The Tunes

Our goal in making these albums was to present a selection of dance tunes with a variety of rhythms and meters that represent rock-solid basic repertoire of the New England dance tradition. There are dozens and dozens more tunes that arguably could or should have been included, but these were the ones that rose to the top of our barrel. They have stood the test of time; their first publication dates average well over 100 years old. Many have been echoing in our dance halls for much longer and continue to remain popular among contradance musicians. A newcomer to this music - aspiring to become conversant in a core of tunes that others know and play - would be well served by learning some or all of them.

These melodies settled into New England from a variety of places, most notably French Canada and the Canadian Maritimes, Ireland, Scotland and England as well as other regions of the United States. While some are now associated almost exclusively with the New England dance tradition, others remain very popular where they originated or, like Soldier's Joy or Miss McLeod's, enjoy widespread popularity amongst fiddlers from many traditions. Certain musicians and dance leaders from the contradance revival of the 1960s and 1970s deserve much credit for maintaining and popularizing these tunes; among them are Ralph Page, Dudley Laufman, Bob McQuillen, Rodney & Randy Miller, and Omer Marcoux.

Written music for almost all our selections can be readily found in a variety of tune books, and now also appears on-line. Two collections we would recommend as printed references for these tunes are New England Fiddler's Repertoire (Fiddlecase Books) and The Fiddler's Fakebook (Oak Productions). Notes on a page, however, are only a faint shadow of what these tunes become in the hands of dance musicians. We invite you to listen, learn some of these great standards, and then join the fun.