the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

famous people who also played the pipe and tabor

Helen Kennedy (1888-1976)

researched by Frances

Helen Kennedy was the first honary secretary of The English Folk Dance Society, founded in 1911. In 1928 she was elected an Hon RCM in recognition of her services to Music and to the Royal College of Music in London. Her whole family were musical. She was one of the the pioneers of the early 1900s Folk Revival and played the English concertina and the pipe and tabor.

Her sister was Maud Karpeles who produced many publications with Cecil Sharp.

Her husband was Douglas (second Director of the EFDSS after Cecil Sharp). They played in a folk dance band together and collaborated on many early EFDSS folk dance tune books (short list below). Together they wrote the Jubilee History of the EFDSS. In 1965 they were both awarded the Gold Badge of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, awarded for unique or outstanding contributions to folk music, dance or song, distinguished service to the Society and/or exceptional contributions to the Society's work.  

Peter Kennedy (Folktrax) was her son. He told me (in about 2004/5 in Gloucester) that his mother had played the pipe and tabor and that he had a recording of her. He would not tell me anything else about her when I asked.

Helen Kennedy helped to promote country dancing, which had virtually died out by this time. For example she served as the Occasional Inspector of Folk Dancing in elementary schools for 1920. She was part of a country dance team that went to Canada in1929. In 1941 she adjudicated the Advanced Country Dancing examination at Reading.

"My wife was often called a 'Nealite' jokingly by Cecil [Sharp] and her sister [Maud Karpeles] because she was more conscious of the symptoms of Scholasticism than most of us."

wrote Douglas Kennedy in 1988.

Helen Kennedy owned a pipe that had been reconstructed from pieces of a pipe that had been used by Victorian morris pipe and tabor player John Potter. This is now in the Gloucester Folk Museum. In the mid 19thc:

"John Potter of Sutton, a village adjacent to Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire, was renowned over a wide area for playing the instrumental combination of three-holed pipe and tabor drum."

Percy Manning MSS., Bodleian Library, Top.Oxon d.200, folios 237-239, interview with Joseph Goodlake, Yarnton, Oxfordshire, March 1901. 

The pipes used by Potter had been

'made by Robert Brooks, (baptised in Bampton,1789) who kept the George and Dragon at Bampton'

There is a photograph of Helen Kennedy in " Wittle and Dub" - ES&S mag 39/3 1977 p116.

Some publications produced by Helen Kennedy:
* 'Country Dance Tunes. E.F.D.S. New Series I containing the airs and descriptions of thirty country dances from The Dancing Master'. Selected and edited by D. and H. Kennedy.   (1929)
* Handing on. A guide to country dancing for popular use. compiled by Douglas and Helen Kennedy
* American Square Dancing. A revised reprint of "Square Dances of America."
* Square Dances of America : caller's manuals no.1 and 2, compiled by Douglas, Helen and Peter Kennedy. 1952. (Rev ed.)
* English folk dancing in the primary school, by Helen and Douglas Kennedy. c1960.
* Twelve country Dances  : from "The dancing master" [collected by] John Playford ; selected and edited by Douglas and Helen Kennedy. c 1963
* American Square Dancing, Douglas and Helen Kennedy [editors] 1965
* Country Dance Book: new series, containing the airs and descriptions of thirty country dances from "The dancing master" 17th edition vol.I (1721) and vol.III (1728) selected and edited by Douglas and Helen Kennedy. 1979.

* Various contributions to the EFDSS magazine

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