Ralph George Page was born in Munsonville, New Hampshire, on January 28, 1903, into a Scottish-Irish family whose ancestors included Irish minstrels, a grandfather who was an Irish dancing master, an uncle who was a square dance caller, and a father who was a fiddler.
Based in Keene, New Hampshire, “Uncle” Ralph became the top authority in the field of New England Country dancing. On December 6, 1930, Ralph started calling contras, almost by accident. He was playing fiddle in an orchestra when he had to substitute for a caller who had come down with laryngitis. That day was December 5, 1930. From that beginning, he rose to the top of his field as an Eastern contra caller, becoming one of the country’s first full-time professional callers in 1938, known as the “Singing Caller of New England.” He was a featured caller at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. His choice of music was great, the dancing smooth and elegant, and always there were the pithy, clever remarks from Ralph over the microphone.
Though Ralph’s success eventually found him traveling a lot more outside New Hampshire and New England, to this day he is associated with the Nelson Town Hall. Not long before he died, in 1985, he came out of retirement for a special dance in Nelson – an opportunity for a new generation of dancers to experience his calling. He is buried in the Munsonville Cemetery (Munsonville being a part of Nelson).
Click here for a longer biography of Ralph Page.
From 1949 to 1984, Ralph single-handedly published 165 mimeographed issues of his Northern Junket magazine, which contained editorials, recipes, stories, dance notes, and sheet music for squares, contras, and international folk dances, and sheet music for many folk songs. He took great pride in publishing 18th and 19th century dances which his research had uncovered. His interpretation of obscure dance directions from old books and manuscripts found in the Library of Congress and elsewhere made it possible to revive many beautiful old dances such as The Market Lass and British Sorrow. Some fifty of these dances appeared in Northern Junket and his books, Heritage Dances of Early America and An Elegant Collection of Contras and Squares.
The complete set of Northern Junkets is digitally archived at The New Hampshire Library of Traditional Music and Dance periodicals and is available here.