What we think of as traditional New England contra dance music is influenced by many sources, including the musical traditions of Scotland, Cape Breton, French Canada, and Ireland, as well as tunes composed right here in New England.
Renowned contra-dance musicians Skip Gorman (fiddle) and Gordon Peery (piano) will trace the evolution of New England contra-dance music by discussing and performing examples of different genres that contribute to the New England style.
Skip Gorman’s musical repertoire includes cowboy songs, bluegrass mandolin, and New England fiddle music. Introduced to traditional music at age eight, when he received his first guitar and a Jimmie Rodgers record, Gorman grew up watching folk legends at the historic Newport Folk Festival.
After graduating from Brown University, where he played in old-time music and bluegrass bands, Gorman traveled to Ireland to explore the Celtic roots of American music. He has returned to Ireland several times, and also visited Scotland, the Shetland Islands, and Cape Breton, learning new tunes and performing.
Gorman’s fiddle recordings span from New Englander’s Choice (1983) to the recent Halloween Hornpipe. He has been a guest on Prairie Home Companion, and his music appears in several Ken Burns films. He lives in Grafton, NH.
Gordon Peery has played piano for contra dances since the late 1970s. He has toured throughout the U.S. and Europe, and has played with Skip Gorman in the Shetland Islands and Cape Breton.
Peery narrated a 2012 Lyceum program, A Celebration of New England Contra Dance Music: Honoring Bob McQuillen. He is president of the Monadnock Center for History and Culture, which this year featured an exhibit, “Gents Bow, Ladies Know How”: Traditional Dance in the Monadnock Region, 1750 – 2015. Peery lives in Nelson, where he can frequently be heard playing the piano for the Nelson Monday night dance.