Gay Gordons (1) (The)

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GAY GORDONS [1]. AKA and see "Gordon Highlanders' March (The)." AKA - "Gie Gordans." Scottish (originally), New England; Country Dance Tune (cut time) or March. A Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Miller & Perron, Sweet): AABBCCDD (Cranford/Fitzgerald). This tune was included in J. Scott Skinner's 1921 concert set romantically entitled "Spey's Fury's" and was composed in 1915 by the great strathspey artist The original title was "The Gordon Highlanders March" but came to be called "The Gay Gordons" through association with the famous Scottish country dance. The 'Gay Gordons' remains a popular couple dance, still occasionally to be found at New England contra dances, for example, and at Scottish dancing events, where it has been over time one of the most popular Scottish Country Dances. The origins of the dance are unclear, and may not have anything to do with Scotland! One story goes that it was a Continental dance from sometime in the 19th century. Others theorize that it was a turn of the 20th century member of a group of military-style dances, including such as the Military Two-Step, the Canadian Barn Dance and others. Perhaps the earliest reference to the dance dates to the year 1915, although Christine Martin (2002) says there was a previous reference to a Gay Gordons dance in 1907.

The title refers to the Gordon Highlanders, a Scottish unit in the British army first raised in 1794 as the 92nd Regiment. The word 'gay, sometimes spelled 'gie' (as in Jimmy Shand's 1942 recording) or 'gey', perhaps to preclude modern associations of 'gay' with homosexuality, in this context means 'handsome in appearance' or 'decked out' (as in formal kilted dress). The dance is performed to many tunes, however, usually a march followed by a jig, and not simply the tune given below. "Scotland the Brave" followed by "Highland Laddie," for example, is cited as one typical medley vehicle for the steps. The famous Scottish bandleader and accordionist Jimmy Shand recorded a "Gay Gordons" medley in the 1950's with Skinner's tune as the lead-off piece ("Auchmountain's Bonnie Glen"/ "72nd. Highlanders Farewell to Aberdeen"/"Scotland My Ain Hame").

It has been speculated that the original epithet 'Gay Gordon' referred to the courtly Continental manners of the original Norman members of the clan who relocated to the remote North East of Scotland. One famous Gay Gordon was doubtless Lord Strathven, says Emmerson (1972), who danced with Marie Antoinette and became a favorite at the court of Louis XVI for his "agreeable personality and admirable skill in dancing."

Source for notated version: Winston Fitzgerald (1914-1987, Cape Breton) [Cranford].

Printed sources: Cranford (Winston Fitzgerald), 1997; No. 76, p. 34. Miller & Perron (New England Fiddlers Repertoire), 1983; No. 166. Skinner (The Monikie Series No. 3), c. 1890. Sweet (Fifer's Delight); No. or p. 27 (has an alternate 'B' part).

Recorded sources: Alcazar Dance Series FR 204, "New England Chestnuts 2" (1981). Folkways FW8827, Arbuckle, Mikkelson & Clifton - "Old Time Couple Dances" (1961). Bobby Brown and the Scottish Accent - "Grandfather Mountain Gala." Breton Books Cassette, Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald - "House Parties and 78's" ().




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