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Last Night's Contra Dance

Posted by dbrooks on Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I developed a real head cold over the weekend and then took a decongestant pill Monday night that had me feeling a little groggy.  I thought about passing on playing at the Monday contra dance here in Louisville, but then I decided I would come home early if I didn't feel any better.

I was concerned that my playing might be sluggish and little off the beat because of my symptoms, but I actually played well.  Occasionally, I get a night where Mark, the fiddler who leads this volunteer band, picks tunes that I am more comfortable with and this was one of those nights.  Le Grand Chain/Spootiskerry.  Star Above the Garter/Cliffs of Mohr.  June Apple.  Puff Adder Stepdance/Paddy on the Handcar (or "Puff Paddy" as we call the pair of tunes).  Whiskey Before Breakfast/Red-haired Boy.

Often, Mark will pair tunes in different keys.  Many fiddlers will avoid that to accommodate the banjo, but Mark likes the change in energy from changing keys.  So I play until the end of the first tunes, drop out and re-tune, and then join in at the start of an A or B part. 

Last night, Mark called for Booth Shot Lincoln, a G tune, and Briarpicker Brown, a D tune.  When the transition came, I dropped out, put on a capo and retuned my second string.  Mark, however, had trouble switching to Briarpicker Brown and was struggling to find the melody.  This rarely happens to him, but this was one of those times.  I began playing the A part to help him find the melody, even though my 4th string still was not dropped to a D note.  I just avoided that string.  Mark began to pick up the melody but then we didn't know where the dancers were in the dance.  We looked to the caller who held up 2 fingers and mouthed "B part" to help us get back on track.  After Mark picked up the melody, I dropped out to finishing my re-tuning.

A rare day when a banjo player comes to the rescue of a fiddler in trouble.



1 comment on “Last Night's Contra Dance”

vrteach Says:
Friday, October 16, 2009 @2:30:51 PM

At one of our dances our fiddler was just getting over a cold, and got some rosin dust up his nose, triggering a cough attack. We were just fiddle, banjo and guitar so all of a sudden I was the lead instrument and had to continue through the end of the dance.

I kind of wish we did some cross-key medleys. I'd like the challenge.

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