Richard Hart wrote:
How about an answer to the question, Can contra
callers who don't sing call squares, if so, how?
The answer seems obvious to me, but that’s because I grew up with an eclectic assortment
of squares in various styles, some of which involve no singing at all. Some square dance
communities do singing calls exclusively; in others, the squares are done to fiddle tunes
but in a chanting style in which every word is pitched to a note of the musical scale. If
one’s background is in such a tradition, it can be hard to imagine calling a square
I enjoy playing around with the harmony when I call. But it’s not necessary at all for
effective calling. In fact, if you’re not comfortable doing it, it can get in the way.
It’s quite possible to use either a patter or prompting style, or a combination of both,
without singing a note. Ted Sannella, as he was the first to admit, was not a singer. He
avoided singing calls for the most part; when he did one, such as Life on the Ocean Wave,
it was obvious that he was uncomfortable and he had trouble finding the pitches. Yet he
was one of the most successful and influential phrased-square callers of the 20th century.
He simply spoke his calls rather than singing or harmonizing.
If you look at YouTube videos of callers doing traditional squares (Eastern, Southern or
Western), you can see that most of them don’t try to pitch their voices to the music. Some
have a more shouting style, some are mellower, but nearly all are effective in their own