Echoes of a Lost Culture ...and a Dig at the French; in the Fourth Part of His Series Revealing the Hidden Treasures Which Will Soon Find a Home at the New Library of Birmingham, Graeme Brown Examines a Collection of Rare Songsheets

The Birmingham Post (England), August 23, 2012 | Go to article overview

Echoes of a Lost Culture ...and a Dig at the French; in the Fourth Part of His Series Revealing the Hidden Treasures Which Will Soon Find a Home at the New Library of Birmingham, Graeme Brown Examines a Collection of Rare Songsheets


Byline: Graeme Brown

While many of the more profound songs of the 18th century have stood the test of time, the vast songsheet collection of Birmingham's Central Library suggests the popular music of the day was not always so weighty.

The burgeoning romantic movement saw the likes of Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt compose the music that would define a generation, but the collection shows that some of the songs designed to inspire laughter, debate and patriotism have fallen by the wayside.

The collection, which has only recently been truly researched, contains 6,000 songsheets dating from the early-1700s to the 1950s, including many taking a light-hearted view on religion, literature and a good old-fashioned booze up.

As well as serving as a reminder of popular culture in years gone by, it also illustrates progress in early film and fashion, societal attitudes to religion, slavery, war and women, and the ascent of marketing.

Assistant librarian Anne Elliott said while the work of those such as Anthony Trollope have transcended the Victorian era, many of the songsheets display a variety of entertainment forever stuck in the 19th century.

She said: "If you look back your perception is of very different art and music by people who continue to be known to this day, but looking at these you realise that is just the top part of what is a huge range, representing different parts of people's daily lives.

"That is one of the reasons why this collection is so important - it represents music that is not particularly wonderful or profound but represents part of the culture of the period, and gives you a sense of the period and the scope of it.

"The more profound dominates - if you read something like Trollope you wouldn't see much of this type of stuff."

The songsheets come from a time before music could be recorded and replayed, and were designed to offer a memory of a show or an opportunity for a family sing-song.

"Many songs come from stage shows which were a lot like a Noel Coward musical play - neither a play or an opera - and of course the English never really got to grips with opera," Ms Elliott said.

"Obviously you weren't able to play recorded music, so your only way of replicating what you have heard is to remember it or buy the song sheet and then sing it with your friends.

"Perhaps you would do it with a karaoke machine now."

She said the purchasers would have been "at least middle class", and until the 20th century music was considered to be an expensive commodity.

The Music Library has about 6,000 songsheets in loose and bound volumes.

The library's older reference songsheets and piano music have never previously been searchable through its online catalogue but plans are being put in place before the move to the Library of Birmingham next year, and a retrospective cataloguing project has begun.

The oldest songsheet is Loud Alarms Of War, by John Eccles in 1700 and comes from a performance at the New Theatre.

Eccles was the only Master of the King's Musick in the history of the post to serve four monarchs - King William III, Queen Anne, King George I and King George II.

Later in the 18th century came Beer-Drinking-Briton, by Thomas Arne in 1757, which broaches two subjects dear to the heart of the British - drinking and criticising the French, with lines like "Those who drink good, honest, ale are always going to beat those who drink wine".

Ms Elliott said: "You can see how it matches with certain elements of popular culture. This could quite easily be changed into a modern football chant."

She added: "In the 18th century we spent much of our time fighting the French, and this would have been at the time of the French and British fighting in North America - in Louisiana for example.

"There was an awful lot going on in the 18th century, with the Jacobite revolution, and, much like the Second World War, a lot of music encouraged the public to be positive. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Echoes of a Lost Culture ...and a Dig at the French; in the Fourth Part of His Series Revealing the Hidden Treasures Which Will Soon Find a Home at the New Library of Birmingham, Graeme Brown Examines a Collection of Rare Songsheets
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.