Margate Assembly (1)

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MARGATE ASSEMBLY [1]. English, Country Dance Tune, Jig (6/8 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The melody also appears in the c. 1786 music manuscript collection of American flute player Henry Beck, who had copied some 16 pages of London publisher Charles & Samuel Thompson's The Compleat Tutor for the German Flute (c, 1765) into his copybook. The tune and dance also appeared in Longman, Lukey & Broderip's Bride's Favorite Collection of Two Hundred Select Country Dances (London, c. 1775), Longman & Broderip's Twenty-Four Country Dances for the Year 1791, and Preston & Son's Preston's Twenty four Country Dances for the Year 1792.

Margate Assembly rooms, c. 1880's

The latter 18th dancing season at the spa-town of Margate, Kent, commenced on the King’s birthday, formally celebrated in June, and ended in late October. According to George Saville Carey's The Balnea: or, an Impartial Description of the Popular Watering Places in England (1799), Margate’s assembly room was “spacious, and a good object, standing in the centre of the town” (7). The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal (vol. 38, 1833, edited by Thomas Campbell, Samuel Carter Hall, Edward Bulwer Lytton Baron Lytton, Theodore Edward Hook, Thomas Hood, William Harrison Ainsworth) records a description of the town, in a somewhat stream-of-consciousness passage:

...of all places of amusement in England none are like unto Margate. Here the commercial character loses its characteristics--the trader no longer thinks of pence and shillings-- he gives himself up lavishly to the good things of life--he inquireth tenderly touching the John Dories, and, in his soul he damneth the cost. There too all are equals; the absence of the chilling sneer of the great allows the young apprentice to relax from his stiffness, and to assume the man of ton without the dread of being likened to the original. Sea baths in the morning prepare the appetite for shrimps and eggs; from shrimps and eggs thou passest to billiards, to pony-back, or to the reading-rooms. Then, too, to each of the baths, that, bright and newly painted, stretch seaward in a glistening row, is its own pianoforte!--some damsel gratuitously musical wakens its dulcet notes: and such pretty gay-dressed lasses escaped from Aldgate, or from the long street of Oxford, glance, gillgle, laugh and coquet around, that if thou art amourous thou mayest find here the English Cadiz. Many a Jewish dark eye looks arch at thee under its flowery and feathered bonnet, for Jewesses abound at Margate. The tribes of Solomon and Levi pour forth in abundance down the sultry streets. Here, if they name be one of gentle note, sink it, and become a Hobson or a Smith; affect no superiority; flirt and dance and laugh thy fill, and never wilt thou find thy time less heavily employed. Here what motley affluence of character, what vast miscellary of humours, greet they observing but quiet gaze! Here mayest thou find materials, ay, and adventure too, for fifty novels and five hundred plays! Whose vein shall the critics justly declare to be exhausted while Margate opens her arms to all the varieties of the most variegated classes? And beautiful is it to the philanthropist, as well as to the gallant or the observer, to behold trade thus throwing off its cares, and the reserve of the mercantile respectability blowing merrily about in the gay breezes of the pier. Some of my school-days were spent in the neighbourhood of this Omphalon Gaiæ; and well do I remember the portly president of its pleasures, that most important of all important personages--the Master of the Ceremonies! He was a character. In those good old times, ere the feudal government began to cede to the federal, Margate, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate, the triple Geryon of the coast, were united under one lordly away; now each community claimeth its own separate master of the ceremonies--the union of the three kingdoms has been repealed. Thou O Illustious C_____! wert then supreme--defender of the faith, from the Margate assembly-room of Cecil Square to the Broadstairs library of Nuckell, and the Ramsgate ball-room of the Albion hotel! Captain C____ was a character! he valued himself on being the living picture of Geirge IV. ... [p. 444]

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Thompson (Compleat Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances, vol. 5), 1788; No. 101, p. 51.

Recorded sources: The earliest sound recording of the tune is on the 2nd Barrel, 3rd tune, of a mechanical Chamber Barrel Organ [1], hand-built by John Langshaw (1718-1798), Organ Maker, Lancaster, c. 1785. The organ is one of three surviving Langshaw organs.




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