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Chapter Six: Balladry

Ballads have had a bad press; none worse than from some of their own interpreters. The Victorian and Edwardian Drawing Room Ballad had a broad and mixed ancestry, with many august names to be found in its pedigree. The demand for ballads was stimulated by the spread of pianos in middle-class parlours, and was amateur-led. Ballads generally used but a fraction of the technique available to the greatest of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century singers. Some of these artists were among the most distinguished in the history of singing. But such were the rewards of ballad-singing that few could afford to disdain them, however much they may have lamented sullying their vocal chords. Over the 1920s and 1930s, sales of sheet music ballads began to decline, and the ballad-concerts themselves ceased. One of the most eminent of ballad-singers had no doubt as to the reason for this.