In some respects November conjures up an image of things winding down. At least here in New England, the earth is getting ready for a long winter’s nap, and outside chores that did not get done are mostly going to wait til spring. But though we might wish to slow down a bit, perhaps even hibernate, most of us remain busy. To balance our work, we find comfort in cozy gatherings of friends, and in the warmth of music and dance.
The activities of the Monadnock Folklore Society represent just a small part of the region’s rich cultural environment, but we are quite proud of the quality of what we do in helping to uncover and present diverse entertaing and enriching events. A recent example was the October 19th Coffeehouse, which featured The Cold River Ranters. The Ranters have been playing together for just a couple of years, though they convey an ease of performing that might fool you into thinking it had been decades. I was immediately struck by their expressiveness, and over the course of several songs found myself enriched by the energy of their performance and the diversity of their repertoire.
The band’s instrumentation is extensive. Duncan McElroy, the band’s alto sax/clarinet player was unable to be at this performance, so we didn’t even get the full treatment, but there was still quite an array of instruments. I had seen jugs played before – heavy ceramic numbers that produced an airy resonance something like an anemic train whistle. But here was a tin jug – which appeared to be a two-gallon galvanized gas can such as you might find at Jack’s Hardware in Keene (or Edmunds in Antrim). It was played to great effect by Tom “Jawbone” who, in spite of the modest volume, managed to produce a solid bass line with it. Tom also plays tenor banjo, small pipes, jaw harp, bones, and cow jaw bone, and sings! Jonathan Reinhardt is the band’s mandolin player and also takes lead on some of the vocals. Anita Carroll-Weldon plays a uniquely-styled washboard (see picture) and accordion. Rounding out the lineup is Erik Walker on resonator guitar, bass, and an adaptation of a gopichand (see picture), an Indian instrument used by traveling spiritual troubadours.
The Ranters are inspired by all folk cultures, and in particular India, Africa, and the Caribbean, as well as black southern, and white Apallachian folk music. They also play Breton and Irish tunes, and some contemporary numbers by the likes of the Rolling Stones and Van Morrison. They use the terms “folk-primitive-jive” and “hot gonzo” to describe it. All of this would mean nothing if the band members did not convey an infectious enthusiasm, which instantly engaged the audience and has inspired talk of a full concert engagement.
Meanwhile there’s plenty on tap for November. The second-Saturday Nelson dance welcomes Washington, DC-area caller Bob Isaacs to the Nelson Town Hall on November 8th. Jessie Gagne-Hall will drive the fiddle, and yours truly on the piano. If you’re new to contra dancing, show up at 7:30 and Bob will provide some tips on the basics. If you’re an experienced dancer who hasn’t yet come to this dance series (it’s been going just over a year), you’ll find plenty of energy and enthusiasm (as you might expect in Nelson).
There might not be dancing, but you’ll surely feel your feet tapping when you come to the Annalivia concert on Friday, November 21. This is a return engagement for this hip alt-traditional acoustic band, and we are thrilled to have them back. Fiddler Brendan Carey Block is now joined by fiddler Emerald Rae, both brilliant and versatile musicians with a strong Cape Breton orientation. Celebrated singer Liz Simmons leads the vocals, with rhythm (and more) provided by Flynn Cohen on guitar and Stuart Kenney on bass and banjo. This will be a great evening and we encourage you to get your tickets now. You can read a review of their new CD Annalivia, and also hear a little sampler:
Looking ahead to December: dances of course in Peterborough and Nelson, and on December 5th, the annual tradition of Nowell Sing We Clear (presented in the Dublin Church). On December 20th, the annual Nelson Solstice Party, which is surely one of the social highlights of the year, and which promises to include the usual surprise interruption.
And if you don’t yet have plans for New Year’s eve, there’s a great potluck and dance in the Nelson Town Hall with Harvey Tolman and friends.
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