Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Full English

The Full English Digital Archive is a free searchable online archive of early 20th century English folk arts manuscripts. Largely Heritage Lottery funded, it's part of the larger Full English project of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS),  and went live on 20th June 2014.

I've been meaning to cross-post this from the Devon History Society website for a while, but my memory was jogged today by running into some tracks from the associated The Full English album, produced by a folk 'supergroup' commissioned to produce new music based on the archive material.

From the website:
The Full English
Unlocking hidden treasures of England's cultural heritage
A ground-breaking nationwide digital archive and learning project
The Full English is the biggest project the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) has undertaken since the building of our HQ, Cecil Sharp House, in 1930! It is the creation of the largest searchable digital archive of early 20th century English folk arts manuscripts; a national programme of workshops, lectures, creative projects with 18 schools, training and community events in all nine English regions; and the commission, tour and release a CD of new and newly arranged music inspired by the collections.
The first part of creating The Full English digital archive was to make nineteen manuscript collections, housed in nine repositories in England, Scotland and Australia freely available in a searchable format online. However, as the information on these digital images can very hard to decipher, particularly if you are not a music reader, the second part is to improve access by providing transcriptions of texts and musical notation, as well as midi files so the tunes can be heard. We are currently working to transcribe The Full English collections, to make them accessible.
Anyone with a focus on Devon will find the collection of interest; a very quick search found over 1000 hits for "Devon" and 318 for "Devonshire", including many of the classic Devon folksongs collected by Cecil Sharp (records include scans of his original transcriptions). The database contains not merely songs, but various collections:
  • The Full English Collections: the manuscript collections of Harry Albino, Lucy Broadwood, Clive Carey, Percy Grainger, Maud Karpeles, Frank Kidson, Thomas Fairman Ordish, Frank Sidgwick, Cecil Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Alfred Williams and Mary Leather.
  • Roud Indexes: The Folk Song Index and Broadside Index compiled by Steve Roud 
  • Bibliographies: the Roud Bibliography supporting the Roud Indexes
  • Street Lit Indexes: Street Literature Printers' Register edited and compiled by Steve Roud
  • Sharp Diaries: Cecil Sharp’s Appalachian Diaries: 1915-1918
  • Custom and dances indexes: the Dance/Tune Index, a finding aid to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library’s collection of dance and tune books and manuscripts.
For more information and access, visit:

The Full English - project front page
Vaughan Williams Memorial Library - general database information and indices
Search - main database search page
The Full English Blog - a weblog documenting the project's progress

Here are some of the tracks from The Full English album, put on YouTube by Topic Records: a fairly trad folk band arrangement of Man in the Moon; a wistful instrumental improvisation on the classic Brigg Fair, rich in harmonics and played over a ghostlike crackling original recording; and a brilliantly urgent and edgy version of Stand By Your Guns played as folk / string trio fusion that reminds me somewhat of Methera.

- Ray

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