Tunes, Jams & Classes

PCDC Dance Tunes Sessions

All Instruments Welcome!

Do you play a melody instrument and want to learn some of those tunes you’ve been dancing to every week?  The Second Thursday PCDC Dance Tunes Sessions are for you.  The sessions are taught by local musicians who are masters of the contra genre and great teachers.  Instruments that show up include fiddle, mandolin, banjo, concertina, cello, guitar and sometimes even a bass playing melody.

We learn two to three tunes per class, and over the course of the year we work on building a repertoire together that we can play for a dance – either a 5th Saturday open band dance and/or a special dance of our own.  Fun!

The classes are held in SE Portland from 7pm to 9pm on the second Thursday of the month, from October through May.  We usually have about six to eight people, with room for more.  If you have questions, or would like to be on the class mailing list, please email delonalang (at) gmail (dot) com.

See the more about the actual tunes at the tunes session website.

More Dance Tune sessions

These are informal gatherings led by members of the community, but not actual PCDC events.

The Pizza Jam

The “Pizza Jam” (although no longer held at a pizza parlour) is a group of musicians that meet weekly at people’s houses to play contradance and other tunes. Meetings are held 7:30pm to 9:30pm, on Tuesday evenings.  Participants volunteer to host the sessions. We welcome players of all instruments and at all skill levels.

We use printed music and don’t expect people to play by ear, though it’s fine if you do play by ear. We typically play tunes from The Portland Collection, Volumes 1–3, by Sue Songer, and from The Waltz Books, Volumes I-IV, by Bill Matthiesen.  If you don’t have those books yet, we’re all willing to share our music. Additionally, you are encouraged to bring copies of any other tunes, contradance or not, that you would like played at the jam session; please bring 10–12 copies so that there are enough for all.

Usually we go around the room and each person takes a turn at choosing a tune to play. That person gets to set the tempo, decide how many times we play it, and start us off by playing an intro or counting us in so that we all start together. When you choose a tune, you can announce at the beginning how many times you want to play it, or, you can decide on the fly and call “Hup!” or stick out your foot during the second playing of the B part of the tune when you want to end it. We recommend playing each tune at least four times to give people a chance to catch on.

We announce the upcoming session on our email list. There will be an email, usually the Friday or Saturday before each jam session. The email will always state the time and place of the jam. You are asked to respond to all, saying whether or not you plan to attend. To join the mailing list, send or give your name, email address, and the instruments you play, to Rick Piel, rick (at) mr-rick (dot) org.

A little history

The Pizza Jam sessions were started around 1999–2000 by Rob Hoffman. A pizza parlor called “It’s a Beautiful Pizza” on Belmont Street hosted a Balkan jam on Tuesday nights and had just moved to larger quarters. At the time, there was no jam session for contradance music and Rob saw a possible opportunity for one. He spoke with the owner, who agreed to host the jam sessions on the first and third Mondays; this was the beginning of the Monday Night Pizza Jam. In those days, in addition to playing music from The Portland Collection, musicians had a chance to play music by local composers, who would attend the sessions and bring copies of their music for everyone to try. We also played other music in addition to just contradance. Hambo, Schottish, Tango, English Country, cowboy songs and other styles were all on the menu. Once in awhile we even played songs people could sing.

In 2010, the owner sold the pizza parlor and we lost that venue. Nevertheless, the name “Pizza Jam” persists.

The ECD Jam

The once-a-month English Country Dance jam meets on 4th Wednesdays.  We play at different houses, 7:30pm to 9:30pm.  Get on the email list to find out where it will be.  Contact Rick Piel, rick (at) mr-rick (dot) org.  We play from the 3 Peter Barnes books of ECD tunes and the 4 Waltz Books.  If you don’t yet have these books, players will share with you.  We take turns choosing a tune to play.