|Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles, Appalachia ca. 1918|
This week we take up British ballad sources--antecedents to Appalachian songs like Banks of the Ohio and Will the Circle be Unbroken. Many were brought to America by the immigrants who first settled Appalachia. That mountain country being so isolated that the songs--and aspects of their Elizabethan language--were preserved relatively intact for some 200 years. Song collectors like Cecil Sharp (and Francis James Child before him) brought this material to a wider public through the collection and publication of the ballads. See notes below on their work. For our class, Cecil Sharp is the more important, because of his collecting trips in Appalachia in the early 20th century.
S&P Ballads download on box:
Listen carefully to these songs--words and music. (Note that this is the same download we began with last week. It takes some repeated listening--this week with a focus on the relation between the British Ballads and their American counterparts.)
The download has examples of Child Ballads, sung in their American versions (see notes on Child Ballads, below):
Barbry Allen (Child 84) Jean Ritchie
Black Jack Davey (Child 200) Carter Family--and one by Bob Dylan
The House Carpenter (Child 243) Clarence Ashley
Pretty Polly (Child 4) Doc Boggs version, and one by Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson
And several distinctly American ballads from Appalachia (these have a different feel than the Child ballads--they reflect the American experience):
Omie Wise (G.B. Grayson)
Shady Grove (Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson ( (Shady Grove includes some Child Ballad lines)
Sugar Baby (Doc Boggs)
The Wagoner's Lad (Buell Kazee)
John Henry (Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley)
There are also a selection of related songs--including more Carter Family material and two from the anthracite coal miners. Plus one beautiful English ballad, The Lowlands of Holland (pay attention to the story--and the experience it reflects).
|Roscoe Hocomb's Hands, John Cohen photo (detail), 1959|
Recall that some of these songs were included by Harry Smith on his 1952 Folkways Anthology of American Folk music, which brought them to the attention of the 1960s folk revival people. Examples include The Coo Coo (Clarence Ashley), Sugar Baby (Doc Boggs), Omie Wise (G.B. Grayson), and The Wagoner's Lad (Buell Kazee).
Make sure you've read carefully the Norm Cohen article in Reader pps. 33-56 (background on the folk revival).
Here's Mike Yates excellent and detailed article on Cecil Sharp. This is your main reading for the week. Here's the LINK: http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/sharp.htm
For the adventurous, at some point: Nick Tosches in Reader, The Twisted Roots of Rock and Roll, pps. 187-204, which takes one song-- Gypsy Davey, and traces it's winding (and fascinating) history. (Here's a wild card: Woody Guthrie's version: Gypsy Davy - Woody Guthrie - YouTube
Three Songs for this week (you already have these in your S&P CD download and Tan Songsheets) KNOW THESE BY HEART!
Barbara Allen Barbara Allen (Jean Ritchie)
And here's Ollie Gilbert's version: Barbry Allen
Down by the Sally Garden Down by the Salley Gardens (The lyrics are by William Butler Yates, from a traditional melody in the West of Ireland)
Comin' Thro' the Rye Comin' Thro' the Rye (Julie London, in a non-traditional version)
Topics and people to keep in mind:
Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles (Appalachian collecting trip, 1916-18)
Olive Dame Campbell, American folkorist and song collector)
Francis James Child The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1892-1898) (The Child Ballads)
Harry Smith, Anthology of American Folk Music (Folkways Records, 1952)
John Jacob Niles (The Ballad Book of John Jacob Niles, 1960)
|Sharp and Karpeles collecting, ca. 1918|
Note on Cecil Sharp. Cecil Sharp was an English song collector who did work in Britian and America in the early part of the 20th Century. The old ballads were disappearing in the England of his day, so Sharp made a collecting trip to the Appalachian mountains, where (he reasoned) the songs in something of their original form had been preserved for 200 years by the descendents of the original immigrants. Sharp worked with Maud Karpeles, also from England--and collaborated with Olive Dame Campbell (the American song collector and folklorist). Read Mike Yates article on Cecil Sharp: Here's the link again: http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/sharp.htm
Sharp recorded the the songs, in musical transcription. Karpeles recorded the words. (There was no way of doing field audio recordings at the time.) They both kept diaries, which present a picture of their journey and what they encountered. Here's a good BBC documentary on the recent online publication of the diraries:
* BBC News - Audio slideshow: Cecil Sharp's diaries
Sharp also made photographs, which can be found on this site:
* VWML Online :: Introduction to Cecil Sharp's diaries
|Cecil Sharp photo, ca. 1918|
Olive Dame Campbell. Another important figure in the early collecting of Appalachachian songs. Originally from Massachusetts, Campbell made a life working with Appalchian folklore. The songs she gathered, first with her husband, John Campbell, were published in Cecil Sharp's English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians. Campbell was also involved in educational reform, and founded the Southern Highlands Folk Guild--a model for early development of the American Folklore movement. The contemporary film, Songcatcher (2000) is based loosely on Campbell's work--and her connection with Cecil Sharp.
Note on Francis James Child. Child was also a ballad collector, an American scholar whose work preceeded Sharp. Child worked in the 19th century. He focused on the lyrics of the songs (not the music), studying the relationship between their historical variants in England, Scotland (and America). His collection was eventually organized and published (between 1882-1896) as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. There are 305 in all, each one numbered (including variants). Child Ballad themes include "romance, supernatural experiences, historical events, morality, riddles, murder, and folk heroes." Many had their beginnings in medieval times--the legends of Robin Hood and the court of King Arthur.
Here are some Child Ballads lyrics:
* The Elfin Knight (Child 2)
* Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight (Child 4)
and the song in a recent YouTube version: Emilie Faiella - Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight, a Medieval Ballad (with lyrics) - YouTube
* The Bonnie Earl o' Moray (Child 181)
* The Gypsy Laddie (Child 200)
Here's more of Jean Ritchie (there are numerous films of Jean Ritchie because she left Kentucky for New York, working in the Settlement House movement and presenting the songs she'd grown up with to a much wider audience. She also made many records of the Kentucky mountain songs--and their British precursors):
* Jean Ritchie--Barbry Allen - YouTube (also on your S&P CD) (Child 84)
▶ Jean Ritchie - Shady Grove - Rainbow Quest
▶ JEAN RITCHIE - MY DEAR COMPANION - Alan Lomax Footage - YouTube
* House Carpenter Jean Ritchie (Child 243) - YouTube
* Jean Ritchie - O Love Is Teasin' - YouTube
* Pretty Polly Come Go Along With Me - Max Hunter Folk Song Collection Ollie Gilbert
* Barbry Allen - Max Hunter Folk Song Collection Ollie Gilbert
* House Carpenter - Max Hunter Folk Song Collection - Ollie Gilbert
|Cecil Sharp photo, Appalachia, ca. 1918|
As we saw in class, Sharp made photographs on his collecting trips in both England and America. They offer an interesting contrast--consider this. Related to the difference between Child ballads in their European form and American ballads like Omie Wise or The Wagoner's Lad. Or a later American song like Tom Dula.
|Cecil Sharp photo, Devon, England|
Child Ballads in British and European versions:
* Emilie Faiella - Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight, a Medieval Ballad (with lyrics) - YouTube
* Steeleye Span - Lady Isobel And The Elf Knight. Live Video - YouTube
* Wearie's Well punk harp version - YouTube
* The Wife of Usher's Well (Child 79) - (Traditional Scottish) - YouTube
* King Orfeo / Skoven Årle Grön ( Child Ballad 19 ) - YouTube
* Child #2: The Elfin Knight - YouTube
* Elspeth Cowie - The Laird O' Elfin - YouTube
Note for class. This is a lot of material. For your project, work from one of the three songs for the week, together with songs on Ballads download, comparing the Child Ballads with the songs of American origin. Read Mike Yates. The remainder (all worthwhile) you can return to over the next weeks.)
And finally, from the Carter Family--Wildwood Flower (this well-known song has English precedents as well--it's in your tan songsheets, p. 2).
* The Carter Family - Wildwood Flower - YouTube (An earlier filmed version)
* Mother Maybelle Carter - Wildwood Flower - YouTube
(An older Maybelle Carter recalling their first recordings, Johnny Cash television show, 1969-71.
|Maybelle Carter and Family, 1950s television|
These two videos are examples of how the Appalachian songs reached a popular audience through the Grand Ole Opry and other radio (and later television) venues. We could compare Garrison Keeler's Prairie Home Companion of today (intended for a quite different popular audience, however).