Fowke Songs: Edith Fowke’s Search for Canadian Folk Songs.


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by Allan Kirby

This book looks at Edith Fowke’s efforts to collect the folk songs that have mattered to Canadians. Her quest began in a real sense here in the Peterborough area, and particularly with the work of Mary Towns and others around the iconic, now gone, Towns’ general store. Edith Fowke followed leads that led to many exciting discoveries, and she worked with some of the great names in folk singing. She was a pioneer at the Mariposa Folk Festival. She recognized, too, that children’s songs at skipping were really folk songs. She gathered lumbering songs and sea shanties, too.

Edith Fowke grew up in Saskatchewan but spent her married life in Toronto. From this base she could make excursions to Peterborough to gather folk songs, but also to discuss what she found. One of the most significant visits to Trent University came in connection with the 1979 Kawartha Conference where she clearly stated the importance of Douro to her amazing career collecting and sharing folk songs, on her long-running CBC radio show, her several books and her recordings of local singers, and Canadian legends such as Alan Mills.

Allan Kirby has studied the career of Edith Fowke for many years, and his enthusiasm for folk songs permeates this book. Allan is an accomplished musician as well as an historian of Canadian music.