Esperance Morris Book vol 2 - online book

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

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
T HE bulk of the dances included in this book are from the village of Headington, near Oxford. There are also two dances from Ilmington, near Stratford-on-Avon, and some country dances taken from various sources. The Headington Morris Side, as far as we know, preserved an unbroken tradition until about thirty years ago, when the dancing was dropped and the side disbanded. There was a revival, however, in the second jubilee year, 1897, when the side included one or two of the old dancers. The old fiddler was dead, and Mr. Mark Cox, from whom we have most of the tunes, took his place. Mr. Cox played for the next year or so, and then his place was in turn taken by Mr. William Kimber, who had been an occasional dancer in the side as recon­stituted ; his father, it may be mentioned, had danced in the old side. A few years after this revival the side was again disbanded.
In connection with this revival it may be interesting to quote the local newspapers on the subject of an enter­tainment given at the Oxford Corn Exchange in March, 1899. " The Morris dance is one of the most ancient of English dances, and although it has survived in country districts to the present day in some parts of England, without having lost any of its most characteristic features, the sport appears during recent years to have almost fallen into disuse in Oxfordshire. However, at Headington Quarry there still exist several men who often used to participate twenty years ago in the " morisco" dance, as it was sometimes called, at Whitsuntide and other festivals with which the dancing was inseparably connected. Therefore it was most fitting that on Monday night these representatives of a quaint old-world custom should have been included in the troupe, numbering six, which hailed from Headington Quarry." After the description of the dresses worn we read : " Consequently, when the men danced in unison to the strains of a somewhat primitive fiddler, quite a pretty effect was produced, whilst to the onlooker the spectacle was at once a convincing proof of its antiquity, so grotesque were the actions and gestures of the performers. The dance partakes somewhat of the nature of a hornpipe ; there is a good deal of action in it, and it cannot be accused of too much sedateness or gravity . . . The troupe in each dance were accompanied by a fool, generally known as the ' Squire,' who wore a diversified dress consisting of a silk hat decked with coloured ribbons, a white smock, breeches, and one white and one brown stocking. He carried a stick with a bladder and a cow's tail at either end, and frequently applied the former to the backs of the dancers." The dances in the programme were " The Blue-eyed Stranger," " Constant Billy," " Country Garden," " Rigs of Marlow," " How d'ye do, sir?" " Bean Setting," " Haste to the Wedding," " Rodney," " Trunk Hose," and " Draw Back." The article concludes with a report of an interesting " account of morris dancing, its history, antiquity, and survival during recent times in Oxfordshire," given before the performance by Mr. Percy Manning, who was responsible for the entertainment, and to whose enthusiasm the revival at Headington was to a great extent due.
The dances were originally taught at the Esperance Club by Mr. Kimber, but they have lately been amended and supervised by Mr. Joseph Trafford, for many years leader of the old morris men, and, as we believe, the oldest survivor of the side. Mr. Trafford joined the morris
side at Headington nearly sixty years ago, and at that time some of his colleagues had been dancing for forty years.
The Ilmington dances, while laying no claim to an unbroken tradition, have been revived of late years by Mr. Sam Bennett, himself an indefatigable dancer and fiddler. Though the Lively Jig cannot be said to present many of the characteristics of the morris dance as preserved at Headington, it clearly shows traces of an ancient tradition, and is in itself such an admirable dance that we have not hesitated to include it in this volume.
There appears to have been a varied and extensive terminology in connection with morris dancing, and it is often difficult to arrive at the exact use of certain expressions. We have tried to preserve in the correct usage some of the characteristic titles for the principal figures, such as Shake up, Hey up, Hands across, and Back to back, and such others as might be useful to the dancer. The term " shake up " is a little elusive in its meaning, but it appears to have been applied by the Headington dancers to the first figure in most of the dances, and that is the sense in which we have used it in this volume. " Hands across" was the name for the simple cross-over, and " Hey up " for the figure which we have called " Chain " in the first book. The Hey or Hay, to quote Dr. E. W. Naylor, in " Shakespeare and Music," was " a round country dance, i.e., the per­formers stood in a circle to begin with, and then ' wind round handing in passing until you came to your places." Arbeau says: " First the dancers dance alone, each separately ; then together, so as to interlace, ' et font la haye les uns parmi les aultres.' " There are numerous allusions to it in Elizabethan literature, c.f., " Love's Labour's Lost," Act v., Sc. i: " I'll make one in a dance, or so ; or I will play On the tabor to the worthies, and let them dance the hay,"
and the pastoral of Nicholas Breton from " England's
Helicon," published in 1600 :
"Shall we go daunce the hay, the hay? "
The tunes of the Headington and Ilmington dances were noted in the autumn and winter of 1910, and those of the Sussex dances in the autumn of 1911.
Played by Mr. Mark Cox, of Headington.
This is probably the survival of an ancient dance in
connection with some spring ceremony. The fact that
it begins with a circle distinguishes it from the other
Headington dances.
2.— RODNEY. Played by Mr. Mark Cox. Mr. Trafford called the first figure of this " Hey off," but it exactly resembles that of the Draw Back, which he called " Shake up."
From Mr. Joseph Trafford, of Headington.
This dance was taught by Mr. Kimber under the title
of " Hunting the Squirrel; " but Mr. Trafford said that the
title was incorrect, and that there was a slight difference
in the two dances. Later, both he and the other dancers
Previous Contents Next