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Frank Chavez Describes American Square Dances and Spanish Cuadrillas in New Mexico

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Frank Chavez Describes American Square Dances and Spanish Cuadrillas in New Mexico


From childhood, 70-year old fiddler Frank Chavez was exposed to New Mexico Spanish folk music, growing up west of Estancia in New Mexico. Frank was a guitar player and then in 1990, after meeting Ken Keppeler and Jeannie McLerie, picked up the fiddle as well. Since then, he’s learn many of the tunes from what he calls “The Golden Years” of Spanish traditional music, from about 1820 to 1920. He has also studied the customs of Hispanics during those years from older family members and friends. On July 21, 2013 Frank and his brother James performed in concert as a part of the "Walk the "Walk" series in Albuquerque, NM. During the concert, Frank played and talked about traditional tunes and dances, and told stories about Hispanic village life.

In this clip, Frank pays homage and pokes good-natured fun at American square dance callers and compares the music and dances with the Spanish Cuadrillas, which were danced without the aid of callers. This clip helps us become less cultural-bound as we catch a glimpse of American square dance calling and playing through the eyes of a Hispanic musician and also hear stories about the Spanish Cuadrillas.

More information about Frank Chavez can be found here.


Chavez brothers play NM folk music of long ago
by David Steinberg
Fri, Jul 19, 2013

From childhood, fiddler Frank Chavez was exposed to New Mexico Spanish folk music growing up west of Estancia.

Then in 1990 when Chavez bought a home in the South Valley, he heard some of the music that neighbors Jeanie McLerie and Ken Keppeler were playing.

“It struck a chord. When I heard that Spanish traditional music I knew it was in my DNA,” he said. “I got acquainted with Jeanie. She gave me a few violin lessons and I started learning to play it. Before that I had played guitar and in a band.”

McLerie and Keppeler are the heart of the longtime folk music ensemble Bayou Seco.

Chavez said he also listened to field tapes that McLerie and Keppeler had of that folk music. Since then, he’s taken it upon himself to learn many of the songs from what he called “The Golden Years” of the music, from roughly 1820 to 1920.

Chavez figured he’s got about 50 Hispanic folk songs in his repertoire.

Chavez and his brother James Chavez, who accompanies him on guitar, will be in concert Sunday, July 21 at the Eight Two 1 Performance and Events Center. The concert is part of the center’s “Walk the Walk” series.

Frank Chavez, 70, said the duo will play Spanish folk music and maybe some old-timey tunes.

He said he has also taken it upon himself to study the customs of Hispanics of those golden years from older family members and friends.

In concert, Chavez said, he’ll tell some stories about various subjects, including Hispanic village life, traditional foods prepared for fiestas and Spanish words and phrases that are no longer in use.


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July 21, 2013


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