May Day! May Day! — How Will You Celebrate?

A post by Elizabeth Fulford, Music Director
April 30, 2018

**Note: references to upcoming events are for 2018**

Gallery Voices at FONA (photo by Diane Kresh)

Photo by Diane Kresh

Unite and unite, and let us all unite
For summer is a-comin’ today.
And whither we are going we all will unite
In the merry morning of May.

How will you celebrate May Day? Washington Revels Gallery Voices got an early start this past weekend at the National Arboretum with madrigals, maypole dancing and lots and lots of beautiful plants and flowers. We sang about sport and play, branches of May, country life, and many other Spring and Summer themes. Dressed in May “whites” with colorful sashes and flowery wreathes, it began to feel like warm and sunny weather is finally here to stay!

While Spring officially begins in March, May Day feels like the real beginning of warm weather and the greening of the earth. We will celebrate the season again on Saturday, May 5th, 2018, at the National Cathedral Flower Mart during our annual May Revels. At 4:15pm, led by our May band, our merry band of revelers will process toward the West Front of the stately National Cathedral in a colorful parade of families: children, tweens, teenagers, and adults bedecked with flowers, ribbons sticks, colorful banners and lots of excitement. Our May celebration always includes singing, dancing, a merry mummer’s play, the Green Man and the crowning of our May Queen. And, like all Revels celebrations, you will be invited to sing and cavort along with us — we hope to see many of you there.

Morris Dancing in Takoma Park (photo by Betsy Fulford)But, you don’t have to wait until May 5th to “bring in the May.” Our local morris teams (#DCMorris) will be “dancing up the sun” on May 1st, beginning at dawn. They begin at sunrise (6:10 am) at the Gazebo in Takoma Park, Maryland. They continue at 9:00 am at the “Roscoe the Rooster Statue” (located at Laurel and Carroll Avenues in Takoma Park). And at 11:00 am they will dance at Dupont Circle in Washington, DC.

More May Traditions

Morris dancing is just one of many traditions celebrated on May Day. In my daytime life, I work at the Library of Congress, and I have some very knowledgeable friends who specialize in folk traditions.

Jennifer Cutting, a specialist at the American Folklife Center and leader of the OCEAN Orchestra, is featured in a wonderful video (with lots of interesting links for more information) entitled, Bringing in the May. This video is part of the Library’s “Journeys and Crossings” series, where you may find many other topics of interest.

Steve Winick, a writer/editor in the American Folklife Center and “Gaston” in our French-Canadian Christmas Revels, has written many interesting blog posts on May traditions and music. Check out his article about a song we will be singing as part of our May Revels this weekend — “Hal An Tow”: Some Intriguing Evidence on a May Song.

There are several other interesting blog posts from the American Folklife Center on May Day traditions:

Steve also blogs for the Huffington Post, and has written on the topic of Faeries and May celebrations there:

The weather predictors are promising the warmest temperatures of 2018 this week, and the buds will be bursting forth as we prepare for a rousing May celebration on Saturday. Enjoy the week and see you on Saturday at the National Cathedral!

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