CONCORD CONTRA DANCE
3rd Saturday of the month (except July-August)
East Concord Community Center
Beginners, singles, families welcome. All dances taught.
starts at 8 o'clock and ends at 11.
The Pepsi machine is now gone and there's still no water fountain
so it's a good idea to bring a bottle of your favorite non-alcoholic beverage.
We're on our summer break 'til September when the 30th year (!)
of the Concord contra dance series opens with a fabulous caller
and fabulous musicians. OK, we don't know exactly who it'll be yet
but we know you'll enjoy them and the names will be posted here
Still only 7 bucks for most folks, 5 bucks ages 15 to 25, free under age 15.
Just a minute off the highway...
I-93 Northbound, take Exit 16, then your
first 3 right turns in a row (they come quickly!).
That puts you on Eastman Street, where the dance is in the 5th building on the right.
If you’re coming from I-89 or I-393, get on I-93 Northbound once you’re in the city and follow the directions above.
I-93 Southbound, take Exit 16, then a
left and 2 rights.
That puts you on Eastman Street, where the dance is in the 5th building on the right.
accessible from downtown Concord via the bike path near NHTI
(but watch out in winter–the path over the bridge doesn’t get plowed).
(603)225-4917 or dwh at nhvt dot net
WALTER DUDLEY by Teresa Wyman
If you had seen Walter at a dance, you might not have even noticed him, although he was right where he belonged. His quiet manner and soft spoken voice didn’t make obvious the passion Walter carried in his heart for contra dancing and music, and for the dance community.
At pretty much every East Concord and Gilmanton dance in recent years, there was Walter. He rarely ever missed a local dance. He sometimes travelled farther, but infrequently. After all, he was 84, although he wanted to, and did, still work full time. He had a short, somewhat stocky build, balding grey hair, sometimes a white beard. He didn’t dress in a way so as to be noticed. Maybe brown or khaki pants, a plain sort of shirt - I picture him in brown or blue with a very subtle, quiet, plaid pattern - certainly never anything bright or flamboyant. Not a flashy dancer, but always enjoying it no end, and with a wonderful smile.
If you took the time to get acquainted with Walter, you soon realized what a treasure he was! I can’t count how many times Walter said how lucky he felt; to be dancing, to hear this wonderful music, to know these people. “There are a hundred and something people in the building where I work, and I’m the only one that dances! They just don’t know what they’re missing! I’ve tried to tell them how wonderful it is, but they just don’t come. It’s too bad,” he would say at nearly every dance! Among the recent e-mails was one from Lisa recollecting that, “During the years I ran the Gilmanton dance, he repeatedly thanked me for the opportunity to come out and dance, record music, and socialize with people. He cared very much for all of us.” Occasionally, I would get an e-mail from “dancingdudley@....” - with a link to Greek dancing, Square dance history, Polka dancing, a young girl from England singing, etc. and comments such as “She sings like an angel,” “this is so amazing," or "I don’t know how they can do that!”
Before she passed nearly 20 years ago, Walter often gave rides to Donna, a woman who was totally blind. He told me of one time that it was very, very foggy driving to Nelson. It’s a hilly curvy road, even more so then than it is now. They seemed to have been driving for eternity and Walter commented that he sure hoped they would get to the turn to Nelson soon. Donna said, “It’s not much farther. In abt. 5 minutes we’ll make the left turn off this road and then there’s just that one other left turn and then soon we'll be there.” Back then you pretty well had to know how to get to Nelson in order to find it! Walter was totally awestruck how accurate she was; said she must know every curve and hill on the road to most any dance. He told me this story quite a few times.
Walter had had his share of problems. During the ‘90s there was awhile that he didn’t dance because severe back pain caused him to have to lie flat in bed most of the time. Hip and knee arthritis sometimes kept him on the sidelines, but he would go to the dance anyway to listen to the music that he so loved. One dancing friend wrote of Walter’s courage related to his prostate cancer, seeking more natural treatment. He kept on dancing.
I don’t know how long Walter had danced. Even those who knew him a bit didn’t really know all that much about him. We’re not sure what he has or had for family except there had been an autistic stepson, Willie. They had built his home, from the bottom up, together. Walter said that Willie was just amazing, a genius at spacial relations and putting things together. Willie subsequently died of cancer, at way too young an age. Later, Walter gave Lisa “considerable help with the plumbing in my house. While we worked together he shared the story of building his own home with his step son.” Walter's eyes sometimes got a little teary when he mentioned Willie.
Willie’s mother had no interest in dancing, and she and Walter divorced. The home he and Willie had build had been a labor of love. “An authentic Connecticut saltbox” he told me the one time I was there. Walter was originally from CT. I think that the electric company might have taken his home there for a power line to go through, but I don’t really recall. I don’t know why he chose to move to NH, but we can sure be thankful that he did.
The reason I went to Walter’s home that one time 5 or 6 years ago is a testament to how very deeply he loved this music and dancing. I first came to know Walter sometime in the very early 1980s. New England Tradition (Bob McQuillen on piano & accordion, April Limber on fiddle and Pete Colby playing banjo) was a new band then, and played a Friday night dance in Henniker. I think Mary Desrosiers was the caller. Walter would often show up, a boom box in hand. He would set it up near the band, checking it once in awhile. I don’t think anyone thought much of anything about it. Walter ended up with nearly 200 surprisingly good quality tapes of this great band as well as many other bands and dances . They were from all over the state and from NEFFA, some dating back to the 1970s. He told me in an e-mail, "I had so much pleasure going to these dances and being able to record." Some 25 or more years later, Walter pondered what to do with all these tapes, or, as he put it, "Where should they go when I wouldn’t be listening to them anymore?" Walter decided to donate most of the tapes to the Ralph Page Collection although he kept a few to continue to enjoy himself. A number of them have since been digitized and added to the collection, although some are still waiting to be processed. I was told that the listing of those completed is quite long already! This is particularly special as Pete and April both died in 1988, shortly after their one and only recording was released. (Now available on CD from Great Meadow Music and one of the best recordings ever of our New England dance music!) Regarding the tapes he donated, Walter said, “I want future generations to be able to enjoy our wonderful music!”
That isn’t all that this avid lover of all things related to contra dancing quietly gave to the dance community! Several times Walter asked Bob McQuillen why his stuff wasn’t “down there in Durham.” [at the Ralph Page Collection]. Bob’s answer was, “Nobody’s asked me for it.” Well, Walter felt strongly, as anyone in this dancing world might, that Bob’s music, memorabilia, etc. absolutely belonged in the Ralph Page Collection. Walter didn't know how to see to it that Bob was asked, but he did know people to talk with to get this message to the curators at the library. Within a very short time, Bob was asked about putting his music, papers, many saved letters, and related materials into the collection, which he did with gusto! Several van loads full were gathered from Bob's house, enough books, papers, and assorted items that they are still being catalogued a couple of years later! Walter said it perfectly, "Bob's things are safe now, all so valuable!"
Walter Dudley was a gentle, quiet man, not looking for, nor wanting, any notoriety. A man with a heart of gold who gave the rest of us so much. We are so very, very lucky. We are rich in the ways that matter, and Walter always remembered that. Thank you, Walter. We miss you.