Upton Stick Dance    


Click here to see the latest version in standard FC format PDF

Six dancers in a longways set
Sticking Tips and butts x 16

"Upton on Severn lies on the banks of the River Severn, six miles due east of the Malvern Hills and seven miles south west of Pershore. Here the morrismen were well known and it seems that, in common with other towns and villages along the Severn, it was largely performed by fishermen and boatmen. They danced at Christmas time when the frost and snow were on the ground. When there was a bad winter there would be thirty or forty men dancing. Several teams would go out and dance at the big houses around Madresfield. In the old days they would go as far as Cheltenham and Tewkesbury." Dave Jones, The Roots of Welsh Border Morris.

This is one of the few traditional dances where we can be fairly certain of the notation. Maud Karpeles collected it on June 10, 1925. Unfortunately, she missed the discovery in the Grass Wood in North Yorkshire of the famous Codex Mendaciorum, a history of the early British tribe, the Fracti Saxorum Quadratorum. Who knows what she and C# would have made of that?

the tune

has put us in a bit of a quandary, as we usually refer to it as Lord of the Dance. Like many people we understood this to be a traditional Shaker hymn tune, quoted by Aaron Copeland in Appalachian Springs.. Just to check it out I did a web search, and discovered that Lord of the Dance was written in 1963 by one Sydney Carter. It has been appropriated by various neo pagan factions, and was actually based on a Shaker hymn called Simple Gifts. The Carter version is not in fact exactly similar to what we play, and it may be that our tune is nearer to Simple Gifts which was probably Copeland's source. This means we may need to change the stated title. But we probably won't bother.

Anyway - whatever tune it is, it's a darned good one, and we are unashamed about hijacking its spirituality.
To add to the power of the tune we drop it from G to E minor for one round, giving it a sort of middle eastern flavour so popular in current roots music. The change back to G major accompanies a specially arranged extra burst of energy from the dancers which we find exciting.

We used to use the Sheffield Hornpipe for this dance, but we got bored with it. Simple Gifts or - whatever - is a great replacement.

Please don't flame us * with mail about various claims to this tune. There are plenty of studious people on the web who would be glad to hear your views.

Format A BB  [subject to revision see pdf ]Key G, Em
download midi file

*Footnote. Thanks. Nobody flamed us in 8 years.

Hmmmm . . . maybe nobody reads this stuff :-)