Bob McQuillen Curated Tune Lists: Curated lists of Bob’s 1500 tunes, for making the collection more accessible!
Bob McQuillen was a prolific composer who played a pivotal role in the contra dance revival of the last fifty years. He self-published fifteen Note Books with 1,554 tunes, the last one in 2012.
All these tunes are now available via a single app in the Apple App Store.
Where to start?
If you are unfamiliar with Bob McQuillen’s tunes, perhaps 1,554 tunes are too many to sort through. You could start at the beginning with Scotty O’Neil, Bob’s first tune (composed in 1973) and work your way through all of them. As an alternative, we have provided a few lists that might be more manageable.
In this Google sheet, you will find 6 tabs: McQuillen Classics, Easier Tunes, Hidden Gems, Recorded, Old New England, and Links.
- Classics are tunes that have become well-known in the traditional dance and music community.
- Easier Tunes are just that.
- Hidden Gems are great tunes that deserve more attention.
- Recorded includes tunes recorded by several bands and individuals, except for tunes recorded by ‘Old New England’.
- Old New England (O.N.E.): a separate list of 82 of Bob’s tunes recorded by O.N.E.
- Links includes links to various YouTube videos featuring Bob or his tunes; articles and interviews; and other collections of note.
Many of the recordings can be found on YouTube; some are available on Spotify and other streaming services. You can hear Bob himself playing piano on recordings with Old New England (with Deanna Stiles and Jane Orzechowsk), the Rhythm Rollers (with Laurie Andres, Cathie Whitesides, and WB Reid), Applejack, and others.
These choices are “in the eye of the beholder”—you may have a different set of tunes you consider “easier” or “gems.” I encourage you to explore and enjoy this great collection of tunes.
About the Barnes Three Dance Database
The Barnes Book of English Country Dance Tunes, volume three, adds over 400 tunes to the collections in volumes one and two. The goal of this database is to provide information and instructions for all the dances in the third volume. Reaching this goal with a traditional publication would be an endless task. So I am instead taking an incremental approach and posting instructions for dances as they become available. The possibility to correct, amend, and expand is a welcome advantage of on-line publication.
The material in this project is available for personal use under the Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC-BY-NC-SA). The dance instructions appear on this website with the permission of the choreographers and reconstructors or persons responsible for their estates. Other dances are listed with references to published sources for the instructions. The individual dances and tunes remain under the copyright of their choreographers and composers and may not be reprinted without their written permission.
This is a volunteer project with no source of income, so the only compensation offered to choreographers and reconstructors is references and links to the published source of the dance. You are encouraged to track down these publications for the full information and background on these dances.
To view the dance instructions that are available, click on the title of the dance.
To sort on a column, select that column and, under the data tab, click on “Sort sheet” (or “Sort range” to access advanced sorting options). Note the narrow columns with gray text. They allow sorting by last names or on titles without the leading articles “a”, “an”, and “the”.
Cells with green backgrounds provide additional information not in Barnes Three. Yellow backgrounds indicate an alternate spelling, capitalization, or other minor discrepancy. Red backgrounds indicate discrepancies in titles, attribution, or form.
Unless modified in the instructions, these conventions are to be followed.
- An instruction for dancers to pass, gypsy, side, or orbit right or left means that side of their bodies will be adjacent to the other dancers involved in the figure even though the figure may start with the dancer shifting in the opposite direction.
- An instruction for dancers to cast, loop, or turn right or left means they will pull back that side of their bodies and turn in that direction.
- Side by the right/left means shoulder siding
- Side over by the left and back by the right means swirly siding as attributed to Cecil Sharp.
- Set means step right (with a weight change left and right) and step left (with a weight change right and left).
- Turn single is a clockwise turn (to the right) in a circle behind your original position.
- A two-hand turn is clockwise (to the left).
- In a back-to-back, dancers pass by the right, shift slightly to the right, and back up passing by the left.
- Rights-and-lefts involves taking hands as you pass the other dancers.
- A circular hey involves passing the other dancers without taking hands.
- Instructions are given as imperatives rather than as description.
- Instructions have been formatted in an attempt to follow the structure of
- who (which dancers are involved in the figure),
- what (which figure is to be executed), and
- how (modification to the figure).
- Instructions in bold face are suggestions as to the essential figures to include in the prompts for the dance. The assumption is that the dancers will remember some of the details mentioned during the teaching and walkthrough of the dance. Of course, the calls will need to be adjusted to accommodate the experience level of the dancers and their familiarity with the dance. As the dancers learn the sequence of figures, these calls can be abbreviated or omitted.
Below are the codes for the dance formations.
|Cc||circle of couples|
These can be modified by
|i||top couple improper in each minor set|
|2i, 3i, 4i, etc.||indicated couple or couples improper|
|B||Becket formation (couples proper facing across the set)|
Difficulty and Energy Level
Here are the guidelines I use in my subjective assignment of numerical values to the difficulty and energy levels of these dances.
|4||challenging for advanced dancers|
|3||challenging for experienced dancers|
|2||a few points require care|
|1||beginners will require help|
- Kate Barnes provided me with a list of the tunes to appear in volume three and has encouraged me to undertake this project.
- Allison Thompson provided helpful advice in the early stages of this project. Her Dances from Barnes Two was the underlying inspiration for this project. She graciously shared her franchise on Dances from Barnes N for small positive integer values of N.
- Will Jaynes offered generous amounts of time in creating the original version of this database and in transferring it to the CDSS website.
- Marge Cramton developed the design of the original version of this database and advised about font selection.
- The many choreographers and reconstructors offered permission for the use of their material. Their artistic efforts in advancing English country dancing are the core of this project.
- The Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) provided support and guidance for this project and sponsors this project on their website.
- AACTMAD (Ann Arbor Community for Traditional Music and Dance) provided computer resources to develop this database. Individual AACTMAD members and many of the programs offered by this organization supported me in collecting and assembling this material.
Comments and feedback
Comments and suggestions are welcome and encouraged. Let me know if you spot an error (from typographical to an incorrect or ambiguous instruction). I also appreciate receiving your ideas about improving these instructions in clarity, completeness, conciseness, or other ways. Contact me, Robert Messer, at email@example.com.
Table of Contents:
- Old Time Square Dancing on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina: Notes from Interviews with Ocracoke Island Dancers, September 13-15, 1992, by Bob Dalsemer
- “Bobbin’ Around”: An After-bob, by Berkley L. Moore
- Ten Cents a Dance: The Taxi-Dance Hall, Jazz Dance, and the Folk Dance Movement, by Allison Thompson
- Hutton, The Rise and Fall of Merry England, by Stephen D. Corrsin
- Chandler, “Ribbons, Bells, and Squeaking Fiddles” and Morris Dancing in the English South
- Midlands, 1660-1900, by Richard S. Holmes
- Chapter VII: “Country Dances” from Old Country Life, by S. Baring Gould
- In Memory of Ted Sannella
Table of Contents:
- Sword Dancing in Bohemia in the Late Nineteenth Century: “In Step I, with Sword and Dagger,” by Stephen Corrsin; Illustrations by Ellen Szot
- “Bobbin’ Around”: Yankee Character Song and Bampton Morris Tune, by Rhett Krause
- Bobbin’ Around, by W. J. Florence
- An Index to Country Dance and Song Society News No. 1, December 1966-No. 115, December 1993, by Allison Thompson
Table of Contents:
- John of Gaunt and the Morris Dance, by Rhett Krause
- The Amherst Dance Camp: Reminiscences of Ted Viehman, edited by Allison Thompson
- The Old Side Door: A Kentucky Mountain Dance, by Pat Napier
- Set Runnin’ in Eastern Kentucky, by Pat Napier
- Twenty-five Years of Country Dance and Song: A Subject and Author Index from
- Evening Star, “Ethiopian, No. 408”
Table of Contents:
- Step Dancing on the Boston Stage: 1841-1869, by Rhett Krause
- Morris Dancing and America Prior to 1913, Part II, by Rhett Krause
- Nineteenth-Century Ballroom Dancing: A Brief Review, by David E. E. Sloane
- Excerpt from “He Demons”…and…”She Devils,” by Col. Dick Maple
- Excerpt from Decorum: A Practical Treatise, by Richard A. Wells, A.M.
Table of Contents:
- Morris Dancing and American Prior to 1913, by Rhett Krause
- Dancing on the Eve of Battle: Some Views about Dance during the American Civil War, by Allison Thompson
- Homemade Entertainment through the Generations, by Margaret C. MacArthur
- Everyday Scenes. Scene XXII, “The Itinerant Musician,” and A Musical Festival from Seymour’s Humorous Sketches, text by Alfred Crowquill
- Treasured Gifts, Joyous Times: Genny Shimer Remembered, by Christine Helwig
Table of Contents:
- Lotus Dickey on His Music
- The Virtues of Lotus Dickey, “Sitting at the Feet of Lotus,” by Dillon Bustin
- Lotus Dickey: An Appreciation, by Bob Lucas for Sing Out!
- Guidelines for Performing Traditional Social Dance, by Richard Powers
- Sword Dancing in Austria: The Sword Dance of the Dürrnberg Miners, by Steven D. Corrsin
- Review of Rapper and Longsword Locks, by Rhett Krause, M.D.
- “The Volunteer Organist,” an American Poem in Sussex, by David E. E. Sloane
- The Dance, by A. B. Longstreet