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.
A Manual of Morris Dances, Folk Songs, and Singing Games, by
It is Beatrice, is it not ? in Much Ado About Nothing— or Much To-do About Nothing, as the programme boys outside the Lyceum in its great days used to call—who says that a star danced and under that she was born. What then of the members of the Esperance Club, who, with Miss Neal as their moving spirit, have been working so hard and gaily for several years now to bring about a revival in England of the old songs and dances ? Were they not born under dancing stars too ? Surely. And if they had their way this planet of ours might look to the other planets and stars as if it danced too. Miss Neal has just compiled " The Esperance Morris Book," with a history of the movement since 1905, when the girls' feet first began to be too much for them as they danced and sang while ordinary dull persons walked and talked, down to the present time when they have to their credit hundreds of villagers all over England in whom the old melodies and happinesses have been implanted. This admirable achievement is recorded ; instructions as to the songs, dances, and singing games are given ; and a selection of them follows, arranged for the piano. Thus any one possessing the book has, so to speak, a tourist's ticket for Merrie England and a complete outfit while there. May it find many possessors and more readers !
Nobody who has ever attended one of the Espcrance Club concerts is likely to forget his or her experience, such is the beauty and bewitching intimacy of the ancient melodies (most of them in the natural modes) and so keen the delight of the players in the songs and morris dances and singing games which make up the programme. It is clear that all of them, from the grown lads and lasses to the merest dots of children, would have just as much pleasure in their festival of play (work it is not for them, since they are all untouched by the taint of professionalism) if only birds and flowers were present to see and hear. The haunting loveliness of the " old lavender " cry, still heard in the streets of London, is present in these folk-songs. Even more haunting (if that be possible) are the morris tunes, such as " Shepherd's Aye " or the " Morris Off " with its suggestion of the tiredness that is a pleasure rather than a pain, a sauce to one's supper, and an incentive to timely sleep and pleasant dreams. Then there are the singing games, which are still played in the streets of London. They are so old and gay, these infinitesimal tragedies and comedies as artistic and as artless as Greek dramas ! What is to be done with this newly discovered May-day music ? It must not remain a buried talent of a nation wrongly called unmusical. In the first place, a knowledge hereof must be spread throughout the country from Land's End to " merry Carlisle," and further afield than that—into the demi-Englands beyond the narrow seas. A beginning has been made of that joyous task.
The popularity of morris dancing continues to grow. It is so charming a combination of movement and music, ol sociability and health-giving exercise that it is not only recapturing the country-side, but is invading the large cities, and especially London. In the " Esperance Morris Book," just published in handsome and complete style by J. Curwen
and Sons, Miss Mary Neal tells how the revival of morris dancing, which is a part of the national life to-day, began. The flame has spread like wildfire, as hundreds of villages and towns can testify. Messrs. Curwen's book with music, pictures, instructions, and a batch of selected folk-songs should add further to the boom in morris dancing.
" To set all England dancing." That was the wild and impossible dream that came to Miss Neal's mind when her attention was once turned to " the morris." Wild and impossible dreams sometimes come true. Miss Neal is one of the intrepid dreamers who are the essentially practical people of the world. Every day sees the revival of the morris, now in one county of England, now in another. The story of the discovery of these dances, and of the subsequent development of the movement for their revival, is told in " The Esperance Morris Book." With such a book for guidance there is no reason at all why a performance of folk-dance and folk-song should not be given in the schoolroom of every village throughout the country. Such an enter­tainment should not be the end but the beginning of the revival of folk-music in the village, where once again should the sight be seen of children dancing " Shepherd's Aye " in the school playground and the young folks footing " Jockey to the Fair " upon the green. To-day, the town is giving back to the country the old dance and the old songs. May the publication of the " Esperance Morris Book " give yet another stimulus to the spread of English folk-music through­out our native land, and help to make English boys and girls in city and hamlet what every lover of his country would like to see them—" upstanding, clean living, and joyous."—E. P. L.
Miss Mary Neal has been the life and soul of the revival of English folk-music, which, but for her practical energy and enterprise, might have meant little more than an addition to the vast accumulation of forgotten or half-forgotten musical literature—the dust-heaps of silenced sounds in which the historian and technical expert rummage to their heart's content. But for her and the Esperance Club it might have been necessary to discover the traditional songs and dances a second time, and it would have been too late then to find any of the old Morris-men to show us how " Shepherd's Aye " and the rest should be rendered in the old English style of self-forgetting simplicity. It follows that everybody interested in the revival (that is to say, every true lover of the true England) should read the " Esperance Morris Book," which gives specimens of folk-songs, morris dances, and singing games, and a vast deal of commonsensc criticisms and useful explanations.
Devotes the magazine page (May 5th, 1910) to an article on " The revival of the Morris dance," with sketches and photographs, and a review of " The Esperance Morris Book."
Excellent reviews of " The Esperance Morris Book " have appeared in " The Times," " Westminster Gazette," and many other leading papers.
London : J. Curwen & Sons Ltd., 24 Berners Street, W.
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