Old-time fiddling fuels band

Jeff Spevak
Staff music critic

The Democrat and Chronicle - (May 10, 2007) From the sound of the music, you'd think Megan Beller has been fiddling around for decades. But she's only 25, begging the question: How does someone so young write and play music well beyond her years?

"My dad is a real folk-music enthusiast," Beller says. "When I was growing up, he'd go out and find these records that had been recorded in the mountains and stuff."

Yeah, you don't find Christina Aguilera in the holler. Beller's father, John Wobus, was gathering reels, jigs, Celtic and Appalachian sounds. He played in bands, as well, and "I was the little kid that would fiddle, and that was cute," Beller says.

Now she has her own band, Contranella. Joined by her dad on piano and husband Charley Beller on percussion, the group specializes in contra dances. They play 8 p.m. today (May 10) at Covenant United Methodist Church, 1124 Culver Road.

No mere line dance for hillbillies, contras are fiddle-fueled events in which a caller Thursday it's David Smuker teaches a dance before each tune.

"Do-Si-Do dances, circle to the left, circle to the right, pretty straightforward stuff," Beller says. "But you've gotta know your left from your right pretty well."

A native of Manlius, outside of Syracuse, Beller mastered fiddle as a violin student at the Eastman School of Music.

"It's two different styles of music," she says. "The violin came from Europe, and the immigrants brought it with them, but most of them didn't play the classical stuff you heard in a concert hall. They played the popular music. Which was fiddle music.

"A lot of people think the fiddle is sort of a different instrument, more homemade. But it's the same, there's not anything different that is discernable to the eye. It's the same instrument I performed on in the Eastman Philharmonia, when I was in school, that I take into the woods and play at festivals."

She met Charley, a University of Rochester student, while at Eastman. Shared interests like disc golf have gone by the wayside since the birth of their 1-year-old son. But she's teaching violin and fiddle. And they still dance. While Charley's also into martial arts, he has yet to confuse the two. "He hasn't injured me in any way, so far," Beller says. "I guess that's why our marriage is doing so well."

For more about the band, check www.contranella.com.

Photo caption: Charley and Megan Beller of Contranella.

Return to the articles section of the contradancelinks.com web site.

Produced by Charlie Seelig
This page last updated on November 3, 2007.