Houston Area Traditional Dance Society

Contra Dan's Band

Contra Dan's is the name of the Houston community band that is open to anyone who would like to play for the contra dances. Credit goes to Mike Head for starting the original Contra Dan's, coming up with the name, and supplying some of the music that we use. The current incarnation of Contra Dan's is organized and led by John Bloom and Keith Holmes.

Contra Dan's at West U Community Center
Members of Contra Dan's at the West University Community Center

Although open to everyone regardless of skill, Contra Dan’s is not a “pick up” or “drop in” or “bring your instrument to a dance and jam” band. Contra Dan's rehearses every few weeks and always before a dance that the band is going to play. Members are expected to attend as many rehearsals as possible, and especially the rehearsal just before a dance that the band will play.

We can provide sheet music for all of our tunes at our rehearsals, but we encourage all players to download and print the tunes (or add them to a tablet). See the “Tunes” section below.

All musicians and all instruments are welcome. Even those who don't yet feel confident enough to take the lead or be amplified are encouraged to attend the rehearsals and play at a dance.

Playing for dancers is a lot of fun and has none of the pressure of concert music, so please join us! Email contradans@hatds.org for details and John or Keith will get back to you with specifics.

New to Contra Dan's?

Or thinking about joining? We've prepared a special document for new and prospective members called Notes for new members. Please read that document before coming to your first rehearsal; it will help you integrate into the band quicker and save rehearsal time!

If you have questions not answered here or in the Notes for new members, please email Keith and John.

Tunes

Two Fiddles. Photo by Lauren SingerPDFs of our tunes, the current medley list, source files for many of the tunes, and the Notes for new members document are all in a Dropbox folder: Contra Dan's Tunes .

You do not need a Dropbox account to download these files; you can cancel any request to create an account.

If you click on a PDF it will probably open in Dropbox (depends on your device). You can print directly from there or download the file to your computer. If the file looks like garbage on the Dropbox page, download it and then open it. To download directly without opening the file in Dropbox, right click on the file and choose Save file as.

You can also download everything in one zip file by clicking the link above and then the download button on the upper right of the Dropbox page. You'll have to wait a few seconds while Dropbox creates the zip file. You'll have many files that you may not need, but it may be quicker than downloading individual files.

Note that many tunes have a version for Bb instruments such as clarinet, trumpet, and tenor sax. If you don't play one of those instruments, ignore the Bb versions.

Source Files

Each tune folder (Couples, Jigs, Reels) has its own subfolder called Source Files. Each Source Files folder contains ABC files (most of them with a .txt extension) and/or Musescore files (.mscz) for many but not all of the tunes. You can use the ABC or Musescore files to transpose or customize the format of your copy.

For ABC files, the ABC converter on Mandolintab.net is powerful and simple to use.

For more control, consider Musescore. It is a free, open source music notation program that has matured greatly the last few years. It comes with an ABC import plugin that works quite well.

Rehearsal Review

These guides attempt to document some of the techniques we've rehearsed.

Listen to members of Contra Dan's performing “The Rivers of Texas” at the April 2018 San Marcos contra dance. Ashley Orlando is featured on the lead vocal with Elena Wortham and Ed Freiter on harmonies. Thanks to Michelle Lynskey for the recording.