Toronto, Ontario, Canada

» January 17, 2004 «
The third annual symposium on Entertaining in the Canadas in the 18th & 19th centuries
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A day-long celebration of music, food and dance held on January 17, 2004 beginning with a symposium focusing on entertaining in the Georgian Era and culminating in a lavish period banquet and ball in costume
at Historic Fort York in Toronto. Photos, anyone?

The Symposium:

  • Jessica Warner, author of Craze. Gin and Debauchery in an Age of Reason, spoke on social mores, both theoretical and actual, of the period. (illustrated lecture). Did you know, for instance, that violent crimes committed by women exceeded those committed by men in England during the Regency period? Or that the drinking of gin by older ladies results in their spontaneous combustion? Me neither! If you didn't catch Professor Warner's talk, or even if you did, by all means read her book -- interesting and most entertaining. More information at her website, www.mothergin.com
  • Archaeologist David Spittal described the local finds around Fort York and Toronto (illustrated lecture). He brought some examples of Spode and other English china that have been found at and around Fort York, including some rare orange-figured ware, and showed us slides of many more items. One large serving platter was particularly noteworthy, as it was a pattern that was previously known by description only. It was believed that no examples had survived. The platter was broken but all the pieces were recovered and it was reassembled in its entirety. The manufacturers were so excited that they sent a representative to Toronto to study it and now plan to reissue the pattern, which will be named after Fort York.

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After the lectures we had a break, time to talk and refresh with coffee, bottled water and wonderful snacks. Fruit tarts, oat and currant cakes, coconut macaroons and ginger snaps reflect both the extent of the British Empire at the beginning of the 19th century and its roots in the British Isles. Even Canada is represented, albeit anachronistically, those are Nanaimo bars at the far right. Most of these desserts were made by Fort York Volunteer Historic Cooks Ellen Johnstone and Roland Wardle. Historic cooks Katherine McGillvray and Mya Sangster were on Breakfast TV.

The snack table was thoughtfully left set up during the dance workshop that followed.

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About the pictures:

1.) We took as many as we could, but I know we missed a lot. If you were at the ball and have photos you'd like to share, we'd be happy to post them here. If they are digitals or if you can scan them please e-mail them to dawn@claviersbaroques.com, or if you have 'real' photos and no scanner contact me, I can scan them in and mail the originals back to you.

2.) We have reduced the photos for the website, but if you'd like the larger version (1232 pixels x 1532) of any of them contact me, and I can either e-mail it/them or post them somewhere they can be downloaded.

The Dance Workshops:

  • Melanie Garrison, co-ordinator of the dance programme at Fort York, led the dance workshops and ball, ably assisted by the Fort York Volunteer Historic Dancers.
  • Ken Purvis, Programme Officer at Fort York and member of Gin Lane, led musicians playing authentic period instruments to accompany the dances.

Dancing Mistress Melanie Garrison asks us to organize ourselves into sets of 4 or so couples to begin the workshops. Ken Purvis wonders where he left his flute. The first dance we will learn is called Cary Owen. The music and the steps are from Thomas Wilson's A Companion to the Ballroom, 3rd edition, published in either 1816 or 1823.

Many of us didn't bring partners so we first had to find one. The people are friendly and had name tags so that was pretty easy. Members of the Fort York Volunteer Historic Dancers such as Peter Twist, above, helped us get properly assorted and made sure there was an experienced dancer or two in each set. We had more ladies than men so there were a few ladies partnered. That was the authentic Regency solution as well, Jane Austin would have approved.

Mr. Wilson gives three ways of dancing this tune, Melanie is having us do the one of medium complexity. She calls the figures: "Set & change sides with 2nd Couple; set and back again - Down the middle, up again, allemande." We are baffled but game.

Melanie translates the dance notation into plain language. "First and second couples face each other and do a setting step to the right, count 1 & 2, then to the left, count 3 & 4. Then 1st and 2nd ladies join hands and slide-step across to the gents' side, at the same time the 1st and 2nd gents slide behind the ladies and cross to the ladies' side, that's counts 5, 6, 7 and 8."

"Repeat going opposite directions, this should get you back to your original places and take you to the count of 16, which is bar 8. Question? Couples 3 and on don't do anything yet, but don't worry, your turn will come... Okay, ready for the second section?" I am happy to be a 4th lady.

"First couple face down the set, join inside hands, her right and his left, and walk between the other dancers for a count of 3, on 4 turn, join hands again and walk back. 2nd couple, you progress, that means you move up to the 1st place, and the 1st couple will to the 2nd place that you just left open, that gets you to 8, then the 1st couple (who is now in 2nd place) does a do-si-do, that is from the French dos-a-dos, 'back-to-back' for counts 9 to 16."

"After doing these two sections twice the 1st couple should be in the 3rd position. The 2nd and 3rd couples are now in the 1st and 2nd positions and can start their figure from the setting step. As they move down the 3rd and 4th couples progress into the top two positions and they start. When the 1st couple is back at the top the dance is finished. Okay, got that? Ready? This time with music. And one and TWO, three and FOUR...."

Hurray! We must have done it right because the original couples are now back at the heads of their sets. We had lots of help. Next we will tackle La Jupon Rouge. Mr. Wilson says, "Whole figure at top lead down the middle up again & allemande." Easy for him to say...

Melanie, help!

By the end of the afternoon we'd worked through a lot of dances...
  • Carey Owen
  • La Jupon Rouge
  • Tars of the Victory
  • Bobbing Joan (or Love and Whiskey)
  • College Hornpipe
  • Drops of Brandy
  • Roger D'Coverley or The Finishing Dance

"Throw your lobster into the sea!" Our heads are full and we're getting hungry. Time to dress for dinner and the ball. Anybody ready for the Gin Tasting with the lady from the LCBO?

(more photos to come...)

The Banquet "Inspired by Gin":

Presented by Linda Santolucci, The Compleat Caterer, and her team. Taking a cue from Jessica Warners' Craze, the menu featured food that might have been served in taverns of the time. Tureens of hot mulligatawny soup were brought to the table, after which guests helped themselves to the buffet. Dishes included Kitkat Pie, a Welsh favourite made of ground lamb flavoured with currants and cinnamon, a savoury Potato and Onion Pie, braised red cabbage, grilled root vegetables, and grilled sausages served with sharp cheddar and blue cheeses. Red and white wines and baskets of assorted rolls completed the meal. For dessert there were Queen Cakes, Apple Charlotte and Everlasting Syllabubs.

An Elegant Ball:

(more photos to come)





... and now.







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