Morris Dancing – Blog catch up 7

No. Not me. This body is not built for such things. However, my son, now 15, at 14 and a half decided that he wanted to join a local Morris side. Not exactly the most mainstream hobby for a modern teenager to take up, but then my boy is not your typical modern teenager.

Actually, to be honest, this story starts rather earlier. Back in August 2011 when William was 13, he was given a little single row melodeon by my Dad, that he had knocking around, with the now immortal words “See what you can do with that.” Well. What he could do was nothing short of genius, and not just in the biased eyes of a proud and doting mother. In minutes ‘the boy’ had picked out a recognisable tune. We were most impressed.

William had been dabbling musically for some time, mainly playing flutes from India, China or Japan and since the previous January he had also been playing the tabla (Indian tuned drums) which he had picked up incredibly quickly and showed a real talent for. I did say he was not your typical teenager didn’t I?

Anyway, I digress. Very soon the little melodeon was not enough and the boy started dreaming of a second row of buttons on his melodeon. So, for Christmas 2011 family and friends clubbed together and bought him a lovely Scarlatti 2 row melodeon. He has been playing almost continually ever since to the amazement of everyone that sees him perform.

Melodeon, Bouzouki and Mandolin

Melodeon, Bouzouki and Mandolin

During the first few months his musical skills went from strength to strength and he also taught himself to play the mandolin, bouzouki and the five string banjo. Playing alone is all well and good but William wanted the opportunity to play with other musicians. His main musical interest is in folk and traditional music styles and my boy decided that he would like to play for a Morris side. Now, if you are in the UK you probably now have an image in your head of men in cricket whites sporting bells and sticks and waving hankies in the air. Ah. Not so for this unconventional lad of mine. He wanted to join a local Border Morris side. I think of Border Morris as Morris dancing with attitude and in my humble opinion is way cooler than the Cotswold Morris that many people think of. Look here for more on Border Morris and the side that William has joined.

William approached Motley Morris in May at the Rochester Sweeps Festival asking if they had an opening for a new musician, The lovely group welcomed him with open arms and William starting joining them at their weekly dance outs throughout the summer. They loaned him a rag coat and we got him a top hat while Motley agreed what ‘colour’ he should be to maintain the ‘Motley’ ness of the side. Once they had settled on Lime Green it was time to get William his rag coat.

Funnily enough, brightly coloured rag coats are not readily available in the shops. Indeed this kind of garment is even too niche for the wonderful world wide web. So, what to do? If you read my blog and I know that someone out there does, you will by now know that I always try to rise to a creative challenge when one is put before me. So, after seeking some advice from the lovely Lisa of Motley I set to work. I purchased a large quantity (approx 10 metres) of polycotton sheeting and a large men’s shirt. Splitting open the side seams and sleeves I then cut wide strips of the fabric on the bias from the sheeting fabric. These strips were then machine stitched onto the shirt in overlapping rows until the shirt was covered. The collar was removed and covered as were shoulder panels to cover the raw ends of the sewn on strips. The side and sleeve seams were then re sewn.

base shirt

base shirt

split seams

split seams

Once covered in panels these were then cut into rag strips to finish off the tatters. I added press stud closures to the front where strips were sewn to cover the raw edges at the shirt front. His outfit is completed with a top hat bedecked in badges and pheasant feathers and a long scarf to match his rag coat. Black trousers, heavy boots and a neckerchief complete the kit. (He is currently borrowing knee bells) Once his face is blacked in the traditional style of disguise (face paint rather than soot these days) he cuts quite and imposing figure.

Full Kit

Full Kit

Motley in Action

Motley in Action

After the main summer season William started attending the weekly practice sessions and started learning to dance the dances leading up to his first dance out as dancer and musician on New Years day just days before his 15th birthday. I have posted some videos here, here and here if you want to have a look.

I really enjoyed this creative challenge and am most pleased with the finished coat. However I will be more than happy if I never have to make another one ever again.

My next challenge for him will be to make him his own set of knee bells. For this I shall need a couple of dog collars, large bells, plenty of ribbon to match his coat and leather to attach the bells to. AlthoughI am most proud of my creative achievements on this one. I am most proud of my talented son and his seemingly never ending abilities. Here’s an extra video of him playing a lovely Italian tune on his melodeon.

Me and my lad

Me and my lad

 

Look out for my next update for another folky make for our annual festival visit.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Maxine D
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 00:10:19

    What a great display of your talents Claire – isn’t it amazing what we will do for our off spring!! What a talented son you have too!
    Blessings
    Maxine

    Reply

  2. Supernan Sue
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 15:04:29

    Well you certainly still have your talents, I would love to have seen you chasing the pheasant for it’s feathers haha!!
    Congrats to William on his talents, I know how proud you are of him, and rightly so.
    Would love to see you at the club sometime, take care
    Sue xx

    Reply

    • Claire
      Jan 20, 2013 @ 15:47:31

      Thank you. Yes. Prouder by the day. Is there still a group running on a Tuesday? I have to work Fridays these days and getting time off is tough on a Friday. Would love to come and visit you all.

      Reply

      • Supernan Sue
        Jan 20, 2013 @ 18:30:40

        Hi Claire
        Yes we are still going strong on Tuesday afternoon 1 pm to 4 pm we would love to see you along there. Sandy has now joined us on Tuesdays and we have quite a few of the Friday club coming to both clubs. They are both going really well.
        This tuesday is going to be a bit iffy, I won’t be there and if the snow is still about Sue will probably cancel. So yes we’d love to see you
        Sue xx

  3. Frances Turner
    Aug 03, 2013 @ 08:43:57

    Lovely pictures of you and our boy. You should have added William had been watching Motley dance since the age of 3 attending Bluebell Hills Beltane celebrations nearly every year with you and Grandma (me). Every year William shows how much more talent he has and is now getting very well know in Kent.
    I am constantly being stopped by people asking about him. Can’t wait to see him booked on the festival seen which I am in no doubt will happen soon.

    Reply

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