Adderbury, 02 July, 2017

On Sunday 2 July, Adderbury’s three Morris sides gathered outside the Coach and Horses to welcome Minnesota Traditional Morris (MTM) a contingent of 19 dancers touring the UK. Founded in the autumn of 1974, MTM is based in the twin US cities of Minneapolis and St Paul and draws heavily on the Cotswold tradition. They told us that they share a large state-of-the-art meeting and training facility with other dance groups and that their building complex even has administrative staff. We told them that we practice in an ancient tithe barn with no heating or staff! They were impressive to watch and fun to chat with as they happily quaffed locally brewed refreshments with hip flask Laphroaig chasers.

For the record we danced Sweet Jenny Jones, Black Joke, The Buffoon and Brighton Camp (with  novice Jake Sheppard) at The Green – our grateful thanks to Keith Norton for dancing with us – then Princess Royal and Shepherd’s Hey jig in Mill Lane. After lunch at The Bell, Dave Reed, our resident expert on all things Morris, joined MTM in Mr Softee (Bledington style), a dance invented by Kingsessing Morris of Philadelphia about 30 years ago. A happy afternoon for UK-US Morris collaboration (as can be seen in the group photograph below) and the sun shone too.

 

 

Candleford Beer Festival, 17 June 17

Saturday 17 June proved to be the start of a short heatwave and the hottest day of 2017 until then at 28C – that’s over 82F in old Morris money. For the second year we ventured into Flora Thompson country for a Beer Festival booking at her Candleford Green, in real life the village of Fringford. After a brief hiatus to muster the troops we put on a mercifully shortened set (in view of the strange burning thing in the sky) necessitated by the crowded entertainment programme laid on by the organisers. We kicked off with Sweet jenny Jones, then Constant Billy (it’s a swine on grass), Hail To The Chief and Roast Beef of Old England. Phil Taylor then volunteered to give us respite by doing a solo Jockey To The Fair – well played that man. We then finished off our first half with Shepherd’s Hey and Beaux of London City, before giving way to an interlude by the Fairground Organ. Its proud owner told us that the conclusion of “Tea for Two” was our signal to resume. There was just time for Haste to the Wedding, Washing Day, Lads a’Bunchum and Brighton Camp before the next singing act came on stage. Our thanks for assistance with dancing from beer-punter John and for photography by the stage soundman.

Cast and Crew:

Melodeon magic (Donald); Musical snuffling (Riley); I’m 71 You Know (Dorset Dave); Sticks driven from Leicestershire (Dave Snell); On loan from Kirtlington Morris (John Loudshirt); Founder Elder of the Tribe (Phil); Left New York 1am flying via Milan (Richard); Youthful exuberance (Ryan); Dog wrangler (Rachel)

 

Whichford, Great Tew & Adderbury, 10 June 17

AVMM had a busy day performing at three venues and completing 36 dances by the time we called a halt outside The Bell. David and Giles Snell, Ryan and John started the day at The Straw Kitchen in Whichford where Giles works. He was allowed to swap his apron for baldricks and a top hat and so impressed the patrons of the cafe and his boss, Maia, that she gave him the rest of the day off on condition that she and co-worker, Maya could join us on our last dance there.

There was another big and appreciative crowd at the Great Tew School Fete where we were joined by Dorset Dave and his family on the occasion of his 71st birthday. We danced three sets here interspersing our performances with music from a couple of local bands and our former Squire played along on his new harmonica while hiding behind the horse box which served as a stage. Our regular performers were joined for a couple of dances by whistle player, Malcolm. Later on we enlisted a member of the crowd to replace him on our final dance. Unfortunately, he had been sampling Old Rosie from the bar rather too enthusiastically and struggled to master the sticking or to dance in straight lines. Patrons of the Fete were much amused.

AVMM at Great Tew School Fete

Our final venue was The Bell in Adderbury where we were due to be joined by Wyvern Jubilee Morris Men on their Cotswold weekend tour. They were running very late so we entertained the crowd with most of the dances from our repertoire and welcomed a most promising newcomer, John’s son-in-law, Troy. We also continued our policy of encouraging the youth wing of AVMM by introducing four of Dave and John’s grandchildren aged between four and seven to the joys of morris dancing in a slowed down version of Brighton Camp. By the time Wyvern finally arrived we decided to call it a day and leave the venue to our guests from the West Country who invited us for their 40th anniversary celebrations next year. Dave’s new harmonica was bedded in by this time and he managed a respectable Shepherd’s Hey alongside Wyvern’s accordionist.

All in all it was a most enjoyable day of warm sunshine in beautiful surroundings. Congratulations to Ryan and Giles who are improving all the time and many thanks to our superb musicians, Donald, Dave and Malcolm.

Wroxton Fete, 29 May 17

A cloudy afternoon in North Oxfordshire brought us to a regular annual booking in Wroxton, which despite the overcast sky was a throng of eager buyers at the many stalls. As usual we set up by the duckpond with its newly thatched duck-house and family of 14 fluffy ducklings hiding in the reeds. Kicking off with our traditional Sweet Jenny Jones, we followed up with nine set dances (Bluebells, Buffoon, Constant Billy, Flasher, Lads, Roast Beef, Hail to the Chief, Happy Man, Washing Days). Our mid-session refreshment was, for Morris Men, an unusual tipple of Pimms, and the second half included our Squire John Ekers and founder member Phil Taylor dancing the Jockey double jig. By this time, the rain was coming and prompted our fiddlers Jim Plester and Dave ‘Stovepipe’ Mortlock to case their instruments, leaving Malcolm on tinwhistle and Donald on buttonbox to brave it out. We finished up with an eight-man Brighton Camp including an enthusiastic enforced volunteer from Chicago who thoroughly enjoyed the experience despite acquiring some bruised knuckles. Our reception from the crowd was very rewarding and we have been re-booked for next year. Morris On.

St Peter & Paul, Winderton, 28 May 17

A reduced AVMM consisting of musician Donald McCombie and dancers David Snell and John Ekers entertained a large audience during a varied summer musical celebration at the beautiful old church of St Peter & Paul, Winderton. The church was built in 1877 but closed in 1981, is no longer a functioning church, but is kept in excellent condition by a group of friends and used for a variety of events. Donald and John talked about the AVMM tradition mentioning George Butterworth, Janet Blunt, the film The Way of the Morris and the revival side. The two dancers then performed four dances (SJJ, Shepherds’ Hey Jig, Roast Beef of Old English and Black Joke) on a carpeted stage in front of a seated audience and afterwards joined Donald in leading the singing of Wild Mountain Thyme.

St Mary’s, Adderbury, 19 May 17

The Battle of Arras (1917)

The Arras offensive 9 April -16 June 1917 was fought on the Western Front during World War One. The British were called upon to launch an attack in support to a larger French offensive. British troops attacked German defences near the French city of Arras and achieved the longest advance since trench warfare had begun. The British advance slowed in the next few days and the German defence recovered. The battle became a costly stalemate for both sides and by the end of the battle the British Third and First armies had suffered about 160,000 casualties and the German 6th Army 125,000 casualties.

The war of 1914 – 1918 claimed the lives of thirty men from Adderbury. Each of these men is being commemorated throughout 2014 – 2018 by the bell-ringers of St. Mary’s Church by ringing a Quarter Peal on the centenary of each death. Of these thirty men, four were known to be members of Charlie Coleman’s Edwardian boys Morris side. The second of the Morris dancers to be lost was Private Harry Laurence Wallin of 1st Battalion, The Border Regiment, 87 Brigade, 29th Division, who was killed in action on 19 May 1917 in the fighting in the Somme. He was 23 and his body was never recovered.

The Adderbury Village Morris Men honoured these four men, none of them having a known grave, by visiting their memorials in 2008, the 90th anniversary of the ending of WW1. Harry’s name is engraved on bay 6 of the Arras Memorial. He was the son of John and Elizabeth Wallin of Adderbury.

We are again paying tribute to these past dancers by adding our own ceremony to the occasion of the bell-ringing. The Quarter Peal was being rung at 7:45pm on Friday 19 May 2017, so we met at the lych-gate in Morris kit at 7pm to remember Harry Wallin killed 100 years ago. We gathered in the churchyard where Peter Jordon planted a poppy cross in the Garden of Remembrance. As we bowed our heads we heard distant thunder, eerily reminiscent of the sound of shelling that Harry must have endured.

Moving into church we then performed a modified repeat of the ceremony we held at Arras. The proceedings were led by the Squire, who is indebted to Bryan Sheppard for the use of the text from 2008. Jim Plester read the poem Aftermath by Siegfried Sassoon. The wreath provided by Edd Frost & Daughters Family Funeral Directors was laid by Past Squire David Reed below the war memorial in the South wall, followed by a pause for silent remembrance. Chris Garrett read the poem The Courier by Richard Shindell. The ceremony concluded with a celebration of the return of the Morris to the village through the efforts of Bryan Sheppard and Jim Plester among others, by us all singing The Happy Man. Spirits were then lifted by a performance of the Shepherd’s Hey. This was preceded by the music once through on the instrument of the Trenches, the harmonica played by David Reed. The main musicians, Jim Plester, John Wright and Malcolm Wood took over for the six-man dance.

Men present were Giles Brittin-Snell, John Ekers (Squire), Christopher Garrett, Christopher Holmes, Ryan Jamniuk, Peter Jordon, James Plester, David Reed, David Snell, Malcolm Wood and John Wright. Afterwards we danced Sweet Jenny Jones, Lads a’ Bunchum, Princess Royal and Brighton Camp in Mill Lane then as the sound of the half-muffled bells started the Quarter Peal we repaired appropriately to The Bell.

Kineton Farmers’ Market, 13 May 17

On Saturday 13 May, AVMM performed a long set of 15 different dances from their unique repertoire for the customers of the Farmers’ Market in Kineton. Nine dancers and two of our excellent musicians gave a very accomplished performance in spite of the fact that two new recruits, Ryan and Giles, had only previously danced in public once before at the Day of Dance.

Adderbury Day of Dance, 22 April 17

On Saturday 22 April, the sun shone all day on Adderbury for the annual Day of Dance.

Squire John Ekers writes: Thanks to all who contributed to making Saturday’s Day of Dance such an enjoyable celebration of Morris Dancing during which AVMM danced on 55 occasions. I was really proud of our four new recruits who have been such receptive and enthusiastic students of our unique style of Cotswold Morris since joining us at our Taster session just nine weeks ago. Thanks also to our wonderful musicians and more experienced dancers who helped so much, both during practice sessions and on the big day. Some personal thanks from me to those who helped with calling the dances and to Bryan, our fool, who always keeps the audience entertained. We were blessed with perfect weather for dancing and large, friendly crowds helped us to keep going from 10.30am when we started the day in the churchyard until 7pm in the evening outside The Bell. Unfortunately, Charlie, our horse, had to retire early as Dave Lovick, his jockey, took a tumble and injured a hamstring. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him back in the saddle later in the season. Finally, a special mention to our youngest member, Alfie Newman, only nine years old, but already a seasoned veteran of this annual highlight of the Adderbury calendar. As well as performing the Shepherds’ Hey jig with his grandpa, Chris Garrett, four times during the day, he extended his repertoire, tackling many dances which were new to him. Here’s to a successful and enjoyable season ahead!

Photo by Steven Prouse, KBO Photography

Note for the statisticians: Frequently performed dances were: Brighton Camp (7); Beaux of London City (5) Sweet Jenny Jones, Constant Billy, Flasher and Shepherds’ Hey Jig (4)

Gracewell House, Twyford, 30 March 17

Squire John Ekers reports: AVMM were happy to provide a team of dancers to help entertain new residents, staff and visiting dignitaries at the opening ceremony of Gracewell House in Twyford on Thursday 30 March. Six experienced dancers, including founder members, Bryan and Jim, performed five dances interspersed with tunes led by regular team musicians, Donald McCombie and John Wright. A well known local fiddle player augmented the AVMM sound after witnessing his mother-in-law cutting the celebratory cake to mark the official opening of the new luxury care home. The event was blessed with glorious sunshine!

Dancing the Adderbury tradition as recorded by Janet Blunt