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Sharlene Penman (piano), visiting from New Zealand, is the band leader for the 2019 Tea Dance.
Our fiddlers are Jenny Evans and Amy Beshara.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Westchester - 18 January 2012

Well, Burns' night is growing near and it falls on me this year to double deal - not only is Wednesday the 25th the last class in this winter session it is also the date chosen to celebrate Robert Burns - and I get to put together that double duty party program. So many thanks to Naomi Lasher for, lo these many years ago, sending me a list of dances with connections to the Scottish Bard.

Last week we did The Lea Rig, this week we did Red House, and Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes.

Life has been interesting which, in a very round about way, brings me to certain "Rules of Life". Bill Wagstaff, who I rather wish I had met, had one: Always buy Hondas and Apples (computers). I'm on his side now.

Last week my computer (a spotted cow if there ever was one), decided to process a number of updates even though I told it to do so "later". Top notch programming rule: never let the user specify how much later - and in the middle of class it shut down leaving me to reboot - never a quick procedure with Windows (I WANT A MAC!) and that meant Louis Perez, his wife being away, had the opportunity to fill the time by telling a joke. I REALLY REALLY want my Mac back!!

Then, this week, in trying to reconcile a number of "unknown' bands and albums, all of which had that information input, the computer 'lost' about 25 albums and the associated music files. It is a very good thing that I live nowhere near the Microsoft engineers. There would be a new term for someone (me) going on a shooting spree - "he went windows". I have spent about 15 hours relocating and relinking all those music files.
Ground down teeth and several glasses of wine later....

Other than discovering that several of the music files I had planned on using were mislaid I had a splendid evening, the dancers left happy and I will miss teaching the group.

The evenings dances were:
     Swashbuckling Iain   (32 J 2)  San Francisco 2
     Simon Brodie   (32 S 3)  18C
     Red House   (40 R 2)   7/2
     Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes   (32 S 2)  16/8
     Sunday Afternoon Jig   (32 J 3)   Dunsmuir Dances
     Monymusk   (32 S 3)  11/2


Swashbuckling Iain:- Done as a walk-through warm up dance, the music is good, the dance too. It has been a while since I last danced it so that little chore is now on my to-do list. Verification of a dance requires more that watching it takes dancing, and this dance has caught my eye again.

Simon Brodie:- Not for wimps! The last formation requires strong steps, good strong handing and forethought in the phrasing. And the music, by Dave Wiesler and Mara Shea, a set of really good, strong traditional strathspeys is wonderful... and why I chose to teach the dance. Recommended.

Red House:- The list I received said there is a connection to Bobby Burns, I don't know what it is - anyone? This is one of my favourite dances and full of opportunities to embroider and play (and over do).

Originally a 48 bar dance - 3 part music - AA BB CC - the Scottish Dance Society chose to edit out one of the As. I can understand why, but only half heartily agree.

The original (Playford ca. 1650):
A1   Set, cast to 2nd place:
A2   Repeat back to place.

That in 2 phrases of music/16 bars -  so given our modern Scottish style it would be: set for 4 bars; cast for 4 bars: that again: which is, I agree, a bit much and so the edit.

What the Society may not have realized is that in English Country Dance the term "set" can also apply to "advance and retire" i.e set advancing then set retiring. Dancers can do that or use a simple walking step instead,  which creates a delightful surge - especially where it follows the first cast- i.e. adv & retire; cast off; (here it comes) adv & ret.; cast back to place.

In English CD they keep the 48 bars but even up the dancing by splitting the parts between 1C and 2C:
A1 1C fwd & back set & cast off;
A2 2C the same. (everyone home)
B1  1C chase.
B2  2C chase (again, everyone home)
C1 1C 2M reel of 3 across (2M cuts the reel Rsh to 1L)
C2  1C 2L reel of 3 across (2L cuts the reel Lsh to 1M) and with an extra pass all end progressed.

The Scottish 40 bar version where the reels are on the sides: -
A1   1C set, cast; set, cast back.
B1   1C chase end below 2C.
B2   1C (1L followed by 1M) chase. End home.
C1  1M 2M pass Lsh to begin AS 1L dances down and across to below 2M's place where she enters the
        reel by giving  Rsh to her partner. Last 2 bars 1L dances home as men pass again to progress.
C2   1L 2L pass Rsh AS 1M (from 2nd place) dances across to below 2L's place where he enters the
        reel by giving Lsh to his partner. Last 2 bars 1M dances across to 2nd man's place as 1L 2L pass more
       time to progress.

My inclination would be to dance the first half closer to the ECD style and keep the Scottish version of the reels which are so delightfully different.
A1  1C Adv and Ret; set, and cast off.
A2  1C repeat, back to place.
B1  1C chase
B2  1C chase back?
C1  Scottish style reel
C2  The same.

Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes:-  The connection here is the incredible tune to which Burns wrote the words.
Dougie MacLean sings a wonderful rendition on his CD "Tribute" and Marian Anderson, Judith Linton and Muriel Johnstone have a dynamite set on their CD "North of the Tweed" that begins with the true tune.

Unfortunately Ca' the Ewes... is a song tune and the RSCDS chose to set the dance to a different tune, a strong traditional style strathspey and, in so doing, cut the connection to Bobby Burns. Sigh. FYI the official RSCDS recording (made by Bobby Crowe) uses "Miss Mariane Oliphant (Rossie)" as the lead tune for the dance.

Sunday Afternoon Jig:- The first dance that I have taught from the "Dunsmuir Dances" collection that has me less than thrilled. But it is worth trying again, and when I do I will make every effort to be in the set and dancing it. 

Monymusk:- Another of my favourite dances. It wasn't until I danced to it to music played by Liz Donaldson and all her regular suspects with the following additions: Earl Gaddis, Steve Hickman and Alasdair Fraser. Oh my did that change my mind. If the music is anything but strong, dark and handsome I wouldn't bother. If the music is all that then I would called to the dance floor.

1 comment:

BDan said...

I'm not sure about the style at the time of Playford's publication, but at least in some periods (e.g. the Regency), four bars of setting would have been an opportunity to show off something fancy, much as we throw in bits of highland dancing in certain places in modern SCD. And of course the cast would have been only three bars of traveling followed by a jeté, assemblé, which uses up the time rather better.