Playing with Drama – Music Workshop with Gordon Peery

The Strathspey and Reel Society of New Hampshire has regular “gatherings” of it’s members, and occasional offers workshops which are open to the public.  This workshop is in the Community Room of the Concord Community Music School, Concord, NH.  Address is 23 Wall St., but use the Fayette St. entrance. This workshop runs until about 2:30.

In all genres of music, there is an opportunity for what might be called theatrical expression – the conveyance of emotion that goes beyond the mere notes. This can be suggested in written music by dynamic indicators, and arrangements of harmonies and voicing. But truly dramatic playing comes from spontaneous execution, and spontaneous response to such execution, which leaves listeners feeling that the piece has never quite been rendered that way before, and never will be again.

Traditional music, which in many cases was created without specific musical notation detail, and without specifically designated instrumentation, lends itself to exploration of dramatic playing. In this workshop we will spend the first half playing pieces which the attendees are likely to be familiar with, experimenting with various rhythmic devices ranging from tapping instruments to create a percussive background, to playing just the opening notes of each measure, and more. The second half of the workshop will be an experiment in finding harmonies.

Music readers will be encouraged not to rely on written harmonies, but to listen to the melody and use instincts to make note choices. Possible a short third half (as it were) of the workshop will combine the rhythm and harmony explorations.

The tunes which we will be working with will be drawn from the following (we cannot guarantee that we will get to every tune).

February 2012 Workshop Tunes (PDF)

Flowers of Edinburgh

De’il Among the Tailors

Scotland the Brave

Campbell’s Return

Glencoe (Cape Breton)

The Marquis of Huntly’s Highland Fling

Lady Madeline Sinclair

Niel Gow’s Lament on the Death of His 2nd Wife

Amelia’s Waltz


Pianist Gordon Peery has been playing traditional NewEngland contra dance music since the mid-1970s.  Of course, his early mentoring came from Bob McQuillen, who remains a source of inspiration.  Another early (and continuing) influence is fiddler Harvey Tolman, a former SRSNH member and one of New England’s great Cape Breton-style players . Gordon’s interests run the full gamut of New England music: Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, French Canadian, and the recent repertoire of contemporary tunes.  He was the piano player for the band Fresh Fish, which featured the fiddling of the late Kerry Elkin: that band toured throughout the United States and was one of the most popular contra dance bands in the country between 1985 and 1995.  Also during that time he played with the New Hampshire Fiddlers Union, comprised of fiddlers Rodney Miller, Randy Miller, and Skip Gorman. That group performed at the 10th annual Shetland Folk Festival. He continues to play with all three of those fiddlers individually. Current bands include Celticladda, with Randy Miller on fiddle and Bill Thomas on Uilleann pipes and flute, and Trip to Nelson – a group of young musicians featuring Perin Ellsworth-Heller, Matt Garland, Lizza Backes, andRichard Backes. Gordon lives in Nelson, NH, contra dance capital of the world.