New Hampshire Old-Time Country Dance Web Site

Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend



Here we look at the Ralph Page Weekend from 2000 to 2004. The Weekend went through two name changes during this period. Much of the information comes from reports in the Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter, and from the yearly Syllabi for the Weekends.

Please note: This is an unofficial historical section about the RPDLW. Click here to go to the official website with current information, registration, etc.

A Couple Trends

Here's What Makes the Weekend So Enjoyable!

When writing about the 2002 Weekend in the February 2002 Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter, I started with a couple paragraphs about why I enjoyed the Weekend so much.

Here's part of what I wrote.

It’s hard to pick out any one thing as a highlight because in some sense it’s the general atmosphere of the weekend that’s so much fun. Every year we get to see many friends that we might not see much in between.

One of the things I like the most about the weekend is that it is such a friendly, social event. We go to dances all year long and dance with a lot of very nice people. Although our dances tend to be more social than dances in many of the other places I’ve been, it’s still true that other than a few minutes during the break we don’t get much chance to visit with each other. Of course some people get together outside of dances, but there are many people we just don’t get to visit with very much. The Ralph Page Weekend has always been more social. One reason is that we eat meals together. I can’t say that I was particularly impressed by the food at the MUB this year (the New England Center seems to have priced itself out of our range). However I wouldn’t have missed the meals because of the chance to visit with friends (and to get to know people I’ve never really talked to before). Other aspects are very social as well — the snack break Friday night, and the time between supper and the Grand Dance.

Beyond that, the Ralph Page Weekend always features some of the best dancing of the year. We do a very nice selection of dances, both traditional and modern. We do some pretty easy dances which don’t require much concentration, and we do some complex dances that you really have to think about. We danced old chestnuts like Money Musk and Rory O’More, and we danced modern dances I’ve never danced before. We dance dances that I might not call at a regular dance but that are fun with the right group of dancers and good teachers and a weekend worth of time to get into the dancing.

Leading Up to the 2000 Weekend

The Ralph Page Legacy Weekend started out very strong with excellent workshops, several excellent callers, great music and lots of very good dancers. But after the first few years it started gradually getting a bit smaller, expenses started increasing, many of the Ralph Page dancers who came the first few years were getting older and were less inclined to travel for the weekend and in some cases unable to dance any more, but not so many younger dancers were taking their place.

By the time we met after the 1999 weekend we decided something needed to be done. It was pointed out that many people no longer knew who Ralph Page was, so the weekend was less meaningful to them. Sylvia also pointed out that the name of the event said nothing about dancing, which has always been the main focus of the weekend. It was also mentioned that we had been honoring many callers besides Ralph Page at recent weekends.

With that in mind, let's look at the 2000 Weekend.

2000 Weekend

New England Dance Legacy Weekend, 2000

Taking all that into account, we decided for 2000 to change the name to the New England Dance Legacy Weekend. For the first time the title of the weekend actually indicated that there was an emphasis on dancing. We also chose a staff that was bound to be popular. We got Swallowtail for the first time, and Rod Miller with Bob McQuillen. For callers we got Ralph Sweet and Don Armstrong. We also started offering a discount for first-time attendees at the weekend.

Although it's always hard to say what was responsible, the overall result was very positive. From the February 2000 Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter, it "was one of the best ones ever. Attendance was way up from recent years. … We had a good crowd there and while the finances aren’t in yet we either broke even or minimized the losses of recent years. The dancing was outstanding; as usual it was about the best dancing I’d done since the last one. The music was great, and the calling was first class."

The weekend started out well on Friday night with music by Burt Feintuch, Sarah Hydorn and Roberta Sutter. Quite a few chestnut contras and squares were called: Lamplighter's Hornpipe, Nelly Bly, Dip and Dive, Golden Slippers (squares called by Ralph Sweet), Money Musk, and Tod's square Grandma Slid Down the Mountain.

Ralph Sweet started out Saturday morning with Swallowtail, with Chorus Jig, Mary Cay's Reel (a modern chestnut?), Hull's Victory, Sackett's Harbor and others. The Retrospective was a look at two centuries of dancing. We danced the Dutch Skipper from around 1760, French Four (both old-style with double balances and as danced today with single balances and time for a swing), four figures of a Plain Quadrille, the Rye Waltz, the Windmill Quadrille and more. Ralph Sweet did a session of singing squares with too many good squares to list.

And there was so much more. I think this was the beginning of another peak period for the Weekend, with enough modern dances to appeal to a wide variety of dancers, but enough of the great classic dances to make all of us who like those dances happy.


New England Dance Legacy Weekend, 2001

Here's part of the announcement of the weekend (slightly edited) from the October 2000 Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter.

It’s Jan. 12–14 this coming winter, and we’ll have some great musicians and callers. Lisa Greenleaf and Tony Parkes will be calling. We're excited to have Swallowtail back. We're also excited to have Bob McQuillen with Laurie Andres and Cathie Whitesides, two excellent west coast musicians.

To make it really special, we’ll be honoring Bob McQuillen at the Retrospective. We hear that when asked about it he said, “Don’t you have to be dead first?” That’s often the case, but Bob is too special to the New England dance community and we want to honor him while he can enjoy it; fortunately for us he’s very much alive and as much fun as ever.

David Millstone has been preparing a documentary video on Bob which will be shown for the first time at the weekend. We saw a preview of part of it at a committee meeting and it’s really great. I admit I was skeptical about showing a video at a dance weekend, where people are generally more interested in doing things than in watching someone else do them, but it’s fascinating and definitely worth going out of your way to see.

The video and Retrospective were quite successful; among the most successful things we ever did. Here's the report from the February 2001 Newsletter.

Saturday afternoon was devoted to celebrating Bob McQuillen and his contributions to the dance world. It started with a video which David Millstone put together (Paid to Eat Ice Cream), which looked at many aspects of Bob’s life, and many of the people he played with and for over the years. It was very well done, and I’d guess was the highlight of the weekend for nearly everyone there. Surprising for a bunch of people who normally would rather dance than sit around and watch other people doing things!

After that was the Retrospective, also organized by David Millstone. He invited many of the people Bob has played with over the years, and many of Bob’s friends and family. The music was great, there were a number of very good guest callers, and we met some of the people we’ve heard about for years but most have never met (for example, the Bear for whom the tune “The Dancing Bear” was named).

There was a lot of good dancing at the Retrospective too. Over 30 musicians and callers who had worked with Bob played and called. From the Syllabus, we danced the Buffalo Quadrille, Smoke on the Water, Rory O'More, Hull's Victory and Darling Nelly Gay. We all danced King of the Keyboard, Young at Heart and Salute to Bob McQuillen, three dances written in his honor. The Retrospective ended with Amelia and Chickadee Polka, two of his most popular tunes; and if I remember right Amelia was actually there.

I think this solidified a series of very successful weekends, and was perhaps the beginning of making the Retrospective such an important part of the Weekend. Here's part of the report on the rest of the Weekend which was excellent too.

Needless to say the music and calling over the weekend was first class. The dancing was excellent as always. What I really enjoy is that for the most part the dancers dance in a smooth but energetic style, usually ending the figure when it’s supposed to end (just in time to start the next figure).

In many situations people rush through the figures and then have to pause before the next figure begins, which is obviously far less graceful. Now I have nothing against good rowdy dancing, which is lots of fun; and I’d rather dance with beginners who are having fun than with good dancers who are more interested in dancing well than in enjoying themselves; but when you get a crowd who dances well, and with enthusiasm, and they’re having fun as well, that’s about as good as it gets.


Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend, 2002–2004

2002 Weekend. In the July 2001 Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter I wrote, "It’s never too soon to start talking about the Ralph Page Weekend. Its name has returned to the original name with the word 'dance' inserted to make it clear that’s what the weekend is all about." As I remember, an important reason for the change was that Bob McQuillen made it clear that he wasn't happy about Ralph Page's name being dropped.

And in fact, we made Ralph Page the subject of the Retrospective, with a particular emphasis on the Northern Junket. I pointed out in the July Newsletter that Northern Junket was much more extensive than my newsletter. From a sample issue randomly chosen from my collection (July 1971), I wrote "It contains articles about club vs. traditional square dancing, dancing with style, the evolution of the dance 'Money Musk', calls for a couple square and contra dances, some tongue twisters ('Sylvester’s sister Susie sews silk shirts for silly shipwrecked sailors'), recipes, kitchen hints, New England folklore, etc.

Up to this point one of the surprising things about the Weekend was that despite all the great musicians there, there was very little in the way of jamming. I proposed that we have jam sessions in the cafeteria toward the latter portion of lunch time. So for the first time we had organized jam sessions for 45 minutes during lunch each day. These got quite popular, attracting up to 20 or maybe more musicians.

Bob McQuillen, RPDLW, 2003

Classic photo of Bob McQuillen playing his acccordion at the 2003 Ralph Page Weekend. Bob was always on staff playing with one of the bands, and was a driving force behind the Weekend. Photo by Patrick Stevens; see page footer for details.

2003 Weekend. The 2003 Weekend featured square dancing for the Retrospective, and we chose the staff accordingly. We had Old New England and Rod Miller with Airdance, providing the balance between a more traditional band and a somewhat more modern band that we generally tried to get to fit the weekend as representing a living tradition. Linda Leslie and Tony Saletan were calling, with Tony Parkes in charge of the Retrospective. We also had Lissa Schneckenburger with Phantom Power on Friday night representing the new generation of dance musicians.

The Retrospective was titled Ralph's Favorite Squares. It started out with the Crooked Stovepipe, and included other favorites such as Odd Couple Promenade, the Rout, the Kitchen Lancers, Grand Square and several others. Tony Saletan did a calling workshop on squares, and also called a session of singing squares including If You Knew Susie, Maple Sugar Gal, Mountain Music Madness, Climbing Up the Golden Stairs and Smoke on the Water.

There were, of course, a number of excellent contras called as well. Altogether it was a memorable weekend. Even the workshops were quite memorable. From the February Newsletter, "We also had some interesting workshops. For example, Bob McQuillen did a workshop involving telling stories about interesting and amusing things that happened in the context of various tunes, and then we played the tunes." And of course once you give Bob a session in which to tell stories, it's guaranteed to be a good time!

Moving Violations, RPDLW, 2004

Moving Violations playing for the Grand Dance Saturday night with sit-in musicians; Ron with his big grin obviously enjoying himself! Photo by Patrick Stevens; see page footer for details.

2004 Weekend. It's very easy to go on about each Weekend, because so many of them were excellent, and this was a time of some particularly good ones. The 2004 Weekend didn't have any unusually good features, but it was overall excellent. The Retrospective was on Contra Chestnuts, and we danced Lady Walpole's Reel, Money Musk, Hull's Victory and others. Fred Breunig also did a session on Lesser Known Chestnuts at which he did several versions of Lamplighter's Hornpipe showing how it had changed over time. He also did a session called Singing Squares by Smith & Glabach who were from Western Massachusetts and Vermont, calling in the 1930s and 1940s. There were some really fun dances including a really fun version of Spanish Cavalier-o that I've been meaning to learn ever since.

Also at the 2004 Weekend Bob McQuillen did a workshop on the tunes they used to play with Ralph Page. In fine McQuillen style, the workshop was called Happy Times & Happy Tunes with Ralph Page (Hell, I was There!). It was a fun workshop, at which we played tunes like Life on the Ocean Wave, Pigtown Fling, Maggie Brown's Favorite and Darling Nelly Gray. Bob told stories about the tunes and about playing them with Ralph. He also gae out a handout which had an extensive list of tunes he remembered playing with Ralph Page's Orchestra. That list is reproduced in the next tab.

Tunes of the Ralph Page Orchestra

Happy Times & Happy Tunes with Ralph Page (Hell, I was There!)

Tunes of the Ralph Page Orchestra as Remembered by Bob McQuillen

In 2004 Bob McQuillen did a music workshop at which we played tunes of the Ralph Page Orchestra and Bob told stories about the tunes and about things he remembered happening in the context of those tunes. It was a fun and memorable workshop. At the workshop he handed out a list of all the tunes he could remember playing with the Ralph Page Orchestra. The list is presented below.

Here is a list of the tunes we used to use when I was a member of the [Ralph Page] orchestra. I’m sure it is incomplete, but it does represent my best recollection. Ralph Sweet includes about two-thirds of these in his wonderful collection, The Fifer’s Delight.

  • The Arkansas Traveler
  • Barren Rocks of Aden
  • Batchelder’s Reel
  • Beer Barrel Polka
  • Beldune Quickstep
  • Blackberry Quadrille
  • Bonnie Dundee
  • British Grenadiers
  • Chicken Reel
  • Chinese Breakdown
  • Chorus Jig
  • Crooked Stovepipe
  • The Devil’s Dream
  • Don Messer’s Breakdown
  • Durang’s Hornpipe
  • Fiddle Heads
  • Fireman’s Reel
  • Fisher’s Hornpipe
  • Flop Eared Mule
  • Garry Owen
  • Gay Gordons
  • Girl I Left Behind Me
  • Glise de Sherbrooke
  • Golden Slippers
  • Hand Organ Hornpipe
  • Haste to the Wedding
  • Helena Polka
  • Hinky Dinky Parlez Vous
  • Honey Harbor Two-Step
  • Hull’s Victory
  • Hundred Pipers
  • Indian Reel
  • Irish Washer Woman
  • Jenny Lind Polka
  • Kingdom Coming
  • The Keel Row
  • Lamplighter’s Hornpipe
  • Larry O’Gaff
  • Les Fraises et les Framboises
  • Life on the Ocean Wave
  • Little Brown Jug
  • Little Burnt Potato
  • Maggie Brown’s Favorite
  • Maggie in the Woods
  • Maple Leaf Jig
  • Mexican Hat Dance
  • Miss McLeod’s Reel
  • The Mocking Bird
  • Money Musk
  • My Love Is But a Lassie Yet
  • Nellie Gray
  • Off She Goes
  • O’Donnell Abhu
  • Old French
  • On the Road to Boston
  • Paddy Whack Jig
  • Petronella
  • Pig Town Fling
  • Pincushion Polka
  • Piper’s Lass
  • Pop Goes the Weasel
  • Prince Imperial Gallop
  • Ragtime Annie
  • Rakes of Mallow
  • Red River Valley
  • Redwing
  • Reel à Pitou
  • Reel de ’Ti Jean (Liberty)
  • Reel o’ Stumpy
  • Reilly’s Own
  • Rickett’s Hornpipe
  • Road to the Isles
  • The Roberts
  • Ross’s Reel
  • Rye Waltz
  • Sailor’s Hornpipe
  • Scotch Hornpipe
  • Scotland the Brave
  • Silver and Gold
  • Skip to My Lou
  • Smash the Windows
  • Speed the Plow
  • Soldier’s Joy
  • Solomon Levi
  • St. Anne’s Reel
  • Steamboat Quickstep
  • Shake Up the Coke
  • Tavern in the Town
  • Tipsy Parson
  • Turkey in the Straw
  • Up Jumped the Devil
  • The Varsouvienne
  • Wake Up Susan
  • Wearin’ o’ the Green
  • Whalen’s Breakdown
  • White Cockade
  • The Wind that Shakes the Barley

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