Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Untitled Grumbler: Bernard and Walter Rooney with Gary Snowman

Our friend Bill from the Gatineau Valley posted this video on Youtube a few months back and I was immediately floored. This video is from the Pembroke, Ontario fiddle and stepdance week and here we have Bernard Rooney on fiddle accompanied by his brother Walter on guitar, both from Douglastown. Also, this video features perhaps the most exciting and funny stepdance intros by our friend and well-loved dancer Gary Snowman from L'Anse a Brillant. I'll let you see for yourselves:

I really love Bernard's soft, graceful bowing. He barely moves his bow hand and really just uses a little bit of finger movement to propel the bow. Despite the softness of the bowing and his economy of motion, he still gets a really driving fiddle sound that as you see, Gary really gets into. In fact, a lot of the Gaspesian players seemed to have had this light touch on the bow (Joseph and Anthony Drody, Cyril Devouge, and other old-timers). In this respect, Erskine's hard-driving and heavy bowing may have been somewhat unique to him, perhaps something he picked up from playing for dances with no accompaniment or perhaps from commercially recorded fiddlers like Jean Carignan, Isidore Soucy, and Joseph Allard all of whom he greatly admired.

Gary's love of step-dancing and the raw power of the Gaspesian fiddle culture really come across so well in this video. Bernard also uses a variety of different clogging patterns with his feet. He's got some really great rhythms here, try watching this video once and only observe his feet.

The tune being played seems to be in a family of tunes with different variations you find all over Quebec and New Brunswick. In fact, Erskine played a tune very similar in flavour that we posted a while back. We call these tunes "Grumblers" from the loose French translation of "Grondeuse" (litterally, a Rumbler) for many tunes in this family because they feature the fiddle tuned ADAE and do a lot of great, droning work on the two bass strings which give them that grumbling sound they're known for.

Bill took lots of footage of different fiddlers around Pembroke in the 1980's and 1990's which really show a lot of the regional Canadian styles and many unsung fiddle heroes, among these a few clips of our Gaspesian friends at their blue tent. Bill has a great youtube channel where you can see other videos from Pembroke. Perhaps inadvertently, I think Bill has created one of the best, informal resources on authentic Canadian fiddle culture on the Internet.

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