Square Dances on old recordings ~ Dare To Be Square 2008 syllabus  


Larry Edelman was the featured caller at Portland, Oregon's, 2008 edition of Dare To Be Square. His generous contribution to the syllabus was three CDs of square dance calling on old records. The calling ranges from incidental color on recordings of Southern fiddle tunes, to professional square dance records, to Northern quadrilles of the Henry Ford sort, to humorous skits. I'm laying these out as they were organized by CD, a page for each CD, using Larry's playlists for the copy. Of course, you don't get Larry's commentary. You had to be there, dears.

These recordings are intended only for the D2BS registrants and the local Portland callers. Please don't pass this link around, just to be cool with Larry so he and I don't get into copyright hot water. Do listen critically. For instance, on the square dance labels listen to the timing of the calls for starting off the right and left grand. There is something to be learned there.

Many of these calls are traditional and should be cherished and passed on. Below is a short essay Larry sent me years ago when he was trying to get me to respect the poetry of our traditional calls.

"I think that when we pass along traditional square dances we need to transcribe actual words that have been used to successfully call the dance. For at least two reasons. The first reason is mainly aesthetic. The time-tested words have so much character and give the dances their life, their color. The patter is essential to the artistry of calling the old squares. Granted, some of the phrases of the calls might be a bit dated and might, for some people, even be a little offensive and need some revision, but they are still inextricably linked to the dances. I think that the calls can be thought of as being the very souls of the dances. In other words, the essence of each square dance is captured about as much by the poetry of the calls as by the dance movements themselves. The calls are part of the music of the dance. Another way to think about the importance of the calls is through an analogy to fiddle music. Calling a great traditional square dance without the well-traveled calls that distinguish the dance so well, that make it whole, is like playing an old-time fiddle tune with regard to only the notes and not the bowing. It is the bowing that gives the tune it's lilt, it's bounce, it's rhythm, it's very self. The second reason to transcribe the words of a call is practical. Newer callers need calls that work to be able to call a dance in a way that they can convey a lot of information (who does what with whom, when) in a brief time without getting tongue-tied. The old calls evolved from the need to say a lot in a few words. An added benefit is that many of these calls evolved as nursery-rhyme type poetry so that the caller had an easier time remembering the calls naturally. This whole issue of needing to describe square dances by transcribing the actual call-words (rather than only by describing the figures) is not so true with contra dances. But it surely is with squares." ~ Larry Edelman