David Kaynor in Arizona
May Madness was a dance weekend started by Prescott's Folk Happens contra community in the early 90's. It flourished for over twenty years drawing dancers from all over the Southwest, California and beyond for a weekend of great live music and hot contra dancing.
Around 1994 Rissa Miller, a caller and one of the Prescott's organizers, saw a chance to build her weekend by bringing in the New England calling and playing of David Kaynor with the band Spare Parts featuring Bill Matthiesen and Liz Stell. They were a huge hit with the Southwest and California dancers.
Jerry Wienert (Tucson organizer and bass player for The Privy Tippers and For Old Times Sake) recalls, “I first met David at May Madness in the mid to late 90s. I was playing with the Privy Tippers. The thing that fully impressed me was that David did not use one card or written note all weekend. Every single dance that he called came from his memory. He also joined in with playing fiddle while calling. He injected a great amount of energy into the music, his calling, and the joy in the hall.”
Dave Firestine (mandolin player for The Privy Tippers and Steam!) recounts, “He was very kind, and a bit mischievous...I was dancing near the front of the line while he called, and played the Celebrated Opera Reel. At some point, he and the band dropped a beat in a coordinated fashion. He kept calling, but had a sly grin . . .” as some dancers got caught with their Petronella claps down and had to hurry to catch up with the dance.
Years later the Tucson community called on David to call the 2017 Dance in the Desert with Pete's Posse. It was a high energy weekend in the high desert with lots of late night jamming, but Jerry recalls walking up to breakfast to the sweet tunes of David's fiddle from a high balcony as he welcomed the dancers to breakfast in the bright sunshine and piñon-scented morning.
Around 2011 some Flagstaff dancers heard from Miriam Graham, a Moab, Utah organizer, that David had spent a week ithere as an artist in residence— teaching fiddle to local youth, mentoring the dance musicians in the region and calling their monthly dance. It sounded like a good fit and after a couple of phone calls, David's yearly trips to Flagstaff began.
It began with teaching music at the Pine Forest Waldorf School, leading jams at the First Friday Art Walks, potlucks, band workshops, and orchestrating maypole celebrations as well calling and fiddling for dances. David was a perfect fit for the community with his inclusiveness, energy and willingness to interact with dancers, musicians and the community at large. The large hometown open band especially loved the fact that they got to join David in his performances— it made them feel part of the whole joyous celebration.
Whether at the dances, workshops, or just out on the patio David connected with musicians of kinds— players with a classical background, campout jammers or people just learning to play by ear. Terry Samples recalls, “Regardless of where it was it was always relaxing and a joy to hear how David played the tunes that we all played so many times. His sense of rhythm and phrasing brought out the tune in different ways. He played the tune, and not just dots on the page, giving a different feeling to every tune. I learned a lot just hearing how he played the familiar tunes. During the dances he made everyone feel at ease and involved, regardless of their experience or lack thereof. To watch him dance, call the dance and play was a joy to be part of.”
Flagstaff also became a place for David to create. He dedicated two of his tunes to the mountain town known for its astronomical observatories—"Flagstaff" and "Dark Skies, Bright Stars." Mike and Pat Dunham, coordinators for the open band Just Desserts, hosted him on several of his trips and Mike recalls, “I especially recall listening to him working on the harmony to Dark Skies in our living room while Pat played the melody over and over and over.
“David brought a special ability to connect with musicians of all skills, bringing something that each person in a workshop could take away and use in their playing—a tune, a rhythm pattern, or just the confidence to keep growing. This made him a very strong contributing partner for Just Desserts, enabling a big improvement in the band’s ability to play for dances, and to attract and keep new members.
“Of course, when playing with David at a dance, all the usual stress of working with the caller to make a great experience for the dancers was suspended. And it was replaced by a seamless joy of playing, dancing, and calling as he called the dance, played with the band, and made up new harmonies—all at the same time.”