New Hampshire Old-Time Country Dance Web Site

Dancing in New Hampshire & New England


Dick Richardson's Fiddle & Other Stories, Fall 2006

Here are three short accounts of dances written in 2006, including the story of how I got to play Dick Richardson's fiddle. At the time I wrote: Every now and then there is a musical event that is particularly enjoyable for one reason or another. As it happens there have been a number of them in the past month or so, and I thought I'd write about them.

Peter Yarensky, Oct. 9, 2006. I wrote this for an earlier incarnation of this website. I don't believe this was ever printed in the Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter.

A Gig with the Orzechowskis

|The first such event in this story concerns a dance put on at the Mill Pond Center by the Oyster River Watershed Association last Sunday. It was part of an art show fundraiser, although most of the related activity was on Friday. Sunday was kind of a gloomy day with some rain, and that didn’t help attendance at all. I had hired Russell Orzechowski to play for it, remembering that he would be getting back to UNH about that time. He said he’d be able to provide accompaniment too; it turned out his sister Sophie would be playing piano. When we arrived at the Mill Pond Center, Russell told us that since they were helping him move back to Durham (where he's a student at UNH), in addition Jane and Neil would be there; so for this small dance we ended up with all but one member of the Orzechowski family band! [2020 note: They were subsequently known as the Sugar River Band, now the Sugar River String Band; I’m not sure if they had that name yet in 2006.]

There weren’t enough dancers to dance for a while so we had a jam session, and played all sorts of great tunes. Jane even got out the Dorset Four-Hand Reel, which I don't think I've played in close to 20 years; and we played many others of the old favorites. It was a great time; it’s always fun to play with such good musicians! Sophie was playing April Limber's fiddle and Teresa even got to try it which was a real treat for her. I was being more official as the caller and never got a chance; maybe some other time ... Eventually some dancers showed up, and we did mostly squares because of how many dancers there were, and a couple contras at the end. The dancers had a good time, and certainly enjoyed the music. Overall it was a very enjoyable afternoon, and the music was first class.

Playing & Dancing on Star Island

A few weeks later we had some fun musical experiences at the Star Hampshire Traditional Dance Weekend. I wrote about other aspects of it in the Newsletter and in another story on this web site. Patrick tried something new this year which was a lot of fun. There's always been interest on the part of some people from the other conferences that occur at the same time in dancing, but that can be problematic for various reasons. Therefore Patrick suggested an All-Island Dance on Saturday. It occurred when we often have a jam session so I suggested starting with a jam and then going into the dance, which is what happened.

Perhaps because of that arrangement there was more participation than usual by staff musicians in the jam session, which turned out to be a great time. It flowed almost seamlessly into the dance. It's just hard to beat playing music with people like Ron Grosslein, Randy Miller, Becky Ashenden and the others who participated; music just doesn't get much better than that! I think they enjoyed it a lot too, as they don't get to play with each other very frequently either.

Dick Richardson's Fiddle

|A couple weeks later we went to the Junket at Dudley's which happens whenever there's a fifth weekend. This time it happened to be on a Friday which is unusual. The dance was fine other than that I was too tired to dance for some reason I can't really remember. But the real highlight was that Dudley had just inherited Dick Richardson's fiddle. Dick Richardson was the fiddler for Ralph Page's New Hampshire Orchestra; he's featured on many of the classic old 78's that used to be used for dancing to records, and there are a couple compilations of his music out on tape and CD - great music! Dudley has even compiled a marvelous book and tape about him; it’s currently available [as of Jan. 2020] from Great Meadow Music and a couple other sources.

So the best thing was that after the dance Dudley let us try Dick Richardson's fiddle. It was quite something to play the fiddle that we've heard on so many recordings over the years, that used to belong to one of the legends of New England fiddling. It really has a very nice sound to it, and it was fun - and inspiring - to play some of the tunes that Dick Richardson might have played on that fiddle up to 100 years ago! Thanks, Dudley!

Photo notes:

Star Hampshire photo: Taken by Patrick Stevens, now part of the Patrick Stevens Collection, Milne Special Collections and Archives, UNH. See the page footer for a complete citation and more information..

The photo from Dudley's is from another dance several years later. I don't have any photos from the dance in question.

Jam session, Star 2006
Jam session at Star Hampshire Weekend, 2006. It later became a dance. Photo by Patrick Stevens, used with his permission; see note at the end.
Dance, Dudley Laufman's, 2006
Dance at Dudley's house, March 2012.