Sir Roger de Coverley

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X:1 T:Roger of Coverly M:9/4 L:1/8 N:”Longways for as many as will.” B:John Walsh – Complete Country Dancing-Master, Volume the Fourth B: (London, 1740, No. 86) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:D A,2|(B,C)D2D2D4B2A2F2D2|E6E2B,2D2C4A,2| (B,C)D2D2D4B2A2F2A2|d4D2D3ED2C4A,2|| A2F2A2B2G2B2A2F2A2|_c4E2E3FD2C4A,2| A2F2A2B2G2B2A2E2A2|d4D2D3ED2C4A,2||



SIR ROGER DE COVERLEY. AKA - "Ould Roger de Coverly." AKA and see "Haymakers (3) (The)" (Scottish), "Roger of Coverly," "Old Roger a Coverdill," "Maltman (The)." AKA - "Sir Roger." English, Scottish, Irish, New England; Slip Jig (9/8 time). England; Northumberland, Dorset. C Major (O'Neill): D Major (Howe, Raven, Thompson, Trim): A Major (Huntington, Roche): G Major {written in two sharps} (Cole, Kennedy, Plain Brown, Ryan). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Chappell): ABB (Burchenal): AABB (Cole, Huntington, Roche): ABC (Doyle/Ellis Knowles): AABBCC (Howe, Merryweather & Seattle, O'Neill, Raven, Skye, Trim): AABBCCDD (Kennedy, Plain Brown Tune Book). This very popular country dance air was originally known as “Roger of Coverly,” probably originated in the north of England (according to Frank Kidson). Sir Roger de Coverly was the name of a rakish character in popular literature in the early 18th century. He was supposedly a country squire from Worcestershire, and a member of a small club which ran the popular newspaper The Spectator that appeared daily from 1711 to 1712, and his grandfather was said to have invented the dance that went by his name. In fact, save for the existence and popularity of The Spectator, it was all a fiction by Joseph Addison, one of the principal contributors to the paper. Kidson, writing in Groves, says the prefix ‘Sir’ in the title is not found until after Addison and Steele used the name in their paper. What is revealing about this is that “Roger of Coverly” was considered an old dance at the time the paper was published. In the previous century the tune was printed in Playford's Division Violin (1685), The Dancing Master (9th edition, 1695, and all later editions), and many ballad operas of the period. Antiquarian William Chappell (1859) said the tune was "at least as early as the reign of Charles I," and that the ballad was printed as early as 1648. He goes on to say that the Roger referenced in the ballad is an obscure character, but may have been a knight who lived in the reign of Richard I, of the family of Calverly. Chappell printed a communication by Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan, Bart (Notes and Queries, i. 869) which asserted:


Roger, so named from the Archbishop of York, was a person of renowned hospitality, since, at this day since, at this day, the obsolete known tune of 'Roger a Calverley' is referred to him, who, according to the custom of those times, kept his Minstrels, from that, their office, named Harpers, which became a family, and possessed lands till late years in and about Calverley called to this day Harpersroids and Harper's Spring. '
“Roger of Coverly” has had a long history in English country dance, retaining its popularity almost until the present-day. One source gives that the air is printed in Playford's Dancing Master, 1650, p. 167 (though other sources say it did not appear until later editions of the Dancing Master starting in 1669). Dr. Rimbault (Notes and Queries, i. No. 8) gives the earliest printing as Playford’s Division Violin (1685). Kidson finds it in Playford’s Dancing Master of 1695 (9th edition, p. 167), printed with dance directions. Regarding northern English origins, the antiquarian William Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Times) says that he had in his possession a manuscript copy of the tune called “Old Roger of Coverlay for evermore, a Lancashire Hornpipe,” and the a manuscript (in the British Museum) called The First and Second division Violin, attributed to John Eccles, 1705, gives the tune as “Roger of Coverly the true Cheisere way.” Kidson points out that the Calverley family, from whose ancestors the tune is said to derive its name, have been ancient inhabitants of the Yorkshire village which bears the family name. Shropshire musician John Moore included the melody in his c. 1837-40 music manuscripts as “Roger de Calverley,” perhaps influenced by the Yorkshire village. Another suggestion for the origins of the title, continues Kidson, is that it is well-known that Royalists in the English Civil War were often called ‘Roger’, in the same spirit as the American ‘Billy’ Yank and ‘Johnny’ Reb of their Civil War. It is suggested the ‘Coverly’ is a corruption of ‘Cavalier’. In support of this is a manuscript called For the violin, Patrick Cumming his Book: Edinburgh, 1723, with the tune in scordatura tuning gives the title as “The Maltman, or Roger the Cavalier.”

There are other claimants for provenance. "This survival of old English dances,” the Scotch authority Dauney says, “is more Irish in character than English or Scottish.” Francis O’Neill quotes Wilson, in A Companion to the Ballroom, London 1816, who opines that all tunes in 9/8 time are of Irish origin,” although O’Neill stopped short of claiming the tune as Irish. “Roger of Coverly” was known as "The Haymakers" in Scotland, and dance and tune were popular in the 18th century in that country. Scots also knew a version of the melody as the Scots song “The Maltman comes on Monday,” not, as erroneously asserted by Chappel, by Allan Ramsey, although it is inserted in the first volume of his Tea-Table Miscellany, 1724 (see Kidson, Groves).

As noted above, “Roger of Coverly” has long been associated with a dance of the same name, which may be more familiar in modern times, at least in the United States, as the Virginia Reel. In New England the contra dance the Virginia Reel was often danced to this tune, though other tunes were also substituted. It has been suggested its movements are derivative of a craft dance of the weavers' guild, imitative of the shuttle moving through warp and woof of thread. In the time of George III it was known as the 'Hemp-Dressers' Dance,' and the King himself took part in it. It traditionally was a concluding dance for balls and assemblies (Kidson/Groves, Linscott, 1939), both in the British Isles, and in relatively modern times in New England. Perhap the fact that the tune was played as a dance closer is related to its selection as one of a number of melodies to be played as "A Retreat", contained in the late 18th century music copybook of 37th Regiment (British) fifer John Buttery--i.e. a melody to be played over the retreat drum-roll that signaled the end of the day's activities in camp. Dance directions for the ‘modern’ figure are given in Wilson’s Companion to the Ball-Room, c. 1816, and Chappell’s Popular Music of the Olden Times. Kidson finds that an early correspondent of Notes and Queries reported the tune was known in Virginia as “My Aunt Margery.”

Writer Charles Dickens featured a description of the dance in A Christmas Carol, during the holiday celebration staged by Fezziwig and company, in which Ebenezer Scrooge takes part. The classic movie version starring Alister Simms holds true to this description, for the fiddler plays the correct tune (quite speedily and well!) during the scene. Dickens writes:

There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince- pies and plenty of beer. But the great effect of the evening came after the Roast and Boiled, when a fiddler (an artful dog, mind—the sort who knew his business better than you or I could have told it him!) struck up “Sir Roger de Coverley.” Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top couple too, with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.

English writer George Eliot also mentions the tune in the novel Silas Marner (1861) in the passage on the squire’s dinner party. The village fiddler, a man named Solomon Macey, “a small hale old man with an abundant crop of long white hair”, plays the tune to summon the guests from the dinning room to a room cleared for dancing. “’Ay, ay, Solomon, we know what that means’, said the Squire, rising. ‘It’s time to begin the dance, eh?’”


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - an MS collection by fiddler Lawrence Leadley, 1827-1897 (Helperby, Yorkshire) [Merryweather & Seattle].

Printed sources : - Burchenal (American Country Dances, vol. 1), 1918; p. 11 (appears as "Virginia Reel" [3]). Cazden (Jigs, Reels and Squares, vol. 1); p. 35. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time), pp. 534-535. Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 53. Doyle (Plain Brown Tune Book), 1997; p. 37 (two versions). Harding's Collection, No. 26. Howe (Musician's Omnibus, No. 2), p. 128. Elias Howe (Musician’s Omnibus Nos. 6 & 7), Boston, 1880-1882; p. 649. Huntington (William Litten’s Tune Book), 1977; p. 27. Kennedy (Fiddler’s Tune-Book: Slip Jigs and Waltzes), 1999; No. 77, p. 18. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880; p. 27. MacDonald (The Skye Collection), 1887; p. 169. Merryweather & Seattle (The Fiddler of Helperby), 1994; No. 84, p. 49. Milne (Middleton’s Selection of Strathspeys, Reels &c. for the Violin), 1870; p. 40. Moffat (Dances of the Olden Time), p. 49. O'Neill (O’Neill’s Irish Music), 1915; No. 230, p. 122. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 131. The Robbins Collection, p. 189. Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 2), 1912; No. 295, p. 38 (appears as "Sir Roger," a Long Dance). Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, 1883; p. 81. Thompson (Compleat Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances, vol. 2), 1765; No. 192. Trim (The Musical Legacy of Thomas Hardy), 1990; No. 47. Walsh (Compleat Country Dancing Master), 1718; p. 180 (also in editions of 1731 and 1754). John Walsh (Complete Country Dancing-Master, Volume the Fourth), London, 1740; No. 86.

Recorded sources : - Antilles (Island) AN-7003, Kirkpatrick & Hutchings - "The Compleat Dancing Master" (1973).




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