Tag Archives: song

Harmony of Song & Dance: A new week at Pinewoods

A message from Peter Amidon, co-director of Harmony of Song & Dance week at Pinewoods.

Peter and Mary Alice Amidon

I studied, and loved, instrumental classical music through and after college, playing piano, guitar, cello and viola da gamba. Then, when I was 25, and living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I was introduced to traditional song and dance. It was an epiphany; I loved the physicality of the singing and dancing, and the fact that it was participatory. I loved that it came from and was for the common people. I sold my viola da gamba and bought a fiddle and a banjo.

I met my wife Mary Alice at a contra dance and in 1976 we went to CDSS’s Folk Music Week at Pinewoods. I went into Pinewoods to learn more fiddle tunes, and I came out a singer who also played fiddle. It was a life-changing experience. Over the last 35 years many CDSS Pinewoods weeks — Folk Music, Family, English & American Dance — have helped define who Mary Alice and I are and what we do.

Now we are honored to be chairing The Harmony of Song & Dancethe new CDSS week for singers who love to dance and for dancers who love to sing — with a dynamic and diverse staff of dance and song leaders.

Kim and Reggie Harris

We are bringing together some of our favorite music and dance activities…

  • group harmony singing by ear and from written arrangements
  • English folk songs
  • Appalachian ballads
  • shape note
  • secular and sacred gospel singing
  • contra, English, and ritual dance
  • work songs and sea songs
  • tune sessions and playing in a dance band

…with some of our favorite people…

  • dynamic and gifted singing leaders Kim & Reggie Harris
  • Cambridge Revels music master George Emlen
  • master singer/instrumentalist Keith Murphy

    Becky Tracy and Keith Murphy

  • profound bass and dance caller Nils Fredland
  • delicious English pianist and humorist Karen Axelrod
  • elegant and graceful fiddler/singer Naomi Morse
  • master English dance caller and choral singer Brad Foster
  • sublime yet powerful dance fiddler Becky Tracy
  • steeped-in-traditional-music-since-birth singer/banjo player/clog dancer Leela Grace
  • Master of All Ceremonies and leader of songs from across the pond (Scotland & England) and ritual dance Alistair Brown
  • brilliant Irish flute/whistle player/singer Shannon Heaton
  • innovative guitarist and singer Matt Heaton
  • inspired leader of joyful song Mary Alice Amidon
  • and pretty good singing leader Peter Amidon (me).

This would be our dream staff, except they are all really coming!

I believe that the act of singing and dancing together creates a powerful and joyful synchronicity. It is a foundation of Mary Alice’s and my lives and the foundation of the Harmony of Song & Dance.

We hope you will come join us for what we are expecting will be an extraordinary week.

— Peter Amidon, June, 2011

Harmony of Song & Dance at Pinewoods will take place July 23 – 30, 2011. There is still space available! To find out more visit www.cdss.org/harmony.

There are also still scholarships available at this writing. To inquire, please e-mail camp@cdss.org.

Help us share the week by telling your friends and visiting the Facebook page and event or by clicking the Facebook button below.

Meetup.com: A Resource to Consider?

Is this a useful resource for dance and song organizers?

Over the last few months, I’ve heard from a few groups about their experiences using the online social network Meetup to attract new participants. I’ve even seen its effect at a local dance. This got me wanting to find out a little more about Meetup and how dance and song organizers have been using it. I don’t have enough anecdotal information to really know how useful Meetup can be for dance and song groups, but let me share what I do know.

What It Is

Meetup, whose slogan is “Use the Internet to get off the Internet”, has been around for a decade now. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a social networking tool meant to facilitate face-to-face meetings. The organization’s mission statement speaks to a lot of the values I hear traditional dancers and singers express: “Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.”

How this sentiment works in practice on their site is that organizers create groups (and pay dues of between $12-$19/mo) and those groups have members and events.

Meetup isn’t the only site out there doing this sort of thing, of course. BigTent seems to be another resource, although this doesn’t seem to have a lot of folky representation at the moment. And there’s plenty of overlap with what you might already be doing with Facebook. Indeed, Meetup also connects with Facebook with an app. (I should note that it’s a time of transition for Meetup, which just underwent a major facelift a few days ago that not everyone likes.)

Who Is Using It and How

Meetup contra dance groups and interested members across the globe.

There are a number of Meetup groups out there done by the organizers themselves. Contra dance and square dance both generate some hits across the country. English Country Dance doesn’t seem to have a lot of representation, with the notable exception of the Las Vegas Country Dance group. There is a little morris out there as well. “Folk song” and “folk music” generate lots of hits of various stripes.

Meetup sites can contain a lot of information, as with this Chicago Sacred Harp page. Reading the quotes from participants is also quite fun. (It’s the sort of thing that would be nice on any website, really.)

Looking through these can give you a sense of how organizers might use Meetup.  There’s another way Meetup can impact communities, too: a broader Meetup group can decide to go to a dance as one of their activities.

This can happen when one of the organizers of a group that finds fun, unusual things to do decides contra dancing sounds interesting. I experienced this type of Meetup effect at a dance recently, when this contra dance was sponsored by the Nerd Fun – Boston, a group with almost 3,000 participants. Lo and behold, a group of a dozen or so descended on the dance.

Is It Worth It?

A little effort and money can give you a Meetup site, but is it worth it? I don’t know.

While $12/month isn’t a huge investment, it’s not a drop in the bucket either; it’s only going to be worth it if you see results. If you have several groups with close missions (e.g. contra and English or pub sings and a morris team), I could see combining forces to share the burden.

So, have you used Meetup or something like it to promote a song or dance event and/or find new participants? How? Did it work? Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear about it and I am sure others would as well.

– Max

George Pickow, 1922-2010

Photo by Steve Guglielmo. (From www.nytimes.com.)

George Pickow, photographer and husband to singer Jean Ritchie, passed away earlier this month.

An excerpt from the New York Times obituary:

Working quietly behind the scenes, Mr. Pickow documented the bubbling cultural ferment of New York City, and in particular Greenwich Village, where he and Ms. Ritchie lived after their marriage in 1950. For Elektra Records and other labels, he photographed folk singers like Josh White, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins and, of course, Ms. Ritchie, as well as jazz and pop artists like Little Richard, Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Bennett, Nina Simone and Louis Jordan.

As the Times relates, George met his wife at a square dance in 1948 and became an important photographer of folk singers. He also manufactured dulcimers for a decade. He collaborated with his wife on a number of books, including providing the wonderful photographs in Jean Ritchie’s Swapping Song Book.

Thistle and Shamrock’s December 16th broadcast is about Jean Ritchie and dedicated to Mr. Pickow’s memory. The New York Times also published an article in 1999 about Mr. Pickow, entitled “Stepping Out from the Camera”.

You can view some of his photography from Getty Images. The James Hardiman Library in Galway hosts a collection of photographs from Ireland 1952-3, which includes some fine portraits of familiar musicians among other subjects:

Photo by George Pickow: Tommy Makem on accordion, Jack Makem on piccolo, and John Conway on fiddle. (From the James Hardiman Library.)

People have been sharing their stories and expressing condolences at The Mudcat Cafe and Ms. Ritchie’s Facebook page.

EFDSS: Teaching Traditional Song

funwithfolk.com

Fun With Folk

While checking out efdss.org the other day, I found a cool resource for teachers who are interested in incorporating traditional English song and singing games into their curriculum. Fun with Folk was created as part of the Take 6 Project, funded in England by the Heritage Lottery Fund and delivered to EFDSS in 2008-9.

Fun with Folk features 15 songs from Lancashire, Hampshire, and London with words and audio. And most importantly, there are extensive Teacher’s Notes with objectives, activities, local study suggestions, and websites for each region’s songs in the categories of: history, literacy, music, dance, physical education, art and design, and math.

These are fun, easy-to-use, colorful and kid-friendly resources. My favorite part was the staff room which addresses that age-old concern: I can’t sing!! You DO want to get over that, and it helps you learn how.

http://funwithfolk.com

–Pat