Much Wenlock (1)

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MUCH WENLOCK [1]. AKA and see "Dilwyn," "Not for Joe (2)." English, Morris Dance Tune (4/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. The tune is a fairly widespread melody used for morris dancing and was collected by Cecil Sharp from John Locke of Leominster, and published with the dance; both being called "Not for Joe". "Much Wenloch (1)" (also identified as "Three Jolly Sheepskins") was also collected with other dances and tunes in March, 1937 by Maud Karpeles (1885-1976) from Baden Minton, a miner and melodeon player who had been born in 1900. Minton came to the Raven Hotel along with three dancers, two stick men and a tambourine player to demonstrate the dance. "Much Wenlock (1)", the dance, was from the village of Homer, about a mile away from Much Wenlock in the 1880's, and was danced before World War I, and Minton had been a member of the "young" team (of younger dancers, to differentiate them from the more mature dancers), who danced on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day (the day after Christmas), and sometimes through until New Years. The activity was associated with Christmas and the birth of Christ. As was not uncommon, morris dance teams were not a continuous tradition, but died out and were revived many times. After the war, there was a hiatus in ritual dancing in the area, but Minton formed a new team around 1926 from his fellow Limestone quarrymen and miners. At the last revival (ca 1949) some of the dancers were living at Stretton Westwood and they called themselves the "Westwood Morris Men" [1]. The "Much Wenlock (1)" tune was the accompaniment to the dance Not for Joe (other tunes were also played for this dance), and thus the names of the dance and melody became intertwined. Also in the Borders region of England/Scotland the same melody accompanies a dance called Dilywn (thus giving another name to the tune).

The dancers wore blackface (their hands were blackened as well), and, unlike Cotswold dancers, wore no bells. Originally they decorated their regular clothes with tags and streams of paper, but stopped that practice after local youths attempted to set them alight. When Karpeles met them the wore fancy dress costumes (an Italian clown, King Jester, Sambo the Black). Minton said he introduced the idea of one of the team dressed as a woman, although he told E.C. Cawte that the pre-World War I team usually had two of the dancers wearing petticoats and women's hats. When Cawte interviewed older local informants about the dancing in the 1950's, very few knew the name 'morris dance' for the activity, but all recognized it at once when asked if they remembered "niggering" at Christmas. For many the dance was remembered as blackface minstrel cavorting.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Bacon (The Morris Ring), 1974; p. 268.

Recorded sources:

See also listing at:
See the dance performed on youtube.com [2] [3]




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