Contra Pulse interviews musicians about the past, present, and future of contra dance music.
Contra Pulse Panel - Mentors and Inspirations
1:30:00See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more. Or click here to download it directly.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.Here is a video of the panel discussion.To learn more about our panelists, you can see their websitesBecky TracyKate BarnesPete SutherlandRodney Miller
Episode 42 - Bill Tomczak
2:58:15The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are The Wail, the 1927 foxtrot by Carleton Coon/Joe Sanders (1927 foxtrot), performed by BLT on the 1987 cassette tape Music from Here and There, Now and Then, with Kate Barnes on piano, Mary Lea on violin, and Bill Tomczak on clarinet; Alabama Jubilee, performed live at the Guiding Star Grange by Ralph Sweet’s All-Starts (Ralph Sweet as the Caller, Lee Blackwell on drums, David Cantieni on alto sax, Stuart Kenney on acoustic bass, Dave Langford on fiddle, Ann Percival on guitar and backing vocals, Pete Sutherland on piano and backing vocals, Bill Tomczak on Tenor Sax and the Arranger) from the 2004 CD Shindig in the Barn; Red Haired Boy performed live at the 2001 Asheville Summer Soireé by The Latter Day Lizards, with Dave Langford on violin and fiddle strum, Bill Tomczak on clarinet, Kate Barnes on piano, harmonica, and Carol Hamm on acoustic bass.Log Cabin by The Latter Day Lizards from the 2007 CD Rainy Night in Montague with Dave Langford on fiddle, Bill Tomczak on tenor sax, Kate Barnes on piano, Stuart Kenney on acoustic bass; And Bethena the 1905 concert waltz by Scott Joplin, from BLT’s 1998 CD Gypsy Wine with Kate Barnes on piano, Mary Lea on violin, and Bill Tomczak on clarinet.See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more. Or click here to download it directly.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.See and hear Bill Tomczak in action:Visit Bill’s collection of contra dance articles at his Musaique website.Head over to The Latter Day Lizards website.To see the Latter Day Lizards playing, check out this video of them at the Atlanta Dance Weekend in 2012, and here you’ll see them playing at the Concord Scout House.See Bill play drum, clarinet, and saxophone at the 1994 Old Songs Folk FestivalHere’s Devil’s Dream/Opera Reel played by Bill, Pete Sutherland, and Bob McQuillen at the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend in 2004. Even though you can only hear Bill in this video, we couldn't resist sharing it because of the charming Bob McQuillen moment at the beginning!Watch BLT play Romany Polka at the 2017 Vintage Dance Weekend in Cincinnati.Check out this virtual concert with Bill in the Portland Megaband in 2021.Odds and ends mentioned in this interview:Visit the website for the Folk Arts Center of New England.One of the greatest carriers of the Scottish fiddle music tradition, Alasdair Fraser.Definitely check out the computer generated Harry Potter chapter, you’ll be glad you did!Vladimir’s Steamboat from Fiddle FeverFootage of the dance Vallimont’s Steamboat, played to a different tuneBig John McNeil from Fiddle Fever with multiple harmony parts and multiple modulations.Some folks mentioned in this episode have their own Contra Pulse episode. Check them out: Mary Lea, Kate Barnes
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Episode 41 - Keith Murphy
2:43:16The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are John Henry’s Reel/First Month of Summer/Bean A Ti Ar Lar/The Wild Irishman from Becky Tracy’s album Evergreen, Haapavesi/Wedding Dance from Assembly’s 2002 EP The January EP, Hills/Mulqueen’s from Nightingale’s 2004 album Three, Clamanda/Farewell To The Taliban from Keith Murphy’s 2005 album Bound for Canaan, SamSam Amidon/Good Morning To Your Night Cap from Childsplay’s 2009 album Waiting for the Dawn, and Barter’s Hill from Nightingale’s 2009 album Jolie.See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more. Or click here to download it directly.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.See and hear Keith Murphy in action!You can read more about Keith and his projects, and buy his albums and tune books at his Black Isle MusicWatch Keith Murphy and Hanneke Cassel perform “Clamanda" at Takoma Park, Maryland, in 2012. Learn more about Hanneke on her website.See Keith on piano with Nightingale during a 2008 contra dance in Tacoma. And here’s Nightingale at the Spring LEAF dance in 2010. You can check out Nightingale’s albums here.Here’s a video of Wild Asparagus playing at the Guiding Star Grange. You’ll see Keith on penny whistle at 1:55 and 4:38, and piano at 6:40 and 8:43. Here’s another video of Wild Asparagus, with Keith on the guitar.Here is a link to the 2004 album Other Side of the Tracks, by Assembly, and the 2002 EP The January EP. You can read more about Assembly here.Enjoy this video of Keith Murphy playing in Childsplay at The National Heritage Museum in 2007.Several of Keith’s tunes were used in Ken Burns’ documentary series on the Roosevelts. You’ll find them all in this episode! Fast forward to 1:43:48 to hear a poignant speech by Eleanor Roosevelt, leading into Keith Murphy’s tune, The Black Isle at 1:44:15.Keith has been the music director for the WGBH Boston Public Radio’s annual Celtic Sojourn St Patrick’s Day concerts since 2014. You can listen to the 2019 concert here, which features Keith!Odds and ends mentioned in this interviewTo hear more Scottish Dance music, check out this video of Bobby Brown and the Scottish Accent at the 2010 Ottawa Ball! And here you can listen to their recording of Kiss me quick, my Mither's coming / Bonny Jocky.Learn more about Scottish Accordion player Freeland Barbour who Keith played with at Pinewoods.Charlie Lennon was one of Keith’s influences for Irish style piano. Here’s a video of Charlie Lennon on piano with Sean McGuire on fiddle.Keith learned a lot about vamping styles and medleys from Susie Petrov.Visit Oliver Schroer’s website here, the great fiddle player who Keith played with.Learn more about fiddler Viveka Fox and flutist Chris Layer.Many folks mentioned in this interview have their own Contra Pulse episode: David Cantieni (part 1, part 2), George Marshall, Becky Tracy, and Jeremiah McLane.Listen to Kerry Elkin’s Soir Et Matin here.Here is a video of the Horse Flies at the 2009 Dance Flurry.
From the Mic Episode 1 - Phil Jamison
1:22:52In the debut episode of From the Mic we meet Phil Jamison of Asheville, North Carolina. Phil is nationally-known as a dance caller, old-time musician, and flatfoot dancer. He has called dances, performed, and taught at music festivals and dance events throughout the U.S. and overseas since the early 1970s, including over forty years as a member of the Green Grass Cloggers. His flatfoot dancing was featured in the film, Songcatcher, for which he also served as Traditional Dance consultant. From 1982 through 2004, he toured and played guitar with Ralph Blizard and the New Southern Ramblers. He also plays old-time fiddle and banjo.Over the last thirty years, Phil has done extensive research in the area of Appalachian dance, and his book Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance (University of Illinois Press, 2015) tells the story behind the square dances, step dances, reels, and other forms of dance practiced in southern Appalachia. A 2017 inductee to the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame, Phil teaches traditional music and dance at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, where for twenty-five years he served as coordinator of the Old-Time Music and Dance Week at the Swannanoa Gathering.Click here to download a transcript of this episode.Music and soundbites featured in this episode (in order of appearance):“Blizard Train” – “Blizard Train,” Ralph Blizard & the New Southern Ramblers (June Appal Records, 1989) Ralph Blizard (fiddle), Phil Jamison (guitar), Gordy Hinners (banjo), Andy Deaver (bass).Phil Jamison, Thomas Maupin, and friends flatfooting at the Clifftop festival in 2010Phil calling the Grapevine Twist square dance and a big set dance at the 2011 Dare to be Square in Brasstown, NCHistoric recordings from Phil (view the entire collection referenced in his book here):Mellie Dunham, "Chorus Jig" contra dance (1926)Samantha Bumgarner, calling a Southern (big ring) square dance to "Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss" (1924)Ernest Legg calling "Chase the Rabbit" square dance with the Kessinger Brothers playing "Devil's Dream" (1928)“Zai Na Yaoyuan De Difang” (In That Faraway Place) – “March Celebration: Chinese-Appalachian Collaborations,” Jenny & the Hog Drovers and Manhu (recorded in Shanghai, China, 2017) Maddy Mullany & Clarke Williams (fiddles), Phil Jamison (banjo), Hayden Holbert (guitar), Landon George (bass), Jin Hongmei (vocal)Watch a video of the group performing in ChinaOther LinksPhil's website, where you can also order his book, Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian DanceSquare 'em up! A Dare to be Square event is happening in Dumfries, Virginia, May 6 - 8, 2022!Crazy about squares? There is SO MUCH on the Square Dance History Project webpage.Phil was featured in a great episode of Radio Lab exploring the history of square dance called "Birdie in the Cage"You'll find some of Phil's writing on dance traditions here on his website
Episode 40 - Dave Langford
2:15:24The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are Hell Broke Loose in Georgia from The Latter Day Lizards’ 2002 album Sleeping on a Rock, Midnight on the Water from The Latter Day Lizards’ 2007 album Rainy Night in Montague, The Old Favorite/The Return from Paris from Childsplay’s 1994 album Twelve Gated City, Rainy Night in Montague from The Latter Day Lizards’ 2007 album Rainy Night in Montague, and Early June/Roscoe/Fiddler’s Dream from The Latter Day Lizards’ 2002 album Sleeping on a Rock. Of these tunes, Early June and Return from Paris were composed by Dave!See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more. Or click here to download it directly.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.See and hear Dave in action:Visit these links to learn more about Dave’sbands: Big Bandemonium, The Latter Day Lizards, Les Z Boys, Childsplay, and Stomp Rocket.Check out this video of Big Bandemonium in action at the guiding star grange, filmed by Ray Sebold. There are a lot of recognizable faces in this video, including Ralph Sweet! And here’s another Big Bandemonium video at the Portland Raindance 2011.See Dave play with Latter Day Lizards at the 2020 Contra Carnivale.Here’s a video of Dave playing with Supertrad, the Sam Bartlett and Eric Schedler duo.Here is a video of Dave playing with Childsplay at The National Heritage Museum in Lexington, MA. (At 6:23 you can hear Dave (off camera) play 4 beats and lead off the tune "Ways of the World.")You can see Dave playing with Stomp Rocket at the Portland Intown Contra Dance in 2018 in this video.Odds and ends mentioned in this interview:Several people Dave mentions have been on their own Contra Pulse episodes: Sam Bartlett, Kate Barnes, Becky Tracy, Larry UngerRalph Sweet’s Powder Mill Barn.Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia.Dave mentioned some of his teachers, and inspirations including Pete Sutherland, Liz Carroll, Johnny Gimble, Bruce Molsky, and Lisa Ornstein.Here is an article about fiddlemaker Bob Childs, who made Dave's fiddle.
Episode 39 - Becky Tracy
2:30:07The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are La fille dans le bois/Reel d’IIas Boudreault from Becky’s 2001 Solo CD Evergreen, Eugene O’Donnell/Bea Maye’s/Tuttle’s/Lady Ann Montgomery from Nightingale’s 1996 album Sometimes When the Moon is High, Chili and Chocolate from Eloise & Co.’s 2018 album More, Please, Big Reel/Rare from Wild Asparagus’ 2001 Wherever You Go recording, and Nobody’s Fool from Becky and Keith’s 2020 duo record Golden.See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more. Or click here to download it directly.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.See and hear Becky in action:To read more about Becky, check out the Black Isle Music website.Watch this video to see Becky and Keith play together.Read about Becky’s collaboration with Rachel Bell, Eloise & Co., on Rachel’s website.Here’s the band website for Wild Asparagus! Here’s a video of Nightingale playing at the New England Youth Theater in Brattleboro, VT in 2010.Becky mentions a tune that Nightingale played once, but couldn’t quite remember the name in the moment. That tune is Return to Camden Town! You can watch a video of Nightingale performing it at the Fiddling Frog Dance Festival in 2011, during a dance called by Sue Rosen!Becky’s 2001 solo album Evergreen.Odds and ends mentioned in this interview:Becky mentions a beautiful moment with the gospel singer Kathy Bullock. You can learn more about Kathy’s work on her website.Becky shares the nostalgia of her home dance hall, the Guiding Star Grange in Greenfield, Massachusetts.Learn more about the St. Croix dance weeks here!Becky and Julie mention George Marshall a few times throughout this conversation. Check out George’s episode on Contra Pulse here!Watch this video by Ray Sebold, where Becky plays fiddle with her Celtic music students at a benefit event for David Kaynor at the Guiding Star Grange.
Episode 38 - Dave Bartley
2:40:11The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are Ring Of Kohala by KGB on their album In From the Cold, Devil's Churn/Vladi On The Trans-Siberian/It's Too Hot from the Bag O' Tricks/Tricky Brits 2001 album Contra Dance And English Country Dance Music, Chimney Pond & Kirtan performed by Contra Sutra live at NW Folklife Festival 2017, To Sofia & The Reconciliation by KGB from the album Contra-Intelligence, Act With Agility by Roguery from the album A New Leaf, and Alpenglow by KGB from their album The Red Light of Evening.See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more. Or click here to download directly.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.More about Dave Bartley:Much to see on Dave’s own website, and you can also learn more about his many bands and musical projects on these sites:KGB - (Julie King, Claude Ginsburg, Dave Bartley)Contra Sutra - a contra dance band with Marni Rachmiel, Ryan McKasson or Brandon Vance, and a elite percussionist selected from a binder full of percussionists.Roguery - A versatile English (and contra) dance band with Anita Anderson, Shira Kammen, and Jim Oakden.Valse Café Orchestra - Viennese waltzes and other ballroom dance music from latin to swing.The Irish Experience, electric Celtic musicKeltoi, traditional music of Scotland and IrelandRouge, French cafe music featuring chanteuse extraordinaire Elle RayorSee and hear Dave in action:Recently Dave, Anita Anderson, and Ryan McKasson played Paddy Fahy’s #1 & Big John McNeil at the Lake City dance October 21, 2021 (N.B. masks were required for dancers, optional for musicians while on stage)With KGB:Banjo in a Bear Suit and Za in the Qi in the Glen Echo Bumper Car PavilionZahtar at the Ann Arbor Dawn Dance weekend 2012As MI-5, our ECD alter ego, playing Jack’s Maggot hambone in formal wearWith Contra Sutra:Growling Old Man and Woman & Dancing Bear from Butterfly Whirl 2018 from Dancing with the GODS 2020Play with Alacrity & Loud Hall from Dancing with the GODS 2020Vladi on the Trans-Siberian & The Dancers of Teeth from Dancing with the GODS 2020With Roguery:Love and All That Hijaz (for the dance Love Always), Ann Arbor Dawn Dance weekend 2013:A Flash of Vermilion (for the dance Ruby Crowned Kinglet), Hey Days 2018Other delightful bits:Dave wrote this lovely tune called “Remembering David” for David Kaynor. He shared the sheet music with us, which you can see hereDave plays classical guitar during the pandemic shutdown: Vals #3 in D major by Agustin Barrios MangoreA mid-80s composition from Dave called City RainRouge (also featuring Ruthie Dornfeld) from NW Folklife 2011, playing La Steppe by the Amestoy TrioPasatempo playing rebetika at a 2009 concert in Portland, OR.Some odds and ends mentioned in this interview:Sandy Silva’s incredible percussive dancing and her Migration Dance Film ProjectThe epic Princeton area mega-dance band Rum & Onions playing at the NEFFA FestivalDave is a big fan of the epic English and European style folk band Blowzabella
Episode 37 - Ben Smith
2:26:40The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are Waiting for Recovery and Indiana Summer from the Mean Lids album Prairie Summer, First Chance (feat. Nightingale) and Glory (feat. Mean Lids) from the DR Shadow album Electro Contra and the DR Shadow single Day at the Beech.See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more. Or click here to download the transcript directly.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.See and hear Ben Smith in action:Learn all about Ben’s amazing work as a digital-intermedia artist, composer, musician on his personal websiteAlso check out his main musical projectsThe Mean LidsHere the trio plays a contra dance at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC with caller Hank Morris in 2014And at Contrastock VI at Glen Echo in 2016Check out this west coast scene at the Epicenter Dance Weekend in Mill Valley, CA in 2019And here the Mean Lids play a beautiful set for their hometown radio station (104.5FM Live On The Scene with DJ BJ Clark) at the Rose Bowl Tavern in Urbana, Illinois in July, 2021D. R. ShadowD.R. Shadow performs at the Lake Eden-area Arts Festival (LEAF) in 2018And here he is playing a Live Electro Contra at the Indianapolis Grove Haus with Nealium.Some odds and ends mentioned in this interview:Ben made his mother cry by playing this tuneHe mentions the Sugar Hill dance weekend in Bloomington, IN, as an important venue and event for the Mean LidsIthaca Roots:Ben’s early mentor, Marty Blodgett of Ithaca, NY is seen here playing jazz fiddle at The Commons Bookstore in IthacaHere’s a recording from the Ithaca based band Cletus and the Barn Burners, an early influence of Ben’sYou can hear this radio interview and performance with Ben’s early duo, Prairie Chicken Asylum with Matt Turino before Miriam Larson joined them to form the Mean Lids
Episode 36 - Anita Anderson
1:32:03The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are MacPherson Strut, Coriolis/Midnight Couchette/Brushfire/Myra’s and April Storm/Kate and Roses from Bag ‘o Tricks’ self-titled album, and Gray Jay from Roguery’s CD #6. See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more. Or click to download the transcript directly.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.See and hear Anita Anderson in action:Here are two clips from one of Anita’s most recent gigs, a masked/vaxxed, in-person Lake City Contra Dance in Seattle! She’s playing with Ryan McKasson and Dave Bartley.Clip #1Clip #2 - Band close-up!Here she is playing at Seattle’s first gender-free Rainbow Contra Dance with Susan Burke and Marni Rachmiel in 2011Anita frequently plays with Dave Bartley, Sande Gillette, and Betsy Cooper in the ECD band the “Tricky Brits” and the same group’s contra counterpart, “Bag o' Tricks.” Learn more about their recordings here.Anita is also an anchor in the west coast ECD scene; along with the Tricky Brits she also plays with the ECD group Roguery (Anita, Dave Bartley, Shira Kammen and Jim Oakden)Here they are at the Seattle Ball in 2017And again at Hey Days in 2018Roguery has recorded six CDs, which accompany Brooke Friendly and Chris Sackett’s six published collections of Scottish and English Country DancesOther recordings played in this episodeJulie and Anita play excerpts from the following tracks in this episode:Father Charlie’s/Frankie’s Tune from the album Hand it Down by Bob McQuillen, Laurie Andres, Cathie WhitesidesSoulmate from Rodney Miller’s Airplang
Episode 35 - Sue Songer
2:27:14The intro and interstitial tracks from today’s episode are The Black Cat Jig/Asher (George Penk, fiddle; Clyde Curley, mandolin; Sue Songer, piano) from A Portland Selection 1, Riding on a Load of Hay/The Golden Stud © Paul Roche and recorded virtually by The Portland Megaband, Pretty Peggy (George Penk, fiddle; Clyde Curley, octave mandolin; Sue Songer, piano) from A Portland Selection 1, and Du Petit Sarny (Betsy Branch, fiddle; Clyde Curley, mandolin; Sue Songer, piano) from A Portland Play Along Selection.See the Contra Pulse website for transcripts and more. Or download the transcript directly.And the Country Dance and Song Society for information about Contra and English country dance across the continent.See and hear Sue Songer in action:Playing piano with her longtime band Joyride (Sue Songer, Erik Weberg, George Penk, and Jeff Kerssen-Griepat) the Portland Roadhouse during the Cascade Promenade in March, 2018.Another Joyride video with Sue playing fiddle during the Northwest Folklife Festival in 2017Here is the Joyride websiteYou can’t say Sue Songer without immediately thinking of The Portland Megaband.Watch her conduct the band at a Portland dance in 2013, filmed by Doug PlummerYou don’t want to miss the epic pandemic era Megaband video that Sue helped organize in March, 2021 (Sue is of course in her signature tux ;)Sometimes she also helps organize and conduct other community bands!The Pittsfield Open Band in Ann Arbor, MI in 2018Here’s the South Coast Dance Orchestra (OR) in 2017, a project of the South Coast Folk Society A Lifetime of Achievements! In 2019 CDSS awarded Sue the Lifetime Contribution Award for her contributions to the world of contra dance music!Doug Plummer captured some highlights from the celebratory gathering in Portland, OR on 3/30/19 during which Sue’s award was presented.Rob Hoffman also created a longer video of the full ceremony, which you can view here.PublicationsAlong with her co-editor, Clyde Curley, Sue helped to compile the three volumes of The Portland Collection: Contra Dance Music in the Pacific Northwest. In the podcast you heard selections from some of the accompanying CDs.Sue’s most recent publication, David A. Kaynor: Living Music and Dance encompasses and celebrates the many contributions David has made to the world of contra dance. Order your copy here!Here’s the screen shot showing Kaynor’s calligraphy mentioned in the interview