Cambridge Folk Orchestra 50+ Anniversary Party at the FAC Friday dance

Friday, June 10, 2016, 8–11 pm

Park Avenue Congregational Church parish hall, 50 Paul Revere Road at Park Avenue, Arlington Heights, Arlington, Massachusetts

International folk dancing for all with music by CFO

  • Admission $10
  • FAC members $8
  • Students (aged 8 and up) $5

FAC is pleased to host the Cambridge Folk Orchestra’s 50+ Anniversary Party at our weekly Friday dance. Join the Boston folk dance community in celebrating more than half a century of CFO’s fun-filled programs featuring multi-talented musicians and many instruments! If you have a CFO or FAC T-shirt, you are encouraged to wear it to the party, and if you have any photos of CFO to share, please bring them to the dance or send them to FAC at 10 Franklin Street, Stoneham, MA 02180 so they can be displayed in our album. Contributions to the refreshment table are very welcome.

For the early history of CFO, here is what Cal Howard, a longtime member of the band, wrote on the occasion of its 25th anniversary in 1990:

“A little over 25 years ago a folk dancer and musician new to the Boston area dance scene suggested to a few friends that it might be fun to get together and play a few of the folk dance tunes that they all enjoyed dancing to. Thus was born the Cambridge Folk Orchestra. Karl Wegman, Swiss-born clarinetist extraordinaire, would guide a small assemblage of dancer-musicians in playing what at first were mostly Swiss dance tunes. These included waltzes, mazurkas, polkas, and schottisches. After a bit the repertoire was expanded to include other folk dance melodies either found in the literature or transcribed from records and adapted to the interests and abilities of the group.

“This fledgling ensemble, basically a quartet of two clarinets, accordion, and piano, soon added other instrumentalists: bass, guitar, and violin, and also began to play for real gigs! During this period and extending to the present, CFO received great support from leaders Conny and Marianne Taylor and from the Folk Arts Center. Who will forget the famous folk marathons of the late 60s: twelve hours of non-stop dancing and much of it to live music? ‘The Orchestra,’ as it was then called, began to expand beyond the occasional folk dance party to include more important events, like Stowe weekend and an occasional appearance at Ted Sannella’s dance parties, which featured squares and contras as well. (How diligently we practiced for those pre-planned programs.)

“As the years went by and personnel changed or were added (we dared not become too big lest we become too unwieldy), a wider repertoire evolved until it could be said that CFO embraced the mainstream of folk dance music. With the addition of authentic ethnic instruments: tappan, tamburitza, dumbek, gajda, etc., the sound took on the character of the country represented to a surprising degree. CFO has continued to play for many dance events: parties, one-night stands, festivals, and weddings. Although it has recorded various dance cuts for a number of recorded offerings, it has no full-length record of its own. It worked with the Mandala Folk Dance Ensemble during the years in which that group was switching over from recorded to live musical accompaniment. Beginning in the mid-70s, CFO started running a monthly folk dance party, first in Carlisle, then Cambridge, and at present in Arlington on second Fridays, October to June.

“CFO, the oldest continuously functioning folk dance band in New England, will be celebrating its 25th anniversary with a dance party and reunion on Friday, November 9th (1990) at St. John’s Methodist Church hall, 80 Mount Auburn Street near Watertown Square (note that this is not the usual location!). The festivities will commence around 7 pm and go until midnight (at least). All dancers, singers, musicians, and friends are invited to attend to make it a real blast!”

During CFO’s second quarter century, the monthly dances continued at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Arlington through the early 2000s. Today the band plays often at the MIT Folk Dance Club’s Sunday night dance, occasionally at the FAC Friday night dance, and at the annual New England Folk Festival.