Any musical tradition has a core repertoire which experienced players are expected to know. Our two recordings present a selection of tunes often heard at New England contra and barn dances, the common language of dance musicians throughout this region and beyond. As teachers and veteran players, we are often asked by neophytes what are the tunes that are important to learn and add to their repertoires. We hope we have provided, in part, an answer.
During the first August session of the 2007 Maine Fiddle Camp, held each summer in Montville, Maine, George, Fred and Art presented a workshop on “essential dance tune repertoire”. We were heartened by the very positive reception to our efforts and received a number of requests to record a collection of standard tunes. Thus was born The Montville Project. Piano is the traditional driving rhythmic force used at New England dances, and we were delighted when Surya Mitchell agreed to join us for our first album, and Jeremiah McLane became our keyboard artist for volume two.
There is no right or wrong way to play these tunes as long as you can dance to the music. At Fiddle Camp we were fascinated to see and hear talented young musicians playing these traditional tunes to reggae and groove beats. Our settings are not strictly traditional either, but they lean in that direction.
Working on the project we quickly developed a list of over two hundred core tunes we considered common in the repertoire, not counting the many contemporary tunes that are currently popular on the dance scene. It was hard to pick which tunes to use, but with these two volumes here are 108 you can start with.