Helen Hartness Flanders, taken in the 1940s
Helen Hartness Flanders recording Phyllis Burditt of Springfield, Vermont.
What started out as a short project collecting folk songs, turned into something much bigger. For Helen Hartness Flanders, it became a 35-year passion. Starting early in the 20th century, she began traveling along the side roads and through the small towns of Vermont looking to record folk songs. Lost and Found Sound takes a look at her work.
Until Flanders came along, most of the songs had been passed on by ear from the old to the young. But with the new popularity of radio, young people were less likely to play music or sing the old songs.
Mrs. Flanders — everyone called her that — eventually collected over 4,000 songs. She was a wealthy philanthropist and U.S. Senator’s wife. But she was known for her persistence and charm. She was able to get dozens of reticent and often poor New Englanders to sing for her. Many of the songs are old English ballads. Others were written in Vermont. They cover everything from love to train wrecks to a community event called a "pairing bee," when people would gather to pair apples.
Produced by Nina Keck and Andrea DeLeon. Lost and Found Sound is a production of The Kitchen Sisters (Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson) and Jay Allison.
The Helen Hartness Flanders folk song collection came to be housed at the Middlebury College library in Middlebury, Vermont. Vermont Public Radio’s Nina Keck delved into the Helen Hartness Flanders collection and shares some of Mrs. Flanders’ prized recordings with us.