Founder of the folk song re­vival

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CHRISTMAS CAROLS -

For a mu­si­col­o­gist who led the folk song re­vival of the early 1900s, Ce­cil J Sharp was ini­tially re­luc­tant about the no­tion of sav­ing old carols. But once he was per­suaded that “vil­lage carols” were worth their weight in mu­si­cal gold, he con­ceded: “In them [carols] we have a unique pos­ses­sion, a na­tional her­itage of in­es­timable worth.”

When Sharp started lis­ten­ing to folk singers and an­no­tat­ing their tunes in the early 1900s, much of the na­tion’s mu­sic re­lated to Ger­many and its folk mu­sic. He be­lieved that, as our dic­tio­nar­ies in­di­cate the ori­gins of words, the ori­gins of our mu­sic should also be trans­par­ent. He was also con­vinced that Bri­tish com­posers had a lot to learn from our in­dige­nous folk mu­sic.

Sharp founded the English Folk Dance So­ci­ety, sup­ported his fam­ily of five through his col­lect­ing and pub­lish­ing work, and was care­ful not to up­set the Ed­war­dian pub­lic: he did not pub­lish the of­ten bawdy, some­times erotic words of many songs. As a re­sult, Sharp’s work be­came the sub­ject of con­sid­er­able aca­demic squab­bling over both its ve­rac­ity and sources.

He died in 1924 hav­ing lis­tened to more than 350 singers and col­lect­ing al­most 5,000 old tunes, in­clud­ing some 1,500 from the Ap­palachian Moun­tains in North Amer­ica.

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