Due to the Covid-19 crisis and ongoing lockdown, Oxford’s May Morning celebrations were cancelled this year, with our dancers all safely isolated at home.
However, tradition finds a way! And so, plans for a virtual May Morning were hastily made…
Our marking of the occasion began, as it does every year, with dressing Jack-in-the-Green – this time in virtual form.
Then came the day itself.
Many of us began by rising before 6am to listen to Daily Info’s broadcast of the socially-distanced Magdalen College Choir singing ‘Hymnus Eucharistus’ from their homes, imagining ourselves standing below the tower bleary-eyed, shivering in the early-morning mist or warming ourselves with the contents of assorted hip flasks and thermos flasks. From there, rather than to Radcliffe Square, we proceeded forth in a disorderly manner to dance a symbolic dance by ourselves in gardens, quiet corners of parks, and deserted meadows.
Most importantly, Mac danced a solo version of “Bonny Green” from Bucknell, which is normally performed around Jack-in-the-Green in Radcliffe square as our first dance on May Morning – in this case, an unsuspecting front-garden shrubbery made a handy stand-in for the spirit of Summer:
Those still following Daily Info’s livestream were treated to a spoons-playing tutorial from one of our dancers, Rachael, and a dance from the squire of the Oxford City Morris Men, amongst many other delights…
By 9am, it was time for the traditional Morris Dancers’ Breakfast – typically served at Teddy Hall, but moved on this occasion to Zoom, with a little more variety in menu options than usual, and BYO beer.
Whilst our private festivities continued online, the morris-loving public(!) had the chance to watch a series of socially-distanced jigs, which our dancers and musicians had worked hard to compile over the preceding weeks:
Graham, Squire of the Oxford City Morris Men, dances Lumps of Plum Pudding (Fieldtown)
Rachael and Greg, accompanied by Stan, attempt a socially-distanced double jig! I’ll Go and Enlist for a Sailor (Sherborne), with at least 150 miles between each of the people involved.
Nerys dances the Princess Royal, accompanied by her own playing!
Our own Squire, Gerard, dances Ladies of Pleasure (Bledington)
Alex danced his own interpretation of None so Pretty (Fieldtown)
Our former Squire Jennifer dances the Nutting Girl (Fieldtown) in Dundee
Another dance from Graham – this time Ladies Pleasure (Fieldtown)
Rosemary danced a solo version of I’ll Go and Enlist for a Sailor (Sherborne), sent to us all the way from Berlin!
Gerard devised his very own new jig specially for the occasion, “the Lockdown”, in the style of Bledington, accompanied by his own drumming…
Meanwhile in Canada, Bob danced the Nutting Girl (Bampton)
Rachael dances the Nutting Girl (Fieldtown)
And last but not least, Gerard also contributed his rendition of the Nutting Girl (Fieldtown)
Normally, May Morning would end for morris dancers at the Rose and Crown on North Parade, where we’d dance until we could dance no more, drink beer, eat sausages, and eventually settle in to play music and sing songs… Unfortunately that experience could not be replicated by electronic means, but we did send our collective greetings to Andrew at the Rose and Crown, and in the general spirit, we have this musical offering from Nick & Jacqui McGuinn to finish off the day:
Until next year: Wassail!