Rich's Musical History

The Syracuse Contradance- The Syracuse contradance was started by Peter Jorgensen and his wife Corinne when they moved into Syracuse for Corinne to go to S.U. Peter played accordion and called and Corinne played flute. They had been instrumental in running a contradance down in the Oakridge area of Tennessee. So setting up and running a dance was no big deal for them. The dance was held in a local church every Monday night. Their dedication to a weekly series was quite inspiring. I heard about it from some friends and decided to give it a whirl, so to speak. I met Stephanie there the first night and between the romance and the dancing, I was hooked. Although the love affair didn't last, we had several fantastic years together. She was an avid dancer and introduced me to the whole New England contradance scene. But I digress. It was obvious that even though Peter loved playing and calling, the dancers needed more music than just the accordion and the fiddle. We got a reputation for being a friendly dance and people from as far away as Ithaca started showing up. One of them, another accordion player named Paul Viscuso, started coming on a regular basis. Paul is a great musician and tunesmith, himself. But at that time, he would show up to the dance with his accordion and several books of fiddle tunes with sheetmusic. Paul would pick the tunes and then open his book to the music and anyone who wanted, could try to follow along. Since his accordion was fairly loud, it didn't matter that a couple of other people were trying to learn the tune while he played it for the dancers. He would also pick the tunes while the caller was teaching the dance so we could start learning the tune before Peter started to actually call it to the music. If the tune wasn't too difficult, I was usually able to get most of it by the 4th or 5th time through. Or at least enough to be providing a competent seconding. Talk about on the job training! After 6-8 months of this, we had a pretty good repertoire and a fairly good sized bunch of folks who would show up to "jam" on stage with us. Truth be told, sometimes the musicians would outnumber the dancers and they would recruit a couple of us to go down on to the dance floor to fill out the sets. I can remember several times in the early days of the dances' evolution where the attendance wasn't sufficient to have a dance and the musicians just ended up moving over to Peter and Corinne's house to spend the evening playing tunes. As birth pains go, this was pretty mild. And it did foster a lot of longterm musical friendships which I still cherish to this day.

Well, over the years, the dance did become established. Other musicians from out of town heard about it and wanted to play for us, as did other callers. And although never a large number, we developed solid core of dancers that came every week. And Peter and Corinne were glad to hand over the reins to newer folks and just be occasional performers themselves. Especially as their family and professional lives were demanding more time of them. It was at this point that we tried a couple of different formats for running the dance but the upshot was that I became the prime organizer by liaisoning with the church and booking the callers and performers. It just seemed kind of a natural. I had the energy, enthusiasm and connections from all my jugband travels and contacts. TO BE CONTINUED

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