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Showing posts from April 27, 2008
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Newtowne Mayday on the Charles 2008

Mayday 2008
Originally uploaded by Stew Stryker Stew Stryker has posted a great slideshow of May morning 2008.

Hal an tow, jolly rumbalow
We were up long before the Maypole!

Well, WE were there at 5, and anyone there at that hour doesn't need a songbook, so we sang until the Maypole arrived. The weather was cool but dry, the Lowell House receiving line warm and welcoming, and the crowd pretty good for a workday. We processed along the usual route, despite Harvard Square construction, and concluded with a fine Maypole dance by a group of local school kids whose teacher had brought them to see us as a field trip. Merry May!
A review of "Puritan Days," a.k.a. "Lee-li-Nau," an opera by Earl Marble and Richard Stahl. Folio Magazine, January 1884

The existence of this opera about Merrymount is more interesting than its somewhat alarming excerpts given in Folio. One imagines Gilbert and Sullivan as performed by F Troop (!). However, put this in context as an American response to the height of the G&S craze following H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), which was "received in America with “enthusiasm bordering upon insanity” (Kate Field, Scribner’s Monthly, xviii, 754). Lee-li-Nau was staged the same year as Princess Ida, two years after the Savoy opera house was built expressly for G&S. Small wonder American composers were searching for New World themes to capitalize on "Pinafore-mania." Thomas Morton must have seemed ideal material for 1880s fans of Buffalo Bill's Wild West and of Indian Princesses of the Victorian stage like author and actress Pauline Johnson.

I have searche…
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Indian Princess of the Victorian Stage
The stage career of Emily Pauline Johnson, or Tehakionwake, illustrates that at least some prominent native women participated actively in the "Indian Princess" image presented in Lee-Li-Nau, and made good money at it. In the 1890s, Tehakionwake toured Europe in buckskins and beads, entirely intentionally. For the second act, she'd come out in a ball gown and recite Shakespeare, as befitted her multicultural heritage.
"Throughout the 1880s Johnson established herself as a Canadian writer and cultivated an audience amongst those who read her poetry [which] signaled her membership amongst Canada’s important authors (Strong-Boag and Gerson 2000, p. 101). In her early literary works, Johnson drew lightly from her Mohawk heritage, and instead lyricized Canadian life, landscapes, and love in a post-Romantic mode reflective of the literary interests she shared with her mother (Strong-Boag and Gerson 2000, p. 101).In 1892, Johnson recite…

1837 Engravings of Maypoles and May-Day Celebrations

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The Every-day Book and Table Book, or Everlasting Calendar of Popular Amusements, from 1837, has a wonderful series of engravings illustrating a wide variety of Maypoles from England, Scotland, and France. It's remarkable to see the variation from the familiar plain pole with ribbon streamers.

The Northampton May Garland with its Empire-waisted May dolly is well suitable for our own New England Mayday in Northampton and Amherst in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. In the early days of Banbury Cross Morris in Boston, I held a workshop on May Eve with the children's team to make a similar May dolly, which has become a tradition for the team on May morning on the banks of the Charles River in Cambridge.






Kerchiefs flying, smart in their Scotch bonnets and tartan, the May-dew dancers at Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh cavort in drunken Scots abandon around a Scandinavian-style Maypole with a horizontal wreath adorned with branching boughs at head-height. Their bagpiper's &quo…
The Lord of Misrule (Alfred Noyes)

All on a fresh May morning, I took my love to church,
To see if Parson Primrose were safely on his perch.
He scarce had got to thirdly, or squire begun to snore,
When, like a sun-lit sea-wave,
A green and crimson sea-wave,
A frolic of madcap, May-folk came whooping through the door: -

Come up, come in with streamers!
Come in with boughs of May!
Come up and thump the sexton,
And carry the clerk away.

Now skip like rams, ye mountains,
Ye little hills, like sheep!
Come up and wake the people
That parson puts to sleep.

They tickled their nut-brown tabors. Their garlands flew in showers,
And lasses and lads came after them, with feet like dancing flowers.
Their queen had torn her green gown, and bared a shoulder as white,
O, white as the may that crowned her,
White all the minstrels round her
Tilted back their crimson hats and sang for sheer delight:

Come up, come in with streamers!
Come in with boughs of May!
Now by the gold upon your toe
You walked the primrose way.
Come up, w…