Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pembroke 2011

This past long weekend I had the great pleasure to spend two and half days with the Gaspé gang at their little stage under the blue tent during the Pembroke Fiddle and Step Dance festival.  I wrote about my impressions on the scene they have there last year at this time, but would like to add a few more thoughts and some special memories for the 2011 edition.

What really stood out to me this year is the sense of dedication that the Gaspesians bring to the festival.  They are there the Sunday before the week-long festival starts ready to setup their stage and tent for the musicians and dancers.  Then every afternoon throughout the week, different people take turns providing the entertainment for the spectators.  This is something many of the same Gaspesians have been doing since the late 1970s.  I consider the scene the Gaspesians create around their stage to be representative of so many of the great things about their culture: music, dancing, family, socializing, card games, jokes, stories, and shared meals.  Its rare in this day and age that you will find a group as dedicated to these values as the Gaspesian crew at Pembroke and its a real treat to be able to share in these values with such wonderful people.

The Drody boys were in especially fine form and played a lot of great tunes they learned growing up with Brigid backing them in her unbeatable style.  Here are two clips of the Drody bunch in action.  The first is a nice French-Canadian tune calle the Reel de Saint-Omer.  The second tune is one they learned from their neighbour growing up, Ms. Napoleon Rooney.  As is common in the Gaspé tradition, they always called the tune "Ms. Napoleon's Tune" after the person they learned the tune from.  However, it is a nice Down-East tune that Don Messer played called the "Belledune Quickstep".  Belledune is just across the Baie de Chaleurs on the Gaspe coast on the New Brunswick side.   These videos are from our new Youtube channel we started for sharing videos related to Gaspesian fiddling.

Some stand out memories:
  • Mary Snowman's cod cakes, chicken-pot-pie, and beans for Saturday dinner
  • Hearing Brigid and Kent Sutton playing the guitar for the great Chateauguay Valley fiddler, Gérard Giroux when I first arrived at the tent.  You couldn't have a better welcoming soundtrack.
  • Having Gary Snowman step-dance up a storm to a fiddle tune I composed for Brigid
  • Playing along with Brigid and the Drody boys (Joseph and Anthony) on Saturday night
  • Drinking water Joseph had bottled from his spring in L'Anse à Brillant.  That stuff has healing-powers!
  • Playing with Anthony and Brigid for an impromptu square-set led by George Dion of Barachois.
  • Having a late night beer and swapping stories and tunes with the Drody boys back at their rented trailer outside the park.
  • Meeting in-person my on-line friend Bill Erwin from the Pontiac region of Quebec on Saturday afternoon.  Bill has a great Youtube channel and has sent me loads of great material from the fiddlers of his part of the province.
  • Playing a whole slew of Gaspe tunes with Brigid on Sunday afternoon.

Here's a video that Bill Erwin made at this year's festival of myself, Brigid, and Kent Sutton playing a Down-East tune I learned from Cyril Devouge and Neil MacKay called "The Island Ferry".

I want to extend a special heart-felt thanks to the Snowman's who were always looking out for me, keeping me well fed, and made my trip back to Montreal so enjoyable especially with one last serving of Mary's home-made cod cakes, chicken pot pie, and beans at the rest-stop in Cassleman, Ontario.  As well, a special kudos to Jimmy Miller and Gary Snowman for all their hard work in making sure the musicians have a wonderful place to congregate under and a lots of wooden boards to stamp their feet on.  Also, a special kudos to Anthony Drody (who drives 12 hours from New Jersey to be at the festival) and Joseph Drody who continue to represent their musical traditions to the fiddle fans during the festival and for being such great guys.  And of course we can't forget Brigid who is the rock that the music at the Gaspé tent is built upon.  She is always there at the ready with her guitar to help out us fiddlers.  As Joseph often says, "we need all the help we can get".

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