Sunday, December 6, 2015

Lady Walpole's Reel

    I was about 12 when I started square dancing with Duke Miller calling the Saturday dances at the Peterborough Country Club in Peterborough, N.H.
    Eventually I discovered that I liked contra dancing better and gradually left squares behind for the most part. I still do go to them, but contra is where my heart is.
    One of my favorite contra forms is the Lady Walpole's Reel and so when I was considering my first stint as a caller, that had to be my first pattern.
    There is an event here in the Olympic Peninsula area called the Bob Boardman Memorial Contra, always the first Saturday in December, to honor a remarkable musician and to support scholarships for those who will carry on the musical torch of fiddling. (Follow the link to learn more about it.)

    This is a time when new musicians are invited to join the band and for new callers to have a go on stage. So I'd been thinking about doing this for awhile.

    But with my life being as busy as it is, I had been postponing practicing until mid-afternoon when I realized if I was going to be on stage, I'd better get somewhat prepared...
    Thus, I went looking for music for the reel so I could practice calling to it, knowing there was every likelihood I would have to call to another reel tune.

    What was the first thing that popped up?
    My mother playing the piano with Newt Tolman and his flute on a YouTube rendition (just the music, no video) in a lovely quick version of the Lady Walpoles Reel. (Here: )

    It is interesting that their recording calls it "Ladies Walpole Reel" but Ralph Page always referred to it as I have titled this entry, saying that the reel was designed so that Lady Walpole was not required to dance much with her husband... partners in the dance formation do not dance with each other (swinging) until the very last call.

    Then I found Duke Miller's version, recorded back one summer a really long time ago. (You can listen to it here:
    And as I wrote down his calls, listened to the music and thought about it, a niggling little voice was saying, "Man, this is harder than I thought."

    But I went to the dance, and Carol Piening, who was calling tonight, was very encouraging and coached me before everyone arrived.

Dancers at the Black Diamond Community Hall, Port Angeles, WA, doing
the Lady Walpole Reel (circa 1872) called by Yours Truly.
Photo by Jenna Rose
    After everyone was warmed up with a variety of dances, she said, "We are welcoming to the stage someone who has been dancing for 50 years and will be making her debut as a caller...."

    Introducing the dance, I said, "I want to dedicate this dance to my mother, Kay Gilbert, who was, in her own right, a great musician and who loved the music enough to help keep it going."

(She, with Newt Tolman, produced The Nelson Music Collection, saving some historic music by documenting it for the first time. Here is a link to the publication:, which now has a CD with it, thanks to his son, Renn Tolman's efforts.)
The Possom Carvers, Scott Marcksx, on fiddle, Chris Cooper, guitar,
(Jeannie Murphy was missing from the group) me and Carol Peining (hidden),
was coaching me to make sure I didn't rush the dancers. What a great group!
Photo by Jenna Rose
    And after a brief instruction to the dancers, the music began... I don't know what the name was for the first reel played, but when they switched to the Queen Anne Reel, (also known as St. Anne's Reel) I was   hearing Kay and Newt again... transported, I relaxed, got into the rhythm, easily calling the dance though to the end...

    After it was over, I was speaking to Carol about the importance the last piece of music had for me. Then Scott, the fiddle player, said the last piece was the first one he ever learned. It turned out that Carol knows Dudley Laufman and knew about Kay and Newt and the Collection... and round and round it went...

    I truly felt as if Kay and Newt were with me, that I was being guided and supported in the most mystical way, and after it was all over, even now as I write this, I realize what a gift this evening was.


  1. Nice article - good on you for doing the calling - Ladies Walpole Reel and the St. Anne's Reel are the correct titles (source: my fiddle notebook as copied from Kay and from Harvey Tolman)
    Steve G

  2. Oh, what a delightful and magical evening - I can only imagine your joy at finding that marvelous connection with your dear Mother! So happy for you!

    much love,

    Karen xoxo