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The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)

Drive the Cold Winter Away

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Information: A dance.

Region: England

Music: All Hail to the Days.

Notes: Best done by 4 or 5 couple sets.

Chorus figure: Playford (1651) states:

"First man back a Double. then go down between the rest and turn the last Wo. but one then turn the last, and stay there while the other men go between the 2. and the third We. and go toward the left hand and fall down to the first man. (Repeat once mark)

First man back, then go up between the rest, turn the second Wo. then the first while the men go between the two last We. turn towards the right hand and go up to your places. (Repeat twice mark)"

Whatever step you choose for the double, the double in the first part takes twice as much music as the double in the second part: 8 crotchets in the leading, siding and arming, but four crotchets in the figure. This is common in these dances and gives the necessary drive to get round the figure.

It is possible to dance it without changing the tempo of the steps if the actions of the First Man and those of the remaining men are taken as being simultaneous.

The word "while" is not particularly stressed in the first part of the description matching the B music since it appears without punctuation. But it can well be interpreted as suggesting parallel actions. That this is probably what was intended can be more clearly seen (the most "proof" we are likely to get) in the instructions for the men's repeat or return movements, i.e. the B music the 2nd time.

What is more problematic is the interpretation of "goe downe between the rest". Rather than it referring to his going down the middle of the set, it may instead indicate that the 1st Man should pass through the line of men as the 2nd man leads them on their circular tour. Such an apparent short-cut is necessary in any case if there is to be simultaneous action.

If the set is kept short (four couples is admirable) this works well; 1st Man passes between 3rd and 4th men and turns the 3rd lady half-way, with two hands or simply with R hand, going on to turn the 4th lady a full turn with the L hand to finish at the foot of the set on the men's side.

The 3rd and 4th men must follow the 2nd man promptly. This will set up a slight diagonal line which allows the 1st Man to pass through the line and reach the 3rd Lady quickly. Of course, the 3 men doing the "tour" finish up in reverse order and so need the repeat to return to place just as much as the 1st Man does.


All hail to the days that merit more praise
Than all the rest of the year,
And welcome the nights that double delights,
As well for the poor as the peer!
Good fortune attend each merry man's friend,
That doth but the best that he may;
Forgetting old wrongs, with carols and songs,
To drive the cold winter away.

This time of the year is spent in good cheer,
And neighbours together do meet,
To sit by the fire, with friendly desire,
Each other in love do greet;
Old grudges forgot, are put in the pot,
All sorrows aside they lay,
The old and the young doth carol his song,
To drive the cold winter away.

To mask and to mum kind neighbours will come
With wassails of nut-brown ale,
To drink and carouse to all in the house,
As merry as bucks in the dale;
Where cake, bread and cheese is brought for your fees,
To make you the longer stay;
At the fire to warm will do you no harm,
To drive the cold winter away.

When Christmastide comes in like a bride,
With holly and ivy clad,
Twelve days in the year, much mirth and good cheer,
In every household is had;
The country guise is then to devise
Some gambols of Christmas play,
Whereat the young men do best that they can,
To drive the cold winter away.

When white-bearded frost hath threatened his worst,
And fallen from branch and brier,
Then time away calls, from husbandry halls
And from the good countryman's fire,
Together to go to plough and to sow,
To get us both food and array;
And thus with content the time we have spent
To drive the cold winter away.


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