The pianos of Pinewoods Camp live a unique life. The usual habitat for a piano is a parlor or living room in a private home, a community hall, or perhaps a church sanctuary or concert hall. In all these places, they are sheltered from the elements and may even enjoy air conditioning in the summer. Pinewoods pianos, on the other hand, spend their summers essentially out of doors in the woods, and spend the winter tucked up in the camphouse or in Pinecones, stuffed with mothballs (to deter mice from nesting in them) and listening to the wind blowing through the pines.
Have you ever wondered why the acoustic pianos at Camp have signs on them that read “Please do not unplug the piano?” It’s because the pianos have dehumidifier rods in them valiantly trying to counter the effects of the local microclimate, formed in a pine forest between two ponds, on the wooden mechanisms inside the piano cabinet.
The “uncontrolled environment” at Camp means that, despite the dehumidifier rods, our pianos require the frequent attention of a piano technician both to keep them in tune and to make repairs. Furthermore, the piano in the C# dance pavilion is played many hours each day—probably only a piano in a conservatory practice room gets as much use – and so the cycle of normal wear and tear is accelerated.
Pianos in a private home might go years between tunings but the Pinewoods pianos get tuned at least once per week during the summer. The pianos in the C# and C# minor bandshells also get moved to the camphouse in the fall and then back to the bandshells in the late spring.
Over the years since Pinewoods’ incorporation in 1975, our pianos have been well looked after by four different technicians. Here’s a little bit about them.
John was a work weekend regular from the 1970s into the 2000s. In addition to being a trained piano technician, he was also an ethnomusicologist trained at Wesleyan, who learned to pilot a small plane in order to carry out his fieldwork in Papua New Guinea. It’s not clear how he got connected to camp—I don’t believe he was a dancer. Jacqueline Schwab, camp manager in the 1980s, thinks he may have known Gerda from the days when the Conants lived in Hartford.
Louis Gentile, of Quincy, MA, has been moving Pinewoods’ pianos faithfully every fall and spring since at least the 1980s. Also a piano technician, he specializes in restoration of player pianos.
Louis says the Pinewoods moves are a marker for him of the change of seasons. He comes with a small Toyota pickup truck with a lift on the back and a couple of dollies, and moves the two uprights from C# and C# minor in hardly any time. He often comes with an assistant, but I know for a fact that he has done the job alone on at least one occasion. The right tools can make just about any job easy!
Louis thinks he got connected to Camp because he moved a piano for Jacqueline Schwab when she lived in Cambridge. His memory is uncertain, but in addition to moving the pianos twice a year, he may have also tuned them for a time in the late 70s and early 80s.
Louis Gentile and assistant moving piano in 2022 Photo by Chris Jacobs
Ann began tuning for us in the early 1980s. She and Louis were mentored by the same older piano technician, and Louis is likely to have referred her to us.
Ann was our most local tuner, having gone to high school in Plymouth. She later lived in Carver and Middleboro and had a career as a church musician.
Sadly, Ann died suddenly in March of 2000. We were naturally quite anxious about finding another tuner in time for the camp season. It was a great relief when Chris Brown, who had substituted for her numerous times when she attended an annual church musicians’ conference, agreed to drive down from Cambridge for a regular tuning gig.
Chris Brown, a technician and concert pianist, began tuning at Pinewoods regularly in the summer of 2000 and continued through 2019.
There was no piano tuning, alas, in 2020, as Pinewoods was closed because of the COVID pandemic. PCI Executive Director at the time, Carl Mastandrea, realized that Chris was likely to have been hit hard financially by the loss of the work, as were many musicians and other gig workers affected by the pandemic shut down. In response, Carl offered to teach an online photography class for the Pinewoods Community. He requested donations for the class, a portion of which would be given to Chris. In the end, Carl was able to send Chris $1,000, and reported that Chris was incredibly touched at the generosity of Pinewoods campers, most of whom he had never met.
Tragically, Chris was killed in a car accident in the fall of 2020.
Louis Gentile tuning the Pinecones piano, July 2022 Photo by Chris Jacobs
Louis Gentile Redux
Seeking a recommendation for a new tuner, we contacted Louis Gentile. Bringing things full circle, Louis offered to add the summer tuning to his piano moving responsibilities.
Louis starts work very early in the morning, and on tuning days he can often be found in his truck in the Pinecones parking lot, having finished turning all the other pianos and waiting patiently for the 5-minute breakfast bell to ring. He has adopted this as the signal for when it is “safe” to start tuning the piano in the Pinecones living room – if anyone is still sleeping, he’ll just be helping them not to miss breakfast!
The sounds of the pianos being tuned were always a soothing background to changeover days for me in my years as manager and Executive Director (1994 – 2002). I hope that those campers who read this will take a moment, when next they are dancing to music played on one of our trusty pianos, to reflect on the faithful behind-the-scenes work that keeps our pianos, under less than ideal conditions, always ready to produce beautiful music under the skilled hands of our community’s fine pianists.
Pinewoods Covid Update
June 30, 2022
Dear Pinewoods Camp Community:
As you may have heard, we have had an outbreak of COVID-19 among dancers at Folk Days and among our crew. We, unfortunately, had to end Folk Days a day early, and CDS-Boston Centre decided to cancel the July 4 weekend session.
This is naturally an unfortunate turn of events, and we understand this might be causing anxiety for community members. We want to assure you that we are taking the following steps to mitigate risk and allow Camp to reopen as safely as possible for all future sessions:
We have had PCR tests administered for all crew, and those individuals that were negative will test again on Saturday, before the next camp session (ESCape) starts.
We have temporarily implemented an N95 mask policy for all crew.
We use Force of Nature, an EPA-registered hospital-grade sanitizer, to disinfect surfaces.
We are working with Program Providers to move more activities outdoors.
We will be installing a tent in the clearing outside the Dining Hall so we can move tables outdoors to reduce crowding during meals and provide a sheltered area for other activities.
We will continue our program of regular antigen testing for the crew.
We are temporarily minimizing interactions between crew and campers to ensure infection does not spread from crew to campers and vice versa.
We will be implementing heightened testing requirements for entrance to Camp.
We will be asking campers to sign a Covid attestation, which we are currently developing.
We are taking this situation very seriously and are putting these measures in place to address our current outbreak and avoid future outbreaks. We may also implement additional measures before camp restarts as well as over the course of the summer.
This week has required tough decisions and intensive work for Pinewoods and our Program Providers. We ask for your patience as we navigate the changes we need to make. We know you will have additional questions and we will address them when we can. Please address questions to Chris Jacobs at .
We thank our entire camp community for working together to keep everyone as safe as possible so we can continue to celebrate the magic of Pinewoods this summer.
We look forward to welcoming you to Camp and sharing dance and music with you under the pines!
Pinewoods Camp, Inc. Executive Committee
July 1, 2022
Long Pond at Sunset Photo Credit: Emilie Moore
Announcement to our Community
March 23, 2022
From: The Pinewoods Camp, Inc. Board of Directors
To: The Pinewoods Community
Jacket cover of biography, Cecil Sharp His Life and Work, by Maud Karpeles
The Pinewoods community has been in an extended conversation about the legacy of Cecil Sharp and his imprint on Pinewoods Camp through the names of our two dance pavilions, C# and C# Minor. In June of 2020, members of the community asked us, members of the board, to change the names, followed by anonymous negative notices about Cecil Sharp posted at Camp in the early summer sessions in 2021. Concerned campers wanted to talk. These conversations took place all summer and beyond. We have been carefully and respectfully listening to everyone who has chosen to be part of the discussion. The community is divided on how to best remember Cecil Sharp’s dedication to preserving English folk traditions, his collecting, his teaching, and his connection to the founders of Camp. We are not in agreement with any one interpretation of Cecil Sharp’s motivation or his world view. There is agreement that he should be remembered, and his history told.
Many people who come to Pinewoods did not know, until recently, that C# was named for a person. Cecil Sharp often signed his letters C#. Built soon after his death, Helen Storrow and Lily Conant named the new large pavilion for him, and then the nearby smaller pavilion when it was built. The Pinewoods family is not in agreement about whether or not continuing to name the pavilions for him is a problem, and this question has created division and unhappiness. To some the idea of a name change feels like a loss, to some it feels like a necessary correction, and to others it feels like an opportunity to align the heart of Camp with its present and future.
Appalachian, 1916 Cecil Sharp (left) records notes while Maude Karpeles (right) writes down lyrics to ballad sung by mother and son
When he came to America and began collecting ballads and dances in Appalachia, Cecil Sharp interpreted what he heard and saw, combining his singular interest in finding ancient, orally transmitted English songs with cultural assumptions and biases typical of his time. His stature swayed opinion well into the future. His misinterpretations contributed in important ways to the erasure of Indigenous and Black influences on the songs and dances he collected. For example, he asked his informants to put aside their fiddles, lap dulcimers, banjos and guitars and sing unaccompanied. Then, Sharp claimed that the singing tradition in Appalachia was predominantly unaccompanied singing as it was in England. In another example, Cecil Sharp failed to see an evolved American form in what he called the “Kentucky Running Set.” He assumed that he was discovering an old English dance never seen in England; he published it as such and created myths that are only now recognized as unfounded. This particular history is well explained in Stephanie Smith’s article Setting the Scene: Cecil Sharp’s “Running Set” and its Legacy 100 Years Later. The impact of this myth making contributed to the already pervasive and false narrative that the English heritage of an American was of more value than other parts of the same person. The myths contributed to members of Black communities perceiving part of their own musical heritage to be “white” and not theirs. Recognition of American multi-ethnic history is essential. However, it does not take away from acknowledging the accurate and invaluable collecting and preserving of the ballads that Olive Dame Campbell, Cecil Sharp, and Maud Karpeles collected and published.
In Boston Cecil Sharp influenced Mrs. Storrow to drop other forms of international folk dance at her dancing school and teach only his interpretations of English folk dance. The Boston community of social dancers that grew out of the school chose to continue to include New England contras and squares in their repertoire.
Embossed C# on the cover of the biography, Cecil Sharp His Life and Work by Maude Karpeles
Today, activities at Pinewoods Camp currently reflect continuously broadening American traditions, many different interpretations and lenses on English and Scottish dance and song traditions, and a growing set of other international traditional dance and musical forms. We anticipate a more expanded view of American traditional music and dance in the coming century, while continuing to provide a home to the English, Scottish and other international forms already present at Camp. Now a part of a larger whole, English folk material as collected and preserved by Cecil Sharp continues to be part of his legacy enjoyed at Pinewoods.
Taking all of this into consideration, we, the Board of Directors of Pinewoods Camp, Inc. have voted to change the name of the C# and C# Minor dance pavilions. This decision for change aligns with our policy of not naming buildings for people. In doing so we are not erasing Cecil Sharp; we will tell his story in connection with the founders of Camp. We are looking for names that will be transparent and welcoming to all who come to Camp in the next 100 years.
With the decision to change the names of the pavilions, we will spend the spring and summer of 2022 accepting suggestions for new names. After considering all the community ideas, the final decision will be announced by the board in early 2023.
C# Minor, Pinewoods – 1936
As part of learning and telling our history, the board will be collaborating on educational displays and presentations exploring the unique history of the land and facilities of Camp and the people who made Pinewoods what it is today. We will ask for your stories. Our goal is to have a robust picture of what was created and accomplished in the first 100 years for our centennial celebration in 2025.
We would like to thank you for being involved members of this community. We appreciate the time you spent discussing the question of C# and C# Minor among yourselves and at camp last summer, sending in reactions through email, and participating in our online discussions in the fall. We noticed that when disagreeing community members talked with each other, our opinions grew closer together as we reflected on another point of view. We think that says much about both the world and what we love about our community. If you wish to participate in regard to C# and C# Minor as we move onward, please communicate with the board through .
As we reflect on who and what factors contributed to making Pinewoods Camp both beloved and inclusive, we will continue to reach for a high standard as the world changes around us.
The Pinewoods Camp, Inc. Board of Directors
March 23, 2022
An Interview with Gerda Conant
March 13, 2022
In Celebration of Women’s History Month
By Hank Chapin Interview conducted in March 2006
I met Gerda Conant in the sunny front room of her Milton, Massachusetts two-family house. Our conversation lasted until the bright early spring sun had set over Boston.
Gerda Ruden was born in Krefeld, Germany and lived in Freiburg. Her father was expected to follow Gerda’s grandfather into the family silk tie business, but the political climate in Germany in 1935 and his outspoken manner was such that he moved his family, including Gerda’s American-born mother, to the USA. Gerda distinctly remembers seeing the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State building from the deck of their ship as the family finally arrived in America.
Gerda Conant (left) with sister (possibly in Germany before fleeing to the US)
Gerda, her sister and their parents settled in rural Long Island, “in a cottage not too different from Pinecones, although a bit smaller.” The family kept chickens, grew vegetables, and did a lot of canning. Her father, after trying various business ventures during the World War II economy, opened one of the first laundromats on Long Island, and her mother worked as a nurse and volunteered as a Girl Scout troop leader and trainer. As a child with two busily working parents, Gerda and her sister had wild berries and flowers, woods and fields, swamps and kettle ponds to explore, fortuitously preparing her for her Pinewoods Conant life to follow. “Clearly we were poor, but I never felt that way,” what with family singing of German and American songs around the piano, knitting, sewing, cooking and embroidering.
About her American growing up, Gerda says “although my family fled Hitler, they knew what happened to people in war. I became drawn to and acquainted with the Quakers. This led me to sign up for a service project through the American Friends Service Committee in a mental hospital in Iowa.” And it was here that Gerda met Rick Conant, in 1952. Rick, a student at Haverford College, was also on an AFSC project.
Gerda and Rick did not waste any time, marrying in 1953. Gerda had not even graduated from Ohio’s Hiram College, so Rick, a Conscientious Objector, cleverly arranged his alternate service in a mental hospital not far from the Hiram campus. Their evenings together were often filled with all kinds of folk dancing, further cementing her future as a vital participant in the evolution of Pinewoods Camp.
Gerda Conant as a grade schooler on Long Island
Upon first arriving at Pinewoods, Gerda clearly remembers watching the Thursday afternoon demonstrations, where the dancing was limited to English with an occasional American dance. She was amazed to experience a new side of Rick when he sailed his beloved pumpkinseed Redstart in the weekend races on Long Pond. Rick was a perpetual winner, and his competitive side shown through in the local, low-stakes, neighborly weekend sailing events.
Gerda Conant played a crucial role in the transition from the Pinewoods Camp modestly and informally run by her in-laws to the Pinewoods Camp, Inc. of today. When her father-in-law Richard Conant first decided to turn Pinewoods over to a governing board, it was necessary to find someone who knew the workings of the grounds and buildings. No one in the immediate Conant family was interested in the position, so it fell to Gerda, who had just begun a career as a first grade teacher in Hartford, Connecticut, where she and Rick were living at the time. “They needed somebody who knew where the fuse boxes were,” she says. It was as a Conant that she managed the camp that first summer. Naturally, she hired her children. Gerda remembers her 7th grade daughter Susan didn’t see washing dishes as her ideal summer job. But sons Donald and David had previously worked on grounds crews, learning the ropes from crew chief Peter Liebert and crew members Nat Nichols, Tony Moretti and Hank Chapin, among others.
Those first summers were “seat-of-the-pants” operations in many ways. When the Square lights went out, it took
Gerda and Rick Conant on their wedding day
an hour just to locate the fuse box. The very first CDSS Family Camp is forever seared on her memory as the week it never stopped raining. Gerda remembers many cabin roofs leaked to the point where she announced in the dining hall, “Please let me know if your cabin does NOT leak.” One day the run-off from the road was so intense that the dining hall pump flooded, and she and David Arnold had to crawl under the dining room and construct a damn, diverting rainwater away from the pump.
Gerda credits a lot of her early successes to productive work weekends and eager, faithful, enthusiastic crew members. She gratefully acknowledges the Scottish dancer who single-handedly re-designed the wiring for the camp and then dug the trenches and laid new cable. Shag Graetz was also instrumental in the early transition days, with his care and knowledge of the camp grounds. Gerda feels there should be a tribute to Elgie Levin, who has attended every work weekend since they were instituted.
Gerda recalls with great delight the retirement party for the ancient Hobart dishwasher, planned by Mark Ward and Frank Edwards, where t-shirts were made commemorating the grand event. The work schedule in the early days wa
Gerda Conant as “Old Mother Pinewoods” during Campers Week.
s looser than it is now, because Pinewoods was not booked every day of the summer season. There was time for the crews to jump in the back of the pickup truck and go to the movies in Buzzards Bay. In those days Gerda had to make sure she hired enough crew with driver’s licenses. Until Terry Tobias re-designed the dining hall kitchen there was not enough cold storage space. Some member of the crew had to make a daily drive into Plymouth for supplies and food.
Gerda owes her professional career as a property manager to her Pinewoods experiences. After Pinewoods she managed a housing complex in Newton, Massachusetts, and finally retired after running an apartment complex for the elderly on Beacon Hill in Boston. Now, son David’s family lives just down the hill, and Gerda can easily and conveniently slip into the grandmother/caregiver role in her neighborhood and return to the family cabins next door to C# in the summers.
Gerda managed Pinewoods “for four or five years,” during which time the Rick Conant family moved to Milton, Massachusetts from Hartford, Connecticut. She brought Jacqueline Schwab in as office manager, and when Gerda finally stepped aside, the natural choice for the next manager was Jacqueline. But Gerda had successfully transitioned Pinewoods into a viable organization, one that so many of us love to this day.
Getting More Comfortable With Gender!
March 12, 2022
Tuesday, April 12 | 7:00-8:00pm | Zoom Getting More Comfortable With Gender!
People who are the same gender can present themselves very differently. People who are different genders can present themselves similarly. Everyone of any gender (or no gender at all!) can benefit from thinking about their own gender(s) and how they want to present those genders to the world! Join Kat Dutton as they talk about different gender identities, roles, and presentations and share some ways to play with your own gender! All are welcome to learn, share, and be a part of this presentation!
Katarina Dutton is a white, nonbinary, mathematics teacher and folk dancer from the greater
Boston area. They have been lucky to have had the space to explore and play with their gender for many years now and in a variety of roles and ways (including as a professional role model and speaker to the trans and nonbinary teenagers where they work!). They began coming to Pinewoods in 2011 and have returned every summer since (well, almost…) at Scottish, ESCape, or work weekends. One of their favourite things about folk dance is the ways it ties into gender presentation and role, and they are always seeking new ways to play and present themself as their fullest, most exuberant, self –and to help others do the same!
Discovering Pinewoods: Duncan Smith’s Story
February 11, 2022
Discovering Pinewoods: The First Year and Life-long Impact
“Duncan, Arthur, and ‘Friend’ 1968” – with Art Cornelius outside C# Minor. Emptying that barrel full of cans, ideally while a class was in session with as much noise as possible, was a highlight of the trash and john run.
I am living in the hills 30 miles southeast of Melbourne, Australia. I came to Australia to try it out for a year in 1991 after a backpacking trip through New Zealand, Australia, and parts of Southeast Asia in 1990. My year has turned into nearly 30! At first I lived with my now ex-wife, and from 2004 as a single parent to my now 22 year old son Carter, who moved out in May this year, so I am now on my own, with a cat.
I first came to Pinewoods in 1967, for Chamber Music Week. I was 15. Even though I was underage for that adult week, I was given special dispensation because I had a small harpsichord that I was happy to bring to camp. I had known about Pinewoods my whole life, and at the end of that first week I basically begged the Conants and my parents to allow me to stay on for the rest of the summer, which they did! I started as pot boy (it meant something different in those days!) and graduated to some outdoor crew activities. For the next 3 years (1968 through 70) I was on the crew in various capacities.
I grew up in a dancing family. My father Alan was a New England square dance caller starting in the 40s when he was at MIT and had a performance team and band that toured the Northeast. Dad learned calling from Ralph Page, and became very involved in the New England Folk Festival Association, which we attended every year. Sometime around 1950 my parents helped create the Scottish dance scene in Boston, so I’ve been dancing since before I was born.
This hasn’t influenced my professional life so much, but personal/social, absolutely! I took my first official Scottish Country Dance class in 1960 with Barbara Little, and have continued dancing ever since with a brief hiatus when I was in college and a bit less activity in recent years. I became a SCD teacher in 1976, and a dance musician in about 1980. Having picked up other traditions at Pinewoods (English, Contra, Square, Kentucky Running Set) I’ve continued to dance, teach, and play in whatever traditions are available. The scene is a lot smaller and very socially different in Melbourne (people do SCD because they’re Scottish, not necessarily because of the dance – what a concept! Bear in mind growing up in the RSCDS Boston Branch there were very few if any actual expat Scots – just a lot of people like my parents who liked the dancing), and I’ve wound up spending more of my time here as a musician– there are plenty of dancers, plenty of teachers, but few dance musicians, so guess what I get asked to do most? If I had to choose between the three, being on the dance floor would always be my first choice. These days I do a little contra calling, occasional SDC teaching, and enjoy dancing a mix of Scottish, English, Welsh and “colonial” dances.
In vaguely chronological order…
My first summer, reporting for duty to Mr. Conant at the Point, as he was serving millet porridge for breakfast, me not having heard of millet.
Learning to drive on the 1938(?) Chevy pickup, moving it down the hill at The Point not knowing what a clutch was, but managing to get it rolling! Learning to navigate between trees has been a very useful skill – always know, or guess, how wide your vehicle is!
Having been involved in trail clearing in the White Mountains, learning that pruning for Mr. Conant meant the path shouldn’t look any different than when you started – this after having strained the intercostal muscles in my torso being overzealous with the pruning shears.
As pot boy with cooks Chris Marshall and Eileen Malone, and Eileen’s classic line to a surprised older woman camper at breakfast “have some orange juice lovey, it’ll put hair on your chest”.
Graduated to the trash and john run – see photo.
that navigating the paths at night without light can be easily done by practiced bare feet – every root and rock tells you where you are.
to play guitar from Hank Chapin and Doug Smith (first song? Gold Watch and Chain by the Carter Family)
that peanut butter is good for breakfast, especially if it’s Deaf Smith — thanks Shag!
English, Morris and Sword, to the extent that I joined the PW Morris men because I was light enough to do the rapper backflip
So many maintenance skills, including reroofing cabins on Men’s Shore and the Dining Hall
Running the store, in the era of the found-in-the-bushes lingerie collection
Enjoying relaxed conversation on the Tideswell dock with a young woman wearing only a towel in her hair, which was more than anyone else there was wearing
Stealing the Apley House flag during Scottish weekend, being run down, hogtied, and deposited outside C# minor where the mastermind was teaching (there’s more to that story!)
Recreating a cabin interior on the raft, among other pranks.
Crewmates Shag, Hank Chapin, Doug Smith, Neil (“shucky durn”) Colmer, Terry Tanner, Tony Moretti.
Returning many times as a SCD and English-Scottish teacher and musician, most recently in – I think – 2014.
So many more!!! The lasting friendships, memories, and influences that continue to enrich my life to this day
Duncan’s entry is a submission from a two-week adventure in September 2020. It started with requesting help with a memory about Pinewoods Camp from 1968. The POST editor, Marney Morrison, emailed a half dozen people who had been there at the same time. Those friends shared the email, and for days anecdotes and laughter traveled over the internet, until someone offered to host a Zoom reunion. Forty people met for two hours, using a set of guidelines designed by storyteller and writer Meg Lippert, for one-minute introductions. After they heard from everyone they continued with conversation and more storytelling. Between them, their first year at Pinewoods ranged from 1947-1974, and they were living in Hawaii, across the Continental USA, and in Australia. As these poured in, they realized that Pinewoods would want to invite EVERYONE who has been to Camp to tell their stories. Fast-forward to now and Pinewoods is eager to hear from YOU. Click HERE to submit your story or email .
Indigenous Arts & Culture Winter Series
January 6, 2022
The Board of Directors of Pinewoods Camp invites you to a virtual series focused on the indigenous arts, song and cultural practices of the Northeast.
Invited by the Committee on Inclusion and Antiracism, Leah Hopkins and Jonathan James-Perry, cultural bearers and educators, met with the board of directors at Camp in November. Jonathan and Leah will share with the Pinewoods music and dance communities and the Six Ponds and greater Plymouth communities some of what they shared with us, and more. There is no fee, however space is limited and registration for each session is required.
Tuesday, January 18 | 7:00-8:00pm | Zoom Exploring Indigenous Arts and Cultural Practices in the Coastal Woodlands
Leah Hopkins (Narragansett) Photo Credit: Nora Lewis
Cultural Educator, Leah Hopkins (Narragansett) will explore the continuity of Indigenous arts in the Coastal Woodlands region and discuss Indigenous relationships to the land, water and Natural World. She will shed light on the impacts of climate change on Indigenous traditions and the resilience of arts, culture and self expression in modern Native communities.
Tuesday, February 15 | 7:00-8:00pm | Zoom Voices of the Land: Indigenous Songs of the Northeast
Cultural educator, singer and performer Jonathan James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag) shares with us the deep time history of Eastern-style social dance songs of the Northeastern region. Explore the various styles of singing and instrument usage, as well the traditions and protocols of these seasonally-based songs.
Tuesday, March 15 | 7:00-8:00pm | Zoom Indigenous Connections to the Land and Building a Meaningful Acknowledgement
Join Cultural Educators Leah Hopkins (Narragansett) and Jonathan James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag) as they provide insight on the complexities of Indigenous connections to the land and sea, and how colonization has changed these relationships over time. Learn about the protocols of land acknowledgement and explore how building a meaningful land acknowledgement can begin the process of respectfully engaging with Indigenous people and communities.
Leah Hopkins Bio
Leah Hopkins, mother, educator, culture bearer, subsistence practitioner and museum professional, is an enrolled member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island. Leah works to develop and implement programs, curricula and digital content for Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences about Native history, culture, values, lifeways and practices. She also works to ensure cultural continuity of the area’s Indigenous peoples through programs, workshops and advocacy. She is a professional speaker, consultant, traditional dancer and singer grounded in Narragansett land and sea based practices. Leah works collaboratively with Indigenous and Tribal communities, museums, and other institutions to ensure best practices in programming and education initiatives that promote the visibility and ensure the perspectives of Indigenous populations in New England.
Leah holds a BA in Anthropology from the University of Rhode Island, and has a background in museum and tribal education that spans over 10 years, working at both the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), and with other regional institutions, organizations and tribal communities. Leah is currently the Community Engagement Specialist at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University. In her personal time, Leah enjoys playing with her son and taking him out on the land and the water to teach him about the traditional subsistence lifestyle and ensure that the next generation maintains cultural continuity.
Jonathan James-Perry Bio
Jonathan Perry is an Aquinnah Wampanoag culture bearer, leader, historian, artist and professional speaker. He is grounded in the traditions of his ocean-going ancestors. His material work embodies the refined quality of that of his ancestors, while still drawing upon his experience in a contemporary society. Jonathan’s pieces reflect balance within the Natural World, incorporating stories, effigies, and symbology of Wampanoag traditions. He is currently serving his fifth, three-year term as Councilman for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). Jonathan works diligently to enforce and uphold the sovereignty of his tribal nation as well as to maintain cultural continuity among his tribal citizens. He has over fifteen years of experience working within the Tribal Historic Preservation Office, with the responsibility of protecting and preserving cultural sites of significance throughout southern New England. He currently works for the Elders Council at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation to ensure cultural continuity and preservation within the community. Jonathan has over twenty years of experience in the research and historical interpretation of Eastern Woodlands Native culture and art. He has worked with various non-profit and tribal organizations in exhibit design and cultural consultation based on traditional Wampanoag knowledge, symbolism, and values. Jonathan was most recently awarded the 2017 First People’s Fund Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award for his work in reviving Wampanoag maritime traditions.
An Invitation: C# and C# Minor Discussion
September 28, 2021
Members of the board of Pinewoods Camp, Inc invite you to register to participate in one of two on-line discussions in regards to the request to change the names of C# and C# Minor:
Click HERE to register for Wednesday, October 6 at 7pm
Click HERE to register for Saturday, October 23 at 10am
Pinewoods Camp has been asked by some members of the Camp community to change the names of C# and C# Minor.
In a play on his name and the musical notation, the pavilions’ names honor Cecil Sharp (1859-1924) who died in the year before construction on the first pavilion began. Offended by some of Cecil Sharp’s writings and beliefs, these individuals request that Pinewoods Camp stop calling Pinewoods’ pavilions after him.
The purpose of the discussions is for us to listen and offer an opportunity for our constituency to be heard and hear each other. The discussions at Camp this summer were interesting and respectful. These discussions are a step in our process in deciding how to make a decision about this request.
For context about Sharp and his views, please see this open letter, penned by a longtime Pinewoods camper. The English Folk Dance and Song Society is undergoing similarconversations. For information about Cecil Sharp’s relationship to Pinewoods Camp look at this article from the summer issue of the Pinewoods Post.
Questions or comments? Write
Stories of People, Adventures, War, an Earlier Pandemic, and Pinewoods Camp
August 31, 2021
Dedicated to Lily Roberts Conant during the 2021 summer reopening
By Marney Morrison
During the summers of 1943 and 1944, cabins at Pinewoods Camp remained shuttered. There was no dancing. It was wartime: gas was rationed, men and women were overseas or working for the war effort at home. A crisis for the future of Camp emerged when, during a hurricane in the fall of 1944, the roof of C# collapsed, and then on November 12, Helen Osborne Storrow, the owner of Pinewoods, died in a hospital in New York City.
Helen Storrow left the bulk of her extensive estate to her son. However, she left her Long Pond property that included Pinewoods Camp to Lily Roberts Conant. In a letter Helen Storrow wrote that Lily should feel under no obligation to continue the dance camp. It was expensive to maintain; selling the property could pay for her three children’s college educations.
To know our past, reel back to the early years of the 20th century.
Before World War I
In 1911 in London a group of folkdance enthusiasts founded the English Folk Dance Society (EFDS) with Cecil Sharp as the first national director. By 1909 he had put together a demonstration team to illustrate his talks.
World War I and the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 had not yet erupted when English-speaking communities worldwide began celebrating the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s work. A flurry of productions coincided with interest in collecting and reviving folk songs and historic and traditional dances. Directors in both Stratford-upon-Avon and London adopted this material in their productions. They turned to the fledgling EFDS for dances, dance music, instruction, and staged choreography. Cecil Sharp led dancing schools in both places. His demonstration team performed in England and at folk festivals in Europe.
The EFDS demonstration team in 1911 included Helen May Karpeles (who, with her sister Maud, was mesmerized by the music of an English folk song and dance competition judged by Cecil Sharp at a 1909 Shakespeare festival in Stratford-upon-Avon); A. Claud Wright (a physical education teacher trained in a new wave of non-militaristic movement training for children, including Danish gymnastics and folk dance, who brought English folk dance to the attention of Helen Storrow in Boston); Lily Roberts, a young woman also trained as a physical education teacher in the new curriculum; and Douglas Kennedy, the youngest member at 17. Douglas Kennedy and Helen Karpeles married in 1914. They had become engaged in the 10-minute interlude before going on stage at a folk festival in Paris the year before. Leaving an academic career as a botanist, Kennedy, a sixth-generation folk singer and son of song collectors, became the next director of the EFDS after Cecil Sharp died in 1924. Four other members of the 1911 team died in the battle of the Somme fought from July to November 1916.
George P. Baker, a Harvard professor of dramatic literature who was visiting Stratford-upon-Avon in 1912, saw a production using collected traditional material and interpreted historic dance. He watched the EFDS demonstration team perform and invited a member of the group, A. Claud Wright, to come to Boston to teach the following summer. In 1913 and 1914 Claud taught English dance at a summer course in Maine and classes in the Boston area. The first summer he was introduced to Helen Storrow, a wealthy philanthropist who enjoyed dancing as a way to stay fit and have fun. Folk dancing from different countries was one of the dance forms taught at her dancing school for women. Morris and sword as well as complex Playford country dances offered challenge and variety of their own without the artificiality and difficulty she experienced with ballet, and she wanted to add them to her school.
England Goes to War and Opportunities Open in the United States
England entered the war, later known as World War I, on August 4, 1914. After the success of a London production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Cecil Sharp, who had choreographed the dances and arranged the music, came to New York in the fall of 1914 to help Granville Barker with a production of the same play. After six weeks in New York working on the production, they built productions of the same play in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, and St. Louis. While he was in these cities Sharp taught English dance to the musicians and dancers included in the productions and lectured and taught dance to interested members of the social elite as well. In Boston he charmed Helen Storrow and may have influenced her to refocus her dance school on only various kinds of English folk dancing.
The American Branch of the EFDS
By the spring of 1915, although hired to come again to the United States, Claud Wright had enlisted. This opened an opportunity for Cecil Sharp who was already in the United States and annoyed with Wright for working independently of the EFDS. On March 23, 1915, at a meeting at the Colony Club in New York City, Sharp oversaw the formation of the American Branch of the English Folk Dance Society. The sole purpose of this branch was to continue holding an English dance summer school. A committee from the different dance communities planned, organized, and financially underwrote a summer school in the US for the English Folk Dance Society. The staff they hired for the summer school was expected to be teachers from England. George Baker, the aforementioned Harvard professor, was the first president; Helen Storrow was secretary. A year later she became president. In the summer of 1915 this new organization sponsored the English dance summer school in Maine. Cecil Sharp was hired to be the teacher.
Wellesley College Unknowingly Plays a Part in the History of Pinewoods
Wellesley College wanted someone from England to direct a pageant in the spring of 1915 and had funds to offer for both travel and remuneration. The EFDS summer school in Maine could use another teacher. Sharp sent a cable to England looking for the right candidate. Douglas Kennedy gave his wife, Helen Karpeles Kennedy, credit for recommending Lily Roberts. The three of them had been on the 1911 demonstration team together and became lifelong friends. Lily, 27 and single, taught dance for the EFDS in and around Scarborough, England. The previous December the city center had suffered the first bombardment of the UK by six German ships. Eighteen people died, including a 14-month-old toddler. The men were steadily leaving for military service, and Lily’s future as a dance teacher or a bride looked bleak when Cecil Sharp sent her a letter of invitation.
Following is an excerpt from writings of Lily’s granddaughter Susan Conant:
The offer of an all-expense paid trip to America was a great adventure. Lily’s decision to leave was very quick. Sharp’s letter took about 2 weeks to cross the Atlantic arriving about April 15. A return response would not have been possible since Sharp was on the boat to England. It arrived April 29, they spoke on April 30, Lily obtained her passport May 1 and received final travel arrangements on May 3. She was to leave on May 9 on the Cunard ship, the Tuscania. But the Tuscania’s sister ship, the Lusitania, was torpedoed and sunk on May 7. Plans had to change. Mrs. Storrow sent word that the Wellesley production would be postponed so that Lily could leave May 15 on an American owned ship, the New York.
The New York was an old tub, once an elegant cruise ship, but now a second-class–only carrier for the masses fleeing Europe. Lily mistakenly thought she had booked a first-class cabin. But when on the ship she discovered she was assigned to a berth in steerage at the end of a long, dark corridor inhabited only by men. Being a proper English girl, she refused to go down to the berth and spent her first night on deck. Subsequently, the purser found her a cabin rooming with a trapeze artist. She commented later that she received quite an education on the two-week long trip.
After the summer school ended, Mrs. Storrow invited Lily to stay in Boston and be the head teacher at her dancing school. She promised Lily’s parents that she would treat Lily like a daughter.
Helen Storrow’s efforts to promote physical fitness and skill-building for women and girls of all walks of life led her to help fund and build leadership in the budding Girl Scout movement. She developed plans for a national Girl Scout Leadership training course; the first session took place at the Winsor School in Boston in 1917.
The American Branch of the EFDS held a two-week course in 1915 in Eliot, Maine, and in 1916 and 1917 at the Agricultural College in Amherst, MA (now UMass Amherst). Once the United States entered the war, attention and resources went elsewhere. Like a character in a mummer’s play, the English folk dance summer school died.
Tragedy by Way of War and Pandemic Comes to the United States
The next few years brought dramatic and traumatic changes to everyone in the United States, including Lily Roberts. In April 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. During that year Lily and a young American named Richard Conant fell in love, and on December 15 they were married at Mrs. Storrow’s home. Maud Karpeles was her maid of honor. Cecil Sharp walked her down the aisle.
On August 28, 1918, the first cases of the influenza pandemic appeared in Boston among naval sailors at the receiving ship at Boston’s Commonwealth Pier. Despite efforts to contain and isolate those men, around September 11 the first civilian cases were reported. The numbers grew and grew. Lily and Dick Conant escaped death from both the flu and the war. However, they were not unscathed in those years. In June 1918 Lily, newly pregnant, fell ill and was hospitalized until July 17. On July 7, unable to say goodbye except by letter, Dick deployed to France. A baby boy was born in January 1919. Dick wrote the following cable the day before he landed back in the United States.
January 21, 1919 – aboard ship – RKC cable to mother
We are 60 miles from the Statue of Liberty and will disembark tomorrow. Yesterday morning I got a wireless that I had a son and that he and Lily were well. Last night after a day of bliss I got a wireless that the baby had died.
During World War I Cecil Sharp returned repeatedly to the United States as there were still private interest and funds for cultural activities no longer supported in England. Olive Dame Campbell made a pilgrimage from Georgia to Boston to meet him and show him the ballads she had collected in the southern highlands. Finding older versions of English ballads than those remembered in England became his new grail, and he was off. He did not consider that there might be other influences on those American versions of ballads or on the American contras and square dances enjoyed by his students in New England. His singular vision contributed to American misunderstanding of our multi-rooted traditions.
Part of a Post-Pandemic Outdoor Recreation Movement
In 1919, very likely in response to the pandemic, Mrs. Storrow began buying land around Long Pond where she established four camps. She moved the Girl Scout Leadership training course to one property and named it Pine Tree Camp, building an office, a camphouse, and small separated cabins for the students. Whenever it was built, the original Ampleforth pavilion was for outdoor dining and an outdoor classroom. Lily Conant acted informally as Helen Storrow’s companion and personal assistant for the remainder of Helen’s life. On a point of land jutting into Long Pond, Mrs. Storrow built a personal compound, providing a summer residence for herself away from the city with additional cabins for Lily and Dick, and eventually more cabins for their children Betty, Helen, and Rick. Lily and her children stayed at The Point all summer. Dick, a lawyer, helped found the American social work movement and filled the camp with social workers for a retreat weekend every summer.
After the war and the pandemic passed, English dancing resumed in local communities where there were leaders. In some places it never came back; in others new groups formed. For the fall of 1926, Marjorie Barnett, an English classical pianist and EFDS dance teacher who had taught English dancing in New York City for a year, accepted a job teaching piano at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. She started a dance group there. Phil Merrill and his lifetime partner, James Quillon, were students of hers.
A Dance Pavilion Is Built on Long Pond
Dancing resumed at Pine Tree Camp on Long Pond. Helen Storrow commissioned a new outdoor dance pavilion over 1925 and 1926. Cecil Sharp had died in 1924, and Helen and Lily named the pavilion C# in his memory. The homophones C. Sharp and C# would have been obvious to the small set of musicians and dancers who made their way to Pinewoods over the following 25 years before the camp branched out to also host Scottish dancers in 1952.
Dancers from the Boston English dance community and women at the Girl Scout Leadership training course, which included dance as part of their recreation, were the first to try out the new pavilion. CDS, Boston Centre, under their earlier name, held a summer course there in 1925 and 1926. It is from that first summer dance session at Pinewoods Camp that we start counting our years there.
The EFDS Summer School in Amherst Resumes, Another English Woman Emigrates, and a Young Pianist Finds His Calling
In 1928 the EFDS summer school at Amherst came back to life, run by a committee from the various affiliated groups. At the recommendation of the EFDS headquarters in London they invited Miss May Gadd (aka “Gay”), the EFDS Northeast regional director based in Newcastle, England. Gay’s favorite dances were “Step Stately” and “The Morpeth Rant.” She brought community dances she’d learned in Northern England with her as well as new repertoire of Morris, sword, and Cecil Sharp’s reconstructed Playford country dances. During the dance school, Gay was invited to stay in the United States to teach English dancing in New York City.
Phil Merrill, the aforementioned young Eastman School of Music piano student, attended this 1928 summer school at Amherst. Phil found that, whereas stage fright ended his dreams of a career as a concert pianist, he was perfectly happy playing for dancers who were looking at their partners and not at him. As a teenager in Maine, Phil had played for local contra dances. He fell in love with all the forms of English dancing and was a beautiful dancer. He later called contra dances at CDS events around the country.
In 1929 May Gadd was asked to be the first national director of a new American organization independent of the EFDS in England. (This new entity was named the English Folk Dance Society of America.) Helen Storrow was elected president just as she had been of the former, informal organization. This new incorporated American organization had staff and an office and was expected to serve all the dance communities which were now called Centers. The name later changed to the Country Dance Society and then later to the Country Dance and Song Society.
When Phillip Merrill and James Quillon moved to New York City, Jimmy sang and then completed his career as an opera coach for the Metropolitan Opera. Phil taught music in schools, teaching among others, Yo-Yo Ma and Jack Langstaff when they were children. Phil played for all the New York City English dances and as the national music director at courses and camps around the country. Phil’s performance of traditional dance music as well as his highly proficient command of the piano, concertina, and recorder served as a magnet for other talented musicians. May Gadd used to say, “Listen to the music; the music will tell you what to do.”
The Summer Dance School Moves to Pinewoods Camp for Ten Happy Years
The resumed English folk dance summer school stayed in Amherst for only five years (1928-1932). Helen Storrow and Lily Conant had other ideas.
In 1932 Helen Storrow invited the teachers and organizers from the two-week dance school to visit Long Pond after the course in Amherst ended. Pleased with the hoped-for enthusiastic response to the camp, she invited them to hold the summer school at Pinewoods starting the following summer. In 1933 the summer school once again included Lily Conant as well as her family. As Helen Storrow’s assistant, Lily hired local teenage boys to work at Camp, including them in the dance classes and evening dances. She encouraged the organizers (what became CDSS) to invite the staff to bring their families. Lily and May Gadd set ages for when those children could join the adults in their classes: 11 for Morris and 13 for country dancing, contras, and squares. Through these actions, and others, Lily planted the seeds of future multigenerational dance communities.
From 1933 to 1942, the two-week English folk dance school was held at this new place, renamed Pinewoods Camp in 1935 when Helen Storrow moved the Scout Leadership training to another camp. Douglas Kennedy, by then the national director of the EFDS, came from England to direct the 1937 summer dance school at Pinewoods. He and his wife Helen were close friends of Lily and Dick Conant. Douglas brought enormous enthusiasm for community dances. As the director of the EFDS, he encouraged their collection all over England. He and Helen liked the less formal, more inclusive dancing and community they found at Pinewoods. The focus was more about participation for all levels of proficiency and less about performance. People drawn to Camp came from varied backgrounds. From the beginning, the road to Pinewoods was open to all interested; no one was excluded due to social class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or race. Collectively, the participants loved the music and dance and enjoyed the primitive facilities, including bathing in the pond, eating out of doors, and using outhouses. Under Gay, influenced by her years in Northumberland, and by Douglas Kennedy, the English community dances were as appreciated as Sharp’s historic reconstructions. Also, each week had someone on staff who called New England squares and contras. The Kennedys especially enjoyed the American squares and contras.
The following year Douglas began planning to leave his position at the EFDS as he and Helen had decided to emigrate to the United States. World War II interrupted their plans, and they stayed in England. Initially they stayed to be part of the war effort; they ended up staying in England and helping bring post-war changes to the EFDS including abolishing a dress code and publication and promotion of the Community Dance Manuals. His stated plan was to make the organization attractive to the descendants of the people from whom the dances had been collected. He and Helen and another couple formed a square dance band of fiddle, banjo, concertina, and drums. They brought over callers and introduced American squares and contras to people in England.
The End of an Era
After Helen Storrow died in November 1944, leaving the property with Pinewoods Camp to Lily Conant, the musicians and dancers who participated in the summer dance school knew they might lose this beautiful place.
The CDS, Boston Centre members, the Conant family’s local dance community, asked permission and put together a local dance weekend for the summer of 1945. Did they think it might be the final time? Who helped repair the dance pavilion?
A New Beginning
There was profound relief and gratitude all over the United States in the hearts of all former participants when Lily Conant announced that she and Dick would keep Pinewoods Camp running instead of selling off the property with the Camp buildings. Camp was spared; dancing, dance music, and song would continue at Pinewoods into the future. The national two-week course resumed in 1946.
In recognition of this momentous choice two dance musicians, Louis Baker and George Zimmerman, composed a tune and wrote a new dance. They sent them to Lily with this inscription:
Respectfully dedicated to Lily Conant in their sincere appreciation of her courage and sacrifice in making it possible for the E. F. D. S. summer school to be held again at Long Pond in the post-war period.
Epilogue, 75 Years and Many Changes Later
Lily and Dick invited the Country Dance and Song Society (as it was eventually called) to program more weeks of the summer. A week of recorder and folk song split into one of each in 1950. The singing brought in American traditional singers from Appalachia and the Ozarks, New England seaports and the Georgia Sea Islands, as well as singers from the UK, some living in the US. In 1952 the Scottish dancers in Boston arrived at Camp. The Conant family worked hard to keep the already aging infrastructure of camp going. When the first half century of Camp came to an end, and Pinewoods Camp, Inc. was created in 1975, a wave of young people had discovered Pinewoods. The dance floors rang with southern clogging, the stomping of the contra dance revival early enthusiasm, the slides and polkas of Irish sets as well as all that had gone on before. Folk Dancing ‘Round Boston held weekends of International dance before it turned into the Folk Arts Center of New England. The first week-long family session was taking place at Camp and the summer schedule seemed full.
After being closed for over a year, Pinewoods Camp reopened in 2021. It opened late and closed early, but all who made it to the wooded camp between Long Pond and Round Pond experienced again the balm of this place we share. More changes at Pinewoods have taken place during this final quarter of our first hundred years. The diverse activities have grown way beyond those of the first quarter. We have the opportunity to continue to grow because of a choice made long ago. Let’s remember with gratitude Lily Roberts Conant’s decision 75 years ago to reopen Pinewoods.
(A note about sources: The information for this article is drawn from sometimes contradictory written sources, websites, letters, Susan Conant’s research and writing about her grandmother, and remembered oral history from multiple people. When the archives are more easily accessible, post pandemic, a fuller picture can be drawn and properly ascribed as we work toward different ways to preserve the history of Pinewoods Camp before the upcoming celebrations of our centennial. A list of sources for this article will eventually be on the website. Send corrections and new information to .)
Pinewoods Camp Closing Early
August 10, 2021
This has been a remarkable and unusual summer. CDSS’s American Week is happening at Camp right now, and it is the tenth session to bring music and dancing back to Pinewoods this season. After almost two years without campers, it has been magical to have the paths, dance halls, and cabins full. All campers, staff, and crew were vaccinated this summer, and recent sessions handled new testing requirements with grace. There have not been any reported cases of Covid-19.
Unfortunately, due to the rising threat of Covid-19 variants, Pinewoods and our Program Providers are having to pivot once again. We are sad to announce that, after this week, Camp is closing for the season. When we made the decision to open Camp this year, it was with the knowledge that circumstances might change. It is clear now that much more rigorous testing, masking, and distance requirements are rapidly becoming necessary to keep the Pinewoods staff, crew, and campers safe. Pinewoods and our Program Providers are limited in what we can reasonably ask of our community and in the safety that our facilities can provide. After discussions with our Program Providers, we are unified in deciding that Camp cannot safely remain open.
We are both grateful for the music and dance that have happened at Camp so far this summer and deeply sorry that the remaining sessions cannot be here. You can expect to hear from us soon and often as we close up Camp and move into the off-season. Plans are already being made for next summer, and we look forward to dancing, singing, and making music with you all again before too long. Stay well! Keep in touch! If you have any questions or concerns, please email .
All the best,
Chris Jacobs, Executive Director Pinewoods Camp, Inc. Board of Directors
Sunset over Long Pond on the 4th of July, 2021. Photo by Natty Smith.