Vernacular song from a North Yorkshire hill farm : culture, contexts and comparisons
The first part of this study examines a North Yorkshire farmer's personal narrative, where the motivation and opportunity for his singing emerges from the interplay of location and landscape, family, work and rich social networks. Jack Beeforth (1891-1974) was born when the commercialisation of the music business in England was well under way, and when American influences were beginning both to affect the musical content of popular song and to stimulate mass-marketing methods in its dissemination. In this thesis, evidence of these influences is shown to be scattered throughout the Beeforth repertoire among songs from broadsides and other sources. The eclectic mix of songs in Jack Beeforth's corpus and his disregard for song categories argues that it may be useful to regard him as a 'vernacular', rather than a folk or traditional, singer. The study goes on to set Jack Beeforth's life as a single, acoustic, unaccompanied singer of songs of the popular culture of his day against the personal narratives of three other English vernacular singers, all four linked in important ways through gender, class, place, occupation and overlapping temporality. It identifies and compares the repertoires of these singers, and examines some important ingredients in the singers' treatment of a selection of these songs, establishing commonalities and diversities in the repertoires and performance. The work looks at Jack Beeforth's singing in its historical context, exploring patterns of cultural practice and change in his own generation and in those that followed.