The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #157878 Message #4032222
Posted By: Vic Smith
04-Feb-20 - 12:45 PM
Thread Name: Dave Harker, Fakesong
Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
Brian's comments above and the diary quotations about Sharp meeting Aunt Maria Coombes rang a bell with me and sent me back to the place where I first read them in the introduction to Dear Companion the 2004 book of a selection of songs collected by Sharp in the Appalachians.
The long introductory essay by Mike Yates has many long quotations from the diaries and help to form a well-balanced picture of the way that Sharp presented himself to his informants. He was in bad health throughout these trips and sometimes grumpy as a result but there are also quotations about delighted he was to meet them and to collect and learn from them, even if many of his opinions now seem at odds with modern thinking. I think that the final paragraph is worth quoting in full here:-
Sharp's Appalachian collection is probably his greatest single achievement and he was only able to form it because of his ability to relate so well to the mountain people, to relax in their company, and to put them at their ease. When in 1918 he bid farewell to Mr and Mrs Gibson, singers from Marion, North Carolina, Mrs Gibson told him: 'we like you both - you are so nice and common.' According to Maud Karpeles, Sharp believed this to be the finest compliment that he had ever received; Clearly, Cecil Sharp had a complex personality. Like most of us, he could be angry and upset when things were not going his way. But to the singers he was something special. And only a special person, one with the common touch, could have achieved so much. Instead of finding fault with him, why don't we give praise instead? Without his sincerity, integrity, and determination, this collection would never have been made, and the world would be a poorer place without it.
Sharp's 'common touch' with his singers reminds me of Bob Copper being told by one of the singers that he collected from when working for the BBC in the 1950's that "I'm glad that you turned out to be a man of no consequence, Bob!". It also brought back to mind Bob's account of one of his visits to one of the great singers he collected from, Enos White in Songs & Southern Breezes:-
I always met such kindness at Crown Cottage that I seldom left there empty-handed. The fuchsia, a cake—'specially baked be mother this arfnoon'—a couple of fresh-cut cabbages or a few eggs from the little hen-house at the end of the garden, there was always something waiting for me as I got up to leave. But the most valued treasures I brought away with me were Enos' songs and the memories of the pleasant and inspiring times I had spent in his company. Our friendship was spontaneous and sincere. I don't think I ever tried to put into words my feeling for Enos but if I had how could I possibly have matched his sincerity and eloquence, 'I likes you, Bob. You're sech a happy man. I wish you'd come round y'ere and bide along o' we.' Had Enos the gift of second sight? His wish was to become very close to being granted.
Finally on Sharp, one thing that Brian and I have discussed on a number of occasions is what a brilliant photographer Sharp was and how he manages to catch so much of his subject whether it is the singers and other mountain people or the scenes that capture so vividly a vanished way of life.