Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Historic Gaspé Footage and the Keel Row

Awhile back a friend, Marc Bolduc, posted this historic NFB film le Pays du Québec (the Land of Quebec) on Facebook with some wonderful old footage of the Gaspé coast and the cod fishery. The footage is from all around the province but there is definitely a focus on the Gaspé. The filmaker, Laura Boulton, was a prolific American ethnologist and collector of music and instruments from around the world and has a centre named in her honour at Columbia University. She made several films for the NFB in the 1940s, it seems at least partly under the guidance of Canadian folklorists and anthropologists like Marius Barbeau and Helen Creighton.

At about 12 min 30 sec, you get to see the Famille Ouellet from the Kamouraska area tearing up a tune at a house veillée (kitchen party). I immediately recognized the tune as a melody that I had heard on one of Erskine's numerous home-made cassettes. According to Marc, the tune is called The Keel Row or The Kilrow, among many other titles. The tune is believed to have originated in the northeast of England (around Newcastle or Northumberland) and a keel is a type of river boat, apparently particular to the rivers Tyne and Wear.

Here is Erskine's own driving setting of this tune, complete with an additional third part with classic Gaspesian syncopation. He did not have a title for this tune as far as we know.

Hear Erskine play The Keel Row


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2015

Wishing everyone out there from Gaspé and beyond a very happy St. Patrick's Day. Here's a lovely rendition of "My Lovely Rose of Clare" that Norma McDonald and Debbie Sams recorded for the archives last spring. They did a consummate job and really bring out the beauty of the melody and lyrics. This is by far my personal favourite Irish song and their version can't be beat. Great job, you two!

Hear "My Lovely Rose of Clare"

We featured this song as sung by Norma's neighbour, Graham McDonald, on our recently-released CD, Douglastown: Music and Song from the Gaspé Coast.

Joe Girard step dancing at an annual St. Patrick's Day concert in Douglastown 
And here is a lovely old photo shared on Facebook today by Elizabeth and Glenda Girard (originally of Douglastown) of their father, Joe Girard, dancing at the annual St. Patrick's Day concert in Douglastown, probably in the 50s or 60s. In their heyday, the St Patrick's concerts attracted capacity audiences of over 400 people from near and far, including Quebec's senior Catholic clergy. Joe Girard is known to have been one of Douglastown's finest step dancers. I'm not certain who the musicians are but, based on the electric guitar, I think it's MaryEllen Drody-Savidant providing the accompaniment. Elizabeth thinks that it might be either Gérard Durette or Joe Howell playing fiddle; her father frequently enjoyed dancing to Joe Howell's fiddling while Gérard Durette is an excellent French-style fiddler who was a mainstay at the St. Patrick's concerts. Let me know if you know who the musicians are. Thank you Glenda and Elizabeth for the photo.