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dc.contributor.authorGregory, David
dc.identifier.uri /1738
dc.descriptionI duly delivered my paper on “The Mining Songs of British Columbia” on schedule at the International Ballad conference at the University of Wales in Cardiff, U.K. The session took place on Tuesday 29th July, 2008. Although I was accorded only twenty minutes for my presentation, I was able to include a few sung illustrations (selected stanzas, not entire songs, unfortunately), which enlivened the talk and made the subject more meaningful and enjoyable for the audience, which numbered around three dozen scholars. In part because of this, the paper seemed to be particularly well received. To judge from the numerous comments made to me privately afterwards, it was a good idea to use a live singer rather than taped examples to illustrate my discussion of the material. The session included two other papers: “The Distribution of Ballads as a Question of Social (Under) Development” by Marija Klobčar (Slovenia) and «Hungarian Miners’ Songs: One of the Newest Genres in Hungarian Folk Poetry” by Katalin Juhász (Hungary). The session chair, Dr. Gerald Porter (Finland), decided to hold questions until the end, and this focused mainly on comparisons between what I had said about Canadian mining songs and Ms. Juhasz’ discussion of Hungarian songs. While the B.C. songs were mainly nineteenth century and early twentieth-century in origin and collected from oral tradition, the Hungarian songs were more recently composed in a more formal poetic style. In different respects, therefore, both the Hungarian and Canadian songs were seen to be pushing the boundaries of what has been traditionally regarded as “folk music”, the B.C. ones because of the frequent use of parody (in the technical sense of the term) and the Hungarian ones because of their contemporary character and known authorship. It became apparent to me that, despite the wealth of international expertise assembled in the room, no one else was familiar with the Philip J. Thomas collection of B.C. vernacular songs. This encourages me to continue to explore the collection, as it deserves to be better known, both across Canada and internationally. I do expect to make use of the Thomas collection in my projected MAIS course on Studying Canadian Folk Music, and I am now considering writing for a future conference a companion paper on songs of the B.C. forestry industry. This might perhaps take the form of a comparison of the songs in the Thomas collection with the logging songs collected by Edith Fowke in Ontario. However, there is a wealth of material on this subject in the Thomas collection and the short time allotted for papers at academic conferences may dictate a focus exclusively on the B.C. songs. While I could give such a paper at the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Traditional Music, it might be more valuable to continue to publicize the Thomas collection at international gatherings of scholars, since it is evident that, generally speaking, there is a lack of awareness of Canadian musical traditions and Canadian scholarship both south of the border and, especially, in Europe.en
dc.description.abstractAlthough they have been explored by a few local folksingers, the vernacular songs preserved in the P. J. Thomas Collection at the Aural History Archives of British Columbia in Victoria, BC have been neglected by scholars. Impressed by the work of Helen Creighton in Nova Scotia and Edith Fowke in Ontario, in the early 1950s Phil Thomas initiated a project of tracking down his native province’s oral song traditions, a search to which he devoted most of his spare time for the next twenty years. The songs he discovered express vividly the lives of ordinary people seeking to gain a living in the fishing, forestry, mining, ranching, and transportation industries. His collection spans material from pre-colonial days to the 1970s, but the earliest mining songs, such as “Far from Home”, “The Young Man from Canada” and “Know Ye the Land”, date from the Fraser River and Cariboo Gold Rushes of the 1850s and 1860s. Later songs, such as “Hard Rock Miner” and “Broken-Down Mucker”, reflect the more highly mechanized and capital-intensive hard-rock mining operations of the early twentieth century. Also of interest are several ballads, including “Bowser’s Seventy-Twa” and “Are You from Bevan?”, that evoke the early struggles of the union movement for job security, better pay and less dangerous working conditions. This paper seeks to categorize the various types of mining song in the Thomas Collection, to explore the historical circumstances that gave rise to them, and to examine the techniques employed by the songs’ creators. It will be illustrated by sung excerpts from a selected number of representative songs.en
dc.description.sponsorshipAcademic & Professional Development Fund (A&PDF)en
dc.subjectP.J. Thomas Collectionen
dc.titleThe Mining Songs of British Columbia: Exploring the P.J. Thomas Collection presented at the 38th International Ballad Conference of the Kimmission fur Volksdichtungen

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