Parson upon Dorothy

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X:1 T:Parson Upon Dorothy M:C| L:1/8 S:John Playford – 2nd edition of the Dancing Master (1652, p. 83) K:Gmin D2|G3G ABcA|B3c B2d2|c2B2 ABcA|B4 B2:| |:d2|c2B2|ABcA|B3c B2d2|c2B2 ABcA|B4 B2:| |:d2|c3B A2c2|B3A G2B2|A2G2G2F2|G4:|



PARSON UPON DOROTHY. AKA – “Shepherd's Daughter (2) (The)," "Beautiful Shepherdess of Arcadia.” English, Country Dance Tune (2/2 time). G Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABBCC. “Parson upon Dorothy” first appears in the second edition of John Playford’s Dancing Master [1] (London, 1652, p. 83). The melody was retained in all subsequent editions of the long-running Dancing Master series, through the 18th and final edition, published in 1728 by John Young. It also appears in John Walsh’s Compleat Country Dancing Master (London, 1718, and later editions of 1731 and 1754), and is the vehicle for songs in several ballad operas, including John Gay’s Polly (1729), Ebenezer Forrest’s Momus Turn’d Fabulist, or Vulcan’s Wedding, and George Lillo’s Silvia (1731). The melody was also included by Northumbrian fiddler Henry Atkinson in his 1694 music manuscript, and a century later by London musician Thomas Hammersley in his c. 1790 music copybook. Graham Christian (2015, p. 85) points out that both dance and tune were not static, but rather sustained "numerous if at time subtle alterations" over the hundred year period they appeared in London country dance publications.

The meaning of the title has yet to be ascertained, and was perhaps the name of a ballad or song air. Christian (2015) thinks it possible 'Parson' was "a musician who created a popular alteration of variation set on a folk melody, making the figures of the social dance more attractive" and suggests in may have been Martin Peerson (c. 1570-c. 1651), a madrigalist, singer and keyboardist who died just prior to Playford's publication of the tune. Christian concludes the 'Parson' of the title may have been a tribute to his memory (Christian also connects him with the dance "Parson's Farewell"). Dorothy' could simply have been an identification in folk memory. Regardless of title, It was a popular tune (given the number of times it was printed in the 18th century), and, as the custom, was used as the vehicle for other songs. "The Beautiful Shepherdess of Arcadia" is the name of a c. 1693 Roxburghe ballad [Roxburghe 2.30-31] set to the tune, although versions of the text of that ballad are yet older, dating to the close of the 16th century (c.f. "The Knight and the Shepherd's Daughter", Child Ballad 110). The South Carolina Gazette of April 20, 1738, gives:

In a short time will be published an excellent new ballad entitled Parson upon page. To the old tune of Parson upon Dorothy. Price half a bitt.

Kate Van Winkler Keller astutely points out (in Dance and its Music in America, 1528-1789, p. 93) that this is not a creditable announcement, but is rather a satiric comment in the guise of an advertisement. No doubt referring to some incident well-known to the small Charleston, S.C., community of the time.

Additional notes

Source for notated version: -

Printed sources : - Barlow (Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford’s Dancing Master), 1985; No. 107, p. 37. Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes, vol. 2), 2005; p. 99. Christian (A Playford Assembly), 2015; p. 85. John Walsh (Complete Country Dancing-Master, Volume the Fourth), London, 1740; No. 64.

Recorded sources: -Beautiful Jo Records BEJOCD-44, Oxford Waits - "Switter Swatter." Dorian DOR-90238, The Baltimore Consort - "A Trip to Kilburn" (1996, as "The Beautiful Shepherdess of Arcadia"). Rootbeat Records, Hannah James & Sam Sweeney - "State and Ancientry" (2012). Wildgoose Records WGS 304CD, Belshazzar’s Feast – “John Playford’s Secret Ball” (2001).

See also listing at:
Hear the tune played by Hannah James and Sam Sweeney on youtube.com [2]
Hear the Baltimore Consort's performance of "Beautiful Shepherdess of Arcadia" on youtube.com [3]



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