Dances from the SCA 30 Year Celebration

In the summer of 1996, the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) held its 30th Anniversary Celebration. This was a large affair which included, fighting, feasting, and all manners of diverse arts including dancing. I undertook the task of assembling arrangements of the most popular dance tunes for the musicians. Some of those tunes were settings or new transcriptions in honor of the occasion. Those I reproduce here.

The dances

The dances are grouped by the period from which the dance comes. I have included MIDI format for listening and Adobe Acrobat (R) for viewing/printing the score. (See formats page for how to use those formats). The dances below are either public domain, or copyright by myself. (See copyright notice for restrictions on use).

The original plan was to have 30 dances in honor of the 30th year celebration. The dances were chosen to reflect the history of dancing and dance music within the SCA, and so do not always strictly adhere to the SCA charter of recreating the Middle Ages and Renaissance. I hope the notes below make the collection somewhat more historically informed. Those dances were:

  1. Black Alman
  2. Black Nag
  3. Bransle Charlotte
  4. Bransle de Montarde
  5. Bransle Officiale
  6. Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie (Pavan)
  7. Earl of Salisbury Pavan
  8. Female Sailor
  9. Gathering Peascods
  10. Gelosia
  11. Hide Park
  12. Horses Bransle
  13. Hole in the Wall
  14. Jenny Pluck Pears
  15. Korobushka
  16. Manchaft Pavan
  17. Pease Bransle
  18. Petit Vriens
  19. Picking of Sticks
  20. Queenes Alman
  21. Rufty Tufty
  22. Salterello La Regina
  23. Schiarazula Marazula (sometimes called SCA Maltise)
  24. Sellingers Rownde
  25. Trenchmore
  26. Upon a Summers Day
  27. La Volta
  28. War Bransle
  29. Washerwoman's Bransle
To that core list, I added the following supplemental dances:
  1. Alenchon
  2. Blue Pavan
  3. Double Bransle
  4. Flourentine
  5. Pavan 12
  6. Single Bransle
  7. La Spagne

A. Monophonic Dances

The 14th Century produced a number of pieces of Dance music for which there is no extant choreography. The Salterellos are one important body of such music. Salterello La Regina is a wildly speculative attempt at recreating a Salterello, based on the music of Salterello III. (There is very little evidence on which to base such a recreation, but it is a fun invention.) This dance was originally written up in the Letter of the Dance.

I have only provided the melody (MIDI Format, PDF format) and not a polyphonic setting of this piece because it demands a different (monophonic) approach to orchestration. Instead of thinking of bass, alto and tenor, think rather of drones, alternating musicians playing the melody and on improvised variations on the melody. (For example, here is a setting with a constant C drone, MIDI Format.) Have fun and be creative, because a lot of the evidence on historic practice here is rather speculative.

B. 15th Century Balli and Bassedanza

Fifteenth Century music is different than 16th Century music and demands a different approach to setting it. The only two 15th Century Balli and no bassedanza made it into the core repertoire:

Gelosia is found in a number of 15th C Italian sources. There seem to be two different reconstructions of the dance floating around which disagree on the placement of one of the repeats (at bar 7 or 8 on my edition). The two forms disagree on the second part of the dance where the first gentleman advances "three doubles on the left foot" and Reverences to the lady while the second gentleman does a salterello forward. The first form, which I will call the Brainard School after the reconstruction by Ingrid Brainard, has the 3 doubles and the reverence falling in two bars of music, the second gentleman does the reverence during the third and that repeats twice times. The first gentleman then does a salterello during the eighth bar which is not repeated. The second form, which I will call the Sparti School after Barbara Sparti's translation, has the three doubles done in two measures followed by a reverence in one measure and a Salterello by the second man in the last measure. The first man must do his final Salterello at the same as the third man. There seems to be evidence for both versions (including a bar in the music which may indicate the repeat at measure seven added by a later hand). I prepared two editions of this music (set for alto and tenor recorders or similar instruments), one following the Brainard school with the repeat at measure 7 (MIDI Format, PDF Format) and one following the Sparti school with the repeat at measure 8 (MIDI Format, PDF Format)

Although Petit Vriens is a 15th C ballo, musically it still has the feel of a monophonic dance (in particular, it works very well with a G drone), so I have treated it as such in the music collection. (MIDI Format, MIDI Format + Drone, PDF Format).

I thought that there was a substantial hole in the 30 year collection in that no basse dances where included. This is of personal interest to me because I have been working on a project to provide polyphonic settings for the Burgundian Basse Dance repertoire. I originally included a copy of my favorite setting favorite setting of THE golden dance hit of the 15th Century La Spanga (this is the music for ``Lauro'' and ``Castille Nouvelle'' among other dances) and two of the more successful settings of Brussel M.S. basse dances, Alenchon and Flourentine. These are available from my Basse Dance page.

C. Pavans and Galliards

There are hundreds of Pavans and Galliards in easily accessible editions, but because Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie appears in Arbeau as an example, it remains the most requested. Because it is such a simple and well known piece (and easy to sing), I have given it here in the original clefs and included the lyrics. (MIDI Format, PDF Format)

To encourage some variety in dancing the Pavan, I have also included two other choices of Pavans. The Blue Pavan is my own set of variations (based on a folk tune) of a Pavan by Holborne. It is rather long if you take all the repeats. (PDF Format) Pauane 12 is taken from Jacques Moderne's Musique de Joi and is the public domain. (MIDI format, PDF format).

The Galliard is La Volta from Praetorius's Dances from the Trepsichore, included because Countess Mara wanted a Volta for the Caroso ball. (MIDI format, and a little bit slower MIDI Format, PDF format). [The Caroso ball is an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of a 16th Century ball. Countess Mara hosted on at the 30th Year celebration. The following article describes the concept in more detail: A Caroso-style Ball]

D. Bransles

Although music for a large number of Bransles exist, the choreographies all come from Arbeau's 1589 treatise. Thus, we do not have many settings for the mixed and mimed bransles, although innumerable suites of Double, Gay and Burgundian Bransles exist. The double and single bransle did not make the core list despite the fact that they are often the first dance taught in many dance classes. I have added a double bransle suite from Praetorius's Trepsichore (MIDI format, 1/2 tempo MIDI, PDF format) and a Bransle Simple suite from the same source (MIDI format, PDF format)

The settings of Bransle Charlotte, Bransle Montarde, Bransle Official, and Pease Bransle are my own work. Bransle Charlotte is a four-part setting for SATB recorders (MIDI format, PDF format), as is Bransle Montarde (MIDI format for 3 dancers, MIDI format for 4 dancers, MIDI format for 5 dancers, MIDI format for 6 dancers, MIDI format for 7 dancers, PDF format for as many as will). I'm rather pleased with my setting of Bransle Officiale (four parts SATB, with optional low notes for Curtal or Gamba on the lowest line) (MIDI format, PDF format). Pease Bransle is actually three settings for 1+ drone, 3 and 5 instruments respectively, for what I think is a rather nice effect. (MIDI Format, PDF Format).

My version of Horse Bransle had a few problems. Fortunately, Avatar of Catsprey? came to my rescue with his collection of dance music. We used the horses Bransle from his collection (which was taken with permission from the London Pro Musica Renaissance Dance Book, LPM RD1). If you would like a copy of Avatar's collection, you can contact him at Joseph Casazza has a number of setting for this tune in his Music for the dances in Arbeau's Orchesography collection.

I managed to track down a few typoes and fix a few of the more obvious problems in my horses bransle. As this is a really good "calling on" dance and I would like to encourage people to try it, I'm putting the results here. (Horses Bransle, MIDI Format, Horses Bransle, PDF Format). This piece also works well as a monophonic piece done with melody and G drone. (Horses Bransle, Melody and Drone, MIDI>

Washerwoman's Bransle is set by Elsbeth Anne Roth (Kathryn Van Stone) (note that the f at the end of the phrase should be an f sharp according to the usual rules of musica ficta). (MIDI Format, PDF Format).

War Bransle is taken from Phalese and is modified to fit the Arbeau repeat structure. (War Bransle, MIDI Format, War Bransle, PDF Format) The tune Schiarazula Merzula is also taken from Phalese. This is the tune for the invented dance often referred to as the SCA Maltese. In order to avoid confusion with the dance Arbeau bransle Maltese, we hope that the name ``Schiarazula Merzula'' will catch on for this dance. (Schiarazula Merzula MIDI Format)

E. Almains

Two almains were included in the 30 dances. Black Almain is the familiar setting Joseph Casazza did for Practice for Dauncing (actually its an updated version; I hope Joe will publish his updates to that important collection soon). It is not included in this WWW site because I only obtained permission for one time use. Practice for Dauncing is available from:
Patri Pugliese
39 Capen St.
Medford, MA 02155
The Almains are very fine dances and under used in the SCA, check them out!

Queens Almain is adapted from William Byrd's keyboard setting by Alaric MacConnal (Robert Smith). (MIDI Format, PDF Format)

F. English Country Dances

I rather think that the English Country Dances are over represented in the 30 year collection given that they really occur at the very tail end of what we consider the Renaissance (1651) and extend well into the following century, although the music for several tunes occurs before their identification as dance tunes in Playford. They belong more with the Baroque dances than the Renaissance ones. Given that statement, Bernard Thomas has prepared a lovely collection of English country dances with Renaissance styling which I encourage people to buy (London Pro Musica LPM 102). His settings really sound like the Susato or Attaignant Bransles. London Pro Musica editions should be available from any good music distributor (The Copyright Notice Page lists several companies which will do mail order.)

Another good source for Playford dance settings is Marshall Barron who has done settings for all of the first edition tunes. Her settings are three part S A/T B, although sometimes the range of the recorder part will use the full two octaves. Her settings have a nice Baroque feel, which while appropriate to the dances is not the best choice for Renaissance dancing. Her books are available from:
Marshall Barron
100 York St., 15E
New Haven, CT 06510

Of the 7 first edition Playford dances on the 30 Year core list, 6 are in the Bernard Thomas collection: Gathering Peascods, Hearts' Ease, Hide Parke, Jenny Pluck Pears, Picking of Sticks, and Upon a Summers Day. For the 30 year celebration, I tried to encourage the musicians to buy this collection rather than duplicate that effort.

The only first edition Playford on the core list in this edition is Rufty Tufty. Here I have used a version by Elsbeth Anne Roth to which I have made some minor modifications. In particular, the original Playford manuscript specifies only one repeat for the B section (Set and turn single, there is no ``that again''). This was ``corrected'' by a later reconstructor (Cecil Sharpe?). Malice claims it works better with only one repeat. We recommend you experiment. (MIDI Format, PDF Format)

The music for Sellingers' Round is given in William Byrd My Ladye Nevels' Virginal Booke, but doesn't appear as a dance until the 3rd Edition of Playford. I have provided the first (familiar) and third variation from that book. (Sellinger's Rounde MIDI Format,Sellingers' Rounde PDF Version)

Trenchmore appears in the second edition of Playford, but has many stylistic features which seem to be more typical of Baroque than Renaissance dance. The tune is sufficiently close to Tomorrow the Fox will Come to Town from Ravenscroft that I have provided the setting found there. (Tomorrow the Fox PDF Format). (At least you will have a useful performance piece even if the dance falls out of favor).

H. Other Dances

The 30th year celebration included a number of dances which were not Renaissance dances, but were included because they had crept into standard SCA practice before we knew any better. As I'm trying to encourage more historically informed dancing, I'm not including them on this WWW site.

Hole in the Wall, by Purcell, represents the finest tradition of Baroque dance. It will also be an important history of SCA dances which used to end with Hole in the Wall ``until their brains fall out.'' Watch out with amateur settings of this dance. The dance proper should be in 3/4 time, but some musicians (probably transcribing from tape) have set it in 6/8 time. It is very difficult to dance it properly (using the Pas de Bourre) in this incorrect time signature. Marshall Barron did a very lovely setting of this piece for Letter of the Dance.

Female Sailor is another late edition Playford dance. We used a setting Mistress Elizabeth Piper (Beth Mead) did for a wedding.

Earl of Salisbury's Pavan represents one of the first efforts at reproducing Renaissance dance by Mabel Dolmetch (not SCA, but related to the recorder manufacturer). She is to be applauded for getting the ball rolling on early dance reconstruction, but this piece bear very little resemblance to any extant period sources. The version of the music we use at 30th year is an adaptation of a William Byrd keyboard setting by Alaric MacConnal (Robert Smith).

Mannschaft Pavan is rumored to be taken from the dancing seen in a movie (Romeo and Juliet?). Although called a Pavan, it doesn't seem to quite fit the model for any known Renaissance dance style. The music is pieced together from several tunes, and this particular piece is an anonymous setting floating around in our old music collection.

With diligence we have been able to trace Korobushka to the early 20th Century. It remains inexplicably popular despite the new wealth of period material we have. I can only hope that newly discovered and documentable dances (like Petit Vriens) can displace it.

Closing Remarks

As much as possible, I wanted to find settings for the dances which were (1) dancable, (2) playable, (3) listenable and (4) matched as closely as possible the Renaissance aesthetic of the appropriate period. As there seems to be an ever increasing number of people who want to try their hand at these tasks, I am working on a list of sources for period composing and arranging. I hope this will be available (possibly over the World Wide Web) soon.

Unlike other collections, I have not tried to present work for a uniform range of voices ( i.e., SATB recorders). I have tried to ensure that most songs can be played on some combination of recorders, so most other instrument combinations should work as well. If you don't have enough musicians to cover all voices, give the most priority to the melody and the bass (or the tenor for 15th Century music).

I hope that you find this collection useful and enjoyable.

Mustapha al-Muhaddith
Canton of Forest Gate
Barony of Carrilon
Kingdom of the East
Russell Almond
13 Merritt Drive, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648
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Last modified: Fri Feb 7 17:39:38 1997