For over one hundred years, folk-song collectors have been fascinated by the songs and singers they have found in the rural communities of East Anglia. Traditional singers learned their songs from their families and communities. They usually sang solo without any accompaniment but with companions or audience joining in on any choruses. The songs they sang ranged from ancient ballads to songs reflecting the coastal and rural life of the region, with the occasional item relating specifically to local events and characters. More light-hearted lyrics also went down well in the pubs, which frequently provided convivial settings for singing gatherings.
Many of the songs noted down by the early collectors were published in books and journals, and in 1934, commercial recordings – of the great Broads singer Harry Cox – were issued: the first in a steady stream to be released on 78 rpm and later 33rpm records. Folksong collectors were active in the region throughout the twentieth century and from the 1950s onwards, many recordings were made – see our online shop for the biggest range of recordings you’ll find anywhere.
The composer Ralph Vaughan Williams visited the eastern counties on many occasions between 1903 and 1913 and we are gradually researching each of his visits – see the Vaughan Williams in the East page for links through to the various communities and singers he visited.
North End Voices
Based on projects we have run in King’s Lynn, Norfolk in 2005-8 and further research carried out in 2014. Includes original research into the singers visited by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1905/6.
Blyth Valley Voices
Singers in Southwold area, Suffolk. Songs collected in 1910 by Ralph Vaughan Williams. A book with the song words and tunes is available from our online shop. (They are not published on the website.)
Vaughan Williams in south Norfolk
The newest of our Vaughan Williams research pages, published in 2016. Details his visits to the Diss area.
Behind the Song.
A new series started in 2011. Behind the Song No.1 is about Roy Last’s song “Peter the Paynter” a.k.a. “Escape from Bury Gaol”. No.2 is about “The Captain’s Apprentice” – a song reputed to be based on true life events near King’s Lynn.
Two Singers from the Stour Valley
Research into singers Maurice Cardy and Thomas Sparkes from Bures near Sudbury, from whom Thomas Wood collected some songs in 1929.