The Country Dance and Song Society is pleased to announce that Kate Barnes of Greenfield, MA, is the 2020 recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award. Kate was selected in recognition of many years of performance and teaching at CDSS programs, the international importance of her publications, her generosity of spirit when running music workshops, and her contributions to current and future communities.

The Lifetime Contribution Award Celebration for Kate Barnes was held on September 26, 2021. The award ceremony we originally planned for September 2020 was sadly cancelled due to the pandemic, so we created an online celebration to include as many people as possible, and to make it easy to attend for Kate’s friends, family, and well-wishers from across the continent.

The event included the award presentation, several group musical contributions, photos, videos, personal reminiscences, tributes and much more. We also invited participants to record some pieces of music to share at the event. 

See a video of the celebration: 

  • “As a contra dance piano player, Kate pioneered an improvisatory style that brings joy to dancers, and influences musicians directly and through countless workshops. Her decades-long work with Bare Necessities created fresh interpretations of English country dance music to lift our feet, and the three volumes of the Barnes books are the standard reference collections of tunes used by musicians throughout the dance community.”

  • “Kate has contributed consistently to the scene for more decades than I know. She’s inspired dancers with her music —exquisitely played, full of forward motion and joyful variety, sensitive to the period, tune type and occasion, and in tight teamwork with other musicians. She’s a reason many people like English dancing.”

  • “I’ve had the great fortune to travel the US, Canada and even as far as Denmark with The Latter Day Lizards. Everywhere we go Kate is universally known and respected and admired for her musicianship, warmth and quick-witted humor. I can’t think of a better recipient for next year’s CDSS Lifetime Contribution award!”

  • “Since I first heard and started playing with her in the 1970’s, her passionate, creative, traditionally spirited-but-not-stifled playing and composing have been a bottomless wellspring. Kate’s ink-stained (and later electronic) publishing labors of love have saved many musicians from hauling libraries around in order to play for a dances and have encouraged many to learn the underappreciated craft of playing for dancing. I’m grateful for Kate’s strong, courageous commitment to self-expression, and her deep commitment to the much-needed-in-today’s-world, affirming values of our dance community.”

Kate Barnes Biography

September, 2021

Kate Barnes has been playing piano, flute, whistles and guitar (along with other assorted instruments: banjo, harmonica, bass (acoustic and electric), oboe, English horn, sousaphone, mandolin, fiddle and alto saxophone for traditional dancing since 1971.

She’s been invited to most major contra, square, British Isles, and vintage dance events throughout the United States, performing for dances and concerts, leading ensemble workshops, and generally acting in a crazy and often undignified manner. Averaging over 250 engagements per year since 1980, she is arguably one of New England’s busiest and most sought-after musicians.

She has played for festivals and tours in Canada, England, Ireland, France, Denmark, Shetland, Scotland, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Africa, Peru, Ecuador, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Hawaii, Alaska, Egypt and St. Croix.

She has been a member of the bands The Latter-Day Lizards, Bare Necessities, Yankee Ingenuity, Les Z Boys, Kestral, Big Bandemonium, Cilantrio, Dark Carnival, Childsplay, BLT, Panel of Experts, Crazy Quilt, The Dactyls, Tulluchgorum, Airplang, Trio Picante, Culchullan, Third String Trio, Trio Con Brio, Foregone Conclusions, The Fitzwilliam Dance Band, The Cathie Ryan Band, The Old Found Country Stay At Homes (not the New Lost Country City Ramblers), Corporal Rockies Mystery, Richard Power’s Vintage Orchestra and has played with countless musicians in pick up bands. She has performed with many traditional greats including Seamus Connolly, Joe Derrane, Cathie Ryan, Chris Norman, Alasdair Fraser, Rodney Miller, Joe Cormier and yes, Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block.

Her recordings include Sleeping on a Rock and Rainy Night in Montague with the Latter-Day Lizards; Kitchen Junket and Heatin’ Up the Hall with Yankee Ingenuity; Bare Necessities, Take a Dance, Nightcap and 15 CDs in the CDS Boston Centre Dance Series with Bare Necessities; Airplang and Airplang II with Rodney Miller; BLT (Barnes, Lea & Tomczak); Soir et Matin with Kerry Elkin, Yankee Dreams and Moxie with Frank Ferrell; Shape Shifting and Impulse of the Heart with Jeanne Morrill; Cascata de Lagrimas, Between Two Worlds, and Gypsy Wine with Mary Lea; Twelve-Gated City, The Great Waltz, and Childsplay with Childsplay; At Rainbows End (The Corona Sessions) solely with Kate Barnes; Gary Roodman’s Calculated Figures; several CD’s with various musicians; Sous le Ciel de Paris and Al Fresco with Third String Trio; and 2 CDs with the Scottish band Tullochgorum. She has made guest appearances on recordings with Anisa Angarola, Bob Abrams, Bob Dalsemer, Dave Nieman & Beverly Woods, Donna Hebert, Frank Ferrell, Jan Maier, The Keltic Kids, Kim Wallach, Leo Kretzner, Larry Unger, Mary Lea, Matt Glaser, Ruthie Dornfeld, The Boston Christmas Revels, Timothy Abell, “Waltzing for the Grange,” Nat Hewitt, The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society of Boston and many others.

Books: She has done the dance world a great service by compiling three volumes of English Country Dance Tunes which are widely used by English country dance musicians and many others throughout the US and in Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Belgium, and Germany. She has also compiled a book of couple dance music called A Little Couple Dance Musik and has written a tutorial for playing contra dance music called Interview with a Vamper.

Below is a small sampling of concerts, dance festivals, special events and overseas engagements.

Concerts: The Ark (MI), The Bread & Roses Heritage Festival (MA), Caffe Lena (NY), Club Passim (MA), The Colonial Inn Concert Series (MA), The Crosscurrents Fold & Classical Concert (MA), El Tremedal Coffeehouse (MA), The Fiddle and Bow Society (NC), Gaelic Roots (Boston College, MA), The Hallockville Folklife Center (NY), The Iron Horse (Northampton, MA), The Irish-American Heritage Society (GA), The Irish Cultural Center (NY), Johnny D’s Uptown (MA), The New Hampshire Highland Games, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors (NY), The Lowell Folk Festival (MA), Massasoit College Concerts (MA), The New England Conservatory Select Series (MA), Music of the Americas Festival (NY), The Pittsburgh Irish Festival (PA), The Provincetown Muse Series (MA), The Smithsonian Institute (DC), The Stonehill College Irish Festival (MA), The University of Vermont Lane Series (VT), The WGBH Acoustic Music Festival (MA), The Wolftrap Folk Masters Series (MD)

Dance Festivals & Special Events: Alta Sierra Dance Weekend (CA), Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camp (NY), Augusta Folk Heritage Camp (WV), Black Mountain Folk Festival (NC), Boxwood Wooden Flute Week (Nova Scotia, CANADA), Bay Area Country Dance Society Events (CA), Brandywine Old Time Music Festival (PA), Berea Dance Camp (KY), Buffalo Gap Dance Camp (WV), California Traditional Music Society Summer Solstice Festival (CA), Chesapeake Spring Dance Weekend (MD), Cream of the Crop Dance Series (NY), Commonwealth Vintage Dancers Events (MA), Dancing Bears Events (AL), Down East Folk Festival (ME), Eisteddfod Festival (MA), First Night (Boston, Worcester, Quincy, MA), The Feet Retreat (NC), Flying Cloud Academy Vintage Dance (OH), Folk Arts Center of Boston (MA), Folklore Village Farm (WI), Fox Hollow Folk Festival (NY), Harvest Moon Dance Festival (CA), Gaelic Roots Festival (Boston College, Boston, MA), Hands-Four Spring and Fall Weekend (NH), Hudson Guild Dance Camp (NJ), John C. Campbell Folk School (NC), Lady of the Lake Dance Events (ID), Lavender Country & Folk Dancers (MA), Long Island Traditional Music Association (LITMA) Events (NY), Lost Pines Dance Weekend (TX), Louisville, KY Dance Weekend (KY), The Lowell Banjo and Fiddle Contests (Staff, MA), Mariposa Folk Festival (Toronto, Canada), Mendocino Dance Camp (CA), Hay Days (CA), Mohonk Mountain House Dance Weekend (NY), Muskeg Festival (NH), New England Folk Festival (NEFFA, MA), Old Songs Folk Festival & Old Songs Winter Dance Festival (NY), Pigtown Fling (OH), Pinewoods Dance Camp (1976 – 2021, MA), Playford Balls (Boston MA, Providence RI, Pittsburgh PA, Philadelphia PA, New York (NY), Cleveland OH, Nashville TN, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Alaska, Vermont), Port Townsend Fiddle Tunes Festival (WA), Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (MA), Slugs at Sunrise (WA), Spring Dance Romance (NC), Spring Dance Weekend at Circle Lodge (NY), Summer Soiree (NC), Seattle Lake (OR), Tapestry Folk Dance Center (MN), Toronto Dance Weekend (CN), Vernal’s All-Night Equinox (FL) Victoria’s Revenge Dancefest (Cape May, NJ), Vintage Dance Society Events (CN), Wild Weekend (NY), Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp (CO), Ogontz CDSS Family Weeks (NH), Across the Lake Weekend (VT).

Overseas Engagements: Shetland Folk Festival (Shetland Isles -1985,1987), Festival du Maurienne, St. Jean du Maurienne, France (1980), The Tonder Folk & Jazz Festival, Denmark (1986), Tour of Scotland with Tulluchgorum, 1992 & 94, Tour of England with Bare Necessities (6x), on George Marshall trips to Hawaii with Bare Necessities (9x) and St. Croix with Bare Necessities (12x), on tour with Cathie Ryan to Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy & Switzerland, and on Ken McFarland trips to Hawaii, Ecuador, Peru, Egypt, Scotland, England, Greece, Africa, France, Australia and Ireland.

Her musical compositions include Fair Jenny’s Jig, A Solstice Snow, The Invitation, Mendocino Morning, Middle of Night, Intrigas, Cappricio, Findeborgin, Sleeping on a Rock, March for Warren (for Warren Argo), The Dogs of North Dunans, and countless commissions and other tunes.