In Celebration of the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance
September 10, 2012, is Wakes Monday **
Each year on Wakes Monday, the village of Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire, UK, performs a traditional folk dance dating back at least to the 17th century. Known as the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, the day-long festivities involve the donning of reindeer antlers that have been carbon dated to the 11th century. It is thought that the dance originally involved the granting of hunting rights to villagers, but some think that it also comprises elements of ancient fertility rites — the wearing of the horns evoking the symbolism of Cernunnos, who is speculated to be a Celtic god of both the hunt and nature/vegetation. Because reindeer were extinct in Britain in the Middle Ages, it is believed that the antlers may have been imported from Scandinavia. (Wikipedia, n.d.)
One of the more evocative songs associated with the dance (performed in the video above) is one known as The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, or Robinson’s Tune, or the 1857 Aire. “William (sometimes given as ‘Richard’ or ‘Henry’) Robinson (c. 1790- c.1860) was a fiddler and wheelwright from Abbot’s Bromley, some of whose music was noted by Robert Buckley (c. 1857-58), Staffordshire. However, any tune is liable to be played for the dance as the official prescription has been to dance to the popular tunes of the day (Tunearch, n.d.).” And, while “…it is certainly true that the dancers in Abbots Bromley … have generally ignored the “Wheelwright Robinson’s Tune” in favor of a wide variety of other pieces, it is equally apparent that the “Robinson’s” tune was played regularly for the dance for at least eighty years before it was supplanted by other tunes in the late nineteenth century (California Revels, n.d.).”
Traditionally performed on violin or accordion, it is equally haunting and beautiful played on the harp.
The song is contained in Suzanne Guldimann’s book Pastime with Good Company, containing a number of Elizabethan Songs and Ballads arranged for the lap harp (but nicely playable on the lever harp as well), as well as in Deborah Friou and Julia Lane’s book Yuletide Treasure, as seen in the video below.
The basic tune is also available free through shareware:
** Wakes Monday is the day following Wakes Sunday, which is the first Sunday after the 4th of September.
California Revels, The Abbots Bromley Tune, retrieved September 8, 2012, from http://californiarevels.org/abbots_bromley_music
Traditional Music, shareware version of The Abbots Bromley Tune, retrieved September 8, 2012, from http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/favtunesw/000144.HTM
Tunearch, Abbot’s Bromley Horn Dance, retrieved September 8, 2012, from http://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Abbot’s_Bromley_Horn_Dance.
Wikimedia Commons, The players in the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, circa 1900. Retrieved September 8, 2012, from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abbots_Bromley_Horn_Dance_c1900_Stone.jpg
Wikipeda, Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, retrieved September 8, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbots_Bromley_Horn_Dance
Wikipedia, Cernunnos, retrieved September 9, 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cernunnos