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VOLT. AKA - "Volta (La)," "Levalto." English, Country Dance Tune (3/8 or 6/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB (Raven): AABBCCDD'. The tune dates from 16th century, probably originating in Provence, France. Merryweather (1989) states the dance and tune were especially popular in France in the late 16th century (where it was known as “Levalto” or “Revolto”), and was transplanted to the English court sometime before 1600 when Queen Elizabeth I was reputed to have favored the air. The dance involves the men lifting their partners into the air several times during the second part of the tune. It appears in Michael Praetorius's 1612 Dances from Terpsichore. Raven's version appears to be the middle parts of the one given by Merryweather. La Volta was a popular dance in Scotland (which tended to follow French fashions). La Volta tunes are also commonly found in early Scottish lute books. Michael Robinson finds reference to the dance in Thoinot Arbeau's 1589 volume Orchesographie, an important sources on Renaissance dance, in which it is stated:
After having spun around for as many cadences as you wish, return the damsel to her place, when, however brave a face she shows she will feel her brain reeling and her head full of dizzy whirlings; and you yourself will perhaps be no better off. I leave it to you to judge whether it is a becoming thing for a young girl to take long strides and separations of the legs, and whether in this lavolta both honor and health are not involved and at stake.
As with many popular dance airs, there were several ballads written to the tune, notably “King Henry II and the Miller of Mansfield” (Chappell).
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time), vol. 1, 1859; pp. 232-233. Merryweather (Merryweather’s Tunes for the English Bagpipe), 1989; pp. 37 & 38 (two versions). Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 8.
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