Tune of the Day: The Helston Furry Dance
Dating back to at least the early 19th century, this tune is used to accompany a traditional processional dance through the streets of Helston (Cornwall, UK) on 8 May every year for the Feast of St. Michael, or Flora Day. It is a celebration of the passing of winter and the arrival of spring. In this instance the word “furry” has nothing to do with fur, but probably derives from the Cornish fer, meaning “fair” or “feast”.
In 1911 Katie Moss, a London composer visiting Helston, observed the Furry Dance and joined in the dancing herself in the evening. On the train home she wrote words and music of a song about her experience, calling the song “The Floral Dance”. First recorded in 1912 by Peter Dawson, it has since been recorded by many other artists. The song experienced a major resurrection in an arrangement by Derek Broadbent, which sold half a million copies and reached #2 in the UK Singles Chart by Christmas 1977. In 1978, Terry Wogan recorded a version which reached #21 in the same chart. In 2016, a campaign for Christmas Number One was launched for his version of The Floral Dance after his death. All proceeds of the downloaded single were donated to the BBC Children in Need fundraiser, which Wogan had hosted for 35 years.
Thanks to Dr Paul for suggesting this tune!