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Philippe Callens of Anglo American Dance Services Belgium

reviews Mr. Kynaston's Famous Dance Vol 1&2 by Belshazzar's Feast

Who was Nathaniel Kynaston? He was an English dancing master from the beginning of the eighteenth century. Music publisher John Walsh, who published a collection of 24 new country dances in London each year since 1705, published five collections with dances written by Kynaston. That makes 120 dances known to us. This is quite unique in the history of country dancing.

Pat Shaw and Tom Cook had worked with these collections before, but it is actually Andrew Shaw from Manchester, who has been teaching twice in Belgium already, who deserves the merit of having explored this material in detail. His book Mr. Kynastons Famous Dance contains a selection of nine dances; the other three dances in the book have other origins, but date from the same period, late 17th and early 18th century.

Andrew used the following selection standards: tunes of a good quality and interesting dance figures. And this is really noticeable when reading the book. It is a fascinating collection of tunes with equally fascinating matching dances. The material is not evident though and meant for connoisseurs. It could be labelled not for immediate consumption. Neat, Mr. John, Pastons Maggot, Lille and Count Leon (with nine bars in the B?tune) are three?couple dances; The Queen of Hearts (originally a quadruple minor !) with its long musical sentences, is a four?couple dance; The Merry Conclusion is a wonderful Iongways ? perhaps the dance to become a hit ? and Woodstock Park is actually the only fairly easy dance.

The music on the accompanying cd was played by the English duo Paul Sartin (oboe and violin) and Paul Hutchinson (accordion), known together as Belshazzars Feast. When I listened to the cd for the first time six months ago, I was puzzled, but I was immediately struck by the musical richness of the recording. This opinion is still valid. The subtitle of the cd an interpretation of 17th and 18th century English country dance tunes describes the intentions of Belshazzars Feast very well. No easy matter, rather a musical exploration. The musical interpretation and the lack of clear rhythm could tempt you to dismiss it for dancing purposes. But it is really meant to be a dance?steady tempo, excellent intonation, clear starts. And just like the chosen dances, not for immediate consumption. During dancing there is a lot to discover, if you want to. But it takes some effort. The band Bare Necessities tries to achieve similar effects with dancers in their own particular way. The sound of Belshazzars Feast is peculiar, more so when the oboe and the accordion are playing together. Accordionist Paul Hutchinson also uses the typical drone technique. In short, this cd is a wonderful product, strongly recommended.