Ceilidh celebrates magic of Leeds music hall

Mrs Porter's Ensemble - Jan Porter (front) with (from left), Chas Marshall, Roy Hardacre, Nigel Swan and Heather Hazell.
Mrs Porter's Ensemble - Jan Porter (front) with (from left), Chas Marshall, Roy Hardacre, Nigel Swan and Heather Hazell.
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THE MAGIC of the music hall is most famously celebrated at the Good Old Days concerts regularly held at Leeds City Varieties.

Next month, however, it will be the turn of Seven arts centre in Chapel Allerton to play host to an event that harks back to the golden age of theatre.

The show by Mrs Porter’s Ensemble takes place on Sunday, September 21, and features an intriguing-sounding mix of music hall acts, English-style Ceilidhs and spectacular dance displays.

Mrs Porter, alias Jan Porter, said: “Mrs Porter’s Ensemble, whose members are from Leeds and Harrogate, has evolved over a number of years through musicians with a particular interest in English-style music and song.

“The events are inclusive and we aim to have something for everyone whether they want to dance, take part or be entertained.

“It’s in a lovely setting where we can dance either indoors or out if the weather permits.”

For those who have never attended one, a ceilidh is a party or gathering where singing and storytelling are the usual forms of entertainment.

Music hall favourites expected to make an appearance include “Where Did You Get That Hat?” and “Why am I Always the Bridesmaid?”

And the emphasis is on joining in, rather than sitting still and observing.

Musicians are encouraged to bring their instruments and play along, keen dancers can request a favourite dance and those in the know are welcome to “call” a dance – to guide those on the dancefloor by instructing them in the steps.

Jan, who has worked with adults with learning disabilities for around 40 years, said: “Sometimes people run a ceilidh for dancers and that is what a lot go for, to dance, dance, dance.

“Ours is probably a little bit more gentle, a bit of dancing and other things as well.”

She said the show was a celebration of Britishness, adding: “Because we wanted our kit to look exciting and reflect our combined bands, we chose red, white, black and blue, featuring elements of the Harrogate-based Village Hop Band who wear black and white, Leeds/Harrogate based The Polka Dots in black and red and the good old Union Jack due to the interest in old-time dance and Music hall.”

The show will also feature an Appalachian dance display – a form of American tap dancing – by Harrogate-based side Cricket On the Hearth.

Anyone wanting to perform at Mrs Porter’s events at Seven Arts must get in touch with Jan by email on jntprtr@aol.com.


The story of music hall

Music halls can be traced back to the taverns and coffee houses of 18th century London where men met to eat, drink and do business. Performers sang songs whilst the audience ate, drank and joined in the singing. By the 1830s taverns had rooms devoted to musical clubs. They presented Saturday evening Singsongs and Free and Easies. These became so popular that entertainment was put on two or three times a week. Despite the apparent respectability of London’s West End halls, music hall was often associated with wild audiences and high living. The audiences were aristocratic young men and the working classes; the middle classes regarded the halls as vulgar places, full of risqué entertainment.

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