I can only speak with reference to calling at NEFFA, as I have never applied to DownEast. As some of you may know that Linda Leslie is NEFFA's program chair, I will note that the program chair does not select performers for contra sessions.
Regarding NEFFA 2007, the following notice is now posted at http://neffa.org/perf_app.html - The Program Committee is not prepared to take your application at this time, since it is too late to apply for this year's NEFFA Festival. Please note that the application to perform is always available during the month of September, with a deadline in October. If you'd like to get an e-mail notice of application availability, send a blank e-mail to NEFFA_Performers-subscribe(a)yahoogroups.com
So you can note on your calendar that September is a good time to check the NEFFA web site, and also arrange for a notice to pop up in your e-mail.
The NEFFA application invites you to come up with a briefly-described theme for your session, with a title of 20 characters or less. IMO, use your own judgment as to how important the theme is. If you are offering a concept that's really meaningful to you, don't be afraid to describe it. If what you really want to do is just call some hot contras, then IMO I wouldn't go overboard on the theme.
Unlike Northwest Folklife, callers and bands apply SEPARATELY to the New England Folk Festival. And I believe that this is a very good thing for beginning callers who hope to have a chance at getting onstage. This mix-and-match policy gives a fresh perspective for experienced performers, and can be an eye-opening experience for newcomers who may get to work with seasoned veterans. I will never forget calling at NEFFA with Northern Spy, a band that has worked with caller David Millstone for 25 years. And where was David during this session? Out on the floor, happily dancing to the music of his own band. NEFFA's selection process made that wonderful hour possible for me.
For what it's worth, the first year I successfully applied I asked for a "Festival Orchestra" slot, which means that instead of calling a themed, hour-long session I called two dances in the Main Hall with the assembled orchestra and then got off the stage as the next Festival Orchestra caller had a turn. IMO, the key here (as well as in submitting a session proposal) is to choose dances that you know by heart, can teach well, fully believe in, and love to share with a crowd. You don't want to have second thoughts as you approach the microphone.
If you're wondering why performer applications are required so far in advance of a festival, note that NEFFA may have 1700 performers, many of whom perform in multiple sessions (perhaps performing alone, and with a participatory dance group, and also with a concert performance group!). You can't doublebook a performer (or larger groups to which she may belong), you have to give her time to move from one venue to another, plus a bunch of other scheduling etceteras that would drive me loony to contemplate further. How scheduling was done in the days before computers is beyond me.
Robert Jon Golder
164 Maxfield St
New Bedford, MA 02740
I recently had the following exchange on a different list with Michael
Shapiro (guitarist with U4):
>>> U4 just played the SwingShift weekend in Lexington/Berea. The caller was
Barbara Groh. She did something that I think most callers should do, but I
haven't seen before. After the sets were formed and people had done the hand
four, she then broke up the beginners sets that had formed at the end of the
lines. She asked then to move forward and intersperse themselves with the
more advanced dancers (so that they were more toward the beggining of the
line and the foursomes were not all beginners).
She was also good at letting the music be heard ...
>> Regarding the caller asking sets to reform in order to spread the less
experienced dancers throughout the hall, much tact is required. Generally,
callers strive to avoid calling attention to particular dancers other than
when asking people to watch a demonstration, but asking people to change
sets can have the effect of making them feel like there is attention on
them. In addition, newish dancers want to dance with people they know, even
if those friends may also be newish dancers.
>> Speaking to the entire crowd, I do encourage experienced dancers to share
their experience by asking someone they've never met to dance at least once
in the evening, and praise the community for being so welcoming to newcomer
dancers. So while I might be thinking "let's break up this clump of
confusion," it would not be good to say something that draws attention to
"you people right here."
>> I have asked, off mic, for a set of experienced dancers to offer to
repartner with a set of inexperienced dancers down the line.
To this list, I ask:
I'd be interested in the wording that Barbara Groh used (which I'm assuming
was quite gentle). I'm also guessing other callers on this list have
developed tactful ways to address this issue.
A musician friend of mine ask me if I knew any callers in the DC are who
would be interested in calling at a wedding. I don¹t know any other details
but if you are interested, please contact Dan, dpi00 at hampshire dot edu
(just replace the at, dot and spaces to create a real email address).
A very knowledgeable pro audio person just gave me a mini-course on how to
do basic sound setup for a mike, something I¹ve always wanted to know more
about. At many dances there is a sound person who will do this for you but
sometimes there isn¹t and this little bit of info may be of help. It
certainly demystified things for me. I wrote this up and then edited it a
bit more after getting his feedback. Others may have additional comments.
How to ³Ring Out a Channel² for a microphone
You overall goal is to adjust the sound coming out of the house speakers to
get as much volume as you can without any ringing¹ sound. Every room is
different in terms of what frequencies it absorbs and reflects, so the
necessary settings will differ from place to place. Different mikes will
also require different settings. The adjustment described below can be done
systematically and in just a few minutes.
1. Setting Initial Gain from the Mic (aka input level or ³trim²)
> * Turn house volume (for your mike) completely down usually the last knob or
> * Set all EQ controls to flat (middle position)
> * Turn up Gain - usually the first control knob or slider for your microphone
> channel¹ - while speaking into mike until you see levels on the meter or the
> clipping light flashes. Adjust gain to just below clipping or 0db (same thing)
> depending on what kind of feedback level meter or clipping light - is
> available on the sound board.
2. Setting EQ (balancing the sound for the room by getting rid of the
> * Turn up house volume on the mic channel until you hear a ringing along with
> your voice
> * Reduce level on first EQ slider/dial (often labeled highs¹) to see if it
> reduces or eliminates ringing. If it does, increase house volume again until
> ringing is again apparent. If no change, reset to flat and go to next EQ
> * Reduce level on next EQ slider/dial to reduce/eliminate ringing. Increase
> house volume again until ringing occurs.
> * Repeat for each subsequent EQ range available on sound board some may just
> have highs, mids and lows, others may have multiple mid-range adjustments. You
> may not need to adjust all the EQ¹s, e.g. the low frequency in particular,
> just keep running up the volume and adjusting out the rings until you have
> plenty of volume. Your objective is to get as much volume as you need for the
> performance without ringing.
3. Fine-tuning: If time permits after you¹ve rung out the channel you can
then play with the EQ to adjust for sound quality. Keep talking into the mic
and make very subtle adjustments to the EQ until you get a smooth natural
hmmmmm why not medley with:
A1 Gyp N 1.5
Cir L .75
A2 Gyp P 1.5
Cir L .75 (back where you started)
B1 DSD N
And Swing N
B2 Pass N RT
Pass the Next N Left
Swing the (3rd) Next N
Will be calling Thursday night in Dover NH!
Thought I'd call the variation: What's the Pig Deal?
Nice dance...but I hope you don't run it too long! Maybe a medley is
in order so you can add a swing or two as the dance progresses.
The pandemic panic could have a big impact on contra dancing. On
Friday, here in Felton, CA, we put up a sign on the table at the door
For the comfort and safety of others,
as well as your own, Please
Wash Your Hands!
Before entering the dance hall
and upon leaving!
It might have made some folks feel more comfortable. In spite of the
disease distress, the dance was full. Apparently contra dance is not
yet a victim of the scourge scare.
>Hi Folks, Tonight i get to call a dance here in Chicago, and as a JOKE, i
>will start out with this dance:
>A1 Gypsy N 1.5, single file circle L 3/4
>A2 Gypsy P 1.5, single file circle L 3/4
>B1 Do Si Do N, swing yourself (turn single several times), end facing N
>B2 Pass N by rt, next N by Lft,
> Swing yourself again to face 3rd N to start again.
>Don't touch anyone!
>I hope there will be some turn out tonight, since, with luck, the phobia of
>H1N1 is waning.
>Dance while you can.
>Callers mailing list
Hi Folks, Tonight i get to call a dance here in Chicago, and as a JOKE, i
will start out with this dance:
A1 Gypsy N 1.5, single file circle L 3/4
A2 Gypsy P 1.5, single file circle L 3/4
B1 Do Si Do N, swing yourself (turn single several times), end facing N
B2 Pass N by rt, next N by Lft,
Swing yourself again to face 3rd N to start again.
Don't touch anyone!
I hope there will be some turn out tonight, since, with luck, the phobia of
H1N1 is waning.
Dance while you can.