On Saturday 14th December our Morris Team, Stone the Crows, danced at Preston Guild Hall as part of a Festival of Christmas. Darcy and I were one of the party and to say Darcy was excited at the prospect of performing at such a large venue would be an understatement of gigantic proportions. I am convinced that had he had a chance to crow about it properly, he would have done… Again and again and again.
I was also excited but my excitement was tempered with a degree of nervousness, as I would not be able to approach the dancing with my usual relaxed attitude towards getting it right. This is the sort of venue where we have to be tight and dance well. We spent the practice on the preceding Thursday refining the four dances we were to perform and I was delighted to find out on Saturday that I was to dance three of them.
Our fellow performers in the Festival of Christmas included the Preston Orpheus Choir, The BT Band (Stockport), a brass band, young ballerinas and school children from two primary schools, singing carols and performing a nativity play. Darcy and I were not sure the organisers were fully apprised of exactly what sort of dancers the team comprised. Actually, they knew exactly what we were because Stone the Crows appeared at last year’s festival.
We had two slots and two dances in each. First up, it was Much Wenlock, which can only be a fertility dance, as, in the chorus, one side of two rows of dancers has to present sticks in the “vulgar” position and the other bashes them. I have a very soft spot for Much Wenlock because I “met” Darcy while I was dancing it last year. He danced it very well indeed back then, even though he was a civilian, and I really enjoy dancing it with him now. It all went off without a hitch as well.
After Much Wenlock, we danced White Ladies, a double White Ladies to be precise, with twice the normal number of dancers. Again, it went off well, although there was some slight confusion at the beginning of the dance, when some of us did not know where we were supposed to be lining up. Okay, at the beginning of the dance, when I did not know where I was supposed to be lining up. Then it was off backstage again, as we were not performing again until after the interval.
We removed our bells (a vital part of Morris Dancers’ attire) and some of us went off to watch the next act, while the rest repaired to the bar. Darcy and I and four others found our way into the top tier of the seats and sat down to hear the BT Band. When they finished the piece they were playing, they accompanied the Orpheus Choir singing a German carol, whose name escapes me now. It was in 3/4 time and, part way through, two of our number got out of their seats and danced a brief waltz to it at the top of the hall. It was very sweet indeed. After they sat down, two more got up to waltz to the music. Darcy and I declined. I would probably have tripped over Darcy’s feet or my own, as I have never waltzed in my life.
After that, it was the interval proper and we made our way to the bar to drink fizzy lager or whatever took our respective fancies. After this small break, we returned to our backstage room and prepared to go out for our two last dances. We danced Ragged Crow, which, I suppose, is our signature dance. We had four sets of four, facing the four different points of “the compass”. I felt it went really well and will have looked great, especially the end, where we got the chance to run at the people in the front row of the audience.
I had a rest during the last dance, as only eight dancers were needed. The final dance was Crow’s Nest and the people who didn’t dance it, joined in with the musicians on percussion. I really enjoy watching this dance but I had to concentrate on making sure I kept time with the musicians properly and that takes concentration (for me, anyway). The dance was flawless and I sincerely hope the percussion was as well. The audience really seemed to enjoy it; the dancing, not my maracas playing and we left to rapturous applause.
After that, some of our number removed their face paint and Darcy and I accompanied one of our friends outside so she could have a fag. Darcy is a non-smoker and I’m an ex-smoker (and the worst sort – a chain non-smoker and tut tutter) but it was nice to go outside and cool down a bit. After that, we went to the pub for some proper beer but it was noisy in there so we left after one drink.
I enjoyed it immensely, as did Darcy, and now he can announce to all and sundry “I’ve had a gig at the Guild Hall”. Bless him!