The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #19291   Message #195958
Posted By: Tony in Darwin
16-Mar-00 - 05:56 AM
Thread Name: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
Subject: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
'(One of)...the chief musical events of the (late Victorian) period...(was)...the rescue and recording of English folk-song at the last moment before universal standardization education would have obliterated it...

The first serious collector of English folk-songs had been the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, a Devonshire parson of the old highly cultivated type, who besides writing some successful novels and two of the best-known modern English hymns (Onward, Christian soldiers and Now the day is over), published in 1889 a collection of songs and tunes obtained from old singers in his native county. Before him it had been widely assumed that (save perhaps on the Scottish border) the English people, unlike the Germans, Scots, Welsh and Irish, had no folk-songs worth mentioning. His discoveries were quickly followed by others in other parts of England. Collections by W.A.Barrett, F.Kidson, and Lucy Broadwood (with J.A.Fuller-Maitland) appeared within four years; and in 1898 the English Folk-Song Society was founded. Yet all this was but preliminary to the main effort.

About 1903 the Rev C.L.Marson, vicar of Hambridge in Somerset, discovered folk-songs among his parishioners, and in 1904 he brought down a musical friend from London, Cecil Sharp (1859-1924), to record them. The back parts of pastoral Somerset were then - with similar parts of Lincolnshire - probably the most isolated in England. Sharp recorded nearly one hundred folk-songs in Hambridge alone, and by Marson's aid he was enabled to collect a great many more in the regions round. Five volumes edited by Marson and himself were the result. Thenceforward he made folk-music his life-work. Besides songs he collected dances; and having mastered the old dance notation proceeded (after 1906) to launch the folk-dance movement also. In these ways a unique and precious heritage of the English people, both in music and dance, was saved from extinction within the narrowest possible margin of time.

In the story of its rescue Sharp's name leads all the rest, for his wonderful energy and enthusiasm put him easily at the head of the achievment. But the first initiatives, it will be seen, came, as was almost inevitable in those days, from the cultivated country clergy. Had the work been done a century earlier, it might have made a contribution to English literature as well as to music. But words corrupt more easily than tunes; and the versions in which they survived, at that late stage in the dissolution of English country life, were mostly of little interest save to ballad specialists.'

from 'England, 1870 - 1914' by R.C.K.Ensor, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, Oxford University Press, Ely House, London W.1, 1936, pp544-5.

See also the excellent info at:

Now, although this was about Rev. S. Baring-Gould, there will doubtless be an onslaught of derisive comments about what a bastard Cecil Sharp was, and how I could dare to mention his name in the same (type-written & quoted) breath as the Rev. Sabine etc.
And fair enough too - in some circles Sharp is thought to be more a bowdleriser than a collector, and that English folk-heritage suffered from his censorship of less-than-wholesome thoughts...

Let the battle commence! [BG]