Parked here until I can figure out how — or whether — to revive my old blog Hogfiddle (which may be a while). In the meantime, this video just makes me happy whenever I watch it. I posted it on Aug. 8, 2010, to the original iteration of the blog. Took me a while to find it, so I’ll just copy it here. As I said in 2010 (with light editing), it’s a:

[…] very nice contradance version w/ clarinet and brass and piano joining the string band – Nils Fredland calls Money Musk at the Swallowtail 30th anniversary dance weekend. Backed by members of the Elixir, Swallowtail and Wild Asparagus contradance bands in New England

The brass coming in over the fiddle tune lifts it way above the ordinary for me — and the way Fredland intones the contradance calls like an old-fashioned sidewalk preacher — but what really makes it stand out is the dancers. They’re all enjoying it immensely, and it’s contagious.

I posted a lot of information with the video in 2010, since I was working up a presentation for the Vachel Lindsay Home state historic site in Springfield. Much of it was of no further interest, but here are snippets, copied and pasted (and rearranged a little):

The session band

Info on Elixir’s old website: “Elixir blends driving fiddle and guitar with the rich texture and rhythmic excitement of a full horn section, deftly weaving brassy riffs and daring solos in and out of traditional Irish, French Canadian and New England tunes. Elixir plays for dances, festivals, camps, weddings and other events, with a repertoire that includes contra, English, swing, waltz, couples dance, and concert music.” Personnel:

Nils Fredland, calling / trombone
Ethan Hazzard-Watkins, fiddle
Jesse Hazzard-Watkins, trumpet
Anna Patton, clarinet
Owen Morrison, guitar / feet

Adds a YouTube blurb that goes with another video of the same dance: “Money Musk is an older contra dance that was very popular in the time of Dudley Laufman, in the 60’s and 70’s. Nils is calling in the style of Dudley in this video.” (He kind of sings, or intones, the calls.)

The tune

Fiddler’s Companion has a detailed history of the tune, which it attributes to 18th-century Scots fiddler Daniel Dow … says it is named for a Scottish estate and adds “…‘Moneymusk’ is the ‘Englished’ version of the Gaelic words Muine Muisc” which meant some kind of noxious weed).

“Money Musk” was a popular melody as well as a country dance in America by the 1790’s. American published versions of the music appear beginning in 1796 by B. Carr in Evening Amusements (Philadelphia), and both tune and dance were widely published after that, indicating enormous popularity in America in the last decade of the 18th century into the next. Manuscript versions are also numerous: one appears in Ann Winnington’s music manuscript book (No. 29), c. 1810—the frontispiece in the MS. indicates Winnington resided in New York (although she may have removed at some point to England). Elisabeth Crawford (Massachusetts) penned the dance figures in her 1794 commonplace book that contained the rules of grammar alongside 12 other country dance figures. Southington, Connecticut, musician Joel Allen copied “Money Musk” into his music copybook of around 1800, as did Thomas Cushing around 1805 and Silas Dickinson (Amherst, Massachusetts) around 1800. Onondaga, New York, fluter Daniel Henry Huntington copied it into his manuscript “Preceptor for the Flute” in 1817, as did Newburyport, Massachusetts, musician Samuel Morse in 1811. William Patten (Philadelphia, Pa.) noted it in his copybook from around 1800, as did Cherry Valley, New York, fiddler George White, around 1790. In fact, the country dance “Money Musk” has remained a New England staple for two centuries, although one phrase of the original music has been dropped, while the dance measures stayed the same (thus “cramming 32 measures of dance in to 24 measures of music” note Tony Parkes/Steve Woodruff). In some New England dance circles this dance was traditionally danced immediately after the break, where, for just one example, presumably this was so when it was danced in August, 1914, at the 150th anniversary celebration of the founding of the town of Lancaster, N.H. (it was listed on a playbill preserved in the town history). Peter Yarensky remembers that it used to be the first dance after the break for years at New Hampshire dances, and that “some people would line up for Money Musk before the break even began…” By the 1970’s the tune dance was considered a “chestnut” and it is rarely performed today in New England.

[Published Nov. 21, 2022]

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