February eUpdate
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Chair Chat

Hello everyone,

How good are you at recognising Scottish Country Dance tunes? I shock myself by my ability to forget which dance goes with which tune, so I was rather pleased when I walked into the kitchen and recognised The Triumph.

But hold on a minute, why was it playing in my kitchen and didn’t it it sound a bit odd?

Answer 1: My husband is a Thomas Hardy fan and he had been given a CD with carols and dances of Hardy’s Wessex. It included The Triumph, described in the CD notes as “the most popular longways country dance in nineteenth-century England”.

Answer 2: Yes, it did sound rather different from the version I could recall from the Younger Hall in St Andrews, as this version was played by two fiddles, a clarinet, flute, cello, serpent, tambourine and drum!

The Triumph appeared in the manuscript music books of the Hardy family, now in Dorset County Museum, and was clearly well known to Thomas Hardy as he mentions it at least twice in his works. Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) features a party, where the dancing opens with the Triumph or Follow my Lover and Hardy uses the key figure of the dance to explore the jealousy of two men both attracted to Fancy Day. In The Dance at the Phoenix (Wessex Poems (1898)), Jenny creeps out of bed to enjoy a Christmas ball and stays till four in the morning.
    Hour chased each hour, and night advanced;
    She sped as shod with wings;
    Each time and every time she danced--
    Reels, jigs, poussettes, and flings:
    They cheered her as she soared and swooped
    (She'd learnt ere art in dancing drooped
    From hops to slothful swings).

    The favourite Quick-step ‘Speed the Plough’ -
    (Cross hands, cast off, and wheel) -
    ‘The Triumph’, ‘Sylph’, ‘The Row-dow-dow’,
    Famed ‘Major Malley's Reel’,
    ‘The Duke of York's’, ‘The Fairy Dance’,
    ‘The Bridge of Lodi’ (brought from France),
    She beat out, toe and heel.

Sadly, the riotous night proves too much for Jenny, for she is 59 - obviously much too old for fun - and dies of a heart attack. Hardy loves the melodrama; I love the thrill of the dancing.

The first edition of RSCDS Book 1 includes The Triumph with a two-couple poussette, though an alternative one-couple poussette is noted. Later editions adopt the one-couple poussette that takes the first couple to fourth place. The Triumph’s popularity continued, and the dance found a place in the 1954 edition of 24 Favourite Scottish Country Dances. Would it make a list of favourite dances today? Though not a regular on dance programmes in Leeds nowadays, it does appear in a photograph in Brenda Burnell’s booklet, The First Fifty Years of the Leeds Branch of the RSCDS.

When we return to dancing, feeling triumphant, a dance that is only 4 x 24 bars may be just the thing - we won’t be out of puff!

All the best,

The Pop-up Piper

A surprise encounter on The Billing, Rawdon 

Three weeks ago I was walking up to ‘The Billing’ in Rawdon, a local landmark with a spectacular view. It was a stunning day with sunny blue skies and a magical landscape of freshly fallen snow. What could be better?

Then I heard the wonderful sound of bagpipes and the rendering of ‘Mairi’s Wedding’ coming over the air. Ten minutes later I saw the piper at the top of The Billing and listened entranced as he played a mix of Scottish songs and dances. The first in-person live Scottish music I have heard since March!

He told me he was known as the ‘Pop-Up Piper’, officially Peter Lambert. He ‘pops up’ at various events and played on The Billing on VE day. According to the ‘Telegraph and Argus’ he is known as ‘Rawdon’s legendary Pop-Up Piper’, so some of you might know him. 

It was the cherry on the cake of an already lovely walk.

Jill Woodman

PS. I have Peter’s permission to include his photo in RSCDS Leeds Branch eUpdate.

Starting to 'Dance Scottish' 

Why I started Scottish Country Dancing - and the effects of lockdown

As a teenager, growing up, I looked older than my age and was therefore able to go to nightclubs with friends. I was often one of a group dancing in a circle around our handbags. My father was a bus driver so I would be at the bus stop to take his last bus before his shift ended.  We would then go home together. This was the procedure until I started a Saturday job at British Home Stores in Birmingham and was therefore able to take taxis home.

Aged 24 I met Oliver and he was not into dancing or nightclubs. He much preferred to visit obscure pubs selling real ale and/or going out for nice meals. The latter I found a wonderful activity to partake in because it was a new experience, but as a result I spent a period at Weight Watchers after a work colleague commented on my increasing weight.

On occasion there was a mess party and I could dance again. However, with a young family and the realisation that nightclubs were an aspect of a previous life, there was less and less opportunity to go out and dance to music. 

A few years ago my eldest daughter introduced Oliver and I to the Whitby Folk Festival which takes place during the week preceding the August Bank Holiday. I was useless at the ceilidhs, Contras and dance workshops, but I loved taking part. I wanted to get better at dancing at the festival and to dance throughout the year, but did not know how to go about it. Truthfully, little effort was made to find dance classes in Harrogate.

Throughout our time together Oliver has had cardiac difficulties and whilst undergoing cardiac rehabilitation at Harrogate Hospital he met someone who went to Scottish Dancing on a Monday night at St Luke’s Church in Harrogate. Once this was mentioned I was very keen to try it; even though I did not know what to expect. I recall wearing high heels to the first class. Unsurprisingly, I was advised that my shoes were inappropriate. Ballet pumps were promptly purchased for the following week’s class. Scottish dancing, for Oliver and I, was challenging. I persevered because the music was wonderful and the class members easy going and welcoming. I am always surprised at how experienced dancers are so willing to partner a novice, such as me.

After almost three years of dancing I believe I was beginning to show sustained improvement and then we entered the nightmare of lockdown and no more dancing. 

Prior to lockdown, in March 2020, I attended four Scottish dance classes each week and looked forward to wearing pretty outfits to Saturday night social dances. I not only miss the enjoyment of dancing and the social aspect, but it was part of my weekly exercise regime, which also included exercise classes at the gym four times a week and a Sunday night square dancing club. It is now an effort to maintain my weight and my joints are a lot stiffer; this may well be the same for others. Since the end of the Christmas festivities, I now wake up a little earlier most mornings to loosen my joints with stretches and exercises. 

During the Summer months Oliver and I looked forward to the Wednesday evening online RSCDS zoom classes, but as Autumn approached I stopped all exercise to undertake DIY jobs around the house. Now that we are in the New Year we are again enjoying the on line classes and will practise more often as we anticipate that classes, dances and workshops will hopefully resume in early Autumn 2021. We can then look forward to some kind of normality and all meet up to enjoy Scottish dancing once again.

Sharon Taylor

Malhamdale 2021 

Malhamdale 2021

Janet Brayson has asked me to tell you there are 2 places left for this year's Malhamdale weekend, which is from the 26th - 28th November 2021. As we have no more rooms left for single occupancy it would have to be for a couple, or two people willing to share. It could also suit someone with a non-dancing partner. If you're interested, please email Janet  or phone on 0113 2584634.

Committee News 

 At our latest Committee meeting (by Zoom of course!) it was unanimously agreed that given not only the resurgence of the 'original' Covid virus, but the threat of rising numbers of new variants in our region, and the pleas from Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, we should cancel our summer term programme of dances.  We will rebook the musicians where possible.  This is clearly not a time to take restrictions lightly, and to follow the spirit of the rules (such as they are) rather than find clever ways round them.  The vaccines, we hope will make a great difference, but will take weeks to be an effective protection for individuals and several months to cover enough people to be effective in controlling the spread of the virus.

Let's hope our autumn term events can go ahead as planned - and dare we hope, maybe 'something small and local' outside in the summer? While we are on the subject of Autumn dances, in general would you prefer a 7.00 start or a 7.30 start?  Please vote by selection your preferred option below.  In the meanwhile, following the success of our Christmas online ceilidh, we're actively planning another online 'event' to take place soon - see below!.

Another Ceilidh

We are hoping, with your help, to organise another on-line ceilidh for 28th Feb at 8.00.  Add it to your busy diaries.  Can you offer a contribution to an online ceilidh?  Do you sing?  Play an instrument?  Read or recite poetry?  Dance solo, or with household members?  You'd need a reliable internet connection, laptop or computer with a good microphone.  Please don't be shy!

Contact Evelyn or Marion for more information, or just send us the stuff!

The link will follow later.

And finally...contributions still requiredl

 We now offer TWO opportunities for you to share your talents with other dancers (Scottish theme preferred but not essential):

As well as looking for contributors to online ceilidhs, we are also still looking for many more contributors to the (now monthly) eUpdate.  This is a special invitation for the photographers and writers amongst you.  Please share your photos, thoughts, ideas and observations with the rest of the Leeds Branch.  Which media or activities have kept you going during lockdown?  What dancing or music items have you enjoyed?  What memories of personal dancing highlights could you share? Have you any news to share?

Thank you Jill and Sharon for this month's contributions.

Meanwhile, keep warm - a great excuse for pas de bas(que) practice - on the spot if necessary for lack of space to do any travelling step.  You could even progress to the coupé pas de basque!  Plenty of videos to google online!

Best Wishes
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