Swinging on a Gate

Swinging on a Gate photograph (18K)

Swinging on a Gate has been playing high-energy music for New England contras and squares since 1986. The toe-tapping tunes and rhythms from fiddle, flute, piano, and string bass get a special lift from the exciting sounds of clarinet, soprano sax, and sometimes banjo and electric guitar. Well-known for its unique blend of traditional New England stylings with a swingy sound, hinting at anything from Dixieland to rockabilly to klezmer, the group plays throughout New England at public dances, festivals, weddings and private parties. Long-time guest performers, they play at the annual New England Folk Festival in Natick, Massachusetts every April.

Jim Guinness plays winds with the group. He first started playing clarinet in grade school, saxophone in high school, and flute in his 20s, and has been playing for contra dancing since the early 1980s. A long-time fan of jazz and other American and world musics, he also composes dance tunes. A self-employed computer consultant, Jim lives in Newton, Massachusetts.

Judy Francis, co-founder of Swinging on a Gate with Jim, began keyboard studies on the organ as a child, and has been playing piano in contra dance bands since the mid-80s. Her keen musicianship and supportive playing help define the dynamics of the group. A Northwest Morris dancer, in the rest of her life she is a social policy researcher and teaches at Brandeis University.

Alan Bradbury, string bass player, joined the group in 1992. He also plays accordion with the Cajun dance band Magnolia, which features his wife Michelle Kaminsky on fiddle. A member of the French-Canadian group Chanterelle, Alan has made several recordings. He is a self-employed piano tuner and reconditioner, and lives in Barrington, Rhode Island.

Nat Hewitt began music studies at age nine with the cello. He learned the banjo at age 13, the fiddle at age 15, and currently plays 11 instruments. A resident of Nelson, New Hampshire, Nat tours New England schools with an educational program on American music, and also plays with the dance band Reckless Abandon, which he founded. Last year Nat won the Martha's Vineyard Fiddle Contest and recently released a solo CD.

For information, call Jim Guinness at (866) 228-6668 or send him e-mail at jmg@atlanticwinds.com

For more dances, bands, callers, organizations and resources on contradancing, check out Contra Dance Links on the Web.

Produced by Charlie Seelig
This page last updated on May 7, 2002.