In 1956 Theo Chaundy (a mathematics don at Christ Church and a morris dancer with the Oxford University Morris Men) bought a tape recorder and invited William Kimber to his home to talk about morris dancing, along with his fellow dancers Jim Phillips and Charlie Jones, local folk music enthusiast Mabel Stace, and members of his family (wife Hilda Chaundy, son Christopher and Christopher’s future wife Jennifer). They talked about morris, Kimber’s life, and life in Headington Quarry and Oxford generally, and almost 3 hours of recording was made over two days.
In June 1959 Theo and Christopher Chaundy visited William Kimber at his home and recorded another 40 minutes of material. Between the two occasions, on 10 June 1957, the Chaundys recorded Kimber playing for the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers outside the Mason’s Arms pub in the Quarry. Kimber plays eight tunes over 22 minutes.
Theo Chaundy used the recordings to write a short article about Kimber in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society in 1959 and to write his obituary in the same journal in 1962. In 1999 a few passages were included in the EFDSS’s Absolutely Classic CD commemorating the centenary of the meeting between Kimber and Cecil Sharp in 1899.
The rest of the recordings, and the fascinating reminiscences they contain, have remained unpublished until now, and we are very grateful to Christopher Chaundy and to William Kimber’s family for allowing us to use them.
The recording made outside the Chequers in 1957 is, as far as we know, the only recording of William Kimber actually playing for the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers as they danced. You can even hear the pub door as it bangs open and shut! All the other recordings of Kimber were made in artificial studio conditions, so this recording stands as a unique record of his virtuosity.
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