Houston Area Traditional Dance Society

Contra Dan's Band

Contra Dan's is the name of the Houston band that is open to anyone who would like to play for the contra dances. Credit goes to Mike Head for the name, for starting the original Contra Dan's, and for 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 Knights of Columbus

Although Contra Dan's is an open band, it is not a “pick up” or “bring your instrument to a dance and jam” band. Contra Dan's rehearses about once a month and always before a dance that the band is going to play. We provide sheet music for all of our tunes at our rehearsals. Many tunes can also be downloaded and printed or added to your tablet; see below.

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

Playing for dances 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.


Because there are often several versions of any given tune, we have our “official Contra Dan's version” which may or may not be identical to other published versions. See the Contra Dan's Tunes page for our versions.

In addition, most of us own the Portland Collection books. These volumes have become the standard, go-to books of contra dance tunes. You can purchase your own copies directly from the editors or Amazon. For any given tune there may be minor differences between the Portland version and our version, most likely in chords, and we cover those in rehearsals.

Many of the tunes we play can be downloaded from the web site of the Philadelphia open band, called SPUDS. Many of SPUDS' tunes are collected in large PDF files for both C and Bb instruments; click on the link for “binder PDFs” for those. The same caveat about version differences applies to the SPUDS versions as to the Portland versions, so check our Tunes page.

An exhaustive collection of links to collections of free tunes, created and maintained by fiddler Mickey Koth, is here.

For the good are always the merry, Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle, And the merry love to dance.
~ from The Fiddler of Dooney ~ William Butler Yeats

Two Fiddles. Photo by Lauren Singer