[SCA-Dance] Maltese Branle resource

Stephen Kiefert lanhamlaw at att.net
Thu Jul 22 02:48:08 EDT 2010

I am looking at a new (to me) book with background on the Maltese Branle.  It is  A Musical Legacy - Malta related music found in foreign libraries, by Anna Borg Cardona.

I was at the Maltese embassy recently and the staff was unfamiliar with the dance.  The ambassador put me in touch with the Maltese Folklore Society and Ms Cardona responded with information about her research and the resulting book.  A copy was obtained through interlibrary loan; there were only 6 copies listed, Harvard, UC Berkeley, NYU, Columbia, UNC, and U of Toronto.  I have UNC's briefly but have to give it back before Pennsic.  Anyone have borrowing privileges at one of them?

The Knights of St John had been ousted from Rhodes by the Turks and set up shop on Malta.  The Turks then captured Tripoli from the Knights in 1551.  At this time France was friendly to the Turks, somewhat anomalous considering the threat they were to Europe at the time.  The Knights thought France was involved and the French king got upset and wanted an apology.  Citing a Daniel Hertz article, the theory is that they came up with this branle, being a common French dance style, to perform at the French court as a peace gesture. Turkish garb was fashionable at the time.  It would not have been from a fondness for their enemy, and who knows what sort of "gestures" were done.   He thinks it was performed in 1551 before Henry II, which would fit with the 40 years before mentioned in the 1588 Arbeau book.  Arbeau was 68 then.

She also talks about the first publication of music called Maltese Branle, a suite of 5 branles in a 1559 book by Jean d'Estree, with the first 4 being the typical opening sequence mentioned by Arbeau of double, single, gay and Bourgogne.  However, the fifth one looks like a different tune than Arbeau.  His 4 books have many dance tunes, including 120 branles, but no steps.  There is also a book of lute music by Adrian Le Roy from 1567 which has 4 maltese branles.

Is anyone familiar with this material?

Stefan of Cambion

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