On 10th April 1902 a sometime landscape artist and self-educated musical antiquarian took his seat in the Drill Hall at Kendal in Westmorland. Frank Kidson, an acknowledged authority on the subject, had been invited there to judge the first ever Folk-Song Competition. In introducing his guest the general adjudicator ‘could only say Mr Kidson was a walking encyclopoedia on these things’.
The perceived need for a characteristically English art music bestowed considerable significance on folk-song, for both theory and practice in continental Europe suggested that such material comprised the essential ingredient of any such national music. To contextualise the importance of Kidson's task this article begins by briefly examining the condition of music in England in the late nineteenth century before considering the requirements to be made of this as yet largely untapped national resource.