Category Archives: Albuquerque

Thank You, Musicians!

Musician Appreciation by Dancers (MAD)
This article first appeared in the New Mexico Folk Music and Dance Society (FOLKMADS) newsletter, Vol. 9, Issue 6, November/December 2006. It was then picked up by the Country Dance and Song Society News, Issue 194, January/February 2007, page 12. It has been reprinted in various folk music and dance newsletters around the country.

Ideas for Dancers’ Consideration
By Merri Rudd,

A very long time ago, a musician told me, “You are one of the few who think the musicians are important. You appreciate us.”

“Important?!” I exclaimed, “It is because of you that dance is possible.”

As a caller, I have spent a lot of time attending band practices and on stage, thinking about the role musicians have in driving the dance. The music energizes, inspires, and wallops the dancers’ senses, inciting movement, excitement and, with a little luck, magic.

In the early days of New Mexico’s FolkMADs dances, the Megaband always provided the music. In 1990 the organization began to pay bands, but those fees don?t amount to much. The reason you see band members on the stage is because they love the music and playing for lively dancers. The best reward for a dance musician is seeing, hearing, and feeling the dancers’ excitement, so don’t hold back.

Albuquerque and Santa Fe Megaband musicians have played for dances for more than 20 years free of charge. Their donation of services has allowed FolkMADS to save thousands of dollars to buy complete sound systems for both communities, host special events, and cover losses when some dances have low attendance.

So, as dancers, how can we express our appreciation for the rowdy dance music so willingly provided by the bands? How about:

1. Clap enthusiastically after each tune. Seasoned bands deserve your praise; newer bands need your encouragement.

2. LOOK at the musicians on stage. When you progress to the top of the dance line and stand out for 32 seconds until you become active, take this opportunity to admire the musicians on stage. Note which instruments they?re playing. Without distracting them too much, smile or tap your foot or clog or do whatever else will show you appreciate their rhythms and tunes.

3. If a particular tune revs you up, whoop and shout from the dance floor. Bands love the synergy that comes from knowing their tune fit a particular dance so well that the dancers couldn’t help but holler.

4. Bring the musicians homemade treats to help fuel them throughout the evening (no sticky buns or other items that will mess up their strings or fingers). You try maintaining a consistent energy and strong dance tempo for 3 hours without refreshment; they need fuel just like other fine machines.

5. If refreshments are served at a dance, let the musicians have first dibs. They’ve earned the right to “eat first.” Plus, they must be back on stage in just a few minutes.

6. If you see musicians milling about during the break, don’t be timid. Go up to them and thank them for their time and music. If you have especially enjoyed their tunes, let them know! Most musicians don’t bite and are flattered to hear from you.

7. Sometimes less-experienced or shy or quiet Megabanders find themselves in uncomfortable lead musician roles due to competing commitments of other musicians. They may be the only fiddler or guitarist for the first time in their lives with the great responsibility of leading the melody or rhythm for the entire dance. These musicians especially need you. If you observe a new musician face, a fearful face, or a face with visual cues that signal a need for help, give them extra support, encouragement, and appreciation at the end of each tune. (Do this for new dancers too!)

8. Whatever you do to express appreciation, do NOT rush onto the stage. We old-timers will always remember when a caller suggested someone might kiss the fiddler in the middle of a square dance and broke the fiddler’s bow in the process. Respect the musicians’ instruments and space.

9. Some bands have CDs; shell out the $15 to support these artists. Yes, they almost all have day jobs. But their music is a labor of love; they deserve your support.

10. At the end of the night, gather at the edge of the stage and clap prolongedly and fervently. Our dances are homemade fun and we should always remember how special that is. You’d surely thank your grandma for that great homemade pie; don’t forget to thank your local musicians for those great homemade tunes! Remember, it is because of these musicians that dancing is possible.

Email me with other ideas about how to express appreciation for our musicians, and I’ll post them on this blog. Thanks to Albuquerque musician Jane Phillips and Santa Fe musician Will McDonald for helping me with this post.

(c) 2006 Merri Rudd, All Rights Reserved,

Joyce Briscoe

Joyce, Dec. 2005, after receiving ACLU Volunteer of Year Award
Photo by Merri Rudd, (c) 2006, All Rights Reserved

A reunion for Joyce is planned for Friday, November 3, 2006, 3-7 p.m., Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque. Click here for details.

Joyce Briscoe, 56, and her long-time friend and colleague Allys (Alice) Brice, 63, died when their car collided with a semi-truck on September 13, 2006. You can read the words, imagine the gruesome, and feel the kick in the heart pretty easily by viewing the news articles about their deaths.

Albuquerque Tribune Article

What you can’t know are the numbers of lives that Joyce and Alice touched and changed and inspired over the span of 30 years. I did not know Alice; I knew Joyce. And I cannot let the untimely death of Joyce Briscoe go by without comment.

Joyce was a tireless advocate on behalf of human and civil rights, well-known within and outside of the legal community. She volunteered thousands of hours to help protect the ideals she held so dear. Peace, justice and equality were not just abstract concepts to Joyce; she worked nonstop to enact positive change within our community. She volunteered nearly full-time at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) office in Albuquerque, for free, for fun, for conviction when she didn’t have to do a darn thing. She was “retired,” after all. She chose to volunteer, she chose to contribute, she chose to stay vigilant in today’s troubled times.

Joyce revered the U.S. Constitution, the legal and judicial systems, and the basic rights that formed our nation’s foundation. She was informed and engaging. She was never complacent, always hopeful. Even those who disagreed with Joyce probably liked her. Joyce packed more life and action into her 56 years than most of us could accomplish in several lifetimes.

Joyce also taught school for 25 years. I imagine she taught countless students to think independently and to analyze all sides of an issue before taking a position. She supported unpopular positions, based on principle. She lived with integrity. She did right for right’s sake. One of Joyce’s former students posted an eloquent and insightful tribute to Joyce at: (Remembering Joyce Briscoe, September 17, 2006). Still other students posted rememberances on the Albuquerque Tribune blog site link listed above.

Those of us who knew Joyce personally can attest that she radiated goodness and genuine care for others. She was feisty and fun; she had a compassionate heart and a resolve of steel. Whether Joyce was teaching, taking a yoga class, blogging about civil liberties, or organizing major community events, she did so with fervor and flair. May we all live our finite lives with the grace and joy and passion with which Joyce Briscoe lived hers. She deserved at least 30 more years of rabble-rousing, conscience-raising, and spirited discourse.

The glowing (and sometimes hyperbolic) adjectives that people use when describing those who have died will not be exaggerations in Joyce’s case. She was a remarkable and classy lady. We who count ourselves among her family, friends, students, and colleagues are utterly heartbroken by her absence. The best we can do to honor Joyce and Alice is to keep trying, to keep working, to keep hoping for better times.

Other tributes:
Former Albuquerque Mayor Jim Baca has posted a blog entry at:

Portions of this blog entry first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal, Business Outlook Section, “Ask the Probate Judge” column on Thursday, September 21, 2006. Reprinted with permission.

Judge Merri Rudd
Bernalillo County Probate Judge

THE Bird Find of a Lifetime!

Rare Yellow Grosbeak in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Feb. 22, 2006
Photos by Mark Justice Hinton (c) 2006

New Photos posted on full blog at (see especially photo posted 3/14/06 March 2006 Folk Enews, 2nd Half)

This all started when my court administrator Lori gave me an article from the Albuquerque Tribune about a rare sighting of a yellow grosbeak. If you read the Sibley Guide to Birds, you will learn that the yellow grosbeak normally lives in Mexico and points south. Sibley states, “There are few confirmed records of Yellow Grosbeak from Arizona, despite many reports. As always when reporting such a rare bird, take extra care in the identification and be sure to eliminate all similar species….” Until a few weeks ago, there were no known reports of yellow grosbeaks in New Mexico, ever.

I had heard about this grosbeak in January 2006 when our friends Dave Mehlman, an ornithologist with the Nature Conservancy, and Kathleen Hall came over one Saturday. That morning they had been in the yard of Ray Powell, a veterinarian, environmentalist, candidate for state land commissioner, and friend of mine, who lives across the road from Dave and Kathleen. Apparently, the bird was making quite a stir and had attracted about 30 or 40 folks, including our teenage neighbor Michael Hilchey, there to observe it.

Then I read the Tribune article. It so happened that Dave Mehlman, who is also an ace contra dancer, was giving a talk at the Natural History Museum’s Dynamax Theater on Tuesday, February 21, about the ivory-billed woodpecker recovery project. [Aside: Dave is on the national recovery team for the ivory-billed woodpecker, and we’re very proud of him.] I told Dave I would bring him the article from the Tribune, which he hadn’t seen.

A young woman named Laurel with the New Mexico Audubon Society was sitting in front of us in the Dynamax, along with Turtle Bear Guillermo who also dances with us on occasion. Laurel overhead us talking about the article and said, “The grosbeak moved to 1412 Las Lomas. I saw it there this afternoon.” “Really?!” I said, “Our friends live at 1601 Las Lomas.” About that time, Melissa and Lew, who live at 1601 Los Lomas and are also dancers, walked into the theatre (we didn’t even know they were coming). We passed them the article and decided we’d go see Lew today and walk down to 1412 to look for the bird.

As small town Albuquerque goes, 1412 Las Lomas NE turned out to be the home of Kay Bratton, an attorney I’ve known for more than 20 years! Mark, Lew and I went there at noon with burritos from Golden Pride. Kay had left a sign in the front with instructions about where to sit and where to look. We went in the backyard and settled around the patio table. Her signs didn’t tell us there was a “vicious guard dog”!

Grosbeak Guard Dog
Photo by Mark Justice Hinton (c) 2006

Actually, he was darling and his main objective was to beg for burrito bits and to try to drag the lunch sack off the table. Kay’s backyard also has a covered swimming pool, so be careful not to step on the cover and fall through into the water.

After 10 or 15 minutes of watching, I saw a large bird with white patches on his wings land in the pine tree above the feeders. “I think he’s here,” I told Mark and Lew. A few minutes later, the grosbeak hopped down and settled onto the seed tray with the sparrows and finches for some sunflower seeds. We saw him three times in the half hour between 12:30 and 1 p.m. Mark took several photographs and created the above collage. Identifying a yellow grosbeak is like identifying a bald eagle–even for casual birders, the yellow color and thick parrot-like beak are bulls-eye field marks. We felt a little guilty at how easy it was and how lucky we were, but we relished our brief foray into birding history. The day was truly charmed. My hubby posted his unique views about birding at (“Bird Man of Albuquerque, no, not me!,” posted 2/22/06).

Birdwatchers Lew and Merri
Photo by Mark Justice Hinton (c) 2006

We also saw juncos, several ladder-backed woodpeckers, and a spotted towhee. Kay came home to go to a dentist appointment and invited us inside where we signed the guest book. A dozen or so people had signed in today. On our way out, we met a couple from out of town who had heard about the bird. We gave them instructions, including “don’t let the dog out of the yard,” and headed home.

I love this town.

P.S. Melissa, Lew, Mark and I saw the grosbeak again last Friday. February 24. He is a very accommodating rare bird. And a few weeks later, a visiting Californian took this shot:

Yellow Grosbeak\\\'s Still at Kay\\\'s on 3/11/06
Photo taken on March 11, 2006 by Matthew Matthiessen, Ukiah, CA, who visited the bird in Albuquerque, (c) 2006

Hands Five Brings Down the House

Thanks, everyone, for showing up at the February 4 Albuquerque contra dance. Nancy Ford reports that “Officially, the count was 96. “ That is an AMAZING number of dancers. Forty dancers filled two lines during the newcomer’s class. A bunch of them were in their 20’s and 30’s, yet another shocking development. We oldies are thrilled, of course, to see some young ‘uns (at this point anyone under 50 is young to me). We still wish more of the dancers were men, but there were fewer women sitting out this time than at the last dance. Maybe word will get out and even more guys will show up next time. All we want is a little gender balance.

If we can’t have that, I would be willing to teach a “how to dance as a man” workshop for women. We might invite the men too and let them dance as the women. A few women have asked me about doing this because they’d rather dance the man’s part than sit out and miss the fun. We could do the workshop one Saturday afternoon, have a potluck dinner, and then attend the regular dance and show off our newly learned skills.

Hands Five got rave reviews for their interesting and lively tunes. They wove creative trills and accents into the tunes, including a snippet of “Hava Nagila.” The fiddler’s wife was even spotted kicking up her heels on the dance floor!

We still had two lines of dancers at the end, including several of the brand new dancers. But the finest compliment of all came from a woman from New York. She was passing through New Mexico with her teenage granddaughter, who also danced. At the end of the night, she came up to me and the band and said, “Thanks for a wonderful evening! I never expected to stumble upon such an excellent dance in New Mexico!” I guess we have known all along how fun and friendly we are. It’s nice to know that out-of-staters are finding out too.

If you missed Saturday’s dance, Hands Five and I will be doing Santa Fe’s contra dance on April 8, 2006.

Wagogo & Lura at El Rey

The beauty of a blog is that I can post things as they come up. If you’re not dancing in Santa Fe Saturday night, you can be dancing in Albuquerque with no instruction, just groovin’ and movin’ to the rhythmic music of Wagogo. I stole most of this info from neal copperman, the master concert promoter who organized ¡Globalquerque! I can personally attest that Wagogo is so dance-rhythmic, I once started a congo line with a hundred 60- to 80-year-old women dancing to them!

An AMP Dance Party with Lura (from Cape Verde) and Wagogo from Albuquerque
Saturday, January 28, 8:00 pm
El Rey Theater, 620 Central Ave SW (Downtown)
$20 advance, $25 door
Tickets at, Bookworks, and Natural Sound

Late night dance party with Wagogo follows the Lura show. Tickets to see Lura include admission
to the Wagogo show. Separate admission to see Wagogo at 10:00 is $8 at the door only, but why
would you want to skip Lura? There is a huge buzz on Lura these days. She was one of the big hits of ?Globalquerque! before heading off to play festivals across the United States and a well received European tour. For this swing through the states, she’ll be doing two nights at Globalfest in NYC, the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis and cool clubs in Chicago and Seattle.

Lura is from Santiago, the most African of the Cape Verde Islands, located about 300 miles off
the coast of Senegal. The music is a sexy, slinky Afro-Portuguese blend, combining styles like batuku (songs inspired by the rhythm and gossip of communal laundering) and funana (an accordion-based dance song) with Portuguese Fado and jazz.

The night will end with a late night dance party with one of Albuquerque’s best world music bands
– Wagogo. Several members will have just returned from Zimbabwe, so they should be full of new ideas and energy. This is a rare chance to see Wagogo in a big theater with a great dance floor. In case you haven’t heard, the El Rey has been no smoking for over a year now. If you’ve never been, there is a wooden dance floor in front of the stage and the theater is tiered. There will be tables and chairs out on the other tiers for those who don’t want to dance all night. Visit for more info. And boogey on…

Albuquerque Dancing

Saturday’s dance at the Albuquerque Square Dance Center had over 60 attendees. Unfortunately, there were 15 extra women! Come on, guys, women only want one thing from guys: a guy who can dance. Don’t you have friends you want to include in the sport of contra dancing?! I’m willing to dance the man’s part some of the time, but not all of the time.

Sunday’s dance was spectacular! Noralyn Parsons called the entire evening of elegant English and zesty contras, including the Fandango, Winter Dreams, Eternal Bond, The Wedding Ring (a cool mixer by Erik Hoffman), and the Bee’s Knees. THIRTY-FIVE dancers showed up, a record high from the usual 20 or so. The Dance Studio looked lovely with lights and snowflakes. Gary Papenhagen was joined on fiddle by one of his 14-year-old students, Bo Olcott on guitar, and Lou Blackwell on bass. They musically emphasized the balances, made the English tunes hang in the air, and had a grand old time playing. We had virtual gender balance and were joined by 22-year-old T.J. Womack, son of Richard. He was a GOOD dancer! I told him to bring a dozen friends next time. A couple from Jemez Springs had found the dance on the internet and they attended. Now they want to host a dance in Jemez Springs, outside under the stars. Let me know if you want to play or call for that.