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Musicians and Callers on The Art of Contra Dance Music and Calling


Beth Molaro

The biggest complaint dance organizers hear about callers, is confusing walk-throughs and/or lengthy walk-throughs. Beth Molaro shares her thoughts on efficient walk throughs, planning and evening, and a bunch of other topics as well.

video I - Efficient Contra Dance Walk Throughs. Beth describes her approach to walk throughs, being as efficient as she can with the instruction and getting the ideas across in a single walk through. (11:56)
video II - Calling without cards. Beth discusses what she sees as the value to memorizing dances so you don't need to refer to the cards as you call. (3:59)
video III - Programming an Evening of Contra. Beth talks about how she programs the dances for an evening of contra. (4:13)
video IV - On Squares at a Contra Dance. Beth talks about her views on calling squares at a contra dance, when to call them, when not, what times, how many, what sorts. With Dennis Merritt. (9:43)
video V - On Beth's personal style and where it came from, as well as thoughts on how the caller's vocal range fits in with the band instruments. (7:10)
video VI - Working with the band. (9:49)

The Free Raisins

The day after playing at the Grey Eagle, the Free Raisins set up to practice, but took a break to talk about their approach to the music, using the full band set up to illustrate many of the points. Audrey Knuth - fiddle, Jeff Kaufman - mandolin, Amy Englesberg - piano.

video I - Phrasing the music to match a dance, with an example for a dance with balances in the A part and heys in the B part. (8:34)
video II - Balancing rhythm and melody, and how each works for the dancers. (5:28)
video III - Creating interest with changing chord sequences, and dynamically making those changes during a dance. (8:09)
video IV - Droning on a single chord to create tension. (3:37)
video V - Adding more complex variations to a tune once the dancers are rolling with a particular dance. (5:16)
video VI - A discussion of the balance of energy and mood over the course of an evening, as well as a discussion of the Free Raisins' own evolution as a dance band.(4:18)

Perpetual e-Motion

The morning after playing the Monday Night Dance at the Grey Eagle, Ed Howe and John Coté spent some time talking about their approach to music, both from an acoustic and electric perspective and played an acoustic tune illustrating some of their ideas.

video I - Ed talks about his approach to fiddling for a dance. (5:03)
video II - John talks about the dance rhythms he uses on the guitar. (5:10)
video III - Ed and John talk about the matching tunes and dances (4:58)
video IV - An unplugged version of Sandy Boys, the tune used to illustrate Ed and John musicality in videos I and II. (3:04)
video V - John talks about the electronics that back up his guitar, digeridoo and foot percussion, and Ed discusses how he uses looping. (6:13)
video VI - Perpetual e-Motion likes to do their own sound. Ed explains why. (5:57)

video - Yet another video of Perpetual e-Motion playing Flying Tent, it never gets old... This time at the Monday Night Dance at the Grey Eagle in Asheville, July 8th, 2013 with Beth Molaro calling. (9:17)

Atlantic Crossing

video - Viveka Fox, Peter Macfarlane, Tristan Henderson and Rick Klein of Atlantic Crossing discuss, with Diane Silver, what is important to them in playing for a contra dance. (15:56)

Andrew VanNorstrand of the Great Bear Trio

The morning after playing the OFB New Year's Eve Ball, Andrew VanNorstrand spent some time talking about the music, explaining the Great Bear Trio's emphasis on dance rhythms rather than specific tunes.

video I - The difference between playing for a concert and playing for a dance. (2:18)
video II - Matching tunes with dances. (4:25)
video III - Working with the caller. (3:30)
video IV - Rhythmic variations for different dance figures. (4:47)
video V - More on playing over the full arc of the dance. (5:22)
video VI - Examples of rhythmic patterns that can be used to broadcast to the dancer the movements of the dance.(11:03)

video - A full Great Bear Trio dance, illustrating the initial working with the caller, playing while the caller is calling, adding interest as the caller drops out, and various rhythmic dance patterns. The dance is from the 2012 OFB New Year's Eve Ball with Beth Molaro calling. (10:35)

video - Three other clips of the Great Bear Trio playing at the 2012 OFB New Year's Eve Ball illustrating the emphasis of the band on dance rhythms rather than melodies. (4:46)

Jamie Laval

Jamie Laval spent the better part of an afternoon recording a number of his thoughts on contra dance music and how to play it for a dance.

video I - The origin of the 64 beat (32 measures of 2/4 time) A A B B pattern of contra music. (6:00)
video II - Basic phrasing techniques for the A and B parts. (5:55)
video III - Using crescendo and rhythmic and harmonic variations to create a growing tension and energy during a dance. (7:04)
video IV - Why the tempo of contra music is what it is, and why the tunes are either jigs or reels, and the difference between them. (5:27)
video V - How to adjust the arrangement of a jig to fit the mood of a dance. (4:53)
video VI - How to adjust the arrangement of a reel to fit the mood of a dance, and how to combine jigs and reels in one dance set. (4:04)
video VII - Using pedals (sustained notes) to build tension during a full dance set. (5:42)

video - Dance video of Jamie Laval and Roger Gold (Carolina Dingos) playing at the Monday Night Dance at the Grey Eagle on January 7, 2013. Beth Molaro calling. The tune is the very one Jamie used in the interviews above, and it's a full dance so you can see how he continues to build on the tune, from the mesmerizing rolling start in duet with Beth, to the frantic climatic passes (no, the video isn't speeded up, his fingers do move that fast) through the tune. (9:12)

John Herrmann & Meredith McIntosh

video - John and Meredith spent a few minutes at the Grey Eagle talking about the subtle pleasures of dancing to Old Time music as compared to modern contra music. (6:43)

video - Dance video of John Herrmann and Meredith McIntosh playing at the Monday Night Dance at the Grey Eagle on December 3, 2012. Jesse Edgerton calling. Note the dancers enjoying the quasi (because it's a piano, not all strings) old-time groove, slightly modified for the dancer's pleasure. (6:42)