Cecil Sharp's Appalachian Diaries 1915 -- 1918
The Country Dance and Song Society is the sponsor of the transcription project, making the American diaries of its founder, Cecil Sharp, widely available to scholars, dancers, and all those interested in traditional American dance and music. CDSS preserves traditional English and American dance, music and song, connects people who enjoy them, and supports communities where they can thrive.
These transcripts were researched and made by Dr. Christopher Bearman and edited and prepared for the website by Kate Faulkner MSc MCLIP.
This project is dedicated to the memory and contributions of
John M. ("Jack") Langstaff
It has been underwritten by:
The Ithaka Foundation
The Langstaff family
William L. Ritchie
The digitisation project is sponsored by The Shanty Crew, Britain's first dedicated sea shanty group, remembering all those who sang with it for thirty years from 1976 onwards.
Cecil James Sharp (1859 - 1924) was England's most prolific folk music and dance collector of what is now widely known as the first folk revival.
Between the time of Sharp's first serious collecting experience in a vicarage garden in August, 1903, until his death on Midsummer Eve, 1924, he amassed a total of 4,977 tunes in England and North America, many of which were published in various forms in order to promote and revive what was perceived to be a fading part of traditional culture.
He was not alone by any means, following as he did the likes of Lucy Broadwood, Frank Kidson and Sabine Baring-Gould, and joining and inspiring others such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, George Gardiner, the Hammond brothers, George Butterworth, Janet Blunt and Anne Gilchrist (much of their work can be seen online here). However, his mission to revive the music placed him very much at the forefront of a movement which has attracted a great deal of attention over the past thirty years, but for which many primary sources have been difficult to access . Here we offer a new and very important resource -- online access to Cecil Sharp's only surviving personal diaries, in which he describes his collecting experiences in the Appalachian Mountains of North America.
How on earth did this asthmatic, 56 year-old vegetarian survive in the heat and altitudes of North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and West Virginia, along with his young assistant, Maud Karpeles? How did he feel when he heard the news of the death of many of the young men of his English Folk Dance Society demonstration team in the trenches? And what did it mean to collect 1,600 tunes from people he considered direct descendants and carriers of British cultural traditions?
For context, please look at Mike Yates' wonderful article on the Musical Traditions website. Even better, buy the EFDSS publication Dear Companion for an equally detailed essay on Sharp in America.
Thanks to Cecil Sharp's grandchildren, Briony Jose and Richard Sharp, for allowing the EFDSS to host the diaries online; to the managers of his estate, Bird & Bird, for helping us find them; to Chris Roche and The Shanty Crew for sponsoring the digitisation project, and The Country Dance and Song Society for sponsoring the transcription project.
To make a donation to the library and archive, contact the Library Director.