The music we use for maypole dancing is a selection of regional Northumbrian and British folk tunes, popular for years which we hope people will recognise. They are all easily found online, through public libraries and in music shops. For local Northumbrian tunes we tend to use the Northumbrian Pipers’ Tune Books as reference material, and those plus a wide selection of other piping tune books can be found at The Northumbrian Pipers’ Society website. For traditional music generally, EFDSS – The English Folk Dance & Song Society based in Cecil Sharp House in London is an excellent resource, though their online shop is currently closed due to coronavirus restrictions.
For historical dances we prefer to use the tune given for the individual dance where possible, and if no tune exists we use an appropriate tune of the same date.
Fifteenth Century music for Gresley Manuscript dances such as Aras, Grengynger and Tamrett have been researched and published by Cait Webb of Gaita, specialists in performing Medieval music and dance of the courts of Europe. They have a wonderful series of historical dance booklets and cds to purchase via their website.
Sixteenth Century Branles (brawls) are found in ‘Orchesographie’ by Thoinot Arbeau, originally published in 1589. We can recommend the Dover 1967 edition translated by Mary Stewart Evans if you can find a copy, which has some modern music notation in the back, otherwise the International Music Score Library Project has facsimilies of the original music available to download for free.
Seventeenth Century John Playford’s ‘English Dancing Master’ was originally published in 1651 and some of our favourites include Sellenger’s Round, Jenny Pluck Pears, Rufty Tufty, All in a Garden Green and Gathering Peascods. A modern copy can either be purchased via booksellers, or there are free public domain downloads of the original at IMSLP’s website available.
Eighteenth Century dances we offer include The Fandango, Hunt the Squirrel, Dartford Camp and The Duke of Kent’s Waltz. The Historical Dance Society is a good source for further research and they have a well stocked shop for dance books and music from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries.