Folk dance music


Niels Mejlhede Jensen, Bøgeløvsvej 4, 2830 Virum, Denmark. e-mail (web master)

Old tunes used for folk dancing in Denmark 1999 arranged with improvisations

This is my personal web site, and the opinion here is only mine.
My primary opinion is that folk dancing is for the enjoyment, as well now a days as in the old time.
You dance for joy and you play the music for joy.
So details in dancing are not more important than any dancer functions together with his group.

The same folk dance differs a little

Folk dances have differed a little over even a short distance within an area or from group to group. There are now good written instructions to great many dances from all over the country. Thanks for that. But many dances were also danced slightly different, so there is not always wrong and right ways of dancing. In e.g. dance no. 2, a dance in lines, I always, according to my tradition, have the 1' couple as described. If some dancers choose different, according to "the book", that is also OK with me.

Music notes for folk dances

Folk dancing music was typically learned by the ear, and passed on this way. This is the best way to learn this music. Because the structure of the music may be perceived different when you hear it and when you see the note sheets. Very few of the old fiddlers could read and write notes.

But notes have been indispensable for me and my group. We have many dances, with a repertoire of 800 - 1000 melodies. For our band to know all the melodies by heart we would have to limit the number to 100, and then even with difficulties in getting many of the new members.
I am brought up as a note reader. "When you pay for music lessons it must be learning to play by notes", so my piano teacher was selected hereby. So I was not used to play by heart. Later I learned to play accordion by a folk music teacher.

Since 1963 there has been a good music book to about 700 dances for the traditional folk dancers associations.
But notes for the slightly different folk music dances were not so easy to get  a hold of, and that is the main part of music in our groups. So it was of great help for us when "Flute" Henning came with his music book of 300 melodies in 1980 (see Folkets Hus). This made our group, "Spillemandsdansen" (= Fiddlers' Dance) grow to a nice big group that fills our ballroom, without making it crowded.

Music arrangements for bigger groups

Many folk musicians have come here to play for some time. Some have afterwards gone on to new challenges in other more organized big orchestras, like concert bands and symphony orchestras. This is very fine with me. I also like to play in these orchestras (on bassoon). But maybe it would also be relevant to think of offering some of that organized challenge in some big folk music groups, because of the pleasure of the music being "used" there by a big lively dancing audience. Once I had the pleasure of playing a set of 3 small Swedish folk dances in a 70 member contra band. We played lovely music, but not music for dancing. Because the brilliant conductor knew nothing of folk dancing, and the musical arrangement was probably not intended for dancing.

I have chosen that there are some simple and rather strict rules that this music should comply with. The music parts should not only sound good 2 and 2 together at a time, but several or all parts together at a time, and sound in a simple harmony complying with the simplicity of this music. Simple pure harmonies are also wanted for improving the intonation in the band. And because of the tradition of common folk music groups it should be possible that a number of musicians all the time only want to play the melody.

I have now waited many years for good composers to make relevant musical arrangements for our folk dancing music. Finally I have here made my own proposals to parts (voices), that can be the basis for some musical arrangements depending on the available instruments.

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