West Newbury, VT & Adam Boyce
West Newbury, VT: Adam leads a traditional dance in this tiny Vermont village, continuing a series that he inherited from his calling and fiddle mentor Harold Luce. Adam is active in the Ed Larkin Dancers, a group in central Vermont that continues a long dance tradition; for example, his version of Portland Fancy is that maintained by the Larkin dancers. Read more about Adam’s background below.
Most of the dancers at this event are local, though there are some who travel from neighboring communities. One man described dancing in Newbury 50+ years ago; he said the dances then included lots of “string dances,” the term for what today are called “contra dances.”
Adam does tips of three dances, with round dances (waltz, foxtrot, polka) interspersed between the squares. The program, about two and a half hours, consisted of these dances:
The First Two Gents Cross Over
My Little Girl
Sioux City Sue
Duck for the Oyster
Darling Nellie Gray
--- break ---
Forward Six and Back
Climbing Up the Golden Stairs
Listen to the Mockingbird
Virginia Reel (lasting 14 minutes!)
Adam Boyce, dance caller and fiddler
Well, how I got started in all this business directly relates to the Ed Larkin Contra Dancers and Harold Luce.
I came to my first Open House dance at the Tunbridge Town Hall in early Feb. of 1991. I had never danced before, except for a very brief period in 2nd grade, when we HAD to square dance for some sort of exhibition (I only recently discovered that it was to an Ed Durlacher record, and one of the dances we did was "Honolulu Baby").
My involvement with the Larkin Group started as a dancer, then led to prompting, then to learning how to play fiddle (from Harold), to rediscovering the piano for playing chords, to learning upright bass.
As far as the square dancing piece goes, again it was Harold Luce. I used to sit in with him and his Hartt Hollow band (a name adopted when they put their first and only recording together in 1994-prior to that, it was always called the Harold Luce Band) at various square dances around, including the one that used to be held at the Bugbee Senior Center in White River Jct.
Harold starting doing the West Newbury dance c. 1998. Don Towle, the minister up there in West Newbury, hired him to come (incidentally, Don also revived the Wentworth, NH dance; both were designed to get prospective church members). At first, it was just Harold, with a few sit-in musicians...sometimes, it was JUST Harold. I started coming along, sitting in on piano-no pay; then the sponsors saw the wisdom of hiring a piano accompanist. Ironically, I only got paid a few times, after quite a while of playing for the joy of it, as I had some other conflicts, so Harold hired his daughter, Donna, to play piano.
I still came once in a while to do some second fiddle (Harold actually played the harmony parts to many waltzes, or we would swap-one would play the melody, the other harmony, then both do the opposite the next time-never rehearsed this...just happened.
I only ever called a square dance once, in 1997, when Harold was unable to go to some VFW party in Montpelier. Only called one dance (no fiddling), and couldn't keep anyone up on the floor.
In 2001, Don Towle called me, asking if I could "fill-in" for Harold, as Harold and his companion, Marion Gilman, were going on a cruise (actually 2, I believe). I said I didn't know if I could call or not, let alone fiddle and call.
Don said something to the effect that I "needed to step up" and keep the tradition going.
I had Wayne Doyle, who played 2nd fiddle with Harold in Hartt Hollow, come with me (in case I dropped the melody), and all went fine.
The next month, I came with just Donna Weston on piano, and it was good. I generally only came as a "fill-in," once or twice a year, whenever Harold couldn't do it.
In October of 2007, Harold suffered congestive heart failure, and it was uncertain whether or not he would continue playing. He had been having difficulty fiddling and calling at the same time, always coughing pretty severely (for some time). One day, he called me and asked if I would take over the West Newbury dances, which I agreed to do. He said, "That's good," with almost a sense of relief. It was a very difficult decision for him, I'm sure.
On the Larkin side, I've only ever had to fill in for him a very few times since 1993; even since 2007, I've probably only filled in maybe 3 times.