When a dancer shares that they especially enjoyed one of my dances or when a community puts one on their ball program, I am always pleasantly surprised and greatly complimented--many thanks to them for that, and to you for your interest in my contra and English country dances and in this collection of them.
For a long time, I thought of myself as a contra dance caller and choreographer, but more recently have been spending more time with English. This collection reflects that. Of my English dances, one kind friend says "The Treasure of the Big Woods" is "marvelous and mesmerizing, smooth and driving at the same time, with lots of partner and neighbor interaction--all the best reasons to English dance." Another says that "Mr. Millstone's Inauguration" is "gorgeous and practically brought me to tears." Yet another says of "Westaire Court" that she "loved how it kept exploding and flowing back together.... Once it exploded it didn't seem possible that it could ever come together again, but there it was!" These comments speak not only of the dances, but also--and perhaps even more so--of the tunes, because of the intimate connection between a dance and a tune. I have been especially fortunate to enjoy collaboration with Dave Wiesler, Debbie Jackson, and Adam Broome. With one exception, the tunes inspired the English dances--and they provided great inspiration.
The Goldcrest Collection includes eight contra dances and twelve English country dances, and is named after the band Goldcrest, which joins the incredible talents of Daron Douglas on fiddle; Paul Oorts on mandolin, accordion, cittern, and guitar; and Dave Wiesler on piano and guitar. They play both contra and English country dance music to wide acclaim all around the US and abroad, and I am fortunate to work with them as much as I do. I am also thrilled to have worked with them on The Goldcrest Collection CD with accompanying tunes for the English dances and great tune sets for four of the contra dances in this book. We decided to include both genres on the CD to feature the variety of their repertoire. I have included the music in the book as originally composed, though this does not always reflect how Goldcrest plays it on the CD.
I especially like the The Goldcrest Collection title because it connects with the band's name and also follows a pattern from my earlier book, The Cardinal Collection. A goldcrest--depicted on the cover of this book--is a small, charismatic, endearing bird common in Europe, which American birders will recognize as a relative of our golden-crowned kinglet.
I have put the contra dances together in the first half of the book, followed by the English dances. Each section is arranged mostly alphabetically and identified at the bottom of each page as 'American' or 'English.'
The table of dances on pages ii-iii lists dances alphabetically by title, and gives page number, formation, and difficulty level, and for dances with accompanying tunes, it provides tune name, composer, time signature, and key. Contra dances are italicized. In the "formation" column, 'proper, ' 'improper, ' and 'becket' all refer to longways, duple minor dances.
Instructions and teaching notes provide more information than you want to convey to dancers as you teach. This will help you understand and prepare the dance well. Use what you find makes for the most effective and concise teaching, and the most satisfying dancing. Tempos are suggestions; adjust as needed. The dance instruction abbreviations I use are listed below. When the number of beats required for a particular figure is not obvious, I provide suggested timing in [brackets] directly following the figure concerned. Unless otherwise indicated, I intend wrist-grip stars in contras and hands-across stars in English dances. Use hands for R&Ls but not for circular heys.
Difficulty level is a general guide that might be thought of as follows:
* - simple: good for beginners, and for early dances in an evening of mixed experience levels; useful for teaching basics
** - easy: concise walk-thru for mixed levels or no walk-thru for experienced dancers
moderate: may have unusual figures, sequences, or structure;
easily negotiated with careful teaching
**** - challenging: complex figures or sequences; requires careful teaching and attentive dancers
***** - intense: complex figures, confusing geography; plan for extra teaching time
Good contra dances are typically passed around from caller to caller, but English dance leaders tend to be more cautious about the sensibilities of dance and tune authors. I feel complimented as a caller and a choreographer when someone asks to collect a dance I have called or written, so feel free to share the dances and tunes in this book so that others might enjoy them; Dave, Debbie, Daron, and Adam feel the same. Please be sure to include the name and author of the dance and tune when you share them, and consider mentioning this when calling a particular dance.
If you are holding this book, you are likely familiar with the Country Dance and Song Society, which supports traditional Anglo-American dancing throughout the US and Canada. CDSS is an invaluable resource to callers, providing a sales service for books and recordings, as well as high-quality training programs for callers and musicians. They also sponsor soul-nourishing, week-long dance camps throughout the summer, and they offer vital support to local dance communities and special dance and song events all over. You are also a valuable resource for CDSS. Check out cdss.org and please consider joining us and supporting the important things we do.
Many thanks to Goldcrest for lots of fun collaboration, including this book and CD. Thanks to Dave, Daron, Debbie, and Adam (and Turlough!) for sharing their tunes, and allowing me to publish them here, and even more to Dave for typesetting the tunes. To Charles Roth for his hospitality for my website. To Tanya Rotenberg and Mary Devlin for proof-reading. I am indebted to my mentors: Erna-Lynne Bogue got me started, urged me to think about English, and sent me off to Bruce Hamilton, whose care and thoughtfulness provide constant wonder. Becky Hill's generosity with material and of spirit is a constant inspiration to me. Thanks to Fred Todt for more than I can express.
Thanks, too, to all the organizers, dancers, musicians, sound people, callers, and choreographers who help keep this a living tradition.
Return to The Goldcrest Collection
yusuf at umich dot edu