Alan Helsdon

Vaughan Williams in Norfolk

Musical Traditions CD-ROM MTCD253

Alan Helsdon is well known for his work on Norfolk dance, tunes and songs.  His publication Hawk and Harnser is one of my favourite collections.  Now, in association with Musical Traditions, he has produced an extremely ambitious publication in digital book form with embedded midi files.  The scope of the work comprises the two early visits that Ralph Vaughan Williams made in 1905 and 1906 mainly to King’s Lynn but incorporating some neighbouring villages.

Every song and tune that was collected is rendered in clear notation and, for nonreaders of music, there is a midi file associated with the page.  Many of the song texts were never recorded by RVW at the time of collecting, but Alan’s painstaking research has restored each song in its entirety from RVW’s scrapbooks or broadsides.

There are copious references to allow the reader to track down the original source material in both manuscript and digital form.  Links to the songs on The Full English digital archive are a very easy ‘one-click‘ away.  The technology works extremely well on my Windows laptop.  There is a menu bar at the top of the page allowing one to move between the screens for contents, singers, songs, references and so on.  The introduction is a mine of information about the way in which the manuscript notebooks were completed by RVW and the relevance to the numbering of the pages in these books.  There are even detailed references to Journal of the Folk Song Society entries.

The work that has gone into the research and collation of all this information is phenomenal and I would heartily recommend this publication.  I have had to drag myself away in order to write this glowing review, and will spend many happy days exploring its contents.  A word for those with non-Windows machines – the CD-ROM is designed to run with Windows Explorer and requires Adobe Acrobat reader.

Mary Humphreys - 18.5.15
in EDS

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