wedding procession

Playing for dances is the mainstay of my musical life at the moment, either in the context of an ongoing band or individually, joining in with other musicians whom I may or may not play with regularly. Other performance situations are dance and music events around the country, some single events, others weekend length or week-long, and tours with dancers to Europe, Ecuador, Egypt and Greece (the last three on boats) with Ken McFarland, dance tour organizer. Playing at festivals also happens from time to time (Falcon Ridge and Old Songs in NY, Chippenham and Sidmouth in England, etc.).

bare necessities playing a dance in a church

I have some regular playing opportunities with Bare Necessities and Yankee Ingenuity, which have on-going weekly dances. Because these take place in the Boston area, I have recently cut back to about twice a month participation, often less in the summer due to other obligations. Bare Necessities has a number of annual weekend events it plays for around the country and is in great demand as a premier English country dance band. We have done about five tours with dancers to the British Isles (I’ve lost count), played concerts and attended festivals in England, Canada and the U.S. Yankee Ingenuity, still playing excellent New England contra music in the same location every Monday night at the Scout House in Concord for over 30 years, plays only locally. Besides regular dances, we do celebrations of all kinds, special events and fund raisers.

In the New England area, at local dances in Greenfield MA, Brattleboro and Montpelier VT, etc. I play with a variety of bands (Dark Carnival and Crazy Quilt) and individual musicians whom I’ve collaborated with for many years. I’ve been increasing my local performing to include the Brattleboro Farmers’ Market, Gallery Walk, and special events, an occasional concert (see Childsplay)--whether playing jigs and reels, South American music with Paradiso, Balkan music or Scandinanvian music or some combination of these and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

These are the questions I frequently ask when someone calls me about playing for an event:

  • What kind of music do you want?
  • Any particular instrumentation?
  • Do you need music for a ceremony?
    • for a reception?
    • for background music?
    • for dancing?
  • What kind of dancing?
    • couple dances: waltzes, polkas, swing?
    • group dances: squares, contras, easy family mixers? horas?

Music in Many Styles...

MARY LEA in combination with one or more of her many talented colleagues
can grace your celebration with such music as:

  • Reels and jigs – for contra and square dances and family dances –music drawn from Irish, Quebecois, old-time, Scottish, New England traditions
  • Celtic music – music from Ireland, Scotland – airs, dance tunes, O’Carolyn repertoire, and more
  • Couple Dance music – Waltzes, French musettes, tangos, swing, polkas, hambos and other Scandinavian dance music, and more
  • Vintage dance – 19th century, Ragtime era, Quadrilles
  • English Country Dance music – Music from 17th – 20th century, tunes of many moods and meters, artfully and spontaneously arranged and performed
  • South American music – choros from Brazil, waltzes from Venezuela and Mexico, tangos from Argentina, and more

ENSEMBLES for these special events include:

Mary Lea and Peter Barnes – Trail Buddies

Peter and Mary

A long musical association between these two has enabled them to create a deep and wealthy repertoire of very diverse music. With Peter on piano and guitar (or flute), and Mary on violin or viola, the two cover the gamut of dance music. While they have played many times as a duo, they are often seen in the company of others as Bare Necessities, Yankee Ingenuity, Dark Carnival, Crazy Quilt, and BLT in times past. Peter is the principal pianist on all three of Mary’s solo albums and can be heard on several Childsplay CDs as well as Bare Necessities’ many recordings.

Dark Carnival

Dark Carnival –

Mary Lea (violin, viola), Lise Brown (flute, saxophone), Peter Barnes (piano, guitar) – all from the Connecticut River Valley

Dark Carnival is a very eclectic band with a broad musical palette and great proficiency with all kinds of dance and listening music. The trio has performed at festivals, dance weeks and weekend events around the U.S. Besides a jig or reel, expect a Klezmir tune or two, finger-snapping swing, a Schubert waltz, a sultry blues or a ragtime one-step. Featured on “Between Two Worlds,” Mary’s 3rd solo album. Listen to a tune or two.

Paradiso at the Brattleboro Farmers' Market

Paradiso –

Mary Lea (violin, viola), Anna Patton (clarinet), Steve Procter (classical guitar) – Brattleboro-based band

Paradiso brings delightful listening (and dancing) music focusing on tunes from South America (choros from Brazil, waltzes from various South American countries), and musettes from the 1920s in France. The trio has performed locally at special town and arts events, at cafes and farmers’ markets and has a strong following. Featured on “Between Two Worlds,” Mary’s 3rd solo album. Listen to a few cuts from that CD. Listen to CD sample

Bare Necessitites in Scotland

Bare Necessities –

Mary Lea & Earl Gaddis (violin, viola), Peter Barnes (whistle, flute, oboe, guitar) Jacqueline Schwab (piano)

This quartet is known for its creative interpretations of English country dance tunes, plays for dancing, concerts, week-long workshops and dance events. They have played for dancers and audiences from Hawaii to York, England, from Alaska to St. Croix (VI). Two pages in the Recordings section (Bare Necessities and Boston CDS) are devoted to this band and include reviews.

crazy quilt band picture

Crazy Quilt –

Mary Lea (violin, viola), Anna Patton (clarinet), Peter Siegel (guitar, mandolin, banjo), Peter Barnes (piano, guitar, winds) – local group

Also a great band for special events as well as contra dances, this quartet can offer a swing song from the ‘30s, a Brazilian choro or Macedonian lesnoto, as well as old-time Appalachian or Quebecois dance tunes.