Shepherd's Hey

Shepherd's Hey is a hand clapping dance, usually performed for 6 dancers.

This is the oldest dance in the repertoire. One account (not necessarily to be relied on!) relates how the Ilmington side performed this dance on Dover's Hill near Chipping Campden, around a banner on which was written 'Heigh Ho for the Cotswolds' in about 1750. They certainly performed this dance annually at the Dover's (or Drover's) Games at Chipping Campden held from 1790 until about 1852. The dance is sometimes referred to as 'Shepherd's Aid', or 'Shepherd's Aye'.

The tune is undoubtedly very ancient, and when the various versions are compared, it can be seen how some would have been played easily on the three-hole pipe, whereas other versions needed the extended range of the fiddle or other instruments. The tune has been extensively 'borrowed' by composers of symphonic music, notably Percy Grainger (1882 - 1961), who may have learned the tune from Sam Bennett when he visited him in about 1908. Grainger recorded music on an Edison wax cylinder machine, rather than notate the tunes in a notebook. He published 'Shepherds Hey!' as a piano solo in 1910, and subsequently for other instrumental combinations. 'While shepherds watched their flocks at night' is used as a Christmas tune.

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