Friday, November 21, 2008

Off to Minnesota

Tomorrow Erik and I will be heading up to join Patrice and Pat for a dance at Tapestry Folkdance Center in Minneapolis. We'll be joined once again by our pal, caller Robin Nelson. I think the last time we played at Tapestry was on March 15th, so it will be especially fun to visit one of our favorite places again.

The four of us had a reunion a few weeks ago when we played at the Northfield Armory for the annual Northfield Harvest Stomp but that seemed to come and go pretty quickly. We're slowly gearing up for our next visit to the Bozeman Wintergreen Dance Weekend in a couple of months and I think we are all really looking forward to seeing our Montana and Idaho friends in January.

On the local front, Erik and I are happy to be a part of a just-released, holiday CD project aimed at benefiting Helping Services for Northeast Iowa. It's a collection of tracks from a variety of local musicians that was put together by Benji Nichols and the folks at Inspire(d) Media and will available for sale at many local businesses.

Erik and I appear on a track that comes from a live recording of Decorah's annual Burning Bright holiday concert. Along with our good friend Beth Hoven Rotto (leader and fiddler of local legends, Foot-Notes) on piano and lap dulcimer, we play a set that begins with a waltz of mine titled "G for Gordy" and then segues into an adrenaline-fueled, near-train-wreck version of "Cold Frosty Morning." The waltz is titled for our old friend Gordy Macmasters who had passed away a few months before the concert.

(Beth, by the way, was the subject of a well-deserved feature article in the Fall 2008 issue of Fiddler Magazine.)

In the "small world" department I received a surprise phone call this week from an old music friend in Indiana, Tom Yeiser. We hadn't spoken for over 15 years (since our move to Iowa) but Tom is very active in the Bloomington, Indiana dance scene and owns and operates a recording studio (Sweet Owen Sound) that he built himself just west of town. This is Contratopia-relevant because years ago, when Erik was a youngster, Tom hosted Erik during a Pig's Eye Landing tour.

Hope to see you down the road...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

October Surprise

No, none of us are running for office so there's no point in sharing skeletons from our closets or revealing our alien origins. In fact it's no surprise at all that we had a great time the other night playing the Friday night contra portion of the Minnesota Country Dance Weekend. Pat, Patrice and I were sorry that Erik couldn't join us but we had a delightful time with our buddy and fiddler extraordinaire, Linda Breitag.

Our good friend Sue Hulsether was our caller for the evening and she worked us pretty hard. The dancers clearly were having a good time and St. Paul's Sokol hall was jumping. It brought back fond memories of some of our earliest Contratopia gigs playing for the October weekends of days gone by.

A special treat came at the end of the evening when Amy and Maria from the wonderful Last Gaspe' were kind enough to join us for a couple of sets. I think we did a set with "Mason's Apron" and "Julia Delany" that was especially fun for me because I had a great seat to enjoy the twin fiddling of Linda and Maria.

We have added a few more dances for the spring to our schedule, thanks to our friends at Tapestry. It looks like we'll be playing Saturday night contras at Tapestry on Jan. 17, Feb. 21 and April 18, 2009. We will also be playing for afternoon mostly waltz sessions on Jan. 17 and April 18. [Note correction: original blogpost said April 25]

Our next dance will be at the Armory in Northfield, MN on Oct. 24 where Erik will lay down his hoe (is that a hoedown?) and rejoin the band for the annual Harvest Stomp! contra.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The New Season

A lot of water has gone under the bridge here in Decorah since the last post. You can see some photos of Decorah's 500 year flood here, courtesy of

Despite more summer excitement than usual Contratopia's 2008-2009 season is coming together nicely. Here are the dates that we have so far:

August 26, 2008 (w/Linda Breitag on fiddle)
Contra dance as part of the Nine Nights of Music at the Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, MN (6:30-8:00 p.m., Robin Nelson calling)

Oct. 3, 2008 (w/Linda Breitag on fiddle)
Contra dance at The Minnesota Country Dance Weekend (details to follow)

October 24, 2008
Northfield Harvest Stomp! contra dance at the armory in Northfield, MN (Robin Nelson calling) (details to follow)

November 22, 2008
Contra dance (7:30-11:30) at Tapestry Folkdance Center, Minneapolis, MN

January 23-25, 2009
8th Annual Wintergreen Dance Weekend in Bozeman, Montana (w/Randy Miller's Celticladda and Cis Hinkle calling!)

February 20, 2009
Northfield Winter Stomp! contra dance at the armory in Northfield, MN (Robin Nelson calling) (details to follow)

All of these dances promise to be great fun but we are especially looking forward to our 3rd visit to beautiful Bozeman in January. The Wintergreen folks put on a wonderful weekend and the dancers there are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Now's the time to be making those January travel plans!

Here in Decorah the floodwaters are gone and tomorrow is the start of the annual Nordic Fest. Erik and I will doing a couple of gigs with our buddies Jim & Jody as Bear Creek Bluegrass. Thursday night we will play from 9-midnight in the courtyard of Sabor Latino and Friday we'll do a two hour set (I think from 4:00-6:00) somewhere on Water Street in one of the entertainment tents. If you are in town stop by and say hello.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Highlandville, Derby Day

On Saturday we will end our 2007-2008 season with what has become our traditional Derby Day Dance at the Highlandville schoolhouse. This gives me another chance to use Pat's beautiful photo which captures the venerable old building so well. We will be joined by the excellent caller David Kirchner and, we hope, many fine dancers from the Decorah area and beyond. Teaching at 7:30, dancing at 8:00.

Directions: From Decorah, take Locust Road (W38) about 11 miles, take a right on Big Canoe Road (A26), after about 3 miles turn left on Highlandville Rd. Go north about 2 miles to Highlandville and just after crossing the bridge over the creek turn left.

From the North, turn south off of Minn. Highway 44 onto county road 8, midway between Mabel and Spring Grove. This becomes Locust Road (W38) when you cross the state line into Iowa. Take a left on Big Canoe and follow the directions above.

Last Saturday we had lots of fun at Carleton College with Linda Breitag sitting in on fiddle. Robin Nelson called a great series of dances and the mostly college crowd kept us all energized. Since Linda doesn't know all of the original tunes we do this gave us a chance to play a few more traditional tunes than usual. Here's a list of what we played:

Angeline the Baker
Loaves and Fishes/Too Many Goats
Connaughtman's Rambles/The Kesh Jig
Fourth and Walnut/Steady On
Mason's Apron/Maggie in the Snow/Julia Delany
Red Wing
Benton's Dream
Morrison's/Cliffs of Moher
Motel Henri/Reel Eugene
La Bastringue

Waltzes: Mother's Day & Last Call at Hawley Cooke

Hope to see you on Saturday. If not, we'll catch you next fall.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Next Stop - Earth Day

I know that today is the real Earth Day but we will be in Northfield, MN on Saturday night to celebrate the Day at the 2nd Annual Earth Day Contra Dance held on the Carleton College campus. This should be another great time with Suzie and all the special folks who have come to the Harvest and Winter Stomps! over the last couple of years.

When is Contratopia not Contratopia? This is a riddle we've asked ourselves many times. Currently our consensus is that whenever three of us are gathered together for a dance (often with a guest fourth member, often a fiddler) and aren't calling ourselves something else then we are probably Contratopia. Clear enough?

On Saturday Pat, Patrice and I will gather with one of our favorite fiddlers, the remarkable Linda Breitag, to play in Northfield. I think I'm correct when I say that Linda was once a member of the St. Olaf Choir, so this will be a homecoming of sorts for her and a great pleasure for us. Hope you can make it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Two Bits Tour, Day 4, pt. 2

Pat and Patrice (with the help of Patrice's generous husband-to-be, Al, and the resources of his amazing group, Five By Design) have collaborated to make 50 of Pat's photos from the tour available. While there are a few too many shots of me looking goofy (and too few shots of Pat, who was taking the photos) they are a lot of fun to see.

In the last entry the band had just finished the Sunday Waltz Time dance. This dance ends at 6:00 and the evening contra starts at 7:30 so there isn't a lot of time to go out looking for food. We solved the problem by calling in an order to a fine local Italian restaurant and having food delivered. This allowed us the chance to sit around and visit with old friends without the stress of wondering if we were going to be late getting to the gig.

The crowd at the Sunday Night Contra and Square Dance is usually a little smaller than the Friday night crowd but they sure know how to have a good time. I see that tonight, for instance, they will have the treat of dancing to the calling of our old friend Beth Molaro (source for the title of my jig "Bunch of Stuff") and the music of the legendary Rodney Miller and his Airdance Trio. I can't remember if Ted called any squares last week but I suspect that Beth will make up for any deficiency in that regard tonight.

It being the last dance of our tour we let out all the stops and had a great time with the Sunday night group. Five of the sets were tunes we hadn't played yet on the tour. By avoiding repetition we managed to sound pretty fresh even though we were a little tired. We did a better job with Pat's African Tune this time although I nearly crashed the whole dance by missing an important downbeat during the transition. All in all it was a great way to end the tour.

Here are the sets we played on Sunday night, April 5 in order:

Revelry Reel/French Sneakers/Maggie in the Rain
Manistique/Reel Eugene/Evil Diane
Timmy Clifford's/The Return Home/O'Keefe's (in D)
The Judge/Canny Crow
Whistling Britches/Riff City/Easy Club
Calliope House/Booth Shot Lincoln/It Ain't the Heat, It's the Humidity
Aly on the Plains/Hay to Market/Just 4 Guys
Black Squirrel Frisbee?/No Contest/Pat's African Tune
Mason's Apron/Maggie in the Snow/Julia Delany

Waltzes: Emma & The National Road

I thought both waltzes were especially lovely that night and Patrice played an absolutely gorgeous piano solo during National Road.

Thinking our adventures were over we headed back to Ted's for the most curious encounter of the whole tour. As we parked in front of the next door neighbor's house (who are really nice folks) they came out to greet us wondering if we knew anything about what you see below:

It seems that mysterious visitors had planted hundreds of plastic spoons in the yard. Our alibi was undeniable but a fun photo shoot ensued. Next morning, sadly, the spoons were all gone.

Finally here's a shot of us at DCA having exited the Metro and waiting for the shuttle to take us out to the Northwest terminal:

All's well that ends well. We're looking forward to our next visit sometime in the next couple of years. Hope to see you then!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Two Bits Tour, Day 4, Pt. 1

(Breakfast at Ted's, photo by Pat)

Sunday started with Ted fixing us a delicious breakfast of potato pancakes and eggs. We can't say enough how much we appreciate Ted's hospitality. More importantly we love the way he calls dances and his foot percussion really adds a strong fifth voice to the band. Plus it's great to have his excellent button box playing hambos during the breaks.

(Hambo Ted, photo by Pat)

We worked up a set list for the afternoon Glen Echo Waltz Time dance. We rarely plan ahead for contra dances but the Sunday afternoon waltz session needs a little forethought. We found time for a frisbee workout in the front yard before cramming back into the car for the windy drive to the park. This time we got to listen to Swap's (where is that little "o" diacritic?) great Du Da CD.

We were blessed with excellent sound persons at every stop on this tour but we knew that on Sunday we would get to work with Jamie Platt, one of our all time favorite guys. He had been working long shifts all weekend at the park but he made sure that we sounded great for both dances on Sunday.

(Waltz Time in action, photo by Pat)

Waltz Time is one of the favorite things we get to do. We have so many waltzes that we love to play and here we get the chance. The dancers are amazing to watch too. One of the highlights for me this time was getting to see how much fun the dancers had with Erik's rendition of the "Sakkijarven Polka" and the rare chance to get to hear Erik and Ted play two hambos. I only wish there had been time to play another 6 or 8 waltzes. Everything sounds so good in the ballroom.

Here are the tunes that I think we played on Sunday afternoon. The formula was three waltzes followed by a different kind of couples' dance.

1) Mother's Day
January Waltz (We've opened with these two almost every time we've played this dance.)
Alice's Garden
Red Wing polka

2) St. Louis Christmas
Last Call at Hawley-Cooke
Turning by Threes (first performance by the band)
Hambo no. 1

3) Favors Her Father
Ballroom Echoes
Ms. P's Waltz
Tango Argentino (We play it every time but it's a great tune.)

4) French Creek Waltz
Shaoxing Waltz
Evenings & Weekends
Unbelievable! as a swing tune

5) Aubrey and Andrew's Wedding
Two Rivers
Hambo no. 2

6) The Highlandville Waltz
Spring Forward
Sakkijarven Polka

7) Bighorn River Sunset
Small Town Downtown (I think this was the final waltz.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Two Bits Tour, Day 3

Saturday morning (not too early) Pat, Erik and I hiked up to one of my favorite music stores, The House of Musical Traditions, where we spent an hour or more making noise and enjoying the hospitality of the friendly HMT folks and their customers. Patrice had deserted us to visit with old friends and Ted enjoyed some time in his own house without a band making a racket. We then took a brief stroll along the lovely Sligo Creek on the long way back.

We regrouped and all piled back into the Tedmobile for our trip to Shepherdstown with a brief stop at the Manassas (or Bull Run) National Battlefield Park. Arriving in Shepherdstown with plenty of time for dinner we surveyed our options and ended up at Kazu Thai & Japanese Cuisine on the main drag. We won't go into details here about my deplorable taste in food. I'll simply point out that this was the first time I had ever dined in a Thai restaurant. That should tell you enough. Despite my reluctance I had a very enjoyable meal and I think the rest of the group really appreciated the fine food.

Then, of course, there was the dance. I love playing in the hall in Shepherdstown. It's intimate in all the best ways. We set up on floor level but we can still see everyone in the place most of the time. The dancers are a great mix of old and young and I can always tell that there are a few sharp musicians in the room who can probably play rings around me. We responded with some of our best playing of the tour and had a ball. This dance was particularly notable because we played what we've been calling "Pat's African Tune" for the first time in public. It was a good first try but it will get better.

The trip home took us up towards Frederick, Md. and included our first, and only, stop at a McDonald's just around midnight. This was, obviously, the opposite of our earlier dining experience but it did hit the spot. Back at the crib we enjoyed some of the antics of Shaun the Sheep and called it a morning.

Our new friend photographer Doug Plummer (see the last blog post) today sent a link to a Flickr site with some great photos of Friday night's dance at Glen Echo. I especially like the shot of Patrice and the piano. Thanks a million Doug!

Here are the tunes that we played on Sat. night in Shepherdstown, WV:

Ain't Broke/Two Days to Maine
Revelry Reel/French Sneakers/Maggie in the Rain
Nail that Catfish to a Tree/Queen's Polka/Reel St. Antoine
What Spring/Knee High in December (jig & reel)
Waitin' for Nancy/Over the Waterfall/Squirrel Hunters
The Phoenix/Sheehan's/Shenandoah Falls
Reel St. Joseph/Star of Munster/Two-Legged Stool
Black Squirrel Frisbee?/No Contest/Pat's African Tune
Old French/Badlands All Night/Sand Island
Fair Jenny/Four Potatoes/Catharsis

Waltzes: Ms. P's Waltz & Aubrey and Andrew's Wedding

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Two Bits Tour, Day 2

(Friday night, Glen Echo, photo by Doug Plummer?)

We slept in on Friday morning and after breakfast we unpacked instruments and proceeded to have one of our longest (and most fun) rehearsals in years. Tunes and more tunes until mid-afternoon. Patrice, Erik, Ted and I headed off to the Metro and down to the National Gallery of Art for a short visit, while Pat stayed behind to cook up a gourmet treat for us. Walking toward Union Station, near the Capitol, I was amazed to see of couple of tour buses belonging to Decorah's own Hawkeye Stages at a red light. It's a small world indeed.

After Pat's delicious cooking we left Hodapp Manor for Glen Echo Park and the Friday Night Dance. Ted always programs great music for us in the car and this time we listened to a live recording by the fabulous Horse Flies. Very inspiring stuff.

Before the dance started we were approached by friendly and polite photographer Doug Plummer who said he'd like to take some pictures. He's working on a book of contra dance photos, among other things, and we were pleased to find ourselves the subject of his Daily Photo for April 4. In another "small world" moment we discovered that he is also doing some photo work for Decorah's own Luther College, my employer in the real world.

The dance itself was great. Over 280 of the nicest dancers on the planet in one of the finest ballrooms anywhere. We always have a great time playing at Glen Echo. After returning to Ted's we were treated to a couple of episodes of Shaun the Sheep before calling it a night.

Here are the tunes we played on Friday, pretty much in order:

La Bastringue (circle mixer)
Loaves and Fishes/Too Many Goats/Fourth & Walnut
Ross' Reel/Cornutopia/Happy Ears
Palisades/Christmas Past/Fairbanks
Sandy River Belles/Liza Jane/Rockabye Baby
Sweetbriar/What You Got There/Scandy Twist
Hogwart's Express/Colored Aristocracy/Steady On
Fenstermann's Surprise/Stumpy/Bunch of Stuff
Ain't Broke/Two Days to Maine/Squirrel Hunters
All Fall Down/Flying Home to Shelley
Waitin' for Nancy (post-dance clogging tune)

Waltzes: French Creek Waltz & Last Call at Hawley Cooke

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Almost Home Away From Home

There's always another view of any band experience, although I can ditto most of what John said about our DC escapade. Not only do I look forward to playing with my favorite dance musicians, I get to pick up so many new jokes from Ted. I love seeing friends we've made from previous tours and it starts to feel like we're at home in our DC home. I wouldn't mind if Ted's couch was about a foot longer so I could stretch out for sleeping, but better me than my taller companions! Actually I sleep amazingly well out there. Maybe it's from exhaustion - or the Dramamine I used pre-emptively to counter all those curves and hills on the way to Shepherdstown, not to mention the "back ways" to Glen Echo.

The cherry blossoms totally cooperated and stayed on the trees while we were there, in spite of rain. What a thrill! And I love getting to visit my old friend, Deb Anderson in Kensington. We talked weddings since she just got married a couple years ago and I just got engaged a couple weeks ago. Deb and I are both the same age (which I won't reveal, but Al and I call ourselves Geezers in Love, so that's a hint). Check out Al's vocal group Five By Design at Deb's husband Richard made the best peach pancakes!

I never tire of seeing the dancers cruising around the floor. The waltz afternoon is a particularly mesmerizing experience and I find ways of playing a tune that are inspired by watching them. Thank you to all the great dancers we experienced.

And if 284 people dancing in one area (Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo) isn't enough, try having a dance just a few feet away at the same time for some jiving swing dancers on Friday in the Bumper Car Pavillion and Cajun on Sunday night. The dance energy was off the scale! I've stored up some of it to help me ease back into everyday life at home - which includes getting those dang tax returns done. See you at the dance!

Two Bits Tour, Day 1

(Erik & Ted play a hambo during the break. Photo by Pat O'Loughlin)

Erik drove in from the farm and picked me up at 5:30. We met Patrice at the Minneapolis airport about 4 hours later and soon were settled in our luxury (not) seats for the flight to DCA. My guitar and mandolin flew first class though, thanks to a friendly Northwest employee who stowed them in an empty bin up front. Ted and Pat (who had flown out two days early) met us at the baggage claim and we started our trip to Philly.

We grabbed a tasty dinner at the Glenside Pub, home of memorable sessions in the past, and made it to the hall on time (for a change). The Glenside dance is one of our favorites and April 3 was a good night for us. It seemed like we didn't need a lot of warming up and instead went straight to full throttle. It helped that our old pal Scott Higgs was handling sound and Ted was telling some of the best jokes ever (OK, that's a lie).

A big treat for me was discovering the new Tuneadelphia! tunebook for sale at the door. This is a great collection of tunes composed by folks associated with the local SPUDS group and is beautifully printed with excellent notes and illustrations. Kudos to compiler/editor Sarah Gowan and her crew of contributors. If you are looking for new tunes you definitely should get one.

When the dance fun was done we loaded back into the Tedmobile and hit the turnpike. A long, late drive back to Takoma Park with exhausted, aging musicians (and the everyoung Erik). I think this was the drive where we listened to a CD of one of our spiritual guides, David Sedaris. Finally we made it to Ted's place and set up camp for the weekend.

Here are the tunes we played that Thursday, not necessarily in order.

Waitin for Nancy/Over the Waterfall
Loaves and Fishes/Too Many Goats/Fourth & Walnut
Bay of Fundy/Maid Behind the Bar/Mouth of the Tobique
Manistique/Reel Eugene/Evit Gabriel
Mason's Apron/Maggie in the Snow/Julia Delany
Sweetbriar/What You Got There/Scandy Twist
Two Lieutenants/Sledding at Walnut Ridge/Emory's Crossing
Palisades/Christmas Past/Fairbanks
Road to Bangor/Eager to Please/La Maison de Glace
Angeline the Baker/Scollay's/Liberation

Waltzes: Alice's Garden & Ballroom Echoes

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Heading East

About this time one week from tonight we'll have just finished playing for a dance in Glenside, PA. The first of five dances that we'll play in four days in the mid-Atlantic region. A week from tomorrow we'll play the Friday Night Dance at Glen Echo, MD and the night after that we'll drive (in Ted Hodapp's luxurious chariot) over to Shepherdstown, WV for their Sat. night dance. On Sunday April 6 we'll finish our dance flurry by playing (again at Glen Echo) for both the Waltz Time folks in the afternoon and the Sunday Night Dance folks in the evening. On Monday we'll hop on a plane, weary but joyful, for Minneapolis and a return to normalcy. No doubt Ted will sleep soundly Monday night! If you are in that part of the world please come out and dance and say hello.

A big Thank You goes out to Erik's Aunt Nikki, the president of our Swedish fan club and owner/operator of Nikki's Place. Following her suggestion I have upgraded this blog a little. The main new feature is the nifty email subscription option from Feedblitz. If you don't use a feed reader but still want to know when we add entries here you can sign up through this widget and it is supposed to send you an email. Let us know if you try it and it doesn't work.

I've also added a photo under the blog title. For now it's a shot I took of our dog Suzy during a hike last year at Effigy Mounds National Monument. I've also added a photo of the band and Ted huddled around the statue of Franklin Roosevelt's dog, Fala, taken during our last visit to D.C. in November of 2006.

We are all looking forward to next week's music and dance and hope to see some of you soon!

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's weekend at Tapestry

We had a busy day on Saturday, the official Vatican-sanctioned St. Patrick's day, at Tapestry in Minneapolis. We played both an afternoon Mostly Waltz dance and the regular evening contra dance. In between, Pat and Margie treated the band to a special dinner at their place.

The afternoon session wasn't overly crowded but the band and the dancers had a great time. We got to play a number of new waltzes (and even a new hornpipe turned schottische) and could really hear ourselves well. A very nice warmup for the much larger Waltz Time dance we'll be playing at Glen Echo in a couple of weeks.

The evening contra was nicely crowded and very high energy. Thanks to Patrice's inspiration we played more Irish tunes than usual (replacing some of our regular tunes in sets with similar traditional tunes) and really enjoyed it. We even closed the evening with a nice rendition of Planxty Irwin.

Back in February when we had a little time on Saturday afternoon Erik, Pat and I recorded a few tunes at Patrice's house while she was off earning a living. Here are a couple of mp3s from that afternoon:

We don't pretend to be an Irish traditional music band but we all love that music. This version of Sheehan's is loose but I think it has a good feeling to it.

We also played a sloppy but very fun version of Queen's Polka. It features Erik letting loose a little and shows some nice give and take between Erik and Pat. My guitar harmonization is sometimes OK and sometimes a little less than that but it doesn't stop the tune from being fun for me to listen to.

Here are some of the tunes we played at the Mostly Waltz session on Saturday afternoon. Like we do at Glen Echo we played 3 waltzes followed by a different couples' dance.

1) Mother's Day, January Waltz, Alice's Garden, Off to California (as a schottische, with my Off to Minnesota sandwiched between)
2) St. Louis Christmas, Last Call at Hawley-Cooke, The National Road, and a mystery hambo (Erik knows the names of the hambos but I don't)
3) Aubrey and Andrew's Wedding, Ballroom Echoes, Ms. P's Waltz, Riding on a Load of Hay (polka)
4) French Creek Waltz, Shaoxing Waltz, Evenings and Weekends, Tango Argentino
5) Two Rivers, Everybody Wins-Everybody Loses, The Highlandville Waltz, All of Me (swing)
6) Bighorn River Sunset, Steciak's, Bob's Angels (world premiere), another hambo?
7) Spring Forward (another world premiere), South of France (not sure if there were any more tunes after this)

At the evening dance we played some of these sets and tunes (not necessarily in this order):

Loaves and Fishes/Too Many Goats/Fifth and Walnut
Aly on the Plains/Hay to Market/Just 4 Guys
Angeline the Baker/Scollay's/Liberation
Bay of Fundy/Maid Behind the Bar/Mouth of the Tobique
Mason's Apron/Maggie in the Snow/Julia Delany
The Judge (Larry Unger) for a square dance, I think
Two Lieutenants/Sledding at Walnut Ridge/Emory's Crossing
Sweet Music/Why Ted Flies/Smash the Windows
All Fall Down/Flying Home to Shelly
another jig set that started with The Kesh Jig (a Ctopia first) and had a D modal jig in the middle and ended with Road to Lisdoonvarna

Waltzes: Favors Her Father, G for Gordy, Planxty Irwin

Monday, February 25, 2008

Big Fun in Northfield and the Twin Cities

Here's a nice video (thanks to Griff Wigley) from last Friday's dance at the Armory in Northfield. You can see that Robin Nelson is doing an amazing job of directing a lot (a blizzard? an avalanche?) of energy and the dancers are having a great time. There are even a couple of seconds of rare video of Contratopia at play at the very start. The first half of the video has us playing the classic "Ross' Reel" and the second half finds us playing one of my newer tunes called "Ain't Broke". Griff also has made available an excellent album of photos from the Winter Stomp! Thanks, Griff!

The next day was full of big city fun. Pat made sure that Erik and I were up and out of the house in time to get a good seat at the old-time jam at what I think is the Artist Blend coffee house on University near Raymond. I won't drop names but, once there, we got to play great tunes and hang out with some of the finest old-time musicians anywhere. Great music, great people. Stop by some Saturday morning and see for yourself. Thanks to everyone at the jam for making us feel at home!

A delicious lunch (well, breakfast for Erik) followed at the original Keys restaurant just around the corner. Then we rushed to Patrice's place for an afternoon of rehearsal and learning new tunes. This followed by a light but excellent supper at El Norteno on Lake St.

Saturday night was another fun dance at Tapestry. Bob provided especially fine sound for us and Steve joined us on harmonica for a couple of sets near the end. Robin was our caller for the second night in a row and she did her usual stellar job of keeping things interesting and fun. Best of all we get to return in less than three weeks for both a waltz afternoon and a contra evening.

For the record here is a list of the tune sets that I can remember us playing at one or the other dance. These aren't in order and I don't think we repeated any sets but the first group I think were Friday sets and the second group Saturday ones.

Flowers of Edinburgh (for a teaching dance on Friday, our first ever use of one of my favorite James Oswald tunes)
Mason's Apron/Maggie in the Snow/Julia Delaney
Angeline the Baker/Milk Run/Liberation
The Phoenix/Sheehan's/Shenandoah Falls
Ain't Broke/Two Days to Maine
Ross' Reel/Cornutopia/Happy Ears
Road to Bangor/Eager to Please/La Maison de Glace
Sandy River Belles/Liza Jane/Rockabye Baby
Waitin' for Nancy/Over the Waterfall
Calliope House/Booth Shot Lincoln/It Ain't the Heat, It's the Humidity

Dunn Meadow/Canny Crow
Nail that Catfish to a Tree/Queen's Polka/Reel St. Antoine
Reel St. Joseph/Star of Munster/2-Legged Stool
Palisades/Christmas Past/Fairbanks
Aly on the Plains/Hay to Market/Just 4 Guys
Soft Shoulder/Cowboy Jig/All the Rage
Hogwart's Express/Aristocracy/Steady On
Sweetbriar/What You Got There/Scandy Twist

Alice's Garden (new for us)
The National Road
Dacie's House/Judy and Jim's Wedding
South of France
Aubrey and Andrew's Wedding
Last Call at Hawley-Cooke (world premiere)

Friday, February 15, 2008

One Week To Go

About this time next Friday we'll be packing up our gear after playing at the 2nd Annual Northfield Winter Stomp! That dance will be the first leg of our February Winter Dance Weekend Tour that will conclude the next night at Tapestry in Minneapolis. Hopefully this year the weather will cooperate.

Tonight, Decorah's own Scandinavian-American dance band Foot-Notes was in Northfield with their wonderful blend of fiddle, mandolin, guitar & bass and old-time schottisches, waltzes, two-steps and polkas. Tomorrow night, here in Decorah, Erik and I will play with our local Western Home String Band for a regular contra dance with Bill Deutsch doing the calling.

Hope to see you at one or more of these events!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Seems Like Old Times...

The whole gang convened at the Tapestry Folkdance Center last Saturday night for our first dance there since April 28, 2007. We had a ball. A big crowd of enthusiastic dancers, including many beginners, seemed to have an excellent time. Beau Farmer did a great job of integrating the newcomers and praising the veterans for helping them along. We had the special pleasure of being joined for two dances by the extraordinary David Edminster on tenor sax. He tore the place up on Pat O'Loughlin's slinky tune "Cement Donkey"! We'll be back at Tapestry in Feb., March and May.

We will gather next in Northfield, MN on Friday Feb. 22 for the 2nd annual Northfield Winter Stomp! from 7-10:30 at the Northfield Armory. (Click here for photos from last year's Stomp!) Robin Nelson will be calling with us that night and will also be with us at Tapestry the following night. In addition, Robin is teaching a series of contra dance lessons in Northfield starting on Friday Jan. 25. A great opportunity to learn from the best!

It occurred to me that it might be fun to try to keep a record of the tunes we play at our dances, kind of like fans keep track of setlists from the concerts of their favorite bands. Here are some of the sets that we played last Sat., not necessarily in order.

Old French/Badlands All Night/Sand Island
Revelry Reel/French Sneakers/Maggie in the Rain
Timmy Clifford's/The Return Home/O'Keefe's Slide (D major)
Aly on the Plains/Hay to Market/Just 4 Guys
Angeline the Baker/Milk Run/Liberation
Temperence Reel/Bay of Fundy/Mouth of the Tobique
Dunn Meadow/Canny Crow (with a quick "Pop Goes the Weasel" in the middle)
Cement Donkey/Moss Don't Grow (with David on sax)
Reel St. Joseph/Star of Munster/Two-Legged Stool (with David on sax)
Palisades/Christmas Past/Fairbanks

St. Louis Christmas
January 12, 2008 (world premiere)
Favors Her Father