Once upon a time, there was a Monday night contra dance in the center of Amherst. Its history is another story, but one of its salient features was a sit-in band–cheerful, friendly, engaging, fun, and a fine way for musicians to play out. Then it was decreed by the new organizers that there would be no more sitting in, so what were the musicians to do? Sit home and sulk? Of course not. So began the Monday night session, not in Amherst, but a few miles north in the village of Montague Center.
See David’s comment under the DAK tab for a more detailed version and a few conversational gambits.
Some additional historical details:
Susan Conger and Susie Secco, along with numerous others including me, had long been part of the rich musical landscape of the Monday Night Dance in Amherst. When the English musicians and dancers took over the entire evening instead of just the first half, the “No Sitting In” rule came into being.
That was in 1995. Decades later, my blood pressure still goes up when I recall that development.
Susie and Susan came up with the idea of a weekly session which, unlike other sessions in the area, would be multi-cultural, multi-speed, welcoming, inclusive, and non-competitive. Because of Susan’s schedule back in 1995, we decided that *second* Mondays would be at her house and focus on Scandinavian music while all other Mondays would be upstairs at #2 North Street (where, until 1998, both Susie and I resided) and be more eclectic in terms of repertoire and style.
Music on the non-Scandinavian Monday nights continued upstairs at 2 North Street until around 2015, at which point one of the Session’s cornerstones was replaced: It relocated. Usually, it took place at the Common Hall (formerly the Grange Hall) across the street from 2 North Street; sometimes, it took place at Becky’s house around the block.
In September of 2016, they moved yet again: To my new residence on Center Street.
In recent years, another cornerstone of the Monday Night Session was replaced. Whereas the long standing custom had been for the Session to take place every week without fail, regardless of my whereabouts, an assumption formed in recent years that if I’m absent, the Monday Night Session doesn’t happen. Becky created an email list to which she sends out confirmations when the session is happening and announcements/reminders when it isn’t. It has proven very useful; many rely on it.
How is the Monday Night Session evolving? This could be a good blog post. I have some long flights and train rides coming up, so perhaps something will emerge soon.
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