Loreena McKennitt: The Mummer's Dance

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The Mummers' Dance

When in the springtime of the year
When the trees are crowned with leaves
When the ash and oak, and the birch and yew are dressed in ribbons fair
When owls call the breathless moon in the blue veil of the night
The shadows of the trees appear amidst the lantern light

CHORUS: We've been rambling all the night and some time of this day
Now returning back again we bring garlands gay

Who will go down to those shady groves and summon the shadows there?
And tie a ribbon on those sheltering arms in the springtime of the year
The songs of birds seem to fill the wood that when the fiddler plays
All their voices can be heard long past their woodland days

CHORUS: We've been rambling all the night and some time of this day
Now returning back again we bring a garland gay

And so they linked their hands and danced 'round in circles and in rows
And so the journey of the night descends when all the shades are gone
A garland gay we bring you here and at your door we stand
It's a sprout well-budded out, the work of our Lord's hand

CHORUS: We've been rambling all the night and some time of this day
Now returning back again, we bring a garland gay
We've been rambling all the night and some time
of this day
Now returning back again, we bring a garland gay







songwriter: Loreena McKennitt

performed by: Loreena McKennitt

date released: 1997 by Loreena McKennitt

SEE: "Tango to Evora" for a biography of Loreena McKennitt.

"The Mummer's Dance" is arguably one of McKennitt's most successful singles receiving widespread radioplay during the spring of 1997. It was used as the theme song for the television show, "Legacy."

The Gage Canadian Dictionary definition of "a mummer" is: a person who wears a mask, fancy costume or disguise for fun; an actor in one of the rural plays traditionally performed in England and elsewhere at Christmas.

Mummers' plays are seasonal folk plays performed by troupes of actors known as "mummers." The carnival-like tradition originated in England during the Middle Ages and spread to other countries. The tradition is still alive in Newfoundland, Kentucky, Saint Kitts and Nevis, as well as some parts of England.

In the rural south coast of Newfoundland, people still disguise themselves with old articles of clothing and visit the homes of their friends and neighbours during the twelve days of Christmas, usually on the night of the "Old Twelfth." Covering their faces with a hood, scarf, mask or pillowcase, they keep their identities a secret. In some cases, they carry their own musical instruments to play, sing and dance in every house they visit. The password for a standard mummer is "ANY MUMMERS ALLOWED IN?"

When mummers arrive at a door, the inhabitants of the house try to guess the identity of the mummer. If one is guessed, the mask comes off. If the identity remains a mystery, the mask stays on.

The host and hostess of these "mummers' parties" usually serve a small lunch of Christmas cake with a glass of syrup, blueberry or dogwood wine. It is customary to celebrate with a glass of grog---an alcoholic beverage with rum or whiskey. Needless to say, a merry time is had by all.

The tradition of mummering has died off in the urban areas, but has seen a resurgence in the rural because of a popular musical duo, Simini, who wrote a popular tune called "The Mummer's Song" in 1982. Since then, the tradition of mummery has been revived.

Currently, a mummers' parade is held every New Years Day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where mummers prepare elaborate costumes and moveable scenery and parade down the streets. The tradition is not unlike what appears in the video.

















The Mummers' Dance

When in the springtime of the year
When the trees are crowned with leaves
When the ash and oak, and the birch and yew are dressed in ribbons fair
When owls call the breathless moon in the blue veil of the night
The shadows of the trees appear amidst the lantern light

CHORUS: We've been rambling all the night and some time of this day
Now returning back again we bring garlands gay

Who will go down to those shady groves and summon the shadows there?
And tie a ribbon on those sheltering arms in the springtime of the year
The songs of birds seem to fill the wood that when the fiddler plays
All their voices can be heard long past their woodland days

CHORUS: We've been rambling all the night and some time of this day
Now returning back again we bring a garland gay

And so they linked their hands and danced 'round in circles and in rows
And so the journey of the night descends when all the shades are gone
A garland gay we bring you here and at your door we stand
It's a sprout well-budded out, the work of our Lord's hand

CHORUS: We've been rambling all the night and some time of this day
Now returning back again, we bring a garland gay
We've been rambling all the night and some time
of this day
Now returning back again, we bring a garland gay







songwriter: Loreena McKennitt

performed by: Loreena McKennitt

date released: 1997 by Loreena McKennitt

SEE: "Tango to Evora" for a biography of Loreena McKennitt.

"The Mummer's Dance" is arguably one of McKennitt's most successful singles receiving widespread radioplay during the spring of 1997. It was used as the theme song for the television show, "Legacy."

The Gage Canadian Dictionary definition of "a mummer" is: a person who wears a mask, fancy costume or disguise for fun; an actor in one of the rural plays traditionally performed in England and elsewhere at Christmas.

Mummers' plays are seasonal folk plays performed by troupes of actors known as "mummers." The carnival-like tradition originated in England during the Middle Ages and spread to other countries. The tradition is still alive in Newfoundland, Kentucky, Saint Kitts and Nevis, as well as some parts of England.

In the rural south coast of Newfoundland, people still disguise themselves with old articles of clothing and visit the homes of their friends and neighbours during the twelve days of Christmas, usually on the night of the "Old Twelfth." Covering their faces with a hood, scarf, mask or pillowcase, they keep their identities a secret. In some cases, they carry their own musical instruments to play, sing and dance in every house they visit. The password for a standard mummer is "ANY MUMMERS ALLOWED IN?"

When mummers arrive at a door, the inhabitants of the house try to guess the identity of the mummer. If one is guessed, the mask comes off. If the identity remains a mystery, the mask stays on.

The host and hostess of these "mummers' parties" usually serve a small lunch of Christmas cake with a glass of syrup, blueberry or dogwood wine. It is customary to celebrate with a glass of grog---an alcoholic beverage with rum or whiskey. Needless to say, a merry time is had by all.

The tradition of mummering has died off in the urban areas, but has seen a resurgence in the rural because of a popular musical duo, Simini, who wrote a popular tune called "The Mummer's Song" in 1982. Since then, the tradition of mummery has been revived.

Currently, a mummers' parade is held every New Years Day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where mummers prepare elaborate costumes and moveable scenery and parade down the streets. The tradition is not unlike what appears in the video.

















+17 -8
Quiz #: 3685
The tradition of mummery is still active in rural Newfoundland. "The Mummer's Dance" is a glimpse of its long history.
Quiz by: Sharon Michiko Yoneda
High Intermediate

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