Shrewsbury Lasses barndance

Also known as The Shrewsbury Lasses.

There are 2 recordings of this tune.

Shrewsbury Lasses has been added to 2 tune sets.

Shrewsbury Lasses has been added to 14 tunebooks.

Download ABC

One setting

X: 1
T: Shrewsbury Lasses
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:(3ABc|"D" d2 A4 "A7" G2|"D" F2 D4 F2|"Em" E2 G2 "A7" F2 E2|"D" F2 D2 "F#m" F2 A2|
"Bm" d2 f4 d2|"A" c2 e4 A2|"Bm" B2 d2 "E7" B2 ^G2|"A" A6:|
|:(3ABc|"Bm" d2 B4 "Em" G2|"Em" G2 E4 "D" a2|"D" a2 f4 "Bm" d2|"Bm" d2 B4 "G" b2|"G" b2 g4 "A" e2|"A" e2 c4 A2|
"Em" G2 B4 "A7" G2|"D" (3F2G2A2 F2 D2|"G" G2 B4 G2|"D" F2 A2 "Bm" d2 f2|"Em" f2 e2 "A7" d2 c2|"D" d6:|

Ten comments

A 18th century English tune, used for a country dance of the same name. Not a tune from Playford’s “Dancing Master”, as many people seem to think. The tune was first published in Thompson’s “Compleat Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances”, vol. 2 (London, 1765), and more recently was included in “The Apted Book of Country Dances” (1966) by W.S. Porter.

My abc transcription of the tune incorporates my own arrangement of backing chords.

Certainly not a suitable tune for an Irish session. Neither would I be inclined to play it in a traditional English music session, unless I were certain that others knew it. Anyone trying to pick it up “on the fly” might perhaps be thrown by the unusual bar length (40 bars) and/or by the tripleted crotchets (US = quarter notes) in the eighth bar of the “B” part.

I play in a ceilidh band, and we work with callers who sometimes call 17th and 18th century dances - but for some reason, never this one. However, sometimes after an energetic dance, a caller will turn to our band and say: “Just play a quick tune to give the dancers a breather.” So this is one instance when we might play it.

For those who may not know, Shrewsbury is an ancient English market town in the county of Shropshire, near to the Welsh Border. There is no universal agreement as to how the name of the town should be pronounced – not even within Shrewsbury itself! Some folks say “Shrewsbury” - others say “Shrowsbury”. According the Oxford Dictionary of Place-Names, the spelling “Shrewsbury” arose on the analogy of words like “shrew” and “shrewd”, which were formerly pronounced as “shrow” and “shrowd”. So the “Shrowsbury” camp may well be right.

Nowadays, the BBC plays a block fee to the Performing Rights Society which allows unlimited use any copyrighted material. However, no such arrangement existed in its early days so - to avoid paying royalties - the BBC often used an out-of-copyright work as a programme signature tune. Shrewsbury Lasses was so used - as the signature tune of its “Gardening Club” TV programme, first broadcast in 1956. The programme was presented by Percy Thrower, (Percy Thrower was Shrewsbury’s Parks Superintendent 1946-1974, which no doubt explains the choice of tune). When Thrower was the castaway on BBC radio’s “Desert Island Discs” (first broadcast on 4th March 1963) a recording of Shrewsbury Lasses (recorded by the Folk Dance Orchestra) was one of his choices. He must have like his job, as well as the tune!

More recently, the tune/dance was used in the context of a ball scene in BBC television’s 1995 production of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. This appeared to give the production a feel of authenticity, but was in reality anachronistic, as “Pride and Prejudice” is set in the early 19th Century, by which time this dance had long been out of fashion!

B music - the linked crotchets

Thanks for the above. I remember the tune from the Percy Thrower programme. I think it’s very elegant, but when I play the B music on my violin, I’m inclined to make a bit of a break between the linked crotchets or I think it sounds a bit smooth, like just another minim, of which there are enough yet.

Thanks for posting that link, Weejie. If nothing else, it illustrates how television production techniques have moved on since those early days.

But the playing in that signature tune is really bland and sugary. These folks have a much better idea of how the tune should be played:

Note the interesting variations put in by the recorder player in the third iteration …

I wonder if the BBC were hoping the viewers would be reminded of Percy Grainger’s arrangement of “English Country Garden”

It (this tune !) is on John Kirkpatrick’s very recent CD but I haven’t heard it yet.

David50: “It (this tune !) is on John Kirkpatrick’s very recent CD but I haven’t heard it yet. “

if that’s the case, the tune is probably destined to become more widely known and more often played than it is currently.

Linked crotchets etc in ‘B’music

Here is he ABC as I play thisw tune with the ties in the ‘B’music bars 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, 4/5, & 5/6..
To my mind these make the tune and are necessary. It is a smooth tune as befits the dance. Minims do abound but that’s the character of the tune.

X: 1
T: Shrewsbury Lasses
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
R: barndance
K: Dmaj
|: A2 Bc || “D” d2 A4 G2 | “Bm” F2 D4 F2 | “A” E> G F2 E2 | “D” F2 D2 F2 A2 |
“Bm” d2 f4 d2 | “A” c2 e4 A2 | “E” B2 d2 B2 ^G2 | “A” A4 :|
|: A2Bc || “G” d2 B4 G2- | “A” G2 E4 a2- | “D” a2 f4 d2- | “Bm” d2 B4 b2- | “G” b2 g4 e2- |
“A” e2 c4 A2 | “G” G2 B4 G2 | “D” FG A2 F2 D2 | “G” G2 B4 G2 | “D” F2 A2 “Bm” d2 f2 |
“Em” f2 e2 “A7” d2 c2 | “D” d6 :|

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I’ve also simplified the chord structure to give better flow. I think doing this puts a little more emphasis on the first beat of each bar.
I play both accordian and melodeon and tend to just play one bass note in the left hand with 2 chords in each bar. Beats 1,2 & 4, leaving out beat 3. Maybe not everytime as I do vary the left hand but I don’t want to get a lumpy OOMPAH, OOMPAH rhythm.
Difficult to exlplain in words, better demonstrated.

Posted by .

Shrewsbury lass

Thanks for all the above info!
I was born and bred in Shrewsbury, even worked at Percy Thrower’s garden (only in the Coffee shop!).
I’m still fairly new to folk and play mainly Welsh because I live in Cardiff now. Thought it was about time I learnt this one. I’m learning some new tunes to mark Fiddle Day… In my garden! Percy would be proud… well actually, he’d be horrified by the state of my garden!

PS. If you come from Shrewsbury it ‘shrew’, if you don’t it ‘shrow,’ in my experience anyway!

Shrewsbury Lasses

We played this three couples longways dance tune at a Devon Folk Music Workshop in Chudleigh on 12 April 2014 (I’ve played it on other occasions). Everyone thoroughly enjoyed playing and dancing it, and it’s got to be one of my favourites.

Just one point about the ABC as originally posted. The essential syncopation across the bar lines in bars 2-6 of the B-part isn’t indicated (but note that there is no such syncopation across bars 10/11). However, Hetty has addressed this in the ABC of his chordal transcription above.

The tune seems to have been first published in the Thompson collection of 1765, but is probably quite a bit older.