The Monadnock Folklore Society presents the Nelson Second Saturday Contra Dance on May 14th, featuring Nils Fredland calling with Harvey Tolman on fiddle and Bob McQuillen on piano.
Attending the many dances and house parties in the area throughout the 1950s, Harvey Tolman was exposed to the music of many fine musicians—most notably fiddler, painter, and violin maker Albert Quigley. Quigley had a huge impact on young Tolman and gave him not only inspiration but also his first fiddle. Despite this influence, Tolman wasn’t completely won over to traditional music until he and some friends traveled down to Boston in 1960 to the annual Scottish Games. There, he heard Cape Breton fiddle music for the first time. The music touched him deeply: combining, as it did, the potential for solo performance that he’d always loved, and the possibility for a community of fellow musicians.
In 1980, Tolman found another opportunity to share his love of music. Musician and dance caller Peter Temple started a weekly contra dance in Harrisville, just down the road from Nelson. When his “regular” fiddler couldn’t play, Temple came to Tolman and asked if he would stand in. Shy about playing for a dance, Tolman said that he would do his best. Thirty-one years later, Tolman’s fiddling still anchors the music at the “Monday Night Dance” which moved to Nelson in 1984.
Bob McQuillen, pianist and accordion player, has held a central position in the contra scene for more than 60 years. Although his grandfather played accordion and his father played the piano, McQuillen did not turn seriously to music until he returned from service as a Marine during World War II. Some friends took him to a local dance, and he became interested in playing the accordion. He continued his day job teaching industrial arts at Con-Val High School in Peterborough, New Hampshire, but also began playing accordion and piano for dances throughout the region, working with the legendary contra dance caller and historian, Ralph Page. In 1973, McQuillen wrote his first tune, Scotty O’Neil, named for a student who died. Since then, he has written more than 1,400 dance tunes. Still, it appears that his greatest joy comes from what he sometimes modestly calls “boom chucking,” providing the propulsive rhythms for a contra dance band that set feet and bodies moving on the dance floor.
Harvey Tolman and Bob McQuillen are both recipients of the New Hampshire Council on the Arts Folk Heritage Award. Bob is also the 2002 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship and the 2009 Lifetime Contribution Award from the Country Dance and Song Society.
A young dance caller, Nils Fredland has been making music, leading dances, and bringing people together for 20 years as a teacher; singer; instrumentalist; contra, square, and community dance leader; and workshop leader. He shares his skill, charisma, grace and goofiness with contra dancers coast to coast every weekend. He is known for his technical skill, disarming friendliness, comfortable stage presence, and soothing voice.
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 Nelson, NH. For more information call 603.762.0235.