Originally published in 1980. Song is perhaps the strongest form of traditional culture. Its vigour and energy represent the power of the community from which it springs. This book focuses on traditional singing in two small English villages. It studies in detail an activity which goes to the core of the communal life in any village and demonstrates how song becomes the lifeblood of the traditions of rural life.
In many ways traditional singing is highly subversive because its practice is an affirmation of community and a denial of the fragmentation of modern society. The songs sung, those remembered, the singers now dead whose lives are recalled each time an old favourite is performed, all connect the present with the past. The primary aesthetic concern within these singing traditions is that a man should sing, whatever the objective quality of his performance; and a song should tell a good story. The individual singer assumes a special role in performance since he becomes spokesman for a group and gives voice not only to personal but also to social concerns, dynamics and emotions.