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The Winders of Wyresdale: Traditional Country Dance Music & Airs.

Ed. Andy Hornby. [Lancaster: Andy Hornby], 2013. 281 pp. Music. Illus. Index.

120.00 + 3.00 p&p.


This is a modern edition of music from manuscript books associated with the Winder family, who lived and farmed in the upper Wyre valley on the south-eastern edge of the Forest of Bowland in north Lancashire. Three books that have come down through the family are dated 1823, 1833, and 1834. Two of these also contain church music, which is not included in this edition. The other source is an earlier manuscript, dated 1789, compiled by John Winder, a dancing master who taught in the nearby towns of Lancaster and Clitheroe; and as far afield as Halifax and Blackburn. He does not appear to be directly related to the Winders who farmed in Wyresdale, though his book shares material with the other collections.

Andy Hornby has not attempted to cherry-pick the collections, but presents all the non-sacred material in his sources, comprising dance music, marches, and song tunes. He presents a wealth of contextual material, with chapters on the geographical region as it was in the nineteenth century, on the Winder family and their books, general material on dance types and entertainments of the era, and a description of the Wyresdale Greensleeves Dance. This last was collected from the Winder family by Cecil Sharp in 1912. It is a curious and rather buffoonish performance in which three men dance in a circle, kick each other up the backside in turn, then cock their right legs over their joined hands and hop round in a circle. In this Sharp detected elements of the longsword dance and accordingly included it in The Sword Dances of Northern England (1913). It is very valuable to have a full notation and all the contextual information on this strange custom gathered into one place.

The accounts of the Winder family and their books, with dates and family tree, are excellently and concisely clone. The story of the life of John Winder, the dancing master, is also well presented, complete with reproductions of his newspaper advertisements. .Generally, the photographs and copies from manuscript books and press cuttings are illuminating and well integrated. The chapter on Georgian entertainments fills in the background to social dance and other festivities in the region and explains its relationship both to London-based culture and to local traditions.

The material on dance types strays into generalizations and assumptions based on twentieth-century revival practice. Hornby uses the term 'jig' exclusively for tunes in 6/8 time, in line with current Irish usage, though it is likely that the Winders, like most rural English musicians, would have used the term for any lively tune regardless of its rhythm. I also wonder about the source of his assertion that, 'In England, it was popular as early as the 12th century for country dancing, solo step dancing, and Morris dancing' (p. 19). Maybe by the sixteenth century this might be true. The sections on the quadrille, minuet, and waltz draw heavily on early printed descriptions, but scarcely address the question of the place of such tunes in the repertoire of a village musician.

The main part of the book lies in the tunes themselves, clearly laid out and with the source manuscripts indicated. They are grouped according to rhythm, and subdivided by type, which will be of help to present-day dance musicians, though they might miss a number of good danceable tunes to be found in the section of 'Song Tunes and Airs'. The assumption throughout is that the Winders and their musical associates were mainly interested in playing for dancing, as a modern ceilidh band might be. The contents .of this and similar manuscript collections from all over England suggest that village musicians played in a wide variety of contexts, providing music for the enjoyment of themselves and others in many situations where dancing was not the primary activity. Many of the tunes in these books would have been played purely for entertainment, without the necessity for a dance to be danced or a song to be sung.

The notes on the tunes are informative, usually listing alternative sources and often giving sets of broadside words to the tune. Many of the references direct the reader to a website where the source is available online, rather than giving the source in bibliographic form. Sometimes, it is hard to determine the nature and extent of editorial intervention, as original readings have not been given when tunes are re-barred or reconstructed, and the exact nature of key-signature changes is sometimes unclear.

These are minor quibbles: at 281 pages, including over six hundred tunes and a gold mine of web references to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English dances and dance music, this is a spectacular achievement and an essential component of the library of anyone interested in any aspect of the musical culture of the era.

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Author:Townsend, Dave
Publication:Folk Music Journal
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 3, 2014
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