John Newton - Vermont - 5 squares

Title

John Newton - Vermont - 5 squares

Subject

Northern / Prompt & Patter; Northern / Singing

Description

John Newton was a Vermont teacher and square dance caller. Included here are five examples of his calling.

The first three were recorded by Steve Green in 1984 at John's home (with music by John's band, the Turkey Mountain Window Smashers, including Jill Newton on fiddle and Sally Newton on piano). In his introduction to "My Little Girl," (not included here), John calls it a "neo-traditional" dance, explaining that it dates from about 1940 rather than 1840.

1. Forward Six and Back (Woodchopper's Reel)
2. My Little Girl
3. Duck and Dive (Top of Cork Road, Tobin's Favorite)

These two (date unknown) were with musicians Jon Bekoff and Rose Sinclair. Judging from the crowd noise and the nature of the dances, this is for a group of beginners.

4. Duck for the Oyster (Liberty)
5. Lady Round the Lady (Wabash Cannonball)

This short biography was written by his daughter Sally, herself a musician and dance caller.
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My dad, John Newton, grew up in Jamaica, Vermont in the 1930s. It was a time when square dancing was in important form of entertainment for many people. In the summertime you could go to a dance every night of the week if you were willing to travel a bit. Wardsboro, Newfane, Windham. and Londonderry are a few of the towns that had dance halls and regular dances. When John was a teenager he and his brother put quite a few miles on the old Model A Ford driving to dances.

Most of the dances were New England squares with singing calls. My dad danced them so many times that later, when he was teaching high school in Chester VT and saw the students were interested in square dancing, he was able to call for them. He invited the students over to our house, which has a big room in it, and taught them to dance. My brother, and I, who were around seven and eight years old, learned as well.

At first my dad called to records. In the early 1970s we put together a band with an old French Canadian fiddler, and several young musicians from the area. The band was called The Turkey Mountain Window Smashers. Turkey Mountain was in our back yard. Smash the Windows is an Irish jig.

Over the years the members of the band changed many times, but John was the caller. He continued to call the New England squares, but enjoyed calling contras as well. He often adapted the singing calls to other tunes so he could call with fiddlers who had a different repertoire. He learned to play the bass because he loved the music and so in his words “he had something to lean on”. He called for community dances, schools, private parties of all kinds, weddings and festivals.

John was a teacher, and this was one form of teaching that he continued to do even as he aged and dealt with illness. He loved to dance. During his life time he brought that love of dancing to many people. I learned much of what I know about dancing and calling from him. The last dance that he called was in October 2012, at the Windham Meeting House, as part of their annual harvest festival. He died this past February.

Sally Newton
April 29 2013

Creator

John Newton

Contributor

Steve Green, Sally Newton

Spatial Coverage

USA, Vermont, Jamaica

Temporal Coverage

1970s; 1980s

Item Relations

Item: John Newton - Turkey Mountain Window Smashers is related to This Item