Subscribe to our Newsletter

Bourton Six

Back to browse page

Alternative title: Krakowiak/Crakovienne

Source: C. Sharp ms no. 1381 in Vaughan Williams Memorial Library
Performer: Mason, John
Place Collected: Stow-on-the-Wold
Date collected: 1907 (2 Aug)
Collector: Sharp, Cecil

CJ Sharp met 72-year old John Mason in Stow-on-the-Wold Workhouse. Mason had played fiddle for the Sherborne Morris set (and possibly others) and, as well as providing Sharp with a number of tunes, he volunteered the address of William Hathaway in Cheltenham, the location of Sherborne Morris’s George Simpson near Didcot and gave other leads towards participants in the Longborough, Bledington and Oddington morris sets. Many of the tunes which Mason described as “Morris Dance” are not generally known as such. Mason came from Icomb and as well as fiddle played clarinet, flute and concertina. He was visited by Mary Neal and Clive Carey shortly before he died and they noted several of the tunes he had previously played for Sharp.

Bourton Six This tune became widely known throughout 19 century Europe as “the Krakowiak” or “Cracovienne”. The Krakowiak is a type of dance, originally from the Kraków region, but now widely known in Poland. The first collection of Krakowiaks, arranged for piano by Franciszek Mirecki, appeared in Warsaw in 1816. Wincenty Gorączkiewicz (WG), organist at Kraków Cathedral, included the present tune in his collection of Krakowiaks, published by Anton Diabelli in Vienna in 1829. A decade later Johann Kasper Merz, a famous guitarist in his day based in Vienna, included it in his collection Kuckuck adding two more strains in which the seventh note is flattened. A similar version turns up, as the Ethiopian Cracovienne, in the American Thomas Briggs’ Banjo Instructor, published posthumously in 1855. Meanwhile the Austrian ballerina, Franziska “Fanny” Elssler, whose dancing career spanned 1827 to 1851, toured throughout Europe, and spent 2 years in the USA. Her repertoire included a dance to this Cracovienne, arranged by Henri Hertz with extensive variations, in the ballet the Gipsey.
 The Krakowiak or Crakovienne became popular as a ballroom dance.

As a type of tune, the Krakowiak is characterised by syncopated notes in the middle of the bar. This feature, though retained by Mertz and Hertz, has been lost in the Bourton Six.
 The tune is used for a well-known Polish jingle, Krakowiaczek jeden, and for the old song Albośmy to jacy tacy, of which WG published the words in 1830.

Notes by Paul Burgess and Charles Menteith