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The Floral Dance

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Wikipedia article

"'The Floral Dance'" is an English song describing the annual Furry Dance in Helston, Cornwall.

The music and lyrics were written in 1911 by Kate Emily Barkley ("Katie") Moss (18811947) who was a professional violinist, pianist and concert singer. She was brought up in London and studied at the Royal Academy of Music.

The song tells the story of an incident that apparently actually happened to Moss herself on a visit to Helston during the springtime 'Furry Dance' celebrations and the song was reportedly written directly afterwards as she was going home on the train.

The songbook cover states that the music was "founded on an old Cornish air". Moss introduces the original Furry Dance tune in the piano part just as the singer is describing the sound of the band, with its "cornet, clarinet and big trombone; fiddle, cello, big bass drum; bassoon, flute and euphonium".

"The Floral Dance" was first recorded in 1912 by the Australian bass/baritone Peter Dawson, and many other versions have appeared since. Frederick Ranalow's recording was made in order to cash in on the sales of the Dawson version. The 1960s saw versions by The Eagles (UK), Ken Sims' Vintage Jazz Band (UK) and The Ivy League (UK). In 1970, the cast of 'Dad's Army' performed a sketch ('The Cornish Floral Dance') for 'Christmas Night with the Stars'. They repeated their versions in the 1975 Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium.'Radio Times' 15 November 1975

Moss's song experienced a revival in an arrangement for the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band by their MD Derek Broadbent, which sold half a million copies, and reached No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart by Christmas 1977. In 1978, Terry Wogan recorded a version which reached No. 21 in the same chart. Wogan's version was accompanied by the Hanwell Band from west London, and omitted the final verse containing the climax to the story. On 'Top of the Pops', Wogan sang it live to a backing track. An instrumental version was recorded in 1979 by Gheorghe Zamfir. A version of the song was prominently featured near the beginning of the 1996 film, 'Brassed Off'.

In 2016, a campaign for Christmas Number One was launched for Terry Wogan's version of "The Floral Dance" after his death. All proceeds of the downloaded single were to be given to Children in Need.


Music and lyrics by Katie Moss, 1911

:As I walked home on a Summer night

:When stars in Heav'n were shining bright

:Far away from the footlight's glare

:Into the sweet and scented air

:Of a quaint old Cornish town

:Borne from afar on the gentle breeze

:Joining the murmur of the summer seas

:Distant tones of an old world dance

:Played by the village band perchance

:On the calm air came floating down

:I thought I could hear the curious tone

:Of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone

:Fiddle, 'cello, big bass drum

:Bassoon, flute and euphonium

:Far away, as in a trance

:I heard the sound of the Floral Dance

:And soon I heard such a bustling and prancing

:And then I saw the whole village was dancing

:In and out of the houses they came

:Old folk, young folk, all the same

:In that quaint old Cornish town

:Every boy took a girl 'round the waist

:And hurried her off in tremendous haste

:Whether they knew one another I care not

:Whether they cared at all, I know not

:But they kissed as they danced along.

:And there was the band with that curious tone

:Of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone

:Fiddle, 'cello, big bass drum

:Bassoon, flute and euphonium

:Each one making the most of his chance

:All together in the Floral Dance

:I felt so lonely standing there

:And I could only stand and stare

:For I had no boy with me

:Lonely I should have to be

:In that quaint old Cornish town.

:When suddenly hast'ning down the lane

:A figure I knew I saw quite plain

:With outstretched hands he came along

:And carried me into that merry throng

:And fiddle and all went dancing down.

:We danced to the band with the curious tone

:Of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone

:Fiddle, 'cello, big bass drum

:Bassoon, flute and euphonium

:Each one making the most of his chance

:Altogether in the Floral Dance.

:Dancing here, prancing there

:Jigging, jogging ev'rywhere

:Up and down, and round the town

:Hurrah! For the Cornish Floral Dance


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