Think of the Floral Dance and you’ll be forgiven for remembering Terry Wogan’s infamous Top of the Pops performance in 1978. Or perhaps the timeless recording of it by the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, which was pipped to the No. 1 chart position by Wings’ Mull of Kintyre, no less.
But the roots of the Floral Dance are mysterious and subject to confusion, even in Cornwall where it originated. In May 1911 a young violinist and composer of light music named Katie Moss (1881–1947) visited the small Cornish town of Helston. There she witnessed the traditional Flora Day celebrations and was inspired to create her own take on the simple, infectious refrain which accompanied the day’s merry-making – a tune then known as the Furry Dance.
Her re-write was a great success. Thousands of copies of the sheet music were sold and it has since been recorded in many versions. It also featured in the film Brassed Off starring Ewan McGregor (interestingly a French horn player in real life) and Tara Fitzgerald.