____________A celebration of the many traditional arts in New Hampshire and the communities that share them.

Monday, March 2, 2015

2015 Apprenticeship Spotlight: Carnatic Singing

Master Artist: Sandhya Sridhar, Nashua | Apprentice: Meghana Tadepalli, Nashua
Community Presentation: June 27, 2015 Manchester City Library: Free open to the public

Did you know that New Hampshire is home to over 8,000 people of Indian ancestry?  In Merrimack, Nashua, Portsmouth and many other communities Indian Americans cherish and enjoy their rich traditions of song, dance, and community celebrations.

Master teacher Sandhya Sridhar moved to Nashua 30 years ago and found few opportunities for her children to engage in traditional Indian arts and culture. She opened Aradhana School of music in Nashua to offer Carnatic singing lessons for area youth. Now NH residents have the opportunity to learn these forms of music without having to drive to Boston, and local cultural celebrations are often showcases for the young musicians and vocalists.

Sandhya Sridhar Carnatic singing is a traditional ragam or melodic style native to southern India, where forms of the music have been practiced for 2000 years. In contrast to much Western music, Carnatic music is based around melodic styles.  Both vocal and instrumental parts of the music require years of dedication to master the subtle nuances of bhavam (expression), talam (rhythm), and improvisation. The compositions have spiritual and cultural significance in how they are performed. Guru (master teacher) Sandhya Sridhar considers it a great responsibility to ensure an apprentice achieves mastery of musical skills, develops a strong character, and embraces the cultural values that are the foundation of the music.

In 2014-2015 Sridhar will work with Meghana on songs composed in the language of Telugu, the language native to Meghana’s family. Many Telugu words end in vowels which makes it a preferred language for songs that have a very natural flowing sound to the lyrics. Many composers will actually choose to write songs in Telugu even if it is not their native language because of nice flowing sound of the words.  

Photos above from top to bottom: Anjana Mangalat, a student of Sandhya during her 2013 recital; Anjana with accompany musicians during her recital Manasa Ravi, a student of Sandhya during a lesson; Nashua resident Sandhya Sridhar

Below: A group of young students of Guru Sandhya Sridhar singing at a community festival.


In 2014-2015 the NH State Council on the Arts awarded Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grants to 7 Master and Apprentice teams. Apprenticeship grants help communities preserve their cultural heritage through traditional crafts, music, and dance so that future generations can continue to benefit from them. Nearly every state in the US has an apprenticeship program that is supported by in part by the National Endowment for the Arts

Monday, February 9, 2015

Gents Bow, Ladies Know How: Guest Blog Post by Gordon Peery, Monadnock Center for History and Culture

The following is a guest blog post from Gordon Peery at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture. This is an excerpt of the original post appearing on their website.

Now on view at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture, the exhibit, Gents Bow, Ladies Know How 

Mention contra dancing to someone from around here (the Monadnock region), and chances are they’ll know what you’re talking about. If they aren’t a dancer or musician, they are probably no more than two degrees separated from one. And if you happen to mention to contra dancers anywhere else in the country that you’re from the Monadnock Region, they’ll look at you with an appreciative glow – “aren’t you lucky!”
The small town of Nelson is generally considered to be the contra dance capital of the world, but all of the towns in the region have had contra dancing figure in their history – a vibrant part of their social and cultural life. And while in Colonial times dancing was popular throughout New England, and remains so in certain pockets, the Monadnock Region has a special claim on having maintained the tradition.

A brief history: In 1651 John Playford, a London bookseller, published The English Dancing Master, a collection of English Country dances and tunes. It was extremely popular, and quickly spread to France, where the dance form, done in lines of couples facing opposite each other, came to be known as “contredanse”.

The tunes came here with the fiddles that traveled with their people to this new land. Like the people who sought new life, adventure, and freedom, the tunes were ready to lend their folk roots to be the foundation of something new. New communities, eager for diversion and cohesion, found both with the music and dance. French dancing masters roamed the colonial country side, teaching the contredanse, which became contradance. These dances were appealing to the nascent democracy: the dancers were equal, with everyone in the set engaging with everyone else: the farmer, the banker, the blacksmith, the teacher. The dance served the additional function of teaching social graces and nurturing community. The disruption of the Civil War and the introduction of new kinds of music and dance and other social diversions brought a decline in contra dancing. But it remained a part of cultural life particularly in the small rural towns of New England.

People danced wherever they could, but our town halls were often the venue of choice. These halls are simple buildings, but they were designed with a sense of form and balance – like the music and dance that filled them. Our town halls have absorbed decades of the dance, the music, and civic engagement, and you can feel it in the walls.

While elsewhere in New England contra dancers are a greying crowd, a typical dance in Peterborough or Nelson is well populated with high school and college kids. Folks of all ages, and from all walks of life, enjoy dancing together. And while it can at first seem intimidating to newcomers, you’ll find if you just jump right in, you’ll be surrounded by friendly encouragement, and before you know it, you’re part of one of New England’s oldest traditions.

Photos from top to bottom: Randy Miller and Deb K. presenting a musical history lecture on one of Sharon, NH's fiddling families from the early 1900's; installation view of Gents Bow, Ladies Know How; share your dance memories at the exhibit; a recent contra dance held in Peterborough, NH photo courtesy Carol Ansel.

The exhibit Gents Bow, Ladies Know How was a collaboration between the Monadnock Folklore Society and the Monadock Center for History and Culture. It is supported in part by a General Project Grant for Community Engagement from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts

Monday, February 2, 2015

Apprenticeship Spotlight: Weaving on a New England Barn Frame Loom

Weaving on a New England Barn Frame Loom
Master Artist: Craig Evans, Brookfield
Apprentice: Diane Howes, Danville
Community Presentation: Craig and Diane will be completing much of their weaving during public hours at the NH Farm Museum, Milton. Exact date and times TBA.

American colonists purchased most of their cloth and fabrics directly from England through the late 1700’s. As the spirit of independence spread through the colonies, people began to grow flax for making linen and raised sheep for the production of wool. Weaving and processing of these fibers become a staple of New England communities and have since been part of the social and economic heritage in both mills and domestic lives.

“For every six or seven houses [in New England] with spinning wheels, there’d be one loom, so if you did a survey of inventories, which a number of historians have done, they seem to always come up someplace in that range. So what would happen is neighboring farms, rather than having a weaver in their household, they would come over and barter. They would bring their own hand-spun and they would barter for the labor of the domestic weaver in that house.”- Craig Evans, Master Artist, Barn Frame Loom Weaving

Evans and Howes are both accomplished weavers and will bring their years of experience to focus on domestic utilitarian textiles for the home popular from 1780 to 1820. They will weave on a large "barn frame loom"  that is assembled with similar construction techniques as timber frame barns. The team will work at the New Hampshire Farm Museum in Milton on a crib size wool coverlet, yardage of a linen and wool blended fabric called “linsey-woolsey” and four harness linen table mats and runners.

“My skill is in reading the old patterns and knowing how to work with them and… weave them on a traditional loom… Do what they did two hundred years ago. That’s what I find so exciting, … the continuation of a tradition that was carried over from the old country to this country. I found myself teaching very much the way Norman Kennedy taught me, which was, you might say, unequivocal, meaning that there’s a way to do it and it’s not up for reinterpretation. This is the traditional way that has been done for hundreds of years and this is how we do it.”- Craig Evans, Master Artists, New England Barn Frame Loom Weaving.
Craig Evans 


In 2014-2015 the NH State Council on the Arts awarded Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grants to 7 Master and Apprentice teams. Apprenticeship grants help communities preserve their cultural heritage through traditional crafts, music, and dance so that future generations can continue to benefit from them. Nearly every state in the US has an apprenticeship program that is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. To view all 2014-1015 grant recipients visit NH.gov/nharts

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2014-2015 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Spotlight: Woodturning

Master Artist: Jon Siegel, Wilmot | Apprentice: Colby Weyant, Franklin
Community Presentation: TBA

Jon giving a demo at League Fair
Banister back chairs, maple, rush seats
Demo at League of NH Craftsman Fair

“The development of furniture design for centuries has been linked to woodturning. My specialty is spindle turning, the branch of woodturning that produces the classical forms used in the early colonial period and architectural applications such as Victorian porches…History is what I love about New England, especially the Industrial Revolution—the mills and the old machines. But even before that—300 years ago—Portsmouth was renowned for its furniture. Today, great woodworking organizations like the New Hampshire Furniture Masters Association and the Guild of New Hampshire Woodworkers have brought about a woodworking Renaissance in our state.” - Jon Siegel, Master Artist, Wood Turning

In 2014-2015 Siegel, a founder of the Guild of NH Woodworkers, will work with Weyant on all aspects of learning the trade of woodturning. Weyant is a high school student at Merrimack Valley High School where he has often expanded on assignments from shop class at home. The team will cover tool sharpening and maintenance, efficiently setting up a shop, geometry and angle measurement, and principals of design. Siegel hopes Weyant will master basic shapes such as the ball, bottle, cove, pommel and cinchure and be able to duplicate designs to create multiples. Weyant will be demonstrating what he has learned through the apprenticeship at Merrimack Valley High School’s Senior Project Night. 

In 2014-2015 the NH State Council on the Arts awarded Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grants to 7 Master and Apprentice teams. Apprenticeship grants help communities preserve their cultural heritage through traditional crafts, music, and dance so that future generations can continue to benefit from them. Apprenticeship grants fund a master traditional artist to teach an experienced apprentice in one-to-one sessions over a period of six to ten months. Nearly every state in the US has an apprenticeship program that is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.
To view all 2014-1015 grant recipients visit NH.gov/nharts 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Dancing toward self-empowerment and cultural pride with New American Africans

Concord, NH youth dancing during New American Africans after school program

Twenty teenage Congolese boys kneel on a Concord community center floor performing synchronized dance movements with their eyes trained on their instructor, Thierryne Dusabe. There are giggles and serious faces and singing. The group instinctively breaks from their routine to shout improvisational chants, words, and sounds. To an English speaking listener, these outbursts in the Congolese & Rwandan language of Kinyarwanda are indecipherable except for the clear feeling of joy being sung into the air by these Concord youth. If you follow the sound of giggles and laughter, a group of teenage girls can be found in the bathroom practicing their coordinated moves into the mirror. Each week from Tuesday through Friday dozens of Concord’s Congolese, Burundi, and Rwandan youth participate in an after school program offered by New American Africans, a nonprofit organization. NAA Director HonroĆ© Murenzi says that the primary goal of the afterschool program “…is to help our students to catch up to their peers and promote high expectation for themselves. NAA offers an after school program that strives to link families with their child's academic success as well as to reinforce cultural strength and pride.”

Dancing during New American African's after school program
Concord, NH youth dancing during NAA's after school program
Youth focus on after school academic help Tuesday through Thursday, and on Friday they learn traditional Congolese and Rwandan dances. Murenzi shares, “We are committed to supporting opportunities for children and families to come together in community activities that not only reflect their own cultural perspectives, but that also expose them to diverse (and similar) approaches to expressing cultural perspectives through dance, music and the arts. These are traditions that reinforce a strong sense of community pride and sense of well-being” The program aims to give students a greater sense of self-worth and confidence in their ability to overcome academic challenges that arise from cultural and linguistic barriers. The program involves parents and young adult role models in sharing and celebrating traditional culture. 

The youth are practicing the traditional dances of Ikinimba and Igishakamba, Umushayayo/ Umushayagiro, and Intore, that are performed during weddings, ceremonies and important cultural events. The youth will perform in a community wide cultural celebration in the spring.


New American Africans (NAA) is a self-supporting community group for refugees living in New Hampshire. Through African leadership, NAA develops strong immigrant communities that reflect diverse cultural perspectives by promoting collaboration, equity, resilience and opportunities to thrive with dignity and respect.

Thierryne Dusabe: Traditional Burundi dancer Thierryne Dusabe grew up in Rwanda and attended the College of Medical Technicians, Gitega in Burundi where she participated in the dance group Inyange. She was later resettled at the Zaleka refugee camp in Malawi where she joined a Burundian traditional dance group Imanzi that performed in weddings, and cultural shows. Dusabe is currently a student at Nashua Community College studying nursing.

This program is supported in part by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts