Monadnock Folklore Society Receives NH State Grant

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
More information about Ralph Page at
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.

Folknotes: October

itunesIn the last Folknotes we talked about the popularity of folk music in the early 1960’s. We noted the fact that the British invasion of rock and roll marked the beginning of a decline in this popularity, and cited a recent Pew Research Center survey that didn’t even include folk as a category.

Shortly after we wrote this article Mary Traverse died, and even mainstream media published stories about how Peter, Paul and Mary had been instrumental (as well as vocal) in making folk music more popular, and most articles also referenced the subsequent decline.

Also, at just about this time, I downloaded the most recent version of iTunes, and was surprised to see that on iTunes radio, “Folk” was no longer offered as a category. I was eventually able to find my favorite station, WUMB, listed under college radio, but I got the message: Apple (a very innovative trend-setter) no longer considered folk music to be significant enough to have a place of its own. Read more

☼ ☼ ☼ Nelson Solstice Party | Nelson Town Hall


On Saturday, December 19 we’ll hold our Annual Solstice Party starting at 7:00 PM. The Monadnock Folklore Society brings this community event to the Nelson Town Hall each year, admission is $5, and treats are appreciated for the dessert potluck. This year the evening will begin with a holiday concert featuring a selection of traditional and original seasonal music; as part of the concert 2009 Johnny Trombly Scholarship recipient  Perin Ellsworth-Heller will entertain us with his musicianship. The Folklore Society invites you to bring along your favorite holiday dessert and we’ll supply the beverages for the intermission. After the concert the chairs and benches are cleared to make way for a traditional New England Contradance. Unfortunately, or not, the dance is often interrupted by various groups of unsavory characters presenting their idea of seasonal entertainment. These diversions,  sometimes involving costumed individuals making complete fools of themselves or performing ancient ritual dances to help us through this dark time of the year, are generally tolerated as once they are applauded and fed we can return to dancing the night away.

☼ ☼ ☼ Nowell Sing We Clear | Dublin


One of our Annual Seasonal Extravaganzas!

Not to be missed!

Friday, December 11 at 8:00 PM at the Dublin Community Church. $15/$12(senior, youth)

Advance reservations closed. First come first served at the door. Come early as this may be a sell-out. Doors open @ 7:15 PM.

This will be the thirty-fifth touring season of Nowell Sing We Clear with its unusual songs, carols, stories, and customs. Drawn mostly from English-language folk traditions, the songs tell both a version of the events and characters involved in the Christmas story and detail the customs which make up the twelve magical days following the return of the light at the winter solstice. Many of these ancient customs are the basis of the today’s holiday traditions, such as visiting and feasting, gift-giving, carol singing from door-to-door and the adorning of houses and churches with garlands of evergreen.

Nowell Sing We Clear celebrates Christmas as it was known for centuries in Britain and North America and as it continues in many places to the present.  The songs come from an age when the midwinter season was a time for joyous celebration and vigorous expression of older, perhaps pagan, religious ideas. There is not always a clear line between these and the rejoicing at the birth of Jesus bringing a fresh light into the world at this dark midwinter time. A special and unusual treat is the enactment of a Mummers Play from Kentucky.  Performed in the traditional manner, the play is typical of folk dramas which survive to this day throughout Britain and North America symbolizing and portraying the death of the land at midwinter and its subsequent rebirth in the spring.

While much of the singing is done in unaccompanied style, the pageant is also stamped with the energetic dance band sound of fiddle, button accordion, electric piano, drums, and concertina.  The audience will be supplied with songsheets and encouraged to sing along, though after three decades of touring in New England, a whole generation of young people have grown up with these songs and carols and sing along with as much as they can. Some “new”, that is “different”, songs and carols are introduced every year.  Performers are John Roberts and Tony Barrand, widely known for their lively presentations of English folk songs, and Fred Breunig and Andy Davis, well known in New England as dance callers and musicians.

Nowell Sing We Clear has become a regular part of some communities on the Eastern seaboard.  The group has several recordings of songs from the show which have been popular items in many households at this time of year. Their CDs are drawn from songs learned for their concerts: The newest is Just Say Nowell, Hail Smiling Morn has a cover designed by famous Vermont artist, Mary Azarian, and Nowell SingWe Four.The first three LP recordings are all well represented on a compact disk, The Best of Nowell: 1976 – 1985 All recordings are available from Golden Hind Records.

☼ ☼ ☼ Contra Dance | Nelson | Adina Gordon ~ caller | Music by Celticladda

Nelson Town Hall

Workshop 7:30

Dancing 8 – 11:30

Admission $8 / $6 seniors, students

Download the poster

Adina Gordon
Adina Gordon

Adina Gordon is one of the most well traveled callers in the United States. She teaches with clarity and precision, and her style is so relaxed you almost don’t know she’s telling you what to do, until you realize you’ve done it.

Dance to the high energy infusions of Celticladda, featuring Randy Miller on fiddle, Gordon Peery on piano, and special guest David Cantieni (Wild Asparagus) on woodwinds.

Randy Miller & Gordon Peery
Randy Miller and Gordon Peery
David Cantieni
David Cantieni

☼ ☼ ☼ John McCutcheon | Nelson Town Hall


John McCutcheon appears in a solo concert at the Nelson Town Hall on Friday, July 10, 8:00 PM. Admission is $18/$15(senior, youth).

John McCutcheon wasn’t supposed to become a folksinger.  He was headed for a lucrative career as a social worker in migrant labor camps.  But Woody Guthrie got there first.  He heard the songs of the Dust Bowl refugees, the Grapes of Wrath stories that crackled on the airwaves of early 1960s radio and knew something else was going on.  While still a college student, the oldest of a large Irish Catholic family, John took up the banjo “to help keep myself sane” and went off the deep end.  He heard recordings of Roscoe Holcomb and Clarence Ashley, walked out to the end of the college road, stuck out his thumb and never looked back.

He ended up roaming the Appalachians, trading a university classroom for the front porches, picket lines, union halls, churches, and square dance barns of his adopted home.  Under the tutelage of some of the greats of traditional Southern music he quickly mastered seven different instruments, became an insightful and powerful singer of traditional songs, and honed an ear for a good story.  Songwriting, storytelling, social activism all met and finally made sense.

From this series of chance beginnings John McCutcheon has become what one Australian paper called “the most overwhelming folk performer in the English language.”  His mastery of American folk music and instruments, complemented by “storytelling that has the richness of fine literature” (Washington Post) weave intimate, insightful and often hilarious canvasses on which McCutcheon draws his vision of Americana.  His songwriting, rich in detail and broad in scope, have created a catalog of hundreds of songs covered by performers throughout the world.  His classic Christmas in the Trenches has been repeatedly cited as “the greatest anti-war song ever written” and is the subject of an annual, coast-to-coast special on CBC.

His concerts are international sold-out hits from Russia … where Pravda noted “McCutcheon … is the most versatile and compelling performer this reviewer has ever seen”… to Dallas …“calling John McCutcheon a ‘folksinger’ is like saying Deion Sanders is just a football player …” Dallas Morning News.  Critics reserve their most lavish praise for his mastery of the rare and beautiful hammer dulcimer, an instrument on which he is an undisputed world master.

Equally at home in the recording studio, John has produced over twenty-five albums in as many years.  He has garnered an amazing five consecutive Grammy nominations, been awarded every imaginable award in the independent record industry, been featured on public radio throughout the world, and brought joy to millions of listeners from Seattle to Sydney.  Additionally he has produced documentary and educational recordings, written for numerous publications, authored children’s books, chaired literacy campaigns, championed grassroots organizations throughout the world, promoted international musicians, and is even currently the president of the most innovative and fastest growing local in the musicians union.

☼ ☼ ☼ Kimberley Fraser | Mark Simos | Nelson Town Hall

MFS presents Kimberley Fraser with special guest Mark Simos at the Nelson Town Hall on Saturday, May 16th, 2009, at 8:00 PM

$10/$8 (Sr/Jr)


Kimberley Fraser will present an evening of Cape Breton music at the Nelson Town Hall On May 16, 2009 at 8:00 PM.

Kimberley Fraser was born on Cape Breton Island, and nurtured within its rich musical heritage. She first began to impress audiences at the age of three with her step-dancing talents. Soon after that she took up both the fiddle and the piano. Like many in Cape Breton, music is not new to Kimberley’s family. She proudly owns the fiddle of her great great grandfather, spanning the musical tradition within her family over a hundred years.

Though still in her early 20s, Kimberley’s career is already a distinguished one. She has traveled the world, from Victoria to Afghanistan, bringing Cape Breton music with her wherever she goes. Dan MacDonald of the Cape Breton Post says this 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.” She has played with Cape Breton’s finest, including Ashley MacIsaac, Natalie MacMaster, Gordie Sampson and the late John Allan Cameron. Internationally, Kimberley has shared the stage with such notables as Alasdair Fraser, Lunasa and Martin Hayes. Kimberley is also in demand for her piano skills, accompanying various Cape Breton fiddlers at home and abroad. She had the honour of being the pianist for the acclaimed Irish musical group, Cherish the Ladies, during their tour of Sweden in May of 2004. Her impact upon the music of Cape Breton has not gone unrecognized. In 2000, Kimberley received the Tic Butler award for significant contribution to Cape Breton culture.

Kimberley’s latest accomplishment includes the release of her second studio album, Falling on New Ground, that won the 2008 East Coast Music Award for best Roots/Tradtional Album of the Year. This self-produced album reflects on her experiences and growth as a musician since the release of her first studio album Heart Behind the Bow in 2000. She is backed by the highest caliber of musicians such as Cape Bretoners Tracey Dares MacNeil, Sheumas MacNeil, Troy MacGillivray, Stephanie Wills, Brian Doyle, and Gordie Sampson as well as Halifax guitarist, Dave MacIsaac and the acclaimed Montreal Jazz drummer, Richard Irwin. Kimberley also recruited much sought after international musicians such as Irish flutist Nuala Kennedy and banjo player Damian Helliwell of Scotland, as well as the duo of Harald Haugaard and Morten Alfred Hoiup of Denmark. These musicians represent just a small portion of the many musical friends Kimberley has made during her travels. Falling on New Ground demonstrates Kimberley’s many talents and versatility. Each track of the album brings something new to the listener, from the exciting variations on “Mason’s Apron” to the soulful jazz influenced piano solo, “The Braes of Auchtertyre”. Kimberley’s ability to combine traditional music with a fresh approach has “Falling on New Ground” truly fall onto new ground.

☼ ☼ ☼ English County Dance | Nelson | David Millstone ~ caller, Thal Aylward ~ fiddle, Carol Compton ~ piano

On Sunday, March 1, MFS presents an English Country Dance at the Nelson Town Hall. David Millstone, Carol Compton, and Thal Aylward will provide calling and music.

This event will be an introduction to the pleasures of English Country Dance and is designed for both contra dancers and experienced English dancers. All are welcome and no partner is required. Bring clean shoes to protect the floor.

1:00 – 4:00 PM

Admission: $10

David Millstone, Lebanon, NH, started contra dancing in the early 1970s and
became an enthusiastic English country dancer starting in 1987. He has been a
caller of American dance for thirty years and English country dancing for about
half as long.

He helped start the Strafford (VT) Ball, a Playford country dance event, and he
helps set the program each year for that event. He leads a regular English
country dance series in the Upper Valley region of New Hampshire and Vermont and
he has shared his love of English country dance at such varied venues as
Pinewoods, the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC, the regular
English dance series in Boston, the Brattleboro Dawn Dance, balls in upstate New
York, and in such far-flung locations as Atlanta, New Mexico, Winnipeg, and
Copenhagen. In addition to leading sessions for experienced dancers, he has
enjoyed introducing English country dances at international folk dance camps, to
groups of hard-core contra dancers, and with dancers in such overseas locations
as Prague and Zurich.

An elementary school teacher for thirty years, he’s known for his broad
repertoire, good sense of humor, and clear instructions. He enjoys mixing older
dances (both familiar and less well known) with contemporary compositions.

Millstone is also a dance historian and videographer who has completed
documentaries about Bob McQuillen, Dudley Laufman, and Ralph Sweet; he is
co-author of Cracking Chestnuts, a look at some classic contra dances, being
published by Country Dance and Song Society. He was a member of the CDSS
Governing Board for six years.