Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

One of Mr. Joe's

At this year's Irish Week taking place next week in Douglastown, we are honouring the Drody family and their contribution to the musical heritage of the Gaspé coast. In particular, we will be paying homage to the life and music of Joe Drody (Sr.) on Wednesday, August 1st at 7:30 pm.

In light of the occasion, here is a lovely tune that Erskine learned from "Mr. Joe" that we have been calling "Joe Drody's Tune":

Hear Joe Drody's Tune

This tune features a typical two phrase structure in the low part with some great, choppy phrasing and syncopation. The high part is twice as long and has a lovely rolling feel and seems to share some common ideas with other tunes from Quebec. Erskine is probably playing this tune with his bass G string raised to A (as evidenced by other D tunes from the same recording session which all used the ADAE tuning), but I'm not certain.

Joe Drody Sr. and his wife, Pearl Grant
Joseph Angus Drody was born in Douglastown, Gaspé, Quebec in 1885 and lived there his almost his entire life. He passed away after living briefly with Jimmy and Brigid in Murdochville in 1965. Joe Drody was the patriarch of one of Douglastown's most musical families, the Drodys. His sons Anthony, Joseph (Jr.), and Johnny all learned the fiddle as well as daughters Kathleen and Mary Ellen. Mr. Joe learned to play the fiddle from his maternal uncle, James Henry Walsh who was born in 1830 in Douglastown. Mr. Joe got his first fiddle when he was 17 years old for $4 from an Eaton's catalogue. He would travel four miles on foot to his uncle's place to learn the old tunes. Mr. Joe knew most, perhaps all, of the older tunes featured so far on this blog. Tunes like "The Drops of Brandy", "Fat Molasses", "The Queen's Reel", "The Cockawee", and "The Murphy Reel", among many others were in Mr. Joe's repertoire. Presumably, his uncle James Henry Walsh also knew most of these same tunes.

By all accounts, Mr. Joe was a quiet, gentle man with a caring disposition. He was well-loved among his neighbours in Douglastown and was given the nickname, "Saint Joe". In his life he was a fisherman, boat builder, and carpenter. When his neighbours from Douglastown could not afford coffins for deceased family members, Joe was always there for them to build a coffin. The Drodys (Brigid, Anthony, Joseph) recall therir father playing often in the evenings after supper. Frequently, neighbours like Garnett Rooney and Isidore LeRhe would drop by to stepdance to Mr. Joe's fiddling. He would edge closer to the edge of his chair and stamp his feet as he played for the step dancers. As well, people would drop by when returning from a square dance and wake Mr. Joe to have him come down and play a few sets for them to dance to.

Mr. Joe's front porch
Mr. Joe was an important fiddle mentor for young Erskine, who would walk from his home on the main road (then the Route 6, now the 132), on a path through the woods until he reached Joe Drody's homestead over on the 1st Range. Joe Drody was Erskine's primary fiddle influence and learned many of the great Douglastown tunes from him. Erskine also learned many tunes from Joe's brother, Charlie (Mr. Charlie, as he was affectionately called by Douglastowners). The tunes Erskine learned from Joe and Charlie, he kept close to his heart and played all his life, never giving them up in favour of more modern repertoire.  In fact, in his later years Erskine would play the old Gaspé tunes of his youth alongside those he learned from modern fiddlers like Don Messer, Graham Townsend, Jean Carignan, and Ti-Blanc Richard.

This Wednesday, August 1st, I will be joined by Brigid, Joseph, and Anthony Drody along with Jimmy Miller, to pay tribute to Mr. Joe's contribution to Douglastown life. I hope to see you there for what promises to be a wonderful evening.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fiddler shares memories of Douglastown Irish Week

Our friend and occasional guest-blogger, Laura Risk, did a wonderful interview with CBC that was aired recently where she discusses her memories and impressions from the Douglastown Irish Week over the past three years. Specifically, she talks about meeting and getting to know our good friend, Norma McDonald, the first year she came to play at the festival. Laura speaks very eloquently about the musical culture around Douglastown and what a special time the festival is.

I hope you enjoy the interview.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

See You in Douglastown


I just wanted to write a quick note before I leave for Gaspe today. Looking forward to seeing my friends from the coast during the Irish Week in Douglastown.

See you soon,