[Callers] Ideal contra tunes

tavi merrill melodiouswoodchuck at gmail.com
Wed Oct 24 10:58:53 PDT 2012


Leslie,

Dave Casserly hit on some really great points. To add,

- One thing that separates contra repertoire from the repertoire for
squares (etc) is the utility of jigs to provide a feeling of variety
between quite similar dances.

- A cheap trick that works well going from a first tune to a second is
changing tonalities from the major key to a related mode with same or
similar key signature, for example D major into E dorian mode such as
"Whiskey Before Breakfast" into "Cooley's Reel", or from a major to the
relative minor. The reverse of such changes can also create an energetic
burst, though a change of key signatures may be necessary to achieve that
effect when going from a mode (other than the relative minor) to major.

- If the band can execute them solidly, jig to reel transitions add a
MASSIVE energy burst. A jig-reel transition getting a lot of use around
Boston right now is "Seanamhac Tube Station" into "Devil in the Strawstack"
- tunes with similar melodic structures in the same key, but when paired
with an a-part wave balance it's like the dancers are on fire when they
hear that change.

Another tunebook which may be of value is "The New England Fiddler's
Repertoire" by Randy Miller.

Tempo is crucial. As a fiddler i find that it's often easy to play too fast
without realizing it, while as a dancer i find tempos around 118 (even for
reels!) to be the most satisfying.

Besides dancing to really great bands, it might help the fiddle-group
leader to listen to some popular contradance bands and pick up on what they
do. Off the top of my head a few favorites that illustrate great tune
changes are Great Bear Trio, Crowfoot, Wild Asparagus, Airdance, and Wake
the Neighbors (the band Ed Howe and John Cote anchored before they became
Perpetual eMotion).

Give the fiddlers my regards!

tavi merrill



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