The Portland Collection(s)

The Portland Collection, by Sue Songer and Clyde Curley

The Portland Collection is three books (Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3) and three companion recordings collecting contra dance tunes as played in and around Portland, OR. One of the recordings, the “Portland Play Along Selection“, is intended specifically for learning with only two instruments per track, accompaniment panned to the left speaker and melody panned to the right. Accompaniment is piano or guitar, while melody is either fiddle, mandolin, or 4-string banjo. Most of the tunes on the Play Along discs (there are two discs in the set, containing 97 tunes total) are played at a moderate learning pace, although very beginners might prefer them even slower.

The books contain around 300 tunes each; you can see the full list of tunes for volume 1, volume 2, and volume 3 at the authors’ site. Many of the tunes in the collection are recent compositions; the authors’ site has links to the composers where available. The books contain a brief paragraph for many, if not all, of the tunes, usually describing where the authors learned it or where it came from.

The books contain standard notation with chords for each tune, and there is an index in the back containing a list of tunes grouped by key (although no modes are mentioned).

At all the pick-up contra bands I’ve been in around Seattle, the majority of the tunes played came out of the first two books (the third not having been out long enough to have become part of the canon yet, I guess). If you’re going to play for contra dances in the PNW, these would be a good set of books to have.

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