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Maud Karpeles was born in London to a middle-class Jewish family of German descent. After leaving school, she studied piano for six months at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. In 1892, she began volunteering as a social worker in London's East End and taking an interest in politics. At the Canning Town Settlement, she taught songs and dances to children. With her sister Helen, she attended the 1909 Stratford-upon-Avon Festival, where they first encountered folk dances and songs. Maud was inspired to start a folk dance club in London, the nucleus of folk dance expert Cecil Sharp's English Folk Dance Society. She became Sharp's assistant and colleague and joined him on collecting trips to the USA between 1916 and 1918. They amassed more than 1,500 tunes from isolated communities in Appalachia and elsewhere. Many were similar to songs they had encountered in England, strengthening their beliefs in how folk songs evolved and spread over generations and distances. Maud went on collecting songs and English country dances after Sharp stopped and after his death in 1924. In 1934, she published her collection Folk Songs from Newfoundland. She continued to edit Sharp's manuscripts and organize festivals such as the International Folk Dance Festival and Conference in London in 1935. During World War II, she helped refugees and worked with the Red Cross. In 1950, and again in 1955, she returned to the Appalachian Mountains with a reel-to-reel recording equipment, and recorded singers for the BBC. In 1967 she published the biography Cecil Sharp: His Life and Work, and in 1974 she published Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs Volumes 1 & 2. In 1973 she published her own An Introduction to English Folk Song. She was awarded the OBE in 1961, for services to folk music.
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