Foresters Morris
and Sword Dancing Club
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Eric's notes for Ring Musicians' Weekend



Foresters Morris as part of the Chatsworth House Spectacular.
More here.


General notes

  • You have to balance between leading dancers versus following dancers
  • Both are important


  • You must discuss this with number 1 (especially today)
  • I follow the feet of the best dancer
  • With the morris, I keep on the slow side in public (slower than in practices)
  • With my cloggies I go faster in public shows (the adrenalin enables them)
  • In morris we put highest jumpers opposite in corner dances then their capers can go really slower and higher
  • You can play quieter for corners (typically 2 people dancing) than for figures (6 people dancing)
  • Dancers usually speed up during stick clashing If they force you to go faster, slow them down at the next figure

Quality of music

  • You have to balance in public between playing for dancers versus playing for audience
  • The music should be good to listen to
  • Especially with multiple musicians, there is much scope here


  • You are a member of the team For Cotswold, wear their uniform

You must have an empathy with the dancers

Good dancers make the best musicians but you don’t have to be a dancer

When I was in Thames Valley, every dancer had to be able to play one tune on one instrument

I prefer single musicians for Cotswold type morris but if you have more than one, use them usefully. Don’t just play unison.



  • The dance steps/movements are more important than the musical notation on paper!
  • Phrase for the steps 1-2-3-hop (usually 1 bar) versus
  • 1-hop-2-hop (2 half bars)
  • no lead-in note for Sherbourne
  • Don’t keep “um-pah” going all the time – it’s not relevant for hook legs, galleys, capers, sticking
  • Generally play staccato
  • Generally play 8 bars as 2 bars – 2 bars – 4 bars
  • bars 5 and 5 should have a different character from bars 1 and 2

William & Nancy p84

  • All “A” musics are 2 double steps followed by a hook leg
  • To be played as 2 whole bars followed by 4 half bars
  • The first “DF” is a wave, the second “DF” is “up-2-3”, a different rhythm from first “DF”
  • Third and fourth “DF”= capers, emphasis on beat 3 to 4.

Lads a Bunchum (Adderbury) p8

  • Starts with a walk round, singing – I give 2 notes then leave them to sing
  • Most “A” musics are 2 double steps followed 2 singles and ftj.
  • NB The last whole hey doesn’t pause in the middle in Adderbury

Old Woman Tossed Up (Fieldtown)

  • Fieldtown is a gentle floating tradition
  • Again phrase for steps
  • Again the capers vary

Banks of the Dee (Fieldtown)

  • Standard Fieldtown
  • I like a non-standard harmony

Different Cotswold traditions

Different traditions have different styles (see Clive)

At the extremes floating Fieldtown versus brisk Headington.

Multiple musicians

  • You must listen to the rest of the band
  • Play more staccato than usual
  • Playing slight variants of the tune doesn’t matter
  • Playing differences like “c” versus “c-sharp” does matter

My background!

I danced with my mother’s local folk dance group in Twickenham from when I was aged 10 or 11, and played for them from when I was 13 (1950).

They needed someone to play for tunes they couldn’t find on 78 rpm records. I was given an accordion and told to get on with it.

I sat in with visiting bands, and watched my maths teacher!

The weekly club meetings were attended from time to time by Leslie Nichols (Morris Ring Squire 1964-66, Greensleeves MM) Patrick Shuldham-Shaw (1917-1977)

I joined Thames Valley Morris at age 15

Squire Dr Christopher Penton looked after me. Many Saturdays he picked me up in his MG, and took me to see traditional teams.

I was made to play in front of William Kimber (1872-1961)

I listened to Jinky Wells (1868-1953) at Bampton

Chris told me to imbibe the tradition, but not to adhere slavishly

I happen to own Cecil Sharp (1859-1924)’s 3-hole pipe made for him to special order by Carl Dolmetsch of Haslemere

See also “Playing for dancing” (aimed at playing for ceilidh dancing) at

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Updated Thursday 18-May-2023 17:13 , visits Site Meter
Website content copyright © Eric Foxley who also runs the Dunkirk Arts Centre.

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