Passed down from musty ages when singing was something to partake in rather than to witness, the mystique of English folk songs has enthralled and captivated the lowly and the great, firing the imaginations of composers, while still maintaining a grounding with pub singers and unpretentious minstrels.
Compiled by one of the last great Edwardian folk-song collectors, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and A.L. Lloyd, a journalist and vigorous exponent of folk-song, the original edition of The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, published in 1959, revolutionised the folk music scene in England by providing folk revivalists with a key source of repertoire hailing not from America, Ireland or Scotland, but instead proving the rich and varied array of songs passed down from generation to generation within England itself.
The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs provides a landmark revision of the original volume, with the editors, Steve Roud and Julia Bishop, taking a different approach to the compilation process. Instead of selecting songs primarily based on aesthetic, as with the original, the new volume selects songs which have proved the most popular over time by virtue of appearing in the most collections; while, at the same time, showcasing a wide range of material, including lesser-known songs, so as to provide the reader with a rounded reference for English folk song generally.
The result is a collection of 151 folk songs, each of which appears in around 15 or more source collections, and some of which appear in well over 100. The songs appeal to the huge array of human emotion which gave them birth, from heady love to bitter heartbreak, songs of the sea to songs of the plough, nonsense songs to songs of death and everything in-between.
Each folk song appears in melody line notation with full lyrics, and each is complemented by an in-depth commentary providing historical and thematic information invaluable for performance and study. Also provided is a discography and index of collectors’ and singers’ names. Beautifully hard-bound with C.F. Tunnicliffe’s wood engraving, The Shire Stallion, for cover artwork, The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs is a must for any musical library and already mirrors the timelessness of its classic predecessor.
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