Tag Archives: cdss

Spread The Joy—It’s a slogan, it’s a song!

by Jonathan Jensen

Musician, songwriter and longtime CDSS member Jonathan Jensen, of Baltimore, sent us this lovely gift of his song in honor of our Centennial in 2015. It debuted on March 24, during Celebration Week. Download a PDF of the sheet music or listen to Jonathan and friends sing the song here. Or hear the song and watch the video here.

MuseScore_ Spread The JoyIn the CDSS world, I’m most active playing piano for English country dance, contra dance and couple dancing, as well as writing tunes in all these genres. Lately, though, I’ve become increasingly busy writing songs ranging from goofy parodies like The Tea Chantey to rounds and serious ballads. So as the 100th anniversary of CDSS approached I had a mind to write some kind of tribute in words and music. It was hard to get a handle on this project until I noticed the slogan “Spread The Joy” on one of the organization’s mailings. Once I decided on those three words as the title and the theme, the song all but wrote itself. There are so many ways we all spread the joy of music, dance, story and song in our various communities that I probably could have come up with dozens of verses (although the requirements of rhyme and meter do impose certain limitations).

Once the song was written, I e-mailed a quick demo to CDSS headquarters, where it was well received. There was a thought of posting it on the website and Facebook page right away, but on reflection it was decided to make a professional recording with multiple voices that could be used as the basis of a video. There followed an e-mail and phone barrage to many likely participants and the inevitable poring over schedules to decide who the final cast would be and when we could all get together. I was very fortunate to have Charlie Pilzer offer his services and studio (Airshow Mastering) for free. Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner, who make up the celebrated duo Magpie are friends of the Pilzers, and kindly volunteered to take part. Veteran dance musicians Steve Hickman and John Devine signed on to sing and play. Multi-instrumentalist Paul Oorts offered to round out the texture on mandolin. And when I decided we should have a teenage singer to represent the next generation, Steve got his daughter Maren to come along—and his wife DeLaura Padovan joined in for good measure.

On the evening of February 15 we all met at Charlie’s studio in Takoma Park. After a few run-throughs we worked out an arrangement that suited all the voices and made a number of takes, with me handling string bass duties. None of our readings were perfect all the way through, but we got to see Charlie work his wizardry as he swiftly replaced a faulty note or phrase from one take with a better version from another. We look forward to sharing the song with our friends across the nation as we join in celebrating the first 100 years of the Country Dance and Song Society.

CDSS is delighted to have its own song for the Centennial—we look forward to singing it with friends and humming it as we work. Thank you, Jonathan, for writing it; thanks to Charlie, Terry, Greg, Steve, John, Paul, Maren and DeLaura for the audio recording; and thanks to Mary Wesley for the video.

Singing and Dancing in Macedonia

by David Millstone

Rehearsal in Monastery of Virgin Mary 6

Rehearsing songs in a historic church near Struga, southern Macedonia; photo by fellow camper Sophia Emigh

I’ve been a contra dancer for some 40 years and an English country dance enthusiast since 1987. For decades, the only singing I did was with my fifth grade students, who didn’t understand that I couldn’t really sing. With that background, what took me on a overseas trip with Village Harmony for two weeks of singing and dancing, Macedonian style?

It started when I told my wife, Sheila, who has spent years coming along with me to dance weekends and camps, that it was time that I accompanied her instead of vice versa. (“He makes it sound like that was a punishment I endured,” she quickly adds. “I love to dance.”) This was the trip she picked. “It’s okay,” I said. “I can just spend my time documenting the trip with photos and videos.” This was met by a steely gaze that quickly translated into “You Will Sing.”

So, there I am in southern Macedonia, a self-identified non-singer with little experience in folk dance, and after the first few days I’m ready to hide under the covers. It’s a Slavic language, many songs are based on an oriental scale with elaborate vocal ornamentation, and then there are those odd meters: 7/8, 9/8, and more. My hands can clap the rhythms, but not always connected to the tunes.

This is just the singing; let’s not discuss in detail my feet. Unlike country dancing, stepping one beat at a time and learning a series of different figures, these dances all come in the same simple formation but with unfamiliar demands on my body—slow steps and quick steps, weight shifts, hops and pivots, downbeats with an uplifted foot. “The music tells you what to do,” right? If so, this music was telling me, “Get out of the way of people who know what they’re doing.”

For there were many around me having no trouble. There were strong singers, accustomed to learning by ear and holding down a part. Some had come to Balkan camps before, some sing and dance Balkan in their home communities, some even speak Serbo-Croatian or Macedonian. Although I’m a totally competent country dancer, I was definitely Out of My League on this dance floor.

This tale of woe has a happy ending—I had a great time. A lot of that was thanks to my fellow campers. “I don’t sing,” I mentioned to a tenor near me early on. “What do you mean?” he said. “Everyone sings.” He wasn’t making a political statement, just presenting this as a fact. Lesson learned: stop making excuses, listen, and open your mouth. I discovered, too, that I wasn’t alone. Their solution? Give it a try, and so I did. Can’t sing this particular tenor line? Okay, I’ll stick with the bass part here… it’s simpler. Not sure how this section goes? Turned out I wasn’t the only one, as one of our leaders drilled the group on the same four bars of music until we all had it.

Same thing with the dancing. I practiced by myself behind the line, got coaching on the side from those who knew what to do, and gradually felt more comfortable. (Yes, dancing in 12/8 is still awkward.) Some of it was letting go of the notion that I had to be able to do everything well. Sometimes I stumbled around in line, doing fragments of a dance and gradually adding other pieces. No one pulled me out for remedial lessons, no one frowned; folks on either side trusted that I’d ask for help if needed. When we gave our final concerts, singing and dancing in small villages, the locals offered no critical judgments—they joined our chorus on many well-known songs, grinned at our pronunciation, reached out a hand and made space in line with a smile.

In a few days, it’ll be time to join the community chorus at Harmony of Song & Dance, CDSS’s next program at Pinewoods. I can’t wait. I get to sing again!

In addition to being a contra and English country dancer, caller, dance historian, videographer, co-author (Cracking Chestnuts), coordinator of the Square Dance History Project), and new international dancer and singer, David Millstone currently serves as CDSS’s President.

Gifts In Memory Of/In Honor Of

I’ve just finished the absorbing and humbling exercise of editing the list of 2012 Donors to CDSS.  You can see the full list here.   Its impressive amplitude is a testament both to the generosity of our supporters and to the depth of feeling that traditional dance, music, and song evoke in those who participate and in the communities they form.

I was particularly struck this year by the number of gifts made in memory of or in honor of someone special.  Interspersed in the full list, you’ll see the names of leading lights of traditional dance, music, and song – some long gone, some recently departed.  A gift in their memory speaks of a wish to honor their contributions, and in many cases reflects a cherished personal history between the donor and the honoree.

Others have shined a light on leaders and communities who matter to them now, today, with a gift in their honor.  And many of you made gifts to honor friends and family members who left us this past year.  Making such a gift is a way of doing something positive and forward-looking in a time of grief and loss.  It is also a public gesture of love to bereft families and friends that says, “I remember, and I will long remember.”

 

CDSS Sings!

by Caroline Batson, Promotion & Periodicals Director

CDSS staff singing, 12.5.12

As you may know, CDSS is joining in a regional e-philanthropy event next week on 12.12.12. We invite you to support our work with a special gift that day (or you can schedule a donation anytime between now and then). Since not everyone who’ll be giving that day knows what we do here at CDSS, we’re showing them. We’ll have a blog up tomorrow about an event last night, and on Monday we’ll be videotaping us doing the Abbots Bromley Horn dance for folks in our building. Check back again tomorrow and early next week to watch.

In the meanwhile, SING ALONG WITH US NOW! The words are — “You are welcome, you are welcome, you are welcome in this place.”

Video: Steve Howe. Singers, L to R: Mary Wesley, Robin Hayden, Linda Henry, Pat MacPherson, Nils Fredland, and Caroline Batson. Kathy Bullock led the song last summer at our Harmony of Music and Dance Week.

Okay, everyone ready? Sing!

Rima & Robin’s DC Adventures, continued

by Robin Hayden, CDSS Director of Development, Friday, August 10, 2012

(see Rima’s blog about Thursday’s trip)

Stephanie Smith, CDSS member and archivist at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Our day began with a metro ride into DC with our hostess, Stephanie Smith, an archivist at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Stephanie gave us a tour of the Center for Folklife offices, including a peek into the archives themselves!

In the midst of a very busy day at the Center, Curators James Deutch and Sojin Kim generously met with Rima, Stephanie, and me to brainstorm possibilities for collaborations between CDSS and the Center at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2015, CDSS’s centennial year.

We were also privileged to view the latest cut of the eagerly-anticipated English country dance documentary—a wonderful collaboration between Stephanie, NYU historian Danny Walkowitz, and award-winning videographer Charlie Weber of the Center for Folklife.

Later, we met up for dinner with longtime CDSS friend Charlie Pilzer, on the patio of the Irish Inn at Glen Echo Park. We had a lively conversation in which Charlie shared his thoughts about celebrating the Centennial in DC and across the continent. As always, his infectious enthusiasm and seemingly boundless well of ideas invigorated and inspired us!

We proceeded in high spirits to the Friday night contra dance in the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park, arriving in time to see the end of the Folklore Society of Greater Washington’s excellent 45-minute beginner lesson.

Basic skills class with Greg Frock

In the center of the photo you can see FSGW leader Greg Frock taking great care to ensure that some 50 newer dancers have the basic skills and social expectations to be successful and well integrated as the hall—one of the largest you’ll ever see!—soon fills up with 200-300 regular contra dancers.

It also happened to be Open Band night, with than 40 musicians from the greater DC area playing on stage, for a wonderful evening of contras and squares led by caller Dave Colestock of Harrisburg, PA. A full day indeed!

 

Rima at Camp—part 6: English & American Week at Pinewoods, and more!

A series of summer blogs by CDSS Executive Director Rima Dael:

At the CDSS office (l-r): Robin Hayden, CDSS Development; Deborah Thompson, Appalachian Center at Berea College; Rima Dael, CDSS Executive Director; Pat MacPherson, CDSS Publications

Berea College, Texas Tech, and the Castaways?

My continued travels to each week of CDSS camps had me stopping at English and American Week this past Sunday and Monday (more below), but the Friday before we had another visitor to our office in Easthampton—Deborah Thompson, Director of Programming for the Appalachian Center at Berea College, stopped by our office on her way to Pinewoods. We wore her out from chatting about our programs, education, her newly completed PhD program, shared opportunities, and partnering on projects that would be mutually beneficial. (I realize that sounds all very official, but as you see from our picture, we had a great time connecting!) We are very excited about the possibilities that can come out of future collaborations.

At Pinewoods this time I stayed in Twin Sisters. It was a homecoming of sorts, since I stayed in Quite Carried Away, a cabin nearby, with my daughter during Family Week. My daughter asked me to check on how the fairy houses were doing near her cabin, which I did. In case you were wondering, happy to report, they are doing okay.

Texas Tech students demonstrate their dancing

One of the joys of camp is meeting, dancing, singing and playing music with folks from all over. At English and American Week, it was great to connect with the Texas Tech students from the Vernacular Music Scholars Program (http://www.vernacularmusiccenter.org/outreach-scholars.html), pictured here dancing, with Jim Morrison on fiddle.

Our partnership with Texas Tech and Vernacular Music Center Director, Dr. Chris Smith, is a great partnership and friendship. There were six students (four returnees and two new) this year, with scholarship support from CDSS. We are happy to continue our work fostering emerging talent and practitioners in our genre.

Broken bones don't stop the Castaways

I have to include here a lovely picture of Barbara Moloney and Anna Matheson. If you have to be in an arm cast, being at Pinewoods helps take the yuckiness out of it. As Barbara and Anna shared on the Camphouse porch, there is a community around you to help with meals, literally prop up an elbow, and good company. Not to mention, the dancing and music! (And, I heard from CDSS Program Director Steve Howe that this duo performed hambone at morning gathering as The Castaways!)

The most amazing part of my summer travels has been meeting many CDSS friends and family—new and first time campers, multiple generations of campers, musicians, dancers, teachers, dance gypsies, historians, scholars…well, you get this picture. My time at English and American Week was along those lines. It is fun for me to put faces to the names of the book authors, songwriters, dance leaders, dance historians, composers, choreographers and artists who are part of our community.

It is fun, important fun, for me to listen and learn from those who have come before me and to engage in discussion of what lies ahead for CDSS.  I feel that I have been given a very special gift. I accept the responsibility to steward this organization in a manner that respects the history and traditions from where we came but to be forward looking to ensure a sustainable and viable CDSS. I look forward to partnering with everyone I’ve met to celebrate our Centennial in 2015 and beyond.

 

Rima at Camp — part 4: Packing up, and the “Meet, Greet and Listen” Tour

A series of summer blogs by CDSS Executive Director Rima Dael:

Some of the books and recordings from the CDSS Store, heading for its week at Ogontz

So the office in Easthampton, MA has been in a flurry of packing as we get ready for Family Week and Teachers Training Course at Ogontz Camp in NH. The pictures are two of our piles ready to get loaded onto the truck tomorrow. I too am getting ready — for a brief trip to Ogontz this weekend and then back to Pinewoods for a day and a night of American Dance & Music Week.

I thought I’d share why I’m making it a point to visit all the camps. First, it is an opportunity to really get to understand the camp programs we do at different locations, with each week having a very different feel to it. Second, I’m on a “meet, greet and listen” tour! At each week, I’m meeting many of our members and constituents, listening to their histories with camp, CDSS, dancing, singing and playing music, and what their thoughts are for how we may celebrate our Centennial. On my way to Timber Ridge next month, I will be stopping in Washington, DC to meet with some funders and potential strategic partners like the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Sound equipment and cables resting up for the journey

By the way, our Centennial celebration is in 2015. Our goal is to celebrate, on a North American spectrum, one hundred years of dance, music and song within the English and American folk traditions. We are currently in the brainstorming and preliminary planning mode and I’ll be in touch soon with more on our celebratory plans.

Be well, Rima

PS. Please keep your fingers crossed for good weather at both camps!

 

 

Rima at Camp — part 3

A series of summer blogs by CDSS Executive Director Rima Dael:

Good-bye Family Week…

What fun to see everyone get dressed up for the Friday parade. Here I am pictured with Kimberly Fields, and yes, that is a horse hat on top of my head! Saying good-bye to Family Week was bittersweet. My daughter has made plans already for next year, asking to maybe start violin again this fall and who her roommate may be. We said good-bye to our fairy houses, the lake and many, many new friends, but we did look forward to getting home to our own beds and starting the mounds of laundry. My husband picked up Karana on Saturday; I followed by bus the next day. Till next year, Family Week at Pinewoods!

…and hello Harmony of Song & Dance!

My single morning of singing with the entire camp, was…well…it touched my soul. It has been a while since I’ve sung with a large choir and it was incredibly moving. If my bus ticket home hadn’t been paid for and nonrefundable, and if there wasn’t work waiting for me in the office, I might have begged to stay one more night.

Let me also share that I was tickled and a little starstruck at the opening of Harmony Week. David Jones, a magnificent storyteller and folksinger is on staff this summer. My daughter and I are big fans. David is featured on the “Sea Music” CD and DVD by Dan Zanes & Friends, and our favorite song, “Strike the Bell,” is one that my daughter has grown up with. No, I didn’t ask for David’s autograph but someone got our picture! When my daughter and husband picked me up at the bus stop Sunday night we watched the DVD with David singing “Strike the Bell” and shared memories of Pinewoods all the way home.

Yes, I get it. CDSS Camps are so very special. Pinewoods is magical — thank you to everyone who help make the magic happen. My BIGGEST thanks go to Steve Howe (CDSS’s Director of Programs) and his summer office assistant Maggie Bye for their hard, hard work to make CDSS Camps what they are. Thanks to Judy Savage (Camp Manager) and the Pinewoods staff for the wonderful facilities and food!

I’m off to Ogontz next, to say hello this Sunday, and will swing back to Pinewoods for a couple of days of American Dance & Music Week — more pictures and thoughts to come.

Cheers, Rima

PS. It took a WHOLE day to do laundry from camp…I get that now too! (Smile.)

 

Rima at Camp – Family Week at Pinewoods, part 2

A series of summer blogs by CDSS Executive Director Rima Dael:

A great cool Thursday morning from Family Week at Pinewoods…perfect for English country dance, especially after yummy pancakes for breakfast!

A summer storm came yesterday afternoon that cancelled the swim across the lake. Stories from Peter Amidon and Andy Davis kept us riveted and the younger campers distracted from the booming thunder and wind. But all is well now with lower humidity.

Cheers, Rima

Handing off the Music (literally!)

Handing off the music to the next generation? Absolutely, and with considerable flair and musicianship, don’t you think? CDSS president and videographer David Millstone describes this video of Bob McQuillen and friends:

Contra dance enthusiasts may enjoy watching a recently-uploaded clip on
YouTube that focuses on Bob McQuillen, the New Hampshire musician and
tunesmith.

Composer of more than 1500 tunes to date and well known for his distinctive and
powerful boom-chuck piano style of contra dance accompaniment, Bob was a
2009 recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award. The award itself was
presented to Bob at the New England Folk Festival (NEFFA) the following April,
part of a “Salute to Bob McQuillen” session that was conceived by CDSS
member Jeremy Korr. Jeremy noted that 2010 would mark the eighth decade (!)
during which Bob had been a NEFFA participant and he helped arrange for a
special group of musical guests to highlight the occasion.

In this clip, Steve Zakon-Anderson calls “Young at Heart,” a contra dance he
wrote years ago for Bob.The musicians shown include Bob’s “Old
New England” bandmates, Jane Orzechowski and Deanna Stiles, and two
members of his Pacific Northwest band, the “Rhythm Rollers,” WB Reid and
Laurie Andres.

Bob has had a long and close relationship with Jane Orzechowski’s family; four
of the Orzechowski children studied piano with him over the years. (The oldest,
Francis, was one of the musicians selected to represent New Hampshire at the
Smithsonian Institution’s 1999 Festival of American Folklife in Washington, DC.)
On the video, you can watch as the piano accompaniment is seamlessly passed
from Bob to Francis, Russell, and Neil, and then back to Bob. When they’re not
playing piano, the video shows the three playing fiddle or accordion.

Bob McQuillen was also awarded the National Heritage Fellowship in 2002 by the
National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor for traditional artists in the
US.