Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra CD

The Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra name goes back to 1966 when we were sporting what were probably some of the best square and contra dance musicians in all New England. “For lack of a better name, let’s call ourselves the Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra. Dudley is the only one from Canterbury, but how many of the Budapest String Quartet are from Budapest?” asked Newt Tolman when we were looking for a title prior to an appearance at Club 47, now Club Passim, in Cambridge, MA .

In 1972 we made the first-ever long playing album of New England contra and square dance music when we still had a corner on good musicians. The cover photograph shows only those of us who were at that first recording. As time passed, this dance music spread and many musicians said our records inspired them to create bands of their own.

This compact disc makes available again the music of our early long-playing records. These were well received, and letters to us described our sound as up-beat, energetic, earthy, positive, engaging and happy. This is traditional New England dance music but people reported using our LPs for other purposes too: driving, working, waking up, radio theme music, PBS fundraising, cleaning house. One well-known dentist using music as an “audio-analgesia” reported that patients often chose our music to mask pain, as did a young couple during natural childbirth. One physician even suggested that a patient’s foot-tapping to this music be considered a vital sign.

Many of us played together at the New England Folk Festival for years before the Club 47 debut. All of us have played in various combinations for dances around and beyond New England, including dances for other callers: Ted Sannella, Ralph Page, Duke Miller, Charlie Webster, Dave Fuller, Johnny Trafton, Jim Morrison, Bronson Schonk. But when the Canterbury Orchestra is playing, Dudley Laufman is the caller.

Mostly we work in small units of three or four, using musicians who live closest to the job. Others join us on a volunteer basis so that even the smallest dances sometimes find us with a core of two hired and eight guest musicians. Besides dances, the Canterbury Orchestra has played many places including the Newport Folk Festival, Fox Hollow, Old Songs Festival, Morning Pro Musica, the New England and the New Hampshire Folk Festivals.

We are still kicking, getting together once a year to play for a dance. Gray hairs predominate. Three of the musicians on this CD are gone, but the music goes on. More good musicians swell the ranks. Whenever we get together, we sound like we did on our first record. Some secrets are that we don’t rehearse and the combination of instruments must be piano, string bass, banjo, accordion, flute or piccolo, and several fiddles. We rarely do leads or medleys. That magic is always there.

Most of what we play is traditional dance music that originated in the British Isles and was composed by wandering pipers, fiddlers and dancing masters mostly nameless to us now. “A great many of the melodies that we use can be found intact in baroque music, particularly that of Handel, who lived most of his career in England and lifted thematic material very freely from the countryside musicians that he would have heard at almost any crossroad. Even Beethoven seems to have done this on occasion,” adds Nick Howe. Some of Dudley’s anecdotes from the LPs illustrate the music’s New England setting:

Money Musk – I first heard it in Boston in 1949…fast and uninteresting. But when I went to a Ralph Page dance at the Bell Studio in Peterboro, NH, and danced it there to the slow pulsating New Hampshire music on a spring floor and with the Williams twins clogging it out with taps on their shoes, it became my national anthem for a long time.

Chorus Jig – Originally an Irish dance, is actually not a jig at all, but a reel in 2/4 time. Pop Upton was dancing this in Nelson, NH, one night, and on his last time as active couple, he went down the outside of the set, motioned his wife to her seat, and kept right on out the door to his car for a drink. That reminds me of the Finnish wedding I played for in Ludlow, Vermont. An old man wandered in off the street and without even removing his hat, staring glassy eyed ahead, he got in on a grand right and left, somehow wove his way into all the sets around the hall and right out the door again.

Petronella – A 250 pound gent from Boston was dancing this in Nelson one winter night, performing a Scottish pas de basque step all the way down the set much to the dour faced disapproval of the bench warming woodchoppers.  At the bottom by the woodburning heater, he switched to a Boston stamp balance, whereupon he slipped on some melted snow and down he went, bringing the stovepipe and ashes on top of him, and grins to the farmers’ faces.

Irish American Reel – First time I heard this was in 1950 at Ted Sannella’s place in Revere, MA. He had it on a Starr Label French Canadian record. It was called Reel des Moissonneurs, played by Tommy Duchesne et ses Chevaliers du Folklore. For a long time we went without using it at dances for lack of sheet music for the tune until I found it, under the title we use here, in Cole’s 1000 Jigs, Reels and Hornpipes.

Meeting of the Waters – A modern bagpipe march and a popular standard. The name refers to the Vale of Avoca in County Wicklow, Ireland, where three rivers flow into one another.

Dudley writes of two of his own compositions:

Glenn Towle — Glenn was a young boy of 17 who lived in Ringe, NH. He loved to dance and went to all the contra dances near his home and to many further away. He was slowly dying of leukemia, and he once told his friends that he would like a dance to be held at his memorial service. Glenn died shortly after that, and about 100 of his friends gathered in an old farmhouse in Dublin, NH, and in the small ballroom, danced to the memory of Glenn.

Mistwold — Mistwold Farm in Fremont, NH, was where I first learned about country dancing. The Quimby family owned the place and I worked for them. Bucky was my first fiddler. His wife Betty, or a neighbor, Mrs. Sheldon or Mrs. Chandler, played piano, and I prompted and played harmonica.

More on the Orchestra, the tunes and the original notes from the album jackets can be found on the website So put on the music, sit back and imagine one of our New England dances. When you can get out, you should have no trouble finding live music and a caller in city or village. Everyone is welcome.  Enjoy an American social tradition that has continued non-stop since colonial times.

Selected Cuts from Old Recordings

This CD includes only the full orchestra cuts from four records: our first LP titled, Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra, 1972; our second LP Mistwold, 1974;  The Canterbury Country Orchestra Meets the F & W String Band (one cut), 1973; and Contra Dances: The Canterbury Orchestra, a 45 rpm produced by the Country Dance and Song Society in 1974 (used by permission). All the tunes are in the public domain except Glenn Towle and Mistwold which were written by Dudley Laufman.


Allan Block, fiddle; Fred Breunig, fiddle; Art Bryan, guitar; Pete Colby, banjo, autoharp; Larry DeLorier, flute, piccolo, pennywhistle; Charlene Fagelman Morse, flute; Dave Fuller, accordion; Nicholas S. Howe, fiddle; Dudley Laufman, fiddle, accordion, harmonica; Ted Levin, fiddle; Bob McQuillen, piano, accordion; Vince O’Donnell, fiddle, electric guitar; Jack Perron, fiddle; Jack Sloanaker, string bass, piano; Dick VanKleeck, French horn; Jerry Weene, fiddle, mandolin, viola, banjo.

Other Recordings & Books

The Belle of the Contra Dance, Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra, 1986, cassette (58 min.) F&W Records.

CCDO musicians on this CD having their own recordings and/or books: Allan Block, Fred Breunig, Art Bryan, Ted Levin, Jacqueline and Dudley Laufman, Bob McQuillen, Jack Perron, Jack Sloanaker, and Jerry Weene.

  ] © 2001  F & W Records


Producer: Jack Sloanaker
Director: Dudley Laufman, PO Box 61, Canterbury, NH 03224;
Original recording: Seth Gibson, F&W Records
Photo by Seth Gibson
Drawing by Jeannie Abbott
Layout design: Jacqueline Laufman
Mastering: Cedar House Sound, N. Sutton, NH Graphics/manufacturing: OASIS, Flint Hill, VA

® The Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra trade name is registered with the State of New Hampshire.

F & W Records
c/o Education Associates, Box 385
Belmont, MA 02478-0003


 This is the log that comes from a tree that is felled to the ground that is hauled to the mill and sawed into boards that makes the fiddle that makes the music that makes feet thump the floor that is made of wood

 This the sheep who gives of her wool and this is the fleece that lines the case wherein lies the fiddle that is made of wood  And this selfsame sheep has the guts that cross the bridge to bring out music that lies in the wood

 Here is the horse who has the tail that provides the hair that spans the bow that touches the gut that makes the music that comes from the wood

 This is the hand that draws the bow across the strings that sing of maple and spruce and these are the fingers that press the strings against the ebony for a night of dancing

 And all the time the feet are tapping feet are thumping all the time these feet are thumping on the floor that is made of wood         

—Dudley Laufman


A Prose Poem

Big circle now. Huntsman’s Chorus on the fiddle. Everyone up for the Paul Jones. Around they go, ladies one way, gents the other.  “Paul Jones” says the caller, and there is a scramble for partners, lost and found in the middle. An extra woman is swinging around by herself with a big smile on her face. Promenade and circle up. “Paul Jones” again, and suddenly there is a rakish 1779 sea captain with three cornered hat in the center of the ring. Just as quickly he disappears, and there is another woman carrying on alone. Circle up and “Paul Jones”. This time the sailor looks up saying What do you want? “Why do they call this dance the Paul Jones?” But he never answers and another pretty girl is twirling around alone and giggling and squeezing herself.

—Dudley Laufman