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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THE ESPERANCE
MORRIS BOOK.
61
MORNING POST. Nov. 15th, 1907.
Last night's conference at the Goupil Gallery should certainly increase public interest in the revival of English folk-songs, singing games, and morris dances, which has led to several delightful performances at the Queen's Hall, and many a pretty pageant of song and dance in the half deserted village of the English country-side. The work of the Esperance Club deserves every encouragement, since it makes for the greater gaiety of country life, and is the intelligence department of an artistic campaign against the devastating influence of the latest ditty from the so-called music-halls. Indeed, the whole move­ment for the revival of English folk-music deserves the sympathy of every true lover of good music. It has always been said that the English are not a true musical people, and the national habit of self-depreciation—really a form of the pride that apes humility —has caused us to believe that, unlike every other country in Europe, England possessed no folk-music. Dr. Burney's statement in his history of music, much valued a century ago, to the effect that ".the Turks have a limited number of tunes, to which the poets of the country have continued to write for ages, and the vocal music of our countrymen seems long ago to have become equal'y circumscribed," is an early expression of this foolish, fallacious belief which has long ago been a commonplace of criticism in this country and abroad. In point of fact the English peasantry have always been as fond of their traditional music and dances as the country folk of Hungary, Russia, or Norway ; and, strange to say, a vast body of folk music with characteristics dif­ferentiating it from that of any other country has survived into the present age. Thousands of English folk-songs have already been collected, and thousands more await the collector in the remote districts of England where the blighting influence of town life has not destroyed them, as the far-flung smoke from town chimneys destroys the rarer wild flowers. We have had no composer of the first rank since Purcell, because up to the present this foundation of a really national school of composition has remained unrevealed. Now that the work of taking down the traditional folk-songs from the life of those who still sing them, for the most part very old people living in nooks and corners of Somerset (where Mr. Sharp has collected between one thousand two hundred and one thousand three hundred true folk-songs) and other counties remote from the great cities, has progressed so far, we may hope for an English variant of Glinka or Grieg. Apart from such far-reaching considerations, there can be no denying that these folk-songs and folk-dances are altogether worthy of remembrance and revival, that they are destined to become popular, and that they will deserve their popularity. A door has been opened into a new country, which is yet as old as " Merrie England "—and already the approach to it is thronged. The secretary of the Esperance Club receives scores of letters daily from country people interested in village life, Poor Law instructors, drill teachers, girls' school mistresses, club leaders, etc., asking where and how the songs and dances can be had. It is astonishing how readily school children learn them ; the other songs they are taught at school are acquired with difficulty and kept for school use, whereas the folk-songs are memorised at once "by a sort of spiritual sixth sense " and sung in playgrounds. What has been called the ancestral memory comes into operation here, no doubt. Children easily learn that which a long line of their ancestors have known by heart. It must be remembered that folk-music is the creation and possession of the people. The traditional tunes and words have come generation after generation from the heart of the English peasantry. Each generation and each individual who has sung them has added some little touch, and so it happens that in the songs collected from old people, sometimes eighty or ninety years of age, are found the very heart and soul of English sentiment—a very different thing from the senti­mentality of the modern English ballad, which is too often manufactured to sell. The grace of the morris dancing is well expressed in Mr. Bernard Partridge's charming cartoon in this week's issue of Punch, though the music of pipe and tabor is unheard. The Esperance Club—but let it take an all-English name—deserves help in its propaganda, and we have every reason to believe that help will be forthcoming as a result of last night's conference.
MORNING POST. Nov. 16th, 1907.
One fine grey morning handbills announcing an open-air entertainment by members of the Esperance Working Girls' Club fluttered along the promenade, and it was decided to see the show, such as it might be. Rain fell during the per­formance in a pretty rose-haunted garden under a wide-branched tree, but for two at least of the company of spectators the rain-drops were other-worldly tears of old-time happiness. All that was seen or heard seemed a spiritual emanation from the shining green turf, a pageant of white voices and woven gestures conjured out of the half-forgotten past—only half-forgotten, because none of us has altogether lost the ancestral memory of " merrie England " and the ancestral hopefulness that goes with it. We had the freedom of fairyland that afternoon ; our souls put on the green livery of the only Good People. There was morris dancing by fair, fresh maidens in the old simple dress of the country side, bearing tiny staves or waving white handkerchiefs in either hand. They wore infinitesimal bells on their trim ankles (Socrates would have admired them, and so did I), and their manners towards one another were as pretty as their dancing. Seeing these dancers, I fully understood the criticism of the old much-travelled sailor who left Somerset so many years ago to follow the sea : " This is the dancing of my heart, and I would not have missed the sight for two big apples." Then there were folk-songs of various kinds, the artlessness of the singing being the per­fection of art. The delights of free open-air living with " the Wraggle-taggle gipsies " were so melodiously expressed that for the rest of the long day and for the night that followed that, existence in a room, a tank of stagnant air, seemed utterly impossible. That song must have made many a tramp in the nearer and further past. Then examples were given of the delightful action-songs, in which bean-setting and mowing the barley and other rustic pursuits—half work, half play, and all good fellowship—are made the choral background of simple love story. A girl with the tanned complexion and blue black hair (bound in a scarlet kerchief) of the dead but undying Nut-brown Maid, sang her confession of love ; there were faint fluctuating colours in her voice, a rainbow of sound on thoughts of tears, and yet not a touch of the artist's self-consciousness in her manner. Art sat within arm's length in a sweet, pale incarnation under the aspect of a tiny grande dame, and she praised the solo singer, and at the end would have given her a gift of heather. Art was in the mood of a turning opal ; through the white shimmering of her serenity shot crimson flashes of some nameless subtle emotion. Yet these simple, fragrant things touched her heart, I think. Once or twice her eyes seemed too bright to be tearless.
The work of the Esperance Club makes for the fostering of the love of one's country, which is one aspect of a nation's will-to-live, and it is to be hoped that these pageants of song will presently be heard in every village throughout the land.
Pageantry of a kind has of late become popular. But even the best of this year's historic shows had the faults of a too literal translation and " Puck of Pook's Hill " is worth them all many times over. The true pageant is the pageant of folk song and folk dance which is the sound and movement of the blood in the heart of England.
DAILY TELEGRAPH. June 2GII1, 1909.
Tcli:-sings rti.n Dances.—In the picture gallery of Bridge»vater House, yesterday afternoon, a charming enter­tainment was given, and it is to be regretted that the miserable weather of che afternoon prevented many from coming to witness so interesting a display as it proved to be. The performers, it should be said, are members of the Esperance Club, which is composed entirely of working girls, as dress­makers, milliners, and such callings. They were assisted by a number of children drawn from the public elementary schools, and the enjoyment of all in their pleasant task was obvious. The stage was appropriately surrounded with foliage, and had masses of daisies in front, which formed a delightful setting for the simple cotton or muslin gowns, with deep white collars and gaily-hued sun bonnets, that were worn by all. Miss Mary Neal, to whose enthusiasm as honorary secretary the
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