Joseph Taylor was an English folk singer from Lincolnshire.
The Australian pianist, composer and folk song collector Percy Grainger considered Taylor to be the finest folk singer that he had the opportunity to record.
They first met in 1905 when Taylor took part in a music festival at the small market town of Brigg in North Lincolnshire. A folk singing category was included in program for the first time and a prize awarded for the best unpublished old Lincolnshire folk or plough song. Joseph won first prize with his rendition of ‘Creeping Jane’, which he learnt at the age of eleven from and old woman in Binbrook.
Grainger continued to visit Brigg to collect more folk songs and set several of them to his own arrangements for solo voices, choirs and bands. In 1906 he brought a phonograph to the music festival to capture the nuances of the Lincolnshire folk singers in every detail, and thereby became a pioneer in recording folk singers in England.
Through pioneering recordings and later compilations such as the 1972 album ‘Unto Brigg Fair’, Joseph Taylor and other traditional Lincolnshire singers inspired a whole new generation of folk-revival performers. Martin Carthy recorded various versions of ‘Creeping Jane’, ‘The White Hare’, and other songs.
Percy Grainger noted or recorded 28 songs from Joseph Taylor between 1905 and 1908, and although many of the field recordings were damaged somewhat by the mere fact of repeated playing, the 1908 recordings made for the Gramophone Company represent a treasure trove of authentic recorded folksong.
Joseph Taylor was in his 70s when he recorded for Grainger and his rendition of Brigg fair, which Grainger had set to music, was further adapted for orchestra by the composer Delius. At its first London performance in 1908 at London’s Queen’s Hall, Joseph Taylor was an invited guest and the story goes that he stood up proudly to sing along with “his” tune as soon as the orchestra played the first strain.
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