Folk Orchestra 2017

South Coast
Dance Orchestra June 10 & 11 2017  Download flyer

Barn Dance & Quilt Show
Millicoma Middle School Gym
4th Avenue and C Street, Coos Bay, OR
Sat June 10th 7-10pm $10 per person/ $5 for 18-7yrs old/ 6 & under free

Get your ticket for June 10th

Benefit Concert
at the Egyptian Theater -229 S Broadway, Coos Bay, OR
“Music & Dance ~ Send Kids to Camp Millennium”
Sun June 11th 2-4pm $5/per person. 6 yrs & under, free

Get your ticket for June 11th

Do you play an acoustic instrument at an intermediate or better level? The Mentoring South Coast Musicians Project offers you an opportunity to join the 2017 South Coast Folk Orchestra! Become a better ensemble musician, experience the joy of playing for contra dancers, and maybe get inspired to start your own contra band.

What is a Folk Orchestra?


Betsy Branch and Sue Songer

Our model for this is the Portland Megaband, Sue Songer and caller Erik Weberg organize and direct this band. Betsy Branch is its lead musician. Since 1996, the Portland Country Dance Community has hosted a benefit contra dance with music by the Megaband on the second Saturday of March. The dance has been a smashing success — the dancers have loved it, and the musicians have a blast. The first time they played, there were 25 band members. In March 2016, there were 75 musicians and 450+ dancers!

We’re hoping this project will stimulate interest in contra dance and contra dance music here on the South Coast.

What are we going to do?

Sue and Betsy will provide us with a 6-month residency including three weekend workshops: Friday evening and Saturday morning/afternoon January 20-21, March 24-25 and April 28-29, 2017. South Coast musicians who participate in the project this first time will be paid an honorarium of $400, for nine rehearsals, three workshop weekends and the performances on June 10 and 11, 2017. Continuing the program in ensuing years will depend on enthusiasm and fundraising from this first project.

logo-oct-redWho’s paying for this?

The Oregon Cultural Trust awarded SCFS with a Creativity Grant for the Mentoring South Coast Musicians Project. Additionally we have funding from the Oregon Community Foundation‘s Creative Heights initiative and a Country Dance & Song Society contribution. ocf_logo_black_print

How will we learn the music?

The Folk Orchestra will play sets of contra dance music compiled by Sue and Betsy from the three volumes of The cdss-centennial-logo-round-h-bwPortland Collection: Contra Dance Music in the Pacific Northwest as well as from other sources.
Participants will receive printed music at the January workshop. To aid in learning the music, recordings of the tunes will be available in late October or early November in the SCFS Dropbox folder in MP3 format. These recordings will be played clearly at a tempo slightly below dance speed. Portland Megaband members have found these types of recordings very useful for learning the tunes. Please plan to spend some time listening to the tunes and getting familiar with them before the January workshop.

What will the rehearsals be like?

In addition to the weekend workshops, there are nine rehearsals for the dance, beginning in February and averaging twice a month. Each of the rehearsals will last 2 1/2 hours and will be held bi-monthly, alternating Friday nights 6:30-9 pm and Sunday afternoons 3 – 5:30 pm. The final rehearsal on the Friday before the dance lasts from 3-6 pm. 

Download the whole schedule here..

In the rehearsals, we will 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 and workshops. We intend for them to be fun, and the end product will be very rewarding. Band members are encouraged to host informal rehearsals to work on the tunes, and sectionals will sometimes be offered by various band members or Sue and Betsy.

When will we perform?

The Folk Orchestra Contra Dance & Concert weekend will be on Saturday evening June 10 and Sunday afternoon June 11. [Dress rehearsal Friday evening June 9th]. We’re still working out the logistical details and will let you know as soon as they’re firmed up. Thanks for your patience.

How do I sign up?

All members come into the Mentoring South Coast Musicians project through this application. If you prefer a paper application, scroll to the bottom and download the PDF version of this announcement.

There is a cap of 25 on the sign up slots for the January project start date. SCFS Open Band members will be given first priority. Then it will be opened up to those on the waiting list.

If we have more musicians than spaces available, Sue & Betsy will select band members 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 cap 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, hammered dulcimers, percussion, and saxes/horns. If you play one of these instruments, there may not be opportunity for you in this band this year.

I can’t commit to the whole shebang. Can I still participate?

The weekend workshops will be open to musicians who are not participating in the Folk Orchestra (but want to learn about it) for a fee of $45 per person, per weekend. Therefore, if you are interested, but unable to participate in the whole 6 month residency you can still receive instruction from Betsy & Sue during any or all of the workshop weekends. Sign up for individual workshops here:

What a great project! How else can I help?

Volunteers make this happen. If you would like to be involved in the planning and production, you are most welcome and encouraged. Contact Jennifer Sordyl.

Do you feel inspired to “spread the joy”? A tax deductible donation to the Mentoring Musicians Project would enable us to add more musicians to the Folk Orchestra. See Jennifer to contribute.

How can I prepare for this experience?

All musicians committing to the Orchestra project must be SCFS members. Sign up here.

While you are waiting, we encourage you in the strongest of terms to go to the local contra dances, if you are not already doing so, and to participate in the SCFS Outstanding Open Band. (Rehearsals happen the third Thursday of every month, alternating between Bandon and Coos Bay.) Email leader Sharon Rogers at Get acquainted with contra dance music and gain some experience playing it.

Here are some more resources to help you learn more about contra dancing and contra dance music.

  • There are contra dance and other music sessions every month in the South Coast area.
  • Sue Songer has an email list that is of interest to musicians. This list announces workshops, house concerts, and also sends out the set list for the 5th Saturday open mike contra dances in Portland. Send her your info ( to be included.
  • The SCFS Outstanding Open Band has an annual campout scheduled the first weekend in August 2017. It’s a long weekend on the Sixes River near Port Orford to play, perform, jam and socialize. See the listing for “Contra at the Coast” on the SCFS Facebook page.
  • Sue will be happy to answer any artistic questions not covered here–either by email or by phone.

  • Listen to sound clips of the Portland Megaband on or Facebook by searching under Portland Megaband. Favorite clips (from 2013 and 2010): (by Doug Plummer) (by Kim Appleberry)
  • And here is a time lapse (by Doug Plummer) of the setup and much of the evening:

I don’t like trees. Can I get a copy of this on paper?

Certainly. Here you go!

I still have so many questions.

Call Jennifer Sordyl at (541) 808-7269, or email her using the form below.