock)

David Atkinson

Music and Society in Early Modern England (Marsh)

Elaine Bradtke

Society Dancing: Fashionable Bodies in England, 1870–1920 (Buckland)

Dave Townsend

Twelve Traditional Carols from Herefordshire (ed. by Palmer)

Ray Templeton

Long Lost Blues: Popular Blues in America, 1850–1920 (Muir)

 John Moulden  Bright Star of the West: Joe Heaney, Irish Song Man (Williams and Ó Laoire)
Sigrid Rieuwerts

 Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey through the English Ritual Year (Hannant)


Reviews — CDs 

Martin Graebe

You Never Heard So Sweet

I'm a Romany Rai

Good People, Take Warning

Peta Webb 

The Heart Is True (Sarah Makem)

As I Roved Out (Sarah Makem)

Andy Turner

Mother Jones' Will (Nimrod Workman)

Lyn Murfin

King's Head Folk Club

Come Hand to Me the Glass (George Townshend)


Review — DVD

Graeme Kirkham

Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games



Ed Cray

Tristram Potter Coffin

Len Graham

Sarah Ann O'Neill

Paul J. Stamler 

Arthel Lane ‘Doc’ Watson


Cover illustration William Hogarth, A Rake's Progress, Plate 3. (c) Trustees of the British Museum.

Editor: David Atkinson


National Youth Folk Ensemble

National Youth Folk Ensemble


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