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Remembering the Life and Work of Tony Barrand: The 2003 Interview [Part 3]

A woman and a man in colorful clothes speak into two microphones.

Jennifer Cutting and Tony Barrand speak outside the Library of Congress on May 1, 2003. Cutting is dressed in her “kit” as a member of Rock Creek Morris Women, while Barrand is dressed as “Mother,” a traditional character from the Morris tradition. Photo courtesy of David Roodman, who has the photo in his collection, and may be the photographer.

In this post, we continue presenting Jennifer Cutting’s 2003 interview with Tony Barrand, a singer, dancer, academic, writer, teacher, historian, folklorist, curator, producer, and festival organizer, who died on January 29. Barrand donated the Anthony Grant Barrand Collection of Morris, Sword, and Clog Dancing (AFC 2003/005) to AFC in 2003. This post is the third in a series of four posts, each of which will present a portion of the interview. Find the series at this link. For more about Barrand himself, see the introduction to the first blog in this series. For more about the collection, see the introduction to the second post. In this post, Barrand discusses the development of Morris dancing in America since he founded the Marlboro Morris Ale, a dance festival in Vermont, in 1976. To show how influential Tony’s event has become, we’ve illustrated this post with many photos of the Marlboro Morris Ale over the years.

Jennifer Cutting: Okay, now let’s go back to the Marlboro Ale…

Tony Barrand: ‘76 to start.

Jennifer Cutting: Okay. From the get-go, the first American Morris teams said, “We’re not going to compete, and we’re not going to organize into a Ring.”

Tony Barrand: Not gonna organize. And at that point, they were only doing Cotswold Morris. There had been, I now know, a local longsword team in Cambridge who went out occasionally, but they didn’t last. But there were basically no teams doing anything other than Cotswold Morris at that point.

Jennifer Cutting: So you were running this Morris ale, you were working at the College teaching Perception Psychology…

Tony Barrand: And starting to teach folksong and folklore.

Two men sing into microphones while on of them plays a guitar.

Tony Barrand (left) and John Roberts (right, with guitar) perform at a U.S. folk festival, probably in the 1970s. This photo by an unknown photographer comes from a private album belonging to Tony Barrand. We use it courtesy of Olivia Barrand.

Jennifer Cutting: And were you raising a family?

Tony Barrand: Not at that point…No, my first daughter wasn’t born ‘til 1980.

Jennifer Cutting: Okay, so that’s later. You were running the Morris ales, and they refused to organize or compete. So you had your first Morris ale, and the activities were basically what… you would take turns dancing?

Tony Barrand: [laughs] This was very interesting; you asked about my model; now I’m now remembering the question, sorry. I ran it… I had a big Maypole in the center of the field. We got to do it on the soccer field at Marlboro. And for me, growing up, if you had a fete going on, or something like that, in May, you had to have a Maypole; it was the focus; it was the center of everything. So we put up a Maypole, and everything then happened around the Maypole.

I had this big procession that came in. And what I did also, since this was early on, I wanted to have mass dancing, mostly because my plan was to have each of the teams demonstrate individual dances of their choice, right? But in order to make sure that everybody got to do — this was the sort of, you know, the natural emcee from folk concerts — I think in some ways people say, if I had to say, what is it you do best? I’m a really good emcee. I like emceeing.

Jennifer Cutting: Great, we’ve got a great job for you tomorrow! [laughs]

Tony Barrand: So there’s an emceeing… the piece about it that was, you know, people are gonna come do this, we need a procession to come in, and I’d also read that, you know, teams would arrive and they’d process onto the dance place… they’d dance… then they’d do a recessional. So we had to have a way of processing on, and that was going to be the “Winster Processional,” that was the easy one. And then people would do individual dances; then we’d leave with “Bonnie Green Garters,” which I had also read in Sharp. You know, it was always the ending dance for the Bampton Morris dancers and so on. So clearly, we’d do that.

About 50 musicians walk toward the camera playing their instruments. Visible instruments include drums, whistles, tabor pipes accordions, concertinas, and violins.

Massed musicians during the processional of the Marlboro Morris Ale on May 24, 2009. The processional has been part of this event since it was founded by Tony Barrand and a few friends in 1976. Photo by Stew Stryker. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

Jennifer Cutting: Your model came from Sharp, and then you…

Tony Barrand: Very much… Well, in terms of that, in terms of an individual village team, really, in some ways; in terms of a show; of a Morris team putting on a show. But given that we had 12 teams coming, they’d only get to dance sort of at the beginning and then once in the middle; we ought to have some dances that everybody did… what we now call mass dancing, right? So that everybody could keep warm. So… but, a lot of these teams were very new. So what I did the Friday night before the dancing, and then the Saturday morning, was actually teach dance workshops. I actually taught mass dance workshops. I taught the “Winster Processional;” I taught “Bonny Green Garters;” I taught Adderbury “Lads a Bunchum;” I taught Headington “The 29th of May.”

Jennifer Cutting: So people would have a common vocabulary when they did come together…

Tony Barrand: Which they did not have at that point. So I would teach those workshops. Then in the afternoon, we’d have the big dancing thing, and then a feast. And of course it being a feast for me, it was like what did I do? I made the mistake of, you know, I had to have a roast pig. You know?

Jennifer Cutting: But it doesn’t go down very big with the Jewish members or the vegetarians…

Tony Barrand: Or the vegetarians, which I was learning there was an increasing number of. Which is funny, because I had grown up with my dad being a vegetarian; though he didn’t eat meat, he wasn’t a vegetarian… You just didn’t eat meat. But that was… he just didn’t eat the meat bit of the meal. So the roast pig didn’t last very long.

Jennifer Cutting: But again, you were coming from a tradition of, you have a fete, well, you roast something.

Tony Barrand: You roast a pig; you gotta roast something. That was very much the English fete piece.

Jennifer Cutting: We’ve got great pictures from the Carpenter collection of pig roasts.

Two men stand on either side of a huge pig roasting on a spit. One man has a long spoon, probably to baste the pig. The other wears a chef's toque. The roasting pit is out in an urban street, and is surrounded by onlookers.

Pig Roasting at Stratford Mop (Fair), Stratford-upon-Avon, England. This undated photo, probably from the 1920s, is stamped with the name of the photographer, Ernest Daniels, and is in AFC’s James Madison Carpenter Collection. See the archival scan here.

Tony Barrand: Oh, nice…Yeah. And that was very much the model of growing up. Church fetes and town fetes and things like that, yeah, absolutely. Maypole in the middle. It wasn’t a very satisfactory meal eventually, you know, we did better solutions to it. Actually, the worst solution was getting the local firemen to do roast chicken. That was the next year I think, we did that; that was a terrible solution. So anyway, eventually, we had a sit-down meal.

And then, this thing around the Maypole, with the teams doing the individual dances — I had intended to be basically just for the dancers. This happened at Marlboro College at the base camp where everybody was camping too. And it was like, this is just for the dancers. Then the next day, the Sunday, I’d identified six tours to do out in Windham County, Vermont, and all end up at this wonderful classic little village: Newfane Vermont, which is the courthouse and has this fantastic green. And at that point in time, I was still very romantically thinking that Morris dancing happened on grass, on greens at the village green piece, you know, that I’d also sort of grown up with. And one of my early trips I’d taken, which ended up being slides, was going around and taking slides of the village greens in all the Morris villages that were mentioned in Sharp, just to see where those guys must have danced.

What I now know is they danced in the road, outside the pub… they didn’t dance on the damned green. As soon as you try and dance on the village green, you know, you twist your ankle. And also, there’s horse and cow droppings on the greens, you know, so you’re not going to go and do that.

This group of Morris dancers from Bidford was photographed at the floral festival in Chipping Camden, in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, in 1896. This photo, along with other photos of the era, confirms Tony Barrand’s realization that Morris dancers typically performed in the road or on another flattened and hardened surface, not on the village green. However, this photo makes clear that horse droppings could still be a danger when dancing in the road! This photo was taken by by Henry W. Taunt, a professional photographer based in Oxford. Taunt died in 1922, so his photographs are in the public domain. Source: Historic England Archive.

Anyway, so these little tours, and so two teams went out on each tour. And then we all met at Newfane and did some more mass dancing and individual show dances, as I came to call them.

Jennifer Cutting: Interesting, because this is the structure that has persisted now, and is still in place at ales.

Tony Barrand: And I think the Marlboro Ale very much became the model for all the other ales.

Jennifer Cutting: Okay, so did that happen the first year of the Marlboro Ale, you had your tours and…

Tony Barrand: The tours on the Sunday, and the one thing at the Maypole on the Saturday. What very quickly happened… The next year, 21 teams showed up. We just had it open to whoever was there, and there were 21 teams. And I think that happened the second and third year, there were that many teams.

Jennifer Cutting: So you went from what, a dozen teams…

Five women dance with handkerchiefs high in the air while others look on.

Marlboro Morris and Sword, the team Tony Barrand founded with a few friends in 1974, performs at the Marlboro Morris Ale on May 25, 2014. The event was founded by Tony Barrand in 1976. Photo by Jeffrey Bary. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

Tony Barrand: A dozen to twenty-one, in one year. It’s was like, boom!, This was really happening all of a sudden. It was incredible. And after that, we had to start limiting the number of teams that could come… we couldn’t handle that many people. You couldn’t get enough dances in, in a reasonable… and it was basically, 12 dances in an hour, you know. So in a two-hour show, you could get everybody to do a dance and some mass dances, basically.

Jennifer Cutting: Is everyone camping, also?

Tony Barrand: At that point in time everyone is camping. A few people would sleep… with some dorm rooms, like if people came from England. Like, by 1978, we had people coming over from England.

Jennifer Cutting: So, as we look at the beginning of the Marlboro Ale, and how it changed over the years, what would you say were the major changes that crept in year after year?

Tony Barrand: Can I kind of preface this by throwing in a name here, which is Roy Dommet, who I think I mentioned? I think I first met him, I was directed to him by, I don’t know, maybe Jim Morrison… somebody that I don’t even know. But I went to visit him in 1976 and discovered… because he then became a model for me in terms of really filming the ale. I’d been filming it. But I’d gone to England on field trips to find information for my own teaching.

A man holds a curved frame covered with flowers, known as a "garland." Around him, others are holding more garlands.

Gideon Morse performs a garland dance at the Marlboro Morris Ale on May 25, 2014. The event was founded by Tony Barrand in 1976. Photo by Jeffrey Bary. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

The piece of accumulating an archive over a long period of time, I didn’t really think of until I saw Roy Dommet, who had 25 years’ worth of film. Unfortunately, all of it at that point silent film. He just filmed a partial piece of a team in order to get a notation of how they danced. Because he was saving money. You know, he was a civil servant, and just doing what he could, and he was interested in making these notations. And I realized I really needed not only the sound film for the music, but I needed the whole dance. So I needed equipment like that. And so, moved to video as quickly as I could. But I did realize that what Roy had, you know, he had 25 years’ worth of film of English dancing of, you know, what people called revival dancing as opposed to the tradition, that didn’t exist… there was no record of this incredible explosion of interest in dancing. And I thought, I’m right on the beginning of this happening in this country; I know all of the teams that exist here; gonna get to film them all; we’ll just take film of this and keep it. So Roy Dommet’s collection was very important in terms of that.

Jennifer Cutting: That was a model for you… then you improved upon it for your own purposes by capturing the whole dance?

Tony Barrand: Not only the whole thing, but the whole ale. I filmed all the stuff between the dancing. There was a piece for me that, as a someone running — because I very quickly realized one of the things that I’d seen in ‘79 was, that I’d read about, again in Sharp, but didn’t see on a lot of American Morris teams when they first showed up — they didn’t have a fool or a character. And it’s like, wait a second, if the best dancer in English villages was the squire or the teacher, you know, why aren’t we having a fool? You know, what would happen, if there was a fool, it was an extra dancer that wasn’t very good. You’d put them in a hobby horse or jester’s outfit or something and not really know what they should do. So I decided, I had to be the fool, you know. And so I had to evolve; it’s like, okay, if I’m the teacher, and I think this is so important. I should do it.

Another photo of the Morris dancers from Bidford at the floral festival in Chipping Camden, in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, in 1896. Note that the team had two characters, a fool and a hobby-horse, who stand in the center and are dressed differently from the other members. In this team, the hobby-horse carries a bladder tied to a stick; the bladder is visible near his feet between him and the fool. Tony Barrand noted that such characters were typically not present in American Morris dance in the 1970s, and he pioneered various fool characters, settling on dressing in conventionally female clothing as “Mother.” This photo was taken by Henry W. Taunt, a professional photographer based in Oxford. Taunt died in 1922, so his photographs are in the public domain. Source: Historic England Archive.ord

Jennifer Cutting: Well, you’ve got to model it for other people.

Tony Barrand: I had to model it. So that was an important thing that started to happen, is more fools started to come. Major thing that happened… .

Jennifer Cutting: Did you have a fool school?

A man in a dress and floppy hat holds a young girl in one arm.

Tony Barrand, dressed as the traditional character “Mother,” with his daughter Olivia at the end-of-week show dances at Pinewoods Camp in Plymouth, Massachusetts in the mid-1980s. This photo by an unknown photographer comes from a private album belonging to Tony Barrand. We use it courtesy of Olivia Barrand.

Tony Barrand: Well, sort of, sort of… I did do workshops at Pinewoods on that. When I was at Pinewoods, I did have a session that was on fooling there. And, there was some years that, in order to encourage this, I’d teach “The Fool’s Jig” to the fools and I’d have a sort of mass “Fool’s Jig” — all the fools up doing “Fool’s Jig” in order to try and have an opportunity for them. After 1979, and I brought all that stuff back, we then started to see longsword teams, and Northwest Morris teams, and garland dance teams, and stave and ribbon teams, starting to cover all of this this stuff that I’d filmed.

Jennifer Cutting: Did other people have access to your films?

Tony Barrand: Yes… Mostly with me going around to places like Pinewoods, or going doing dance workshops and showing it. And, unfortunately, I did lend some of my films, some of which has never come back. I just noticed a crucial piece of film, for example, of Abbots Bromley…I had quite a lot of film of that was taken by a colleague of mine, Rhett Krause, in 1982, that — we took my camera with him to England, basically, that didn’t show up. So I did lend film; eight millimeter. But there was no way of copying it at the time… You know, that was it. It’s amazing how fast that technology has changed.

I taught a lot of workshops. Everywhere John and I went and did concerts, I would let people know I was coming, and did they want a Morris workshop of some sort? So we did that. Or Sword, or even Garland, because I did Garland workshops, and done a lot of that stuff; a variety. But I still insisted, you know, I should say here, that arranging the Marlboro Morris Ale wasn’t really me. I mean, it was sort of my idea. But I had my own team that I started, which was called Marlboro Morris and Sword –  really did all the labor that’s involved in putting on an event for 200 people… huge amounts of work… And they got very efficient at it, and really great at it. And so I sort of stayed as kind of artistic director in terms of who we were going to invite initially, and what sorts of things I wanted to do.

So, like, there was one year, I think by about 1978 or 9, I decided I really wanted to start encouraging invented dances. There was this whole thing about how you know, you had to do dances that were from the tradition. And it was like, we were in America here, and were we using American tunes? And so, started to pass the word to teams coming that I’d really enjoy it if, for their show dance, they’d do a dance they’d made up. So started to encourage, like one year, really wanted to start introducing invention into the thing.

Jennifer Cutting: And what year was that, did you say?

Tony Barrand: That would have been probably ’80, after I’d been in England and seen two things… One, that “the tradition” was much more inventive than I’d been led to believe by Sharp or by my teachers and precedents at Pinewoods… that it was just using The Morris Book.  

Two books side by side. They are Early editions of two volumes of Cecil J. Sharp's The Morris Book.

Early editions of two volumes of Cecil J. Sharp’s The Morris Book. This book was Tony Barrand’s first source of knowledge about the Morris dance tradition.

And when I went to England in ‘76, I started looking at Sharp’s field notes, and discovering all these wacky different things that were in there that he didn’t publish because he decided… You know, for example, all the dances that he did, in which you were using two hands, were all: down and up and downdown on the strong beat of the measure. And there are several repertoires that he noted down in which he goes: up and down and up — in which the arms go up first on the strong beat of the measure.

Jennifer Cutting: And he didn’t publish those?

Tony Barrand: He didn’t publish any of those! You know, it’s like… Okay, that’s interesting. Plus, there were things like: He published Abingdon doing one – two – three – hop; one – two – three – hop.  I went and filmed them, and they do one – hop – two – three; one – hop – two – three. So there’s all these unusual, different… so it’s like, okay, invention can’t be bad when there’s this much variety. This much variety had to come from somewhere. And, I realized at that point, it’s clear where the variety came from… it was the competitions. The teams competed with each other, in order to look different… to make up new dances; to make little bits up… to individuate. So it’s like, okay, let’s individuate.

And as one of the things that my story from the Labanotion Bureau illustrated to me was, just by living in this country, one learns to speak differently. You know, you have friends who are Americans who go to England, who go to London for two weeks, and they come back sounding cockney. You know, that one not only learns the language, but one’s body movement actually eventually changes, as you hear that the pace of life and how one moves and how one lives; that all of those things… You know, I’m a perception psychologist, what I was interested in, was dance expression. And where does expression come from? Why do people move the way they do? And it seemed to me, it clearly had… if this person at the Bureau could spot an English person and spot Americans, clearly, people have a movement accent, just as they have a speech accent. And that was just fascinating to me. And that had to show up when people were doing expressive gesture: waving their arms about, lifting up hankies, and kicking their legs in the air doing galleys or whatever they were doing… Moving through the set, how they moved through the set, must have reflected how they lived, basically. It clearly did that in the Cotswolds. And it must do that here.

Twelve women in skirts and blouses, with flowered hats on their heads and rhythm sticks in their hands, dance in procession.

Kettle Bridge Clogs, a women’s North West Morris dance team from Maidstone, Kent, UK, performs at the Marlboro Morris Ale in Vermont, May 24, 2009. The event was founded by Tony Barrand in 1976. Photo by Stew Stryker. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

Jennifer Cutting: And why should we have [strict] imitation?

Tony Barrand: Well, that was the piece; it became for me, here was I, this Englishman in America. So there’s this interesting question to me: Now, is what we’re doing English Morris in America? Or is it American Morris dancing? There was a piece… I wanted to make it American Morris dancing. I didn’t want it to be, I mean, this is fine… They could take care of it in England, but we were doing things over here….

Interestingly enough, it just popped into my head that there’s a remark that one of the Chipping Camden dancers said to me, before I filmed, even my first film at Headington Quarry; almost my only conversation with the Headington Quarry guys actually in Washington was: I’m here to film; is it okay for me to film?  You know, getting permission. So I, of course, always did that before filming. And going to talk to Chipping Camden… I’d heard that Chipping Camden didn’t like anybody else doing their dances… So I said to them, you know, do you mind me filming? Because of course, I’m gonna take this back, and I’m gonna show people in America. And you know, I suppose it’s possible that people will end up doing your dances over there. And they said, “Nothing we can do about that, is there?”  [Laughter] So he said, no, they were happy to film it. And as it turns out, almost nobody… I mean, you got somebody coming doing one dance… But very, very, very few teams actually do these.

Six men in knee breeches, crossed baldrics, and bowler hats, swing mighty sticks.

The Foggy Bottom Morris Men of Washington, D.C., perform a stick dance at the Marlboro Morris Ale, on May 26. 2013. The event was founded by Tony Barrand in 1976. Photo by Jeffrey Bary. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

Jennifer Cutting: But interestingly, the Bacon says that “Old Woman Tossed Up in a Blanket,” the tune was known, but the dance was not known, for Chipping Camden “Old Woman Tossed Up.”

Tony Barrand: So they made up a dance… that’s great… that’s very nice.

Tony Barrand: But yeah, I filmed all the Chipping Camden repertoire, and there’s no “Old Woman.”

Jennifer Cutting: So you felt strongly that there should be an American Morris, and that’s what you were helping to do?

Tony Barrand: This is why I lived. This is who I was, and I wanted it to be American dancing, and if we were doing it, to be the best dancing it could be. Because that was my interest, was in aesthetics, and wanted that to be an investment to me that one had to learn out of what the nature of the tradition was not to [strictly] imitate, but to draw on the tradition as a reservoir from which to learn. And one of the things you had to learn was that the dancing had to have integrity, about you and your life and your circumstances. And that, to me, was the most important thing to try and generate.

A woman dances with a white handkerchief in each hand. She wears a yellow vest covered with buttons.

Rowyn Peel performs a dance with the Rock Creek Morris Women from Washington, D.C., at the Marlboro Morris Ale in Vermont on May 24, 2014. The event was founded by Tony Barrand in 1976. Photo by Jeffrey Bary. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

Jennifer Cutting: And to draw on the tradition as a basis for the new work. And so you encouraged people to come with their own dances; around what year was that?

Tony Barrand: It would have been ‘80, probably, right after ’79, because there was such variety. I was actually… that field trip in England in ’79, I was stunned at the variety that I saw. There was this very narrow aesthetic band that was taught in this country, at that point in time. Well, and what’s of course interesting was, they didn’t even use all of what was written down. I then started — you know, again, the academic — going through with a fine tooth comb, going through Sharp, and there are many things that are pointed out in Sharp. I mean, a little, for example… I was only taught to do Headington Quarry using handkerchiefs; and used the long hankies. First of all, there’s a picture of William Kimber with bunched handkerchiefs that’s in the Sharp Morris Book. Well, in order to bunch handkerchiefs, they have to be quite long. And one of the things I’d learned from Roy Dommett was that the handkerchief in the Cotswolds was a headscarf. It was the thing that Dick Whittington wrapped his possessions in and hung onto his stick… So it was large. And in fact, of course, there’s this picture of William Kimber with his hands of his size, with a handkerchief wrapped around his middle finger and it almost touches the ground. And, in fact, Sharp says very clearly: the handkerchief should be long enough that if you’re standing like this, it’s one inch from the ground. You know, this is a two- foot square of linen, basically, we’re talking about… not little snot rags…[smiling] Oh, excuse me, sorry about that…  You know what I mean? You couldn’t bunch these little things. So it’s like, why aren’t we doing the things that are in the book if we think we’re doing what Sharp published? So there’s a lot more variety, even in what was available, even though there wasn’t that much available… and a lot of the variety Sharp hadn’t done, it’s like… Whoa, look at all this variety. Look at these! So I went, you know, deliberately then, seeking out the best teams.

Four men leap high in the air, limbs akimbo.

A group of Morris dancers–Windham of Brattleboro, Vermont–performs a star jump caper at the Marlboro Morris Ale in Vermont on May 25, 2014. The event was founded by Tony Barrand in 1976. Photo by Jeffrey Bary. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

Jennifer Cutting: What did you first see when you issued that invitation? Who turned up with originals? And who wrote them?

Tony Barrand: Yeah, that’s a good question.

Jennifer Cutting: I mean, that might be taxing your memory too much…

Tony Barrand: No, I don’t think it is; I’m thinking of answers. Well: the very first Morris Ale, there was one team that showed up and basically did all new dances. And that was… You know who Dudley Laufman is?

Jennifer Cutting: Oh, yes.

Tony Barrand: Dudley had an adult’s Morris team and a children’s Morris team. The Canterbury Kids, I think they were called, or something like that, and the… maybe the Canterbury Bells, you know, that would be an obvious name, wouldn’t it? Something like that, I forget what they were called. But they showed up doing dances Dudley had invented… the very first one. You know, Dudley showed up, and that was just… that was the nature of Dudley. I mean, that’s the nature of what Contra dancing was. Contra dancing was always: yes, you had some dances you did, but there were always new dances being written. And I think for Dudley, Morris dancing, for him, was seen through the framework of Contra dancing. And at the time, I remember thinking, oh, that’s a little shocking… Sort of shows up and does a…sort of… I mean, it was fine. That was sort of Dudley, but nobody else was doing it.

Six women stand in a ring. In each hand the women hold one handle of a flexible steel blade with handles on each end, so that they are connected into a ring by the bands. behind them, musicians are visible playing violin and guitar.

A group of rapper sword dancers, Half Moon Sword of New York City, performs at the Marlboro Morris Ale in Vermont on May 25, 2014. Rapper swords are flexible bands of steel with handles at either end and rapper sword dancers perform complex maneuvers while joined together by their swords. The event was founded by Tony Barrand in 1976. Photo by Jeffrey Bary. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

Jennifer Cutting: And you hadn’t come ‘round to it yet?

Tony Barrand: Yeah, well, actually, I lied: Here’s what I’d done. I had found a dance description, for Headington, that they didn’t do anymore. So I had the fragment of a description that I had to interpret. So I thought of myself as interpreting. But it was a dance that was justified as existing. You know, it’s like, we’ve got an Old Woman, so it’s okay to do a Chipping Camden Old Woman. It’s very much that, so I did a Greensleeves leapfrog dance that was mentioned in what was collected. So, interpreting was okay. It was a somewhat creative suggestion, but you’re hanging onto the tradition. But by 1980, a lot of new dances were  coming up.

Of course, what had happened in England… and I think a sad piece of what had happened in England that I saw, was that in order to meet people’s demand for something new, they started adding traditions. They started learning dances from Bleddington and Longborough and learning existing traditional repertoire, but from a lot of different places. And it seemed to me the solution that had happened in villages, was that I stayed doing Bampton, let’s say. But so I don’t have to travel off and do somebody else’s dancing, I just make up a new dance. So you increase your repertoire, and it happens in the Cotswolds, happens when they got a new tune, or the fiddler showed up with a new tune, or you got a new idea and it was the Queen’s Jubilee in 1887, or whatever; you’d make up a dance called The Jubilee or something. A commemorative dance, or something like that. So things like that started happening.

Two groups of six dancers each walk in circles. In each group, one member holds aloft six swords woven into a six-pointed star.

Two groups of longsword dancers—both part of Goathland Plough Stots from Yorkshire—perform at the Marlboro Morris Ale in Vermont on May 25, 2014. Longswords are more rigid than rapper swords. The event was founded by Tony Barrand in 1976. Photo by Jeffrey Bary. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

You know, the one I flip to immediately… it was by ‘86, the Marlboro Women made up a dance called The Challenger. It was right after Challenger blew up in January… that May, there was a dance called The Challenger.  Albemarle Morris from Charlottesville, Virginia, came up with… I mean, there they are down among a fiddle territory with a whole different set of tunes, started making up Bleddington dances using Southern tunes; that had the eight bar structure, basically, but they started using, you know, American style tunes, that kind of thing as well. So a lot of different kinds of… Binghamton being up for show; there are no Bampton stick dances, they focused entirely on Bampton dances, so they made up a Binghamton stick dance in the Bampton style, based upon, actually, a tune from the Bacup Coconut tradition. So all kinds of things.

What was an interesting ramification of it that I suppose in some ways, that I’m very sort of pleased about with regard to the invention piece, was that people started to focus more and more on doing one tradition and inventing dances, rather than finding new dances from another place. And they did the obvious thing. A lot of the Cotswold villages have a Trunkles, and they have a Constant Billy. So clearly, people pinch dances from each other. So they stay doing their own Bampton or Headington, or whatever it was, and you take, oh, that stick tapping thing that came in. And, in 1978, Roy Dommett came to the Marlboro Ale and filmed and took notes and everything, and traveled around doing workshops in a lot of places. And Roy, having been filming and writing things down for 25, almost 30 years at that point in time, deliberately introduced some new dance ideas, in different places. Like he’d go one place and he’d teach them to do a certain particular dance from something, and he’d go to another place and teach a completely different thing. He sort of worked like a little Johnny Appleseed.  So he’d go somewhere and he’d plant a little seed of something here, hoping to come back later and see how it worked out.

Jennifer Cutting: Well, you were doing that yourself, with your workshops…

A man plays the concertina and sings while another man looks on.

John Roberts sings and plays the concertina at the Marlboro Morris Ale in Vermont on May 27 2012, with Joe Kynoch of the Pinewoods Morris Men behind him. John was Tony Barrand’s singing partner from 1969 until Tony’s death in 2022. The ale was founded by Tony Barrand in 1976. Photo by Jeffrey Bary. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

Tony Barrand: Yeah. [Looks at his wife Margaret Dale and asks her:] Is there anything I haven’t said?

[Engineer changes audio tape]

Margaret Dale Barrand [from off camera]: Well, the other thing about inventions had to do with when you were short on people; that’s when I remember inventions starting, really.

Jennifer Cutting: [introduces her] This is Margaret Dale speaking; this is Tony Barrand’s wife… also a great pipe and tabor player. What were you saying, Margaret Dale?

Margaret Dale Barrand: That, being on a tour where there were only five people, there weren’t enough people for a real set; the necessity for invention came out of that also, in that there were quite a few dances that were invented for three, four, or five.

Tony Barrand: On tours where we couldn’t get enough people.

Jennifer Cutting: Could you repeat that into the microphone?

A woman in a bowler hat decorated with long feathers speaks into a handset that is connected to a bullhorn that she carries in one arm.

Sarah Pilzer makes an announcement at the Marlboro Morris Ale in Vermont on May 24 2014. The event was founded by Tony Barrand in 1976. Photo by Jeffrey Bary. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

Tony Barrand: Yes…What Margaret Dale just said, and that’s right, is that I think on our own team tours, there’ve been some times when we couldn’t get six people, let’s say, or however many you needed.  You’d get four or five or something, and so you’d try and make up some dances in order to have this… It’s interesting, feeling like the dances for six you couldn’t do with a gap, so you needed to make up some dances that went with that. I remember one time, we did that… it would have been around 1984 that the Marlboro Men, we went to an ale in Toronto. And the normal dances we did at that point were in a style from Lichfield, in the Midlands in England, which needed eight people, and there were six of us. So, in order to do a show dance for ourselves, we decided the one person who could play was going to play, and we needed to make up a dance for five… So we made up a Lichfield-style dance for five. It was very much that thing.

And I think that some other teams showed up doing things like that too. And that very much had been… I think, by that point in time, by the late ‘70s, it was clear to me… I don’t know whether that… it must have happened in the Cotswolds too, because they talked about not ever being able to get enough good dancers, so you’d put the experienced dancers on one side, and the duffers on the other, and they’d tell them what to do as they went through.  But the Border Morris tradition, the Christmas Morris from the Welsh borders, was very much “How many dancers have we got this year? Oh, let’s make up a dance that goes with seven, or eight, or nine, or six, or whatever.”

Jennifer Cutting: Going back to something you just said about good dancers and duffers… At about, we’re talking late ‘70s and 80’s… you started your Marlboro team with whoever would do it. How did it evolve from “We’ll take anybody who comes,” to…

Tony Barrand: We very quickly got to a point of audition.

Jennifer Cutting: How quickly?

Tony Barrand: So I started the team in ’74… by ’76.

Jennifer Cutting: By two years in, you’re auditioning people, and they have to be good enough.

Tony Barrand: Well, I met and fell in love with Margaret Dale going down to audition, to see if there was anybody good enough in this class. Fred Breunig was teaching a class in Morris dancing. We decided to have classes that were open to anybody, but only to invite the ones who were good enough – who had promise – to join the team.

A group on men and women in black garments with colorful ribbons over them and hats decorated with ribbons and feathers dance with sticks.

Black Sheep from British Columbia, a colorful Border Morris team, performs at the Marlboro Morris Ale on May 29, 2011. The event was founded by Tony Barrand in 1976. Photo by Stew Stryker.  Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

Jennifer Cutting: So what year did you meet Margaret Dale?

Tony Barrand: ’76. We were definitely auditioning that year, and I think we did that for a few years, and then I think people started to mention friends; other Morris dancers had moved. But by that time, there were a lot of Morris teams around in New England, by the time you got to early 1980s and so people then moved, the way Americans do, and so you get dancers coming from another team, and you’d add people that way, as much as anything.

Jennifer Cutting: Was there an upset because you moved from taking anybody who would be willing to dance, who wanted to do it for pleasure and fun, to a system where you were only taking people that met a certain standard and a certain aesthetic?

Tony Barrand: It was problematic. I think during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I think it was harder for me to find men for the men’s team than it was for the women to find… I think the women would have got too large if they hadn’t done that, so I think the men were sort of taking anybody we could get, and the women were being more selective in order to keep themselves a fairly small team.

Jennifer Cutting: So it had to do with wanting to stay small as well?

Tony Barrand: I think so.

Jennifer Cutting: I never went to a Marlboro ale myself, as Rock Creek’s musician, but one heard tales in the Morris scene that, “Oh, you’d better really get your you-know-what together if you’re going to dance at Marlboro, because the standards are very high there.”  And so I wanted to ask you about that.

Tony Barrand: That was my competitive bit. There weren’t formal competitions… but…This was never said, but it was always very clear that I wanted my teams to be the best, and that there was a lot of pressure on people to dance well right from the beginning. And that stuff was never said, but right from the beginning it was always implicit that, on particular show dances, you… And I think Marlboro always maintained a thing of that, there are certain kinds of dances that you wanted to have your best team out at a certain place.

A woman dances with a long handkerchief in each hand.

Crystal Bailey of the Rock Creek Morris Women from Washington, D.C. performs at the Marlboro Morris Ale on May 26, 2013. The event was founded by Tony Barrand in 1976. Photo by Jeffrey Bary. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

Jennifer Cutting: And do you think they really absorbed that from you?

Tony Barrand: Yeah [laughs]. That’s actually not something that I’m embarrassed about at all. It’s like for me… the pressure of performance…It was the old rugby player, too: I didn’t want to play on a rugby team that wasn’t going to win. So there’s a piece about that.

Jennifer Cutting: Well, isn’t it a decision that a foreman makes, or someone who’s running a team… We’re gonna do this for fun, or: We’re gonna do this for meeting a certain aesthetic…

Tony Barrand: Well, I think as a singer, I had always also realized, there’s a whole other level of fun: When you’re doing things really well, you kick into a level of enjoyment and pleasure that you don’t get just when you do it casually.

Jennifer Cutting: That you don’t get… but others who are dancing casually might enjoy it… So, it seems to me just a matter of making a decision about what kind of a team it’s gonna be: This is social, or this is for excellence, and reaching a standard.

Tony Barrand: Yes. That’s right.

Jennifer Cutting: So, you made that decision early on?

Tony Barrand sits in a mobility chair monitoring a video camera on a tripod. Other people are sitting around him.

The late Tony Barrand (in cap, with camera) documents the May 23, 2009 procession at the Marlboro Morris Ale, an event he founded in 1976. To Barrand’s left is his wife, Margaret Dale, now also deceased. Although multiple sclerosis robbed him of the ability to dance, Barrand continued to teach, sing, play music, and document the dance styles he loved until his death in 2022.  Photo by Jeffrey Barry. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

Tony Barrand: And, let me add one thing about that, in terms of the ale: the ale also was very selective. In order to have the right number of teams, there were a lot of teams that didn’t get invited to the Marlboro Ale. And it was always very clear: First of all, I really wanted men’s teams and women’s teams, and didn’t invite any mixed teams.  For the longest time, there were no mixed teams, OK?

Jennifer Cutting: And when did that change?

Tony Barrand: There’s still not that many mixed teams come… There’s no reason not to, but some do. I think it probably changed after I retired, which was in ’86, with my legs.

One Comment

  1. Fred Breunig
    March 30, 2022 at 12:06 pm

    As one of the behind-the-scenes co-founders of the Marlboro Morris Ale, I was very much involved with the early days. I am surprised that Tony did not mention one of the first invented dances that I remember—quintessentially American—Kingsessing Morris Men’s “Mr. Softy,” using the jingle the ice cream truck played on its rounds. They created and performed it at their first appearance in Marlboro in 1979. Also, speaking of Fools: their Fool, Mike Gallagher, was one of the first … and one of the best!

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