Aug 082010
 

A western caller, Fred Feild, came across this in the March 1941 Recreation Magazine. The overall article is called “The Square Dance Goes to College.” After talking about the University of North Carolina it says this:

At John Gould Goddard College in Vermont

Assisted by teachers from the Washington County Folk Dance Association, young Vermonters study the old country dances at a mid-winter school at Goddard College.

Skiing in Vermont’s snow-covered hills and old-time dancing were friendly rivals for popular favor immediately after Christmas when the Washington County Folk Dance Association brought its summer activities up to date with a three-day school of country dances at Goddard College. And the same spirit pervaded the school as that which prevailed at the annual Vermont Folk Dance Festival in August on the college campus in Plainfield.

The city ballrooms of the nation have lately adopted country dancing with all the vigor of a new-found diversion, but to this group in Vermont folk dancing is something as old as the early “pitches” when settlers first brought cows into the Winooski valley. And since the attendance at the school turned out to be better than half school-age youngsters, it is likely that the country dances will remain a form of Saturday night recreation throughout Vermont long after city folks have taken up some new idea.

Vermont has a set of country dance traditions all its own, and several intricate dances unknown to the rest of the nation. To keep these traditions safe, the Washington County group organized many years ago for the purpose of searching out techniques and teaching them to other groups gathered solely for amusement. When the group heard that the folks down in Chelsea had a different twist on the promenade forward of a Boston Fancy, they sent someone down, and now the Chelsea tradition is known throught Vermont. During the year the group stands ready to send teachers, equipped with phonograph records and source material, anywhere in Vermont to teach country dancing – a free service that arises from a genuine love for the dance.

Throughout the year the group has bi-weekly dances at some small hall or farmhouse in Washington County, where the program is part recreation, part study. Every summer they call out competing teams from all over the state, and the lawn tennis court at Goddard College is the stage where men in white trousers and girls in peasant skirts and aprons strive to win the big silver cup. A couple of thousand Vermonters and summer visitors come to watch and applaud Money Musk, Hull’s Victory, Merry Merry Milkmaids, and dozens of similar dances done in the correct Vermont fashion.

Last summer the rising interest in this form of dance brought many out-of-staters, and Goddard College followed this success with the offer to sponsor a winter school with dormitory facilities for those coming from a distance. Emerson Lang of Danville directed the school, and its success assures annual repetitions.

Last night in Nelson, we danced a tremendous Money Musk to Dudley Laufman’s calling and the joyful accompaniment of four fiddles (Jacqueline Laufman, Dudley, Hunt Smith, and Sophie Orzechowski) and piano (Neil Orzechowski). Young and old, those who know the dance by heart, those doing it for the first time, we moved to the same notes and rhythms as the thousands who have danced before us. A good time was had by all.

Jul 232010
 

The Folklore Society has been on summer break, after a busy Fall, Winter and Spring season that saw many dances, concerts, and local celebrations. We’re gearing up for the coming Autumn and promise many fine events. Of course, the Nelson Monday Dance continues to create its magic every week, whether the Society is resting or not.

One item of note: The Nelson Second Saturday Dance will be held on the First Saturday in August: 8/7. Old Home Day happens to fall on the second Saturday this year, and therefore there are many reasons to move the dance forward by one week. Dudley and Jacqueline Laufman will provide music and calling for what’s become an August tradition just before Old Home Week. As has been true for many years, there will not be a Peterborough contra dance on the first Saturday in August while Monadnock Music takes over the Peterborough Town Hall.

If there are writers in our audience who would like to publish essays related to local folklore on this web site, please contact us: info@monadnockfolk.org

 Posted by on July 23, 2010 at 3:26 pm
May 082010
 
Old New England: Deanna Stiles, Bob McQuillen, Jane Orzechowski

Old New England: Deanna Stiles, Bob McQuillen, Jane Orzechowski

ONE IV is the newly released recording from Old New England, which is Jane Orzechowski on fiddle, Deanna Stiles on flute, piccolo and fiddle, and Bob McQuillen on piano and accordion.  As one might expect, the arrangements are fairly  straightforward, and the orchestration does not employ the rhythmical gymnastics and melodic pyrotechnics that are increasingly common with recordings of dance music. In the hands of less capable musicians that might make for tedious listening, but not only is this recording a total pleasure to listen to – I personally think it represents the best album yet from this trio.

Some of the appeal is achieved through understatement. An example of that appears in the first set. It starts with “Jack Beard’s Jig”, moves on to “Dr. Becky’s”, and then after a switch to “Martha’s Hornpipe”, I gradually realized the time signature had changed from 6/8 to 4/4. This is a common trick among contra dance musicians, but it is usually rendered with a bit of a flourish. Here it was a like a subtle but refreshing change of scenery on a drive down a winding country road. Continue reading »

Apr 032010
 

mud2In spite of the massive flooding that’s been reported throughout New England recently, there hasn’t been much of a mud season this year. One theory is that the mud has all been shipped down to Washington DC, where it is being slung vigorously across the aisles of Congress. But further research shows that the material being used there is actually another type of organic matter having to do with the male bovine.

Here in Nelson most of our roads are unpaved. I recently complained to the Selectmen: without a few days of don’t-bother-to-steer, up-to-your-axles-in-mud driving, we are deprived of experiences that reinforce our robust rural character. What’s a country boy to do? Continue reading »

Mar 162010
 
MadameAx1

Madame Ax (Jon Brooks)

New Hampshire Furniture Masters will host a benefit concert Saturday, April 3, 2010, at 7:30 p.m. at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. The concert, “Rise Up! Out of the Ashes,” will raise money for the Jon Brooks New Studio Project. Brooks, a furniture maker and sculptor who is a New Hampshire State Council on the Arts Lifetime Fellow, lost his New Boston studio in a January fire.

The concert will feature music by Jon’s friends in three bands: Celticladda, Swing a Cat, and The Moores. To purchase tickets, which are $25 each, visit http://ccanh.com/ShowDetails/121/522. To make a donation to the Jon Brooks New Studio Project, visit http://www.jonbrooks.org/.

 Posted by on March 16, 2010 at 6:31 am
Mar 102010
 

treeNovember in New England, dark gray trees silhouetted against stark gray skies – there’s something invigorating in the vision, as if we are storing up energy for the winter ahead. Come March and the image is wearying. We strain to see the tree tips showing a hint of red, and our own energy stores  are depleted. But, like the maple trees, there is within us some sweetness which, properly tapped, will nurture us into the spring.

There’s a bit of folklore that once upon a time maple trees provided thick maple syrup year round. The People became complacent, neglecting their crops and community, and indulged themselves by lying beneath dripping maples with opened mouths. Glooskap (variously the son of Mother earth, or the first man, or the man from nothing) came across this situation and decided to force a modification of behavior. He diluted the syrup with water from the river, and made it so the sap would flow only once a year, forcing the People resuming a more structured existence of hunting, fishing, and growing crops. Continue reading »

Mar 012010
 

Here’s another opportunity to hear and support young traditional musicians. The deadline for performers to apply is mid-April.

*Young Tradition Showcase Contest*

The annual Showcase Contest at Waterfront Park in Burlington, Vermont is a
primary focus of the annual Young Tradition Weekend. The program for the
contest starts in the mid/late morning on 5/15/10 and finishes by 3pm,
running simultaneously with Kids Day at Waterfront Park. It is designed so
that young singers, players and dancers (25 years old and younger) in
single, duo or group formats can perform 2 or 3 numbers. Participation is
not limited to Vermonters.

Prizes include showcase performances at a variety of concerts, festivals,
coffeehouses and tours, cash ($500 for 1st, $250 for 2nd and $125 for 3rd),
$1000 in scholarships, and more. There are no judges for the contest and
all styles and genres that fit under the ‘folk and traditional’ umbrella are
welcome. There is time for about 20 ‘acts’ and we strive to make sure that
what is presented at the contest is either directly related or inspired by
what is generally considered folk and traditional music or dance….. if you
think it fits, there is a good chance that it does.

Prospective performers who have not participated in the past are asked to
submit an audio and/or video sample. Samples will be returned if
self-addressed, postage-paid packaging is included with the
application. Samples should be e-mailed to
Vermont Traditions
mrksustc@together.net

or mailed to:
Young Tradition Vermont
PO Box 163
Fairfax, VT 05454.

We strive for balance in the genres
presented, the instruments used, and the traditions presented, etc. (e.g. we
try to not have just fiddlers, just dancers, just singers, etc.).

Contact Mark Sustic, PO Box 163, Fairfax, VT 05454
802-849-6968
mrksustc@together.net
www.youngtraditionvermont.org

 Posted by on March 1, 2010 at 9:25 am  Tagged with: ,
Feb 142010
 

Generations

It’s encouraging to see a new generation of musicians taking hold. I suppose the term “new” is only relevant to those of us who are coming to represent the “older” generation, but not much we can do about that.

annalivia3Annalivia did a fantastic performance in the Nelson Town Hall on February 5th.  Their eclectic mix of Scottish tunes and American ballads, technically brilliant musicianship, entertaining stage presence – all around good time. Looking up on the stage there’s Brendan Carey-Block, fiddler extraordinaire, who was a pre-school classmate of my daughter. The band’s singer, Liz Simmons, is the daughter of Leslie Vogel (an accomplished musician in her own right, who’s recent new recording was reviewed here). Leslie was a classmate of mine at High Mowing School back in the late 1960’s. Stuart Kenney, the bass and banjo player (it takes a lot of courage to play two such teased instruments), was just outgrowing teenager-hood when I first met him some decades ago, and now his son Matthew is getting his own reputation (at the age of 12) as an incredible percussionist.  Annalivia’s other fiddler, Emerald Rae (who is about the same age as Brendan) noted that she went to Berklee with all of the members of Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers, who are performing in Nelson on March 19th. Continue reading »

Jan 262010
 

Annalivia will be performing in Nelson on February 5th. Here is an interview with Flynn Cohen, guitarist and founding member.

Click here for more show info and tickets.

Annalivia

Annalivia is: Liz Simmons, Stuart Kenney, Brendan Carey-Block, Flynn Cohen, Emerald Rae.

Jan 132010
 

The Monadnock Folklore Society has been approved for an FY2010 New Hampshire State Council on the Arts Mini Grant to support performances at the upcoming Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend. With its motto of “The Spirit of the Past, with a Vision for the Future,” the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend was founded 23 years ago by the New England Folk Festival Association in collaboration with the Center for the Humanities at the University of New Hampshire. This weekend is named in honor of Ralph Page, who was pivotal in sustaining and reviving traditional contra and square dancing in New England.

Ralph started calling more than 70 years ago in Nelson, NH, the Monadnock area town that has had contra and square dancing continuously in its town hall for two centuries. Ralph was a popular caller in New Hampshire and in the Boston area. During various periods in which contra and square dancing were at low points in popularity, he was nearly the only person to keep the tradition alive.

Ralph Page became not only a caller but also a scholar of contra dancing. He published The Northern Junket newsletter monthly for many years. He wrote many excellent dances, and he researched and reconstructed many old dances. In 1977, Ralph Page received the Granite State Award given to outstanding citizens of New Hampshire. This award acknowledged not only his talents as a dance teacher, caller, and musician, but also his contributions to community life as a selectman for Nelson, NH from 1932-1938 and as president of the Cheshire County Historical Society for 15 years. When Ralph Page died in the early 1980’s, a committee was set up to keep his legacy alive; that eventually led to the Ralph Page Dance Weekend which has occurred annually since 1988.

From the beginning the emphasis of the Weekend has been on preserving the smoother style of dancing that Ralph favored. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a style of dancing only old people or old-fashioned dancers would enjoy. Contra and square dancing involve teamwork, and it never shows up better than at the Ralph Page weekend. Interested dancers are welcome to attend the entire weekend or any part, including the Friday or Saturday night dances. The Dance Legacy Weekend takes place from Friday, January 15 through Sunday, January 17th at the Memorial Union Building at the University of New Hampshire, Durham.

The 2010 Weekend Staff:

* Callers: Lisa Greenleaf & Tony Parkes
* Latter Day Lizards: Dave Langford, Bill Tomczak & Peter Barnes
* Old New England: Jane Orzechowski, Deanna Stiles & Bob McQuillen
* White Cockade: Vince O’Donnell, Ralph Jones, Sylvia Miskoe, Cal Howard, RP Hale & Allan Chertok
* Retrospective dance session: Marcie Van Cleave & Sylvia Miskoe will lead a celebration of the truly inspirational and varied life of Marianne Taylor.

More information about the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend at http://www.nhcountrydance.com/music/rpdlw.html
More information about Ralph Page at

http://www.library.unh.edu/special/index.php/ralph-page

NH Council on the Arts Logo
The Weekend is honored to be supported in part by a grant from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.