Percy Manning (1870-1917), “the man who collected Oxfordshire”, was a Victorian antiquary, archaeologist and folklorist. 2017 is the centenary of his death, and to commemorate this, the morris historian Mike Heaney (formerly of the Bodleian Library, and founder member of Eynsham Morris) is coordinating a series of lectures, exhibitions and workshops taking place at locations including the Bodleian, the Pitt Rivers Museum, and the Bate Collection. Full details of all of these events can be found on the Folk in Oxford website.
Among Percy Manning’s many interests was folk song and folk dance. In 1899 he persuaded the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers, who had not been out dancing for several years, to revive the tradition. The occasion was a concert held at the Oxford Corn Exchange – now the Old Fire Station – at which the Morris dances alternated with folk songs, performed by various classically trained singers.
We know exactly what songs and dances were performed, thanks to a report in Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 18th March 1899. Here’s a copy of the report from Jackson’s Oxford Journal.
And on Friday 24th March Magpie Lane, together with the present Headington Quarry side, will be recreating that concert. Not with classically trained singers, with polite pianoforte accompaniment, but in our own style, with our own arrangements. Only one song in the programme (‘Twas early One Morning’ aka ‘All Jolly Fellows That Follow The Plough’) has previously featured in our repertoire, so this is an opportunity to hear a bunch of songs we’ve never performed before in public.
As an aside, it’s worth noting that in 1899, not an awful lot of folk song collecting had yet been carried out in England. The Folk-Song Society was only founded in 1898, with its first Journal being published in 1899. All of the songs performed at Manning’s event came either from
- English County Songs (1893) edited by Lucy Broadwood and J.A. Fuller Maitland (and lazily or misogynistically credited only to Fuller Maitland in the Jackson’s Oxford Journal report)
- William Chappell’s Popular music of the olden time (1859) – Volume 1 and Volume 2 available in full on the Internet Archive.
(The newspaper report of the concert gives the source of ‘Gossip Joan’ and ‘The Country Lass’ as D’Urfey’s Pills to Purge Melancholy, but D’Urfey’s versions of those songs include verses which would never have been performed in public in polite society in 1899, so we’re pretty sure Miss Taphouse must have sung the cleaned up versions which appear in Chappell. Our fans will no doubt be reassured to learn that we shall be reinstating the rude humour of D-Urfey’s original verses in our arrangement.)
For anyone interested in morris dancing, and the history of the morris, this event is a must. Had it not been for Manning’s concert, it is extremely unlikely that Headington Quarry would have been out dancing at Christmas 1899, when they bumped into Cecil Sharp – a meeting which is commonly held to have sparked the 20th century morris dance revival.
So it’s a recreation of a historically important event, as well as (we hope) a thoroughly good evening’s entertainment.
Percy Manning Centenary Concert
Headington Quarry Morris Dancers and Magpie Lane
St Andrew’s Church, Linton Road, Oxford OX2 6UG
Friday 24th March 8 p.m.