September 27, 2002 Old New England to Perform at the Library of Congress

Press Contact: Craig D’Ooge (202) 707-9189
Public Contact: (202) 707-5510

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress will present a traditional contra- dance with the music group Old New England, featuring 2002 National Heritage fellow Bob McQuillen and caller Mary DesRosiers on Tuesday, Oct. 8, at noon on the Neptune Plaza of the Jefferson Building, First and Independence Avenue S.E. in Washington, D.C. This will be a participatory event, and dancers are invited to take part in the festivities.

The outdoor concert and dance is the ninth in the center’s new series “Homegrown 2002: The Music of America,” presentations of traditional music and dance, April to November, drawn from communities across the United States and arranged with the help of state folklorists. Co-sponsoring the concerts are the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. The American Folklife Center’s “Homegrown” series is part of “I Hear America Singing,” a Library of Congress project celebrating America’s music.

Old New England, composed of Deanna Stiles on flute and fiddle, Jane Orzechowski on fiddle, and Bob McQuillen on piano and accordion, is one of New England’s foremost contradance ensembles and received a New Hampshire Governor’s Arts Award in 1993 for its contributions to maintaining this venerable American dance tradition.

Bob McQuillen, the dean of contradance musicians, received a National Heritage Fellowship Award in September from the National Endowment for the Arts for his work in preserving and enriching this tradition. McQuillen, who has played a seminal role in the revival of contradancing in New England, recently celebrated his 50th anniversary playing dances in New Hampshire and around the country. Over the years he has been a member of Ralph Page’s Orchestra, the Canterbury Orchestra, New England Tradition, and other important bands. In addition, McQuillen has published ten notebooks containing the hundreds of dance tunes that he has written, many of which have become standards in the contradance repertoire.

Calling the dances for Old New England will be Mary DesRosiers, one of the region’s most respected callers. She was chosen, along with McQuillen, as one of the traditional artists to represent New Hampshire at the 1999 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife.

Contradancing, brought to New England by the earliest English settlers, is related to square dancing, but instead of four couples dancing in a square set, any number of couples arranged in lines make up a contradance set. A dance caller teaches the pattern of each dance before the music begins, then calls the movements to the music. Most of the dance movements involve walking in patterns, such as in an English country dance from which the tradition hails. No fancy steps are involved and newcomers can easily join in. A small band playing lively dance music, traditionally in town halls, church halls, and granges throughout the region, accompanies the dancers. Over the years its popularity has ebbed and flowed, but there has been continuity in the tradition. In the past 30 years, thanks to groups such as Old New England, the popularity of contradancing has spread throughout the United States.

The American Folklife Center’s presentation of Old New England is free and open to the public. The inclement weather location for the concert is the Mumford Room, on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building at the Library of Congress. The Jefferson and Madison Buildings are located close to Metro stops at Capitol South (orange and blue lines) and Union Station (red line). Upcoming concerts for the “Homegrown 2002” series include:

November 7
Pinetop Perkins with the Bob Margolin Band

November 13
Cellicion Family–Traditional Zuni music and dance

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to “preserve and present American folklife” through programs of research, documentation, archival presentation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.

Part of the Kennedy Center’s Performing Arts for Everyone initiative, the Millennium Stage helps fulfill the center’s mission to make performing arts widely accessible. The Millennium Stage introduces the performing arts to the local community and to millions of people who visit the center each year. These free, 6:00 p.m. performances are offered 365 days a year. Tickets are never required. Daily broadcasts of Millennium Stage concerts are available on the Internet. For a schedule and information on how to access the broadcasts, visit the Kennedy Center Web site:


PR 02-136
ISSN 0731-3527