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Old-Time New England Fiddling & Related Traditions

Lamprey River Band Dance News Page

The First Thursday Dover Dance

The Lamprey River Band has hosted the Dover dance on the First Thursday of the month for many years. With the recent loss of Burt Feintuch we decided it was time to re-evaluate what we’re doing. We decided that we definitely want to continue playing. But the Dover hall is large and expensive given current dance sizes with dances also scheduled nearby on the first Friday and first Saturday. Also the current sound system is rather large and cumbersome, especially as Burt was the only one who really knew how to use it.

It was with both sadness and relief that we ended the Dover series in February; and it was an excellent end to that incarnation of the First Thursday dance.

The First Thursday Durham Dance

We are keeping the same First Thursday schedule, but the dance has moved to the Durham Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 20 Madbury Road, Durham NH 03824. It's at the corner of Madbury Road and Woodman Road and from the front has more the appearance of a house than a church. Dudley Laufman used to do dances there; I attended them for a few years around 1980. It's not a large hall but it's very nice, and we used to have two or occasionally three contra lines or three, possibly four squares.

The hall is small compared to Dover City Hall, but I think it could fit the size crowd we typically get at most other local dances.

If you're looking for a big modern style dance this may not be to your taste. But if you enjoy smaller dances with a friendly social atmosphere, I think you can look forward to a good time. And as a side benefit, as the rent is much lower we will be reducing admission considerably too. Actually we will be able to go all the way back to the admission fee we charged when we first started the Madbury dance in 1986: $2. Even then, the only other dance with that admission fee was the Nelson Monday Night Dance.

The March 7 Dance. The first dance was very successful. It was small, but within range for the hall. We had a speaker for the caller; the rest was unamplified (other than the keyboard; we used the built-in speakers). But the sound filled the room, and it was easier to hear the other band members while playing than ever before. We had a great time, and it appeared the dancers did too. Dudley Laufman was there, and called a dance as well as dancing some, and he told some neat stories and even in singing the maple syrup song.

Parking

Normally they ticket on Woodman Ave. But they will not be ticketing during the dance. Otherwise there are a few parking places at the DUUF, and there's the usual Durham parking on the street (e.g. Madbury Road) and in downtown parking lots.

Upcoming Dance Schedule

First Thursdays, Durham, NH, Durham Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Lamprey River Band, Peter Yarensky & Sarah Mason calling; guest musicians invited. 8:00 - 10:00, 20 Madbury Road, Durham, NH 03824.

 

A Brief History of the First Thursday Dance

The Dover dance has a history that's different from many other dances. I wrote up a brief history in the email I sent out to the Dover email list, and thought I would reprint it here (with minor editing) for anyone who might be interested.

The First Thursday dance has a long history. In the early 1980s a bunch of us started getting together weekly to play music. At the time the main regular dance in the area was in the Newmarket Town Hall on second and fourth Fridays. After we'd been playing for a year or two, I was thinking about how the Newmarket dance series was often in bad financial shape.

So I suggested we do a benefit dance for them. The idea went over well, and we started practicing for it. This was supposed to be a one-shot deal: we'd play for it and then go back to our weekly jam sessions. To our surprise, as the word got out several other local musicians joined us, and we had well over a dozen people playing at our practices. After much preparation we did a dance on July 29, 1983. We had no sound system, but we had over a dozen musicians so it didn't really matter. I think we were able to have sound for the caller, probably using Rick MacAulay's infamous Gorilla Amp. We had such a good time that when I suggested that we should stay together as a band, the idea was well received, and we did it. But because of our start as an open jam session we decided to keep one band practice/month open to anyone who wanted to play some music and learn some tunes. Later, we decided to turn the open practice into a dance, but keep it open to guest musicians and callers.

So, in October 1986 we started the First Thursday dance in the Madbury Town Hall. We charged $2 rent (same as the Nelson dance at that time) to cover hall rental and take in a small amount for the band. We didn’t use any sound system except a small unit - the Gorilla Amp! - to amplify the caller. The Madbury Town Hall was a great place for a dance, but the town officials in charge of the hall never liked us — not that we did anything wrong; mostly I think we were a bother and they were worried about the floor. So after an uneasy relationship with them, in 1992 they kicked us out because they needed the hall for a kindergarten (which was legitimate, I think; but I think they’d been looking for an excuse for some time).

In September 1992 we moved to the Dover City Hall. That meant big changes: we had to start using a sound system, and we had to charge more for admission. After a couple years they changed policy and required us to pay for custodians to be there during the dance and close up at the end. I didn’t miss being responsible for closing the Dover City Hall — if someone managed to sneak in and stay there, I’d have been responsible for anything that went wrong, which was kind of scary. But it did force us to raise the admission again to its current level. During our time in Madbury and even more in Dover, the dance grew to be the largest dance in the Seacoast area, and remained that for many years. In the last couple years we’ve lost some of our dancers to the Portland dance on the same night, and some have graduated from high school and UNH and moved away; but it’s still either the largest or one of the largest dances in the area; just too small for the hall size and rental fee.

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