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About the Amidons

Peter & Mary Alice Amidon

peter maryaliceLARGEPeter and Mary Alice Amidon are versatile and widely respected performing and teaching artists who for the past twenty years have dedicated themselves to traditional song, dance and storytelling.

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WV Traditional Dance, Song, Picture Book, Storytelling Notes

West Virginia Music Educators Association • Peter & Mary Alice lead:
Creating a Dynamic Learning Community with
Traditional Dance, Song & Storytelling
Friday, March 9, 2018 • 8:30 am - 12:30 pm
Civic Center,  Charleston WV

MANY THANKS to WVMEA and GIA for sponsoring our workshops, and to Andi Hasley who did a terrific job working with us before and during the Conference.

The next section is a little about Mary Alice and me and our family.  That is followed by our  post-workshop notes.

MEET OUR BOYS & their ladies:

Stefan on percussion/vocals and his wife (red head) Zara Bode with their band the Sweetback Sisters

Zara singing with the By the People Choir.

Stefan is currently touring with The Devil Makes Three

Sam with the Australian Chamber Orchestra

Sam fiddling

Sam’s wife Beth Orton singing Leonard Cohen's "Sisters of Mercy"

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Your homework is to go dancing! Here is a page about the dancing in Charleston, WV
and here is a page about dances throughout West Virginia.

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Blaydon Races in NEDM's Chimes of Dunkirkbook & CD.
We used ‘Blaydon Races’ from NEDM’s 2010 Revision of the ‘Chimes of Dunkirk’ CD for this. You can also use any jig or  reel medley for this dance. We did this is a mixer, but you can also do it with younger children without changing partners. We often call this at weddings.  We always start  teaching this, as we do with any circle mixer, by having the dancers promenade and defining the gents/moons/peanut butter/inside partners and the ladies/stars/jelly/outside partners.

Sun  Is In My Heart in NEDM's I'm Growing Up book/CD/DVD
We find this to be comforting for both us and for the children.

Little Seed - In NEDM's "I'm Growing Up" book/CD/DVD.
We love "the little wait…" in this fingerplay/song. 

Tree Song - in NEDM’s Down in the Valley collection
Lorraine Hammond, who composed this wonderful singing game, is a songwriter and musician, and the best known  Appalachian dulcimer player in the country.  She is in the  greater Boston area.  The piano arrangement on the CD is Peter’s.  We find this to be a calming, centering dance,  both for the children and for ourselves.  I introduced it with a story about Roger moving to Vermont in the 18th century, creating a farm, raising a family, and planting an apple orchard.

Riding Our Ponies  in NEDM's I'm Growing Up book/CD/DVD
Children practice handshakes and eye contact in this instantly engaging singing game.

Come Along Everybody in NEDM's I'm Growing Up book/CD/DVD
We know music teachers who start their music classes with this singing game as the children enter the music classroom.

Old Brass Wagon – in NEDM’s Down in the Valley
This can be an a cappella singing game, or, with the CD (or live music) a great early dance to instrumental music.  When Peter teaches it he walks through the figures first, and then says “Now just do whatever Mary Alice says,” and puts on the CD.

Kindergarten Reel in NEDM's Chimes of Dunkirk
A great first partner-longways-dance-to-instrumental music for young children.  Send me an email and I will email you the mp3 for the music to Kindergarten Reel.  Of course you can play the music on anything; piano, French horn, recorder.

Dance Teaching  Tips: Mittens; front of your mitten on the front of your neighbor’s mitten, thumb lightly on back; take hands drop hands take hands drop hands; posture; teach the forward separately  from the back in the forward and back; :shake and take" for teaching promenade; while promenading: inside person is the moon/peanut butter/gent,  outside is the star/jelly/lady; four steps of making a circle from a  promenade: “Hang on to partner stop walking, hang on to partner face the center, drop hands, take hands.”; many ways of keeping the circle big and round on circle left and right; dosido (gents start on inside, ladies start going outside) flowing into two hand turn flowing into promenade; when music starts clapping the first of each 8 beats; doing the dance with your hands; “thick” calling, then “thin” calling then no calling; saying the call right before the ‘clap’ or before the first beat of  the phrase and figure.  

La Bastringue  In NEDM's Chimes of Dunkirk book & CD
This simple circle/partner dance can be easily adapted for younger children.  Have them circle left hold hands straight across, then "open like a book" into a promenade holding "handy hands" (gent's right and lady's left).

I'm Growing Up in NEDM's I'm Growing Up book/CD/DVD, and the Amidons' Song in My Heart book & companion CD.
Mary Alice's song of the seasons of life.

Vote for Me in the Amidons' Song in My Heart book & companion CD

PICTURE BOOKS I - go to Picture Book Bibliography in handout
I Live In Music
   Mother Earth

Day Is Done

Sasha – In NEDM’s Sashay the Donut
A great dance for all ages! We are not sure of the origins of this dance: one source suggested it was a novelty dance based on a Russian pop song from the 60’s.  ‘Ras, dva, tri’ is Russian for ‘ready, set, go!’xx

Lucky Seven In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk collection We used ‘The Coming Dawn’ from NEDM’s  ‘Other Side of the Tracks’ CD. The grand right & left exercises: First all promenade to determine inside/outside gent/lady or marshmellow/chocolate roles.  Then all face partner.  Ladies crouch while men weave around circle, starting on the inside. Then Men crouch and assist ladies as they weave around: right hand for outside, left hand assist for inside.  Then all stand and face center and do a stationary grand right and left just with the arms, counting up to seven.  Repeat that, but this time stepping in place (two steps per arm reach).  Then face partner and ‘repeat after me’ some of the rules: ‘I will not turn around, I will not go back…’ etc.  Tell them that it always takes seven times to get it right,  and make sure, when it doesn’t go right, that they all go back to where they started from (rather than trying to fix it in the middle of the grand right and left figure). Level one: Wait 8 beats on 2nd half of A2 music.   Level two: dosido partner on 2nd half of A2 music. Level three: At end of grand right and left allemande right the 7th person about 1 1/4 into a promenade.

Grumpy March - in Sashay the Donut
I wrote this dance to go along with Jay Ungar's tune "Wizard's Walk", which is the cut on "Sashay the Donut" we like to use for this dance. 
* After demonstrating the opening sequence, you might have your students just say the words first before executing them: "Grump, grump, grump, turn, together, right, together, left. Grump, grump, grump, turn, together, right, together, left."
* You will need to practice, even drill, the moment where, after the final clap of the "Grump" figures, the group "snaps" into a long skinny circle to start the Circle Right of A2.
Note: Circle right is holding hands and walking, then drop hands and skip back the other way looking for partner.
* A choreographic moment is when everyone is skipping back the other way; dancers shoud flow right into skipping around their partners.  Picture how beautiful this would look from above; the moving long skinny circle transforming into a line of moving little circles (partners skipping around each other).
* In a community dance I make the swinging, twirling, skipping sashay optional for safety reasons, but in when teaching children in schools I encourage them all to try swinging their partner around while skipping down the middle.  Encourage the dancers to "stay vertical".

Choosing Partners We think it is a real gift to children to teach them  how to choose their own partners.  I like to frame this in ‘Kings’ and ‘Queens’ language to help the children get over their self consciousness over  choosing partners.I start with a story about how Kings and Queens realized that it might be more fun to dance with more than just their own spouses, and so they needed to devise a polite and efficient way to choose other partners.  “And the method they came up with was so good we still do it today.”

I have them all practice the words: ‘May I please  have this dance?’ ‘Yes thank you.’ and then practice answering me, and then practice  asking me.  Then I demonstrate what it looks like to ask a partner to dance, by asking one of the ‘Queens’.  Then, I have that Queen sit down, and I ask her again, showing the 10 steps: The approach. Eye contact. The question. The answer. King puts out his hand. Queen stands and takes King’s hand. They hang on to each other’s hand and walk to the top of the hall.  If there are  two Queens then there is a Queen on one side and a Queen on the other side.  If there are two Kings (you know the rest). If it is a King and a Queen, the King stands on the King’s side, the Queen on the Queen’s side and they face each other, nose, toes and bellybutton, taking two hands. Then they drop their hands, and, voila, there they are.  

Kings and Queens In NEDM’s Sashay the Donut collection We used ‘On the Danforth’ from NEDM’s ‘Other Side of the Tracks’ CD for this dance.  You might also use our other version of ‘On the Danforth’ which is on our ‘Sashay  the Donut’ CD. Before we teach this dance we will dub each child a King or a Queen, and talk to them (sometimes while the music is playing to help sustain the mood) about what it means to be a King and Queen: They have royal posture, they never rush, they make good decisions, they are very attractive; basically describing the ideal King/Queen or, which, in my mind is being the very best person they can be.  Then I “dub” each child a  king or a queen, making sure they have their royal posture before I dub them. This is in the style of an historic English country dance (e.g. dances done in Jane Austen’s time).  

Humpty Dump - a camp song
This is a great way to teach nursery rhymes to upper elementary children. We have the children recite the full nursery rhyme before sticking it into the song.  

Brotherhood & Sisterhood in Amidons Song in My Heart book & companion CD.
A song about celebrating our differences, and suggestions about what to do when you see bullying.

Picture Books II - go to Picture Book Bibliography in handout
    Marion Anderson
    Owl Moon

Sir Gawaine & Lady Ragnell a traditional Arthurian folktale.

Larry’s Mixer in Listen to the Mockingbird.
We used Cheris from NEDMS's Other Side of the Tracks CD for music. This and many of the other tracks on this and on NEDM's Any Jig or Reel CD are purposely longer than tracks in our other recordings, so that you and your students can get into the joyful groove of dancing that is more likely to happen when you dance for a long stretch.

Circle Waltz Mixer In NEDM’s  Sashay the Donut collection.
Teaching the Circle Waltz Mixer
Dancing the Circle Waltz Mixer
We used ‘In Continental’ Waltz from the ‘Sashay’ CD  for the music. This is a wonderful dance for a wedding  where you can do it the original way we learned it, doing  a short waltz instead of the two hand turn.  In the original  dance gents are the “posts” and women are the “twirlers”, but it works perfectly fine in a non-gender community  dance with a two hand turn.  Here are some tips to for teaching this dance:
Start by having everyone promenade. Tell all the inside (left hand) partners they are “posts” and all the outside (right hand) partners they are “twirlers”.
All look at partner and say “goodbye”.
Posts stay in place and keep their feet planted during the “twirl” figure.
Carefully teach the first “twirl” each “Post” does with their left hand neighbor, from left to right.
Once the dancers get that twirl, the rest of the dance can go pretty smoothly.

Keep on dancing, singing and storytelling!


Peter and Mary Alice Amidon


WVMEA Thursday Harmony Sing notes

West Virginia Music Educators Association • Peter & Mary Alice lead:
Harmony Group Sing at General Meeting
Thursday, March 8, 2018 • 2:25 – 2:55
Civic Center,  Charleston WV

The next section is a little about Mary Alice and me and our family.  That is followed by our  post-workshop notes.

MEET OUR BOYS & their ladies:

Stefan on percussion/vocals and his wife (red head) Zara Bode with their band the Sweetback Sisters

Zara singing with the By the People Choir.

Stefan is currently touring with The Devil Makes Three

Sam with the Australian Chamber Orchestra

Sam fiddling

Sam’s wife Beth Orton singing Leonard Cohen's "Sisters of Mercy"

*            *            *

Here is Mary Alice's a cappella SATB setting of an Isaac Watts poem: "Sweet is the Day" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqJlBSrI5lQ

I am the co-director and Mary Alice a member two Southern Vermont choruses:
- Hallowell, an a cappella SATB hospice choir in Southeastern Vermont that has been the inspiriration for the formation scores of other hospice choirs across the United States. - http://hallowell-singers.org/
-Guilford Community Church, UCC Choir - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImeixO9swz0&t=16s

Our choral arrangements are available on our Online Choral Store and in our two book collections Fifty-five Anthems for the Small Church Choir and Twenty-five Anthems for Interfaith & Community Choirs.

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25A = included in our collection “Twenty-five Anthems for Interfaith & Community Choirs”
OCS = included in our Online Choral Store (for downloading pdfs of the music scores)

 My Heart is Ready by Cindy Kallet – 25A/OCS
One of our favorite instant-harmony singalong songs.  The harmonies we taught were transcribed from our family quartet (Mary Alice and I with our sons Sam & Stefan) improvised harmonies.

Psalm of Lifepoem by Longfellow, tune from Lotus Dickey – 25A/OCS
The perfect marriage of poetry and melody. Lotus said that he set the poem to a melody he remembered his father singing in church.

 What’s in a Song by Lucy Picco Simpson – Here's an SATB arrangement
A  gifted singer of ballads, spirituals and old hymns, Lucy collected 19th and early 20th century hymnals and put back out into the world gems that had been lost to obscurity. This is the only song we know that she wrote rather than collected.

I’m Gonna Lift My Sister Upby Faya Rose Touré (AKA Rose Sanders) – 25A/OCS
The first female African American judge in Alabama, Faya Rose Touré has devoted much of her life to educating local students (& writing songs with them) about their extraordinary history in her town of Selma Alabama.

How Could Anyone by Libby Roderick – 25A/OCS
Mary Alice and I learned this classic gem from storyteller/singer Eshu Bumpus when we performed it with him at the Country Dance & Song Society’s Pinewoods Family Camp.  Our improvised harmonies, Eshu on melody, Mary Alice above and me below, was the foundation of this arrangement.  We use this song a lot in our work with Hallowell, an a cappella SATB hospice singing group in southeastern Vermont.

We so enjoyed singing with you!


Peter & Mary Alice