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Luke’s Row Music LRCD007 

Manchester-born Anne Geddes Gilchrist (1863-1954) was a collector of folk songs and tunes, mostly from the north-west of England (at that time, most of the collectors were concentrating on southern counties). Her distinguished career with the EFDSS included receiving the Gold Badge award in 1938, but even though some of the songs she collected were published in the Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs her achievements have not been fully recognised. Hence the formation of The Gilchrist Collective to celebrate her contribution to folk music and song collecting. The project was convened by Peter Snape, who with his wife Barbara have long specialised in the folk music of their native Lancashire; they’re joined by the indefatigable Brian Peters (himself an enthusiast of local folk material), long-established harmony and solo singer Sue Burgess, and talented violinist Poppy Weatherall, and together they prove eminently persuasive advocates.

This CD, following on from a multi-media show which the Collective premièred at last year’s Tenterden Festival, represents the breadth of the Gilchrist collection with 18 songs and a pair of tunes. The Collective’s performances, while commendably authoritative and respectful, are also ebullient and fun, with sturdy, strongly characterised singing that, allied to the musicians’ instrumental expertise, ensures contrast aplenty. Another salient selling point of the CD is that it brings to our attention a host of intriguing detail changes and variances from the more well-known texts and/or melodies of now-accepted repertoire staples including The Fall Of A Leaf, two seasonal pace-egging songs and common broadsides (Green Bushes, The Little Gypsy Girl).

It’s fascinating to compare the treatment of motifs too, in ballads such as Mother, Mother, Make My Bed (ostensibly a Lord Lovell relation) and the ubiquitous Barbara Ellen. Included too are versions of songs Anne collected from William Bolton (a retired seaman living in Southport), among them Female Cabin Boy, Admiral Benbow and Rounding The Horn, while further gems unearthed in the Collective’s researches include The Undaunted Female and the more obscure shipwreck narrative broadside, The Wreck Of The Industry.

This well-presented CD, together with Peter’s forthcoming complementary book, should go a long way towards ensuring that the name of Anne Gilchrist gains a higher profile as a significant figure in the early 20th century folk music world.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 145 of The Living Tradition magazine