The Nelson Music Collection was first published in 1969, as a “Collection of Authentic Square Dance Melodies. Compiled by Newt Tolman, a flute player from Nelson, and his piano accompanist, Kay Gilbert from Peterborough, it contains 64 tunes that might be heard at one of the local square dances. It became an important resource over the next decade as the face of square dancing evolved (and became more commonly known as contra dancing), and as young musicians aspired to learn the tunes so that they could play for the dances. Eventually it took a back seat to newer collections which offered additional and newly popularized tunes, but serious scholars and musicians remained aware of its existence. Newt and Kay also issued an LP recording of the same name, which featured many of the tunes from the book. It was one of the first commercial recordings of this music.
Contra Dancing In New Hampshire: Then and Now
Since the late 1600s, the lively tradition of contra dancing has kept people of all ages swinging and sashaying in barns, town halls and schools around the state. Contra dancing came to New Hampshire by way of the English colonists and remains popular in many communities, particularly in the Monadnock Region. Presenter Dudley Laufman brings this tradition to life with stories, poems and recordings of callers, musicians, and dancers, past and present. Live music, always integral to this dance form, will be played on the fiddle and melodeon. Willing audience members may be invited to dance the Virginia Reel!
Location: Marlborough Community House, 160 Main St., Marlborough
Contact: Richard Butler 876-3980
Tim Eriksen will lead a Shape Note (Sacred Harp) Singing Workshop on Sunday, February 24 from 2:30 to 4:30, a $10 donation is requested. This is your chance to get a high-quality introduction to this kind of choral music. No experience is necessary. This singing school is for beginners and for those who want to deepen their knowledge of Sacred Harp music. There is a Sacred Harp singing in Nelson, NH, every second Sunday from 2 pm to 4:30 pm in the basement of the Nelson Congregational Church.
Shape note (sometimes called “sacred harp”) singing is a tradition of harmony singing originally developed to enable people with little formal training to quickly learn new songs. Participants divide into four groups and sit in a “hollow square” arrangement, taking turns choosing and leading each song from the center. In the sheet music, the head of each note is written with a shape corresponding to its place in the scale, and the singers first learn the tune by singing it using the names (fa, so, la, mi) of the notes in place of the text. While shape note texts are mostly hymns and form a part of church services in some religious traditions, most singings now are community events and many non-religious participants come for the intense feeling of community that comes from singing in harmony together.
Tim Eriksen’s work as an ethnomusicologist and teacher has included extensive research on shape-note music in New England and the venerable Sacred Harp four-part harmony tradition. He is a founder of what is currently the world’s largest Sacred Harp singing convention, in Northampton, MA and has taught hundreds of hour- to week-long workshops and seminars in shape-note harmony singing, American music history, ballad singing and instrumental accompaniment at festivals, universities, museums and arts centers, including the Smithsonian Institution, Harvard University, the Society for Ethnomusicology Convention, Colours of Ostrava Festival (Czech Republic), Camp Fasola (Anniston, AL) and the Early Music Festival in Jaroslaw, Poland.
Tim and his band, ‘Trio de Pumpkintown’ will present a concert at 7:00 PM featuring traditional music from New England and beyond including selections from their new album “Josh Billings Voyage”. Concert admission is $15/$12(senior, youth and advance) and is a separate event.
Peterborough Unitarian Church
corner of Main and Summer Streets
Event Web Site
Name a musician or dancer who hasn’t been influenced in some way by Bob McQuillen, patriarch of contra dance piano players.
At this presentation, Gordon Peery will offer some brief narrative of the history of New England contra dance music, weaving in the role that Bob has played in both preserving and defining the musical traditions. But most of the program will be some actual music, presented by Old New England (Jane Orzechowski, Deanna Stiles, and of course, Bob himself.
At the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center
(this show was originally scheduled for October 28, and was snowed out)
Multi-instrumentalists Mac Ritchey and Gabe Halberg will weave a sonic spell from the Silk Road threads, winding a musical trail through the Middle East, North India, North Africa, and the Mediterranean.
Bob McQuillen shares stories from his many years of playing music, and knowing folks, in Nelson.
This is part of the Library Summer Forum, which features different speakers every Thursday night.
Everyone is invited, there is no admission charge (donations are welcome), and the talk is followed by socializing and refreshments in the library. Come early and here Apple Hill’s violinist Sarah Kim playing a selection of music.
It is customary for the January column of any publication or blog to offer some retrospective on the year gone by. We will forego that exercise, but will point out that the structure of this web site allows you to scroll down to previous month’s articles, and when you get to the bottom of those displayed, there is a “previous entries” tab which will take you back to the beginning. Explore.
What we will do this month is go further back in time. The very first MFS “newsletter” was published in November/December of 1981. It included a calendar listing for those two months, and a couple of things are worth noting. One is that Nowell (spelled incorrectly in the calendar) Sing We Clear was produced in the Dublin Church, and this past December (this time with the correct spelling) this same event appeared on the MFS calendar (if memory serves, Nowell in 1981 was produced by Steve Avery, who was the proprietor of Deacon Brodie’s Tavern in Dublin). The other is that the same evening Stan Rogers was finishing a three-night stand at the Folkway in Peterborough, Gordon Bok was playing in Nelson. These two musicians had some things in common, including deep resonate voices, and many songs having to do with the sea. The two giants met for the first time at a house party in Nelson following their respective concerts, and we were fortunate to be there and witness a hearty embrace.
The Ghost of Music Past
People have fond memories of their cultural past. Those of us who are old enough to remember the 1960’s and 70’s can recall a musical era that was very rich and formative. And there’s a fair amount of good documentation so that the spirit of those times can be appreciated: my children (at 25 and 22) have a working knowledge of musicians and songs from then: indeed my son was just effusing about the song-writing genius of Bob Dylan (we’re both particular fans of Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, considering it to be among the top ten songs ever written).
As folk music threatened to become mainstream (which didn’t quite happen, see Folknotes September 2009 ), the Newport Folk Festival became an important event in the northeast. The festival was started in 1959 by George Wein, Pete Seeger, Theodore Bikel, and Oscar Brand. Wein had already established the Newport Jazz Festival, and and both soon become an annual barometer of the state of their respective arts. In this pre-Internet area the festivals provided a networking environment for musicians, and a forum for presenting new material and the thrill for audiences of hearing live performances from a wide range of musicians all in one place.
It is practically superfluous to mention the Newport Folk Festival of 1965, when Bob Dylan introduced the electrified sound that ushered in the Folk-Rock era, but it is worth noting that was also the year that Dudley Laufman brought a group of contra dancers and musicians (including our own Harvey Tolman) to the festival. This event is nicely documented in David Millstone’s excellent film, The Other Way Back. It is not known (and not noticeable in the footage) whether Dylan might have been one of the dancers, but if he was paying attention he would certainly have appreciated the charismatic Tamborine Man of the contra dance scene.
Dancing from noon to midnight in the magnificent Peterborough Town House..
The 18th Annual Snow Ball
The original all day contra dance
The fabulous bands, with callers, in order of appearance
noon – 3 PM – George Marshall and Wild Asparagus
3 – 6 PM – Will Mentor with Perpetual e-motion (Ed Howe and John Cote)
6 – 9 PM – Steve Zakon_Anderson with Clew Bay
9 – midnight – Lisa Greenleaf with Notorious (Eden MacAdam-Somer and Larry Unger)
Please bring a clean pair of shoes to protect the dance floor.
Need more info: (413) 369-4369
View Larger Map
“Here, smell these” said my wife, handing me a bouquet of freshly picked Freesias. I inhaled deeply, but experienced no olfactory sensation. Just a couple of weeks earlier I was savoring the Summersweet that graces my front steps, and earlier in the season my daily walk brought me past purple lilacs that had a most seductive impact. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with my overall smelling mechanism, but the Freesias somehow did not engage me. This suggests that such things are more than just a matter of taste or conditioning. Perhaps it’s a brain chemistry thing.
I recall a situation (decades ago) when my day job involved a large room and lots of cubes. The employees had something of a free hand in how things worked, so we decided at one point to allow people to play recorded music in the room. There was a cassette player, and folks would bring in mostly Top 40 compilations. As it turned out, this was in the 1980’s, so the experience was not that nourishing. One day I decided to put in a tape of The Chieftains. I knew that most people in the room were probably not aware of their music, but I was so enamored of it myself that I was sure once they actually heard it, they would share my enthusiasm. I don’t recall that there were any direct complaints, but I could tell that it was a lead balloon, and not a Led Zeppelin , situation.
Clearly a large part of appreciating is cultural familiarity. But perhaps on some level each of us has (or does not have) biological or neurological components that affect our ability to experience certain kinds of music positively. It’s a curious concept which is best debated by scientists, or over a few brews in the local pub, probably with the same conclusions.