Annotation:Cast a Bell

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X: 1 T:Cast A Bell. (p)1651.PLFD.012 M:4/4 L:1/4 Q:1/2=100 S:Playford, Dancing Master,1st Ed.,1651. O:England H:1651. Z:Chris Partington. K:G F/G/Afe/d/|fe/d/eE|F/G/Afe/d/|d/G/F/E/FD:|

CAST A BELL. AKA - "Castabella." English, Country Dance (cut time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. A longways dance tune from the first edition of John Playford's English Dancing Master (1651). The tune and dance were retained in the long-running series throughout all Dancing Master editions, including the 18th and last edition of 1728 (then printed by John Young, successor to the Playford publishing concerns). It was also included in Wright's Compleat Collection of Celebrated Country Dances, printed by John Johnson in London around 1740 (Johnson re-used the plates of a former London music publisher, Daniel Wright).

"Cast a Bell" is a thinly disguised rendering of "Castabella," meaning 'beautiful and chaste woman' and acknowledges in allegory the deceased King Charles I's queen in exile, Henrietta Maria. Keith Whitlock suggests it is possible this dance was from Shirley's masque The Triumph of Peace, "an expression of loyalty from the Inns of Court men to the Crown. One of the key organizers of the masque, entrusted with the musical arrangements, was Bulstrode Whitelock, who wrote in his diary:

"...the Queen did the honour to some of the masquers to dance with them.[1].

Whitlock points out the dance was rather simple and would have posed no difficulty to an unrehearsed participant.

Some consider "Cast a Bell" to be a version, or perhaps precursor to the air "Birks of Abergeldie (The)," made famous by poet Robert Burns who adapted an older song by that name.

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Barlow (Complete Country Dances from Playford's Dancing Master), 1984; No. 12, p. 19. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 40 (facsimile reprint of the Playford original).

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  1. Keith Whitlock, “John Playford’s English Dancing Master 1650/51 as Cultural Politics”, Folk Music Journal, vol. 7, No. 5, 1999, p. 568-69.