Old-Time Square Dancing in Chicago

A couple of great dances are coming up in the next month or so in the City of Big Shoulders. We’ll call them Big Shoulders Square Dances.

Foghorn String Band plays the first ever Evanston Barn Dance on Monday, November 2. Calling by Bill Sudkamp and DrDosido.
Foghorn square dance
(Click the poster for the Facebook event page.)

Renowned caller, Phil Jamison, will lead you through the figures at Kuhn Barn at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois on Sunday, November 8 at 6:30pm. Music will be supplied by the Volo Bogtrotters.
Phil Jamison
(Click Phil’s picture for more information).

Can I Get an Amen plays the Global Dance Party at the Old Town School of Folk Music on Friday, December 4 at 8:30pm. Calling by DrDosido (aka Paul Tyler)
Can I Get an Amen 3
(Click the band’s picture for ticket information.)

No experience needed to enjoy any of these great dances. All figures will be taught. Merriment is encouraged.

Old -Time Square Dance with Bowhunter

Friday, May 9
Dancing from 8:30 to 11:00
Old Town School of Folk Music’s Global Dance Party
Szold Hall, 2nd floor of 4545 Lincoln (Chicago)

Music by Bowhunter, a band of young’ns from Kalamazoo and Lansing.
They’re millennials, and they’re good.
Calling by Paul Tyler, an old boomer geezer from Indiana
He guarantees a good time for all, even for those who’ve never square danced before.

Click here for more info or to reserve your spot.

Old-Time Square Dance, May 9

Old-Time Square Dance, May 9

Fiddle Events

Jutta & the Hi-Dukes
Just booked as special guests for our next meeting
Sunday, November 18 – 6:30p

Atlantic Bar & Grill (5062 Lincoln), in the back room
(To register for this meeting, see below. *)

A bit of world music. Maybe a little Klezmer. Maybe a touch of Danish.
They are Terran Doehrer, Zoï Doehrer and Jutta Distler.

Old-Time Square Dance this Friday
October 26, part of the Old Town School’s Global Dance Party.
Great music by Geoff Seitz & Friends,** calling by Paul Collins.
The dancing starts at 8:30. All dances will be taught throughout the evening. No experience necessary. Fun will be had.

*You can register for Fiddle Club of the World meetings at www.oldtownschool.org and search the class catalog for Fiddle Club. That brings up two choices: 1) a single meeting registration for $15, or 2) a year’s subscription to all Fiddle Club events for $60.

** Jim Nelson, Dedo Norris and Steve Rosen.

-Paul Tyler, convener
Chicago Chapter

Fiddle Stuff on the Schedule

Square Dance! (It will make you a better musician.)
In Chicago this Friday (Aug 17) with music by Patt & Possum and calling by Bill Sudkamp. Dancing starts at 8:30 in Szold Hall at Old Town School East (4545 Lincoln). All dances will be taught. No experience necessary.

Square Dance with Patt & Possum

Possum, as many of you know, is Charlie Walden, who was a featured guest at Fiddle Club of the World in February 2011. Patt Plunkett played piano with him then, and will at the Global Dance Party square dance.

Fiddle Club Meetings

Frank Hall
(click here for another view)

Frank Hall
Sunday, Sept. 30, 6:30
Atlantic Bar & Grill (5062 Lincoln)
Frank is a fine old-time fiddler, who once lived in Bloomington, Indiana, where he played with the Easy Street String Band. He now lives in Ireland, where he continues to play American old-time.

jam session
Sunday, October 21, 6:30
Atlantic Bar & Grill (5062 Lincoln)

Rosin your bows.

Gran Baile (Big Dance ) this Friday

Square your sets!

White Mule

NB Text on this eCard is misleading. It’s all square dancing all night long! Every dance will be taught. Dancing starts at 8:30 and runs till 11. (There is not a separate teaching half hour followed by a concert.)

And the music will be fabulous, provided by Genevieve & Smith Koester, who were featured guests at Fiddle Club of the World on April 19, 2010. Here’s a sample from that meeting . . .


Old Town School East is now occupied

This was the vision, ten years in the making.

Dance tonight in E326!


Eagerly anticipated. Much hard work to keep the promise. And so it was written:
“Come join us on Sunday, January 15 at 6:30 for a Housewarming Dance for the new Lincoln Square East building of the Old Town School of Folk Music (4545 Lincoln). We’ll occupy one of the fabulous new dance studios. All dancers, players and callers are welcome to help warm up the floor.”
Dance tonight in E326!

(click a picture to enlarge)

January 15, 2012

80 folks came to play or dance or both. Thanks to our 4 great callers: Paul Collins, Lynn Garren, Tom Senior and Bill Sudkamp. 30 musicians played-never more than 20 at a time-including 1 banjo, 1 accordion, 3 mandolins and the rest evenly divided between fiddles and guitars.
Congrats, Old Town

Here’s our set list as I remember:
(D tunes)
Angeline the Baker
Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss
Soldier’s Joy
Walk Old Shoe Heel Come a-Draggin’
Twin Sisters
(G Tunes)
Indian Corn
Sail Away Ladies
(A Tunes)
Tippin’ Back the Corn
Liza Jane
Little Dutch Girl
(final waltz in D)
Tennessee Waltz



Photos by Gail Tyler, except the first and the last, which were taken by . . .

Paul Tyler, convener


Reels, Rants and Polkas

The next fiddle club meeting will be
Sunday, November 20 at 6:30p
Atlantic Bar & Grill (5062 Lincoln)

We’ll play a few English ceilidh (pronounced ‘kaylee’) tunes, which will be posted soon. And we’ll try them out with a couple of easy dances. Invite your friends and family to come along and dance. No admission fee. No registration required.

The story thus far. Long ago in a galaxy far away I started playing the fiddle and calling square dances, because I thought that was the most fun a group of people could have.

Al Smitley & Paul Tyler
Al Smitley & Paul Tyler re-enacting frontier life in 1836 Conner Prairie Pioneer Settlement, Noblesville, Indiana – 1981

Way back then, I had the glimmer of notion that the American square dance was just one type of set dance among many. Even then I knew the fiddle was the universal instrument. But over the next thirty years, I concentrated on playing for and calling American square dances, in part, because they were easy for folks to learn, and required only a walking step. No aspiring dancer had to learn to do anything special with his or her feet.

But in the meantime, in merry old England, a set dance revival was growing that attracted thousands of people young and old, and several dozen high energy dance bands to a scene called Barn Dancing. In the last ten years it’s also become known as Ceilidh dancing, borrowing a term for similar explosion of old time dancing in Scotland. The dances are for sets of 4 to 6 couples, or for lines for “as many as will,” or for circles made up of couples or groups of 3. The dances are all easy to learn and great fun to do.

And part of what makes English Ceilidhs such big fun, is that the dancers use a few special steps that bring them to a closer connection with the music. These steps are the setting step (for reels), the rant step, and the polka. We’re going to try them out at the next meeting.

Here’s some tunes. My current favorite reel is Beatrice Hill’s 3-Hand Reel. Click the title for a slow version I posted on the Old Town School’s Flog, and click this link for the notes. If you want to get inspired, listen to this live version from the Old Swan Band, the top-of-the-heap band for English ceilidh.


Another great, and easy, English reel that has been played in Old Town fiddle classes is Albert Farmer’s Bonfire Tune. And for the right feel for an English reel, take a look at this video of the Old Swan Band playing “Speed the Plough”. For the last figure each time through, the dancers do a simple polka step (and-a|1 & 2 and-a|1 & 2).

Another step from the old-time polka (also known as a schottische), is the step-hop, step
-hop (1 & 2 &|1 & 2 &). At an English Ceilidh, reels and polkas dance alike, as seen in this video of the Old Swan Band playing a couple of well-known polkas learned from Walter Bulwer of East Anglia.


Check back in a day or two for part 2 of this post. I’ll provide some sounds and video for the reel setting step and the rant step.

Paul Tyler, convener

More dances to come

The first Fiddle Club of the World Square & Ceilidh Dance was a roaring success, with about two dozen dancers in attendance at the Atlantic Bar & Grill. The back room was surprisingly cool on such a hot night.
Cyndy & Mitzi
Cyndy & Mitzi

Music was supplied by a rehearsed Ceilidh Band of 4 fiddlers, 3 guitarists, a harmonica player and a jaranero. Two other fiddle players sat in and learned the tunes on the spot (for the most part).

Judy & Walter
Judy & Walter

Here’s what we danced.
Squares: Chase the Rabbit, Star for Three, & a big circle square from the Deep South.
Ceilidhs: Cumberland Reel, Tacco e Punta, Gay Gordons, & Dashing White Sergeant.
Rounds: Seven Step, a schottische, Raatikko, & 2 waltzes

Paul Tyler calling a square dance
Calling a square dance

Thanks to Jason McInnes for the photos. There are also a couple of videos on the Fiddle Club of the World Facebook page.

Plans are afoot to coordinate the First Friday Square Dances with Fiddle Club. That means our next dance will be Friday, September 2, from 7 to 9:30 at the Old Town School. We’ll also schedule one for the December meeting at the Atlantic.

Paul Tyler, convener
Chicago Chapter

Fiddlers & Dancers

Our square and ceilidh dance is tonight.
All are welcome.
6:30-9:30, Atlantic Bar & Grill (5062 Lincoln)

Admission $5 for dancers

Fiddle Club members who want to run through some of the tunes once more should show up about 5 or 5:30. Many of the tunes we’ll play can be found here or here. Or click the blue links in the lists below.

Square Dance Tunes
Daylight in the Morning, Granny, Steppin’ in the Parlour, Streak o’ Lean, Sugar in the Gourd, Who’ll Cut the Britches

Ceilidh Dance Tunes
Fire on the Mountain, Roscoe, She Oughta Been a Lady (aka Twin Sisters), Ten Cents,

Couple Dance Tunes
Cuz Teahan’s Polka, Edward Ost’s Brude Polka, Hast Schottische, Koputus Polska, Raatiko, Seven Step, Tacco e Punta (aka Shortnin’ Bread), Victor’s Waltz,