St John's Dance

Tom Coult (1988)

St John's Dance 2017

3333 - 4431 - perc(3) - harp - strings
Duration 
6
Genre 
Commissioner 
Publisher 

St John’s Dance was a form of mass hysteria that periodically afflicted European peasants in the middle ages. People would start dancing involuntarily and wouldn’t be able to stop for weeks and sometimes months on end. The condition seemed to be contagious, and would sometimes result in many hundreds of people dancing in groups, often until they collapsed from exhaustion. In 1278 around 200 people died when a mass dance caused a bridge to collapse into the River Meuse. Many dancers would experience a state of ecstasy, remove their clothes or shout out the names of the saints they were hallucinating. For most, however, it seemed a horrific experience – writhing, screaming and foaming at the mouth was common.

My piece is a relentless series of dances – often spiralling out of control, often with two or more heard simultaneously.

Tom Coult

Performances 
14.7.17 BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London: BBC Symphony Orchestra/Edward Gardner
3
Flute
3rd piccolo
3
Oboe
3
Clarinet
2nd doubling bass clarinet, 3rd Eb clarinet
3
Bassoon
3rd contrasbassoon
4
Horn
4
Trumpet
3
Trombone
3rd bass trombone
1
Tuba
3
Percussion
xylophone, pair of roto toms, 2 temple blocks, tubular bells, marimba, tam-tam, bass drum, pair of bongos
1
Harp
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