A body of flyers and posters collected by ethnomusicologist and Western Folklife Center archivist, Steve Green that advertise contra and square dance events in northwestern Massachusetts, southwest New Hampshire, and southeast Vermont dating from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Green gifted the materials to Professor Jeff Todd Titan of Brown University. Titon donated the collection to the Vermont Folklife Center Archive and requested they be designated a part of the Steve Green Collection.
In January of this year, John Stone of Randolph, VT contacted us regarding a reel-to-reel tape he wanted to donate to the Vermont Folklife Center archive—a recording of a Newfane, VT square dance from 1956. Yup, that’s right, a field recording of a Vermont square dance from the mid 1950s!
You can understand the significance of this recording! And you can help us preserve it and share it with the world! VFC Archivist, Andy, estimates that the cost to catalog the tape and to have it professionally digitized by an experienced audiotape preservation specialist will cost $500.. Can you lend us a hand? Every little bit makes a difference, and your donation is tax deductible!
As a special thank you, each donor of $50 or more will receive a copy of the recording on CD!
Tape donor, John Stone shared the following thoughts about the recording, and about the square dances he attended during the time period:
"The square dances on this tape were wonderful. They represent a time when Vermont square dances were local, earthy, informal and for all comers. No fancy instruction or college educated hosts and hostesses or apple cider during the breaks. You learned by watching, imitating and being told by those in the square who knew what to do. And when the break time came, there were trucks and cars to neck in and beers to drink. Real basic stuff. I started square dancing in Vermont during World War II and it didn’t change much through the fifties. I’m not really aware of its current status in the state, but the last one I attended was mild and more formal."
One of several interesting things about the the recording is the band, the Dick Perry Orchestra. Seeking out some additional information, Andy contacted his friend and colleague at the Western Folklife Center, archivist Steve Green. Steve was active in the contra dance scene in Vermont during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and has a keen interest in the history of music and dance in New England. When asked about the Dick Perry Orchestra, Steve replied with some background, and pictures!
Dick Perry Orchestra, Putney, VT Town Hall, 1950s.
As Steve mentioned in his email, “Note the use of horns and drums—not the fiddles and pump organs of days gone by :).” Steve’s comments highlight something else: this tape documents a fascinating point of transition and overlap in regional popular entertainment. The fusion of dance orchestras like the Dick Perry Orchestra with the long-standing practice of community dances brought together the new and the old—renewing and refreshing traditional practice, and keeping these community gatherings relevant to the lives of the participants. The tape provides us a window into a time where the popularity of square dances eclipsed the older contras, and where popular taste encouraged different kinds of instrumentation.
Which brings us to the next point—while dances like this were not uncommon at the time, recordings of community dancing are less common than might be supposed. That’s one more thing that makes this tape so important—it is an unusual record of a local, everyday event as it unfolded.
Dick Perry Orchestra, Putney, VT Town Hall, 1950s.
And we can’t wait to hear the tape! Can you?
If you can lend a hand, please considering making a donation online via PayPal, by phone at (802) 388-4964 or by mail at Vermont Folklife Center, 88 Main Street, Middlebury, VT 05753.
Saturday, February 18, Noon - 1:30. Vermont Folk Life Center.
The artist/workers who created these moving depictions of the grueling physical and emotional journey across the border and into a strange country, will discuss their work and their hopes for the future. Consul General Daniel Hernandez-Joseph from Mexico will also be present to add his perspective. The panel will be moderated by sculptor B Amore, who created the exhibition. Please call 388-4964 for more information.
Starting Over Strong Vermont: An Evening of Story Telling and Community Dinner
Starting Over Strong (S.O.S.) Vermont, a program which serves the communities most impacted by Tropical Storm Irene through promoting resiliency and supporting recovery, is hosting a community dinner and evening of story-telling in partnership with The Vermont Folk Life Center.
Join S.O.S. Vermont Friday evening, February 17, 2012, at the Community Christian Church in Athens, VT, from 6 to 8pm. The Vermont Folk Life Center will facilitate a Story Circle where anyone can join in and share their experience of Tropical Storm Irene. Kids will have their own special activity tables with river rock painting, story time and coloring. A complimentary dinner will be also served. This event is sponsored by The Community Christian Church, 26 Brookline Road, Athens, VT. For more information about this event call 802-365-9799.
The Vermont Folk Life Center believes that healing lies as much in the act of listening as it does in the act of telling one’s story. Each Story Circle gathers community members with different perspectives to share. The underlying belief is that we are all experts in our own experience and the best way to understand an event like Tropical Storm Irene is to gather the experts. Those gathered may hail from the same community, the same neighborhood, but they will each have a different point of view to share. By being part of VT Folk Life Center’s Story Circle, a permanent historical audio record is created for the community. For more information about The VT Folk Life Center go to: www.vermontfolklifecenter.org.
S.O.S. Vermont and The Vermont Folk Life Center will also be hosting a Story Circle event in Wilmington, Vermont on Friday, March 16th. This free event will be at Twin Valley High Library from 7 to 9pm. Share your Tropical Storm Irene story with others. Refreshments and kids activities will be provided as well. Come be a part of a special evening where people together bear witness to the experience of others. For more information call 802-579-7647.
Starting Over Strong Vermont provides free short-term support for individuals, groups, and communities impacted by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene.
We join the family of Alice Potter in honoring her long full life, and her passing on February 7th at age 99. In 2010 Alice’s daughter, Marty Dewees, asked us to advise an oral history committee at the Lodge at Otter Creek, of which Alice was a member. Later, we had the opportunity to conduct two life history interviews with Alice, which chronicles her extraordinary life and will be available as part of the Vermont Folklife Center’s archive in perpetuity. Her obituary appeared in the Addison Independent on February 13th.
The Somali Bantu Wedding band led a dance workshop this past week at MiddCORE, a J-term course offered by Middlebury College. Students participated in a workshop and brainstormed ideas for bringing the band to perform on campus this coming April. Check out this post, including photos and video, on MiddCORE’s blog.
"MiddCORE’s interactive, mentor-driven and interdisciplinary design challenges students to discover themselves and their potential, empowers them to pursue their passions and prepares them for success in their lives post academia."
LEARNING WITH THE LAND: VERMONT SCHOOLS CHART NEW TERRITORY WITH PLACE-BASED EDUCATION
Join us during the month of January (exhibit opens on January 5th) for a unique student exhibit in our Vision and Voice Gallery that will feature four innovative place-based educational models: The Walden Project, EarthWalk Vermont, the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, and Monkton Central School’s Salad Days.
Student artwork and writing will tell the story of how Vermont schools are working to build youth self-confidence, community engagement, and environmental stewardship - changing our perception of the classroom space. Special events include the opening reception on January 5th, including musical performances by EarthWalk students; a workshop on place-based education open to educators, date TBA; and a screening of a short film on the Walden Project produced by alumna Julia Walsh at 7 pm on January 12th at Ilsley Library in Middlebury. This will be followed by an open mic night at the gallery in the Folklife Center with performances by students of the Walden Project.
This project is made possible through the generous support from the Bay and Paul Foundations, inkind supervision and support from the staff of the Vermont Folklife Center, and the staff of EarthWalk Vermont, Willowell Foundation, with additional support from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and Monkton Central School.
The Vermont Folklife Center is located at 88 Main Street, Middlebury. The gallery will be open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm. A suggested donation of $5 supports this and future exhibits at the Folklife Center.
Visit our friends at the Vermont International Festival
Make sure to visit our friends from the Bhutanese Community at the Vermont International Festival this weekend! The festival will run Friday, Saturday and Sunday - it’s a packed schedule filled with live performances, crafts, food, and exhibits.
Our friends in the Bhutanese Community are going to be selling all sorts of wonderful hand-made crafts. Beaded jewelry, beautiful felted bags and pencil cases. Perfect for a birthday or holiday gift. They are some of the newest members of the Vermont community and have a lot to share.
A series created to run along side the Art of Action Project, featuring interviews conducted by VFC Executive Director, Brent Bjorkman with artists who participated. Originally aired from 01/04/2010 - 01/08/2010.
A series that featured VFC Archivist, Andy Kolovos discussing selections from the Vermont Music Library’s Lake Champlain Quadricentennial Project, Thrufters and Throughstones. Originally aired 07/20/2010 - 07/24/2010.
"I would get on the dance floor and I would twirl that purse!" Listen to Mercedes from our current exhibit: Backstage at the Rainbow Cattle Co.: Drag Queens of Dummerston Vermont. #VT #events #lgbt #drag
Don’t miss VFC archivist, Andy Kolovos, Robin MacArthur of Red Heart the Ticker, Tony Barrand and Keith Murphy talking about traditional songs and the legacy of Margaret MacArthur on Vermont Public Radio’s Vermont Edition today. Then catch the podcast: VT Artists Preserve Songs With New Recordings