Traditional Musicians from Quebec & the United States Interact During an Intensive Residency

Recently the Susquehanna Folk Music Society received funding
from the Mid Atlantic Arts Council which will allow them to conduct an international
project that brings together musicians from the Mid-Atlantic area with musicians
from the province of Quebec for an intensive residency during which they will compare
and contrast the traditional music of their respective regions.

For Part One of this project  Matt Brown, a fiddler from Westchester, PA
will travel to Grosses-Roches, Quebec where he will be immersed in the Québécois
fiddling tradition as well as have opportunities to share old-time Appalachian
fiddling techniques and repertoire with his Canadian counterpart; David
Boulanger.

A free public presentation, during which the two fiddlers
will demonstrate and talk about their collaborative work, will be held on
Sunday afternoon, August 14 in Grosses-Roches. As a complimentary activity the
group will travel to St-Anne Des Monts, Quebec on Saturday, August 13 where La
Bottine Souriante, the band for whom David Boulanger is a fiddler will play.

Matt is a fiddler who grew up experiencing the best of
old-time music at fiddler’s conventions, square dances, and traditional music
camps. His mentors include Ginny Hawker, Bruce Molsky, Paul Brown, Tracey
Swartz and Bruce Greene. Through the years Matt has grown into an exceptional
fiddler with an expansive repertoire of fiddle tunes from the Appalachian
South. He has played at the Kennedy Center, the Ozark Folk Center, and the
Philadelphia Folk Festival and has taught at The Swannanoa Gathering, Southern
Week at Ashokan, and the Berklee College of Music, among others.

David Boulanger- a fiddler who has been active on the Québécois
traditional music scene for nearly ten years. David is currently a member of
the preeminent group La Bouttine Souriante;
Quebec’s most famous and most firmly established traditional group. David is
also an active composer and devotee to the “crooked tunes” which are
distinctively Québécois.

The retreat will take place in the tiny village of
Grosses-Roches which is located on the peninsula of Gaspésie in Quebec. The
area around Grosses-Roches is known for its beauty–people go there to admire
the hills and cliffs, to go sea kayaking and to hike along a spur of the
Appalachian Trail. Formally established in 1939, the name of the town reflects
its natural topography with the presence of large numbers of small rounded
rocks and brownish color.

Grosses-Roches has just 420 inhabitants. In past years most
of the villagers had earned their living though fishing, but since the decline
of that industry the town has fallen on tough economic times with a quarter of the
population considered low income. Gilles Garand has had discussions with the
town’s mayor, Victoire Marin about stimulating the economy and restoring a
sense of pride in Quebec traditions through traditional art programming such as
the one proposed in this grant. Through the assistance of the mayor and
adequate publicity we hope to make the public program held on August 14th
into an exciting community event.

Oversight for the project will be by Jessica D. Hayden,
Executive Director of the Susquehanna Folk Music Society and ethnomusicologist Jean
Duval. Following are two statements, one from Jess Hayden and one from Jean
Duval about what we might expect from the project.

Jess: Comparing these two forms of fiddle music will give us
an interesting perspective on the fluidity of music styles as they change and
grow while blending with other styles. Both Appalachian and Québécois
music are strongly rooted in British Isles traditions, but Québécois
music has been predominately influenced by Acadian and Breton music, while
Old-Time Appalachian music by Afro-American and Cherokee traditions. Our task
will be to find common ground, but also to “tease out” and analyze differences
in an attempt to understand where the music has traveled. Both musicians and
the communities in which they are involved will be enriched as they play
together and teach each other repertoire from these two distinctive traditions.

Jean: When you look at Appalachian and Quebecoise traditions
you see many similarities; both traditions originated in the British Isles, are
used primarily for dancing and use similar instrumentation. But the differences
are also there too. Quebecois(e) music tends to be more bouncy, Appalachian
music is more legato with longer bow strokes. In Quebecoise music you have the
addition of the piano and accordions, which are rarely found in Appalachian
music, while Appalachian has the banjo. There are some common dance tunes, but
there are certainly some tunes found only in Quebec. And the rhythmic feel is
very different. The foot tapping really helps to drive Quebecois fiddle music,
while in Appalachian music you have more of the African American influence.

The group is hopeful that a future residency will be conducted
in the Harrisburg area.

The Folk Arts Outreach (FAO) Program is designed to
strengthen the folk and traditional arts infrastructure in the mid Atlantic by
promoting and exchange of artistic excellence and best practices, normally
arranged as an assemblage of two solo or group artists from participating
states meeting under the oversight of a visiting folklorist.  The encounters function as three-day
“retreats,” where the artists can collaboratively work, share, and gain from
the exchange of talent and techniques; they will present their art separately
and collaboratively, with appropriate commentary by the folklorist.  The three-day event also serves to celebrate
the host artist in his/her own community; it is designed to result in personal
growth for both artists and in artistic outreach within the host community.

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