Session One, Fiddlers Matt Brown and David Boulanger

Recently the Susquehanna Folk Music Society received funding
from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation which allowed us to conduct an
international project with our partner the Societe Pour La Promotion De Danse
Traditionnelle Quebecoise. This project brought together a musician from the
Mid-Atlantic area with a musician from the province of Quebec for an intensive
residency during which they compared the traditional music of their respective
regions.(further information available on the July 30 Folkmama post)

Following are notes from the first session, which occurred
on the morning of August 12, 2011 with Appalachian fiddler Matt Brown and
Quebecoise fiddler David Boulanger.

Day One’s session found us in the cozy kitchen and living
room area of a cottage in Gaspésie,
Quebec owned by our hosts Gilles Garand
and Louise de GrosBois. The inside is painted in bright colors with a large,
welcoming kitchen table with painted wooden chairs, a low beamed ceiling and a
colorful quilt on the wall. It’s easy to imagine a Quebec style kitchen party with music and
dancing in this small house.

We held a meeting first to discuss the purpose and
parameters of the grant. This is the first international Folk Art Exchange
project ever funded by the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and we all felt very
proud to be involved in this landmark event.  Major players included Sally Van de Water,
folklorist with the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Jean Duval, ethnomusicologist
and musician who specializes in the Quebecoise style, Jess Hayden representing
the Susquehanna Folk Music Society, the lead organization in the United States,
and our hosts Gilles Garand and Louise De GrosBois who represented the host
organization in Quebec, the Societe Pour La Promotion De Danse Traditionnelle

The two master fiddlers were Matt Brown from Pennsylvania(representing Appalachian old-time fiddle
music) and fiddler David Boulanger from Montreal
(representing traditional Quebecoise fiddle music).

After discussing how we were going to schedule things, we
decided that the morning session would focus on Appalachian styles, and the
afternoon on Quebecoise.

Sugar Hill, D Tuning

According Matt Brown became the teacher for the first
session. He had made the decision to focus on specific “source” fiddlers who he
admired and started off with the Tommy Jarrell tune “Sugar Hill”. Matt
explained to us that Tommy Jarrell was a fiddler from Mt. Airy, North Carolina
who was widely recorded by musicians coming to the Appalachian Mountain region
in the 1970s and 80s. He was very welcoming and would invite collectors to come
to his house and stay with him. Because of his gregarious nature, which
attracted collectors, his tunes became very widespread.

The alternate tuning of this piece allows the fiddler to add
drones to the tune, thus giving it a sound which is characteristic of
Appalachian music.

David learned the tune quickly but said that he felt that
Appalachian music was “like a totally different language”. The bowing is
different and it is not the same way of “grooving the tune.”

Breaking Up
Christmas, Cross A Tuning (AEAE)

Matt followed up “Sugar Hill” with another Tommy Jarrell
piece called “Breaking Up Christmas.” He said that it was about an old
tradition in the South during which the time period after Christmas was
celebrated by going to friends’ house in the evening for music and dancing.
Even the slaves has some time off—as long as a log kept on burning in the main
house, they didn’t have to go back to work. Jean said that there had been a
similar custom in Quebec
called “La period des fêtes”
(Christmas to King’s Day).

This tune is in
cross A, AEAE allowing for more drones and the ability to jump octaves. During
his lifetime Tommy Jarrell had opportunity to play with some Afro-American
musicians which is reflected in his playing which sounds bluesy at times.

Half Past Four, Cross A Tuning (AEAE)

The last piece that
Matt taught during the first morning session was “Half Past Four”, a piece that
he learned from the playing of Ed Haley, a blind fiddler from West
Virginia who lived most of his life in Kentucky. Ed Haley’s playing isn’t informed
by African American stylings, but this piece does featured a lowered G # which
Matt called a “neutral” tone. This gave the piece a very distinctive sound. He
also noted that Ed Haley was a fiddler that John Hartford really liked.

After this third piece we ended our morning session to take a break for lunch.


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