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.