New Email Newsletter

To improve communications, the SCDS Board voted to launch a periodic newsletter to all the folks on the email list (over 1,000 now) to let everyone in on what isn’t, after all, supposed to be any kind of a secret. This is the first, and probably longest, of those letters.

In May, thinking we saw happy days ahead, we appointed a committee to study the science to determine the conditions under which we could resume dancing. Dancing is not like many of the activities that have resumed; while breathing briskly, we move right through where someone has just been, inhaling air they’ve just exhaled. A very efficient transmission mode for a respiratory virus. Nevertheless, it was then looking like we were on the verge of having a community transmission level where the risk would be at least reasonable for vaccinated dancers, but the Delta variant changed everything. In September, as that new surge began to fade, the community transmission level for Sacramento County was again dropping rapidly, only for it to stop dropping at the end of the month and spend all of October waffling around a level that’s roughly double a reasonable risk factor, while continuing to drop in the Bay Area. 

We moved into a mode where we’d optimistically begin planning dances we’d later have to cancel. At present, all November dances are canceled, but December’s are tentative, as it wouldn’t quite take a miracle to make them possible. The last of these, the New Year’s Eve Contra, is still being planned, though the band understands that cancellation is not unlikely. We watch the transmission rates closely, looking for signs of hope. If a dance has to be canceled, we’d much prefer to give at least two weeks’ notice of it, but in a pinch, it could be much less.

In other news, in recent months we’ve added the subscribers of the English Country Dance email list to this list too, and also the subscribers to the old Yahoo Groups list, to streamline getting the word out as we approach restarting. 

To receive these newsletters and email announcements of SCDS events, sign up at

Update on efforts to restart dancing

We’re not there yet, but we will dance again.

None of us imagined in the early spring of 2020 that our dances would be closed so long, nor that there would be so many difficult questions associated with reopening. As I write this in mid-August of 2021, the Delta variant is dramatically changing the scientific consensus of what constitutes safe behavior around COVID-19. The Delta variant is more contagious than previous variants, not just to the unvaccinated, but to a much larger number of vaccinated people than had been seen with the earlier variants. Outdoor activities had been considered largely safe, but there have been recent superspreader outdoor events that were open only to the vaccinated and the recently tested.

One factor that remains useful is the community transmission rate, which gives an indication of how present the virus is in our area, and how likely it is to walk into one of our dances. Right now it’s very high here, and worse, is on the upward side of a surge, making dancing risky even for the vaccinated. The Board of Directors of the Sacramento Country Dance Society is very closely monitoring developments in the pandemic, while studying the conditions under which we could reopen for vaccinated dancers and the conditions necessary to safely invite all dancers. Please watch this space as the situation develops. We’re hoping to have better news once the current surge passes.

Martin Lodahl
SCDS Board President

May 9th – The Whoots Concert

On May 9th at 4 pm Pacific time, SCDS will host The Whoots for a live online Mother’s Day concert. Play and dance along with Shira Kammen and Jim Oakden as they present tunes and songs from 11 different countries, played on 10 different instruments, covering 7 different centuries. 

Marking the myriad manifestations of motherhood!

  • It’s a Concert! Songs and tunes from East to West, with appropriate commentary.
  • It’s a Play-Along! Concert selections and music dots (written music) for playing along can be downloaded at Musicians are encouraged to download the file and play along.
  • It’s a Dance! Most of the music will be danceable, mixing in couple dances and danceable surprises.

You can join the concert at, starting at 3:45 pm on May 9th.

After starting college on a music scholarship, Jim Oakden rapidly realized that he wasn’t cut out for six hours a day in a practice room, so he switched to science as a career while doing music for love. He launched on a musical odyssey that led first to early music and baroque, then into the captivating world of traditional and ethnic music and dance (Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, Galicia, Klezmer, Greece, Bulgaria, middle East, etc). Jim plays for English country dance and records with Roguery, Persons of Quality, and the Whoots on an absurd variety of instruments from accordion to zurna. Specializing in dance music, he has performed and taught at dance camps throughout the US and organized contra, Breton, and English dance events. In his other life, Jim is a marine biologist, and has inexhaustible stories about research diving adventures at both poles and numerous places in between.

Multi-instrumentalist Shira Kammen has spent much of her life exploring the worlds of early and traditional music of all kinds. A member for many years of the early music Ensembles Alcatraz and Project Ars Nova, she has also worked with Sequentia, Hesperion XX, the Boston Camerata, storyteller/harpist Patrick Ball, singers Azam Ali and Joanna Newsom, the Balkan group Kitka, Anonymous IV, the King’s Noyse, the Newberry and Folger Consorts, The Compass of the Rose, Vajra Voices, Calextone, the Oregon, California and San Francisco Shakespeare Festivals, the California Revels, and is the founder of Class V Music, an ensemble dedicated to providing music on river rafting trips. In the English country dance world, she plays with Roguery and The Whoots. Shira has played on over 100 CD recordings, and also on a number of movie and television soundtracks, when weird medieval instruments are needed.

Jim and Shira have played a vast diversity of music together for nearly 25 years, in close and far-flung places from the Great Barrier Reef to Iceland, Scotland, and England, along the Colorado, Grand Ronde, John Day, and Green Rivers, and in several National Parks, among them Denali, Yellowstone, Joshua Tree. Perhaps their most epic venue was at Glacier Point in Yosemite, rendering the Death March from Star Wars for a wedding recessional.

Please share this information with anyone you know who might be interested. To receive email announcements of SCDS events, sign up at

Tips: (make sure to click on the ‘friends and family’ option, so PayPal doesn’t take a fee!)
or send a check to 5607 Macdonald Ave, El Cerrito CA 94530

Upcoming events:
June 13 – Glen Loper and Bethany Waickman of Stomp Rocket

April 11 Turnip the Beet Concert

Our next online concert will feature Turnip the Beet, at 4 pm Pacific time on Sunday, April 11th.

You can join the concert at, starting at 3:45 pm on April 11th.

Turnip the Beet is a dance band duo from Nashville, Tennessee. Rooted in the traditions of Southern Appalachia and their local contra dances, Kelsey Wells and Jeremy Lekich combine fiddle, banjo, guitar, percussion, and the occasional mbira in an innovative and jubilant musical harvest. Expect to hear an organic mix of eclectic tunes from the American South, Ireland, Cape Breton, Quebec, and Scandinavia, as well as a half-bushel of grooving, homegrown originals.

Please share this information with anyone you know who might be interested. To receive email announcements of SCDS events, sign up at


Upcoming concerts:
May 9 – The Whoots

March 14 Caroline McCaskey Concert

Mark your calendar for our next online concert, with Caroline McCaskey, on March 14th, at 4 pm Pacific time. Daylight Savings Time starts the night before this concert, so remember to set your clocks forward an hour, or you’ll miss it.

Caroline McCaskey began classical violin lessons at age nine, and at age 11 she joined the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers and went to Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School. She began playing regularly for dances with The Fiddlerats while a Music Composition major at University of the Pacific. Caroline also became a Suzuki certified teacher while getting her master’s in performance at University of Denver, and today she makes her living teaching string lessons online. In 2019, Caroline released her first solo album, and returned to her roots as a Scottish fiddler by winning the 2019 U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Championship. She misses playing for dances as a member of the band Stringfire!, and is looking forward to reconnecting with the dance community! Expect to hear plenty of contra dance classics, as well as some of Caroline’s original compositions. 

Tip jar: (may show up as AltStrings, LLC)
Venmo: @Caroline-McCaskey

Please share this information with anyone you know who might be interested. To receive email announcements of SCDS events, sign up at

Upcoming concerts:
April 11 – Turnip the Beet
May 9 – The Whoots

February 7 Eloise & Co. in Concert

Mark your calendar for our next online concert, with Eloise & Co., the duo of Rachel Bell and Becky Tracy, on February 7th (the first Sunday of the month), at 4 pm Pacific time.

You can join the concert at, starting at 3:45 pm on February 7th. 

Eloise & Co. features the combined creative force of two of the country’s most sought-after dance musicians, Becky Tracy and Rachel Bell, playing Celtic, contra dance, bal folk, and Quebecois music on fiddle, accordion, and piano with unbridled energy and soaring beauty. Their depth and versatility is evident not only in their dynamic playing but also in their rich and unique repertoire, ranging from exciting original compositions to rock-solid traditional tunes. Eloise & Co. was born out of Becky and Rachel’s transcendent melodic connection, their shared love for powerful rhythmic momentum, and their joy in making music together. The blissful vibe is contagious, drawing everyone in the room into a sublime and memorable experience.

Tips are appreciated:
or Rachel Bell, 144 Beech St, Apt 1, Brattleboro, VT 05301 

Please share this information with anyone you know who might be interested. To receive email announcements of SCDS events, sign up at

Upcoming concerts:
March 14 – Caroline McCaskey
April 11 – Turnip the Beat

January 10th Audrey Knuth & Amy Englesberg in Concert and Waltz Workshop

Please save the date for our next online concert, with Audrey Knuth and Amy Englesberg, at 4 pm Pacific time on Sunday, January 10th. Earlier on the same day, at 1 pm, Star Thistle will offer a waltz workshop for musicians (preregistration required). Details for both events are below.

The Concert

Audrey Knuth and Amy Englesberg, both classically trained musicians, are two-thirds of the Free Raisins. Audrey, who recently moved to the Bay Area from Boston, plays a driving and lyrical fiddle, while Amy plays piano and accordion. The Free Raisins fuse New England roots with a modern groove. This concert promises a versatile mix of danceable tunes.

You can join the concert at, starting at 3:45 pm on January 10th. 

Tips for the band are appreciated:

The Waltz Workshop

On Sunday, January 10th, at 1:00 PM Pacific time, the members of Star Thistle are happy to offer a waltz learning workshop! They will teach two of their original waltzes, one written by Lonna and the other by David. This one-hour online event will lead melody players in learning and playing the waltzes, and offer playing tips and the stories and feelings behind the tunes. There is no fee to attend, but a charitable donation is encouraged. One possibility is the Phoenix fund to help Jeremiah McLane and his family recover from a house fire, in which they lost their instruments and music.

The workshop will be aimed for melody players, notably violin/fiddle, viola, or mandolin but is accessible to other instruments. Lonna, David, and piano wizard Cheryl McKinney will offer accompaniment tips, too.

Star Thistle is a contradance band, which has played often at the Newcastle/Auburn and Sacramento contradances, as well as other venues and special events in California. Fiddler Lonna Whipple grew up playing classical violin. As an adult, she began dancing and playing international folk dance music. Then in the nineties, playing and dancing to music cemented her move into the world of Irish and of course contradance fiddling! Playing with her bandmates in Star Thistle has been a rewarding, growing experience, including the opportunity to try composing her own tunes. David Wright also started with classical training, but experienced teen rebellion and gave up playing entirely, only rediscovering the mandolin and fiddle twenty years later – with traditional and contradance music. He joined Star Thistle in 2001 and is still loving the exploration.

The two tunes are easy waltzes in A-minor and D. Participants should be comfortable with C, G, and D scales (no fancy positions). The band suggests learning to play them by ear, though sheet music will also be provided. 

To participate, respond to for the link to the event, which will be sent by email in the second week of January.

Please share this information with anyone you know who might be interested. To receive email announcements of SCDS events, sign up at

Upcoming concerts:
Feb. 7 – Rachel Bell and Becky Tracy
March 14 – Caroline McCaskey
April 11 – Turnip the Beat

October 11th Star Thistle online concert

Mark your calendar for our next online concert, October 11th at 4 pm Pacific with Star Thistle: Lonna Whipple (fiddle), David Wright (fiddle and mandolin), and Cheryl McKinney (keyboard). This hometown favorite band plays Celtic, old-time, and other music.

You can join the concert at, starting at 3:45 pm on October 11th. 

Tips can be sent to, to be donated to the Country Dance and Song Society.

Please share this information with anyone you know who might be interested. To receive email announcements of SCDS events, sign up at

Upcoming online concerts:
November 8th – Pete’s Posse

Keeping our community in touch

Thanks so much to everyone who donated to SCDS for the Big Day of Giving! We appreciate your dedication to country dance and your fellow dancers.

During these months when we are unable to dance, we are planning some online activities to keep the community connected. To start, we will host a group discussion on Zoom at 2 pm on Sunday, May 24th, where we can keep in touch with each other and talk about what types of online music and dance activities you find appealing. Please save the date and look for a Zoom link in our email newsletter next week. If you are not yet receiving our email announcements, you can sign up at

You can check out some online events being organized by other groups at

If you’d like to support freelance callers and musicians during this difficult time, CDSS (our parent organization) has put together a list of ways to help here:

Closer to home, you can also support our musicians and dancers:
Topher Gayle
Celia Ramsay
Ryan McKasson
The Syncopaths
Nancy Thym

We look forward to seeing you virtually on May 24th and in person as soon as it is safe!

Big Day of Giving is May 7th

Thinking of all those who may need help at this time, we encourage you to give where your heart is and as you are able on the Big Day of Giving. If you have money to spare, please support organizations in our community between now and May 7th.
If you want to help SCDS put on special events and workshops, train callers and musicians, and buy big-ticket items like sound equipment, our donation page is open. Thanks to the careful stewardship of previous Board members, Sacramento Country Dance Society remains in solid financial shape. When it is safe to dance, we will be back and overjoyed to see you all again!