History of The Portland Megaband
The Portland Megaband has been in existence since 1996. Every year, we play a Portland Country Dance Community benefit contra dance on the second Saturday of March. In addition to that, we play a contra dance slot at the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle every other year (2016 will not be a Folklife year for the band). Every time we have played, it has gone very well--the dancers have loved it, and we musicians have had a blast. So far, we have always been able to achieve a cohesive, tight sound. The first time we played, there were 25 of us. In March 2015, we had 75 musicians and 500 dancers! The band is organized and directed by Erik Weberg and me (Sue Songer).
Who does The Megaband Benefit Dance support?
The Portland Country Dance Community and the Portland Megaband sponsor a yearly benefit dance to raise funds for members of the Community. The benefit funds are available to PCDC members in the form of grants to help offset the costs of dance camps, musician camps/workshops and caller workshops. For more information about applying for a grant, contact PCDC.
To the Prospective Megabander:
The Megaband is an all volunteer (i.e. unpaid) contra dance band open to musicians at any level of experience on any acoustic instrument. Ability levels range from beginner to professional musician; all are equally welcome. We have been in existence since 1996. Every year, we play a Portland Country Dance Community benefit contra dance on the second Saturday of March. In addition to that, we play a contra dance slot at the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle every other year. Every time we have played, it has gone very well--the dancers have loved it, and we musicians have had a blast. So far, we have always been able to achieve a cohesive, tight sound. The first time we played, there were 25 of us. In March 2019, we had 75 musicians and nearly 500 dancers! The band is organized and directed by Erik Weberg and me (Sue Songer). You can read much more about us by visiting the Portland Megaband website at www.portlandmegaband.com. If you want to listen to recent sound clips of the band, you can find them on youtube.com or Facebook by searching under Portland Megaband 2019. Here are a couple of professionally recorded (i.e., good sound quality) clips from a while back:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prKBufX4mj0&feature=youtu.be (by Doug Plummer)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXoBCxE3tjA&feature=related . (by Kim Appleberry)
And here is a time lapse (by Doug Plummer) of the set up and much of the evening:
MUSIC AND REHEARSALS
About 4 months before we play the PCDC dance, I mail out the set list. We draw from the 3 volumes of The Portland Collection: Contra Dance Music in the Pacific Northwest, from tunes that band members and I have encountered since the publication of The PCs, as well as from tunes written by band members. The tunes are posted on the Megaband website in a format that is easy to download and print out. In years past, Betsy Branch and I have recorded files (downloadable mp3 format) with all of the sets played clearly at a tempo slightly below dance speed. Band members have found these recordings very useful for learning the tunes. There are 7 rehearsals for the dance beginning in early January. Each of the first 6 rehearsals lasts 2 hours and is held on Sunday afternoon from 3 - 5. The final rehearsal on the Sunday before the dance lasts from 1 - 5. In the rehearsals, we work mostly on playing as a group and getting the right "feel" for the music. Band members should plan on attending all of these rehearsals. I think that everyone finds them to be fun, and the end product is very rewarding.
In addition, band members sometimes host informal rehearsals to work on the tunes, and sectionals are sometimes offered by various band members or me.
MEGABAND DANCE DATE:
The Portland Megaband plays for a huge contra dance on the evening of the second Saturday in March in the lovely Smith Ballroom at Portland Staate University.
HOW TO SIGN UP:
All new band members come into the band through a waiting list. If you would like to play in the band, please email me expressing interest (songer at portcoll dot com) There is a cap of 75 on the sign up slots. Returning members will sign up first (we must do it this way since the band is very dependent on the experienced members being able to carry the newer ones along), and then it will be opened up to those on the waiting list. If we have more people on the waiting list than spaces available (as usually happens), band members will be selected according to length of time on the waiting list with some attention to balance of instruments. Musical ability and/or experience is not a factor in admission to the band
The above said, there is a limit on certain instruments that are difficult to integrate into the band either due to the nature of the instrument or staging complications. Those instruments are keyboard, bass, hammer dulcimers, percussion, and saxes/horns. If you play one of these instruments, you will have to wait until there is an opening in your particular section.
While you are waiting, I encourage you in the strongest of terms to go to the local contra dances if you are not already doing so, and to join in some of the playing opportunities listed below to get acquainted with contra dance music and gain some experience playing it.
OTHER OPPORTUNITIES TO PLAY:
Once you have contacted me, I can send you suggestions of several places where you can play contra dance music.