Posts Tagged ‘Elizabethan Era’

Norwich Sculpture Commemorates Elizabethan Performer Will Kemp

Kemp's Sculpture in Chapelfield Gardens

Sculpture of Will Kemp's famous Morris Dance between London and Norwich in Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich, England Photo: Eric Ortner

Norwich, England is a wonderful city filled with history dating back to the Roman Empire and before. There are glimpses of it everywhere, including remnants of ancient walls and even an intact Norman style keep. One reminder is this carved log, which stands near the bandstand that Glenn Miller performed on in Chapelfield Gardens. The relief wooden sculpture was carved by Mark Goldsworthy and was dedicated in 2000.

The sculpture is reminiscent of a Maypole, with Morris Dancers being led by a Pipe and Tabor player. Pipe and Tabor was a favorite folk dancing instrument during the medieval and early renaissance periods and would have been an important part of a peasant class wedding celebration.

It turns out, though, that the sculpture commemorates Will Kemp an actor, Morris Dancer and personal friend of William Shakespeare. There is conjecture that several of Shakespeare’s works had parts written specifically for Kemp.  Will Kemp was especially renowned for dancing all the way from London to Norwich in 1600 which was towards the end of his life. The 125 mile trip only took him nine days, which means he would have danced for roughly 14 miles a day. He must have had sore feet by the end of that gig.

Will Kemp also was famous for his Jigs. In the Elizabethan Era, a Jig was a comic song and dance routine that was often performed between the acts of a dramatic performance. One Jig performed by Will Kemp has survived to this day and is named, fittingly, Kemp’s Jig. The following recording of Kemp’s Jig by Harmonious Music is based on an arrangement by Tom Wills. This version includes both violin and piano parts with a nice improvisation added.

A visit to Norwich should not be completed without a stroll through Chapelfield Gardens. The public space is a testament to music history and the human spirit.