A Brief History of the Star Hampshire Traditional Music & Dance Weekend

A lot more could be said, but this should be a good start. This history reflects my interests and preferences, but hopefully will be of interest to you too. Be sure to check out the Archival Pages if you're interested in our history.

Part 1: Star Hampshire while Directed by Patrick Stevens

Star Hampshire was started and run pretty much completely by Patrick Stevens for its first 16 years. That would have been a remarkable enough accomplishment in itself, but along with that Patrick was the chair of the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend Committee for several years, organizer of the Kittery Dance during the earlier period, photographer, swimmer, father, husband, even managing to work full time on top of all that, and who knows what else he did! He did everything with an amazing amount of energy and enthusiasm. He always was coming up with ideas for Star Hampshire and for the Ralph Page Weekend. Of course not every single one was good, but a large proportion of them were.

The Star Hampshire Weekend, like the Ralph Page Weekend, has always had a more traditional feel to it than most dance weekends and festivals - and when I say that I mean it in the very best way. It has a relaxed, friendly, community atmosphere (how could it not in such a wonderful place?), excellent music on the traditional side but always exciting, and the same with the calling and the style of dancing.

Perhaps it’s the location; how can you not have a sense of history and tradition when you’re completely surrounded by it? It was also partly because Patrick encouraged that sort of atmosphere in a variety of ways, and because so many of us who attend the weekend lean in that direction.

Certainly we do modern dances; and when we have people like Rod Miller as musicians no one could complain that the music is old-fashioned or anything! But out on that island how could you not have a sense of historical perspective? Take a look at the photo pages and you’ll see what I mean!

For years we took the boat from Portsmouth, generally the Thomas Laighton. In 2001 the weekend was just three days after the September 11 attack, and it was a subdued, reflective time; but I think we were all glad to be there, able to get away briefly from the insanity of the rest of the world.  After 2001, thanks to increased security measures, they started to insist on rather drastic security measures even to board the ferry. In 2005 we escaped some of the security issues by taking a smaller ship that wasn't subject to all the same regulations. Starting in 2006 we left from Rye instead of Portsmouth. This made for a shorter distance which combined with a faster boat resulted in a short ferry ride that many of us found disappointing. It also meant having to be there even earlier than usual which was difficult for those of us who had to work on Friday.

Sadly Patrick’s heart wasn’t as strong as the rest of him, and he died of a heart attack in December 2007. We had a small gathering on Star Island in his honor the following year (2008) on the usual weekend, and there was discussion of the idea of reviving the weekend.

Part 2: Star Hampshire under New Leadership

It was with great joy that under the leadership of Peggy Martin, Chrissy Fowler and David Millstone we returned for a real, full weekend in September 2009, knowing that the Star Hampshire Traditional Music & Dance Weekend really would continue. It was impossible not to notice Patrick’s absence. But I haven’t the slightest doubt that Patrick would have been glad to know that we were out there the next year and every year since. In 2009 in addition to Tony Parkes' great calling, we had music by the Figments. It was great fun to dance to Anna Paton's clarinet playing.

In 2010 we were back to taking the ferry from Portsmouth. That was also nearly the last year of registration by filling out a paper form downloaded from the web site. In 2011 we made use of a fillable PDF form although it was still printed and mailed in as the organizers wanted a paper record, and the medical release signature had to be written in by hand.  In 2012 we were back to filling out printed forms.

But a major event of that year was that Jay Ungar and Molly Mason were on staff for the first (and hopefully not last) time. I remember talking to Patrick several years earlier and he expressed interest in the idea of getting Jay and Molly there, along with Old Grey Goose at the same time. It's possible that I had something to do with that idea for a combination. I kind of think so but don't remember for sure. I do remember thinking it would be an outstanding combination. Although their styles are so different, I've always thought they would enjoy each other; and how could you go wrong with such excellent music! It still hasn't happened, but at least part of Patrick's wish happened, and it's still not too late.

Often we've had fun playing music on the boat on the way there or back. But it was never as much fun as it was that year. Jay and Molly were very much into the idea. We started playing shortly after leaving the Island, and played until we reached Portsmouth. I think we played nearly every tune with a nautical theme to its title that we could come up with. As is often the case, some of us went out for supper afterwards. I don't remember the restaurant as being all that great, but more importantly they were willing to let us stick around and play tunes. We played some tunes, and then we played some more, and yet a few more, and I think they finally had to make sure we knew it was closing time before we quit!

Starting in 2013, registration went online, thanks to a system set up by the Star Island Corporation. We've been using it ever since, although there are still provisions set up for registering by hand. In 2014 Rod Miller and Peter Barnes were on staff, bringing another set of outstanding musicians out to Star Island. In 2015 Tony Parkes was back, and George Wilson & Selma Kaplan were on staff. It doesn't get a whole lot better than that. It was a real treat to have George and Selma there. Not only are they both excellent musicians, but they're both very nice people. As an added bonus, not only was the other band (Rebecca McCallum & Jane Knoeck) very good, but they were fun people too.

It now looks likely that we’ll be dancing on Star Island for many years to come.

 

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But a major event of that year was that Jay Ungar and Molly Mason were on staff for the first (and hopefully not last) time. I remember talking to Patrick several years earlier and he expressed interest in the idea of getting Jay and Molly there, along with Old Grey Goose at the same time. It's possible that I had something to do with that idea for a combination. I kind of think so but don't remember for sure. I do remember thinking it would be an outstanding combination. Although their styles are so different, I've always thought they would enjoy each other; and how could you go wrong with such excellent music! It still hasn't happened, but at least part of Patrick's wish happened, and it's still not too late.

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