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To Jig or not to Jigge?
That is the question

“Now for something completely different ..... a Jigge.”

These were the opening words of this year's entertainment at the the Herts Early Dance May Revels. This year's Revels - whilst being held on the 12th May – welcomed in the summer in traditional style with an opening ceremony initiated by a fanfare from 'The Presence' on Elizabethan-style instruments and a procession of costumed dancers carrying posies of flowers.

The flowers were added to our decorated May Pole while the Northill May song was sung. Step in the May Lord with an expertly delivered speech from 'The Knight of the Burning Pestle' [an Elizabethan play by Beaumont and Fletcher], ably followed by our resident Green Man who selected and crowned the May Queen.

The May Queen raised a toast – alcoholic of course – and presided over the dancing led by Anne Daye; Jigs? No! Branles, Pavanes and Country Dances? Yes we danced quite a few!

Seasonal songs sung in suitable celebration entertained us while the feast was set out. As in previous years the feast certainly lived up to its name. Our members had prepared wonderful Elizabethan-style dishes such as whole salmon decorated with watercress and pansies, seasoned pork, salads containing oranges, spinach and rosewater tarts, bean dips, manchet bread and more ..... even options for vegetarians and coeliacs! This was all eased down with liberal quantities of punch and 'Chairman's Ale'.

Wow – just as well the dancing did not start again until after our 'Jiggaloes' had entertained us in right royal style with …. yes …. a Jigge [an Elizabethan play often set to music and usually including dance].

The theme of the entertainment was rivalry between the England and Spain. It commenced with a competition in song between a Cheshire Man and a Spaniard, with a Cheshire Round saving the competitors from almost certain death by cheese (Cheshire, of course) or by Spanish sword. The scene then changed to the court of Queen Elizabeth I, receiving a marriage proposal from the King of Spain conveyed by an enthusiastic, rumbustuous Spanish Ambassador. Then followed a dialogue between a Spanish gentleman and an English lady, from a source dated around 1590, in which he persuades her to come to his 'chambre' so that he can teach her some 'spaniolaye'. Next, a very elegant display of Spanish prowess expressed through the Canario and a somewhat estranging version of the Spanioletta. In response, the English enacted a sea battle with real(?) ships and lots of banging and crashing about by the English/Spanish fleets, to the music of the Battle Pavan. Rounds of party poppers fired from the f'castle of each ship completed the scene of destruction, love, royalty, music and dance that was sadly all over in less than half an hour!

Our dancing then continued with a mix of C15th and C16th dances from Europe, and the whole evening ended with some country dancing, but only after our banquet. This selection of sumptuous sweet subtleties was decorous and delicious and devoured with an (small) element of elegant Elizabethan in character.

and all finishing before the watershed … (9:00pm)!
and all in the best possible taste... and loads of fun.