As Eloise & Co., accordionist Rachel Bell and violinist Becky Tracy kick off the TapRoot Sessions 2022 concerts | Berkshire landscapes
Balfolk features French music and social dance moves, often with broader European influences.
The duo met in 2014 during a contradance, influential musician Tracy played with guitarist husband Keith Murphy.
“I was doing the French dance part of the gig,” Bell said in a recent phone interview. “I was a big fan of Becky’s music over the years and we played together that night. It was kind of magical, we were super connected, there was a real synergy with the music.
With Bell in western Pennsylvania and Tracy in Brattleboro, Vermont, solidifying their partnership “took a little while,” Bell said.
“We got together in Ithaca, NY, halfway between our homes, to go through some tunes for a gig. We didn’t get airborne for five hours, we just kept playing,” she said.
They quickly realized, Bell said, that “it’s something special that we have to do.”
When naming the duo, Tracy came up with possible French words — flowers, food, women’s names.
“Eloise was on the list, and I said, ‘Absolutely not,'” Bell said. “My middle name is Louise and I thought that would be weird.”
When she found out that Tracy’s middle name was also Louise, “I did a full 180 and said, ‘Oh yeah. “”
“& Co.” was added to include guitarists they play with occasionally, “none of [whom] having the middle name Louise,” joked Bell.
They played mostly contredanses and then increasingly gigs, “crisscrossing the continent”, Bell said, for weekends and contredanse festivals in California, Toronto, Atlanta and, memorably, Mount Hood in Oregon.
Balfolk has been a common thread throughout, Bell said, noting a “pre-pandemic explosion of interest.” [thanks to] a dynamic group in Washington DC »
Three years ago, Bell moved to Brattleboro to be closer to Tracy.
“We’re just down the street, rehearsing as much as we want,” Bell said — including during the pandemic shutdown, but with creative planning when they needed to stay outdoors.
When the temperature reached 90 F, they played on the porch of a local farm where higher elevation made it cooler. When the weather was really nice, they trained in the shady cemetery. When it rained, they headed for the covered bridge.
They also recorded a second album during the hiatus, following the success of their 2018 debut album “More, Please”.
A full-time musician since 2012, Bell grew up playing the piano, “discovering Irish, Celtic and French folk music along the way,” she said. “My flute teacher pushed me an accordion one day and I fell in love with it.”
Meeting the contradance as a high school student, “I was completely bowled over, it was the most fun I’ve ever had.”
His musical partner, Bell noted, “has dance music in his blood; his father and grandfather both called contradances.
“Dance music informs everything we do – music that has been around for hundreds of years and compositions based on those styles. We dig a lot, listen [to] old recordings, archival tunes.
Formerly known as Dewey Sessions, TapRoot Sessions concerts are co-programmed by Maggie McRae, Principal of Dewey Hall, and Beth Carlson, Chair of the Dewey Hall Board of Trustees and former producer of the Oldtone Roots Music Festival.
“This area has a good base of people who play, listen and dance to traditional music,” McRae said in a recent interview. “The contradance music community is extremely strong. There is an intergenerational aspect [not] as prevalent in other genres.
After featuring mostly local artists outdoors in 2020 and 2021, concerts have moved inside the wood-paneled stone building, built in 1887 to honor notable resident Reverend Orville Dewey, founder of the Friendly Union, an organization aimed at increasing good and good feelings. and promote intelligence and cheerfulness.
“Dewey Hall lends itself well to intimate concert experiences,” McRae noted, “the hall is so lively, minimal amplification really sings so well.”
“This year, we are focusing on ‘Women in Roots’ and the contributions women have made to society and culture. A lot of the artists that came through were male, especially the ones that toured. There are some truly amazing women who could represent the traditions as well.
McRae and Tracy are planning a winter, spring and fall series of six concerts covering various genres, from jazz to world music.
“February’s gig will be Boston-based Sol Y Canto,” McRae said, “they play a variety of Latin American music.”
For now, the musicians will be from the Northeast. Pre-pandemic artists came from as far away as Denmark. “Hopefully one day we can bring some of that back,” McRae said.
“I am so grateful to Dewey Hall [kept] music and community connections during COVID,” said Bell, who performed two outdoor concerts there with his band “Alchemy.” “Playing outside was a profound experience, we wanted to play for real people and feel that community vibe…to see real people tapping their feet.”
Knowing that his music gets people up and dancing, Bell wants audiences to stay safe.
“We’re going to teach a French ‘Hanter Dro’ dance that you can do on your own,” she said.
While most of their music is instrumental, “we do a few songs [with] a choir to involve everyone.
She hopes the concert will bring joy to people. “Joy and connection, we all need it.”