The Lady Organist

an online magazine for organists

Boogie down the Bell and Jorrocks

Narnia (aka my new home of Frittenden, Kent) has a lively musical scene to which I am pleased to have made a contribution on Easter Day.  The builders are over the worst, and I was out of the polytunnel around the organ (Frittenden Diaries passim)  for a cracking Easter Service – my first with the choir singing an anthem (I was proud.)  Then full welly for the final hymn, including the organ’s rather fine (some would say penetrating) Trumpet stop (I did apologise afterwards to members of the congregation who sat, unsuspectingly, right next to the organ case), and  I hung on to the tail of the tiger long enough to get triumphantly to the end of Nun Danket Alle Gott, all pipes blazing, for my final voluntary.

The church bells rang out. The high emotion of the most important service in the Church’s calendar then over, much of the congregation decamped to the Bell and Jorrocks to join the heathen.   I furnished Duncan with a post-service pint of beer (it’s such a privilege for him, living with a bountiful Lady Organist).  The accordion, fiddle, drum and serpent struck up.

For my readers outside the UK, now let me explain. Rio has Mardi Gras.  We have Morris.

Men and women with bells round their legs, clattering big sticks and waving hankies and swords in the street on a Sunday afternoon, is all PERFECTLY OK.

We Brits are not clothes fashionistas in general.  Some comfy layers with a sensible zip jacket on top in case it rains is our usual style.  What we love is dressing up, preferably in something quite daft, if not downright subversive, which we carry off with just the right combination of pride and nonchalance.

Morris has pagan roots, but has survived and morphed into a palimpsest of the historically informed along with the new and imagined.  We don’t quite have a national dress to flaunt on international occasions the way other Europeans do, so we’ve made one up, and Morris can veer towards the weird-goth-hippy-steampunk if it wants, and does so most successfully.  The dance steps are steady and simple enough for young and old to pull off, yet a chance for the more opportunistic male to flash a shapely calf, and demonstrate prowess at hopping on one leg.  Morris carries with it ancient non-Christian village practices that are still part of the modern British psyche, such as cross-dressing in the pantomime dame tradition, and growling and vaguely threatening violence with a big stick.  Oh, and standing around drinking too many pints of beer, trying to avoid getting hot under the collar with your village neighbours over Brexit.

Weald of Kent Morris. Note the Serpent, along with fiddle and accordion.


featured photo, top:  Ragged Phoenix Morris

The three Morris sides outside the Bell & Jorrocks, Frittenden, on Easter Day were Weald of Kent Morris (Goudhurst), Ragged Phoenix (Eastbourne area) and the Kent Korkers (Dartford).  More about Morris from the Morris Ring.






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“Boogie down the Bell and Jorrocks”

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