Folknotes: February

The hills are alive with the sound of folk music. From town halls, church basements, bars and restaurants, to living rooms and kitchens, people are satisfying their yearning to play and sing. This is nothing new: music is a very primal instinct that demands fulfillment. But it is exciting to look around and see the ways that this is happening in our time, and in our place.

I recently attended a meeting of the NH Acoustic Music Forum, which is the working title of an organization, comprised largely of musicians, looking for ways to help other musicians, audiences, and venues connect more effectively. This movement has its origins in the Seacoast area, but the intention is to serve the entire state. There is currently a simple-but-to-the-point site at (which may become the official name of the organization). The group plans to meet again soon, probably up north, but the core individuals are keenly (pun intended) aware of what’s going on in the Monadnock Region, and are planning to make a more formal connection over this way soon.

Satellite images of Peterborough on the evening of Saturday, January 26th must have shown some unusual intensity. The Snow Ball (a day-long contra dance sponsored by the Monadnock Folklore Society) drew an unprecedented crowd of dancers (10 sets were reported at one point!) to the Peterborough Town House. Vance Gilbert and Ellis Paul were performing for the Peterborough Folk Music Society up at the Peterborough Players. Over at the library, there was the first Peterborough Fiddles Event. Organized by (now local) musician extraordinaire Flynn Cohen, this new monthly program features a fiddler, focusing on a particular genre, doing an hour-long workshop. Then, following a brief social time, an hour-long concert, and finally, a session. January featured Sarah Blair, one of New England’s finest fiddlers in the Irish tradition,who hails from Montpelier Vermont. Next month: Rodney Miller (February 22). Flynn informs us that while players of any instrument are welcome with their instruments, the teaching will be focused exclusively on fiddle playing.

It’s amazing how many people want to play tunes. Leslie Vogel (known, among other things, as the keyboard and accordion player for the band Tattoo) has formed the Youth and Community Fiddle Orchestra. The group is currently comprised of about 18 people – mostly but not exclusively teenagers. [Read more about the Fiddle Orchestra]

In Nelson, every Monday before the contra dance there is a slow jam, led (most democratically) by Lisa Sieverts. Fiddles, mandolins, guitars, recorders and more come out of the woodwork to play the New England contra dance repertoire at a tempo that is comfortable for beginners (but not unsatisfying for more experienced musicians as well). Come by the Nelson Town Hall at 7:00 to play, or just listen to the tunes.

There is at least one weekly gathering that rotates among individuals homes (these tend to be publicized more subtly, since capacity is limited, so you’ll need to find these by talking to other musicians). There is ongoing discussion about finding a new venue for the short-lived Thursday night gathering that occurred at the Union Mill in West Peterborough, which closed last fall (rumors of the possible re-opening of the Mill are circulating and will be reported here when they gain more substance).

There’s also a monthly shape-note singing event, open to the public. This Peterborough-based activity occurs in rotating venues – we’ll be updating this page shortly with more information, and will also be including this in the calendar listings.

Starting Sunday, February 10th, the Monadnock Folklore Society will be sponsoring an “open mic” coffeehouse in the Nelson Town Hall. MFS will engage some core musicians to provide a foundation, but the evenings will be open to anyone who wants to perform. Join us at 6:00 – bring some refreshments if you want. This month’s core performers: Alouette Iselin, Kim Wallach, Alison Aldrich & Hunt Smith, Gordon and Spencer Peery.

Folks attending this coffee house, as well as future MFS concerts and dances in Nelson, have an added treat in store. We have recently purchased a new state-of-the-art Bose sound system which provides much more natural sound reinforcement for the Town Hall. The next time you’re at a concert or dance, if you don’t notice the sound amplification – well, that’s the intention.

We are particularly pleased to announce that starting next week, we will be posing a monthly column from Randy Miller. Randy is well known as a fiddler, publisher of tune books, and an artist. He is equally gifted with words, and is very knowledgeable about New England folk life and traditions. We’ve given him carte blanche on subject matter, and are honored and excited to have his contributions.

As always, through this Web site we welcome your comments, suggestions, and ideas for content. Write to us. and let us know what you think.

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