William Alexander Barrett

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William Alexander Barrett was born in Hackney, London in 1834. Having been a chorister at St. Paul's Cathedral, from 1846- 49, he became a professional musician, author and journalist. He gained a B.Mus at Oxford in 1871 and became Vicar-Choral at St. Paul's in 1876. He was appointed as an Inspector of Music in Government Training Colleges 1n 1881. As a journalist, he was music critic for the Morning Post and Editor of the Musical Times. He published books on "English Glee and Madrigal Writers", "English Church Composers."

Following an appeal by Andrew Lang, the folklorist, he asked for folksongs, or "quaint songs" from the readers of the Musical Times. It was the responses, together with songs he noted during the 1870s and 1880s that provided the material for his book of "English Folksongs", published in 1890. It is notable for including songs from urban as well as rural locations.

Barrett was taken ill with influenza in 1891 and having apparently recovered, died soon afterwards from "apoplexy". Had he lived, his contribution to the folksong revival might have been much more significant. A further account of his life and work is on the Traditional Song Forum website: https://tradsong.org/the-collectors