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MitfordRI

The Nine Lives Of Morris

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To my untutored ear there is quite a difference between Morris and ITM. Morris music has a strong rhythm, where as I find the rhythm in Irish music harder to pin down. This makes Irish music easier to listen to ( for me), yet Morris suits dancing better. That sounds daft! Let me try again. The strong rhythm in Morris fits in well with the visual spectacle of dancing, but for me lacks the subtlety for prolonged listening on its own. Irish music has more appeal as purely instrumental music, but I'm not sure I would like to dance to it, particularly when it is played at super competitive speed. Does that make sense?

For what its worth, I play Irish music ( or attempt to), but I love Morris. As an Englishman exiled (happily) in Ireland, I find Irish attitudes to their traditional music immensely uplifting. I only wish that English people would place greater value on their own music. Keep Dancing!!

 

Nigel

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Chris - You haven't seen the lot I play for :huh: The only one I'll willingly watch is the Squire/foreman and definately not my hubby! He fortunately usually dances no.2 so not a problem, but it's really difficult when one of the others dances No.1 and we (the musicians) have no 'in-time' feet to watch :(

They'll get there eventually but at the moment we only have 2 experienced dancers on a regular basis so it's a problem.

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To my untutored ear there is quite a difference between Morris and ITM. Morris music has a strong rhythm, where as I find the rhythm in Irish music harder to pin down.

 

Both Irish and English music have strong rythyms. However they are very different. The morris rythym is quite unlike anything in Irish music, and likewise the reel (in the Irish sense) isn't often found in English music. Even jigs, which appear in both traditions, are played differently - I have heard this described as "diddly-diddly" for Irish compared with "rumpty-tumpty" for English.

 

To revert to the original post, morris is clearly not part of Irish Traditional Music - the clue is there in the word "Irish". However it is true to say they are part of the "same thing" ie traditional music as equal but different partners You could also say that they are part of the same thing as rock and roll, or classical music - it all depends where you draw the boundaries. But being "part of" the same thing does not mean being the same.

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To revert to the original post, morris is clearly not part of Irish Traditional Music - the clue is there in the word "Irish".

OK, so here's a related question to turn this thread on its head. Rapper sword dancing is generally considered related to morris dancing. Why is it always accompanied by Irish jigs?

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I think the Eynsham dances (cotswold) may be fast enough to appease the Irish players, but the big difference between Irish and English trad dancing is in the hands.

Hi Hilary,

 

Hope that you are keeping well.

 

This posting had me scurrying off to seek out the Eynsham Morris website, as I remembered that Dave Townsend used to be with them.

 

http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/users/mh/eynsham/

 

see: miscellaneous pictures; I don't remember May Bank Holiday 2005 being that warm!

 

Regards,

Peter.

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OK, so here's a related question to turn this thread on its head. Rapper sword dancing is generally considered related to morris dancing. Why is it always accompanied by Irish jigs?

 

 

What I was told: there are a handful of Irish jigs that are relatively easy to play at the breakneck pace required of rapper. Why do most rapper musicians play the same tunes, over and over and over again? Swallowtail, tenpenny bit, etc? I think it's all about speed.

 

There's a new rapper group in our area, and they have a wonderful fiddler who eschews all the usual tunes and plays mostly English tunes cranked up to rapper speed, but with a smoothness that's awesome to hear.

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OK, so here's a related question to turn this thread on its head. Rapper sword dancing is generally considered related to morris dancing. Why is it always accompanied by Irish jigs?

When I played for rapper I've usually played The New Rigged Ship, which is as English as they come and fits the stepping beautifully.

 

Chris

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Guest Old Leaky

Sorry, see below...

Edited by Old Leaky

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Guest Old Leaky
... this is not to insult the ... Scotch ... members here

Alan

 

Er, too late mate! :angry:

 

BTW There is a school of thought that Morris is actually French in origin ...

Edited by Old Leaky

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When I played for rapper I've usually played The New Rigged Ship, which is as English as they come and fits the stepping beautifully.

Me too!

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... this is not to insult the ... Scotch ... members here

Alan

 

Er, too late mate! :angry:

Rumour has it that in the old Imperial days what used to happen was an English General would say to a Scots regiment "Hey chaps. Those johnny foreigners over there just called you Scotch" and before you could say "What do you guys wear under your kilts?" another country was added to the Empire. :)

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When I played for rapper I've usually played The New Rigged Ship, which is as English as they come and fits the stepping beautifully.

 

That's a great alternative to the monotony of swallowtail (a perfectly good tune, but gets tiresome after you've heard 5 groups dance to it, one after another)

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Back on topic, more or less: Is "Good Humor" a Morris tune?

The Irish/Celtic/Old-Timey band I play in plays this tune a lot. The lead sheet makes a reference to Morris dancing, so I thought I'd ask.

I've never heard of a Morris tune by that name. A search at John Chambers' tune finder turns up nothing, but a search at the same site for "Good Humour" brings up a tune that starts like this:

 

post-65-1188736014_thumb.jpg

 

Is that the tune you had in mind? I've been playing for Morris dancing for 20+ years and never ran across it before.

Yes, that's exactly the tune (it has two more strains, but that's the first one). And I just checked, our lead sheet doees use the British spelling of "Humour".

 

So if you play it thru, does it sound Morris dance-able? We do like the tune. It does have more of a 4/4 feel than the 2/4 or 6/8 of "Mr. Softee" below.

Curiously, in the USA, "Good Humor" (without the u) is a brand of ice cream, traditionally sold from a white truck that cruises the streets of residential neighborhoods during the summer, announcing its presence by ringing a set of bells attached to the front of the truck.

Yes, we kid about thirsting after ice cream when we play this tune :P

"Mister Softee" is another brand of ice cream sold in a similar fashion except that instead of ringing bells, the truck broadcasts a silly tune from a loudspeaker. The tune starts like this:

 

post-65-1188736621_thumb.jpg

 

Some 30 years ago, a Morris dance was devised called "Mister Softee" using this tune.

You got me on this one, David. I don't recognize the tune at all. Ice cream trucks I've heard play "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean", "Little Brown Jug", and "The Entertainer" by Joplin.

But never "Good Humour" ;)

--Mike K.

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OK, so here's a related question to turn this thread on its head. Rapper sword dancing is generally considered related to morris dancing.

 

I'm not sure it is generally considered to be related to Morris dancing. It is just another English traditional dance form. You might as well say that haggis and midges are generally considered to be related because they are both found on Scottish picnics.

 

Since the revival, the various forms of English traditional dancing have been lumped together because the practitioners share a common interest in dancing, tradition and beer. They're not necessarily related as in having common ancestry. If you watch Cotswold, rapper and north west clog, you see very few similarities at all.

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To revert to the original post, morris is clearly not part of Irish Traditional Music - the clue is there in the word "Irish".

Many years back an Irish friend told me that there are Morris dancers in Ireland (Republic, not Northern), and that they're an old tradition, not a recent introduction (as they are in North America). He also said that they're very rare, local survivals which might not survive much longer.

 

On the other hand, I'm not sure how similar that would be (have been?) to contemporary English Morris, Cotswold, clog, or whatever.

 

About 20 years ago I met a woman (in America), who told me that as a teenager she had been a member of a Morris dance team in Liverpool. As she described it, there were (are?) many such groups, and they participated in competitions, not street tours or "Ales". In both dress and competitiveness it sounded more like the contemporary Irish step dance culture in the US, complete with being dominated by girls who would abandon it when they passed their teens. Also, by her description the dancing seemed rather like a cross between a drill team and cheerleading, or certainly closer to Northwest Morris than to either Cotswold or Border.

 

I didn't think to ask her whether she had Irish roots. There are a lot of Irish in Liverpool.

 

OK, so here's a related question to turn this thread on its head. Rapper sword dancing is generally considered related to morris dancing. Why is it always accompanied by Irish jigs?

What makes you think they're "Irish"? Because the Irish play them? But so do Americans, among others. And even the Irish don't normally play those tunes at what I'm used to as rapper speed. Nor are the rapper musicians playing Swallowtail because it's "Irish", but because it's suitable for rapper... i.e., easy to play at breakneck speed. :D

 

Many tunes -- including Swallowtail jig and Ten Penny Bit have been deeply embedded in multiple cultures for at least a couple of centuries. That ubiquitous -- and widely varied among different traditions -- Morris tune Princess Royal is attributed to Irish harper Turlogh O'Carolan. And my stock example is the tune known in numerous English-speaking traditions as Soldier's Joy. It's considered a "native" tune in both Finland and Poland, and I suspect all across Western Europe. There seems no way of knowing whether it was composed once and widely adopted or whether it's such a "natural" melody that it was actually composed more than once, in different locations.

 

Nor can we be sure that certain popular "Irish" tunes weren't originally English. But it doesn't matter. To each culture, the tune is "our own".

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To revert to the original post, morris is clearly not part of Irish Traditional Music - the clue is there in the word "Irish".

Many years back an Irish friend told me that there are Morris dancers in Ireland (Republic, not Northern), and that they're an old tradition, not a recent introduction (as they are in North America). He also said that they're very rare, local survivals which might not survive much longer.

Dublin City Morris Dancers?

 

On the other hand, I'm not sure how similar that would be (have been?) to contemporary English Morris, Cotswold, clog, or whatever.

 

About 20 years ago I met a woman (in America), who told me that as a teenager she had been a member of a Morris dance team in Liverpool. As she described it, there were (are?) many such groups, and they participated in competitions, not street tours or "Ales". In both dress and competitiveness it sounded more like the contemporary Irish step dance culture in the US, complete with being dominated by girls who would abandon it when they passed their teens. Also, by her description the dancing seemed rather like a cross between a drill team and cheerleading, or certainly closer to Northwest Morris than to either Cotswold or Border.

This is Carnival (A.K.A "Fluffy") Morris Dancing - see these links for a bit more....

 

Evolution of Carnival Morris

Pictures of Carnival Morris

A bit more info from people organising it

Edited by Woody

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...Rapper sword dancing is generally considered related to morris dancing.
I'm not sure it is generally considered to be related to Morris dancing. It is just another English traditional dance form. You might as well say that haggis and midges are generally considered to be related because they are both found on Scottish picnics.

 

Since the revival, the various forms of English traditional dancing have been lumped together because the practitioners share a common interest in dancing, tradition and beer. They're not necessarily related as in having common ancestry. If you watch Cotswold, rapper and north west clog, you see very few similarities at all.

Well, "generally considered" often has little or nothing to do with fact, historical or otherwise. I think David's remark reflects an evolution (I've gotten tired of calling it "corruption") of language and concept. During the 1970's in the northeast US and I think also in England, English "sword dancing" and Cotswold Morris were considered quite distinct. At least in America, non-Cotswold forms of "Morris" seemed virtually unknown. Even then, rapper was included in "sword dancing", though rappers aren't swords at all.

 

Then awareness and popularity of other forms of Morris -- clog Morris, Northwest, Border -- increased, and use of the word "Morris" became looser "Ritual dance" became an umbrella term for these forms of dance, including "sword", as well as such traditions as garland dances and ribbon-and-stave dances. But it seems that "Morris" has been gradually replacing "ritual dance" as the encompassing term. Maybe some folks didn't like the term "ritual"? Quite likely one factor was the fact that some existing "Morris" teams started including these other forms in their rerpertoire. E.g., New York City's Greenwich Morris Men regularly did (still do?) a couple of longsword dances, had a fling with rapper, and at different times danced at least one Border and one clog Morris dances.

 

Meanwhile, persons not personally involved in the tradition(s) are likely to apply the name "Morris" to any street performance which involves music and dancing, after their first encounter with something by that name. They are all "related" in function, if not in origin.

 

Something similar has happened to/in the concertina community. The word "anglo" comes from the terms "anglo-German" and "anglo-chromatic", which were originally used to distinguish English-made instruments using a "German" keyboard from their cruder German predecessors. As recently as the 1980's "anglo" and "German" commonly designated a major distinction between types of concertina. But now what used to be called "German" are almost universally referred to as "anglo" (even if they're made in China :o).

 

And how often has someone -- even someone you've already corrected a dozen times -- referred to your concertina as an "accordion"?

 

They're not necessarily related as in having common ancestry.

I'm trying to remember the name of the dancer who I believe wrote a book about just this point. As I recall, the main conclusions of his research were:

  • The various forms of ritual public performance in England -- "Morris", "sword", and even mummers plays -- before their "revival" were each confined to a separate region.
  • The boundaries of these regions corresponded fairly closely to the limits of various ethnic migrations (or "invasions") from continental Europe. [interesting if true, since I thought the migrations were hundreds of years prior to the development of the the traditions. Hmm?]
  • The earliest references to Morris dancing in England were from the 13th century, at which time it seems to have been a court entertainment, not a peasant pastime.

It does seem likely that something like Morris dancing was once widespread in Western Europe, and that what we have today are local survivals. Certain Basque dances (I've seen films) so closely resemble Cotswold Morris -- the bells, the hankies, the "whites" as dress, the figures, pipe and tabor for music -- that one might wonder whether why they don't use the same tunes. (I've also seen other Basque dances which are quite different.) Roumanian Calusarii (probably not the right spelling) dancing is surprisingly close in form to Northwest Morris, though quite different in function. As observed by the person from whom I learned about it, it's a ritual to cure the ill. I'd be surprised if there aren't more examples that I don't know about.

 

On the other end, there's supposed to be a series of English towns/villages each with their individual longsword tradition, but each tradition founded by the same person in the 19th century.

 

And there's still so much we don't know.

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Guest Old Leaky

I'm not sure it is generally considered to be related to Morris dancing. It is just another English traditional dance form. You might as well say that haggis and midges are generally considered to be related because they are both found on Scottish picnics.

 

Er, I won't bother with a riposte to your dig about haggis (yawn!) as you obvioulsy don't know much about Scotland. Picnics? Here? In the pouring rain? Ha!

Edited by Old Leaky

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