Welcome to the Contra Pulse Project, a series of interviews with contra musicians about contra music.

As you walk up the steps to the dance hall, you can already hear the strains of the piano and fiddle slipping out into the night. Then you open the doors; see the roomful of dancers and hear that glorious music in full – propelling everyone on the dance floor. It’s uplifting, it’s energetic, it’s fun, it makes us move, it brings us together.

Where does contra music come from? Why does it sound the way it does? How has it changed over time? In this project, we will be attempting to take the pulse of contra music today through a series of conversations between host Julie Vallimont and prominent contra musicians from all corners.  Join us in this journey through music, dance, time, space, and community.

Episode 18 – Andy Davis

This episode, Julie talks with Andy Davis – a founding member of the “New England Dancing Masters” and a decades-long pianist, caller, and organizer of contras, community dances, and weekends. They talk about his beginnings, the intersection of calling and playing, teaching dance to children, and the deep roots of the folk dance community.

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Episode 17 – Gordon Peery

This episode, Julie interviews Gordon Peery, the wonderful piano player from New Hampshire and bands such as Fresh Fish, Fiddler’s Union, and Trip to Nelson. They talk about learning the craft from Bob McQuillen and other influences, great gig stories, and what tradition means and how it’s crafted. Enjoy!

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Episode 16 – Audrey Knuth

This episode, Julie interview the illustrious Audrey Knuth, from The Free Raisins, Wake Up Robin, and other places across the world. They have a lot of fun reminiscing about their various contra adventures starting in Boston, Audrey’s transition from classical violin to fiddle, her priorities as a dance fiddler, her inspirations, and much more. Enjoy!

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Episode 15 – Peter Siegel

Julie sits down with Peter Siegel, the guitarist, mandolinist, and singer from the Greenfield Dance Band and The Gaslight Tinkers. They talk about the wide range of sounds in his bands, what tradition means, experimentation and innovation in the folk tradition. As well as Muppet impressions, of course. Enjoy!

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Episode 14 – Mary Cay Brass

Julie speaks with the wonderful pianist, accordionist, and singer Mary Cay Brass of the Greenfield Dance Band and Airdance - mainstays of the New England contra scene in the last decades. Mary Cay is also a talented international folk musician, and music educator. They discuss her early days playing for contras, her piano style and influences, and her passion...

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Episode 13 – George Marshall

Julie interviews the renowned musician, caller, and organizer George Marshall. They talk about his mission to share the joy of dance, his calling mentors and inspiration, his approach to working with bands, and what makes great dance music. It’s a wonderful conversation for musicians, callers, and everyone interested in the evolution of contra dance! Show...

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