As a kid I remember loving the smell of our library, taking books off the shelf, leafing through the pages and looking at pictures before making my selection. As an adult discovering my great-aunt’s folk song collection was deja-vu—the smell of the old books in the library and listening to the old recordings until I found a melody I loved.
Vermont performer, Deb Flanders draws inspiration for her music from many sources, but none of these are more significant to her than the collection of songs created by her great aunt, Helen Hartness Flanders. The Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection at Middlebury College Special Collections is the single, largest archival collection of traditional music materials in the state of Vermont. Created through fieldwork undertaken by Flanders and her research partners from 1930-1960, the collection includes audio recordings on wax cylinder, instantaneous disks and reel-to-reel tape as well as extensive manuscripts and books. At the start of her efforts Flanders focused primarily on songs from the corpus of Child Ballads, but over time her interests broadened to include folk song of all types, as well instrumental music and the music of immigrant groups in Vermont.
The Flanders Collection certainly represents the largest holdings of traditional music by a Vermont archival repository, but many of the major collections in the state, including University of Vermont Special Collections, the Vermont Historical Society Leahy Library and - perhaps not surprisingly - the Vermont Folklife Center Archive all contain substantial holdings of materials of, on or about traditional music. And no doubt more treasures lie scattered throughout the state in library and historical society collections.
The Flanders Award for Traditional Vermont Music is an effort spearheaded by Deb to give the silent songs preserved in archives across the state new voice - and new life - in the present. Traditional music is not a static thing, like words on a page or a voice on tape. The Flanders Award for Traditional Vermont Music provides modest funding to a young Vermont musician ages 15-29 to visit folk song archives in the state, learn songs from these collections, and bring them back to the public in a way that infuses them with continued relevance. Applications are due to us by October 9, 2017 - and we encourage you to apply. Details, including the application form are available at the link below.
In the future we will explore some of these collections - and the work being done with them by our awardees.
I hope the recipient(s) of this scholarship will feel the same excitement as I did. There are still so many more songs just waiting to be heard - Deb Flanders