CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 17 . . . . April 25, 2003
Anyone who spends time in the Maritimes cannot help but come in contact with its lively and distinctive musical style. This video relates the story of one woman who embarked on a lifelong search for folk songs and stories that typify the region.
Helen Creighton, a freelance journalist, travelled Nova Scotia extensively beginning in the 1920s, interviewing people who shared songs handed down to them from previous generations "to lighten the burden of their daily chores." As traditions like “milling frolics” (pounding woven cloth to tighten the weave to the accompanying rhythm of songs) have died out, folk singers such as Pete Seeger, Raylene Rankin and Mary Jane Lamond acknowledge they "owe a great debt to Helen Creighton" for the collection, a legacy they draw from for the raw material they interpret in songs of today.
musician Ashley MacIsaac narrates the video. His introductory remarks,
"It is said that folklore is the basis of a culture," set
the tone for the images. Present day Nova Scotia scenes are cleverly
blended with archival photos and excerpts from Creighton's detailed
scrapbooks, field journals and audiotapes. Her collection also includes
hundreds of folktales, legends and ghost stories, many of which were
published over the years and remain popular. The anthology Bluenose
Ghosts, for example, has been reprinted 13 times. Although Creighton
came from an upper middle class family, she sought material from various
levels of society. While her "class and personal bias limited
her collecting from communities outside British descent," she
did venture into the Acadian and Black communities in the province
where she was well received by those who had a "strong desire
to have the songs live on." Her omission of some segments, for
example, labor protest songs, gave rise to criticism that her collection
was selective where it conflicted with her social conservatism, and
thus was not a true reflection of the culture. And the question of
ownership is raised with the comment that "honour should not
only belong to the folklorist, but also to the folk" who willingly
contributed their knowledge without financial compensation in most
Gillian Richardson, who lives in BC, is a former teacher-librarian and a published writer of children's fiction and nonfiction.
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