Ottawa Contra Dance

Welcome to the Ottawa Contra All Comers Band

Our goal is to have as much fun as possible while creating energetic and joyful music for dancers... and you are invited to join in the fun!

The All Comers band is fully open to musicians of ANY AGE and ABILITY LEVEL. We will be playing for the new community dances which are geared towards ALL ages, especially school-aged families.

Wondering what an open band and/or community dance look like? We don't have any video from Ottawa as our dances are starting February 2019. However, there are a few videos from other dances at bottom of this page in case you want to get a feel of what will be happening.

Emily Addison (piano) is the band leader --- she will guide the musicians. We will have one amplified melody player to carry the tune in addition to the piano being amplified. (The lead melody player will usually be Greg Brown on fiddle.) We rely on other strong players to support the energy and drive while players with less experience are definitely needed too --> the more musicians having fun on stage, the more fun it will be for the dancers!

A special invite to kids --- we want this band to be all ages. So if you have a little kiddo who wants to play, please bring them along. (They can even join in on an instrument like a ukulele or fiddle with NO musical experience.)

Also - a special invite to accompanists! This band is not only for people who play the melody. It's for anyone who wants to jam along on the chords. All of our music notation includes the chords. The only exception is that Emily has to be the piano player in order to hold the band together and it would be hard to have a second piano player... but accordions playing chords, guitars, double basses and the like are great.

A quick note for experienced musicians: Playing for dancers is different than playing at a jam session. Our job is to play energetic and lively tunes at a decent speed that give lots of lift to the dancers. Don't worry if you have never played for dancing ---> we can coach you on the tricks of making music fun for dancers. We would love to have you play with us!

The All Comers Band will play all of the upcoming community dances - February 2, March 2, April 6 and May 4 2019.

All musicians get in free; $5 for everyone else (ages 2 and under free) or $20 for a family (max 2 adults). The community dances are from 6:30-7:30pm - show up ready to play by 6:15pm. You are welcome to stay for free in order to participate in the contra beginner lesson (730-8pm) and the first two contra dances of the evening. (If you want to stay for more of the contra dance, you will need to pay the evening dance entry fee.) More information about the community dances here.

About the tunes we will play:

You don't need to know the tunes in order to join the band. You simply have to be willing to learn!

All of the music for the sets are listed below. The tunes are a carefully chosen to be as easy as possible while also being a mix of tunes that are familiar to local session musicians, tunes from across Canada, as well as dance tunes from the contra repertoire.

While it's totally acceptable to show up and sight read, it will be more fun for you (and definitely the dancers!) if you learn some of the tunes ahead of time. We have included both the notation (with CHORDS for the ACCOMPANISTS) and recordings of all the tunes below.

If you want to know what to practice first, we will definitely play Sets #1, #2 #9 and the Log Drivers Waltz at the first few dances. There will be other sets in an evening but Emily will pick those on the fly depending on the dance chosen by the alter.

Dance musicians are much stronger when they know the tune by heart --- that way they can focus on the dancers as well as playing with the other musicians around them. However, if you need sheet music, it is your responsibility to bring your copy and a stand.


We won't have official practices. However, it you want to get a bit of practicing in, join us at the community potlucks which will start at 5:15pm before EVERY community dance. (Bring something yummy to share as well as your own cutlery, plate and water bottle.) As soon as we're done eating, Emily will lead an informal practice. This is a great way to become a bit more familiar with the tunes AND to get tips on how to play for dancing.

There will also be an informal practice on January 19th. There is an afternoon family dance that day (3:30-5pm) followed by a community potluck. Right after the potluck, Emily will lead a practice that will last until 7:30pm. (Then the contra dance lesson starts.)

A special thank you to the other open dance bands throughout North America that have inspired us to try this idea. And special thanks to David Kaynor and Chrissy Fowler for our name!

For more information, email Emily at

Hope to see you and your instrument soon!

Tune notation and recordings:

Below are links to the tune notation and the chord charts

Below are links to YouTube audio recordings for almost all of the tunes. A few of the tunes could definitely use better recordings but they were sometimes hard to find!

Examples of other Community Dances and All Comer Bands

Belfast Maine has an early evening community dance with an All Comers Band before their contra dance.

The SPUDS open band plays for contra dances in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

BIDA (Boston) has open bands play for their family dances and occasionally for their contra dances. This is a contra dance