Welcome to the Contra Pulse Project, a series of interviews with contra musicians about contra music.

As you walk up the steps to the dance hall, you can already hear the strains of the piano and fiddle slipping out into the night. Then you open the doors; see the roomful of dancers and hear that glorious music in full – propelling everyone on the dance floor. It’s uplifting, it’s energetic, it’s fun, it makes us move, it brings us together.

Where does contra music come from? Why does it sound the way it does? How has it changed over time? In this project, we will be attempting to take the pulse of contra music today through a series of conversations between host Julie Vallimont and prominent contra musicians from all corners.  Join us in this journey through music, dance, time, space, and community.

Episode 9: Kate Barnes

Julie sits down with the extraordinary Kate Barnes, whose legendary piano stylings have been a mainstay of the contra scene for decades. She’s also a renowned English dance musician, and they talk in-depth about her beginnings in contra dance piano, improvisation, how the dance scene has changed over the years, and much more!

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Episode 8: David Cantieni Part 2

Part two of Julie's conversation with David Cantieni - founding member of the bands Wild Asparagus and Swallowtail, who has been an important fixture of the Western Massachusetts contradance scene for many years. They go through David’s roots, his transition from classical oboe to traditional music, the excitement of the bombard and the influence of French tunes, how he...

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Episode 7: David Cantieni Part 1

Part one of Julie's conversation with David Cantieni - founding member of the bands Wild Asparagus and Swallowtail, who has been an important fixture of the Western Massachusetts contradance scene for many years. They go through David’s roots, his transition from classical oboe to traditional music, the excitement of the bombard and the influence of French tunes, how he...

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Episode 6: Arthur Davis

Arthur and Julie have a lovely summer-night chat about his early roots, building communities through dance, and glorious New England tunes. And as piano players, they also geek out about piano styles, the difference between acoustic pianos and keyboards, and much more!

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Episode 5: Anna Patton

This episode, Julie invites Anna Patton, clarinetist from Elixir and other bands, to sit down on her porch and talk about life as a gigging musician, groove and beat placement, the clarinet as a contra dance instrument, and much more!

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Episode 4: Everest Witman

Julie takes to her porch to talk with Everest Witman, guitarist, mandolinist, and foot percussionist from Nova about his experience growing up in the contra dance scene, DADGAD guitar, contra vs. session playing, and we have a good old rhythm player geek out session about ways that rhythm players can support the dancing. They also talk about Everest's current...

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