More Than Just A Dance: Music at a Contra Dance

Linda Henry played the piano as a child for about five years and then stopped playing. But then, as an adult, she discovered something new — playing the piano for contra dancing.

“It’s almost as if it’s a different instrument because I’m not playing from written music, playing by ear,” Henry says. “Using the piano as accompaniment with other melodies.”

Henry has been playing the piano for the Fiddlers Green Contra Dance ever since she started organizing the dance eight years ago. She is accompanied on stage by sit-in musicians, who are all at different experience levels.

“My role there is to welcome everybody no matter what level of musician they are,” she says. “We start with accessible tunes during the first half. As the evening goes on we play more challenging tunes for the more experienced players.”

The dancers are also all at different levels, but they all have one thing in common—they are all wearing a big smile. And Henry says that’s what it’s all about.

“I think of the dance as a gift to our community. And a way of helping people be together in a very joyful way. I think it’s pretty unusual for people to come together in a way that brings so much joy in this day and age. I think the music is a part of what makes the whole thing happen.”

Henry says playing piano for the dance is both extremely rewarding and exciting. But beyond that, it’s also her passion.

“Right now, playing music for dancing at the fiddlers green dance is my main musical outlet. So music and dance are very connected for me. I think of it as me helping the musical part of the evening happen.”

The Fiddlers Green Contra Dance is held the last Saturday of every month. For more information, visit

Street Level Sounds are produced by New England Public Radio interns as part of AudioFiles. The interviews, anecdotes, and oral histories recorded for Street Level Sounds are designed to build a public library of the western New England experience, and are not intended as news content, or endorsements by NEPR’s staff or Board. For more information on Street Level Sounds, contact AudioFiles producer, Peter Chilton.

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