Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Have any Morris Dance tunes made their way into minstrel era tunes? They are old and english so I figure it's prime for the pickin. I recently heard Young Collins and found the sheet music and it only has one sharp like many briggs tunes so I am attempting to learn it anyways but was curious if anybody knew anything about that.

I also feel like a some point some one posted a vid of some morris dances but I had no idea what I was looking at at the time and I can't seem to find it on here now.

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Hi Chris,

You may be thinking of this video I posted:

Bob Ridley O

I've been working on playing the penny whistle for about a year now.  I'm still pretty lame on it, but I keep working at it because it's fun.  On the whistle I tend to play mostly music older than American minstrel era- like Renaissance, medieval, and old European folk tunes.  This includes the genres of Morris tunes and English country dance tunes. 

Outright overlap aside, there's a connection between such tunes and early American tunes (especially dance tunes), imho.  We already see the influence of Irish jigs, hornpipes, and such in minstrel tunes... and English/Morris dance tunes are not all that different.  Even when you don't see the tune directly migrated, the pedigree of the structure and character is pretty obvious in some minstrel tunes, at least to me.

Yes! That's the one. Thanks :)

It's very weird old stuff. The Morris dances strike me as almost leftover pagan ritual kept alive via folk tradition. So many varieties of music and costume. I watched a ton of vids last night and actually found there's a group here in San Diego that practices twice a month. Gonna work up the courage to go one of these days.

I actually had picked up a tin whistle for my recent colonial impression I put together but it was terrible and super hard to play. I just ordered a Clarke whistle the other day per Elaine's recommendation. But the one I have came with some music and one is a hornpipe. College hornpipe I think.

All in all super cool stuff.

Chris, you'd be a natural for Morris dancing.  Definitely go!  I never smile and laugh so much as when I'm contra dancing or English country dancing.  This afternoon I'm driving over to Massachusetts for a double holiday contra dance: a two hour contra dance, followed by an hour potluck, followed by another three hour contra dance.  I'll be exhausted but so happy by the time I get home around midnight.  :D

"It's very weird old stuff. The Morris dances strike me as almost leftover pagan ritual kept alive via folk tradition."

Like food from another part of the world, it's not weird once you've sampled it for a time.  IMHO, it's not "almost leftover pagan ritual kept alive via folk tradition".... i see it as a little less mysterious, as popular folk tradition/dance/music that continues on today.  Even though it seems frozen in time, Morris dancing is still slowly evolving and changing, even today- note the fellows playing on banjo, dreadnaught guitar, and uke in the Ridley video, for example...and people still do compose 'new' tunes and dances in the tradition. We humans love to dance and twirl and sing and play music, don't we?  :)

Don't give up on the penny whistle.  There's an initial hump that once you get over it, things progress a little more naturally and simple tunes become more fun to play and require less intense concentration.  If you can get to that point (and you're younger than me so it should happen faster) then you find yourself looking forward to figuring out tunes...and you don't even mind if you sound like a beginner. 

I actually did some googling and did find some research papers indicating that it may very well have been pagan ritual based in it origins.


Looking forward to my new whistle. I can play a few foster tunes but looking forward to playing other stuff.

Chris, what I meant was that despite whatever old origins Morris dancing has, I see it not as a leftover remnant or artifact but as a lively thriving folk tradition even today.   :)  It's certainly infectious and full of life!

I hope you love your new whistle when it arrives!  Keep me posted.   :)

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