July 21: Gordon Peery - A Celebration of New England Contra Dance Music Honoring Bob McQuillen
This presentation was given at the Unitarian Universalist church in Peterborough, N.H. on July 15. The presentation will air on NHPR at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
From the Monadnock Summer Lyceum:
Welcome to a musical program honoring New England legend Bob McQuillen, patriarch of the longstanding tradition of New England Contra Dance music. After a short historical overview of the importance of this music to our region, we will be treated to a concert of contra dance music from past to present featuring Bob McQuillen and his band, Old New England, with Jane Orzechowski, Deanna Stiles and some fabulous surprise guests.
Bob McQuillen is a living local legend who has been instrumental in keeping contra dancers on their toes in the Monadnock area for a very long time, connecting back to the legendary caller Ralph Page in the 30s. In the 70s, he worked with Dudley Laufman and the Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra. In 2003, he received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. These days, at 88, he is still found at the piano Monday evenings in Nelson and at the first Saturdays Contra Dance here in Peterborough.
McQuillen is a prolific composer, with close to 1,500 tunes that often carry the name of the person who inspired them. McQuillen compositions are popular among musicians as well as dancers, available in Bob's Notebooks. “Old New England,” Bob’s current group with Jane Orzechowski and Deanna Stiles, represented New Hampshire at the 1999 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and performed at the Celebrate New Hampshire festival in 2000. “Old New England” has released four CDs.
“Mr. Mac” is also remembered and well loved for the 30 years he spent teaching shop class at Peterborough High School (now Conval). Bob has always taught, mentored and inspired people, especially aspiring musicians. "He's one of those angels that just floats around making a difference in everyone's life," said Leslie Jose, whose son Mike inspired "Mikey's Reel." "There's no way you could even put into words the magic that Bob McQuillen has."
Narrator Gordon Peery has been playing for contra dances since the late 1970s. He has toured throughout the US, as well as Canada and Europe. Gordon was a founding director of the Monadnock Folklore Society, and is currently President of the Peterborough Historical Society.