Friday, 21 September 2018

From the Archives - Burl Ives & the popularisation of Australian folk song

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This well-used folio is available in our Reference Library. (The State Library of Victoria has a pdf download of a pristine copy of this folio here)

In 1940 priest & musician Dr Percy Jones published an appeal for Australian folksongs in Melbourne's Sun News-Pictorial & collected many examples, some of which were later  given to Burl Ives when he visited Australia.

How Burl Ives popularised Australian folk songs. This program was broadcast by Radio National's RareCollections on Sunday 31 August 2014 & audio is no longer available.

The summary includes a pdf download of an article "Bring me songs" says Burl Ives in Australian Woman's Weekly, 7th May 1952, page 12, extract: One of the things I look forward to in Australia is that there will be, I know, a large number of people come and see me with songs for me to sing. You can tell Australians I want them to do that. I'm on the look-out for any real indigenous Australian folk songs, adapted aboriginal songs, or any English folk songs that have been kept alive one way or another -  The article is available here in TROVE.

Wikipedia on Australian Folk Songs (Decca DL 8749) is a 1958 album by Burl Ives  During his visit to Australia in 1952, invited there by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Ives met the Reverend Percy Jones, a professor of music at the University of Melbourne. The two men compiled a book of Australian folk songs and Ives recorded an album, "collected and arranged" by Jones, which were later released in the United States and elsewhere as Australian Folk Songs. (read on) 


Burl Ives' Folio of Australian folk Songs (Sydney, Southern Music Publishing, 1953)

 
1.

2. first song


3.

4.  This carbon copy was found between pages 18 & 19


5. Green grow the rushes,


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Australia's Lost Folk Songs. The treasures that slipped through Percy Jones's fingers, by
Keith McKenry. Rams Skull, 2008. Australian Folklore - Occasional Paper no.25.
Copies are available from Rams Skull Press & Trad & Now On-line shop  

 A scholarly work of serious note. This book detailing about 50 Australian folk songs and fragments of many others is published by the Rams Skull Press, and produced under McKenry's own Fanged Wombat Productions. It's #25 of a series of papers known as Australian Folklore Occasional Papers, published by Rams Skull Press.

McKenry's aim was to present a range of folk songs that seemed to have slipped under the guard of contemporary Australian folk singers. He used fragments of songs published in the Sun News-Pictorial in 1940, where readers provided verses of songs they had heard or sung themselves. McKenry then sourced many of them putting them in context, detailing the history of each song, each fully referenced with words, music and guitar chords. The book is illustrated by, and dedicated to, the late Ron Edwards. There is a comprehensive bibliography, references used, cross references and annotated remarks. In his introduction, McKenry asserts that many early collectors of Australian folk songs, or bush songs, ignored songs that originated in urban areas.

McKenry also notes that many songs from states other than the 3 main Eastern were not collected either. However in the early 40's an appeal was put in the Sun News-Pictorial for readers to send in Australian folk songs they knew. Unfortunately the requestor did not follow up many of the leads which leads McKenry research to piece together scraps or fragments of songs. As a person who is interested in documenting and archiving Australian music, I welcome this book. It would be of interest to those of you who have an interest in learning new songs or learning about where folk songs originated.
Review by Chris Spencer from Trad & Now.


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