AdvertisementOn the 4th of November, 1723, the Caledonian Mercury published an unusual advert. It informed its readers that 'Edinburgh Assembly is to begin on Thursday next the 7th Instant, in the great Hall in Patrick Steel's Close, and Tickets are given out at Mr James Robertson's Bookseller, opposite to the Cross.' This was the first public advert about social dance nights in Edinburgh. Steel's Close today bears the name dedicated to the institution - Old Assembly Close, whereas the 'great Hall' was destroyed in the Edinburgh fire in 1824.
Edinburgh Dance Assembly in 1723 became a point of national discussions, with some Church officials opposing it, whereas members of the Enlightened Circle, e.g. Allan Ramsay, actively supported it. The Assembly attracted wider attention with its female management, which was discussed in English newspapers. In addition, 18th - century Edinburgh Assembly often acted as a charitable organisation fundraising for hospitals or local causes. It also inspired the creation of the earliest collections of dances set to Scottish tunes, some are still performed today.
On the first weekend of November 2023, we would like to mark this special occasion in the history of social dance in Scotland with a programme of events looking at dance and music of the period.
Assembly in the 18th century had a similar meaning as ceilidh, i.e. social gathering with music and dancing. Ceilidh can also feature performances and storytelling.
For this 18th-century Assembly-inspired Ceilidh night, we will choose dances and music from the Scottish collections created in the 18th century. You will dance to traditional tunes and pieces by Scottish composers such as James Oswald; Thomas Erskine, Earl of Kelly; Robert Mackintosh; and Niel Gow.
The music band for the event will reflect the 18th-century Assembly band structure consisting of string and wind instruments.
As for storytelling, you will learn about the Edinburgh Dance Assembly through the specially made film - presentation referencing personal corresponds of the members of the Edinburgh Enlightened Circle (poets William Hamilton and Allan Ramsay, Henry Cockburn, William Creech, Countess of Panmure and others). In addition, you may join a specially prepared guided tour around the unique collection of musical instruments with the Museum curator, Dr Sarah Deters.
Finally, during the interval, period-inspired light refreshments will be served.
Event Venue & Nearby Stays
St Cecilia's Hall: Concert Room & Music Museum, Penicuik, United Kingdom