Parson's Farewell

by Dani of the Seven Wells

[ This article appeared in volume 1 of the Letter of Dance. ]

[Editor's Note: this article is copiously annotated -- follow the links to the footnotes.]

Parson's Farewell is an advanced Playford dance for sets of two couples. Its difficulty does not lie so much in the complexity of the steps (though there is a fair amount to remember) as in the unforgiving nature of the figures, particularly the final one: If dancers hesitate, or lag behind the music, it is very difficult to recover. (This is not typical of Playford's dances.) The dance requires more teaching and practice than is the norm, but once it has been properly learned it ceases to be difficult. At which point it is simply fun.

My annotated copy of English Dancing Master (edited by Margaret Dean-Smith) has the following comment about the title:

"The term `farewell' had a particular meaning in the 16th and 17th centuries equivalent to `goodnight,' i.e. verses written by the condemned before execution; it may also be analogous to the `going-out' song or dance in numerous masques and stage-plays. In verse it is commonly used with personal names."

The instructions for this dance are presented below, in three parts. First, the original Playford instructions are given, along with an arrangement of the music. Below that, the instructions are repeated in what I hope is a more usable format. Those instructions should be all that is needed for anyone who has ever done the dance. Finally, extensive footnotes on the reconstruction are provided for those unfamiliar with the dance, or for anyone wishing more information about the decisions which were made in reconstructing it.

I. Original Instructions, and Music

The material in figure 1 is taken directly from The Dancing Master, by John Playford, published in London, 1650/1. [1]

The music in figure 2 was arranged by Marshall Barron, in her book Early Playford for Early Instruments, Volume 2.

II. Reconstructed Instructions

Parson's Farewell -- Playford, 1651
sets of two couples, facing. [2]

2/2 time. [3]