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Today In Mountain Dulcimer History: 12 November 1885

PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 7:27 am
by dbennett
Maud Karpeles (1885-1976) was born in London, England. She was an English collector of folk songs and folk dance.

Maud Karpeles was known for her song collecting work with Cecil Sharp, her career as a folk-dance teacher and performer, and as a force for international song and dance throughout her life. Around 1910 Maud created a folk-dance club and when Sharp gave lectures on folk dance, it was her folk-dance club that demonstrated them. The English Folk Dance Society (EFDS) was founded in 1911, with Karpeles' dancers at the heart of it. Karpeles became as much interested in the songs as the dances, and eventually joined Sharp on collecting expeditions.

Cecil Sharp, who had already made two folksong collecting trip in 1914 and 1915 to the Appalachian Mountains, returned in 1916, this time with Karpeles making a total of three trips during the period of 1916-1918. On these expeditions in isolated communities often reached only by mule Sharp recorded the tunes, while Karpeles recorded the words. They were assisted by John Campbell and his wife, Olive Dame Campbell. The crew spent a total of 46 weeks in the mountains, they notated songs from 281 different singers and collecting about 500 songs, with over 1500 variants. Most of the material came from the area bordering Tennessee and North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky.

Charles Seeger wrote in his article, The Appalachian Dulcimer, Journal of American Folklore Vol. 71, No. 279 (1958) that in the opinion of Maud Karpeles, who did fieldwork in the Appalachians around the same time as Wyman, “the Appalachian dulcimer was confined to Kentucky at the time and not widely distributed even there.”

Maud became Sharp's legal executor at Sharp's death in 1924, and fought legal battles on behalf of his estate, with concern for his legacy of his collections. Georgina Boyes noted in her book “The Imagined Village”, “There is a certain irony in placing any kind of copyright on folk songs which were given freely by people.”

I know not everyone in the dulcimer world concurs with the following assessment by Jean Ritchie who felt otherwise about the conclusions by Sharp and Karpeles. In the forward of L. Allen Smith's book, A Catalogue of Pre-Revival Appalachian Dulcimers, Jean wrote, "Concerning Mr. Sharp's statements on the seeming scarcity of dulcimers shown to him, my sister Una's recollection may be pertinent. She was attending the Hindman Settlement School in Knott County when Mr. Sharp and Miss Karpeles made their early collecting trips... "They set up headquarters at the School and had folk come there and sing their old songs and ballads to them." Jean went on to write that as travel in that area back then was extremely difficult "the number of homes visited by the collectors was very small." Jean also noted that “Edward Thomas, whose home was nearby, well within this community, and who was apparently not visited by Sharp, was just then in his prime as a dulcimer maker. He must have made upwards of a thousand by then, at least one-half of them distributed locally, and by 1917 others were beginning to build them too..." Jean wrote she was born before Sharp made his visits but she knew Maud Karpeles well saying of Maud that she "was a good friend for many years of my adult life. Once after I had played my dulcimer at a gathering, she remarked on "how curious it was " that numbers of the instruments had not been seen on view for them during their collecting trip, or that nobody volunteered to play, or would agree to play when asked. I inquired then whether she and Mr. Sharp made any sort of serious effort, and she replied that, no, the overwhelming number and quality of the songs was of upmost importance to them, and collecting and notating the songs was their utmost importance." Jean Ritchie then went on to list in the book’s Forward many other reasons why song collectors like Sharp and Karpeles probably didn't see a lot of dulcimers.
Maud returned to the Appalachian Mountains in 1950 and 1955 with a heavy reel-to-reel recording machine to record rural singers for the BBC, some of whom remembered meeting Sharp on his earlier visits.

Karpeles was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1961, for services to folk music. The OBE is a British order of chivalry, established by King George V in 1917, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organizations, and public service outside the Civil Service.
Karpeles Sharp.jpg
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Re: Today In Mountain Dulcimer History: 12 November 1885

PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 7:28 am
by dbennett
Karpeles Sharp2 .jpg
Karpeles.jpg (19.55 KiB) Viewed 204 times

Re: Today In Mountain Dulcimer History: 12 November 1885

PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 7:28 am
by dbennett
See the 1912 film featuring sisters Maud and Helen Karpeles, co-founders of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, along with Cecil Sharp. These are the earliest known examples of English folk dance on film