American Morris Newsletter  

American Morris Newsletter

Volume 25, Number 4
December, 2005

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 AMN Article  

Chicago Morris, 1969-1971

Edward L. Stern

The Chicago Morris Dancers began in 1969, when Paul Collins' square dance group ended up with far too many men. He morphed the group into the Chicago Morris Dancers and gained more women. Needless to say it was a mixed Morris group. Our kit consisted of white dress shirt and trousers, black belt and shoes and sox, red baldrics with red, white and blue felt rosettes at the cross points, leather bell pads with red, green and "gold" ribbons (red ties); some of us had straw hats decorated with ribbons and/or flowers. At some point (probably April, 1970) we suddenly needed many more baldrics for a May Day event, and added light blue sash-type baldrics for the new people.

May Day, 1970

Those old bell pads still live! The ones currently in use by the Minnesota Traditional Morris are identical to the original Chicago Morris bell pads. In fact, mine still have on them the brass bells (no longer available) I purchased in 1969. Our repertoire consisted mostly of Headington, Adderbury and old CDS-style Bampton dances, plus a few miscellaneous things like the Abram Circle dance. We needed a processional, so I choreographed one to the tune of Bobbing Joe (Bampton); at first this was called The Chicago Processional. It got its own tune, in 1972, at a "reunion" in Stockton, California, of the by then dissipated group; and many mid-west Morris dancers now know this processional by its new name of "Soldier O." 

On the University of Chicago campus, 
Festival of the Arts.

From the Chicago Maroon, April 16, 1971

We also did some longsword and rapper in the winter. It really started out as Paul's group, although I shared much of the leadership and teaching with him. Besides dancing, Paul also played accordion for us sometimes. I also did the hobby horse a fair amount, a role that I loved even though it wore me out more that the dancing. We met a cellist (I think that's what he played) named Bob Koenig, and while we learned how to dance the Morris, Bob learned to play the accordion for us. We bought him one, in a second hand shop or a pawn shop, I think; after being repaired it sounded pretty good. Bob did most of the music for us until we split up. We had a fool and dancer named Jim Dowling.

From pictures I have, plus some old handbills, etc. I have gathered the names of most if not all of us. Some were in the group a few months, others the entire time:

Ed Stern
Larry Foster
David Rocke
Marketa Klas
Jim Dowling
Demi Miller
Frieda Murray
Paul Collins
Bill Craig
Carrie Clausen
Howard Johnson
Bob Trobbiani
Martha Willi
Bob Koenig


The Chicago Morris Dancers performing the Abram Circle Dance on May 1, 1970. 

Dancers (from left to right): Howard Johnson, Jim Dowling, Demi Miller, Marketa Klas, Bob Trobbiani, Martha Willi (playing accordion), and three unidentified dancers; at extreme right side Ed Stern (hat brim and nose, etc.)

(Photo taken by Lloyd Eldon Saunders)


The group lived a strong year and a half, from late 1969 to mid-1971, when three of us (Bob Koenig, Jim Dowling and myself) moved away simultaneously. Those who remained did not keep the group up at that time. However, there were one or two "revivals" in the early to mid-1970's which involved some of the original group members (e.g. David Rocke and Carrie Clausen). Several years after moving to Minneapolis/St. Paul I started the Minnesota Traditional Morris. In some sense, it is another legacy of the Chicago Morris Dancers, since without the Chicago experience I probably never would have become sufficiently involved with the Morris to learn to love it.

N.B.: The text above was originally a letter written October 1, 1989, with the first and last paragraphs slightly altered by Andrew Bullen for publication at this time. It may be obvious that the group danced on the University of Chicago campus, although it performed off campus, too. However, to the best of my recollection, the group always called itself simply "The Morris Dancers." There was no reason to do anything else since, for all practical purposes there was no other Morris group around. The word "Chicago" before Morris was inserted years later. 

Jim Dowling, Larry Foster, Unidentified, Marketa Klas, Bill Craig, Bob Trobbiani, and Paul Collins playing accordion. 

(Photo taken by Lloyd Eldon Saunders)


Larry Foster (facing unseen dancer), Bob Trobbiani, Jim Dowling, Ed Stern, Bill Craig. 

(Photo taken by Lloyd Eldon Saunders)


Demi Miller, Jim Dowling, Unidentified, Larry Foster, Bob Trobbiani, (unseen dancer behind Bob). 

(Photo taken by Lloyd Eldon Saunders)


Dancers are Bill Craig, Ed Stern, Unidentified (possibly Larry Foster), Demi Miller, Jim Dowling, Bob Trobbiani; at left side in the background Paul Collins can be seen playing accordion. 

(Photo taken by Lloyd Eldon Saunders)


Jim Dowling, Demi Miller, Martha Willi, Bob Koenig, Howard Johnson, Marketa Klas, Larry Foster, Ed Stern's hat and neck, arm of unidentified dancer in foreground; at left side in the background Paul Collins can be seen playing accordion. 

(Photo taken by Lloyd Eldon Saunders)


Bob Trobbiani, Ed Stern, Paul Collins (accordion), Demi Miller, Larry Foster, Bob Koenig, Bill Craig.


Programs from Chicago Morris Dancers performances

 AMN, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 2005  ISSN: 1074-2689