Cummer Go Ye Before

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CUMMER GO YE BEFORE. Scottish. The name of the tune or song of the first recorded mention of a reel. Alburger (1983) and Purser (1992) remark that in 1591 an extract in Newes from Scotland told about a group of witches (some of whom were later strangled and burnt), who sang these words while dancing at a convocation:

Cummer go ye before, Cummer go ye before,
Gif ye will not go before, Cummer, let me.

(Cummer=woman). Emmerson (1972) reports that this incident was apparently centered around Prestonpans, and that it was alleged that Satan himself addressed a concourse of sorcerers at North Berwick Kirk, prior to which, at "about eleven hours at even they dancit alangs the Kirk-yard." The witches took hands and danced a reel to Geilie Duncan's trump, singing in one voice "Cummer go ye." The tune has not been discovered.

Source for notated version: Alburger (Scottish Fiddlers and Their Music), 1983; pp. 14-15.

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