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Who Wrote the First Folk Song?

Tom Service considers the question of who wrote the first folk song. He is joined by ethnomusicologist and folk singer Dr Fay Hield as well as folklore expert Steve Roud.

Who wrote the first folk song? It's an age old question, these tunes that everyone knows which have been passed down from generation to generation... Where do they come from?
Enlisting the help of ethnomusicologist and folk singer Dr Fay Hield and folklore expert Steve Roud, Tom Service embarks on a quest to the very origins of music. It's a journey that takes him back in time from modern-day folk clubs to the origins of the species (via rural Lincolnshire in the early 20th century).

Available now

29 minutes

Music Played

  • Trad.

    Hush Little Baby

    Performer: The Weavers.
    • The Weavers at Carnegie Hall.
    • Vanguard.
  • Trad.

    What shall we do with a Drunken sailor?

    Performer: Cadgwith Fishermen's Chorus.
    • Sea Songs & Shanties: Traditional Music from the Last Days of Sail.
    • Saydisc.
  • Patty Hill Mildred J. Hill

    Happy Birthday

    Performer: Delia Derbyshire.
    • Music From The BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
    • Rephlex.
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Fantasia on Greensleeves

    Orchestra: Sinfonia of London. Conductor: John Barbirolli.
    • EMI.
  • Trad.

    Barbara Allen

    Performer: Joan Baez.
    • Joan Baez, Vol. 2.
    • Vanguard Records.
  • Trad.

    Brigg Fair

    Performer: Joseph Taylor.
    • Unto Brigg Fair.
    • Leader Sound.
  • Frederick Delius

    Brigg Fair

    Orchestra: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Thomas Beecham.
    • EMI.
  • Wulf Hein

    Paleolithic Flute

  • Trad.

    The Derby Ram

    Performer: The Watersons.
    • Mighty River Of Song.
    • Universal.
  • Trad.

    Brigg Fair

    Performer: Chanticleer.
    • Wondrous Love - A Folk Song Collection.
    • Warner Classics.
  • Trad.

    Brigg Fair

    Performer: Shirley Collins.
    • The Sweet Primeroses.
    • Topic Records.
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams

    English Folk Song Suite

    Orchestrator: Gordon Jacob. Orchestra: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: James Judd.
    • Naxos.
  • Trad.

    Seeds of Love

    Performer: Pop Maynard.
    • The Voice Of The People: A Selection.
    • Topic.
  • George Butterworth

    Sowing the seeds of love (11 Folk-songs from Sussex)

    Singer: Roderick Williams. Performer: Iain Burnside.
    • George Butterworth, Songs from A Shropshire Lad: Williams / Burnside.
    • Naxos.
    • 22.
  • Trad.

    Brigg Fair

    Performer: The Full English.
    • The Full English.
    • Topic Records.
  • Bob Dylan

    Mr. Tambourine Man

    • Bringing It All Back Home.
    • Columbia.
  • Sam Lee

    Blackbird

    • Fade in Time.
    • Nest Collective.
  • Adele

    Someone Like You

    • Glastonbury 2016.
  • Trad.

    Shallow Brown

    Performer: Johnny Collins.
    • Shanties And Songs Of The Sea.
    • ARC Music.
  • Trad.

    Shallow Brown

    Performer: June Tabor.
    • Aleyn.
    • Topic Records.
  • Trad.

    Shallow Brown

    Performer: Sting.
    • Rogue's Gallery CD2.
    • Epitaph.
  • Percy Grainger

    Shallow Brown

    Singer: Lynette Alcántara. Choir: Monteverdi Choir. Orchestra: English Country Gardiner Orchestra. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • The music of Percy Grainger: Monteverdi Choir/John Eliot Gardiner.
    • Philips.
    • 5.
  • Peter Maxwell Davies

    Farewell To Stromness

    Performer: Peter Maxwell Davies.
    • Unicorn Kanchana.
  • Trad.

    Tu mano seserėle

    Performer: Ljova and the Riotus Band.
    • ljova.com.
  • Igor Stravinsky

    The Rite of Spring: Part I

    Orchestra: Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. Conductor: Pierre Monteux.
    • DECCA.
  • Geordie Ridley

    Cushy Butterfield

    Performer: Mike Tickell. Performer: Kathryn Tickell. Performer: The Young'uns.
    • World on 3 - Friday 30th December 2016.

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