Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

Meaning of: Tomorrow shall be my dancing day



Dear Listers,

Many of you "out there" share my curiosity about the symbolism in the text
of "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day". Rather than respond individually to
the many who asked if I would share my responses, I am opting to post
publicly. Below are the responses I have received - all are general along
the same line of interpretation. Thanks to those who shared their
knowledge!

Regards,

Debbie Bradley
d.bradley(a)utoronto.ca

Responses:

It is the story of the Gospel.
Christ is the one inviting to his dance.
His "love" is his "bride," the church, or his people (depending upon your
theological bent).

--------

First, my own humble take on this text, then John Rutter's (all I could
find):

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day,
I think it's just about Jesus' impending birth.
I would my true love did so chance
or..."I hope the people on earth have taken the opportunity to...
to see the legend of my play,
"...understand the reason I'm coming,
to call my true love to my dance.
"...and have spoken to others about what my coming means."


Then was I born of a virgin pure.
'nuf said.
Of her I took fleshly substance
because of her, I took human form
Thus was I knit to man's nature,
This is how I came to be connected forever with all of man's failings,
To call my true love to my dance.
and how I came to enlist mankind to my approved way of life.


In a manger laid and wrapped I was,
so very poor, this was my chance,
betwix an ox and a silly poor ass
to call my true love to my dance.
All pretty self explanatory


Here's what Rutter says in the liner notes to his "Christmas Night" CD:

The age-old relationship between religion and the dance is the source of the
unusual and vivid imagery of this carol (which, in its complete form, has
eleven verses covering all the events of Christ's life up to the Ascension).
The text is believed to date back earlier than the seventeenth century; it
first appeared in print together with its tune in 1833.

----------

I too have sung and conducted "Dancing Day". This is Jesus' reference to
his
birthday. According to Christmas Carol legend, all old carols that were
written in 3/4 time were written as Creche dances. Today we call this
Liturgical dance. As these carols were sung, people would dance around the
creche or manger. This began in Germany. One of the most famous Creche songs
is "Away in a Manger". Here in the states we tend to sing it in 3, but it
really should be sung in a fast 1, so that it can be danced to while
singing.

"Dancing Day" is the reference to the dance around the creche, or dancing on
the birthday of Christ.

I've always explained it like this:

The song is written as if the words are those of Christ talking to each one
of you. He describes the plan that will happen because he loves each of you
so much, and invites you to be aware of and participate in the plan. This
plan is referred to as "the dance". Being a Christmas piece, it refers to
Christmas Day "tomorrow shall be my dancing day".

This will work with youth. With adults, I usually say that they could view
it as Christ speaking to His church ("my own true love") as well.

------

Tomorrow Shall Be . . . is one of my favorite texts. The speaker is Christ
-
prior to his birth. His "dancing day" is his birthday, his "true love" is
the
church." Hope this gets you started on understanding the text.



Dear Listers,

Here is a compilation of replies I received regarding
the text to “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” Thank
you to all who replied. It has been interesting to
learn about the poetry from all of you.

Tom Sparks
sparks.tom(a)attbi.com

+++++++


Responses:

It is the story of the Gospel.
Christ is the one inviting to his dance.
His "love" is his "bride," the church, or his people
(depending upon your
theological bent).

--------

First, my own humble take on this text, then John
Rutter's (all I could
find):

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day,
I think it's just about Jesus' impending birth.
I would my true love did so chance
or..."I hope the people on earth have taken the
opportunity to...
to see the legend of my play,
"...understand the reason I'm coming,
to call my true love to my dance.
"...and have spoken to others about what my coming
means."


Then was I born of a virgin pure.
'nuf said.
Of her I took fleshly substance
because of her, I took human form
Thus was I knit to man's nature,
This is how I came to be connected forever with all
of man's failings,
To call my true love to my dance.
and how I came to enlist mankind to my approved way
of life.


In a manger laid and wrapped I was,
so very poor, this was my chance,
betwix an ox and a silly poor ass
to call my true love to my dance.
All pretty self explanatory

+++++++++++++++++
Here's what Rutter says in the liner notes to
his "Christmas Night" CD:

The age-old relationship between religion and the dance
is the source of the
unusual and vivid imagery of this carol (which, in its
complete form, has
eleven verses covering all the events of Christ's life
up to the Ascension).
The text is believed to date back earlier than the
seventeenth century; it
first appeared in print together with its tune in 1833.

+++++++++++++++++

I too have sung and conducted "Dancing Day". This is
Jesus' reference to
his
birthday. According to Christmas Carol legend, all old
carols that were
written in 3/4 time were written as Creche dances. Today
we call this
Liturgical dance. As these carols were sung, people
would dance around the
creche or manger. This began in Germany. One of the most
famous Creche songs
is "Away in a Manger". Here in the states we tend to
sing it in 3, but it
really should be sung in a fast 1, so that it can be
danced to while
singing.

"Dancing Day" is the reference to the dance around the
creche, or dancing on
the birthday of Christ.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I've always explained it like this:

The song is written as if the words are those of Christ
talking to each one
of you. He describes the plan that will happen because
he loves each of you
so much, and invites you to be aware of and participate
in the plan. This
plan is referred to as "the dance". Being a Christmas
piece, it refers to
Christmas Day "tomorrow shall be my dancing day".

This will work with youth. With adults, I usually say
that they could view
it as Christ speaking to His church ("my own true love")
as well.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Tomorrow Shall Be . . . is one of my favorite texts.
The speaker is Christ
-
prior to his birth. His "dancing day" is his birthday,
his "true love" is the church." Hope this gets you
started on understanding the text.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++


[af] I think it is looking toward heaven....having His
children home and He will dance for joy that His bride
has arrived home.

What does dancing day mean? Also, the reference to "the
legend of my play". It is His 'play' of what He has
designed for mankind, the world He made and His 'play'
proceeds to be played out. We are doing this piece and
am loving it....hope this helps and that you enjoy it,
too.

Ardis Faber

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
I believe these are metaphors. Dancing day referring to
life, the dance
of life, etc. And the legend of my play could either
mean the story of my
play (Theater) or the story of my life/dance/playing.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Check out Oxford Book of Carols. Also, Erik
Routley's "The English Carol."
You're right on track. It was one of the ingenius tools
of teaching religion
to the uneducated masses to speak in parables and
illustrative phrases about
Jesus and his ministry.

Dancing Day - the day of life, the day of birth
My true love - the chosen of God, those who he invites
to his kingdom
the legend of my play - the story of salvation
culminating with Jesus
To call my true love to my dance - another invitation

Good luck! Enjoy!
Kevin Riehle
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


No doubt you have received many, and diverse, responses
to this
question. This is in the "for what it's worth" category!

The Oxford Book of Carols has verses that span the life
of Christ
through Resurrection and Ascension, ending with the
phrase "that man/
May come unto the general dance." So it does have that
entire
life/mission of Jesus which you have observed. The
after-Christmas
verses make much of the Temptation and other conflicts,
which might give credence to a note that a former choir
director here wrote in his score. At "legend of my play"
he wrote Genesis 3: 14-15 -- this is the curse on the
serpent, "He shall bruise your head, and you shall
bruise his heel." This is considered by many to be a
prophecy of the victory over death/sin/hell/the devil.
And the entire "Dancing Day" text certainly does take us
to that final victory! Is "the legend of my play?"
Someone thinks so, anyway.

Is "my dancing day" resurrection? Glorification? Eternal
life in God's
presence? I guess any could be true ... and maybe our
abridged
(Christmas) version of the text needs to be studied in
light of the
entire song.

Too much rambling at the end of the week. Thanks for
making us think!


Chuck King
College Church in Wheaton

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I'm going to 'go way out there' and, without use of the
text in
front of me, speculate the following (I have, like you,
always
wondered about the deeper meaning of the text):

1) I think the 'dancing' has dual meaning. It refers
both to the
complete life of Christ (his 'dance')--as well as his
invitation
to enter the 'dance' with him (begin our spiritual
journey to
enter the life of Christ)--the only means for salvation.

2) 'Legend of my play' is some kind of talk about
hearing/seeing
the story/impact/meaning of his life.

3) I think you also need to throw into the discussion
the idea
that Christmas carols in Europe (from medieval times)
were
associated with round dances--an obvious connection in
this carol.


Not much else to add. What do you think?

Kurt Amolsch
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Check out mystery play in Grove's dictionary you should
get a good idea.
This is a medieval text depicting such a pagent.
Ryc Williamson
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

ChoralNet has a resource on this topic:
choralnet.org > Repertoire > Lists > Texts > Meaning of
Tomorrow
Shall Be My Dancing Day
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Thank you to the many who sent information regarding "Tomorrow Shall Be
My Dancing Day."
Here it is:



Go to www.choralnet.org and type
dancing day in the search engine. Go down the resulting list and look
for Compilation: "Dancing Day"

sparks.tom and you will see the many responses. I think they're mostly
good . . .


-

Go to: choralnet.org > Reference > Text settings > Meaning of
Tomorrow shall be...


-
Sheet Music from Sandys
Sandys' Note concerning the line "Judas me sold" in verse seven :

According to one of the Apocryphal Gospels (1 Infancy, 14) when Judas
was a child our Saviour expelled a devil from him, he having previously
struck Jesus on the right side and endeavoured to bite him.

Sandys' Note concerning the line "on the cross" in verse nine :

In "Mount Cavalry," an old Cornish poem, published by Mr. D. Gilbert, it
is related that the cross was made from the wood of the tree whence the
apple sprang that caused Adam to sin. Another tradition is, that Seth
went to the Cherub that Kept Paradise, and received three grains from
the Tree of Life. From these he made an oil wherewith Adam was anointed,
and the stones were put into his mouth. A tree afterwards sprang up
which was subsequently converted into the holy cross. At the time of
building the Temple the builder endeavoured to adapt it, but he could
not in any way make it suit its purpose, and it remained there for some
time unapplied; and afterwards in the pool of Bethesda. After the death
of our Saviour great virtues were attributed to the wood of the cross,
and fragments of it were eagerly sought for.

A curious story on the subject is related in Harl. MSS. 2252. (temp.
Hen. VIII.) intituled, "A grete Myracle of a Knyghte callyde Syr Roger
Wallysborow." This knight being in the Holy Land, wished to bring off
privily a piece of the cross; he prayed to that effect, when his thigh
opened miraculously and received it. He returned to Cornwall, his native
country, having in the course of the voyage through virtue of the cross
appeased the elements and prevented shipwreck. On his arrival his thigh
again opened to let out the fragment of the cross. He gave part to the
parish church where this happened, thence called Cross Parish, and the
remainder to St. Buryan, where his lands were.

The names of the two thieves were said to have been Titus and Dumachus,
(1 Infancy, chap. viii.v.3.) of whom the former prevented the latter
from robbing Joseph and Mary on their journey to Egypt with Jesus, who
then foretold to his mother that they should thirty years afterwards be
crucified with him, and that Titus should go to Paradise.

Earthly Delights: Xmas Carols

Although this carol has Jesus refer to mankind as 'his love' and to
living as 'my dance'- imagery many find very modern - the carol was
first published in Sandys' 1833, Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern ,
and probably goes back to medieval times. The use of erotic love motifs
in spiritual work is indeed as old as the Song of Songs and the use of
dance as a metaphor for living is also old (see for example Sir John
Davies 16th century poem, Orchestra ). this carol has, indeed, close
parallels with a number of 15th century carols in which the infant
foretells his future to his mother. The line 'To see the legend of my
play' suggests it may have originally been part of a medieval mystery
play, in the same way as was the Coventry Carol was, but perhaps in this
case, part of one of the three-day religious plays performed in the
Cornish language in the 14th and 15th century.

-

CAROL (0. Fr. carole), a hymn of praise, especially such as is sung at
Christmas in the open air. The origin of the word is obscure. Diez
suggests that the word is derived from chorus. Others ally it with
corolla, a garland, circle or coronet,i the earliest sense of the word
being apparently a ring or circle, a ring dance. Stonehenge, often
called the Giants Dance, was also frequently known as the Carol; thus
Harding, Chron. lxx. x., Within (the) Giauntes Carole, that so they
hight, The (Stone hengles) that nowe so named been. The Celtic forms,
often cited as giving the origin. of the word, are derivatives of the
English or French. The crib set up in the churches at Christmas was the
centre of a dance, and some of the most famous of Latin Christmas hymns
were written to dance tunes. These songs were called Wiegenlieder in
German, noels in French, and carols in English. They were originally
modelled on the songs written to accompany the choric dance, which were
probably the starting-point of the lyric poetry of the Germanic peoples.
Strictly speaking, therefore, the word should be applied to lyrics
written to dance measures; in common acceptation it is applied to the
songs written for the Christmas festival. Carolling, i.e. the combined
exercise of dance and song, found its way from pagan ritual into the
Christian church, and the clergy, however averse they might be from
heathen survivals, had to content themselves in this, as in many other
cases, with limiting the practice. The third council of Toledo (589)
forbade dancing in the churches on the vigils of saints days , and
secular dances in church were forbidden by the council of Auxerre in the
next year. Even as late as 1209 it was necessary for the council of
Avignon to forbid theatrical dances and secular songs in churches.
Religious dances persisted longest on Shrove Tuesday. and a castanet
dance by the choristers round the lectern is permitted three times a
year in the cathedral of Seville. The Christmas festival, which
synchronized with and superseded the Latin and Teu

And here's another a couple of hits down and another view:

"The Glory of God is a human being fully alive!" (St. Irenaeus) The
mystery of the Incarnation forces us to struggle with the mystery of our
own significance. Why do we matter so much to God? This is the question
that St. Augustine struggled with in his Confessions. It all comes down
to a simple love story and, as one traditional Christmas Carol has it,
an invitation to dance. Christianity is a love story and you are god's
own true love.




Article from the New Oxford Book of Carols....page 132.

"From William Sandy's Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (1833, this
is one of many carols traditionally sung at Christmas that trace the
whole life of Christ....The text has not been found in any other source,
and the theme of the dance is unique among traditional carols, despite
the origins of the strict carol from in the danced carole....The conceit
whereby Christ addresses sinful man as his 'true love' is foreign to the
verse of traditional and medieval carols but has several parallels in
'higher' forms of medieval poetry, typically in appeals from the
cross...There are several medieval parallels to 'Tomorrow shall be'
among the many fifteenth-century 'cradle prophecy' carols, in which the
infant Christ foretells his future to his mother while seated in her
lap, typically with lullaby refrains...it seems possible that 'Tomorrow
shall be' was devised to be sung and dances at the conclusion of the
first day of a three-day drama, translated from the Cornish, which may
itself have made use of the 'lover' and 'beloved' theme. The actor
playing Christ would have sung the verses and the whole company and
audience the repeats of the refrains. The song would naturally have
become familiar through repeated local use, and may even have been sung
at Christmas: carols of the Passion were not unknown in the Christmas
season."

David Kowalczyk
dkowalczyk(a)stjosephacademy.org
on September 29, 2002 10:00pm
You'd be better advised to write directly to this person. It's unlikely she'll see it here.
on September 29, 2002 10:00pm
Dear Debby,

do you have a mp3 or any other file of this number?
If you do, would you be so kind to send me a copy by e-mail?

Henk Heerschop
e-mail: henk.heerschop@planet.nl
The Netherlands