Sellinger's Round (1)

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X:1 T:Sellinger’s Round [1] M:6/8 L:1/8 K:C G3 G>AB|c3 c>de|d2c B>AB|c6|G2G G>AB|c3 c>de| d2c B>AB|(c3 c2)d|e3 e>dc|(d3 d2)d|B>cd d>cB|A3 d2B| c>dc B2G|A>Bc B2G|A2G ^F>EF|(G3 G2>)AB| c>dc B2G|A>Bc B2G|A>BG ^F>EF|G6||



SELLINGER'S/SELLENGER'S ROUND [1]. AKA and see "Beginning of the World (The)," "St. Leger's Round." English, Irish; Country Dance Tune (6/8 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AA (Chappell): ABB (Raven, Sharp): AABB (Merryweather): AA'BB' (Barnes). Kidson, writing in Groves, says “Sellinger’s Round” is a 16th century tune and round dance of unknown authorship, which had immense popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries. It has been called “a singularly perfect example of a Mixolydian (tune) superficially resembling a major-scale melody” (Walker, 1924). Flood (1906) states that Sir John Hawkins saw it danced in Ireland in 1540; when he retired eight years later he brought the dance back to England with him, "where its popularity was so great it was arranged by the famous master Dr. William Byrd" (p. 159). Flood further argues the English Round ("Sellinger's Round") and Country Dance had origins as the Irish Heie or Hey. Merryweather dates it later and states that "the most plausible explanation" for the tune's beginnings is that it originated in Ireland around 1590, and agrees with Kidson that the original title was "St. Leger's Round," a reference to Henry VIII’s Lord Deputy for Ireland, Sir Anthony St. Leger (of whom Flood writes: "This St. Leger, or Sellenger, was sworn into office on July 25th, 1540, and was, on the whole a tolerant ruler.") A fine anonymous setting for two lutes survives, probably written by John Johnson, which must also date from the 1580s. Kidson thinks the original dance was a May-pole dance, and offers as evidence a rude wood-cut on the title-page of a 17th century ‘Garland’ (i.e. songster), where figures are depicted dancing round a May-pole with the title “Hey for Sellinger’s Round” inscribed above them.

Chappell (1859) finds numerous references to it in the literature of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, some indicating it had been a long established and very popular air in England. For example, he quotes a passage from Bacchus' Bountie (1593):

While thus they tippled, the fiddler he fiddled, and the pots
danced for joy the old hop about commonly called 'Sellinger's Round'.

The alternate title "Beginning of the World" is explained in a passage in Tom Tomkis’s play Lingua: Or, The Combat of the Tongue and the Five Senses for Superiority, published in 1607, although first performed in 1602[1]. The character Anamnestes says:

By the same token, the first tune the planets played, I remember Venus the treble ran sweet division upon Saturn the bass. The first tune they played was Sellenger’s round, in memory whereof ever since it hath been called “the beginning of the world.

Morley mentions the tune in Plaine and Easie Introduction (1597). Sir John Hawkins also disdainfully mentioned the piece in his 1676 A General History of the Science and Practice of Music:

...Fidlers and others, hired by the master of the house; such as in the night season were wont to parade the city and suburbs under the title of Waits...Half a dozen of fidlers would scrape "Sellenger's Round," or "John, Come Kiss Me," or "Old Simon the King" with divisions, till themselves and their audience were tired, after which as many players on the hautboy would in the most harsh and discordant tones grate forth "Greensleeves," "Yellow Stockings," "Gillean of Croydon", or some such common dance tune, and the people thought it fine music.

English composer William Byrd's arrangement appears in Lady Neville's Manuscript Book of 1590 and the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book of 1610 (No. 64), and is the one used by Cecil Sharp in his Country Dance Tunes (1909). Other early versions appear in William Ballet's Lute Book of 1594 and Playford's Musick's Handmaid of 1678. It retained its popularity as a dance and ballad tune from this latter 16th century period through the next century. John Cleveland mentions the tune in this bit of verse:

Who should he but hear, our organs once sound,
Could scarce keep his hoof from Sellenger's Round.

Variations on an Elizabethan Theme' (AKA "Variations on Sellinger's Round") is a set of variations for string orchestra, written collaboratively in 1952 by six English composers (Lennox Berkeley, Benjamin Britten, Arthur Oldham, Humphrey Searle, Michael Tippett and William Walton) to celebrate the forthcoming coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June, 1953.


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes), 1986. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time, vol. 1), 1859; p. 257. Fleming Williams (English Dance Airs; Popular Selection, Book 1), 1965; p. 9. Karpeles & Schofield (A Selection of 100 English Folk Dance Airs), 1951; p. 17. Merryweather (Merryweather’s Tunes for the English Bagpipe), 1989; p. 33. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 27. Sharp (Country Dance Tunes), 1909; p. 41.

Recorded sources : - Columbia M 30825, Glenn Gould - "A Consort of Musicke Bye William Byrde and Orlando Gibbons" (1971). Hyperion Records CDS44461/7 CD1, Davitt Moroney - "Byrd: The Complete Keyboard Music" (1992).

See also listing at :
Hear English composer William Byrd's setting of the tune at youtube.com [1]



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  1. According to The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in Eighteen Volumes (1907–21). Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.