Library and Information Services, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

On this day: George Farquhar Graham

On this day, 28th December 1789, Scottish music journalist, historian and arranger George Farquhar Graham was born. Graham (1789-1867) was originally destined for law, but became what we would now call a musicologist instead. At some stage in his early adulthood, he had lessons with Beethoven on the Continent.
G F Graham - Songs of Scotland, 1st ed., 1848

His major accomplishment was the three-volume anthology of Scottish songs he edited for publisher John Muir Wood - The Songs of Scotland adapted to their appropriate melodies. He arranged some of the songs himself, wrote all the commentary, and coordinated the efforts of the other arrangers - Mudie, Surenne, H. E. Dibdin and Edinburgh-based Highlander Finlay Dun.

Popular Songs and Melodies of Scotland, 1908

Because Wood was the publisher, the collection was also known as Wood’s Edition of the Songs of Scotland.

Why is this interesting today? Because the collection was one of the most respected Scottish song anthologies for the next sixty years, meaning that countless households over several generations would have encountered their Scottish heritage in the version presented to them by George Farquhar Graham and John Muir Wood - good, middle-of-the road arrangements, playable by a competent amateur, and bringing together some of the background to each song, as it had accumulated over the previous half-century or more.

The title changed slightly over the years, with the different editions:-

  • 1848-1849 The Songs of Scotland adapted to their appropriate melodies (Mudie, Surenne, H. E. Dibdin, and Dun were also named on title-page). Also known as Wood’s Edition of the Songs of Scotland - see illustration of open copy
  • 1887 Revised as The Popular Songs of Scotland with their appropriate Melodies; with additional airs and notes (J. Muir Wood and Co.);
  • 1908 Revised as The Popular Songs and Melodies of Scotland, with the addition of many airs and notes by J. Muir Wood, notes by Graham and arranged by A. C. Mackenzie [et al] (London: Bayley and Ferguson). ‘The Balmoral Edition’ is the green copy illustrated here.

It only remains to be said - happy 222nd birthday, George! Cheers!

  • Check our holdings in the Whittaker Library at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland here;
  • Check other libraries' holdings in COPAC here.
  • Click the 'On this day' label below to see other blogposts in this series.
  • 'Charlie is my darling', arranged by G F Graham

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