Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Cecil Sharp Show, Central Studios, Basingstoke

Cecil Sharp was a 'collector' of folk songs, cycling around the country in Edwardian times, stopping when he saw gypsies, stonebreakers, shepherds etc. and asking them to sing for him. He is commemmorated by the famous Cecil Sharp House, the headquarters of the English Folk Dance & Song Society which also contains a library of the 'collected' folk music, mostly from Sharp's travels.
Sharp was a bit of a character, sometimes rubbing people up the wrong way, but the Show (Ashley Hutchings playing Sharp, with Emily Slade singing some of his collected songs) portrayed him as a humorous, laid-back veggie type, not exploitative or know-it-all but serious about preserving song (and dance) traditions in England and the Appalacians. Although sometimes nervous about going to 'mean streets' or rough pubs to meet local singers he didn't come across as snobby, but seemed to have a lot of respect for working people. But how much of that is Ashley Hutchings rather than Cecil Sharp I don't know!
Emily Slade was on great form, probably the best I'd ever heard her. She has matured so much since her first album, she just gets better and better!
The evening was very interesting and entertaining, it was a shame only about a dozen or so had turned up for it. I hope Emily and Ashley have better audiences elsewhere.

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