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The Horn Dance

Posted on - 29th April 2019
Countryfile Live Oxfordshire

Catherine Gage remembers the Morris Traditions in Thaxted and encourages all to attend the Thaxted Spring Fayre on the 6th May 2019 to celebrate the release of the heritage design, The Horn Dance, by Kerry Goodwin.

Morris dancers from all over the country journey to Thaxted each year for its annual Morris weekend – expect sword dancers, mummers, musicians, folk plays and processions as well as Morris dancing in the Cotswold tradition. The climax of the event is the horn dance which rounds the day off on Saturday before further dances and processions on the Sunday as well as a dedicated church service. As a child the whole weekend was magical - even if a man with a blackened face went around banging heads with a balloon made out of a sheep's stomach - I was determined to get a front row seat. As men danced with handkerchiefs waving from fingers and bells ringing from their feet, children laughed and families gathered to share cherished memories. These men didn't care if they looked the fool, they were the folk men of old whose intentions were to to bring joy to all - a very special breed. 

Few of those who have been privileged to watch and listen to the Horn Dance in Thaxted, will never forget the experience. The haunting sound of a lone violin emerging from Thaxted’s great Church, becomes louder and more eerie as the Fiddler and his Morris Dancers wend their way down into Town Street.  Lined up in the Horn Dance are six Deer-men, a Fool, a Hobby Horse, The Bowman, and a Triangle Man.  The Thaxted version of the dance is slow moving and its ghostly sounds linger long after the dancers have faded away into the night. The fiddler is often a man of incredible talent - and for many years this has been a childhood friend, Jake Walker. He has played the fiddle in River Dance among other accolades. On the 6th May a vase dedicated to the famous Thaxted Horn Dance will be launch on the 6th May 2019 at the Thaxted Spring Fayre, Thaxted Church, Essex, CM6 2PE.  Morris dancing will take place around the church at the Fayre.

We are delighted to advise that the Horn Dance will be available at a special offer price for Thaxted residents and event attendees. Please note that whilst the Horn Dance is being launched at the Thaxted Fayre, the actual Horn Dance will take place on Saturday 1st June during the accclaimed Thaxted Morris Weekend.

The village of Abbots Bromley shares the name of the dance, but in Thaxted, that really is all. After a Church performance, Abbots Bromley dancers move quickly into the countryside and dance in the yards of outlying Parish farms, whereas the Thaxted dancers focus on the wide street at the centre of the Town, closed for traffic for the occasion, to enable crowds of visitors to enjoy the experience.  Whilst the principal Abbots Bromley tune is lively and traditional, the Thaxted tune is totally different in both tone and tempo.  For more than 60 years, at twilight, on the first Saturday in June each year, visitors to the picturesque medieval market town of Thaxted arrive in their hundreds at the town centre and there they wait patiently on both sides of Town Street, listening for the distant sounds of the Horn Dance and waiting for the line of Morris dancers to emerge from the dusk before weaving their magical way from one side of the street to another against a burgundy/orange backcloth of flickering and variable shades of a setting sun.  Then, as eerily as they arrived, the dancers leave the town centre in the moonlight and back to the Church on the hill.  The fading sounds of the Horn Dance always linger on, reminding those present of an occasion which will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Helpful Hints

Many Collectors have a small collection of Moorcroft designs inspired by Thaxted from the very first Abbotts Bromley design by a Morris Man himself, Jo Hobbs, and featured in Frazer Street's first book, The Phoenix Years. Many Morris designs have followed as well as a highly unusual design inspired by The Planets - Thaxted was a second home to composer, Gustav Holst. This year saw Folly Mill Bridge's arrival and brought the heart of the Arts and Crafts movement, that propels Moorcroft forward, with an outstanding design which championed the natural world. The last few Folly Mill Bridge pieces are online. This design can truly be said to celebrate the rural idyll that can be found in the wonderful village of Thaxted; the place I still fondly call home. Moorcroft art holds the beauty of both folk traditions and the natural world, which are truly a force of harmony and connection between generations.

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Look out for the exhibition about morris in the church.

In 2019 it will take place on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd of June. Follow the website link below and choose Weekend of Dance from the options on the homepage, where you’ll find a list of approximate timings and locations, and a map.

Click here for the website :  http://thaxtedmorris.org/index.html

 

 

 

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