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CONNtra Dance Bands in CONNecticut

The Cicadas | Dogtown | The Fascinating Swivets | The Fiddleheads | GET REEL! | Heart's Ease
The Jackson Pike Skifflers | The Please & Thank-You String Band | The Reel Thing
Still the Homegrown Band | Thread City String Band | Wild Goose Nation | Wild Notes | Wry Bred

The CicadasThe Cicadas are Bill Shevin (guitar), Ed Dale (bass), Rachel Panitch (fiddle), Jennifer Cooke (flute), and Tim St. Jean (mandolin). Their sound is full with a lot of melody and strong danceable rhythm.
Contact: e-mail (860.929.067)
Text & photo from Rachel Panitch
Dogtown,Dogtown plays a blend of French-Canadian, Irish, Scottish, and old time American tunes as well as occasional Cajun two-steps and waltzes for contra- and square dancing. Featuring Becky Miller (fiddle and piano), Tom Randall (piano, guitar, banjo, and mandolin), and Norb Spencer (accordion), the band performs at dances large and small throughout New England and New York State. With the addition of multi-instrumentalist Craig Edwards, Dogtown also performs in concert and for private events. In this configuration, the group plays a wide range of dance musics as well as specializing in old time country and blues music and harmony singing.
Contact: e-mail (413.549.7724) Text & photo from Becky Miller

Stacy PhillipsThe Fascinating Swivets are Stacy Phillips (fiddle), Ellen Cohn (piano), and either Jocelyn Pleasant on percussion or Gary Wikfors on mandolin.
Contact: e-mail (203.389.6468) Text from the Swivets
The FiddleheadsThe Fiddleheads, New Haven's venerable contra dance band, was formed in 1978 by Paul Englesberg and Pete Spicer. Members through the years include Michael Koenigsberg, Ellen Cohn, Skip Healy, and Michael Bell. The present core band is Jim Sirch (banjo, whistles, and bodhran), Willow Sirch (fiddle), Gary Wikfors (mandolin and mando-ephemera), and Norman Plankey (guitar), with appearances by Colin Healy (fiddle/mandolin), Matt McCauley (upright bass), and other local musicians. The Fiddleheads are the house band for the New Haven Country Dancers.
Contact: e-mail (203.881.1390) Text & photo from Fiddleheads website

Get ReelGET REEL! provides traditional southern music for contra dancing with some spice. Members are Howie Bursen (banjo), Martin Grosswendt (fiddle), Marie Malchodi (guitar), and Deck Nieforth (harmonica and spoons).
Contact: e-mail (401.822.1979) Text & photo from GET REEL!
Heart's EaseHeart's Ease plays a collection of popular tunes from Colonial America, Britain, and Ireland, with Laura Mazza-Dixon, guitar, Mattie Banzhaf, piano, and Linne Landgra, concertina and pennywhistle. Heart's Ease is the house band for the Granby Family Dance series. They also perform at festivals and special events and, with caller Jim Gregory, provide music for French-Canadian circle dances, square dances, Virginia reels, and contra dances.
Contact: e-mail (860.653.6146) Text & photo from Heart's Ease

SkifflersThe Jackson Pike Skifflers, based in Fairfield County, Conn., specialize in old-time music, primarily from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The repertoire includes rural and urban vernacular music, early country music, minstrel and vaudeville songs, street ballads, Gospel songs, country dance tunes, mountain music and more, played on fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar, autoharp, bass, accordion, washboard and a variety of other instruments. The Skifflers have performed at leading traditional music festivals, and for 15 years have played for the Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors summer concert series. In Connecticut, the Skifflers perform at many country fairs, festivals and concerts. The group consists mostly of the Tressler family from Easton, Conn.: Will, Kate, and their two children, Sally and Dan.
Contact: e-mail (203.268.7674) Text from: The Block Island Times, 6/23/2001 & photo from The Skifflers website
The Please & Thank-You StringbandThe Please & Thank-You Stringband is a widely acclaimed trio, with Bill Walach (mandolin), Will Welling (fiddle), and Dave Howard (guitar). Their original and traditional approach to instrumental music and songs paints unexpected yet pleasantly familiar images. Combining humor, passion, and a candid view of tradition, with more than 20 years of playing music together, has made this trio substantially more than the sum of its parts.
Contact: e-mail (860.872.1529) Text & photo from the Please & Thank-You Stringband website

The Reel Thing provides sparkling live traditional music for contra, colonial/18th century, children's, and barn dances as well as for concerts. Formed in 2001, they have played for schools and other civic groups, historical societies and reenactor groups, various town anniversary presentations, several of the monthly contra dances around Connecticut, and dance workshops at the past several NOMAD Festivals. The band includes Bill Campbell (guitar and bass guitar), Gwen Glasser or Sue Hill (fiddle), Fran Hendrickson (piano/keyboard and accordion) and Julie Sorcek (flute, piccolo, and saxophone). They are available for private functions and special events and, with caller Patricia Campbell, provide music for dance workshops and family dances as well as school and recreational children's programs.
Contact: e-mail Text from Julie Sorcek & photo from
Still the Homegrown BandStill the Homegrown Band: Rachael Gall (fiddle), Debra Tyler (piano), Jim Prentice (concertina), Jane Prentice (fiddle), Mike Prentice (bass), Shaila Chowdhury (bodhran), Kathy Lyon (guitar). Still the Homegrown Band is the house band for the the Cornwall Community Contra Dance.
Contact: e-mail

Thread City String BandThread City String Band, based in Willimantic, play traditional, French-Canadian,and Irish 3-tune sets for contra dances, as well as tunes that callers sing for square dances. The band includes Chuck Morgan and June Bisantz-Evans (fiddles), Noreen Morgan (guitar), Larry Boisvert (harmonica), and John Soltys (bass).
Contact: e-mail (860.423.5403) Text & photo from Chuck Morgan
Wild Goose NationWild Goose Nation is a remarkably versatile band with a repertoire that ranges from Appalachian to Zydeco, with contras and swing on the way. Craig Edwards (fiddle, guitar, banjo, accordion), Mike Fischman (mandolin, banjo, guitar, bass), and Dirck Westervelt (guitar, banjo, bass) have performed widely as a group and have a number of recordings as solo performers and sidemen. Craig is a member of the Mystic Seaport shanty crew and has a deep interest in traditional American instrumental music and song and in exploring social and cultural history through music.
Contact: e-mail or e-mail (203.263.5808) Text from Country Dance and Song Society & photo from Wild Goose Nation website (no longer available)

Wild Notes is an energetic and exuberant traditional acoustic group with roots in Irish, Scottish, French-Canadian, jazz, and classical music. With Mickey Koth on fiddle and flute, John Kalinowski on accordion and concertina, and Kasha Breau on keyboard and harp, they have played together since 1999, first as the Wingnuts, then as Wild Notes. After a hiatus of a couple years, they played as the contra dance trio Oh, Reely, and took back their original name in early 2016.
Contact: e-mail (203.671-0731)
Wry Bred, a contra dance/barn dance/family dance band formed in October 2009, is Julie Sorcek (flute), Mickey Koth (fiddle), and Robert Messore (guitar). Wry Bred has played for dances at Yale and other private venues as well as for the New Haven, Hartford, Mystic, Poughkeepsie (NY), and Swingin' Tern (NJ) contra dances. In 2011, Wry Bred and dance caller Bill Fischer completed a very successful and fun seven-night, five-contra-dance tour in Tennessee and North Carolina. Since then, they have done contra dance tours in Pennsylvannia and New York State.
Contact: e-mail (203.671.0731)
Photo by Marilyn Catasus

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Last modified: March 15, 2016.