Sellenger's Round, or the Beginning of the World

Thu, 15 Mar 2018, 07:32
Historical sources
Set formation
Part 1
A1, A2 (8) Join hands and two doubles left; two doubles right.
B, C (12) Starting with the left foot, two singles forwards to the middle, and a double back again. (4)
Face your partner: set and turn single left, then set and turn single right. (8)
Part 2
Repeat, lead in a double and back twice in the As.
Part 3
Repeat, side right and left with your partner in the As.
Part 4
Repeat, arm right and left with your partner in the As.
T:Sellenger's Round or The beginning of the world
C:Chords added by Andrew Swaine
%%MIDI gchord f2cf2c
G | "G"G>AB GAB | "C"c3/2d/e/^f/ g>=fe | "F"=fga gaf | "G"e3 "C"c2 :|
c | "C"eg2 e2c | "G"Bd2 B>AG | Bcd e^fg | "D"^f3 d>e=f |
"C"e3/2d/c/d/ "G"B>AG | "C"c>de "G"d>cB | "D"ABG g^f3/2e//f// | "G"g6 ||
"C"e>de "G"d>cB | "C"c3/2d/e/^f/ g>=fe | "G"d>cB "D"A>GA | "G"G6 ||

Sharp substituted the given tune for an older version of Sellingers Rownde found in the manuscript My Ladye Nevells Booke of virginal music by William Byrd, 1591.  He states in the music published for the Country Dance Book that “*The above tune is not that given by Playford, but is the version used by Byrd, omitting his repetition of the last four bars.”

Sharp may well have done this because the tune in Playford is considerably harder to play.  But it does give more lift to the dance, especially the singles found in the dance description. In fact this dance is very unusual in having singles not in the context of a set.

The tune in Playford 4th edition is in three parts, with a dotted bar line after the first part and a simple double bar line after the others.  It’s also the only one I’ve spotted in 4th edition which has a double, non-dotted bar not at the end of the tune. In the other tunes in 4th edition, there’s a dotted double bar line between each part and a non-dotted double bar line at the end; in nearly all cases all the parts are repeated.

We shouldn’t read too much into this as it’s a fairly new innovation to have bar lines at all, and the convention that dots mean repeat has yet to be firmly established – they could simply be prettier double bar lines!

If you look at the transcription of My Ladye Nevells Booke, Sellingers Rownde is written consistent with only the first part being repeated, and including the extra “C” phrase that Sharp omitted.

The tune (without the dance) is also in the tune supplements to 3rd edition, apparently omitting the final part of the music, which might have been Sharp’s reasoning; I can’t find a (complete) digitisation.

The dance itself, after the introduction (which we’ll get back to) says:

Lead all in a D. forward and back  ·  That again  : 

Two singles and a double back  ·  Set and turn single  ·  That again  : 

Lead in a double and back twice is clear.  In the second part however, what does the “That again” relate to: just the set and turn single, or the singles in and a double back as well?  Sharp changed the tune, effectively ignored the final part of music, made it repeat, and assumed that “That again” referred to the whole line.  But why then the “ · ” after “Two singles and a double back”?

If we believe it’s only the set and turn single that is repeated, then it fits if the music is played AABC, which matches Byrd’s version too.

This still doesn’t fit the  ·  and  :  marks though, because now you’ve got a  ·  in the middle of the phrase!  But if you look at the music, the last four bars of the B phrase and the four-bar C phrase are really just variations of each other.  It’s not unreasonable that instead of considering this to be a tune with a 4-bar repeated A phrase, an 8-bar unrepeated B and a 4-bar unrepeated C, the dancing master who contributed this considered it to be a 4-bar repeated A phrase, a 4-bar unrepeated B phrase and a 4-bar repeated C phrase.  It’s musically consistent, it just happens that the music provided has a variation for the repeat of the C phrase.

Which brings us to the introduction:

Take Hands and go round twice, Back again

All set and turn S. that again.

There are no symbols to mark time here.  It’s unlikely that “go round twice” really meant twice round the circle – compare with Gathering Peascods, another round with a similar feel, which starts Go all 2. Doubles round, turn S..  “Go round twice” is I think more likely to mean two doubles round.

But how do we make this fit the music?  It doesn’t say “Two singles and a double back”, as in the subsequent figures.  You could argue that this phrase must therefore be left out, but the simpler option is simply to make this figure symmetric with the following ones, by inserting the “two singles and a double back” phrase in the gap.  And it doesn’t make it a better dance to leave that out.