The Portland Collection, Volume 3

At last! After more than 3 years of work on the project, we are only a few weeks away from going to press with The Portland Collection, Volume 3. We are hoping for an April, 2015 release date. Watch this space for a list of the 300+ tune tiles in Portland 3. There are no repeats from the two earlier books, but the format and features will be just the same.

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IMG_1392Here’s Portland Collection 3 as it exists today. Up top on the left is a pile of some of the tunes we are not going to include although they were good contenders (so that’s technically not part of PC3). Top right is the stack of composer permission/royalty forms. The 4 binders on the left of the bottom shelf are the tunes (see next photo to explain why so much paper). Then a little mock-up notebook for layout, which is next to a binder of all the tunes in their final format. Finally, on the right of this shelf is a binder with Clyde’s commentary. The photo omits 2 huge binders of preliminary tunes.

IMG_1398People ask: What is taking you and Clyde so long to produce this book? Here’s a partial response: one tune–The Longford Collector–in all of its iterations, each one with some kind of change until we got it the way we wanted it. The arrows to a B means it was headed for editor Betsy Branch. This one was tough because there seemed no great chord choices, so back and forth between Betsy, Clyde, and me it went until we got something we could live with. We started work on this tune in June 2014 (dates on upper right corner) and finished in January 2015. And this tune does not have the additional step of composer back-and-forth to add into the mix.

IMG_1394Here’s what I’m working on right now–the layout. This shows me how all the tunes fit together–how many pages the music will take up. Boys of Antrim on the right uses a whole page, which will leave a blank half page under Boyne Water. So we will put a quote under Boyne Water. Usually by this point, we would be publishing a list of titles in the book, but the fact is, we don’t know for sure yet. We know that we will be over our 328 page limit (that’s all our chosen binding size can hold). Once I have loaded Clyde’s commentary into InDesign (any day now–he’s making final adjustments), we’ll know how much over we are, which will then tell us how many words and how much music we will need to remove. We hope not very much, and no tunes under copyright will be taken out. As soon as we have made those decisions, I’ll publish a list of titles.

Progress Report for The Portland Collection 3 Book

Right now, most questions to Clyde and me center around “When will Portland 3 be finished?” “Are you on track?” “Do you need any more tunes?” So to shed a little light on these: the other two Portland Collections have each taken 3 years from start to finish. We expect the same this time and would put the start date as Winter, 2011-12. It takes about a year to select the tunes that will be included. We ask Portland bands to submit their repertoires (so far, all have said yes to that). Then Clyde and I play through each tune, first individually and then the two of us together. We talk about and rank each tune. We started with about 350 tunes for the first book (and were able to include everything suggested excluding tunes that had already been printed in several tune books). We began with 450 tunes for Book 2, so we had to pick and choose. We developed our ranking system while working on these tunes.

This time, we are beginning with considerably more than 600 tunes!! That’s how much new music has come to the Portland contra dance community since the publication of the 2nd PC. We have solicited tunes from about 2/3 of the Portland musicians and also are including tunes Clyde has incorporated into his repertoire (he lives in Bellingham now). Thus far, we’ve played through and ranked over 300 of the tunes. We have lots of work sessions scheduled during the next few months so should be able to finish both the solicitations and the play through by the end of the summer. If we have 300 tunes with a #1 rank, that will be the end of it–those will be the ones included in the book. But it’s more likely that we’ll have around 200 with that rank and then will have to make some really difficult decisions. I can tell you that we are really excited about the music that is coming to us. It’s entirely possible that we’ll have 450 with a #1 rank–and then what?! We like the size of the books at slightly over 300 tunes. So we will probably have more play through and more discussion about what to include. We should have a clear idea of the tunes in the book by the end of the year. So, we are on track–on our very slow track, anyway.

After the above process, it will likely take another year to identify, locate, and work with all of the composers involved. Once we locate everyone, we will mail out all the requests to print in one big mailing. After that there is a lot of back and forth with the composers revising tunes to their specifications.

And the third year? It’s more research on the tunes and then putting it all together in publishing format.

I’ll post updates here so interested folks can see where we are with our process, make comments, ask questions, etc. If you have read this much, you must be interested. Thanks a lot for that! We so appreciate the support of our contra dance community and others who enjoy this music!!

New Contra Dance Tunes May 2012

Here are a few tunes that we Portlanders have enjoyed playing these past couple of years.

Step Around Johnny:
This tune comes from a recording of The Red Mountain White Trash, Chickens Don’t Roost Too High. Their liner notes tell us that they learned it from guitarist Sam Taylor, who got it from his grandfather Jim Allen. In Portland, Joyride and the Portland Megaband play this tune.
Download Tune

Sheepskin and Beeswax:
Kevin Carr put this Qu├ębec tune down on my cassette tape at Fiddle Tunes during a repertoire session there in the early ’90s. This version has been tweaked a little bit, but the bones of it are the same as the notes on my tape from Kevin.
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Bob’s Own:
This is a rousing, accessible A major jig composed by famed New Hampshire piano player Bob McQuillen. You can find it in his own hand in Bob’s Note Book 5. Since Bob doesn’t dedicate it to anyone else, perhaps the title says it all.
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Riff City:
John Goodin, mandolin player in the band Contratopia, wrote this dramatic Gm tune, which is included in that band’s tune book, The Contratopia Tune Book. That’s where I found it. the Megaband members loved playing it for the 2012 dance.
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Ruth’s Waltz:
Anne Duston of Portland composed this waltz in memory of her aunt. She says of it: I composed Ruth’s Waltz the day we learned that my husband’s beloved aunt had passed away. The tune is reminiscent of her cheeriness, and her love of music and dance.
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Almost Equinox by Larry Unger:
Larry Unger, guitar and banjo player from Massachusetts, has left his musical mark on the Portland contra dance scene for years. The Megaband took on Almost Equinox 3 seasons ago–it works very well for the “licks and tricks” of this group. Larry says: “I wrote it for a Pinewoods fund raising auction and that Bill Ossa had the highest bid and named it.” He included it in his tune book The Reckless Reel. In addition to listening to A Beneficial Tradition, you can hear the Megaband play this tune (at the end of the video clip) on YouTube.
Download the tune | PDF

Crook Brothers:
Crook Brothers comes from the playing of the Mando Mafia on their recording, Get Away. The liner notes say that the tune is from the Crook Brothers of Tennessee. They recorded it in the key of D, and the Megaband played it in that key in 2008, but it worked better for us in the key of G in 2009, so that’s where it is on A Beneficial Tradition.
Download the tune | PDF

Deer Walk (James Bryan setting):
James Bryan of Alabama taught this setting of Deer Walk at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, July 2008. It varies significantly from the setting of this same tune that is printed in The Portland Collection (1).
Download the tune | PDF

Erik’s Reel by Susan Songer:
I wrote this tune for Megaband 2008 after playing through maybe 30 tunes in the key of E and not finding one that I thought would work for the set I had in mind. I named it for Megaband co-organizer and caller Erik Weberg because it contains so many of his favorite music features (and also because he made some useful suggestions in the shaping of the tune).
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Farewell to the Taliban by Keith Murphy:
The version printed if you click on the title is the way Keith wrote the tune (and the way he has published it on his own web site. He writes: “because of the basic repetitive quality of the tune, it is particularly open to melodic variations on the part of the player.” Keith’s band, Nightingale, taught this tune in their band lab at Fiddle Tunes 2007 and put their own slant on it there. The Megaband added its own slight variations and chords, which you can see by clicking here.
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Folklife Reel:
I found the Folklife Reel in Gordy Euler’s new tune book, After Midnite, and added it into the Portland Megaband repertoire for the March, 2006 dance. When the Megaband plays one of his tunes, Gordy, who shares conducting duties with me in that band, always has a hard time deciding whether he would rather play or conduct his own tunes. He chose to conduct this one, so I got to play it. Check out Gordy’s book for more of his tunes. And if you would like to hear 75 musicians play the tune, then come to the Portland Megaband dance on March 10, 2007. We will likely play it again next year.
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Reel du Goglu:
I first heard Reel du Goglu from Clyde Curley when we were at his place in Bellingham working on Volume 2. Clyde had just rediscovered the tune and was teaching it to everyone he knew. We both loved the tune, but it was too late for inclusion in our new book. The setting here is from Joseph Allard, and you can hear him playing it on the Virtual Gramophone website. The Portland Megaband played this tune at the March, 2006 dance. Clyde and Eric Schlorff will be including it on their CD, L’Orage: Music of Quebec and Ireland on Harmonica, Fiddle and Guitar. According to the Virtual Gramophone, the English title for this tune is Goblin’s Reel–a far cry from my French dictionary, which translates “goglu” as “bobolink.”
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Kentucky One-Step:
This true vine (I think) old time tune comes from an MP3 download on the Web. The site says: “Jerry Rogers and Sons Home Recordings”. This is a rare compilation of recordings over the past few years by Master Old-Time Fiddler Jerry Rogers and his sons Andrew and Bobby. This CD is about as authentic as it gets when it comes to the heart of Southern Folk Music. Raw, Ruff & Ready!”
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Kitchen Girl:
Here’s the old time standard tune, Kitchen Girl, the way Megaband lead fiddler Betsy Branch taught it to the rest of us.
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Marie Sauce ton Pain (Rodney Miller setting):
I’m partial to this setting of Marie Sauce ton Pain, which Rodney Miller taught at the American Festival Fiddle Tunes in 2001. A different setting appears in The Portland Collection, Volume 2. That version comes from a recording by La Bottine Souriante, Je Voudrais Changer d’Chapeau, which may be the first place that many of us heard it.
Download the tune | PDF

Merryn’s Reel by Ronnie Cooper:
This uplifting Shetland tune composed by Ronnie Cooper was recorded by Fiddler’s Bid on Da Farder ben da Wekamer, and that’s where we came across it.
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Never Been Better by Hank Laramee:
Never Been Better was written by the late Portland musician Hank Laramee. Hank was deeply involved with our dance community as a musician, caller, and dancer. In fact, he helped organize one of the first contra dances in Oregon in the early 80’s, and put together a tune book, The Oregon Country Dance Manual, which served as a music source for Oregon musicians for quite awhile afterwards. Hank played in the band Hands4 and was a faithful member of the Portland Megaband. He passed away unexpectedly in the spring of 2006. We miss him a lot but feel fortunate to be left with his fine tunes. Upon hearing this tune, Flavia Moshofsky said to Hank, “You must have been in a really great mood when you wrote that.” Hank replied: “Flavia, I am always in a really great mood.” See Train to Narbonne below for information about where to purchase Hank’s tune book with this and many other fine tunes.
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The Pinch of Snuff:
Randy Miller fiddled this tune at a dance in Portland in 2007. It was the first time I had ever danced to it, and in doing so, I realized it would lend itself very well to being played by the Megaband with the built-in drama of moving the melody up the strings as the tune progresses. Once through the tune is twice through the contra dance. Randy printed this tune in his book The Fiddler’s Throne, but our arrangement is a little different from what is found there.
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Starr Label Reel:
Rodney Miller taught this standard New England tune the way we play it here (more or less) at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in 1996.
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Taggart’s Reel #3:
Randy Miller taught Taggart’s Reel #3 when he was on staff at Fiddle Tunes in 2005. It worked so well for the big sound of his band lab that I thought it would translate well to the Megaband. Upon hearing our rendition, Randy wrote me that it might, just might, tempt the very stern appearing John Taggart to smile.
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Teetotaler’s Reel:
I wonder how many thousands of dancers feet have stepped to this classic Irish reel over the centuries.
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The Train to Narbonne by Hank Laramee:
This tune was a favorite among Portland Megaband members a few years back. Hank’s wife, Fran Tewksbury says: “I think The Train to Narbonne was written for a train trip in 1993, from Toulouse to Marseille. Hank ‘s ancestry was French & he loved being in France. On our first visit we were backpacking and trainriding. The stations and trips between were often as much fun as the towns themselves. On the train to Narbonne we read about Marseille, ate baguettes and were immersed in French conversations around us & the Mediterranean landscape. A good tune from a sweet memory.” You can purchase Hank’s tune book The Village Dance at the website of his former bandmate Carl Thor. Go to
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Wagon Wheel:
This tune comes straight from Pete Sutherland’s recording Streak o’ Lean. He credits Bob Butler as his source.
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March and March-like Tunes

The Battle of Waterloo:
After dancing to Wild Asparagus playing this tune at a dance in Portland in 2007, I ran to George Marshall to ask him the name. He didn’t know. Somehow though, in the midst of teaching the next dance, he had time to ask the band the tune title and come find me and relay it to me. I discovered that I had a copy of this tune at home in the book Fiddle Music of the Scottish Highlands by Christine Martin. I don’t know if this is the way Wild Asparagus played it, but we used Christine Martin’s setting here.
Download the tune | PDF

Live Oak by Michael Mendelson:
Live Oak is a wonderful tune for a big band, as can be attested to by both the Portland Megaband and the Pittsfield Open Band in Ann Arbor, Michigan where I was recently a guest conductor. It is also a great session tune and a no-fail contra dance tune for small bands. The rhythm is built in, the melody is accessible to all ears. You can find this tune in Michael and Anita Anderson’s tune book, Tunes from the Western Edge, or on his web site at The website has many other downloadable tunes by Michael as well.
Download the tune | PDF

Swords into Ploughshares by David Donaldson:
Carl Thor brought this beautiful march to Portland. Composer David Donaldson of Vancouver B.C. plays whistle and other instruments; he has written many other tunes (info available at his web site). He tells us, “I wrote Swords while I was listening to a lecture about environmental footprints. It was a lucky morning for me.”
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Hats Off to Summer by Carl Thor:
The mood of this jaunty jig is a good match for its upbeat title. It was written by Megaband hammer dulcimer and piano player, Carl Thor, and can be found in his tune book of original music, Come to the Dance Hall. It can also be heard on YouTube midway through the clip.
Download the tune | PDF

The Joy of My Life:
Joy of My Life, which goes by quite a few other names–The Joys of Wedlock and Donnybrook Fair–is a standard Irish jig.
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Da Moorit Lamb by Tom Anderson:
I found Da Moorit Lamb in Shetland fiddler Tom Anderson’s tune book Ringing Strings. The note on this tune states, “Written in 1973 while watching the antics of a young lamb. Moorit is a colour similar to dark brown, and was very rare at one time.” Several of the Megaband fiddlers tuned their fiddles A-E-A-E to play the set that this tune was a part of. We are unable to locate the copyright holder for this tune. If any reader can point us in the right direction, we would appreciate that.
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O’Keefe’s Slide (Pittsfield Open Band setting):
I was privileged to direct the Pittsfield Open Band in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2007. This setting of O’Keefe’s Slide was in its repertoire, and I thought it sounded great the way they played it. So I brought it back to Portland for our Megaband–it also worked well for us with some fiddles were tuned A-E-A-E on it. This Am version is similar to the Em setting of “O’Keefe’s Slide” that can be found in The Portland Collection (1).
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Da Shaalds:
This tune also comes from the CD Da Farder ben da Wekamer by Fiddler’s Bid. Therese Vogel gave me several recordings by this band, and they have proved to be a gold mine both in terms of wonderful listening and as a source of material for the Megaband as well as other bands. Fiddler’s Bid plays this tune in A-E-A-E tuning without chordal accompaniment. We copied them blatantly in our rendition here.
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Zinnia’s Favorite by Ethan Hazzard-Watkins:
I first heard this tune while dancing on the deck of a wooden boat moored at a Greek island! Mary Lea and Peter Barnes were the musicians, and we were all on a Ken McFarland contra dance trip. Back at home, I found Zinnia’s Favorite in Ethan’s tune book A is for Avocaado and immediately added it to my own repertoire as well as that of the Portland Megaband. Ethan wrote this tune for Zinnia Siegel, daughter of Peter and Michelle Siegel. He wrote it an octave lower than is printed here. You can check out Ethan’s website and purchase his tune book and his recording In the Window at


A Rose Still Blooms by Todd Silverstein:
Todd says: “I wrote this tune for my good friend and wonderful dancer Donna Rose Ranae, when she began to complain about the indignities of aging, at age 50. The tune, although a tad melancholy, cheered her up as it was meant to do. Since cancer took her away from us last summer at the untimely age of 53, the tune means even more to me.” Donna’s husband John Kellerman wrote lyrics to go with this pretty waltz. You can read them here.
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St Barbara’s Waltz by Gordy Euler:
Megaband co-conductor Gordy Euler wrote this waltz for his mother, Barbara Euler.
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Hambos and Schottisches

Varvindar Friska
One of my very first sources of information about fiddle music was The Fiddler’s Almanac by Ryan Thomson. He included this hambo in that book. We were looking for a hambo that could be played in A-E-A-E tuning (since some fiddles would be tuned that way for the first set after the break, and this one fit the bill.
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