Good day everyone and welcome to what I hope is going to be the first of a continuing series of posts here on Slightly Obsessed.
Something most of you don’t know about me is that I spent the majority of my youth doing 2 things: dancing & playing music. The dancing we will get into later, for now I’m going to focus on my real love, music.
It’s safe to say that music has always been a major influence in my life. Like most kids, I learned piano from a little old lady up the street & tormented my parents with a squeaky plastic recorder in 4th grade. From there I played clarinet for a few years in the school band before picking up bass guitar as a teen. As a busy adult, I don’t get nearly the time to play but I still love music. If there isn’t a song on the stereo, there is always one playing in my head.
So naturally, when I started reenacting one of my first thoughts was “what did they listen to?”
The thing that really surprised me though, was how few other people had asked the same question. Music helps me get in the mood before an event, keeps me entertained when things are slow in camp & brings energy & laughter to the evening campfire with friends. So why don’t others listen to period music with the same excitement that I do?
The answer is simple. It just takes so much research to find good period music! From that realization, an idea was born. Tune Tuesdays. Each week I am going to share a documented period tune with a bit of historic background on the musician, composer, instrument, song style, etc. Songs will cover the full range of my favorite eras. I can’t just choose one era that I like most.
For the first volume of Tune Tuesdays, one of my favorite sources & tunes. The English Dancing Master by John Playford should be in every 17th century reenactor’s collection. Facsimile copies are easy to find and there are several available online for free if you are especially frugal. You don’t even have to play an instrument to enjoy it.
Written for the first time in 1651, the book includes both musical scores and their corresponding dance steps. Most of the tunes are pretty simple too, easy to memorize and hum as you go about your historic day. There are lots of versions of these songs so it is sure to show up on Tune Tuesday again in the future.
This particular tune is my favorite because of the funny story behind it. Apparently William Kempe, an actor in the late 16th century, danced from London to Norwich. Not just danced though, Morris danced, which is it’s own brand of silliness. This 100 mile journey took him 9 days & is the inspiration for the song “Kemp’s Jig”.
I don’t advice dancing halfway across England, but this is a great song to get you in the mood for your next Elizabethan event. Even if it doesn’t involve any dancing at all!