Folk song in Cumbria : a distinctive regional repertoire

Allan, Sue and Winchester, Angus and Rohkramer, Thomas (2017) Folk song in Cumbria : a distinctive regional repertoire. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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One of the lacunae of traditional music scholarship in England has been the lack of systematic study of folk song and its performance in discrete geographical areas. This thesis endeavours to address this gap in knowledge in a small way, through a study of Cumbrian folk song and its performance over the past two hundred years. Although primarily a social history of popular culture, with some elements of ethnography and a little musicology, it is also a participant-observer study from the personal perspective of one who has performed and collected Cumbrian folk songs for some forty years. The principal task has been to research and present the folk songs known to have been published or performed in Cumbria since circa 1900, designated as the Cumbrian Folk Song Corpus: a body of 515 songs from 1010 different sources, including manuscripts, print, recordings and broadcasts. The thesis begins with the history of the best-known Cumbrian folk song, ‘D’Ye Ken John Peel’ from its date of composition around 1830 through to the late twentieth century. From this narrative the main themes of the thesis are drawn out: the problem of defining ‘folk song’, given its eclectic nature; the role of the various collectors, mediators and performers of folk songs over the years, including myself; the range of different contexts in which the songs have been performed, and by whom; the vexed questions of ‘authenticity’ and ‘invented tradition’, and the extent to which this repertoire is a distinctive regional one. Analysis of the corpus reveals a heterogeneous collection of songs on a wide range of themes, but with certain genres predominating, notably hunting songs and songs in dialect - songs which, like ‘D’Ye Ken John Peel’, have been mobilised to reinforce ideas of regional identity and pride over many years.

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Thesis (PhD)
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08 May 2017 13:46
Last Modified:
16 Mar 2024 00:02