Published October 29, 2004
Springfield, Missouri

Solefest's fiddle tunes 'made for dancing'
By Michael A. Brothers
News-Leader Staff

Concert of old-time tunes, workshops, Sunday brunch round out the annual event at SMS.

This year's edition of contra-dance shindig Solefest features music by Ozarks duo Kim and Jim Lansford.

The Lansfords hail from Galena but have performed their brand of old-time fiddle and country music across the continental United States, Nova Scotia, France and Japan.

Performing at the annual Solefest all weekend at Southwest Missouri State University's McDonald Arena is nice not only because it's close to home, Jim Lansford says, but because the music will be put to its intended use.

"All these old fiddle tunes were made for dancing," he says. "They were made to dance to years and years ago."

Solefest will feature plenty of dancing. Organized by the local Traditional Dance and Music Society, it highlights contra-dancing, an easy-to-learn style of traditional dance set to old-time music.

"You don't have to learn a lot to take part and participate in the dances," says TDMS member Debi Harpe. "If you can walk, you're there."

For those who may not care for dancing, the Lansfords will perform an hourlong house concert with longtime collaborators Barbara Weathers on fiddle and Jim Ruth on banjo. They're billing themselves as the Frakes.

After the concert, the chairs at McDonald Arena will be pushed aside and a night of contra-dancing will commence.

Lansford says old-time music has appealed to him since he was a kid when his parents exposed him to it. He began playing fiddle in junior high, and eventually found a music partner and wife in Kim, who plays guitar and piano.

They have been playing together for 24 years and married almost as long. Knowing each other so well can add a layer of intimacy to the music, Lansford says.

"We certainly have the same kinds of thoughts about what kind of music we want to play and how we want to interpret it," he says.

Also on the bill is Stringdancer, a collection of string players based in St. Louis.

Solefest begins with a dance from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. today and continues Saturday with three workshops featuring live bands. Instructor Ron Buchanan from Pittsburgh will teach.

"We're just excited to have him because he's been doing this so long," Harpe says. "Even if it's your first dance, by the end of the evening he'll make you feel like you're accomplished."

On Sunday afternoon there will be a brunch and a final dance. Harpe says all that's need are a pair of comfortable shoes "and a smile."

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