Today, 22nd November, is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Cecil Sharp the collector of English folk songs and dances.
Sharp collected nearly 5,000 tunes in England and North America and published them to promote and revive traditional folk culture. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes his contribution thus: “He had a major influence on the English musical renaissance, on music and movement education, and on the cultural awareness of the English.”
By all accounts he was a difficult man “quick to take offence and difficult to placate” but this was in some way offset by his “enthusiasm and inspiration which he communicated in his lecturing and teaching”.
The ODNB again: “Sharp’s physical monument is the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s headquarters, Cecil Sharp House, in Camden Town, London, but his true monument is the corpus of song and dance he collected and transmitted through his publications and the society.”
From lunchtime today, the EFDSS, are publishing online Sharp’s only surviving personal diaries. These were written between 1915 – 1918) and include descriptions of his collecting experiences in the Appalachian Mountains of North America.
And so on to the music. From among the many songs and tunes collected by Cecil Sharp that I have in my collection, I have chosen The New Mown Hay from Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick’s 1992 album Skin & Bone. This song was collected by Cecil Sharp when he recorded Alfred Edghill in a wax cylinder in 1907. The original recording can be heard at the British Library Archival Sound Recordings.