Esperance Morris Book vol 2 - 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.
(Part I) A Manual of Morris Dances, Folk Songs, and Singing Games, by MARY NEAL, ESPERANCE GIRLS' CLUB.
One always comes back to the children and lasses and lads of the Esperance Guild—or one always comes away from them—with the feeling that by some miracle, perhaps after all the mysterious simple miracle of heredity, they have got hold of the real spirit of the old English folk-song and dance and music. At any rate, the spirit has got hold of them, and their limbs and faces and thoughts ; they are lissome and rhythmical and happy with the childish grace and abandon that is spelt for us in the phrase " Merrie England." And there is another marvel about their per­formance. Young men, maidens, and children, from twenty years old to four, they are Cockneys, born and bred. You expect, therefore, to see and hear in them the rough but sheepish noisiness of the young Cockney, the hideous vulgarity of the Cockney twang. But you find you are mistaken. You will sometimes come across these undesirable London products on the variety stage, but never amongst the girls and boys of the Esperance Guild. And the conclusion is irresistible that it is the folk-spirit which makes the difference in joyousness, and accent, and general unselfconscious refine­ment. It is the real folk-spirit that has set these eight young mechanics and artisans who were one of the charms of the performance at the Kensington Town Hall last night dancing and singing as young England should, instead of loafing at street corners, or, still more hideous thought, spouting at political clubs.
The joy of the performance, for Englishmen, is that it is altogether native to the English soil. It has not the highly-trained and delicate art of the Russian dancers. But some points it has, apart from its childlike zest, which the folk-music of no country can excel, notably the delightful light and shade given by the diminuendo and crescendo of the sound of feet and morris bells in such dances as the intricate "Faithful Shepherd," which was one of the most successful in last night's programme. As for the Sword Dance, which Miss Neal, like Mr. Cecil Sharp, " collected " from the fisher­men of Flamborough, we commend it to the attention of any London hostess who wishes to make her cotillion the success of next season. Only, she will have to get hold of eight of the sharpest young men in the Guards or the Foreign Office if they are to go one better than the boys who footed it last night. Of the girls and the joyful rhythm of their dancing and singing, ot the children and their perfectly natural acting in " When I was a young girl," " London Bridge," " The Saucy Sailor," and other singing-games of the kind, we have more than once spoken before. It is all just as good as ever, except that it is better. A specially interesting feature of last night's concert was the singing of " The Bailiff's Daughter of Islington " to a charming new-old tune, which, we under­stand, has been " collected " by Mr. Clive Carey, now one of the teachers of the Guild.
When some nine years since Miss Mary Neal started her modest little club for working girls in picturesque Cumberland Market, Regent's Park—the oldest hay market in London—
neither the founder nor any of her fellow pioneers could have guessed she had, as it were, sown a grain of mustard seed destined to grow into a tree whose branches should cover the land. Yet such is the miracle that has been wrought.
For some years past young men and boys have been admitted to membership. They are of the working class, like the girls, and Miss Neal is loud in praise of the admirable behaviour of both sexes. Nothing could be better than their manners and general bearing ; they all show intense interest and pleasure in their exercises, and not one of them has ever given the enthusiastic founder of the movement a moment's anxiety. The members of the Guild number at the present time some 180, ranging from mites of three or four to grown men and women. It is Miss Neal's pleasant custom to take small parties of her girls and boys into the country, there to carry on the good work. Not long ago, indeed, she travelled as far as the United States, where the real traditional Old Country dances and airs were greeted with the utmost delight. Last summer Miss Neal organised what was practically an impromptu entertainment on the esplanade at Littlehampton, being granted the use of the bandstand " for one night only," Twelve girls and six boys went through a number of their Old English singing games, and the effect on the public was electrical. Most of them had never seen or heard anything like it before, and it came as a revelation to find that things so innocent, so healthy, and so beautiful could be nowadays. How the public liked the entertainment was at once shown by the proceeds—£4 in coppers—which went towards the cost of the children's holiday. There are many members of the Esperance Guild who can sing entirely from memory 50 or 60 of these songs, the words of which, like the music, they have never seen. How do they learn them ? Just by listening to Mr. Clive Carey, who sings the songs again and again with equal beauty and patience until his hearers have got them word and note perfect. The Board of Education gave per­mission a year or two since for these songs and dances to be introduced into the schools—this being to many the healthiest and most welcome piece of educational intelligence ever recorded.
Methods of the Guild.
Last night in Old Crosby Hall, which, re-erected, now stands in More's Gardens, Chelsea, nearly opposite old Battersea Bridge, a special meeting of the Esp6rance Guild was held to hear an address by Miss Mary Neal on the methods which govern its working. There was a large gathering of sub­scribers and others Interested in the work.
By way of illustrating the soundness of her contention that professional teachers are not needed, Miss Neal introduced two young fishermen, traditional sword dancers from Flam-borough, who performed their remarkable and inspiriting dance for the benefit of the company in general and in particular for the guidance of half a dozen young lads from the Guild who had never seen the sword dance before. The pupils, as Miss Neal had predicted, showed themselves apt learners, and it was not long ere they were going through the complicated evolutions with almost as much skill and assurance as their instructors themselves.
London : J. Curwen & Sons Ltd., 24 Berners Street, W.
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