Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

"Airs piqués" - A New Album of Guitar Duets from Guy Bouchard and Mathieu Fournier

Earlier this month I opened my mailbox to find a CD copy of the latest project from Gaspé musicians Guy Bouchard and Mathieu Fournier. Both excellent fiddlers whom I've gotten to know over the years, like Brian and I, they also enjoy playing Gaspesian fiddle music on the guitar in the flatpicking style. Indeed, Brian has always said that this music suits the guitar well and this new album proves just how much this is the case. 

The sonic qualities of Mathieu's lead guitar and Guy's accompaniment, along with their more relaxed tempos, give the listener a more contemplative space to appreciate what I've always considered the enigmatic beauty of these melodies. The older Gaspesian fiddle music doesn't tend to follow the more predictable melodic contours and harmonies of 20th century fiddle music and the two guitars work perfectly to highlight the unusual and unique contours of the music. It was a joy to put this CD on the stereo and get lost in the sounds, expertly recorded, mixed, and mastered by Ike Barsalou in Gaspé. It felt like I was getting to hear this music from somewhere new and fresh and appreciate just how special these old melodies are. 

There are sixteen tracks of guitar duets on this new album. All the selections are drawn from fiddlers around the Coast, much the material learned from various archival collections. In fact, there are a few tunes from Erskine Morris and others that have been mentioned on this blog: Bill Lucas, James Henry Conley, Cyril Devouge, and Tunny Hottot. As well, Guy and Mathieu have also been learning music from other Gaspesian families from the north shore and Baie des Chaleurs region of the Coast: Anglehart, Chouinard, Denis, Francoeur, Keighan, LeBreux, Mimeault, Riffou, and Richard. As such, the CD is also a wonderful cross-section of older Gaspesian fiddle repertoire from a wide swath of different communities across the Coast. The beautiful cover design comes from their friend and fellow musician Eric Bond.

You can listen and download or order this CD on their Bandcamp page.

Here is an interview Mathieu did the other day for Radio Gaspésie where he talks about the project. And here he is on CBC-Radio Canada.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Airs-Mémoire: Traditional Fiddle Tunes from the Tip of the Gaspe Peninsula

I'm happy to announce that the latest edition of the Airs-Mémoire collection of transcriptions is now available for download. This project to preserve these melodies in sheet-music form is a collaboration between musicians France Dupuis (Quebec City) who did the transcriptions and Guy Bouchard (Douglastown) who played the melodies for France and suggested the guitar accompaniment that appears along with the music. I was fortunate to see the beginnings of their collaboration when I was visiting Guy shortly after he moved to Douglastown in 2018; France was visiting at the same time and we all passed many hours jamming on some of these tunes in Guy's living room. We even got to perform them for Bernard and Christina's wedding anniversary party that year!

France and Guy see this collection as "a tangible way to preserve and disseminate tunes from the local oral tradition." The new edition contains 54 traditional tunes from the eastern Gaspe Peninsula, a table of contents, and an appendix of references. 

It is available for download for $18 from France Dupuis' website.

It has been astounding to see so many people helping make this music and Gaspesian musicians better known far and wide. I want to congratulate France and Guy for their ongoing dedication and tireless work with this music.
Porch jam session. The Kennedy Homestead, Douglastown 2018. L to R: Guy Bouchard, Laura Sadowsky, France Dupuis, Glenn Patterson, Brian Fournier, Norma McDonald

Monday, September 14, 2020

Another Tribute to Anthony Drody

Anthony Drody's niece Debbie Sams of Gaspé, a frequent contributor of material for this blog and other projects I do, sent me a video montage she produced paying tribute to her Uncle Anthony upon his passing last December. This montage was used at Anthony's service. It features some beautiful old photographs of Anthony's life and and (mostly) Anthony's music taken from home recordings. I'm even on there playing a half-arsed version of one of Anthony's favourite tunes, "The Four Corners of Saint-Malo."

Enjoy the video. Thank you, Debbie for sharing this with us.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Gaspé Fiddle @ 10 Livestream - Available Online

For those of you who didn't manage to tune in to our 10th anniversary party, we had a wonderful afternoon filled with impassioned performances and touching commentary and testimony. The video can be viewed on the public Facebook page (i.e. you don't need a Facebook account to view it) of a project I'm currently running for the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network. 

Here is the link.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the performers and community members who contributed their time, music, and insights to make this event possible. As well, Vision Gaspé-Percé Now and the Douglas Community Centre; my co-host Laura Risk at University of Toronto for all her help organizing the performers and emceeing with me; Norma McDonald, Gordie and Ernest Drody; and the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network and Canadian Heritage for their financial support.

The performances were as follows:


Glenn Patterson & Brian Morris 

  • Fat Molasses
  • Pearl of the Coast & Fred Kennedy's Tune
  • Roland White's Tune & The Donna Reel


Guy Bouchard et ses amis

  • North Shore of Gaspé; 
  • Laura's Breakdown& Holly's Reel
  • Video: Dance Documentary Teaser


France Dupuis: The Making of Airs-Mémoire (Slideshow with Music)

  • Reel des Colons de Charlie Drody
  • Anthony Drody's Tune & Father Morris' Tune


Norma McDonald: Oral History Interview & Archival Music

  • The Broken Wedding Ring (Norma McDonald)
  • The Road to Boston (Erskine Morris)
  • Mockingbird Hill (Norma McDonald & Glenn Patterson)


Stéphanie Lépine

  • The Bois-Brulé Jig


André Brunet

  • The Little Boy's Reel


Robin Servant: 

  • Erskine Morris' Grondeuse
  • Leslie Devouge's Tune
  • Piss and Keep the Hair Dry (Reggie Rooney's Tune)


Tribute to the Drody Family: Archival Video

  • Joe Drody's Jig (Joseph, Anthony, & Brigid Drody; Laura Risk; Glenn Patterson; Brian Morris)
  • Money Musk (Joseph Drody & Laura Risk; Brigid Drody and Brian Morris; Debbie Sams)
  • The Old Man and Old Woman (Joseph, Brigid, Anthony, and Justin Drody)
  • Tommy Rooney's Jig (Anthony and MaryEllen Drody)
  • The Old Man and the Old Woman (Johnny, Anthony, Brigid, MaryEllen Drody)
  • Rambler's Hornpipe (Johnny, Anthony, Brigid, and MaryEllen Drody)


Lisa Ornstein:

  • Murphy Reel
  • Grandmother's Reel
  • Tommy Rooney's Jig


Ernest Drody: Oral History Interview & Archival Music

  • Silver and Gold Two-Step (Ernest Drody and Glenn Patterson)
  • Flowers of Edinburgh (Charlie Drody)
  • The Cockawee (Ernest Drody and Glenn Patterson)


Alexis Chartrand: 

  • Eva Drody's Tune (Erskine Morris' version)


Paul Fackler: Transcription Project, Discussion and Tunes

  • Belle Kathleen
  • Comparison of Interpretations: The Indian Reel (Soucy, Allard, Devouge, Morris)
  • Mouth of the Tobique


Martin Aucoin:

  • The Cockawee
  • Shannon Reel
  • Erskine Morris' Devil's Dream #2


Pascal Gemme:

  • Reel des Colons de Charlie Drody & The Bois-Brulé Jig


Pria Schwall-Kearney: 

  • Tommy Rooney's Jig


Laura Risk:

  • Father Morris' Tune
  • The Rocky Road to Dublin

Friday, July 24, 2020

August 8, 2020 - Come Celebrate 10 Years of Gaspé Fiddle (Online)

I previously mentioned that it has now been 10 years since we started this blog and, somehow, this music has travelled far and wide and touched the lives of many fiddlers - some as far away as Australia! I also alluded to some happenings we are planning to mark these ten years.

In my current job, I am helping community groups across the province put on events to celebrate their local musical heritage. And so it is with great pleasure to announce that I have teamed up with Vision Gaspé-Percé Now and the Douglas Community Centre to put on an afternoon celebrating these 10 years and the many people involved.

On August 8, 2020, from 1 - 4 pm, we will be live streaming a musical gathering across three countries and two continents, virtually bringing people together who have been involved in helping preserve and share this music during the past few years. You can tune in on any of the the following Facebook pages:

A Different Tune
Vision Gaspé-Percé Now
Douglas Community Centre

Featuring the following performers/speakers:

Guy Bouchard, Matthieu Fournier et l'Orchestre de danse de Douglastown (Douglastown)
Laura Risk (Montreal)
Brian Morris & Glenn Patterson (Montreal)
Lisa Ornstein (Washington State)
Robin Servant (Rimouski, QC)
Paul Fackler (North Carolina)
Martin Aucoin (Beresford, NB/Lévis, QC)
France Dupuis (Quebec City)
André Brunet (Mauricie, QC)
Pascal Gemme (Eastern Townships, QC)
Pria Schwall-Kearney (Australia)
Stéphanie Lepine (Lanaudìere, QC)

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Prix CQPV: Congratulations to Guy Bouchard, the Douglas Community Centre, and Friends!

Well this is a nice follow up to my last post where I mused on 10 years of a bunch of us working together preserve the fiddle music of the eastern Gaspésie!
I want to congratulate to Guy Bouchard and his friends at the Douglas Community Centre in Douglastown for their work to collect, teach, and celebrate the traditional fiddle music and dance of the Eastern Gaspésie. With their regular dances and workshops throughout the winter featuring almost exclusively repertoire local to the region, they have just been awarded the prestigious Prix CQPV from our province's Intangible Cultural Heritage organization. What Guy and his friends started in Douglastown picks up where this project left off four or five years back. Moreover, it is one of those special instances where anglophones and francophones come together to celebrate their shared culture together on the Gaspé Coast. Their work is helping making it part of local cultural life once again. 

Congratulations to everyone. Here is the press release:

Friday, May 15, 2020

Musings on 10 Years of Gaspe Fiddle

Ten years seems like a fitting time to reflect on this project, taking stock of some of the accomplishments and beginning to thinking about what the next ten years will look like. The principal goal of this project was simply to make this music and Erskine known to fans of traditional fiddling. Brian and I couldn't be happier in this respect. Many of the new releases from Quebec's professional traditional musicians over the past five years or so have featured Erskine's tunes learned from this blog; many more of these tunes are being played at sessions and at festivals all around the globe. Lisa Ornstein; André Brunet; Alexis Chartrand; Davi Simard; Le Vent du Nord and De Temps en Temp; Le Bruit court dans la Ville; Pascal Gemme; Laura Risk; among many others have helped share this music (please leave a comment if there are other performers I should add).

Knowledge of Erskine and the Gaspé fiddle style has even gone global! Laura Risk recently taught at a fiddle camp in Australia and arrived to find that the local fiddlers already knew "Joe Drody's Jig" and were eager to learn more tunes from the region. Just the other week, Lisa Ornstein taught two of Erskine's tunes to an online fiddle class with several dozen students from the United States (several years ago she featured Erskine's setting of " Tommy Rooney's Jig" on her website as the Québécois Tune of the Month). The list goes on and on.

It has also been touching to see how many people have joined in our efforts to promote this unique musical culture by creating their own online resources. In particular, Guy Bouchard and Laura Sadowsky, who now reside in Douglastown, have been sharing not only this music, but also trying to bring back the old dances that went alongside this music through regular workshops and dance nights during the long Gaspesian winters (Guy is currently working a film project about these dances).  Much of their activity is documented on their l'Orchestre de danse de Douglastown Facebook page.  You can also hear recordings of Guy and Mathieu playing this music over at Guy's Soundcloud page; Guy has often provided inspiring and subtle guitar accompaniment to these tunes. Their friend and cellist-mandolinist France Dupuis has produced an excellent set of transcriptions of the tunes they have learned for their project, all of which can be downloaded from France Dupuis' personal website for a small fee.

In the United States, Paul Fackler has been working tirelessly to transcribe every tune on this blog while also promoting Erskine's music among the various jam groups he interacts with all over the country. Brian and I are currently working with Paul to help him publish these transcriptions in a free PDF. (You may recall that Paul reached out to help us a few years ago by providing a detailed list of alternate tune titles for the material found on this blog in cases where the tune is played elsewhere in Quebec or in other fiddle traditions; these notes and sources will be part of Paul's upcoming set of transcriptions.)

The Internet is, in many ways, a very different place in 2020 than 2010. Social media rose to dominate how most of us find, seek out, consume, and engage with online content; as well streaming both audio and video has become both norm and expectation. (Ten years ago, I could simply write articles here and know that this would find its way out to a small but loyal audience of blog subscribers; an interface for streaming a whole set of tracks in a playlist didn't exist on Blogger - and still doesn't).

My own ability to keep up contributing to this project has also considerably slowed. In 2012, I left Montreal for 7 years to pursue a doctorate degree in ethnomusicology in St. John's and found myself with decidedly less time to write about and share content here. Currently, I'm working two jobs and am still trying to finish that degree. In one of these jobs, I'm fortunate to be directing a province-wide survey of musical heritage in Quebec's diverse English-speaking communities for the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network. As well, my own musical interests have drifted a bit to new communities and cultures in Quebec and elsewhere around the world (Turkish, Greek, Ottoman, Arabic, and Armenian music in the last year or so, for example). Still, Erskine's music has a special place in my heart - not least because of all the wonderful people it introduced me to, from Gaspé to the Ottawa Valley and beyond. And we have so much music from Erskine's home recordings to share.

In this era of the meme, tweet, and quasi-ephemeral posts on Facebook, it's touching to see this material still making the rounds online and in-person and getting musicians excited. It seems that there is as much interest in this music now as there ever was, perhaps even more thanks to the work of all the people and others mentioned above.

Brian and I have been discussing this state of affairs recently with some of the people named above. And from this, we've decided that it is time to fully open up our archives and expand even further the sense of community involvement in this project. Brian firmly believes that his father would have shared his music with anyone interested. In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Erskine was dubbing his tapes and putting them in the mail to friends and family from Vancouver to Gaspé. And today, his music is travelling far and wide online and person-to-person due to all our efforts.

The exact form this next phase of the project will take is still taking shape, but we are currently exploring other online platforms for sharing entire home recordings which will give listeners the chance to hear, download, and learn tunes that I haven't had a chance to share here yet. Each of these recordings represents a unique moment in Erskine's life, where he sat down in his parlour during an afternoon to record tunes he was learning or reworking. In this way, they are a precious window into Erskine's metier as an old-time fiddler. This blog will still have a place in this already-expanded ecosystem on Gaspesian fiddling - its role a testament to the first chapter of this collective project and a narrative of the journey Brian and I undertook, meeting Gaspesians near and far to learn more about this music and the people who played it, danced to it, or simply loved it.

We are also planning an online event (given the current restrictions on public gatherings due to COVID-19) for August 2020 to mark this first decade of the project. We will be inviting some of our new friends who have taken up this music to share a few tunes they've learned from Erskine and his neighbours.

That's all for now - here's to the next ten years. Thank you for all the support/Merci pour votre soutien.