[Callers] Calling to the tune Sheepskin and Beeswax

Suzanne Girardot suzanneg at wolfenet.com
Tue Jan 7 09:19:29 PST 2014


   Delia,


   Your band member is very observant, and your bands should respect your
   request to not use tunes that don't work well for the dances. My
   experience is, if I'm getting messed up by the music as a caller, the
   dancers are as well, which affects the enjoyment of the dance. When
   this happens on the fly, I often see if the band can change tunes in
   midstream, which many good bands can do.


   There are many French-Canadian and old-time tunes that are either
   crooked (have extra or missing beats or measures), have extra or short
   parts, or are highly syncopated. While many of these tunes are really
   fun to dance to if you don't need a square tune (32 bars), for example
   for a square dance, they obviously won't work for a contra dance. In
   addition, I have had some old-time players insist that a tune is 32
   bars, but it sure doesn't feel that way. I have counted these tunes,
   and they either have a melody that crosses a phrase, making it
   syncopated, starts on an upbeat, or just doesn't work, for whatever
   reason. At least the bands that I ask to not play a particular tune are
   willing to refrain from doing so. It helps if you can go to their
   practice and hear what they are planning to play.


   When I listen to "Sheepskin and Beeswax" (an excellent tune that's fun
   to play) what I hear is that the 2 A phrases are almost identical, in
   that they have 4-bar phrases repeated twice for each A part, and the
   same is true for the B part. Because there is so much repetition in the
   phrases, I can imagine that it might be difficult to differentiate
   where you are in the part. Because I am a musician as well as a caller
   and dancer, I have a fairly innate sense of 4- and 8-bar phrases, but
   if you are not used to listening to such phrases, it can be a
   challenge. I don't know your background, but if there is a tune that
   gives you trouble, perhaps listening to a recording of it until you are
   familiar with it could help.


   Just a side story:  I was dancing to a well-known Scottish-style
   fiddler who had a rock-n-roll style guitarist and a jazz bassist (who
   had never played for a dance before). Even I was having trouble
   figuring out where we were in the music and so was having trouble with
   the dance. I asked the inimitable Warren Argo, who was doing sound, if
   he had noticed this problem. He said that the band actually mentioned
   that even they hadn't known where they were in the music. (This was due
   mostly to a lot of improvisation on the band's part.) Hopefully that
   never happens to any of us!


   Suzanne Girardot

   Seattle, WA

   -----Original Message-----
   >From: Delia Clark
   >Sent: Jan 7, 2014 8:58 AM
   >To: Callers at sharedweight.net
   >Subject: [Callers] Calling to the tune Sheepskin and Beeswax
   >
   >Hi all,
   >I call regularly with the same band and I have noticed that there are
   a couple of sets that they play in which I consistently mess up. In the
   middle of an evening of everything going well, I suddenly find that I
   am lost and have a hard time finding my way back, even with extreme
   focus. This, needless to say, is not good!
   >
   >I've been trying to identify these tunes so that I can be prepared to
   pay really close attention before they start. I have also begun to
   wonder, though, whether some jigs/reels are just not as good for
   dancing as others. I have been discussing this with the band, raising
   the idea that maybe they could save these tunes that challenge me for
   some of their non-dance gigs (fairs, bandstand, background music, etc).
   Some of them are receptive, others not.
   >
   >I wonder whether any of you have noticed tunes that are particularly
   difficult to call to, and how you have handled it.
   >
   >The one I have noticed most recently is Sheepskin and Beeswax. Here's
   what one of the band members wrote to me about it: "Rhythmically, it's
   a challenging tune for the band. There's a lot of syncopation going on
   between instruments and because it's French Canadian to play it
   properly means lots of upbeat emphasis. It's a challenging tune to play
   well. Even if we played it very well and fast enough (and that's been a
   problem for dancers and caller) I think it would still be challenging
   to call to and dance to because of how the rhythm and notes don't go
   well together."
   >
   >Thanks,
   >Delia Clark
   >
   ><>:<>:<>:<>:<>:<>:<>:<>:<>
   >
   >Delia Clark
   >PO Box 45
   >Taftsville, VT 05073
   >802-457-2075
   >deliaclark8 at gmail.com
   >
   >
   >
   >
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