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12.02.01 Sharp, Cecil, English Folksongs of the Southern Appalachians, published in 1932.

Notes Concerning the Author

Cecil James Sharp (1923-1924) was the founding father of the folklore revival in England in the early 20th century, and many of England’s traditional dances and music owe their continuing existence to his work in recording and publishing them.  Furthermore, in 1916 he traveled to the southern Appalachian region of the United States and collected approximately 1,600 ballads derived from ancestral British roots.

Our Review

     Those interested in studying mountain balladry should first read Englishman Cecil Sharp’s 1932 publication English Folksongs of the Southern Appalachians. Sharp was a music teacher born in south London, and during the latter part of the nineteenth century he became interested in a cultural heritage preservation movement that began to take form across England. This movement operated as if traditional English culture was quickly dying away. There began a concerted effort to record and chronicle elements of this traditional culture in such a way to preserve some of its meaning for future generations. Sharp began his first collection in 1903 in the county of Somerset. He collected a total of nearly 4800 songs and ballads, nearly 1600 that he gathered in the mountains of the American South. Sharp came to know of American ballad collectors seeking to search the Southern mountains for British ballads, and he decided in the fall of 1915 to travel to the South himself for the purposes of collecting and recording these ballads scientifically. When Sharp arrived in the mountains in the summer of 1916, he spent a total of nine weeks traveling first through the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, and then briefly to Harlan, Kentucky and Charlottesville, Virginia. Although he died in 1924, his book was finally published in 1932. Sharp wrote an informative introduction to this book, and his collection of several predominant ballad texts are scientifically collected and accurately printed. Sharp’s work is simply indispensible. 

For an essay titled, “Some Thoughts on the Study of Mountain Music,” by Alan James Harrelson, go to 21.05.01.

Availability of this Book

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