Vermont Music Archives Available Online

-Prudence Doherty, Archives Month Committee Member

Music is an important part of Vermont culture, past and present. Libraries, historical societies, and music organizations throughout the state house collections that document the state’s diverse musical traditions. To reach wider audiences, many are making their collections available online. Here are profiles of five online music archives.

Vermont Sheet Music. The Leahy Library at the Vermont Historical Society, UVM’s Silver Special Collections Library and Champlain College Special Collections all have significant collections of sheet music related to Vermont that was extremely popular from the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century. Champlain College makes their collection available online. You can search the Special Collections catalog for “sheet music” to view covers, and in many cases, music and lyrics as well. During the last academic year, Champlain students studied the collection and produced a documentary and a community local history event for the Green Mountain Melodies project, funded by a Humanities for the Public Good grant.

Where Lamoille River Flows: A Song of Old Vermont

Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection. Helen Hartness Flanders of Springfield, Vermont began collecting Vermont folk songs and ballads in 1930 for the Committee on Traditions and Ideals of the Vermont Commission on Country Life. For thirty years, Flanders and her collaborators recorded over 4,800 songs using wax cylinders, disc, and reel-to-reel magnetic tape. The geographic coverage expanded to New England, and while mostly representing Anglo-American traditions, the collection includes some Franco-American songs. Flanders donated her collection, which also includes a research library, broadsides, songbooks and hymnals, manuscripts and song transcriptions, to Middlebury College in 1941. In 2013-2014, Middlebury participated in a project using innovative technology to digitize deteriorating wax cylinders and cracked records. Middlebury makes recordings, broadsides and photographs from the Flanders collection available through the Internet Archive.

Martha Pellerin Collection of Franco-American Song. As a proud Franco-American who grew up in Barre, Vermont, musician and community organizer Martha Pellerin worked to document, preserve and share Franco-American cultural heritage. The Martha Pellerin Collection is an online database of French and English songs drawn from nine songbook manuscripts and six interviews with Alberta Gagne. UVM and the Vermont Folklife Center make the material available to audiences who might not have the opportunity, as Martha did, to learn the songs at family gatherings.

Martha Pellerin and a group recording.

Marlboro Music. Every summer since 1951, master artists and exceptional young professional musicians have come together in Marlboro, Vermont to learn, rehearse and perform chamber music. While Marlboro Music’s complete archive is located at the University of Pennsylvania, Marlboro Archives Online offers vocal translations, a repertoire search, and information about participants, concerts and tours. From the Archives is a series of long blog posts that profile outstanding Marlboro musicians, including Pablo Casals and Rudolf Serkin, with biographical essays, recordings, interviews, career timelines, and photographs.

Vermont Music Archive at Big Heavy World. With the same passion that drove Helen Hartness Flanders and her team, the folks at Big Heavy World are dedicated to collecting, preserving and promoting contemporary Vermont recorded music. The archive contains over 5,000 items representing all genres and media types. The website provides a searchable catalog that includes album cover images and Sound Proof, portraits of Vermont musicians photographed by Matthew Thorsen from 1990-2000. Musicians are encouraged to submit copies of their recordings for the archive.

Rick and the Ramblers album cover.

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