FolkNotes: September

The Rhythm Rollers are a west coast band, but with a special attachment to New England contra dance music, and  notably (pun intended) for the “piano playing of Bob McQuillen, the tunes he has written, his relentless encouragement, and his jokes.”

Their new recording, Grand Right and Left, features none other than the man himself on the ivories, Cathie Whitesides on fiddle, Laurie Andres, accordion, and WB Reid on banjo-guitar (that would be a guitar in a banjo body), regular guitar, and fiddle.

Joy Abounds! Of course it’s impossible to hear McQuillen playing the piano without cracking a smile that invokes awareness of some higher power. But two additional components stand out on this recording. Laurie’s accordion playing gets right to the point. He’s capable of intricate playing, but he does not flaunt his skill – he stays right on message. Yet underneath it all is a lilting energy – just the kind of thing to make you want to leap up into the air. The other thing that stuck me on this album is the sound of the banjo-guitar. Though it is a different instrument than what Pete Colby played, and though there’s no noticeable effort to emulate the unique playing of Bob’s late beloved band mate, it still somehow evokes his memory – a truly honest tribute, and one which is manifest most profoundly in the rendering of “Pete’s March”, which Bob wrote in 1979. Of course these details would mean nothing without having a top-notch fiddler on board, and Cathie does the job very nicely.

There are several other McQuillen compositions here, including two lovely waltzes, “O’Donnel’s Waltz” and the final cut on the album, “Zora’s Waltz”. Most of the other tunes are from the traditional repertoire. My two favorites are “Kohler’s”, a Cape Breton tune with a B part that nods to “Pachelbel’s Canon”, and “Quindaro”, which has always seemed like the quintessential (or is it quindessential New England tune. More info about this recording at The Rhythm Roller’s Website.

A couple of months ago Lisa Sieverts wrote a piece published here called Dancing in My Parent’s Footsteps. We included a photograph of several musicians in the Nelson Town Hall, and at press time we were only able to identify the caller, Larry Picket. David Millstone took it on himself to find out who the others were, and we now know that the guitar player on the left was Roger DesJardin. The other guitar player we only know as “Chamberlain” from Hillsboro or Henniker. On the fiddle is Dick Richardson, who was identified by his daughter, Corrine Nash. The piano player may be Linwood Paine, of Westmoreland. Thanks for the research David!

We also recently noted the illness of Marianne Taylor, and are saddened to report that she passed away on August 19th. Marianne was a central figure in both the New England contra dance and New England Scottish music scenes. She was dearly loved and appreciated, and will be missed. There are also some wonderful memories shared on the website of the Strathspey and Reel Society of New Hampshire.

We are very excited to be presenting a concert with Libana on Sunday, September 21st, at 7:00 p.m. Libana first performed in Nelson about twenty years ago. Their music ranges from exquisite Balkan harmonies to the rooted pulses of Latin American rhythms, from hauntingly beautiful sounds of Slav music from Hungary to a riveting ritual exorcism dance with percussion from Egypt – all woven into a collage of shifting colors and rhythms. We hope you can join us for what is sure to be an amazing and heart-warming concert. [More info and tickets]

This month marks a full year that we’ve launched this website.  In addition to the monthly FolkNotes (excepting August, when we gave ourselves the month off) we’ve also been fortunate to have Randy Miller and others providing supplemental articles. We have goals, both short and long term, for improving the site, and welcome your suggestions. Coming soon: more photos from MFS events. At this time we are also looking for an “intern”, someone who would be willing to help us with adding calendar listings (we include all folk-related events in the Monadnock Region, not just MFS events), and updating other content on the site. In most cases this would just involve a few minutes every week or two, and it is an interesting way to develop a better understanding of the back end of the web site. Please contact us if you are interested.

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