West Virginia Department of Commerce Child Ballads of West Virginia

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Child Ballads of West Virginia



Child Ballads of West Virginia

Memorable music

By Andrea B. Bond

Many people might envision historical artifacts as something tangible you can hold in your hand. Yet some of the world’s rarest artifacts exist in audio form – a virtual feast for the ears.

Such are the Child Ballads, collected and performed by Patrick Ward Gainer and stored in the digital library at West Virginia University. These songs originally were collected in the late 19th century by Francis James Child and published in 10 volumes as “The English and Scottish Popular Ballads,” which colloquially became known as the Child Ballads.


Ancient folk song finds new home in Appalachia

Ancient folk song finds new home in Appalachia
The Child Ballads span a time frame of several hundred years. Some have been traced back as early as the 13th century, but the majority date to the 17th and 18th centuries. 

Early preservation in West Virginia

Early preservation in West Virginia
Several professors at WVU during the early 20th century were dedicated to the study and preservation of folksong. 

Patrick Gainer's preservation work

Patrick Gainer's preservation work
Fast forward several hundred years to the 1920s, when Patrick Gainer was a student under Cox and Chappell. Inspired by his professors, he too began collecting folk songs.