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Second Saturday Contra Jam Sessions

HCD Contra Jam Resuming on Saturday, Sept 12

Please join us 5:45-7:15pm, Saturday, Sept 12, for the resumption of the HCD contra jam.  Please also plan to stay after the jam for our monthly contra dance, featuring Steve Holland calling to the music of Pitnacree.

Contra jam sessions are 5:45-7:15 pm the second Saturday of each month, at the Griffith Academy (formerly American Legion) hall, 275 Main Street, Old Wethersfield, CT [map], just before the second Saturday contra dance.  Note that there's no jam before any contra at West Hartford Town Hall, nor before contras where the jammers provide the evening's music (e.g., August).

Jam admission is free, but we appreciate contribution toward the extra hall rental ($3-5 would be great)

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. 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.
If you want the group to play a tune that's not in any of these books, it's best to bring a few hard copies to pass around.

Click here for an old playlist.

Jammer Dances

In prior years, the jammers provided music for one or two dances each year, e.g., the August contra in Wethersfield, and the pre-Christmas contra in Branford.  We have not scheduled the jammers to provide music for dances in 2015-16, but we may resume jammer dances in the future. 

Here are the sets we've used over the years at our jammer dances:

Here are 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


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

Last update: 2015-08-30