Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hermas Réhel (1920-2012)

Dear readers,

Last Tuesday, September 11, we lost another friend of Gaspesian music, the great fiddler and step-dancer, Hermas Réhel, of Bridgeville, Quebec. He was 92 and 7 months. Hermas was well-loved by many in the Gaspesian community both back-home and around Montréal. Many friends of the blog recall nights listening and dancing to Hermas' powerful fiddling, while accompanied with precise, penetrating foot stomping and his wife, Rita White's, solid guitar backing. Others will remember him as the kind man who ran the general store near Percé before it was expropriated to construct the highway 132.

Hermas avec sa fille, Élaine, et petite-fille au piano
His daughter, Élaine, has let me know that the viewing will continue tomorrow at La Maison funéraire Darche in Longueuil (505 rue Curé-Poirier). His ashes will then be brought back to his place of birth where the funeral will take place at the church in Barachois on October 20 at 10 a.m.

In the next week, all the details will be on the site of HG Division (Maison funéraire Harris Gleeton).

Pour nos lecteurs francophone et bilingue, voici un obituaire:

Aussi, notre ami, Marc Bolduc, a discuté les contributions de Hermas dans le folklore Québecois pendant son émission radio, Tradosphere. On peut l'écouter à le lien ci-dessous (voir l'émission pour le 11 septembre, c'est dans la deuxième partie de 30 minutes):

To honour Hermas' contributions to Gaspesian music, I'd like to share with you a few recordings from an old cassette that was made back in the 1960s that Brian found last year.

First we have Hermas' version of the classic Irish reel, "Sheehan's Reel". This reel is played quite extensively in Canada and you see how Hermas transforms this reel into a great Gaspesian stepdance piece with his crisp, stacatto bowing and sharp footwork.

Hear Hermas play "Sheehan's Reel"

Second, we have Hermas' take on the classic old-time/Scots tune Big John MacNeil. Hermas gets wonderful cross-string syncopations on the low turn and provides some extended phrasing which give the turn some surprising twists. In the high turn, he again gets some more interesting cross-string syncopations. I feel the mark of a great player is when the ability make an well-worn tune new again by putting their own stamp on it.

Hear Hermas play "Big John MacNeil"

Many thanks to Élaine for her help with this article. Our sincere condolences go out to Hermas and Rita's family and friends.

Here are some other links with information on Hermas' life and musical contributions:
Last year's article that Élaine did on her father's music.
Un article par Veronique Papillon sur la musique et danse de Hermas.

Finally, here are some great videos from our friend, Jimmy Allen, who met Hermas at Pembroke and considered him one of the greatest fiddlers he ever heard. Here is Hermas at the top of his game, fiddling and step-dancing up a storm with friends Cyril Devouge, Gary and Mary Snowman, Gavin White, the Drodys, and others.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Update from Newfoundland


I realize the posting has been very slow of late. After another wonderful time in Gaspé in late July and early August, I returned to Montreal mid August and commenced sorting out the move to St. John's, Newfoundland at the end of the month. As mentioned in an earlier post, I am pursuing a masters degree in Ethnomusicology at Memorial University where I will be turning the work Brian and I have been doing on Gaspesian fiddle culture into a research project. After packing up most of what I own in my Subaru and spending 3 ten hour days driving along the Trans-Canada, I'm now living in St. John's and just getting my feet on the ground.

In light of the nautical twist of this latest adventure, here is a nice version of Erskine playing the Sailor's Hornpipe. This tune seems to have become regraded a little clichée, but Erskine really shows what a fine tune it is played in the old Gaspesian style. He adds some novel twists playing the second strain in both octaves, something I don't believe I've heard elsewhere with this tune.

Hear the Sailor's Hornpipe

Here are some pictures of the drive out here, across the island and around St. John's. Amazing scenery and friendly people. I'm looking forward to sharing Gaspesian fiddle music with the folks out here.