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Lord of the Dance

[ Roud - ; Ballad Index DarN259A ; Sydney Carter]

Lord of the Dance is the best known of the songs written by Sydney Carter. He recorded it as the title track of his 1966 EP Lord of the Dance with Martin Carthy playing as a session musician. The 1981 album Lovely in the Dances: Songs of Sydney Carter was one of the first tribute albums to contemporary songwriters.

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang Lord of the Dance in 1967 on their Transatlantic album New Impressions. Ian Campbell noted:

Sydney Carter once sent me a book of contemporary carols he had written, and I earmarked this one for future performance and then, I am afraid, forgot about it. Nearly two years later John [Dunkerley] heard it performed by Martin Carthy on one of Sydney’s television programmes and enjoyed it so much that he drove us mad for days humming and whistling it incessantly. Finally I suggested that he arrange it for the group to perform, and so he did.

Martin Carthy sang Lord of the Dance on his 1968 Fontana album with Dave Swarbrick, But Two Came By. This recording was reissued on his 1971 anthology This Is… Martin Carthy, on the 1971 compilation album with The Spinners, The Corries and Martin Carthy, Focus on Folk, and in 2001 on the definitive Martin Carthy anthology, The Carthy Chronicles. Martin commented in his original album’s sleeve notes:

Sydney Carter is probably the most prolific song writer in the revival, and never seems to be satisfied with his work. He is forever chopping verses around and altering them, sometimes going through torment over single words, but it seems to work well. One song which, as far as I can tell, he seems satisfied with is Lord of the Dance, set to a tune which is adapted from a Shaker hymn, The Gift to Be Simple. It reflects, I think, his attitude to life and natural processes in general, an attitude which, as it so happens, I share.

Bob and Carole Pegg sang Lord of the Dance in 1971 on their Trailer album He Came From the Mountains.

The Clancy Brothers with Louis Killen sang Lord of the Dance on their 1972 album Save the Land.

Vulcan’s Hammer sang Lord of the Dance in 1973 on their album True Hearts and Sound Bottoms.

Barry Skinner sang Lord of the Dance on his 1975 album Abroad As I Was Working.

Nowell Sing We Clear sang Lord of the Dance on their 1981 album #The Second Nowell.

There are lots of other versions of Lord of the Dance e.g. by the Corries, The Dubliners and The Spinners. For more recordings see the Lord of the Dance web page.


Sydney Carter sings Lord of the Dance

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