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Second Saturday Contra Jam Sessions


After 15 years of monthly jams, the HCD Contra Jam is "going on sabbatical" for about year, resuming ~May 2014, because our jam organizer will be overseas until then.  Please check back in Spring 2014 for information on the resumption of the jam.

Contra jam sessions are 5:30-7:30 pm second Saturdays September through July at the American Legion Post, 275 Main Street, Old Wethersfield, CT [map], just before the second Saturday contra dance. 

Note:  There is no jam before any contra at West Hartford Town Hall, nor before the August jammer dance.

Jam admission is free for jammers who stay for (and pay to attend) the contra dance; otherwise, we appreciate contributions toward the hall rental (suggested donation:  $5).

The HCD contra jam sessions provide a great opportunity for new and experienced musicians to learn, play, and enjoy the contra dance repertoire. We play a mixture of standard contra tunes - mainly reels, jigs, and waltzes. Players of all instruments are welcome (keyboard players should bring their own instruments). The jam is most appropriate for "intermediate" skill levels; we don't play slowly, but we're not at full dance speed either. We use an "around the circle" system to ensure that everyone has a chance to pick tunes.  We'll play anything a jammer wants to play - except "The Irish Washerwoman" and "The Devil's Dream," which are forbidden. We honor the tempo of whoever selects the tune, even if others could play faster.

Tune Lists

Participants can use sheet music or play by ear.  

Our basic references are:

The books are available from many places, including from their authors, from CDSS, and from the Button Box.
    Click here for a rather outdated playlist.

    Click here to enter the Contra Jammers' private area (userid and password required).

    Jammer Dances

    The contra jammers provide the music for two contras each year - the August contra in Wethersfield, and the last contra before Christmas in Branford.  The jammers have also stepped in to provide music for other dances where a band has failed to show or has at the last moment cancelled.

    Here are some cell phone videos Peter Ohring took of the December 2011 Jammer Dance in Branford:

    Rules For Ensemble Playing

    • Everyone should play the same piece
    • If you play a wrong note, flash a nasty look at one of the other players
    • The right note at the wrong time is a wrong note (and vice versa)
    • A wrong note played timidly is a wrong note; a wrong note played with authority is an interpretation
    • A wrong note played once is a wrong note; a wrong note played twice is jazz
    • If everyone gets lost except you, follow someone who is lost
    • If you are completely lost, stop and tune
    • To win the admiration of sessiun players, strive for the maximum NPS (note per second)
    • If a passage is difficult, slow down; if it's easy, speed it up - Everything will even out in the end
    • When everyone else has finished playing, skip any extra notes you have left over
    -- J.W. Swing, with some alterations

    Contact

    For more information, please contact Rob at (860) 232 2504 or by email.

    Last update: 2013-04-14