An English Folk‐Dance Festival

in Daily Programme, Radio Riel Main

by Elrik Merlin on Wednesday, 13 November, 2013

Today’s programme focuses, rather broadly, on the English Country Dance (ECD) – and in particular on the work of John Playford (1623–1686/7).

The pieces you’ll hear today range from the performances of the specialised ECD musical groups like the Baltimore Consort and Bare Necessities, whose music is intended to be danced to by widespread groups of modern exponents of the art, to the folk dance and Morris Dancing groups with their exuberant take on the pieces and their inclusion of modern instrumentation. Then, too, there are Early Music groups who treat the works as authentically as they possibly can to recreate the sound that might have been heard when these dances were first performed. And there are many others.

These dances have been influences on all kinds of musicians, over all kinds of periods. And at the core of this music is often to be found a certain John Playford, a London bookseller, publisher, minor composer, and member of the Stationers’ Company, who published books on music theory, instruction books for several instruments, and psalters with tunes for singing in churches. But he is perhaps best known today for his publication of The English Dancing Master in 1651. In musical terms it was the Number One hit of the time, published in several editions by Playford and his successors from 1651 until around 1728. Dances from The Dancing Master were re‐published in arrangements by Cecil Sharp in the early 20th century. The first edition of The Dancing Master contained 105 dances with single line melodies. Subsequent editions introduced new songs and dances, while dropping others. The dances turn up in various forms right through the Victorian era (represented today by pieces from the Brassworks Band) and up to the present day.

In addition to more traditional renditions of ECD pieces today you will also hear some gorgeous orchestral arrangements by the likes of Ernest Tomlinson, Vaughan Williams and many other composers who have been inspired by hearing the traditional tunes played in a folk idiom.

Today’s programme is presented by Elrik Merlin. You can listen to the programme in‐world now at, or simply click here to start your player, if your browser is configured to do so. Listeners in the United States are encouraged to tune in using this link:

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