269 Oak Avenue, Second Floor, Spruce Pine Gallery, NC 28777
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“The country is, I think, the most magnificent I have ever seen. The mountains are everywhere, and we live in the valleys and walk through the passes. The mountains go from six thousand feet and the valleys two or a little over… My experiences have been very wonderful so far as the people and their music are concerned … I find then very easy to get on with, and have no difficulty in making them sing and show their enthusiasm for their songs.”

-Cecil J. Sharp, August 1916

From 1916-1918, English ballad collector Cecil Sharp and his associate Maud Karpeles, both from London, England, traveled the Appalachian region to document the music and photographed some of the singers who shared their songs. These 24 rare photographs offer a stunning window into the life of Appalachian people in the period.

One hundred years ago, in the wake of a massive flood of the French Broad River, with stifling heat and disruption, Cecil and Maud set out, with the assistance of John C. and Olive Dame Campbell, and Helen Storrow of Massachusetts, to travel the Appalachian region, first in Madison County, North Carolina, then in subsequent months and years to other counties and other states, including Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia.  Each song and variant that Sharp documented was meticulously transcribed by Sharp in music notation, and Karpeles took down the words in shorthand and each evening would type them out. These documents survive at the Vaughn Williams Library at Cecil Sharp House in London. He became friends with many families, dined and stayed with people during the travels. The photographs were not the primary reason for visits, but they have become an important history of the effort to document the ballad tradition.

 July 25, 2016 marked the centennial of the beginning of the Appalachian song collecting. The result was a strong appreciation of the influence of traditional English music within Appalachian culture, a regard that continues to this day. As with all things
American, this influence blended with many other traditions in forming the very vibrant state of music throughout the region. The North Carolina Folklife Institute and the Country Dance and Song Society are sponsoring the celebration and recognition of this important work. The English Folk Dance and Song Society is providing generous support, and the project is made possible in part by the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide non-profit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

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