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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16                                                           THE ESPERANCE MORRIS BOOK.
I N getting up an entertainment, a great deal depends on the spirit in which it is done, and the great thing is for the performers to enjoy it as much as those who look on. If it is out of doors, I do not think a stage is necessary; in fact, it rather spoils the appearance. The sound of the bells, if the dancers know their business, should quite sufficiently mark the rhythm, and the morris dance can be quite suitably performed on a well-mown and well-rolled lawn. A square of about 20 ft. should be allowed for a set of six, and the piano, if one is used, should be put on a board of wood, and as far as possible concealed by plants, branches, etc. It is often possible so to arrange it behind bushes that the player can see the dancers without being seen, and where this can be done it is most desirable. The children should enter dancing and waving their handker­chiefs, as they do in the first part of each dance, the effect and the sound of the bells being most charming. Many little additions to an open-air performance may be made, as for instance : Miss Warren, when conducting an open-air display at Hull, arranged the lawn like a meadow at hay-making time, and had a swing put in the background, and a see-saw. The children were told, when not actually performing, to make hay and enjoy themselves on the swing and see-saw, the only stipulation made being that they should keep absolute silence. The result proved very delightful, and children and audience enjoyed them-?elves enormously.
At an indoor performance it is much more difficult to create a right atmosphere and spirit for a folk music concert. It is important, above all things, to keep out the theatrical element, and for this reason the utmost simplicity of stage arrangements should be observed. The platform at the Small Queen's Hall, where we have given most of our performances, is 25 ft. by 22 ft., and two sets of dancers (six in each) have danced, the rest of the performers standing round at the back. About thirteen children have played the games. It is more effective on a platform of this size if only six dance at a time, different " sides " taking turns, while the others look on. The whole company can, of course, dance the Morris On and Morris Off. A curtain of fireproof green
material should be hung across the back of the platform. The far sides may be decorated with plants and flowers, but care should be taken to have nothing in front which will obstruct the view of the dancers' feet, so that it is best to keep the decorations strictly to the two ends. The piano, where one is used, should be as far as possible hidden by palms, etc., taking care, however, that the pianist can see the performers. We have not found it answer, however, to have the piano off the platform, as with children it is difficult to keep them in tune when they are too far away from the instrument. This is all the stage property which we have ever had, and I very strongly advocate a rigid adherence to its simplicity. Children, especially, have enough imagination to turn a green curtain and a few plants into magic woods and meadows full of wild flowers and singing birds, and will get quite enough inspiration from them to throw themselves heartily into the music. The children should be told that they are their great - great - grandfathers and great - great - grandmothers dancing on a village green, and that there is no audience, but that they are only to enjoy themselves in the best possible way.
Of course a piano is quite out of place either indoors or out, and yet we are at present almost obliged to use it, because, unless the performers are very good and quite in spirit of the music, it is difficult to keep up the verve and spirit without a piano.
I have in my possession an old pipe and a tabor to which the dances used to be danced ; the men from whom the tunes were written played them on a concertina, and I have tried fiddles and mouth organs. I think boys should be encouraged to learn to play the dances on fiddles and concertinas, especially for outdoor dancing, playing by ear, and being able to stroll about amongst the dancers, quite at their ease. But as to singing, I am afraid we shall have to keep the piano, until the revival of folk-singing has taught people to sing as the old folks do—without accompaniment.
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