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In Peterborough, friends and fans gather to celebrate 100 years of Bob McQuillen’s music

Todd Bookman

A musician, a raconteur, a tunewriter and personality unlike any other.

That’s how friends and bandmates of Bob McQuillen, who died in 2014, summed up his legacy during a celebration in Peterborough this weekend honoring his contribution to the contra dance community.

McQuillen, “Mack” or “Mr. Mack” to many, played in celebrated contra dance bands for decades. He was also a soldier, an educator in the Peterborough school system and, to those who knew him, a storyteller with a foul mouth.

 photo of a band performing at the event
Todd Bookman/NHPR
Sarah Bauhan, second from left, helped organize the event. She played music with McQuillen in the Monadnock region for decades.

McQuillen wrote more than 1,500 tunes during his career, and was honored by the National Endowment for the Arts for his contributionto contra dance music.

His melodies, including Amelia, named after the daughter of a bandmate, remain in regulator rotation at music festivals across the country.

Editor’s note: Listen to an audio postcard from this weekend’s event by clicking the "Listen" button above. You can also click here to listen to an interview with McQuillen from NHPR’s archives.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.