University of Sussex Media Release.
. New Music Collection Captures The Voice of the People

18 November 1998
For immediate release

In what is surely the most ambitious compilation of traditional music ever, Dr Reg Hall, a historian at Sussex University, has gathered together 511 recordings and created 20 CD s recording the finest moments of British and Irish ‘folk’ music. Some of the most frequently featured performers are Sussex locals, given the chance to live on through their recordings.

Dr Hall’s collection features such CD titles as They ordered their pints of beer and bottles of sherry - the joys and curse of drink, and Who’s that at my bed window - songs of love and amorous encounters. An entire CD is devoted to dance music of the South of England, entitled Rig-a-jig-jig. Featured in the collection are such figures as Johnny Doughty, a fisherman from Rye whose ditties kept his ‘sailor lads’ going, and Mary Ann Haines, a gypsy who lived around the Brighton area and sang a famous tune called The Female Drummer Boy, about a woman attempting to join the army disguised as a man.

Traditional music has been sorely neglected as an art form, and the unique insight it provides into the history of the farmers, fisherman and miners of Britain and Ireland has largely been ignored. It had been appropriated as an art form by the Victorian middle classes, who used their idea of ‘folk’ in a bid to nationalise and purify British culture. With this collection, entitled The Voice of the People, Dr Hall is reclaiming this heritage for those who made the music.

Reg Hall, who is a keen musician himself and has played his melodeon alongside many of the artists featured on Voice of the People, says "I certainly see this collection as a historical record." Dr Hall feels that now is the perfect time to create history from traditional music, since "the world’s changing. All these people, and all these cultures, and that sort of life - it’s all dying out. The sort of music that’s on these CDs can’t ever be made again. I think that’s it."

Nonetheless, he points out that it is still "great art and great entertainment." This is music that kept people dancing until 6.00 am in rural communities all over the country, music that people walked fifteen miles to hear. "Traditional music is real, it’s the way people are. It has all the classic things that every art form has. What it doesn’t have is sophistication or pretension. And every one of those songs is as funny as Ben Elton, or as tragic as Shakespeare."

Dr Hall’s main objective is to say "look, there’s this body of cultural material, and you should enjoy it for itself, but it should also make you think about your roots, the way your grandparents lived, where your language comes from." His favourite song is Margaret Barry’s recording of She Moved Through the Fair, "which was done in a pub, with the cash register going in the background." Maybe you could find a favourite too...the collection is available in good record shops, at £14.99 for each CD, so there’s no excuse for not getting on down to that Rig-a-jig-jig beat.

 

For further information please contact Sally Hall, Information Office, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 678335, email s.l.hall@sussex.ac.uk.

 

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