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A Handbook of Morris Dances

Lionel Bacon on FIddle The purpose of these pages is to provide details of each of the tunes in Lionel Bacon's A Handbook of Morris Dances . For each traditional village (see list in the left sidebar), tunes are given in  abc notation, the score in pdf format and a simple mp3 file of the melody.

It must be understood that the resource we've made available is nothing more than an aide-memoir - exactly what Lionel's book is. He stresses more than once that the Handbook is NOT a learning manual and cannot replace the teacher. Likewise all the dots in the world cannot replace learning from a real live musician. Please do not just listen MP3s and try to replicate the sound!

Dance notations are not included but we have added information about the tradition and links to appropriate web sources.  This includes known web addresses of current “traditional sides” and those who are known as “keepers of the tradition”.

Many of the tunes are available in the fine collection of Letchworth Morris Men CDs from the Morris Shop.

Lionel Bacon

Lionel was a founder member of Winchester Morris Men in 1953. He also danced with Cambridge Morris Men (from 1932), was with The Travelling Morrice, and also a member of London Pride and of Whitchurch Morris Men. The 'Black Book', as his aide memoire became affectionately known, is the most important book for Cotswold morris dancers since the Morris Dance Books were published by Cecil Sharp. It provides, "a baseline based upon traditional sources" (2nd Ed.). A Handbook of Morris Dances was first published in 1974 then, with corrections, a Second Edition appeared in 1986. Copies are available from the Morris Shop.

His notes on “The Music”

  • The treble clef is to be assumed throughout.
  • Each tune is written in the key in which he received it: this is not necessarily the key in which it was collected.
  • A metronome figure is given only when one was published with the tune.
  • The method employed to indicate minor differences in the last bars of the two halves of a repeating phrase is not consistent: here again it is usually as the tune was received by Lionel.

He has given alternative versions of tunes where they have seemed to him to be sufficiently distinct, and of sufficient merit, to justify it: even so it is only a selection from a larger range. Small but worthwhile differences between versions have been indicated in one or other of two different ways. In some cases the relevant bars have been written out separately — e.g. ‘alt. B3’ means that an alternative is given for the third bar of the B music. In a few tunes alternative notes have been shown without re-writing the bar. These of course appear as chords - but they are not intended as such: there are no chords shown for any tune.

The music formulae are intended to assist the musician, but it must be recognised that a formula given for a tune can only relate to a particular dance-sequence. Where there is a choice of sequence, it is of course a matter to be agreed between the Foreman and the musician.

In the formulae, A (or B or C) is the phrase as written, including the repeat if shown. Usually, though not necessarily, it is an 8-bar phrase, which may appear in the music either as 8 bars written out or as 4 bars between repeat marks. Repeat marks in the music never mean anything but one repetition. For example  Bll:   l   l   l   :ll  is an 8-bar B music, and if it repeats 3 times (as in a corner dance) this is shown in the formula as B3. A 4-bar B music repeating 3 times (as in Trunkles) appears in the music as  Bll   l   l   l   ll and in the formula as B3.

Many of the morris tunes are or were popular songs. In those few cases where he has entered words he has done so because, so far as his information went, it was the practice to sing the words while dancing.

Tune Digital Files

We owe a big debt to Vaughan Hully of Shakespeare Morris Men for originally converting all of the Black Book tunes into abc format files.

From each traditions’ abc files Andy Bullen, our marvellous Assistant Editor in Chief, has magically produced individual abc files for each tune, scores in pdf format and mp3 files of the melodies using a simple piano sound. Our magnificent team of sub-editors then spent many hours uploading these for you to enjoy using tools specially developed by Martin Jones our superb webmaster. If there are errors, musical or otherwise, please contact the webeditor [at] themorrisring [dot] org (subject: Morris%20Ring%20website%20-%20abc%20files%20page) (web editor) (We are aware that the operating system on i-devices requires that you refresh your browser after playing each mp3 tune. I'm afraid we'll have to leave Apple to fix that.)

Chris Walshaw's abc Musical Notation Language

Chris keeps a file of up-to-date information about abc musical notation. If you want to use abc you will need to find software for your computer, Chris maintains a list (Web based, Windows, Mac, Palm, Command Line), but also recommends checking Frank's ABC Site Index at http://www.abc-notation.com/index.html. You will almost certainly want to adjust the tempo! Change (or insert) a line such as Q:120 {120 beat per minute} or Q:6/8=200. Where Q was absent in the original notation, a default tempo of 120 has been set.. See, Chris Walshaw's description of the abc notation, also John Chambers ABC Primer.

Lester Bailey of Aldbury Morris Men is also a great advocate of ABC and as well as his own notations, has links to many other sites at http://homepage.ntlworld.com/goldfrog/lester/abc.html

Sources used here and in A Handbook of Morris Dances

Tunes with their sources are quoted using the abbreviations used by Lionel (see below) as ordered in The Black Book. Tunes which are named, but for which there is no music given, are shown in italics.  The digital files are listed separately in alphabetical order.

 

ALP - Dr Arthur Peck

BC - Bert Cleaver

Carey - The MSS of Clive Carey

CD - Country dance

CJS - Cecil Sharp

DK - Douglas Kennedy

EDS - English Dance & Song

EFDSS - English Folk Dance & Song Society

EMB1 - Esperance Morris Book I

FH - Fred Hamer

GF - George Felton

Jour - Journal of the EFDSS

 

MB - The Morris Book(s), CJS

MDT - Morris Dance Tunes, CJS

MK - Dr Maud Karpeles

MM - Morris Men

MSS - Manuscripts(s)

News - EFDSS News

OUMM - Oxford University MM

RD – Dr Roy Dommett CBE

RKS - Dr Kenworthy Schofield

RW - Dr Russell Wortley

TM - Travelling Morrice

6MDJ - Six Morris dances and Jigs