‘Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He!’
The tune to which this famous refrain is sung makes it recognisable the world over. Many have sung the words as it is part of the hymn ‘Lord of the Dance’ written in 1963 by Sydney Carter (1915-2004). Carter’s hymn narrates the story of Jesus, from his birth to his resurrection, which is told using a first person narrator, i.e. Jesus’ voice.
In 1966 Carter made an EP record, Lord of the Dance, which also featured Martin Carthy (guitar), the Johnny Scott Trio, and the Mike Sammes Singers. ‘Lord of the Dance’ was recorded for this. Carter used a Shaker tune, ‘Simple Gifts’ as the melody for his lyrics.
Sydney Carter (1915-2004) was a singer and songwriter who wrote texts and tunes in a folk idiom. His songs addressed a broad range of themes and topics. Although remembered chiefly for ‘Lord of the Dance’ Carter also wrote scripts and music for plays, and collaborated with many famous performers, writers and artists such as Donal Swann.
Carter wrote many popular hymns in the 1960s and 1970s which reflected on themes of social justice and social responsibility. While ‘Lord of the Dance’ is his most popular hymn, ‘When I Needed a Neighbour’ and ‘One More Step Along the Way I Go’ remain in many hymnbooks and are often sung. His hymns are very popular in school assemblies.
Sydney Carter’s adaptation of a ‘Shaker Tune’.