The bagpiping anthem, Scotland the Brave heralded the beginning of another Bicentennial event: A Ball at Ayr Mount House. Josh Hinson, a talented local bagpiper, was truly the Pied Piper of the Ball. Couples fell in line behind him for the Grand Promenade around the grounds to the sweet smell of early magnolia blossoms. Thereafter the music and dancing began in earnest. Jack Maus, the evening’s talented Dance Master made for a relaxed and happy time for newcomers and experienced dancers alike.
Guests swirled to Flowers of Edinburgh, Devil Among the Tailors, Geud Man of Ballingigh and Jack’s Maggot; all period dances. Guests were transported back to the days of 1815 when William Kirkland and his family moved into Ayr Mount. Known as the Federal Period in America its counterpart is the Regency period in England – think music, costume and dance in Jane Austen’s society.
It was a magical night under a clear Carolina sky enhanced by exquisitely dressed ladies in Empire gowns of muslin and silk, tartan skirts and sashes, dancing slippers, ribbons, and white gloved hands holding ivory and silk fans. The gentlemen were keeping pace dressed in kilts, waistcoats, breeches, knee length boots, top hats, and even a gold handled walking stick. Mara Shea (violin), Julie Gorka (keyboard) and Walt Robinson (recorder), the great musicians of The Syllabub Trio, expertly played throughout the night with great flair, a lilting quality, and care for period authenticity and phrasing.
During the dance breaks, music continued as Mara and Julie played a medley of Celtic music and the talented Laura Farina played the dulcimer – also known as the harmony box. Guests relaxed or helped themselves to refreshments throughout the evening. Planters Punch, water, lemonade and an open bar helped quench the dancers’ thirst. Once guests’ thirst was quenched, the buffet offered deviled eggs, cucumber tea sandwiches, asparagus in molded pastry with herb cheese, jam tarts, vanilla blancmange, strawberry trifle, lemon flummery, lavender shortbread plus ham and Bath buns – all period food but the Bath buns were a special favorite of Jane Austen. Using period recipes and dessert moulds, Joanne Anderton was the “foodie” expert who was instrumental in the delicious food preparation and presentation.
Luckily, in the present day we have photography to capture the costumes, dancing, and smiles at such an event. Our thanks to Marla Au for capturing the Ball so skillfully through her photography.
Ayr Mount co-hosted this event with the delightful and dedicated Regency Assembly of North Carolina – living history enthusiasts, amiable dancers, and costumers. Headed by Ruth and Frans Verblunt, the Assembly is a group of volunteers who enjoy learning about all facets of the Regency period: literature, costume, music and dance. Ruth and Frans – along with all the other members of the Assembly – continue to inspire us as they promote their admiration of the Regency era. Visit www.theassemblydancers.com to see upcoming events and dances – you’ll be happy you did.