News items of interest to TSF members 


Because of the current situation, meetings of the Traditional Song Forum have had to be postponed. To replace them and to keep in touch with TSF members we are planning to hold a series of Online meetings until it is possible to meet in person again. A special page has been created which will contain the details of these meetings.

Online Meetings Page

Other news

TSF meeting in Swindon, 25 April 2020 and The Folk Voice Conference, Sheffield 6 June 2020
We are very sorry that both of these events have had to be postponed because of the CV-19 pandemic. We hope that it will be possible to re-arrange both the meeting and the conference at a later date. Watch these pages for further news.
[Modified 18 Mar 2020]

Friends of TSF
Our January appeal to become (or continue as) Friends of TSF has been very successful and we are immensely grateful to all of the 19 members who, between them, have contributed £440 to support TSF projects. It is not, of course, too late to become another of our friends and to help us to continue to support traditional song through our activities.
[Added 26 Feb 2020]

Broadside Day 2021
No sooner have we recovered from a very enjoyable Broadside Day at Cecil Sharp House last weekend than Steve Roud is telling us about next year’s event which is to be held on Saturday 20 Feb 2021, at the School of History and Culture, University of Birmingham, and co-hosted by the Centre for Print History and Cultures. The call for papers will go out in the summer.
[Added 26 Feb 2020]

Robert Anderson, ‘The Cumberland Bard’
A new book on Robert Anderson, the Balladeer of Carlisle will be launched next weekend. This is from the keyboard of Sue Allan, and you can download the press release HERE – including details of how to buy it. Essential reading before our meeting in Carlisle on 21 November.
[Added 26 Feb 2020]

Website of the Month – February 2020
Another TSF member, David Sutcliffe, has also been busy and has just launched his website, You can also download David’s press release here, which will tell you how it came into being – go HERE. The site is about the people Sharp met and you can search to obtain a brief biography, often accompanied by a photograph, or you can search for a location. Personally, I found the alphabetical directories of singers and of places particularly useful. This is a fine piece of work by someone who, like Sue mentioned above, has been working away at their chosen areas for many years – well done both!
[Added 26 Feb 2020]

Traditional Tunes and Popular Airs Conference
The third Traditional Tunes and Popular Airs Conference will take place at Cecil Sharp House, London on Saturday 10th  and Sunday 11th October 2020. You can find a copy of the call for papers HERE. Submissions are needed by 29th  February, 2020

Website of the Month – January 2020
The University of Virginia Library has created an online collection of 173 early folksong recordings created between 1932 and 1938 by the Virginia Folklore Society (VFS). These were recorded on aluminium discs – one of the earliest folksong collection projects in North America to use the then-new grooved disc technology. There are some very interesting songs here from singers such as Texas Gladden – You can access the collection HERE.   
[Added 27 Jan 2020]

A message from our Chairman, Steve Roud
We have had another highly successful year. In terms of physical meetings, we have travelled hither and yon – the Broadside Day conference was at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, our regular TSF meetings were in Ely in Cambridgeshire, and Belfast in Northern Ireland, and we had an excellent two-day event specifically devoted to the musical side of things in Sheffield.

It sounds like a cliché, but everywhere we go we meet new people who are interested in some aspect of traditional song and music, and we remind ourselves why the TSF was formed in the first place. I really do come away from each one informed and enthused, and judging by the networking and flurries of emails which follow each event, others do too.

Next year’s programme is already taking shape, and will be equally busy: with Broadside Day in London in February, TSF meetings in Swindon in the spring, and Carlisle in the autumn, and, we hope, a conference on ‘The Folk Voice’ in early summer. We will also be supporting other events, such as the EFDSS Tunes conference in London in October.

The Friends of TSF scheme, which was launched earlier this year, has been successful, and the kind donations from individuals are critical to expanding our range of activities and the locations in which we are able to meet. 

Doing away with the membership fee for TSF has encouraged new people to join us. In fact, we now have twice as many members as we had in 2018, and our numbers continue to grow.

Earlier in the year, we were approached by Gabriela Henriquez, a young undergraduate from El Salvador, studying musicology at the University of Salamanca, to see if we could offer some sort of work experience or internship during the summer. We had not foreseen such a thing, but we thought ‘why not?’, and Gaby spent several weeks over here transcribing music from the Baring-Gould collection, and working on previously unknown broadsides in Cambridge University Library. She is now applying to British and Irish universities to study enthnomusicology. Which got us to thinking that we are always talking about how to get young people interested and involved, and maybe we could do this again, or even offer help, in a small way, with the expenses to attend meetings or conferences. More on that anon.

As always, thanks to all those who have organised events and given presentations at our meetings. Also, to Doc Rowe for his treasuring, and particularly to Martin and Shan who do all the hard work and keep us going.

Merry Christmas – and I look forward to seeing many of you again in the New Year.
Steve Roud.  [Added 20 Dec 2019]

Plans for the coming year
Plans for events in 2020 are coming along nicely. Our first meeting of the year will be held on 25 April 2020 in Swindon, on the doorstep of the Great Western Railway Works where Alfred Williams operated a steam hammer, and which was the centre for his forays around the Upper Thames Valley. Williams will, of course, be featured in the meeting but we are scouring the West Country for other possibilities for the day. If you have something that you would like to be included, please get in touch. The meeting venue is within walking distance of the mainline station and has private parking. There will be a programme of other activities for the weekend. 

On 21 November 2020 we will head to the north of England for our first meeting in Carlisle, where Sue Allan is putting together a programme reflecting folk song in the region. More detail on this will emerge in the coming months.

We are hoping that we will be able to organise a conference in the early summer – ‘The Folk Voice’. Having had a number of events focusing on collectors and on tunes we believe that it is appropriate to look at singers and the performance of songs. We hope that date and venue will be confirmed soon. We are planning that this, like the Tunes Conference we organised last year, will be a low-cost event at a readily accessible venue.

And, before any of that happens, we start the TSF year with the Broadside Day in London on 22 February. Details and Tickets HERE.
Website of the Month – December 2019
Carrie Grover was born in Nova Scotia in 1879, surrounded by traditional song. When she was 14 the family moved to Maine, but Carrie continued to sing the songs of her birthplace until she died in 1959. A book of her songs, A Heritage of Songs, was published in the early 1950s and she left an unfinished manuscript of songs when she died. Now Julie Mainstone Savas has put together a website celebrating Carrie Grover’s life and her songs – The Carrie Grover Project, []. As well as a detailed account of the life of the singer (and fiddler), there are PDFs of her family songs, as well as two well-made podcasts by Savas about the project, Grover, her songs and the context. These include some recordings of Grover, recorded by Alan Lomax.

As a bonus (and to make up for not having included the ‘Website of the Month’ feature in these newsletters as regularly as I should) I would like to go back to the blog of the American Folklife Centre, which I have mentioned before. Here you can find an excellent pair of articles by Steve Winnick, describing how Paul Brady discovered Carrie Grover’s version of ‘Arthur McBride’ in a copy of her book and took it back to Ireland where it became a regular feature in his performances with Planxty and with Andy Irvine. It has also been picked up by many other performers. This is a great study of the way in which a song has made its way into the revival repertoire and reinforces the value of this blog. You can find the first article HERE and there is a link at the end of it to the second.  [Added 20 Dec 2019]

How Folk Songs Should Be Sung
If you are interested in what the Critics Group got up to then you should listen to this programme, introduced by Martin Carthy, which uses Charles Parker’s recordings of their meetings to reveal something of what went on. You can find it on the BBC ‘Sounds’ website for at least the next year.
Go HERE.   [Added 28 Nov 2019]

Autumn Meeting – Belfast, 19 Oct 2019
The Belfast meeting was a great success, with over 70 members and visitors attending. While the majority were from Ireland we were glad that so many members from England chose to make the journey. It was much appreciated by our Irish colleagues and the exchange of information (and songs!) was of real interest and value. The notes of the meeting can be downloaded HERE.   [Added 27 November 2019]

Future meetings
We are now planning the TSF meetings for 2020. A number of possibilities are being looked into. We are also looking at the possibility of organising a conference during the year, looking at traditional song performance and performers. Details of these events will be announced in the next few weeks.   [Added 27 November 2019]

Broadside Day
The provisional programme for the 2020 Broadside Day at Cecil Sharp House, London on 22 February has now been announced and includes:

Colin Bargery
Gone to Weave by Steam: The impact of steam power on social structure and mores in the textile industry of north west England as reflected in broadside ballads

Catherine Ann Cullen
“Punks, Pretty Novices and Persecuted Virgins: Nuns in Broadside Ballads from the Glorious Revolution to the Nunneries Inspection Bill”

Lydia Fash
“The Dying Words of Captain Kidd,” a Ballad for the Maritime Worker

Leo De Frietas
A study of the unique collection of printing wood blocks used in the street literature of Newcastle now in the Special Collections Library of McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

Martin Graebe
Chesapeake and Shannon: The view from both sides

David Hopkin
Broadsides in 19th century Flanders

Wyn James
Ballad printing in the Vale of Glamorgan

Gary Kelly
“Fairburn’s Edition”: From the Old to the New Street Literature. John Fairburn, Sr. and Jr., The Minories and Ludgate Broadway, London—Reconstructing a Sixpenny Publisher and Their Plebeian Readership

Michael King Macdona
Broadside ballads relating to Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated attempt to find the North-West Passage and their effect on the ‘oral tradition’

Elisa Marazzi
Children and Transnational Popular Print, 1700-1900 (a European Dimensions of Popular Printed Culture research project)

Peter Wood
The role of broadsides in the transmission of the broken token songs

More details are on the VWML ‘Events’ page where you can also order your tickets for the day.   [Added 29 November 2019]

Opie Archive of Children’s Lore online
Iona and Peter Opie were seminal figures in the British folklore scene for many years, but are mostly remembered for their work on children’s folklore from the 1950s to the 1990s. Their huge manuscript collection is held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and a project has been underway to digitise the materials, catalogue them, and present them online. Not all the material is yet available, but an impressive start has been made, and can be seen at: Much of the material is in the handwriting of the children themselves. The website was officially launched at an afternoon conference held at the offices of Oxford University Press on 15th November to celebrate the 60 years anniversary of the Opies’ hugely influential Lore and Language of Schoolchildren,  and 50 years of Children’s Games in Street and Playground.   [Added 27 November 2019]

George Butterworth – All My Life’s Buried Here
Many of you will have seen the film made by Stewart Morgan Hajdukiewicz about the life and work of George Butterworth. If you haven’t, or if you want to see it again you will be pleased to hear that it has been released as a DVD and Blu-Ray disk. The film will come with additional material including interviews, some recordings of songs from Butterworth’s collection, and a booklet containing specially commissioned articles about Butterworth. The video is on sale through from 30 November for £15.95 (DVD) and £19.00 (Blu-Ray) plus postage in each case. You can download more details Butterworth DVD.
[Added 27 November 2019]

Website of the month – November 2019
Clicking my way around the world I discovered the Thomas Fisher Chapbook Collection – This is just one part of the massive Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto. It contains 725 English and Scottish chapbooks, many of which contain stories but there are also several useful collections of songs – if you have the time to find them.   [Added 27 November 2019]

The Magnetic Tape Alert Project
Andrew Pace has written to tell me about the Magnetic Tape alert project, which he believes will be of interest to those TSF members who have recordings they have made in the past. The Project forms part of UNESCO’s Information For All Project (IFAP). You can find more details about the project HERE. Please note that the deadline for finishing the project is quite short, so please respond soon.   [Added 19 July 2019]

Tunes Conference
The Conference ‘Traditional Tunes and Popular Airs: Transmission, Persistence, and Transformation’ was held in Sheffield 8 – 9 June  and was a great success. TSF had agreed to underwrite any loss incurred by the conference but the event broke even. It is an undoubted advantage of the way TSF works that we can put on free events of this kind. But we rely on the expert organisational skills of people like Julia Bishop and Becky Dellow who gave up a lot of time to make sure that the event succeeded. We are very grateful to them.   [Added 19 July 2019]

Song Resources on the Internet
This document, listing a number of useful resources on the internet, has been updated and can now be found through the ‘Resources’ tab.
[Added 1 May 2019]

Sam Henry, Songs of the People
A BBC television documentary was recently aired in Northern Ireland about the song collector, Sam Henry. I strongly recommend that you watch it. One of the first faces you will see is that of John Moulden and there are many other well-known figures involved in the story. I was delighted to see (and hear) Len Graham, who talked at the meeting we held in Dublin a few years ago. Watch this and I am sure that you will start to make your plans to come along to the Belast meeting for more of this wonderful material. It is on BBC iPlayer but only until 21 May 2019. There is also an associated concert featuring songs from the Sam Henry collection on iPlayer.
[Added 29 Apr 2019]

Website of the month – April 2019
I am conscious that I haven’t put up a website of the month for a while – please send me some more! By chance I revisited The Kent State University Street Ballads of Victorian England website. It is in the Song Resources list on, but when I wrote up the entry for it in 2016 I said that it was a shame that more of the ballads had not been digitised. Well, now they have completed all 175 items, and a wonderful collection it is too! Head along here if you have a bit of time to spare, because there are some really interesting songs to explore.   [Added 29 Apr 2019]

The Friends of the Traditional Song Forum
We are pleased to say that contributions to the ‘Friends of the Traditional Song Forum’ Scheme continue to arrive and that we have, since the beginning of the year, raised £450 to support our efforts to promote traditional song. Details of the ‘Friends of TSF’ scheme can be found on our website –
[Updated 31 Mar 2019]

Message from the Chair – December 2018

This has been another good year for the Traditional Song Forum. We have weathered the storm of GDPR, and the loss of members that we had as a result has been more than made up by the number of new people who have signed up since. This has been helped by the decision to stop charging an annual subscription, and we will shortly be launching the ‘Friends of TSF’ scheme which will provide some income to support our meetings and projects. We have had two excellent TSF meetings in 2019, one in London and the other in Newcastle, as well as a very successful Broadside Day in Cambridge. These meetings reveal the extraordinary amount of research being carried out by TSF members and several of them gave papers at the Song Conference organised by EFDSS in November. I will look forward to seeing more of this excellent work in 2019.

I’d particularly like to thank all those who have acted as local organisers for our meetings, and Martin Graebe, our Secretary, for keeping it all together. And I would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year

Steve Roud (TSF Chairman)

10 Dec 2018

Tune Analysis – Gapped Scales
There has been a very interesting discussion taking place on the ‘Tradsong’ group about Gapped Scales and modality in folk tunes. I thought that Members might like to have access to the conversation as an ‘omnibus’ document. You can download it here.   [Added 9 Dec 2018]

Friends of TSF Scheme
We plan to roll out the details of the ‘Friends of TSF’ Scheme at the Newcastle meeting. When we decided to move away from a subscription model for membership we realised that funding for our activities would rely on the donations that we received. The Friends of TSF Scheme will enable those who feel strongly about the value of TSF to contribute whatever amount they feel appropriate and whenever they feel it appropriate.   [Added 3 Sep 2018]

Notes on the April Meeting in London:
Long-time members of TSF will be accustomed to my frequent apologies that the notes of a meeting are late, followed by a ‘the dog ate my homework’ style of explanation. After the April meeting I surprised myself by writing up the meeting notes in only three weeks. I am embarrassed to realise that I then forgot to send them out, or to put them online. Sorry – you can now download the meeting notes HERE[Added 2 Aug 2018]



Downloads or links:
Which leads me to another sort of apology or, at least, clarification. I have had a number of people complain to me that ‘… so-and-so link doesn’t work’. I think I have figured out what is going on. Sometimes the hyperlinks (the blue clicky things) I create in these and other documents are links to a page on this or another website. Many – probably the majority – of the hyperlinks are to a document or image that downloads to your computer. How your computer handles these depends on the software that you are using and how it is set up. The document may open immediately in a new window or in another piece of software. It may, equally have downloaded itself to your ‘Downloads’ folder. If a hyperlink doesn’t appear to do anything, please check your downloads folder and you should find it waiting for you there. I will, in future give links to web pages in full or use a shortened form that makes its nature clear.   [Added 2 Aug 2018]

A New Book:
Dave Harker has just brought out a new book, Billy Purvis, the First Professional Geordie. In this book he describes Purvis’s life and work as a showman and describes the way in which he influenced later performers like Ned Corvan. It costs £15, plus £4 postage. If you would like a copy, then drop a line to Dave at 11 Ouseburn Wharf, St. Lawrence Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE6 1BY. Dave will be one of the speakers at our meeting in Newcastle on 20 October – he will probably have some books with him!  [Added 2 Aug 2018]

And another in the offing:
Steve Roud and David Atkinson are planning another publication on. Street literature. They write:
We are acutely aware that in the recent upsurge of interest in, and publication about, cheap print and street literature, the early modern period is getting a great deal of attention, and the nineteenth century is also being gradually opened up for scrutiny. But the gaping hole in our knowledge is the eighteenth century.
 Our plan, therefore, is a new volume of essays, composed of a mixture of full chapters and shorter case-studies, on aspects of the subject in Britain and Ireland, which we hope will break new ground and be a welcome addition to the literature.
If anyone might be interested in contributing – please contact us. And if you know of someone else who might be interested, please spread the word.
Contact or
[Added 2 Aug 2018]

Holst’s Somerset Rhapsody:I reported on the discovery of the original manuscript of Gustav Holst’s ‘Somerset Rhapsody’ (based on tunes from Cecil Sharp’s collection) in New Zealand in the July Newsletter. You may be interested to know that the Bay Of Plenty Symphonia have now given the manuscript to the Holst Birthplace Museum in Cheltenham.   
[Added 2 Aug 2018]

TSF Website of the Month – August 2018
You may well be aware of the work of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. You may not have come across the ‘Folklife Today’ Blog that is updated regularly by Folklife Centre staff (notably Steve Winnick) – is a treasure trove of outstanding articles on folklife, including song. If you visit the blog you can see the 500thpost on the blog which examines AF500 – a disk recorded by Alan Lomax when he visited the Bahamas and the sponge fishers of the Andros Islands. Steve Winnick’s article describes the recording and its background, also managing to bring in the Grateful Dead and the Incredible String Band. It includes some of Lomax’s recordings, which make for very interesting listening.

You should also have a look at which you can read the text of the speech that Jennifer Cutting made at the ‘40,000 Miles in Quest of Tradition: A Celebration of Carpenter Folk Online’ event at Cecil Sharp House in March. Jennifer is another of the stalwarts of the American Folklife Centre and gained her MA in ethnomusicology at Kings College as a pupil of A.L. Lloyd. You may like to read the article in the current issue (Issue 125) of The Living Traditionmagazine about Jennifer’s work as a composer and musician.

Holst’s ‘Somerset Rhapsody’
In an article I wrote for the 2011 Folk Music Journal(Gustav Holst, Songs of the West, and the English Folk Song Movement) I described how, in 1906, Gustav Holst, at Cecil Sharp’s suggestion and with his help, created Two Selections of Folk Songs, based on songs from the collections of Sharp and Baring-Gould and titled (respectively) ‘A New Selection of Songs from Somerset’ and ‘A New Selection of Songs of the West’. Holst was not happy with either of the two selections and reworked both. The Somerset selection, relaunched in 1910, became the very successful Somerset Rhapsody. The selection of Baring-Gould’s songs was re-worked as Fantasie on Folk Songs – Songs of the West, but was only performed twice before Holst withdrew it. In more recent years it has been reborn as a piece for wind band called simply Songs of the West. The original score of the Devonshire piece is in the British Library but, because Holst cut and pasted the score we do not have a copy of the original orchestration. The original orchestration for the Somerset selection was also thought to have been lost. Until, that is, it recently turned up in New Zealand.
It was in July last year that I heard from Bronya Dean of the Bay of Plenty Symphonia. They had been clearing out their filing cabinet when they came across two handwritten scores – ‘Folk Songs from Somerset’ and ‘Two Songs Without Words’. While the prize might be considered the former, the second piece is also of interest as it was an attempt by Holst to write in a style that emulated folk song. It is not clear how the manuscripts made their way to Tauranga, but there is a possible connection to Adrian Boult, who was given copies of these pieces by Holst.
In April 2018 the orchestra performed these two pieces for the first time in over a Century. ‘Folk Songs from Somerset’ was drastically reduced – in his 1910 reworking Holst used only three of the original ten tunes in the 1906 composition. And there is no doubt, in my mind at least, that it is the better piece. But I would encourage you to have a listen to the earlier version and hear how the ‘Rhapsody’ evolved from the ‘Selection’.  – you can hear it, as played by the Bay of Plenty Symphonia, on YouTube – here. [Added 10 July 2018]

English Dance and Song
The article about the Traditional Song Forum in the Summer 2018 issue of English Dance and Song magazine has attracted a lot of interest and we have had some new sign-ups as a result. With the same issue EDS included a questionnaire asking for people’s views on the magazine and its content. The questionnaire is also available online ( – you might like to make your views known.  [Added 12 Jun 2018]

Annotated Discography of Peter Kennedy’s Recordings
After Peter Kennedy’s death more than a decade ago, the files associated with his recordings were passed to the British Library, in the hope that researchers wanting to understand his work better would be able to make use of them.
Reg Hall has been working with the files for many years and the result of his work has now been published as a 352 page PDF document: Peter Kennedy’s Published Recordings Of British & Irish Traditional Music And Related Material: An Annotated Discography.This is a very interesting and important publication that reveals much about the work of Peter Kennedy and some of his colleagues in the early days of collecting using sound recording.
You can read and download Reg Hall’s publication at   [Added 12 Jun 2018]

Paul Marsh
We were saddened to hear that Paul Marsh had died. He was a very active supporter of traditional song and singings and I asked his friend, Steve Roud, to write a few words about him.

Steve Roud (24th April 2018)
It was a complete shock to everyone in our field when Paul’s death was announced on 23rd April 2018. He was a stalwart of the traditional music scene in Hampshire for decades, a founder member of the TSF, and liked and respected by everyone he came in contact with.
He was only 67.
I first met Paul when I moved to Hampshire in 1975, and we very quickly became firm friends and comrades. I was particularly interested in Mumming Plays at the time, and as his uncle Tom had been in the Otterbourne gang, we started a project to collect all we could find about the custom in the county. Paul instigated the revival of the play, and performances still take place every year.
We met Mervyn Plunkett, at that time a ‘retired’ collector (although there was nothing ‘retiring’ about him) and a few years in his company provided a baptism of fire in all things traditional for both of us. Paul got on well with everyone, and older traditional musicians in particular recognised him as a kindred spirit. He was a fine singer, melodeon, mouthorgan and bones player.
Paul soon realised that his particular area of interest and expertise was sound recordings. Not only did he make recordings of numerous sessions when the rest of us were too busy making a noise, but he made strenuous efforts to gather other collections that were in danger of being lost or forgotten. He was acutely aware of the fact that traditional song and music exists in the moment, and if not recorded in some way is lost forever.
For me, most of his tangible legacy is therefore in the soundscape of our field, although so often working in the background that his contribution is easy to miss. He revived the local record label Forest Tracks, did digitisation work for Musical Traditions and Topic, carried out most of the work for the Topic tribute to Harry Cox, The Bonny Labouring Boy,which involved extensive research into Harry’s life. And many people trusted him to look after their old tapes and their memories.
The last thing we worked on together was digitising and cataloguing Ken Stubbs’ collection for VWML Online, and Brian Matthews’ tapes for Sussex Traditions, and we had great plans to make safe allthe private sound collections from southern England and make them available.
These are just the things I was involved in, but there were countless other projects with other people, and his digitisation skills were in constant demand – too constant, perhaps, as he never felt he was achieving enough. But he has let me down at last. We often joked about what he would say (and what embarrassing recordings he would play) at my funeral, and I was relying on him to remember those great times we had. We will miss him on many levels.  [Added 24 Apr 2018]

TSF Data Protection Policy and Privacy Statement
You may have received messages from other organisations you belong to, asking you to update your consent for them to hold your contact data and use it to send you information or to manage your membership. This is because of new regulations taking effect in May 2018 about data storage and use which affect all organisations big and small – or even tiny! Penalties for non-compliance are worryingly severe and we  are taking this seriously.
We have prepared a Privacy Statement and a Data Protection Policy which you can find on the TSF FAQs page – click on the tab above. What we need now is for you to give us permission to hold and use your personal information in the ways described in those documents. To do this would you please download, complete and return this form either by post or by e-mail to
We will not be able to communicate with you after May 2018 if you do not give us your permission to do so, please Do It Now before it slips your mind. [Added 23 Mar 2018]

TSF Membership – a big change!
We have been thinking about the way in which you become members of TSF and about the subscriptions that you pay. We have come to believe that even at the very low level that we have been asking, payment is a barrier that prevents some people from joining (or renewing their membership). Our aim was always that TSF would be an inclusive organisation and we believe that the best way to attract and maintain an active membership is to stop asking for an annual subscription. 
We will still need to raise money to support our activities and we propose to do that by creating the Friends of the Traditional Song Forum. Those who choose to become a friend will agree to make an annual donation that goes into our funds. We aim to set up a system where Friends can choose a level of annual donation: £2, £5, £10, £15 or more. We will develop a mechanism for doing this over the next few weeks, and we will then get back to you with the details but if you wish to join the Friends of TSF please drop me a message and I will get back to you when we have got ourselves organised.
If you have already paid your subscription for 2018 we would like to consider you a friend – but please let us know if you do not wish to formally become a Friend of TSF.
I hope that you will welcome this move and choose to continue to support us in the coming years. After careful consideration we think that by doing this we will give everyone an opportunity to support TSF financially according to their means – or not at all, if they choose. [Added 23 Mar 2018]



A new book and another being planned
As if to demonstrate the point above, that new books are emerging at an amazing rate, David Atkinson has sent me new of his latest publication and news of his next venture. The new book is called The Ballad and its Pasts, Literary Histories and the Play of Memory  and you can find more details at You can use the offer code BB125 at the checkout should get 25% off. David adds tat, if enough people are interested, he may be able to offer a bigger discount at the TSF meeting on 28 April.
His next project, working with Steve Roud, is another book about broadsides, this time covering Continental Europe. He writes:
A few years ago, we initiated a series of volumes devoted to the history of Street Literature and Cheap Print in Britain, and have so far edited two collections of essays which have been well received. For our next volume, we are hoping for a Europe-wide focus, and we would like to compile a collection of essays, each devoted to a particular European country, region, or language-area. We think that this would be both interesting and instructive for students and researchers in this field. All chapters will be in English and should constitute a historical overview of the subject in the chosen area, or, if more appropriate, a case study of a particular section of the trade. Length: 5,000 – 10,000 words. We are in the early planning stages, but we would hope to publish in early 2019. We are more interested in historical periods than in present-day manifestations. From a British perspective, we define Street Literature as comprising cheap printed materials, aimed at the lower or working classes, sold in streets, at fairs, from travelling pedlars’ packs, in local shops, and so on. Our material obviously has affinities with other printed materials such as leaflets, proclamations, handbills, advertisements, and so on, but it is the selling aspect which is the basic definitional element. In Britain, our main categories are single-sheet broadsides, chapbooks (double-sided single sheet folded to make a crude book), cheap illustrative items such as woodcuts, engravings, etc., and the subjects covered are many – ballads, tales, political and religious comments, jokes, fortune-telling, news and fake news, and so on. But we are of course aware that in other countries other definitions might apply.
We would be pleased to hear from anyone who might be willing to contribute to this project, so please pass this message on to anyone you think might be interested. Contact David Atkinson ( or Steve Roud (   [Updated 23 Mar 2018]

New book at a discounted price for TSF members
Oskar Cox Jensen is one of the editors of an interesting new book  ‘Charles Dibdin & Late Georgian Culture’, published by OUP at £55. He has kindly provided a code that will make it possible for TSF members to buy the book with a 30% discount. For more details download the Charles Dibdin Flyer which will give you the code.  [Added 5 Mar 2018]

Baring-Gould’s Songs of the West on Project Gutenberg
On 22 February Lewis Jones put out a short message on Tradsong to say that the 1905 edition of Sabine Baring-Gould’s Songs of the West had been published on the Project Gutenberg website – I have also heard from Linda Cantoni who is a member of the project team who prepared the book for online publication. I wanted to add to Lewis’s message because I believe that the way in which Project Gutenberg have implemented the digitisation of the book is a leap forward from similar exercises in the past.
The book appears as a mixture of newly prepared text and images of the original music. The first item that comes up after the title page are two indices, the first by its place in the book and the second alphabetical. Each index entry has a hyperlink to the song image and text. The indices are followed by Baring-Gould’s Preface and Introduction. In the latter you will find that, if a song is mentioned, the title is hyperlinked to the song.
Between the image of the music and the song text there are three links for each song. The first plays the music. I am pleased to discover that it is not just the melody that is played but the arrangement as well, though the melody is voiced in such a way that it can be heard plainly above the accompaniment. The second link is to the XML coding for the music and the third to Baring-Gould’s note on the song (The notes appear at the end of the book and have links to take you back to the song again).
This is a well thought-through piece of work that makes great use of digital technology to add value to the traditional book form. In the 1905 edition of Songs of the West the majority of the arrangements were by Cecil Sharp. Several of Henry Fleetwood Sheppard’s arrangements were retained from the earlier editions, as well as a few by Frederick Bussell. This gives us the opportunity, through the playback, to hear the approach of each of these three musicians – though a direct comparison of Sharp’s arrangements with those that Sheppard composed for the same song is not possible.
Well done to Project Gutenberg for this excellent piece of work. And thank you, Lewis, for drawing our attention to it.

Addition: Linda Cantoni wrote to me again after I posted this and I thought I would share her description of the process that they go through with you:
The ‘Songs of the West’ project was the brainchild of a Cornishman, Chris Curnow, who volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders, He provided the image scans and OCR text. DP volunteers then proofread and formatted the text in several rounds “one page at a time” (part of our slogan). I’m one of a handful of music transcribers at DP who’s also qualified to “post-process” a project, i.e., finalize it by doing last checks, then creating the plaintext, HTML, and mobile e-book versions. So Chris asked me to take it on. I used Finale 25 and a midi keyboard to create the sound files. It took a couple of years to complete, but that was in part because “real life” got in the way at times and I had to take breaks.
We have produced some other large music projects, but because we don’t have a lot of volunteers who are capable of transcribing music, we haven’t done that many. You might be interested in the two volumes of D’Urfey’s Pills that we’ve done (Vol. 5 is at, and Vol. 6 is at – even though the Rev. Baring-Gould thought D’Urfey’s work was, let us say, crass.
You mentioned the accompaniment. I have to say that I was absolutely delighted with the quality of the arrangements made by Baring-Gould’s co-authors. I’ve worked on quite a few 19th-Century books with songs, and all too often the accompaniment is unsatisfyingly simplistic or just not very good. These were a joy to transcribe.
And I thought that you might like to know about another small treasure on the Project Gutenberg website that I discovered while doing a search for Lucy Broadwood, for which Linda also did the music transcriptions. Have a look at
[Updated 27 Feb 2018]

Percy Grainger recordings online
Janet Topp Fargion has written from the British Library with exciting news about the debut of the folk song recordings made by Percy Grainger in the British Library’s ‘Sounds’ Archive as a result of a major project by BLSA staff member, Andrea Zarza.
Andrea says:
‘We thought you might like to know that World & Traditional Music has just published a new collection of sound recordings of English folk song, made by composer Percy Grainger in England, between 1906 and 1908. You can read more about the collection in a guest blog post written by folklorist Steve Roud and listen to individual songs on Sounds.

The British Library is pleased to make available online around 350 English folk songs recorded by composer Percy Grainger in different regions of England between 1906 and 1909. Thanks to the generous support of the National Folk Music Fund, these sound recordings have been catalogued and indexed by librarian, researcher and folklorist Steve Roud, author of Folk Song in England (Faber & Faber, 2017). Roud has also married them up with Grainger’s transcriptions of the songs, where these exist, on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website, thanks to their digitisation of the Percy Grainger Manuscript Collection. Links have also been included on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website to corresponding sound recordings featured on Sounds. Listeners are thus able to hear the songs whilst following Grainger’s unique transcriptions of recordings by singers such as Joseph Taylor, Joseph Leaning, George Gouldthorpe, Charles Rosher, William Fishlock, Tom Roberts, Dean Robinson, and many more. All recordings have been catalogued to include Roud numbers (this number refers to songs listed in the online databases Folk Song Index and Broadside Index), Grainger’s Melody numbers, and the numerical references to the discs and wax cylinders these sound recordings existed on previously. 


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