Medieval and Renaissance Music | Peterborough NH

First Friday, December 2nd at 7pm the Mariposa kicks off its holiday season welcoming back Lachrimae of Franklin Pierce University under the direction of Paul Scharfenberger, for their tradition early music concert. “Pastime With Good Company” will feature Medieval and Renaissance music and dance in honor of Christmas and the winter season. The centerpiece will be the magnificent motet “O Magnum Mysterium” by the Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611). This year will mark the 400th anniversary of his death. There will also be lighthearted fare with English madrigals, Spanish villancicos, and German lieder. From 5-6pm the Mariposa Kid Craft will be “Holidays”. From 6-7pm there will be a reception with holiday cheer. First Friday events are FREE and open to the public. Mariposa is wheelchair accessible

Strathspey and Reel Society Annual Concert | Concord, NH

Cape Breton Duo Highlights 2011 Gala

The turkey, parades, and football games of the holiday weekend provide the perfect prelude to the Strathspey & Reel Society of New Hampshire’s 2011 Gala Scottish Concert on Sunday, November 27. Holiday festivities create just the right atmosphere for Cape Breton fiddlers and step Dancers Andrea Beaton and Kimberly Fraser. This high-energy duo highlights the 23rd annual concert of New Hampshire’s premier traditional Scottish performance group in a concert that has become a yearly tradition for delighted New Hampshire audiences.

Kicking off at 2:30 Sunday afternoon, November 27 at the Concord City Auditorium, the concert stage again welcomes the Strathspey and Reel Society ensemble of fiddles, cellos, accordions, flutes/whistles/recorders, guitars and other instruments. Master of Ceremonies Jeremy Bell will guide the audience through a two-hour program of traditional music, dance, songs, and humor. Past attendees have described this event as “the best thing about the Thanksgiving weekend.”

This year’s Gala guest performers follow in the footsteps of dozens of major masters of the Scottish fiddle from Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. Kimberley Fraser, though still in her 20s, already has had a distinguished career. She has traveled the world, from Victoria to Afghanistan, performing at venues such as The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., bringing Cape Breton music with her wherever she goes. Dan MacDonald of the Cape Breton Post says about Fraser’s versatility, “She has matured to become one of the stellar players of the Cape Breton fiddle tradition, equally at home at a house party, playing for a square dance, or on stage for a concert in Bras d’Or or Boston, Scotsville, or Scotland.” Kimberley has shared the stage with the finest acts in Celtic music, such as Alasdair Fraser, Martin Hayes and Lunasa.

Andrea Beaton’s Cape Breton heritage starts with grandparents Donald Angus and Elizabeth Beaton and parents Kinnon and Betty Beaton, all of who are accomplished musicians. Her uncle Buddy MacMaster and cousin Natalie MacMaster have wowed generations of audiences. Her music is at once her own and deeply rooted in the tradition associated with the Mabou Coal Mines. And, like her father and grandfather, she is a composer in the tradition, adding fine new music to the island’s repertoire. Her first CD, “License to Drive ‘Er,” earned a nomination as Roots Traditional Solo Artist of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards. One recent listener mused about Andrea’s playing, “There’s something indefinable about music’s power to make people move. It’s nearly impossible to talk about it. But you know it when you hear it. And Andrea Beaton has it.”

Amazingly, these two fiddle masters find time to stay sharp with some of the most fantastic step-dance footwork that you will see anywhere in the U.S or Canada. They break into dance mode spontaneously and feed off each other’s energy.

Highland dance, whether a Fling, a Sword dance, or a Lilt, displays the grace and artistry of the Scots. This year’s Gala welcomes back the Highland dancers from the Calder School of Highland dancing. Highland dances may have originally signified a victory in battle, but today they showcase the dexterity and graceful skills of the dancer, and the Calder School’s dancers are some of New Hampshire’s finest.

Jeremy Bell calls himself simply “a man in a kilt.” But his exploits on stage, at whiskey tastings, and corporate events across the country have endeared him to thousands throughout the United States. Jeremy brings an irreverent Scottish sense of propriety, along with his unique brand of humor, to every event he hosts. He will surprise and delight you.

The magic of the 2011 Gala starts the minute you approach your seat this year with a pre-concert audience warm-up by Fellswater, a Boston-based Celtic performance group. Fresh off a turn on the stages of the New Hampshire Highland Games, Fellswater’s lively music will get you in the mood for the whirlwind that follows at 2:30.

Tickets prices for this year’s Gala remain unchanged from previous years and range from $20.00 ($22.00 at the door) to $10.00 ($12.00 at the door) depending on the location within the grand Concord City Auditorium. You can order your tickets here, or by calling (603) 673-5145.

☼ ☼ ☼ Peterborough 1st Saturday Contra Dance | Lisa Sieverts with the Sugar River Band

The Monadnock Folklore Society presents the Peterborough First Saturday Contra Dance on December 3, featuring Lisa Sieverts and the Sugar River Band — Jane, Francis and Russell Orzechowski.

Dancing begins at 8:00 PM, with a short workshop beforehand. Beginners and singles are welcome and all dances are taught throughout the evening. Admission is $8 or $6 for students and seniors. The dance takes place in the historic Town Hall in Peterborough, NH. For more information: (phone): (413) 369-4369; Email:

☼ ☼ ☼ Christmas Night Dance | Nelson Town Hall

It’s the 11th annual Christmas Night dance at the Nelson Town Hall. Amy Cann and Bob McQuillen will provide tunes with the normal Nelson variety of callers. Festivities begin at 8:00 pm. There will be a dessert potluck afterwards so bring treats. Admission is free — the Monadnock Folklore Society sponsors this dance as a gift to the community.

Once upon a time, in the town of Nelson, a wonderful tradition was born.

Ten years ago or so, the callers and dancers at a Monday Nite Contra Dance
realized that Christmas was going to fall on a Monday that year. Imagine
the dilemma! Nelson has always held a public contra dance on Monday nights.
If they were to skip Christmas, then the world record would end. Not
wishing to jeopardize the record, and wishing to see good friends and family
again, the tradition began!

It’s a Christmas night dance. It starts at the usual 8pm time. This year
Bob McQuillen will be on piano, Amy Cann will be on fiddle with plenty of
guest musicians and callers. It’s always a good night!

One year we had three feet of snow. But Bob McQuillen drove up for the
dance, Don Primrose showed up to call and there was a family visiting from
New York that wanted to dance on Christmas Day. We couldn’t get into the
hall because of the snow, so we moved the furniture from our living room and
Bob played his accordion. That night was my favorite of all the Christmas

This story about one of Nelson’s traditions was submitted by Val Van Meier.

☼ ☼ ☼ Contra Dance | Nelson | Mary Wesley ~ Caller | Music by Carey Bluhm, Max Nunnemaker, and Gordon Peery

Caller Mary Wesley
Caller Mary Wesley
The Monadnock Folklore Society presents the Nelson Second Saturday Contra Dance on December 10th, featuring Mary Wesley calling with Carey Bluhm, Max Nunnemaker and Gordon Peery.

Mary is one of the founding members of the Mad Robin Caller’s Collective in Burlington, VT, a group is dedicated to supporting young callers as they learn the contradance tradition. She is also an active board member of Young Tradition Vermont, a non-profit fostering youth involvement in traditional dance and music.

Dr. Carey Bluhm of Fitzwilliam mixes southern and northern fiddling styles with equal facility. Classically-trained saxophonist Max Nunnemaker will alternate between the horn and fretless bass, while Nelson’s own Gordon Peery provides piano accompaniment.

Dancing begins at 8:00 PM. Beginners and singles are welcome — there is a short orientation before the dance for early arrivals — and all dances are taught throughout the evening. Admission is $8, $6 for senior citizens and students. For more information call 603.762.0235 or visit The Monadnock Folklore Society has presented contradances and concerts of traditional music since 1982.

Contra Dance to Honor Rich Blazej | Guilford VT

As the Town of Guilford’s 250th anniversary year comes into its home stretch, so does the series of monthly dances that have been a constant feature of the celebration. The 11th dance is a special one, as it features both the dance steps and tunes of the late Richard D. Blazej of Guilford. The event takes place Saturday, November 12, beginning at 6:30 pm at Broadbrook Grange in Guilford Center. Admission is free with donations welcome.

Most contra dances feature traditional dances and tunes, so the evening is unusual in that both these elements will be the work of a known dancer and musician. Some of the traditional tunes and dances Rich loved to call will also be included. Blazej, who died in 2000, was multi-talented, as a carpenter, town meeting humorist, and particularly as a musician. He played clarinet, in venues ranging from marching bands and community concerts to farmer’s markets. But his favorite venue was as a contra dance musician, dancer, organizer and caller, at such venues as the Chelsea House, Green Street Sunday Night Dances, the Brattleboro Dawn Dance, Marlboro College, and throughout New England at festivals and weddings.

His tunes, which he self-published in book form, include reels, jigs, rags, and waltzes. Earlier in the 250th year, Blazej was celebrated as a composer when Friends of Music at Guilford premiered Guilford Dances, a suite of his dance tunes arranged for orchestra by Guilford composer Zeke Hecker.

Andy Davis, organizer of this event, reports that when it was announced that a tribute to Blazej would be held, many area musicians and callers wanted to be involved, so this dance will feature a larger-than-usual band and number of callers.

Musicians include: Alan Blood, Amy Cann, Laurie Indenbaum, and Jill Newton, fiddle; Dennis Waring, clarinet, whistle, bones, and alto sax; Wayne Lauden, trumpet, and hammer dulcimer; Mary Alice Amidon, piano and accordion; Peter Amidon, trombone and piano; Andy Davis, piano and accordion, Lucy Spahr-Blazej, guitar, and Ben James, drums.

Callers will include: Peter Amidon, Alan Blood, Fred Breunig, Amy Cann, Andy Davis, and Andy Toepfer.

As with the other dances in this series, admission is free with donations welcome, but on this occasion all donations at the door and at the refreshment window will appropriately be given to the Rich Blazej Music Fund at Guilford Central School. The fund was established just before Blazej’s death through the generosity of Guilford resident Gerry James, who himself passed away from cancer in 2010, and sustained through memorial donations, and is used to provide musical instruments to the school music program for ensembles, instruction and for band players for whom instrument rental might be difficult to afford.

Rich Blazej was very involved with the town’s K-8 school as a parent and volunteer, and was particularly interested in the music program.

This year’s dance series is supported, in part, by grants from the Brattleboro Dawn Dance Committee, in furtherance of social folk dancing in the area.