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New England’s Jeremiah McLane: Simply “The Best!”

Jeremiah McLane

Jeremiah McLane

Bio courtesy of  Jeremiah was raised in a family with deep ties to both its Scottish heritage and its New Hampshire roots. Traditional New England music and dance were a part of his parents and grandparents generations. After an early formation in classical piano, Jeremiah spent his teenage years playing blues and jazz. Following undergraduate studies with jazz legend Gary Peacock, he studied Indonesian Gamelan, West African drumming, and the music of minimalist composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass. It wasn’t until his mid twenties that Jeremiah began to immerse himself in the world of traditional Celtic and French music, studying accordion with Jimmy Keene and Frederic Paris. He then spent several decades traveling in Europe, doing field research that laid the groundwork for a Master’s degree he received many years later from the New England Conservatory.

Jeremiah McLane and David Surette

Jeremiah McLane and David Surette

In the early 1990s Jeremiah formed two bands: The Clayfoot Strutters and Nightingale. Both bands had strong traditional New England roots and had a deep and lasting impact on the traditional dance scene in New England. In 2003 he formed Le Bon Vent, a sextet specializing in Breton and French music, and as an outgrowth of this ensemble, has formed several duos with individual members including James Falzone, Ruthie Dornfeld and Cristi Catt. Since the early 1990s, Jeremiah has recorded over a dozen CDs with Nightingale, the Clayfoot Strutters, Bob & the Trubadors, Le Bon Vent, with Ruthie Dornfeld. His second solo recording, Smile When You’re Ready, was nominated by National Public Radio in their “favorite picks”, and his fifth release, Hummingbird, with Ruthie Dornfeld, received the French music magazine “Trad Mag” Bravo award, as did his CD Goodnight Marc Chagall with Le Bon Vent. He has composed music for theater and film, including Sam Shepard’s “A Lie Of The Mind”, and been awarded the Ontario Center For The Performing Arts “Meet The Composer” Award, and the Vermont Council On The Arts “Creation Of New Work” grant.

In 2005 Jeremiah started the Floating Bridge Music School, which is devoted to teaching traditional music from the British Isles, Northern Europe, and North America. An adjunct instructor at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, NY, he also teaches at the Summit School of Traditional Music in Montpelier, VT, at the Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon NH, and at many summer music camps including Ashokan Fiddle & Dance, Augusta Heritage Arts Center, American Festival of Fiddle Tunes, and the Maine Fiddle Camp.


Jeremiah and Ruthie

Jeremiah McLane and Ruthie Dornfeld

Interview with Jeremiah McLane onWCAX Tv:

Jeremiah McLane II

Jeremiah McLane



The Inspiring Edward Jay

Edward Jay

Edward Jay

By Christa T. for Accordion Americana There is something about American music, as Leonard Bernstein said, in its expression of “wide open spaces” that describes an innovative mindset, a resilient optimism and a bold spirit of our people. At its roots, American music draws from the influences of many that have migrated here, willingly or against their will, as well as from native people that were already here. After four centuries, American music has evolved to express that which binds us– an identity uniquely our own.

But, because there is a misconception that the accordion is not an American instrument, it has been passed over and seldom allowed, in recent years, to participate in the expression of that identity. Outside of Texas and Louisiana, two regions that have their own strong music identities, the accordion has been rarely heard in most of American music, within the last fifty years. Currently, the piano accordion, especially, is not represented in American Roots music, at all. Today, so obscure in mainstream America has the accordion become that, some think of it as though it never existed, here. This is in spite of the fact that it has been in this country for well over a century and was an enormously popular instrument in the first half of the twentieth century. Edward Jay, an Accordionist specializing in folk music, performs with the accordion right in the “wheelhouse” of American Roots music along with Violinists, Fiona Barrow and Oliver Wilson-Dickson. By doing so, they show us that it’s finally time for the accordion to find its rightful place in American Roots music, once again.

The lovely and luminous “Water and Sky” composed by Fiona Barrow, with Edward Jay, Accordion and Fiona Barrow, Violin

Born in the U.K. and raised in South Wales, Edward Jay began performing with his family’s band at the age of eight. His parents were part time folk musicians and their three sons were heavily involved with the family music. This was the training ground for Edward Jay allowing him to become a virtuoso accordionist and multi-instrumentalist in the folk tradition. Newfolks/The Beacons, comprised of Edward Jay and Oliver Wilson-Dickson, is a duo associated with Live Music Now, a program founded in 1977 by the legendary Violinist, Yehudi Menhuin and Ian Stoutzker. Newfolks/The Beacons leads folk music workshops and performs in a variety of venues across the U.K.

Three tunes by Newfolks/The Beacons, Edward Jay, accordion and Oliver Wilson-Dickson, violin

Contra Dance, or Contredanses (French) were actually English “Country Dances” popularized in the 18th Century. In time, these dances were brought to the United States as “Country Dances” although in New England they were referred to as “Contradances”. In the mid 19th Century, Contra Dance began to decline as couples style dancing, such as the waltz, became more popular. Auto Magnate, Henry Ford, had a role in revitalizing interest in Contra Dance because of his abhorrence for the jazz influence in modern social dancing. In the 1920’s he asked a friend and dance coordinator, Henry Lovett, to come to Michigan to begin a dance program. Lovett and Ford promoted the program in Dearborn, Michigan that included Contra Dance. Ford also published a book in 1926, entitled, Good Morning: After a Sleep of Twenty-Five Years, Old-Fashioned Dancing is Being Revived. It laid out the steps for Contra Dance. Since that time, Contra Dance has enjoyed a growing and enthusiastic following throughout the United States, promoted by folk music movements and preservationists.

Two North American Contra Dance tunes performed by Edward Jay, Accordionist and Fiona Barrow, Violinist

Fiddle is the predominant instrument in Contra Dance music. However, many instruments are brought together to be able to perform this genre of music. Just as with any type of folk music in North America, Contra Dance bands used whatever instruments were at hand. A typical Contra Dance ensemble is made up of three, four or five musicians with the fiddle, guitar, piano, mandolin or banjo, and flute or whistle being heard along with the accordion. Also, bass fiddles have been used, wind instruments of all kinds, auto harps, hammer dulcimers, ukes, and drum. An important resource for Contra Dance tunes is the extensive The Portland Collection, Books I and II, by Susan Songer.

Two spirited Contra Dance tunes performed by Edward Jay, accordion and Fiona Barrow, Violin

People in the U.S. don’t seem to realize that the accordion is not new to American music. It has been a part of our pioneer experience and has been in America since the mid 1800’s. It has been played, not only in the mountains and the bayous, but by folks in the city and in the country, on the prairie and in the desert, for a long, long time. It was used in American churches and schools, in taverns, at dances and social gatherings for over 150 years. Because it was portable, the accordion was used when pianos and organs were too heavy or delicate to transport. Accordions continued to participate throughout the 20th Century, along with pianos and organs, fiddles and guitars. It was used in the early Blues and every American genre of music until American accordion players decided, for whatever reason or influences, not to play American music. We must recognize that this is not acceptable, and work to correct it.  The accordion is a critical piece of our music history and we should be proud of that connection, celebrate it and hold the accordion in high regard because of it.

Newfolks/The Beacons perform the classic Bluegrass composition, “Orange Blossom Special”

The explosive “Catharsis/Line of Ladies” with Edward Jay, Accordionist and Oliver Wilson-Dickson, Violinist