Esperance Morris Book vol 1 - online book

A Manual Of Morris Dances Folk-songs And Singing Games With Sheet Music And Instructions

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2
THE ESPERANCE MORRIS BOOK.
environs of London as far as Barnet, Haslemere, Maiden­head, and Reading. We have twice been to Yorkshire, and been most hospitably entertained for the night. Next summer I am meditating a fortnight's tour by motor 'bus from London to Yorkshire and back, giving a display in a different town or village every day but Sunday.
The next step was that I began to be asked by country people interested in village life, by Poor Law teachers, drill instructors, school - mistresses, club leaders, and others where the songs and dances could be had. All wrote with the same idea, the need of bringing back into the lives of the English people their own folk music, an inheritance which the dwellers in cities had lost entirely, and which was fast slipping away from the country people as the old folk one by one died, leaving no record behind, or a record safely imprisoned in the archive? of learned societies or between the covers of collectors' books.
Answering letters about the songs was comparatively easy; one wrote and said where they were to be had in book form. But with the dances it was different. These had not been published, and there was then no manual of instructions. So very tentatively at first I began sending out the members of my Club whom I thought the best dancers and who would be the most intelligent teachers. This again proved an historic event.
Since then we have rivalled the traditional John Kemp, " the nine-days' wonder," who danced the morris from London to Norwich. The first county into which I sent Miss Florence Warren was Norfolk, and since then she and six or eight others have danced the morris from one end of England to the other, north, south, east, and west. To-day there are two counties in which we have not taught, and into one of those our pupils have penetrated. By the time this is in print it is possible these two will have been included. In some counties we have ten or twelve centres, and I believe we have taught in every town of any size in West Sussex.
Besides this wc have taught girls' clubs, boys' clubs, polytechnic schools, and private individuals in all parts of London, and many of our pupils have given demonstra­tions both in London and in the country to their own and their onlookers' great enjoyment.
This autumn the Board of Education, in the new Syllabus of Physical Exercises, has included morris dancing, reels, lilts, and other country dances. So we have started dancing classes especially for elementary school teachers, which are very well attended. From time to time we shall give these teachers an opportunity of seeing the traditional dancers at work, so that they may be equipped to hand on the dances to the school children in the traditional form and spirit.
Everywhere the same result has followed. Clergymen and helpers of all classes write to me that quite a new life and interest has sprung up in their midst. Clergy who have despaired of getting beyond the apathy and dulness of modern village life have reached people through the medium of the folk music. Music is the one art in which the otherwise inarticulate can express themselves, and so we have in this music the truest meeting ground for all classes. For the first time we have something in our possession for which others are glad to ask, and which we are glad to share. This revival of the practice and
use of our English folk music is, as many helpers have told me, part of a great national revival, a going back from town to country, a reaction against all that is demoralising in city life. It is a re-awakening of that part of our national consciousness which makes for wholeness, sane-ness, and healthy merriment.
We can never, as a nation, go back to the days when country life sufficed for everything. The town has come too near to the country for that. But an interchange between town and country is what we must look for in the future. The musician will go into the country and will set down for us dance and game and song from the old folks in whose memory the music still lives. The town folk will learn them and add something to them of their own life and generation, something of the charm and vivacity of the city, and they in their turn will teach the young folk of the village.
Letters still come not only from all parts of England, but from our colonies and foreign countries, Japan, Bulgaria, India, and the Canary Islands. The etfect which having something they are able to give has had upon those who are passing on these songs, games, and dances is quite beautiful. The hospitality which they have enjoyed in the country, the hospitality whi h they have given to the country folk who have come to teach them, has been a great joy to both sides, and as time goes on and we discover more of these traditional dancers, we hope to make our Club room a centre to which those will come who not only wish to learn the old-time steps and tunes, but who will enjoy seeing the tra­ditional dancers face to face, and who in this way will catch the true and essential spirit of the almost lost art. As I write I am just arranging for another set of dancers, only now discovered by me, to come and dance at the Esperance Club.
From being merely a Working Girls' Club in an out-of-the-way part of London, we have become part of a national movement, and to-day in the oldest haymarket in London, which is Crown land, and under the Com­missioners of Woods and Forests, may be heard the fascinating strains of Shepherd's Hay, Maid o' the Mill, Constant Billy, and other old-time melodies, the tinkle of the morris bells and the clap of the morris sticks. This practice of folk dances and songs and games has had a splendid all-round effect on the general conduct and character of the Club members, as any movement which takes us out of our own little life and interest should do. It has added a certain dignity to the smallest thing we do.
It matters not what the actual agent is so long as that part of us is touched where lives the deepest and best of our nature. It is to this that music in tune and rhythm speaks, it is this to which unconsciously the child responds, and it is this which is going to make English children more alive, alert, and strong, and more responsive to the best ideals and traditions of our land. One has always felt that the national treasure was not all in gold and silver and merchandise, nor with the great and learned, but that somewhere, somehow, it was in the people themselves. It has seemed to us that in this music we have made a great discovery of a hidden treasure, and that having discovered it we have become a medium through which others may discover it too.
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