Lifetime Contribution Awards
LCA Celebration for Kate Barnes
We are delighted to invite you to the Lifetime Contribution Award Celebration for Kate Barnes!
Sunday, September 26, 2021
4:00-6:00 p.m. ET
Click here to register for the Zoom event.
Last year, we announced Kate Barnes as the 2020 recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award. The award ceremony we originally planned for September 2020 was sadly cancelled due to the pandemic, but we are delighted to announce the details of the rescheduled event. Although some in-person events will likely have resumed by this point, we have decided to create an online celebration so that we can include as many people as possible, and to make it easy to attend for Kate’s friends, family, and well-wishers from across the continent.
The event will include the award presentation, several group musical contributions, photos, videos, personal reminiscences, tributes and much more.
We will also be inviting participants to record some pieces of music to share at the event. We will notify all registered participants when submissions are open for this.
Share your memories in our Scrapbook
As part of the celebration, we would like to gather your good wishes, stories, reminiscences, and/or reflections on Kate's influence in your life in order to create a digital scrapbook for Kate. We are seeking contributions in the form of text, video, or photos (with some explanation of the content of the photo). You can be funny. You can be serious. You can be heartfelt. You can be silly. Kate will love hearing from you, however you want to share your wishes.
If you would like a prompt to help you gather your thoughts, you may want to choose one or more of these questions:
- What would you like to wish for Kate at this special occasion?
- What is one (or more) of your favorite memories of something involving Kate?
- How has Kate's presence in the world had an impact on you?
If one or more of these prompts is helpful, wonderful! However, they are not required; you may share whatever you wish to say to Kate.
To share your contribution, please fill out this submission form. The form will allow you to upload a limited number of photos, if you have video files or a larger number of photos you would like to share, please email us to arrange this. The deadline for accepting contributions is Sept. 1, and the scrapbook will then be posted on our website and shared at the celebration event
If you have questions about the event or your contribution to the scrapbook, please email email@example.com
Jeanne Morrill & Ruth Reiner—event committee co-chairs
Crispin Youngberg—CDSS LCA coordinator
Digital Scrapbook for David Kaynor
A Celebration of David Kaynor
David Kaynor of Montague, MA is the 2021 CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award recipient, in recognition of his enormous contributions as a dance community organizer, musician, caller, and mentor to generations. We held a Celebration online on David's birthday, Saturday, April 17, 2021.
David Allen Kaynor passed away on June 1, 2021. We're so grateful for everything he brought to our world, and for the opportunity we had to honor him with this award.
View the video of the Celebration:
David's Acceptance Remarks
I'm delighted and humbled to receive the Lifetime Contribution Award.
I think about the colossal contributions of past recipients, and I ask myself, Why me? Although I enjoyed and believed in what I was doing as a dance caller, fiddle teacher, session host, musician, and graphic artist, I considered myself irrelevant to the lofty circles and activities of the Country Dance and Song Society.
A low point in my musical life came in the spring of 1981, when the president of NEFFA told me that, in their opinion, what we ... my cousins, uncle, other Fourgone Conclusions band mates, and I ... were doing had nothing to do with New England contra dancing.
My response to numerous real or perceived organizational snubs was to submerge myself in the pleasures of the moment in my core interests and pursuits: Long distance running, cross country skiing, dancing, calling dances, teaching basic Swedish dances, teaching basic fiddling, and playing music. I also became something of a calligrapher and graphic artist.
Eventually, I found a niche as a teacher and caller. This led to countless gigs in which I enjoyed a happy integration of my artistic, spiritual, and political ideals and having to earn enough money to get by.
All these facets of my life came together when I became Music Director of the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra and the Fiddle Orchestra of Western Massachusetts. These groups welcomed all musicians of all skill and experience levels. My tasks included including all. Our practices blended learning and arranging tunes with in-the-moment adventure and fun. I wrote out many harmonies while on AMTRAK'S Vermonter, where the conductors knew me by name and the scenery was sweetly familiar.
I'm grateful to Jay Ungar and Molly Mason at Ashokan, Bob Dalsemer and Annie Fain Liden Barallon at the John C. Campbell Folk School, the Reiner family of Fiddle Hell, Paul Rosenberg and Peter Davis at the Dance Flurry, my colleagues at Northeast Heritage Music Camp, Mike Reddig in Flagstaff, Arizona, Fred Karsch in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Sue Songer and Betsy Branch in Portland and Mark Lewis and Carla Arnold in La Grand, Oregon, Sherry Nevins and Tom and Amy Wimmer in Seattle, Lindon Toney in Olympia, Washington, and numerous other organizers and bandmates in the Pacific Northwest. These folks gave me opportunities to share my developing skills and deep love of music and dancing, not just once, but over and over.
Thanks to all these people, I was able to cultivate relationships with and within their communities. This, in turn, enabled me to not just share tons of fun, but also share experiences of growth and development in many ways. Our skills and repertoire evolved and so did our senses of self, possibility, and purpose.
We didn't just perform music and dance. We SHARED it. This became a fundamental personal philosophy: There are times and places for performing, but sharing can happen so much more often, and it's good for us all. Maybe it's even good for the world.
I've struggled to matter for as long as I can remember. This showed itself in a number of ways, including sports and music and dance. I was always dogged by the weight of self doubt. This finally dissipated in the final years of my career, thanks to all of the above who provided opportunities for us to explore mattering together.
Part I—Introductions (~15 minutes)
- Montague Processional (3 mins) Video
- Introductory words from co-hosts Lissa Schneckenburger and Andy Davis Live
- Welcome from CDSS Board President Gaye Fifer Live
- Words from David, Read by Becky Hollingsworth Live
Part II—Lifetime Contributions (45-60 minutes)
- Sustainers Video
- Jay Ungar and Molly Mason Live
- Fiddle Hell Video
- Stuart Kenney Video
- Peter Siegel Live
- Footage from Guiding Star Grange
- George Wilson Live
- Northwest Interviews (by Doug Plummer) Video
- Sue Songer Live
- Bob Dalsemer with Katie and Corie Pressley (a.k.a. The Pressley Girls) Video
- Fred Karsch and Katie Pressley Live
- Vermont Fiddle Orchestra Video
- Fiddle Orchestra of Western Massachusetts—Becky Shannon (FOWM) Live
- Van Kaynor and Cammy Kaynor
- Chris Wise (Montague Common Hall) Live
Part III—Finale (10-15 minutes)
- Award Presentation—Gaye Fifer Live
- Closing and thanks—Lissa Schneckenburger and Andy Davis Live
- High Clouds Video
Extra Conversation / Breakout Rooms
- Participants who wish to stay and chat will have the chance to go into breakout rooms.
Please email KaynorLCA@cdss.org if you have any questions.
2020 Lifetime Contributor ~ Kate Barnes
The Country Dance and Song Society is pleased to announce that Kate Barnes of Greenfield, MA, is the 2020 recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award. Kate was selected in recognition of many years of performance and teaching at CDSS programs, the international importance of her publications, her generosity of spirit when running music workshops, and her contributions to current and future communities.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kate's award celebration was postponed. We will celebrate online on Sunday, September 26, 2021, from 4:00-6:00 p.m. ET via Zoom. Click here to register, or read the full details.
“As a contra dance piano player, Kate pioneered an improvisatory style that brings joy to dancers, and influences musicians directly and through countless workshops. Her decades-long work with Bare Necessities created fresh interpretations of English country dance music to lift our feet, and the three volumes of the Barnes books are the standard reference collections of tunes used by musicians throughout the dance community.”
—David Millstone, Lebanon, NH (caller, former CDSS president)
“Kate has contributed consistently to the scene for more decades than I know. She’s inspired dancers with her music —exquisitely played, full of forward motion and joyful variety, sensitive to the period, tune type and occasion, and in tight teamwork with other musicians. She’s a reason many people like English dancing.”
—Bruce Hamilton, Menlo Park, CA (caller, former CDSS president)
“I’ve had the great fortune to travel the US, Canada and even as far as Denmark with The Latter Day Lizards. Everywhere we go Kate is universally known and respected and admired for her musicianship, warmth and quick-witted humor. I can’t think of a better recipient for next year’s CDSS Lifetime Contribution award!”
—Dave Langford, Arlington, MA (musician, bandmate)
“Since I first heard and started playing with her in the 1970’s, her passionate, creative, traditionally spirited-but-not-stifled playing and composing have been a bottomless wellspring. Kate’s ink-stained (and later electronic) publishing labors of love have saved many musicians from hauling libraries around in order to play for a dances and have encouraged many to learn the underappreciated craft of playing for dancing. I’m grateful for Kate’s strong, courageous commitment to self-expression, and her deep commitment to the much-needed-in-today’s-world, affirming values of our dance community.”
—Jaqueline Schwab, Cambridge, MA (musician, bandmate)
2019 Lifetime Contributor ~ Sue Songer
When Sue Songer started learning contra dance tunes in 1989, she had no idea of the forces she would set in motion in Portland – and beyond. She only knew that she found it personally useful to transcribe tunes that she had learned in order to keep them in her head. Before long, others started asking her for her transcriptions. As word spread of her growing collection of tunes, she was approached frequently by strangers asking for copies of her collection. From this, the Portland Collection music products were born, with Clyde Curley as her collaborator. The three books and four CDs have become staple resources for contra dance musicians around the world. Sue never would have imagined in 1989 that her transcriptions would travel as far as Australia!
In 1996, Sue – inspired by the large contra dance band Rum and Onions – decided to try leading a large contra dance band in Portland. She thought that maybe it would last a year or two. 25 people signed up the first year, and they liked it so much they asked to do it again. The Portland Megaband now has about 75 members, a wide variety of levels and instrumentation, and plays for an annual dance for 500 dancers. The dance raises money for a scholarship fund for community members to continue their music and dance education. Sue's positive leadership has made the Megaband a community favorite. Furthermore, the Megaband dance in March gave rise to a 5-day long event known as the Cascade Promenade, capped by an all-day contra dance featuring regional bands and callers on the Sunday after the Megaband dance. People come from far and wide for this annual celebration of music and dance---all sparked by Sue's idea in 1996.
Sue is also active as a dance musician and teacher. She currently plays with two contra dance bands, Joyride and The Stage Crew, plus she collaborates with many other musicians for contra and English dances. She has led large contra dance bands in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Coos Bay, Oregon, and was a teacher and musician in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for CDSS's Centennial Tour. She has tutored piano numerous times at the American Festival of Fiddle Tunes, and she teaches every July for Contra Dance Musicians Week at John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina.
Furthermore, Sue has been active on boards and committees of many organizations, including Northwest Folklife Festival, Portland Country Dance Community, CDSS, and Northwest Passage Dance Weekend.
Sue approaches all of her work with dedication, passion and – most of all – kindness. She is always supportive of musicians, no matter what their playing ability is. She has inspired so many, more than she could ever imagine. She graciously thanks the members of the Megaband every year for their hard work and dedication, and tells them how proud she is of them. In return, everyone who has worked with Sue is proud of her achievements and appreciative of her invaluable contributions to music and dance.
2018 Lifetime Contributor ~ Bill Alkire
The Country Dance and Song Society is pleased to announce that Bill Alkire of Wooster, Ohio is the 2018 recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award. Bill has positively impacted the world of American traditional dance for over 70 years as a dance leader, organizer, choreographer, and mentor.
On Sunday, February 25, 2018 there will be a celebration in honor of Bill’s award. This open-to-the-public occasion will be held in Wooster at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wayne County. The award presentation will begin at 2:00 pm followed by a dance until 5 pm with invited callers leading contras, squares, mixers, and English country dancing for all.
The following letter was written by Susan English who is organizing Bill’s award celebration. You can learn more about this event at www.woosterdance.com/lifetime-award and RSVP by contacting Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read on to learn more about Bill’s remarkable contributions to traditional dance throughout his life.
At age 15, Bill was leading play party dances for his Methodist Youth Fellowship in central Ohio. When they danced in the barn of Lynn Rorbaugh, Bill learned more about dance leadership. He called his first public square dances while still in high school and worked his way through Ohio State University by teaching dance throughout the Columbus area. He served on the committee of the Ohio Folk Festival for several years, serving as General Chairman in 1950, when over 3,000 people participated.
Attending Berea Christmas Dance School for the first time in 1948, Bill discovered new dance forms, including contra dance, English country dance, and Appalachian clogging, which he subsequently introduced to dance communities across Northeast Ohio and beyond. Bill returned to Berea Christmas Dance School multiple years on staff, teaching traditional squares, Appalachian clogging, beginning English, and dance leadership.
After a 1979 visit to Black Mountain, North Carolina, he founded the Cedar Valley Cloggers of Wooster, Ohio, a black-shoe traditional performance group that continues today. As artistic director, Bill adapted a broad range of traditional figure dances to clogging performances.
Bill has served on staff at Pinewoods, Mendocino, Dancing Bears of Alaska, Michigan Dance Heritage, Kentucky Summer Dance School, Cumberland Lakes, and, in 1994, the Silkeborg Festival in Denmark. From Kentucky Summer Dance School he received an appreciation award for his service from 1982-1986. Bill was the American dance leader for many years at Oglebay and Maine Folk Dance Camps, Folklore Village, and at various Recreation Leaders’ Labs--Great Lakes, Chatco, Black Hills, Northland, Laurel Highlands, and Buckeye. For his lifetime service to Buckeye Leadership Workshop, he received an Emeritus Award in 1998.
At home in Wooster, Ohio, Bill prepared a generation of youth for square dance and square dance calling competitions at the Ohio State Fair. He called contra dances starting in the 1950s, and his monthly old-time square dance ran continuously for 50 years. After 2000, Bill co-founded the intergenerational program at Terpsichore’s Holiday and performed “Minuet to Macarena,” a revue of couple dance 1800 to present, from the Wheatland Music Festival to the Atlanta Waltz Society.
As a former mental health professional, Bill sees cooperative group dance as a key to healthy relationships and vibrant communities. Over the years, aspiring dance leaders have turned to him not only for his expertise but also for his philosophy of dance. Though currently not in good health at near 90 years old, he was still passing it on to the next generation well into his 80s.
Postscript: Sadly, Bill passed away on September 12th. He was a true treasure and will be missed by all whose lives he touched.
Note: Photos on this page courtesy of Susan English.
2017 Lifetime Contributor ~ Sandy Bradley
Sandy Bradley of Raymond, WA, was the 2017 recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award.
Sandy exemplifies the power of inclusion and collaboration in developing and nurturing dance communities and high-quality musical talent. She, along with stellar old time musicians, brought about Seattle's trad square dance revival, and she developed a welcoming, supportive and appreciative dance culture that still characterizes the Northwest scene today. A superb caller of squares and a superb old time musician, she greatly influenced many callers across the U.S. through her tours, teaching at camps, and her weekly live radio program.
She was honored at the Award celebration on Saturday, September 16, 2017 in Seattle, WA.
Read more about Sandy in the Summer issue of the CDSS News. And check out http://stickerville.org/potluck/, the web home for the recording, graphics, MP3s, liner, notes and all the calls for Sandy's calling recording: Potluck and Dance Tonite. Also of interest is an interview with Sandy conducted by Bob Dalsemer at the 2009 Dare to Be Square event in Seattle.
2016 Lifetime Contributor ~ Jeff Warner
The Country Dance and Song Society presented the 2016 CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award to Jeff Warner of Portsmouth, NH. Jeff is one of the nation's foremost performers and interpreters of traditional music and an advocate for bringing folk music to people of all ages, through his deep knowledge and love of American and English folk songs. His warmth and encouragement of singers, both experienced and new, young and old, has enriched many lives.
Jeff grew up in New York City, listening to the songs and stories of his father, Frank Warner, and the traditional singers his parents met during folksong collecting trips through rural America. When traveling with his parents, he listened while they recorded the locals who remembered the old songs of their region and community. (These recordings are preserved in the Library of Congress.)
In the 1960s, after receiving a BA in English at Duke University, and after a two-year stint in the Navy, Jeff was editor-in-training at Doubleday Bookclubs, heading, it seemed, toward a literary career until a friend asked if he would help run a nonprofit music school, the Guitar Workshop, in Roslyn, Long Island. He stayed with the school for nine years, working as administrator, guitar teacher, grant writer, and community program coordinator, and learning music theory and arrangement by teaching. His position also helped put him in touch with the significant people involved in the post-WW II folk revival movement that was embraced by both the commercial and academic worlds. In the '70s, he left to carve out a career for himself in historical music. Because of the US Bicentennial there was an increased demand for American songs in schools and Jeff filled that need with outreach programs into the schools.
He says that he is not a traditional singer in the academic sense-someone who has acquired the traditions either through ethnicity or family ties-but refers to himself as a singer of traditional songs taking an historical approach to the music.
"I teach American history and culture through traditional song and" (borrowing a phrase from historian David McCullough) "making history as interesting as it really was." For Jeff, old songs are like archaeological objects which teach about history — "they're living historical artifacts that serve as evidence about the people who used them and the times they lived in."
In 1997, he moved to Portsmouth and began performing in New Hampshire schools as a Roster Artist through the State Arts Council. He has recorded for Flying Fish/Rounder, WildGoose (UK), and other labels. His first solo compact disc, recorded in 2005, is Jolly Tinker on Gumstump Records. His 1995 recording (with Jeff Davis), Two Little Boys, received a Parents' Choice Award. He is the editor of his mother's book, Traditional American Folksongs from the Frank and Anne Warner Collection (Syracuse University Press, 1984), and producer of the CD set Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still: The Warner Collection (Appleseed Recordings, 2000), which is comprised of his parents' field recordings. He appears on the NH State Arts Council's 2003 compact disc Songs of the Seasons, for which he also co-wrote the liner notes.
From 1979 to 1993, Jeff toured nationally for the Smithsonian Institution. He continues to travel extensively in the US, Canada, and the UK, performing at museums and historical societies, folk clubs and folk festivals. In addition to singing and storytelling, he plays concertina, banjo, guitar, and several "pocket" instruments, including bones, spoons, and the jig doll/limberjack.
He is past president of the Country Dance and Song Society, and a past officer and founding member of the North American Folk Alliance (now Folk Alliance International). He has been an artist for Virginia and Ohio Arts Councils, is a speaker for New Hampshire Humanities, and is a producer of the Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival. In 2007, he was named a NH State Arts Council Fellow.
Listen to him sing Baldheaded End of the Broom from Jolly Tinker.
The award was presented in Ashland, OR, on Saturday, October 22, 2016. You'll find details here.
We're thrilled to honor the many accomplishments of Jeff Warner.
2013 Lifetime Contributors ~ Glen and Judi Morningstar
“Delightfully Consumed”—How Music and Dance Took over Glen and Judi Morningstar
as told to Caroline Batson, CDSS News Editor
Glen and Judi Morningstar, an integral part of Michigan’s folk dance and music community for this past thirty-five years, are this year’s CDSS Lifetime Contribution Awardees. They have played and written music, called and written dances, taught music and dance, published music and dance books, led international music and dance exchanges, and facilitated leadership workshops—in short, they have accomplished much and inspired many (and been inspired by many, Glen and Judi will tell you). The article below is based on email correspondence with them, July-August 2013. ~ C. B.
The Beginning of Music and Dance
The multi-talented Glen and Judi Morningstar are musicians (fiddle and five-string banjo, Glen; dulcimer and piano, Judi; and bass and mandolin, both), dance band leaders (both), dance leader and organizer (Glen), tune author (Judi), and they are dancers (contra and English country dancing, eighteenth and nineteenth century historical dancing, square dancing, recreational dancing), AND they are singers (shapenote singing, folk song), dance researchers and educators. They are busy people.
Music has always been around them. Judi’s dad, Adrian “John” Emery, was a guitar player and grew up joining in the house party dances of the day; her granddad, Henry Emery, was a harmonica player; and her mom, Eva, was a stride piano player. Her other granddad, Herbert Smith, was a fiddler and played with his brothers in their family band. A lot of music was played in their home while she was growing up.
Glen’s parents were grange members and dancers, traveling the polka and grange hall circuits in Saginaw and Bay Counties, Michigan. Both sets of grandparents, the Crellers and the Morningstars, were grange members and dancers too. Glen’s parents, Glen Sr. and ruth, met at a grange dance. Glen and his sister, Sue, joined in as youngsters. The music of his uncles, Bill and Norman Creller, guitar and mandolin, was always around the house. Uncle Bill was in a country western band (now he plays Hawaiian guitar...builds them too). Uncle george Lukezic played bass in a polka band out of Saginaw... he was “spot on,” Glen says.
Into these musical households, Glen and Judi were born, three days apart and across the street from each other, in Saginaw. Their families moved to different neighborhoods when they were very young, so they didn’t officially meet until teenagers, at neighborhood baseball games, and then at the same high school, where they started going steady. I’m not sure if they courted each other with music, but Glen used to ride his horse to meet Judi when she was visiting friends near his home. Upgrading to a car helped their relationship, they say.
The Folk Community
Music, dance and song became a larger part of their lives when they moved to rochester, Michigan in 1975, with Glen’s transfer to Chevrolet Manufacturing r&D. There they discovered the rochester Folk Workshop, and from there were connected to the traditional music and dance community in southeast Michigan. Paint Creek Folklore Society, led by Vince Sadovsky and John Carter, was just forming, as well as the Detroit Country Dance Society, led by Burton Schwartz and Paul Tyler. These connections broadened quickly to include rising Michigan dance communities in Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Holland, Kalamazoo, grand rapids, Midland and Traverse City. Glen and Judi were “on fire,” they said, learning to play additional instruments through other Paint Creek members, and honing their traditional dance skills. In 1979, encouraged by Burt Schwartz, they traveled southward to Berea Christmas Country Dance School and that REALLY got them hooked. They returned to Berea CCDS in 1981 to join the staff leaders for many enjoyable years.
Organizing—the Start of Many Things
They still have the plaque on the wall. Judi and Glen, along with music pal Tom radcliffe, played their first gig for the Fenton Cub Scouts, in Fenton, Michigan on February 14, 1977. Judi played Appalachian dulcimer, Glen played banjo and Tom played guitar, and they sang the popular folk songs of the day. They had met Tom at PCFS, and Tom and Glen were the President and Vice President by then. Judi, too, served as both, and she and Glen each had terms as the newsletter editor. Judi, a.k.a. Aunt Lu, wrote a nearly-monthly article, “Ask Aunt Lu,” for Paint Creek Folklore Society’s newsletter, Keepin’ Tabs.
“Dear Aunt Lu... My husband recently took up the fiddle. It’s awful listening to him practice, it sounds like he’s torturing our cat and the neighbor called the ASPCA. I hate to discourage him but he’s driving me MAD! Signed, Raving & Ranting
(Aunt Lu’s response) “Dear Raving... This is a common problem among couples where only one decides to learn an instrument. Here are a few hints: Take up the fiddle with him (this will give you empathy). Buy him a mute (it works wonders for your nerves). Banish him to the basement. Encourage him to practice the same time every day and find something else to do, preferably in another city.”
Along with Tom, Glen and Judi organized the Paint Creek annual concert in 1977 as a society fundraiser...Tin Whistle Coffeehouse it was called, and it still runs today. A year later they organized the olde Michigan ruffwater Stringband from members of the folklore society who had either been playing for concerts and dances or were looking to be a part of that fun. With other members of Paint Creek, they organized annual music, song and dance picnics. The picnics grew into a Zing into Spring weekend (cohosted with the Detroit Folklore Society), and then an annual May Play Day, a mini-festival, with traditional music, song and dance workshops, a Maypole dance, an early evening contra and square dance, and evening concert. Paint Creek officers Gene Menton and Rick Ott worked with them to organize the first one, and it was held at Detroit Country Day School where gene was teaching. From the dancing fun at the May Play Days, came the annual Starry Night for a Ramble Contra and Square Dance, launched in 1984, organized with Jan Boonstra Pavlinak and Susan Grace Stoltz, and it, too, continues. Judi has been the annual band leader for the Paint Creek Country Dance orchestra for many years, along with JoAnn Shulte and others; they gather annually, practicing that year’s tunes for the Starry Night dance.
In the 1980s, Glen and Judi were “delightfully consumed” with organizing music, song and dance events. Ruffwater had been playing in Greenfield Village, Dearborn, as part of the offerings of the original Dulcimer Player’s Club, and Glen started leading impromptu dancing in front of Henry Ford’s family home and the Village Town Hall. They caught the eye and ear of Bob Eliason at the Village and started the monthly Lovett Hall dances in October 1981, with Glen leading the dances and ruffwater playing the music; guest callers and groups performed as well, right up until the dance was retired in 2005. Meanwhile, Judi helped organize a women’s band called Just Friends, with Lori (Thompson) Cleland, Cecelia (Horodko) Webster, and Rosemary Kornacki, with a focus on concert presentations in the traditional and folk styles. Their reputation grew and they performed at a number of national festivals including the Philadelphia Folk Festival and the old Songs Festival.
The Danish-American Exchange and Michigan Dance Heritage
At Berea Christmas School in 1982, Dr. John Ramsay asked Glen to organize a music, song and dance exchange with a group of musicians, singers and dancers from Denmark. Away they went! Conversation began among Thy Folkedanserslaug (folk dance group) and Thy Spillemandslaug (music group) in Denmark, Paint Creek Folklore Society in Michigan, and the Frankfort Country Dancers in Kentucky. A year and a half later, twenty-five musicians, singers and dancers came from the Thy region in Denmark to stay for a week in Michigan and a week in Kentucky, presenting their music, songs and dance. They stayed in local homes, including Glen and Judi’s. “It was phenomenal!,” Glen and Judi said. The following year (1985), the Kentuckians and Michiganders traveled to Denmark to perform there, and then to Sweden with their host families. The exchanges were repeated in 1987 and 1989, opening Glen and Judi even further to the power of connection among a community’s musicians, singers and dancers.
Also in 1982, Don Coffey and “T” Auxier launched Kentucky Summer Dance School, and the Morningstars were thrilled to be a part of the staff in its early years, learning a ton of practical information about working with organizers and other musicians, callers and dancers. Four years later, at Berea Christmas School, Peter Baker, Jonathan robie, Jean gal and Glen, four of the Michigan dance gypsies who were there put their heads together— it was time to have a week or weekend of similar music, song and dance back in Michigan. The four brought the idea to the Michigan folk community, and, with their support, Michigan Dance Heritage Fall Dance Camp was launched in September 1987. Bob Dalsemer, Joel Mabus and Bud Pierce were the first headliners...“perfect.” An MDH Spring Dance Camp, called Trillium Twirl, was added by the dance community in 1992 to fulfill the large demand for this grand fun...both are weekend camps and, yes, they, too, continue to this day.
Ambassadors of Music and Dance
In 1976, Glen and Judi’s involvement with Paint Creek Folklore Society opened the door to sharing traditional music, song and dance at a variety of venues in Michigan. They enjoyed being ambassadors for the traditional arts at shopping malls, town festivals, weddings, barn dances, birthday celebrations, family reunions and, ultimately, to their community. They saw the membership of PCFS grow from twelve to seventy over five years. Their good fortune in being connected to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village for almost twenty-four years allowed them to host over two hundred contra dances in the hall that Henry Ford built specifically for traditional dance...sprung floor, crystal chandeliers, winding staircase, panorama of second floor windows, bandshell. They met many people from across North America and Europe at those dances, they said, and believe they left a positive feeling of good music and fun dancing (and a great museum) with them. The Danish Exchanges were very influential on the global perspective of traditional music, song and dance for the Michigan and Kentucky dance leaders. Participating in launching Michigan Dance Heritage’s two weekends are a real boost to keep the energy in the traditional arts at a high level for their local dance community.
One special highlight happened in 2005 when they were hired by Don and rhonda Cardwell of Dearborn to lead the dancing for their Cape Breton Summer Dance School at the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s on Cape Breton Island. They were immersed in dance workshops and Cape Breton culture presentations each day there. In the evening Glen led dancing in Baddeck for the many styles of dance sets found around the island. The musicians...“wow!” Jerry Holland, Buddy MacMaster, roberta Head, Bara MacNeils, Mac Morin and more. A photo of Judi playing with Buddy is priceless. Over the years, their band’s core of hammered dulcimers, has kept Glen and Judi involved with the dulcimer festivals in Michigan and the Midwest—leading instrument workshops, shapenote singing, and performing for concerts and dances. This year marks thirty-five consecutive years at the Evart Dulcimer Funfest. It’s like a big family reunion, they say: singing, dancing, concerts, workshops, jamming, eating, camping. “Yay!!” they say.
Who has inspired you musically, I asked. Bands like Bill Spence and Fennig’s All Stars, they said. The Highwoods Stringband, the red Clay ramblers, Hillbillies from Mars, and Bare Necessities. Instrumentalists Dudley Laufman, randy and rodney Miller, Laurie Andres, Shane Cook, Buddy MacMaster, Jerry Holland, Bud Pierce, Jay round, Bob Spinner, Bob Hubbach and Les raber.
Dancewise? Glen’s biggest inspirations came from Burt Schwartz in Michigan for his historical dance work, Bill Alkire for his fun squares out of ohio, Carole Howard from Central Michigan University for her recreational dance leadership skills, Bob Dalsemer, Tony Parkes and Ted Sannella for their contras and squares. Don Armstrong from Colorado stands out for his contras, his personal skills with people, and his promotion of our traditional dances worldwide.
And organizationally? There are so many, Glen and Judi told me. Notably, Don Hays and Debbie Jackson from Paint Creek Folklore Society, John ramsay, Joe and Patty Tarter from Berea Christmas School, Peter Baker and Jerry Hickman from Midland Folksong Society, David Baur from Trillium Twirl, Don Armstrong from the Lloyd Shaw Foundation, Don Coffey from Kentucky Summer Dance School, Svend Hamborg from Thisted, Denmark, Bob Dalsemer from everywhere good, Ted Sannella from Maine, Don Theyken the personable collaborator from Michigan, and a host of skillful organizers from AACTMAD (Ann Arbor Council for Traditional Music and Dance), the Ten Pound Fiddle (East Lansing), and the Oakland County Traditional Dance Society—“What they accomplish each year is astounding!”
Not content to continue to lead dances, form bands, organize events, support their local dance and music societies, and perform, Glen and Judi... and I don’t know how they do it, but they do...record (both); compose, lead bands and write music books (Judi); and teach music and dance in elementary schools and homeschool communities (Glen).
Their first Ruffwater Stringband recording was in 1981—“Michigan Winter” and was a 33-1/3 LP on vinyl. DgA Productions brought their portable recording studio to Lawnridge Hall in rochester which was the home base for Paint Creek Folklore Society. They were all in one big room together, thirteen of them, with their individual microphones. The band had practiced hard for the seventeen cuts and they recorded it all in two sessions. It mixed easy and had a great live sound. The second recording was “Michigan Spring,” produced in 1992 at Numark Studio in Utica on audio cassettes and leading edge CD, and, again, recorded in one big room with individual microphones. But this time sound “fences” were added for this recording to allow more separation of the fiddles from the dulcimers from the piano etc. It, too, mixed pretty well and still had a good live sound. They also did a number of small diameter 33-1/3 instructional records for the Lloyd Shaw Foundation from this collection of tunes. The third recording was “Michigan Summer” and was a CD in 2002. They stepped into the digital age with this recording—no longer in one big room, but rather recording the bass and rhythm tracks first, then the melody tracks separately, then the vocal tracks. It was a techie geek’s dream. Michael King Studio in Birmingham coordinated all of this recording, and it was substantially more work to mix, but turned out well. Judi has enjoyed recording two cassettes, “A Dulcimer Holiday” and “Here’s to Song” with Just Friends. Although they never made the digital crossover, they’re proud of both recordings. She also is heard in two CDs, playing piano for Bob Hubbach in “Up North, Down East,” and more recently in “Out the Buckhorn Way.”
When they began leading youth dances in 1986 they were delighted that a group of about two dozen homeschoolers wanted to partake in traditional music and dance. This first group grew rapidly each year, spawning a new group of homeschoolers that then began their own annual dance. Both groups continued to grow and by 1996, attendances of one hundred eighty young people were common. A third homeschool dancing group spawned from the second group in 2002 and this group grew VERY quickly through the support of the Center family out of Royal Oak. In 2010, the Center family group moved to a new dance club facility in Madison Heights and attendances of four hundred and five hundred young people have amazed them. In the past year, Glen has received requests to lead these dances for homeschool groups in Memphis and Hart, Michigan, whose members had attended the dances in southeast Michigan. The Memphis group was organized by an energetic fifteen-year old young lady named Hannah. The first dance there saw one hundred forty teenagers attending. The expansion is underway!! Glen and Judi see the next two generations of traditional dancers, musicians and singers coming in part from these homeschool groups and the elementary schools where Glen is leading his Dance Your Way Through History program [see web extra]. The Morningstars’ goal is to provide a fun, significant social experience for these young people so it becomes an instinctive part of their lives. They know that someday soon these students will be playing the music, leading the dancing, singing the songs, and organizing the events for their generation.
Over the Years
I asked Glen and Judi if their perception of traditional dance, music and song has changed over the last thirty-eight years. “YES!!,” they said. It had become increasingly clear to them, they told me, that the necessary things for a healthy lifestyle are found in traditional music, song and dance. The benefits of discipline, working together, exercise for a healthy body and mind, self-confidence, organization skills, shared respect, social skills and much more, are all to be had in the traditional music, song and dance world we live in. Now, how do we engage even more people to join us and realize these benefits, and share the fun?,” they ask each other. And us, the readers.
Glen is retired from General Motors and Electronic Data Systems where he held many positions in Manufacturing Engineering and Information Technology. His profession has shifted to leading dance programs in schools, historical settings, for dance communities around Michigan and dance weekends across the country. He also does community volunteer work as an Advanced Master Gardener. Judi taught Appalachian and hammered dulcimers and piano for many years, and still takes the occasional student. She is a prolific tune writer and book publisher, as well as an avid reader who volunteers at Highland Township Library, and she designs and constructs her own jewelry when it’s time to relax a bit. Her immediate goal is to update the music notation in her Ruffwater Fakebook to take advantage of the crisp and clear notation in more modern music applications. Nothing has changes— they’re still busy people.
From Music and Dance, Into Music and Dance
Over the years, occasionally, not too often, but from time to time, I hear or read concerns about the lessening of the traditional music, song and dance community. But with folks like Glen and Judi Morningstar, their friends and fellow organizers in Michigan and elsewhere, strong folk communities have been and are being built. To throw oneself so enthusiastically, over so many years, with so many accomplishments to your name and still keep going, may be unusual to some, but the Morningstars of our world keep me feeling that the traditions we love are in superb hands as they pass from generation to generation.
“What are the most valuable thoughts you’ve taken away from your activities so far?” I asked at the end of the interview. “The memories of caring, dedicated, forthright people around us,” they said. “They have made our activities a true delight. What a joy to work with people in all the aspects of traditional music, song and dance, who lean forward and pour their hearts into making this community click.” I can’t say anything better about these two people myself. So, on behalf of the Country Dance and Song Society, I say thank you, Glen and Judi Morningstar—you have leaned forward and poured your hearts into our community, making it stronger and longer lasting by your gifts of music, song, dance, friendship, organization, and the ability to inspire. It’s a joy to honor you with this year’s Lifetime Contribution Award. Long may you thrive.