CDSS is thrilled that the foundational Roy Dommett’s Morris Notes are now accessible online for public use. These notes are a veritable treasure-trove of information that has been out of print since the 1990s. Now with the help of their editor, Dr. Anthony Barrand, the help of Tom Toleno and Dr. Paul Eric Smith, and the permission of Roy’s son, Michael, this incredible resource is once again available.
NOTE: While CDSS is proud to present this extraordinary resource, it seems appropriate to note that there are sections which are now outdated or even offensive, particularly regarding the dancing of morris by women. The Dommett Notes are both an ongoing practical resource and a part of the historical record – so we have chosen to present the work as originally created. Mr. Dommett himself said he “started as a rebel and [is] now a pillar” and frequently stressed the ever-changing nature of morris dance. His own opinions and encouragement of female morris dancers also evolved over his lifetime and we hope modern dancers take that spirit of continual learning to heart as well.
Background and Acknowledgements
On several trips to the United States in the 1970s and ‘80s, Roy Dommett became friends with Dr. Tony Barrand and supplied him with several pages of his teaching and research notes made from 1954 - 1985. In 1954, Roy and other members of his family had danced with the Morris in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, one of the three teams in the region of Cotswolds with a continuous history of dancing since the 19th century. Such teams are often referred to and revered as “traditional” as opposed to “Revival” teams that had their origins in the 20th century, especially in the 1950s during a renewal of interest in the Morris.
There was relatively little published information on the history of the dancing and even less documenting the new dances created by groups formed after “the revival”. Because of this and because he was a superlative teacher, Roy was asked to teach many workshops, for example at Halsway Manor in Somerset, a national center for the folk arts. Roy began filming both traditional and revival teams and writing down notations of their dancing. His willingness to acknowledge the validity of new dances as well as documenting the current versions of the dances already published by Cecil J. Sharp was not a popular philosophy among some English dancers. In the U.S., Dr. Tony Barrand adopted Roy’s philosophy as a model and began filming and making video recordings of dancing by his own teams and other American teams who danced at what became known as the “Marlboro Morris Ale”. Roy’s teaching notes became invaluable resources that fed and supported the dancing on both sides of the Atlantic. When the Morris Ring decided to fund the publication of a “Handbook of Morris dances”, the editor Lionel Bacon wrote in the introduction about his debt to Roy Dommett for the information that enabled him to complete the handbook.
In 1979, Barrand went to England to shoot 8mm film of teams recommended by Dommett. While visiting at Roy’s home, Tony was given extra copies of the notes enough to make a collection of approximately 1000 pages covering a whole range of seasonal dance customs including some, such as Border Morris and Garland dancing, for which there was very little published information. Other, perhaps minor dance forms were included in a fifth volume of “Other Morris”. Roy’s notes on these forms of the Morris were largely responsible for a growth of interest in starting teams performing these dances in their home locales.
During a sabbatical year from Boston University in 1986, Barrand organized and edited these into a second edition that followed an earlier version culled primarily from notes on the Cotswold Morris. The second edition became five volumes that were bound as six separate books and issued in a clumsy but convenient photocopy format by the Country Dance and Song Society of America (CDSS). Believing that there were sufficient copies of his teaching notes spread around among Morris teams, Roy expressed some caution about making the volumes available in England. Barrand’s concern was that Roy’s notes were being photocopied and distributed by people who had no idea of their source and so gave Roy no credit. A few, expensive copies were sold but by the late 1990s CDSS decided against continuing the production of the volume.
There it remained until the summer of in 2014 when Tony’s daughter, Olivia Ringsell Barrand, was hired to teach at Pinewoods Camp. For one class, she liked the Jump-Rope Waltz Clog her father had learned from wooden shoe dancer Anna Marley of Rockville, Connecticut and was looking around for other material. She found it in Volume 5 -- Other Morris of Roy Dommett’s Morris Notes. Members of her class wanted to purchase copies of the book. There, of course, were none. “Why don’t you,” she said, “put it online?” Olivia’s husband, Bergen Swanson, furthered the idea by scanning all of the original pages used to make the copies of the 1986 edition as PDF files.
Roy Dommett died in November of 2015. His son, Michael Dommett. agreed to Tony’s request for permission to make an online edition on the CDSS web site. A colleague and friend, Tom Toleno, assisted Tony in converting all of the separate notations and articles into distinct PDF files. Another friend and fellow Morris dancer, Dr. Paul Eric Smith, took the PDF files and organized them into an online version of the five volumes.
All dance descriptions and commentary are © Roy L. Dommett and Anthony G. Barrand and are published here with their permission. The dances and tunes may be printed for your own use, under Creative Commons license (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike: CC BY-NC-SA). This means:
- you must credit Roy L. Dommett and Anthony G. Barrand and the CDSS Online Library;
- you may print and redistribute the dances, and build upon the work;
- all new work must carry the same license, so any derivatives must also be non-commercial in nature.
About Roy Dommett
Roy Dommett (1933-2015), rocket scientist and aeronautical engineer, worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough throughout his career. He was involved with most of the major British missile and rocket projects including Blue Streak, Polaris, Trident and Chevaline. Much of this work remains classified. During the 1980s he played an important role in UK/US technical liaison during the Strategic Defense Initiative. In his spare time Dommett became an internationally recognised expert on Morris dancing, authoring a number of books and lecturing on its history and practice.
On January 22, 1994, the Charlottesville Morris dancing community threw a party in honor of Roy and Marguerite Dommett. The event included, aside from the requisite beer, ale, and stout consumption, Jim Morrison (former Executive Director of the Country Dance and Song Society) calling Kerry sets. At some point Roy and Jim played a few Morris tunes, which accompany the photos in the video embedded here.
Here's the obituary of Roy that ran in The Telegraph (UK). It contains some terrific archival photos and a video of Roy playing the accordian for Shepherd's Hey.