Old Native And Métis Fiddling in Manitoba

Note: these LPs are available on CD from Anne Lederman at www.annelederman.com

Old Native And Métis Fiddling in Manitoba, Vols 1 & 2, Falcon FP - 187 and 287 - 1987

(both albums are double lp sets - ed)

Produced by Anne Lederman; Consultant and Translator: Lawrence ‘Teddy Boy’ Houle

Tracks for Vol 1: Willie Mousseau: Quadrille Set: Haste To The Wedding - Year of Jubilo - D Reel; G Reel; C Reel (Caber Feigh); D Reel; Red River Jig; Walter Flett: Drops of Brandy; D Jig; G Two Step; Girl I Left Behind; Lawrence ‘Teddy Boy’ Houle: A March; A Reel; Red River Jig (two versions); D-A; Lawrence Flett: Devil’s Reel; A Reel (2 versions); A Reel; G Reel (Yankee Four); Albert Beaulieu: La Double Gigue; D Reel (Fiddlin’ Phil); G Jig; Walter Flett’s Reel (Shelburne Rotary Club Breakdown); Albert Beaulieu, Lawrence Flett and Lawrence Houle: Lady Do-si-do; Willie Mousseau’s Reel (Wagakut); Home Waltz; Emile Spence: Andrew’s Waltz*; White-Tailed Deer*; D Reel; Turkey In The Straw; Frank Desjarlais: D Two Step (Gateman’s Reel); D Jig; A Foxtrot; G Jig; Fred Lavasseur: D Jig*; Snowshoe Reel; Flowers of Edinburgh; Jack Ducharme: A Reel; D Reel; Angus McLeod: G Reel; G Reel (Heather Hill); Lonesome Cattle Call; Jimmy Anderson: A Reel (Wind That Turns The Mill); D Reel (Les Guenilles); D Two Step; Gilbert Sanderson’s Waltz; Eldon Campbell: Yank Four; G Second Change; Broom Dance - Rabbit Dance; Harry Asham’s Tune

Tracks for Vol 2: Grandy Fagnan: Devil’s Reel; D Reel; A Jig; A Reel; Three Sisters; D Reel (Fisher’s Hornpipe); Arkansas Traveller - Brother; G March; Wedding Reel, La reel du mariage; Red River Jig; J. B. Ledoux: Romeo’s First Change with calls by Gilbert Delarond; G Two Step; Stanley Sabiston: Red River Jig; G Reel; George Demerais: D Reel (Jack Pine Trail); G Reel; Frank Catchaway: D Reel (Bonaparte’s Retreat); F Waltz; Bb Jig; A Reel; D Reel (Year of Jubilo); A Reel (Growling Old Man); E Two Step; Trading Post Reel; Roderick Ross: Drops of Brandy; D Foxtrot; Little Joe Chartrand: D Reel (Growling Old Man); D Reel; D Reel; Fred McKay: Haste To The Wedding; Devil’s Reel - Devil’s Waltz; G Second Change; D Reel; A Quadrille Set; Hyacinth McKay: D Waltz (Valse St Pierre); D Jig (Fairy Toddler); D Reel; D Reel (Pemmican Reel); C Reel (Billy In The Lowground); D Reel (Eighth of January); René Ferland: Drops of Brandy; D Jig; D Reel (Durang’s Hornpipe); G Jig (Grandpa’s Whiskers); G Reel; Crossing The Ferry; G Reel; The Duck Dance

These recordings were made and gathered in 1985 and 1986 in Saulteaux and Métis communities in western Manitoba. They are a combination of recent recordings done under a variety of conditions as well as tunes taken from tapes made up to twenty years ago in the communities themselves. Many players of the old style had already passed away by the time this project was underway, so that old tapes made on home equipment are often the only record of how they played.

Old Native and Métis fiddling in Canada’s Northwest is a unique phenomenon which is largely unknown outside of its own communities. It combines the tunes and some of the style of the French-Canadian and Scottish fur traders (and later tunes from American, Ukrainian and other musicians) with some of the phrasing and expression of traditional Native music. This results in highly complex musical structures. The French-Canadian roots of the music are obvious, especially in the vigorous bowing and the tapping of both feet to emphasize the rhythm. However, the uneven lengths of the phrases and the way the tunes are constructed owe much to the Native heritage of the musicians and make this style of fiddling unique.

To many people, Native and non-Native alike, the old tunes are considered to have ‘crazy rhythm’. Many players have moved away from the old style, finding themselves more attracted to the smooth, symmetrical fiddling they hear on the radio and on commercial recordings. Some just never hear the old tunes anymore and so forget them; while others, in trying to survive between the two worlds of white and Native, have discarded elements of their cultural past which might not seem to be in keeping with the ‘modern’ world. But some hang on tenaciously, insisting on playing the old tunes in the ‘old-time’ way. This collection is meant to be a tribute to the fiddlers, an inspiration to others and a means of passing on this complex and highly creative tradition to future generations.

Anne Lederman

(Inner booklet notes by Anne Lederman)

There has been fiddling in the Saulteaux communities of western Manitoba for as long as anyone can remember. In spite of the trend towards Country music in the last 30 years and the more recent trend towards Rock, ‘old time’ fiddlers still play for themselves, with family and friends, in bands, at dances and at parties. The tunes heard today are a curious mixture of old and new, from almost unrecognizable versions of old Scottish or American tunes such as Caber Feigh or year of Jubilo to Don Messer tunes and Nashville breakdowns. Sometimes, a player will noticeably change style when switching from new to old tunes. For the modern sound, he* will sit back, tap a toe lightly, stretch out the bow strokes and relax. yet, when it comes time to play the old tunes, the pace quickens, bow strokes become shorter and more aggressive and both the feet start to move off the floor. If the guitar player is young, he frequently gets lost trying to follow the uneven phrasing and stops, letting the fiddle recreate by itself a sound heard for generations on the prairies. The fiddler, for his part, ‘gives it tarpaper.’ When the tune is over, he is usually panting and has to wipe sweat off his brow. This old music is the legacy of the fur trade in Canada’s Northwest - a music which combines the sometimes irreconcilable cultures of White and Native. It is a music not quite like any other.

* Although I was told about the occasional female fiddlers in the past in these communities, I neither met nor heard about any who are still active. Fiddling has always been largely a male activity in Native communities.

Volume 1 - Ebb and Flow, Bacon Ridge, Eddystone and Kinosota

The Ebb and Flow Reserve is located halfway up the western shores of Lake Manitoba. Established in 1871, it has about 400 residents, while another 300 live in the ‘non-status’ community of Bacon Ridge, right beside the reserve. Eddystone is about 15 miles north of the reserve, and there are some close family connections. Most older residents of Ebb and Flow, Bacon Ridge and Eddystone speak Saulteaux as their first language (pronounced ‘Soto’ by those who live there). As in most Saulteaux communities in Manitoba, however, surnames are mostly French and Scottish, even though French is spoken by only one or two people. English is used in school, and most residents are fluent in English as well as Saulteaux.

Kinosota is a few miles south - a cluster of farms right on the shores of Lake Manitoba, spreading out around the remains of an old Hudson’s Bay trading post. Called Manitoba House, it was established in 1828 according to a local. In Kinosota, names are mostly completely Scottish, and the English language prevails, although there have been Gaelic speakers in the area within living memory.

All three settlements have close family ties and share a common heritage. They are largely the mixed-blood offspring of French and Scottish fur traders and Saulteaux Indians, and have been established along these shores since at least the early 1800s. Traditionally, they have hunted, fished and farmed for livelihood. Some hire themselves out as labourers in other communities.

Right beside the reserve and a few miles up from Manitoba House are the Narrows of Lake Manitoba, which was always a sacred spot for the Saulteaux. Here, the lake is only about half a mile across, and ‘unearthly’ noises are frequently heard as the wind blows across the limestone rocks. The island in the Narrows is called “Manito-wapah,” which literally means the “Spirit’s Narrows”, and is thought of as the dwelling place of God or Manitou. It is from this name that the word Manitoba is thought to derive.

Because the narrowing of the waters made it such a good meeting place for those dwelling on both sides of the lake, several Hudson’s Bay posts were established here over the years, starting in 1798 and continuing off and on until 1911. Trade in furs was carried on with both the Ebb and Flow Indians on the western shore and those from Dog Creek on the east. It was such a well-established and strategic trading spot that, for years, the main line of the CPR was slated to go through here, bypassing Winnipeg altogether. However, various business deals caused plans to change - the railway went south of Lake Manitoba and the area became once more a somewhat isolated home for those who remained.

Unfortunately, much of the land is low and marshy, which makes it unsuitable for farming. With few local resources to develop, business opportunities are limited and the area is somewhat economically depressed. However, there are good schools, good farm land to the south and a rich cultural heritage, which give some possibilities for the future.

The Players And The Tunes


Within living memory, fiddling seems to be concentrated in families: the three Flett brothers - Charlie, Roderick and Walter; their sons Lawrence Flett and Lawrence Houle; brothers Antoine, Pete and Willie Mousseau; brothers Albert and Alfred Beaulieu, all of Ebb and Flow; William Spence and sons Arsène and Emile Spence of Eddystone; Alfred and Arthur Dumas from Crane River; Jack and Fred Ducharme from Kinosota and nephews Jimmy Anderson, Gus McLeod and Eldon Campbell. Some of these players have passed away over the last 30 years, although they are still remembered in the community. About half of them are represented on these recordings. The fiddlers range in age from 45 to 82 at the time they were recorded. There is also quite a variety of repertoire and playing styles among them, but all have learned from the old local tradition to some extent. Although I have concentrated on the oldest tunes known in the community as much as possible, the influences of the past 40 years are also evident in tunes such as Gene Autry’sLonesome Cattle Call.

Some families had gramophones by the late 1930s, but poverty prevented these luxuries from being commonplace. Guitars appeared by the late 1940s and other instruments such as banjo, mandolin and accordion turn up occasionally after that. Up until then, the fiddlers played solely to the accompaniment of their own feet or other fiddles. However by the 1960s, according to home tapes, music at family gatherings consisted of a mixture of the old Quadrille tunes played on fiddle and guitar (refer to section on ‘Repertoire’), old-time country songs and newer tunes like Faded Love and Maiden’s Prayer (mostly learned from American radio stations). There were several dance callers in the community who also contributed to these informal gatherings. They all called in English, except for Pete Garneau who used French.

Outside of hymns sung in Church and the occasional popular Irish and Scottish song, there seems to have been little singing in these communities for some time before Country and Western music became popular. Some residents know some Ojibwa songs used for medicine ceremonies but have learned them elsewhere. There is one Saulteaux song known in Ebb and Flow sung to a fiddle tune but it and a bilingual version of These Shoes Keep Walkin’ Back To You are the only non-religious Saulteaux songs that I came across.

The era of the organized band coincides with the advent of country singing around the early 1950s. At first, bands consisted mainly of guitars and fiddle but later began to include bass and drums (probably in the late 1960s). Now, several bands play for events in their own and in other communities within a few hours travel. These bands include most of the younger players on these recordings. Even today however, drummers are rare (again, the cost of drum sets is no doubt a factor) and groups are often just trios, usually consisting of one electric and one acoustic guitar player and a fiddler, with one or more of the musicians singing. But at home it is still solo fiddle or fiddle and guitar which are heard most often, and that is what we have gathered for this collection.

Recording Situations


As Willie Mousseau, Walter Flett and Jack Ducharme had passed away before this project began, I copied tapes of them made by family members and others who had recorded them during their lifetime. Also, some tapes of Emile Spence are from older cassettes he made at home. Some tunes of Lawrence Flett, Emile Spence, Frank Desjarlais and Lawrence Houle are taken from 1/4 inch reels I made on an earlier trip in May and June 1985. They were recorded on a portable Uher in the player’s homes. A couple of tunes from Eldon Campbell and Frank Desjarlais were made on a Sony Professional Walkman, also in their homes.

All other recordings were made directly onto Beta tape in August - September, 1986, using an F1 digital processor and two Sennheiser CK 30 microphones. These recording sessions were held in the conference room of the Ebb and Flow Band offices on the evenings of August 18, 19 and 20, 1986. It is a long carpeted room mostly filled with a large table. We put a small board down for the fiddlers’ feet. Several fiddlers had been invited to come down at a time, where they took turns playing a few tunes each. Along with interested family and friends, they sat and listened to each other the rest of the time and provided comments, jokes and anecdotes over the course of the sessions.

Two other sessions were held in the old Hill School in Bacon Ridge, the first schoolhouse in the non-status settlement. The building is now managed by the local branch of the Manitoba Métis Federation and used as a community hall for various group activities. We wanted to try using the larger space so that more members of the community could come down and watch.

(Note: Names in brackets are nicknames by which the players are usually called. Many people in these communities do not know each other’s formal names, only their nicknames.)


Volume I


Willie Mousseau

Born 1903 - Ebb and Flow Reserve
Died 1985, Ebb and Flow Reserve

Willie and two of his older brothers, Antoine and Pete, were all fiddlers. Willie, who spoke to Bill Henry shortly before his death in 1985, says he learned mainly from Antoine, who died “about 40 years ago. Ask anybody you see, they know Antoine Mousseau, he was a damn good fiddler.” (No recordings were made of Antoine. There are apparently some in existence of Pete, but they were not available for these records.) Talking about his youth, Willie said,

“There were not very many (fiddlers)... one in Sandy Bay [possibly Joe Roulette], there was one in Camperville - Chartrand [probably Michael Chartrand who is mentioned by several Camperville fiddlers]. So there were not very many, not like today... there are a lot of them playing violin but they’re not good. the ones I’m talking about, they were the best.”

Willie’s playing is very energetic, and he uses many two-note chords, his feet beating a precise accompaniment to both jigs and reels. He accents the offbeat heavily, and his phrases tend to be longer than many other players. His opening phrases especially are lengthened. Likewise, he usually signals the start of a tune with a few chords.

Recording Situation: These tunes were all recorded by Willie Henry in the spring of 1984 at Mr. Mousseau’s home in Ebb and Flow, using a stereo Marantz cassette recorder and Shure microphones. The rhythmic accompaniment on these tunes (and throughout the recordings) is being made by the fiddler’s feet.

Guitar - Bill Henry

1. Quadrille Set (Haste To The Wedding - Year of Jubilo - D Reel) - Both of the first two tunes are well-known in the community in local versions. Haste To The Wedding is often called simply ‘the wedding tune’ and is usually played for the first dance at a wedding party. The third is from Joe Roulette of Sandy Bay, according to Lawrence Houle.

2. G Reel - This tune was also played by Roderick Flett

3. C Reel (Caber Feigh) - This was sometimes the third tune in a set of C reels known as Three Sisters in Camperville. The other two were versions of Wagoner and Billy In The Lowground. Lawrence Houle plays them as a set also, as did Roderick Flett, but does not call them by this name. All three of the tunes are generally unnamed in the community, although Lawrence calls this one Roulette’s Reel as it was also learned from Joe Roulette of Sandy Bay.

4. D Reel - A common ‘old-time’ tune in the area, I have not been able to trace it to any other source.

5. Red River Jig - This version is particularly interesting because Willie does not retune the fiddle the way most players do but leaves the bottom string tuned to G, very much changing the sound of the low part.

Walter Flett (“Megwassi”)*

(*Walter’s nickname Megwassi means ‘Ukrainian’, given to him because his first marriage was to a Ukrainian woman.)

Born: 1908 Died: May 1986, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Walter was the youngest of the three Flett brothers. He had 8 of his own children and was step-father to 4 others having married widow Edith Houle in 1959. He worked for a farmer near Amaranth in the early 1950s - Jewel Kartinson - and lived with his family on Mr. Kartinson’s land. Then, he moved to the newly built Bacon Ridge, where his children plus a few others made up the required nine so that Edith could ask for a teacher and a school.

Walter learned to play from his father and older brothers and later, from recordings of Andy DeJarlis and eastern fiddlers such as Don Messer. His bowing is very smooth, and his repertoire reflects both the ‘Old Time’ Ebb and Flow style and the ‘Down East’ sound. He had quite a formidable reputation during his lifetime and recorded several tunes for the Manitoba Museum exhibit ‘Birth of a Province,’ which are now held in the National Museum in Ottawa (#6 from this recording). He was known as an excellent dancer as well as fiddler. Stepson ‘Teddy Boy’ Houle says,

“He was the best... ‘cause he played the fiddle the way he wanted to. He played it very freely, and he played it in a character that would suit only him.”

Recording Situation: The first tune comes from the tape made for the Manitoba Museum exhibit in 1972 called “Birth of a Province.” The others were taped by Walter’s son Jimmy, in 1978, on a reel-to-reel machine. On these latter tunes, Walter is playing through an amplifier and Jimmy is playing an electric guitar.

Guitar - Jimmy Flett

6. Drops of Brandy - a Native and Métis standard. This tune is also called the Hook Dance because of the swinging figures in the dance, or Koshkwepigken in Saulteaux, which literally means “fish hook dance”. Again, the percussion is from Mr. Flett’s feet.

7. D Jig - Unknown

8. G Two Step - Unknown

9. Girl I Left Behind - played the ‘old-time’ way.

Lawrence Houle (‘Teddy Boy’)

Born: October, 1938, Ebb and Flow Current Residence: Lockport, Manitoba

‘Teddy Boy’, as he is generally known, is Walter Flett’s stepson from mother Edith Houle’s first marriage. He grew up in Bacon Ridge but has worked at a number of occupations in Winnipeg and rural Manitoba over the past 30 years, including archeological surveying and community development.

He learned fiddle mainly by watching his stepfather, Walter, his uncles Charlie and Roderick and neighbour Willie Mousseau. He says no one, including his father, showed him anything, as seems to be typical in this tradition. “I would just play it and play it and play it, and... I used to cry beside this instrument, I wanted to learn it so bad.” At first, he had to steal it from his father’s hiding place when his parents went to town since his father had forbidden the kids to touch the fiddle, which was, after all, a rare and valuable possession. According to Teddy Boy, “Nobody had anything. If you had a fiddle, my goodness, you were a millionaire.” In spite of the fact that he is now considered a professional, he still says he will never play as well as his dad did. On the other hand, he believes everyone should have their own approach:

“See the three brothers here (Walter, Charlie and Roderick)... if you asked them to play the same tune, they all had different versions, so, that’s when I decided I must have a version too... so I would never really try to copy anybody because I had my own style.”

In spite of his exposure to recorded music, he prefers the ‘old-time’ way of playing from his own community. Teddy Boy is fairly well-known throughout the prairies, plays regularly for dances in many communities and has appeared at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. He works with traditional dance groups in the communities of Hollow Water and the Cody Reserve and has released his own album of tunes learned from his father on the Sunshine label (SSBCT 442). He was also hired to work on this recording project as consultant, translator, and cultural ‘guide’, where his assistance has proved invaluable throughout.

Recording Situation: #10 and #11 were recorded at the Band Office, #13 at the old Hill School, all in August, 1986, on Beta: #12 was recorded at the home of Kate Carey in Winnipeg, August, 1985, on a portable Uher.

10. Demerais Reel - Fiddle tuned A E A E. Lawrence’s father learned both this tune and the next from Charlie Demerais of Amaranth. (Amaranth is a small community about 20 miles south of Ebb and Flow.)

11. A Reel - Fiddle tuned A E A E. See #10.

12. Red River Jig - Two versions. Fiddle is tuned A D A E. The first version is one of the old local ways of playing the Red River Jig and is quite unusual in that the high part stays in a D tonality while the low part centres around an A chord, the opposite of most versions. The second, while also a local version, is closer to those commonly heard elsewhere.

13. A Reel - From Lawrence’s father, Walter Flett.


Side II


Lawrence Flett (‘Toulouse’)

Born: October, 1940, Ebb and Flow Reserve Current Residence: Bacon Ridge

One of thirteen children of Charlie Flett (the oldest of the three Flett fiddlers - see above), Toulouse began playing about the age of five, learning his first tune, a waltz, entirely by sliding his fingers up and down the E string. His mother, Marie, played button accordion. He learned mainly by listening to his father and uncles and Willie Mousseau, but also has his own versions of tunes. He has been in bands off and on since the age of 14 when he played with Curly Napper, a local country singer. They travelled locally and played on the Dauphin Radio Station, CKDM. He currently has a band called “The Flett Trio” including Danny Flett on guitar and Steve Flett on bass. In 1985 they released a 45 rpm of a local tune and song.

Lawrence is considered by other players to be one of the best in the community and is known locally for having a remarkable ear. Teddy Boy Houle says, “He has such an ear for fiddle music, he’ll hear a tune and immediately play it.” He is beginning to be more interested in the old tunes, having preferred in his younger days to play the American tunes he heard on the radio, such as those of Roy Acuff. But he does know many of the old tunes and has cultivated a repertoire of tunes in ‘altered’ tunings, a practice typical of the older players.

When asked about learning tunes, he said,

“At first I just listened, eh? I listen ‘till I get to know the song I guess... I try to get it in my head first, to think about it. If I’m alone, I whistle... in the bush... I can whistle a tune pretty good. Then I hum it. I don’t take the fiddle right away when I try to catch on a tune. First, I try to get to know it... I try to make the fiddle sound fancier than the other guy, what he does. I guess everybody’s like that. Sometimes a tune doesn’t sound good... so I try to change it a little bit... try to make it sound nicer.”

Recording Situation: Band office, Ebb and Flow, August, 1986, except for the first version of #2, which was recorded by myself at the home of Frank Desjarlais at a house party, June, 1985, using a portable Uher.

1. Devil’s Reel - Fiddle is tuned A E A C#. This is a standard of the old repertoire. It is a version of Hangman’s Reel or La Reel du Pendu in Quebec (called the Lost Indian in the USA).

2. A Reel - Here Lawrence is saying that his grandfather told him never to play ‘those old tunes’ (the ones in open tunings), that “If you ever play them, the devil will walk in, he’ll come... and take the fiddle off you and maybe you’ll never, ever, play a tune again.” As he says though, he didn’t worry about it too much and nothing seems to have happened to him so far. On the first version (recorded June, 1985) the fiddle is tuned A E A E, while on the second (September, 1986) it is tuned A D A E. I included both versions to show the freedom with which players sometimes approach a melody and the flexibility of technique that allows a player to play more or less the same tune in two different tunings. Lawrence says this tune comes from his uncle, Roderick Flett.

3. G Reel - Fiddle is tuned G D G D on this recording, but Lawrence got to it after several altered tunings. It is likely that he plays it with the fiddle tuned higher usually, in A E A E.

4. Yankee Four (Kakashkabatek - Smothered In Smoke) - Teddy Boy Houle says this tune was sometimes used for the dance Yankee Four. Lawrence Flett calls it Kakashkabatek, which literally means ‘smothered In dust’ (usually translated by the players as smothered in smoke), referring to the dust kicked up by the dancers’ feet. Some players use this name for other tunes as well.

Albert Beaulieu (‘Nijoday’)*

 (* Nijoday means ‘twin’. Mr. Beaulieu was one of twins, but his brother died several years ago)

Born: 1928, Sandy Bay Reserve, Manitoba Current Residence: Ebb and Flow Reserve

Albert’s mother was from Ebb and Flow, and his father from the nearby reserve of Sandy Bay. His family moved to Ebb and Flow when he was 11. (It is traditional in Saulteaux culture for a husband to move to the wife’s community.) He started playing fiddle around the age of 16, listening mainly to Willie Mousseau, his uncle Florian and his grandfather John St. Paul who played left-handed. The first tune Albert learned was You Are My Sunshine heard on a Wilf Carter recording. He generally learned by sitting in the background at dances and trying to follow along, although he also likes to have his own versions of tunes:

“I used to follow them behind when they were singing... I didn’t want to stay in front because I was scared. It was dark all over, no lights.... I just have to go over there (to houses where other fiddlers are gathered) and wait for a while and get another tune there, go back home and think about it... sometimes I’ve got to think about it until (I) go to sleep - wake up in the morning. I’ve got it.”

Albert plays some old local tunes but more which were probably learned from the early days of recording and radio. They are somewhat altered, however, as can be heard on these recordings.

Recording Situation: Band Office, Ebb and Flow, August, 1986.

Guitar - Danny Flett

5. La Double Gigue (Fisher’s Hornpipe) - A standard, but in very asymmetric versions in Native communities.

6. D Reel (Fiddlin’ Phil) - This tune is generally well-known to the Ebb and Flow and Camperville players. It appears to be related to the Down-east tune called Fiddlin’ Phil and may have been adapted from the playing of Don Messer. However, it may have been an older Scottish tune in the community as well.

7. G Jig - Again, played by several Ebb and Flow players, including Willie Mousseau, Walter Flett and Lawrence Houle. It may actually be derived from the old Irish Jig St. Patrick’s Day, noted for its irregular B part completed by a return to part of the A Section. The first few notes were cut off in this recording.

8. Walter Flett’s Reel (Rotary Club Breakdown - Earl Mitton) - A tune Albert learned from Walter Flett, one of the three Flett brothers. It appears to be a version of Earl Mitton’s Shelbourne Rotary Club Breakdown, probably originally learned from a recording.

Albert Beaulieu, Lawrence Flett and Teddy Boy Houle

The practice of ‘doubling’ on fiddle is remembered by all of the younger players as something they did with their fathers. Since several fiddlers were together in the Band Office, they wanted to try playing some tunes together to recapture the older sound. In these situations, they like to play the melody in different octaves and improvise harmonies and chords.

Guitar - Danny Flett

9. Lady Do-si-do -This tune is well-known in the community. It reportedly was brought by Willie Mousseau who learned it from ‘an old guy’ in Camperville.

10. Willie Mousseau’s Reel (Wagakut) - Another tune learned by the younger players from Willie Mousseau. It has been nicknamed Wagakut in Saulteaux which literally translates as ‘curved stick’ or ‘curved penis’.

11. Homecoming Waltz (Home Sweet Home) - See section on repertoire.


Side III


Emile Spence

Born: 1914, Eddystone Current Residence: Eddystone

Emile lives in his old family home, now sharing it with his wife, Claudia, and three children and their families, including several grandchildren. He has worked in Dauphin and Eddystone on cattle and dairy farms and on hydro, telephone and road construction as these amenities were brought to the community. He and his family also harvested and sold seneca root for many years. Seneca is used in cough syrups and other medicines and is a traditional source of income for many Métis families in Manitoba.

Emile started playing fiddle around the age of 14. Both his father, Joseph, his older brother, Arsène, and his cousins Arthur and Alder Dumas, played as well. (No recordings are available of these players.) However, as usual, Emile says that none of them really taught him:

“I used to sit right beside him (his father) and watch his fingers. I thought I’d never be able to make my fingers go like that, but I tried and tried... and then I could do it... I was pretty shy at that time, I hung back... my mother was very enthusiastic about my playing the fiddle. My father, he didn’t bother about it too much.”

(Teddy Boy comments at this point that this was a contrast to Emile’s older brother Arsène who needed no encouragement and was ‘right in the centre of the action all the time.”)

Emile says he was not too interested in the old tunes. When his family got a gramophone, he learned American and ‘Down-east’ tunes and later was very influenced by Andy De Jarlis and Ward Allen. He played for many dances when younger and has a wonderfully light touch. Since 1965 or so he has ‘put together’ many of his own tunes, which, in spite of his stated preference for the ‘Down-east’ sound, tend to be more in the old local style with a fair amount of asymmetric phrasing. In 1973 he made a record on the Century 21 label (ESR-1) which contains two of his own tunes. Three more of them are on this recording.

Recording Situation: The first two are from cassette tapes that Emile made on a home machine a few years ago with his son Ivan playing guitar. #3 was taped when I visited Emile at his home in July, 1985, and #4 was taped at the Band Office of Ebb and Flow in August, 1986.

Guitar on #1 and #2 - Ivan Spence; #4 - Eldon Campbell

1. Andrew’s Waltz - Original. Emile ‘made’ this tune when his son Andrew was born.

2. White-Taled Deer - Original. Teddy Boy Houle gave the name to this tune while we were recording it in 1986. Emile liked it and it seems to have stuck. This version is taken from an older tape, however.

3. D Reel - Original, but somewhat related to Fiddlin’ Phil.

4. Turkey In The Straw - The ‘old way’ according to Emile. This tune is well-known by the older players in local versions similar to Emile’s. Sam Bayard has tried to trace this tune to older Scottish sources but as there is no clear Scottish ancestor, it likely came from American tradition in this area.

Frank Desjarlais

Born: November, 1933, Vogar, Manitoba Current Residence: Bacon Ridge

Frank was raised in Vogar and moved to his current property in Bacon ridge when he married his wife, Roseanna, in 1952. He leaves the community quite frequently to work, however, having gone north to Thompson and worked off and on in other Manitoba communities such as Amaranth and Melita, either as a construction worker or farm labourer.

Frank began playing fiddle at age 13, using only his first two fingers on the left hand at first and sliding them up and down the fingerboard to reach other notes. In Vogar he heard players Pat Maytwayshasing (Clifford’s father, mentioned by Lawrence Flett), Joe and Albert Monkman and his father Willie. When younger he played regularly at local dances especially with Leonard Mousseau, with whom he also ‘made’ tunes.

As are most Ebb and Flow players, Frank seems very comfortable with the fiddle in a variety of positions, often straight up and down resting in his wrist, with his head on either side of the fiddle. He uses no chin rest and often turns the fiddle as he plays when crossing from string to string.

Recording Situation: #5 was recorded at a party at Eldon Campbell’s house (Frank’s son-in-law) in September, 1986. #6, #7 and #8 were recorded at a similar gathering at Frank’s house in June, 1985.

Guitar on #5 - Sandy Campbell; on #6, #7 and #8 - Danny Partenais

5. D Two-Step (Gateman’s Reel - Jim Magill) - A version of Jim Magill’s popular tune, Frank’s first phrase is extended.

6. D Jig - Another tune learned from Walter Flett.

7. A Foxtrot - Frank and Leonard Mousseau made this tune. It is played by many Ebb and Flow players and Lawrence Flett used to call it The Ebb and Flow Special.

8. G Jig - Unknown. The beginning was cut off in the original recording.

Fred Levasseur

Born: December, 1931 Current Residence: Ebb and Flow Reserve

Fred began playing at age 14, listening mostly to Michel Roulette of Sandy Bay who now lives in Austin, Manitoba. He moved away from Ebb and Flow in the late 1950s, returning to the reserve in 1978. He used to play frequently with guitar player John Houle and has several home tapes of his playing. He refers to the old Native style of the area as “playing on all the strings at once” and says he prefers the “one string at a time” approach of the Down-East style. However, his playing still reflects local influences. Fred is a very light player, but clear and accurate. On these recordings the fiddling is somewhat overshadowed by his vigorous feet, but comes through nonetheless.

Recording Situation: Ebb and Flow Band Office, August, 1986

Guitar - Danny Flett

9. D Jig - Original

10. Snowshoe Reel - This is an unusual version of the tune known variously as the Snowshoe Reel or La Tuque Blue in Québec. It seems to be fairly old in these communities.

11. Flowers of Edinburgh - An ‘old Scotch Reel’ as players are apt to say. Again, this is a distinctive version.


Side IV


John Alexander Asham Ducharme (‘Jack’)

Born: November, 1904
Died: August, 1974

Jack lived within 10 miles of the Kinosota area throughout his life, although grandfather Antoine had come from Joliette, Québec, in the mid 1800s. According to Jack’s sister, Mary, he began to play around the age of 14, mainly with older brother Fred, also known as a fine fiddler, while Mary accompanied them on piano. (She had taken six lessons on piano from a schoolteacher at Ready Creek, just north of Kinosota, who taught her to play by ear. The local halls in Kinosota and Leaford had pianos.) The two brothers also began playing in local bars and for dances as teenagers and were well-known throughout the area as two of the best musicians. Mary also says that Jack could play breakdowns much better than Fred, but Fred was much better on waltzes. They learned from older players Willie Ross, Ray Asham and Jim Armot of Alonsa. Jack and Willie Ross also played together in bands.

According to his wife, Jack also liked to add a little bit to a tune. Jack’s son, Frank, quotes one of his father’s favourite sayings as “Come on, you might as well play the fiddle, I’m not going to be here forever.” Frank points out how important music was to Kinosota people in general by noting, “Most of them around here all had good fiddles even though nobody had any money. They were as poor as Church mice.” Nephew Angus McLeod says of Jack,

“Uncle Jack was a good fiddler, b’y... How he could turn around and put background into a fiddle... run his fingers down, just seemed like he went down the back door ladder, y’know and he come out on top with his fingers still. I don’t know how this guy plays like that, b’y."

Recording Situation: These two tunes are from an old reel-to-reel recording made by Eldon Campbell at a house party in the 1960s. The rest had been partially erased by later recording so only the one A and B part of the tune are intact.

1. G Reel (fragment) - Fiddle is tuned G D G D. This tune may be a version of the American Sugar in the Gourd, related to Turkey in the Straw but usually played in A rather than G. Jack also played a separate version of the ‘old’ Turkey in the Straw in standard tuning.

2. D Reel - Unknown, played also by Willie Mousseau, Walter Flett and Lawrence Houle. Jack’s B part is reminiscent of Arkansas Traveller. Jack pauses momentarily after the first phrase of the tune, probably just recalling the tune to mind. Then he continues from where he left off.

Angus McLeod (‘Gus’)

Born: February 1949
Current Residence: Silver Ridge (just south of Kinosota)

Gus started to play when he was 6. He says his father hung a fiddle on the wall and said to Gus and his two brothers,

“‘The first one who plays that fiddle can have it.’ I went upstairs and I take that fiddle every day and I try to play it, eh... dad showed me how to play 'Yankee Doodle', he showed me and I stuck with that thing until I learned how to play (it)... I went downstairs and I said, ‘Dad, I can play the tune.’ He said, ‘Ok, the fiddle’s yours’.”

Gus’s brother, Bob took up the guitar and played with him after that.

Gus respected his uncle Jack Ducharme’s playing above all. He tells this story about how Jack finally heard him play:

“You remember mom and dad’s house burnt and dad put that addition onto the house... I was sitting beside the window where it was cool, eh, because I had to play so long, me and my brother, Bob... he snuck around the house. We had no windows in the house, eh, it was just a new building, and I turned around and I looked like that, and he said, ‘Boy,’ he says, ‘you’re a good fiddler’. That dirty old bugger, walked around the house and he came and he stood behind me, listened at the window, eh, to me playing ‘cause I was always ashamed to play in front of him ‘cause he was gooder’n me.”

Recording Situation: These and the following tapes of Jimmy Anderson were recorded at a session in Mac Campbell’s old house on the Campbell farm in August, 1986. The house had been empty for some time, and the Campbells were kind enough to invite me to use it while I was there.

Guitar on #3 and #5 - Jimmy Anderson; #4 - Teddy Boy Houle

3. G Reel - Gus says he learned this from an old record his mother used to have, probably from Québec.

4. G Reel (Heather Hill - Dan R. MacDonald) - This tune is also common to most players in this area. Although written by Dan R. MacDonald, it was most likely popularized in this area by Don Messer’s recording.

5. Lonesome Cattle Call - written by Tex Owens, popularized by Eddy Arnold and the Gene Autry television show.

Jimmy Anderson

Born: March, 1925
Current Residence: Silver Ridge

Jimmy took up the fiddle as a boy:

“Well, I started when I was maybe about 10... we had an old fiddle there, and I just picked it up and tried playing and got one tune out of it. My brother Colin... we used to have an old pump organ in the front room there, he sat down and fiddled around with it until he got chording. That’s the way we got together, started to play this one tune that I learned and he learned to chord for it... My father played, all my uncles played and... it just more or less came natural to me once I got into the swing of it and got to learn to pick out different tunes. But a tune has to be in here (pointing to his head) before I can play it.”

Jimmy also used to ‘chord on the piano’ at one time and played in many bands over the years with other local players. “We used to have two (fiddlers). Uncle Jack (Ducharme) and Willie Ross played together two fiddles... they played harmony all the time.” Jimmy is also well-known locally as a caller for square dances and is the best source of all the old dances from the area. He learned tunes from many local fiddlers, including Gilbert Sanderson of Reedy Creek, Boz Scofield from south of Bacon Ridge, Willie Ross, Jack Ducharme and Lizzie Campbell, Eldon’s grandmother.

Recording Situation: Old Campbell home, August, 1986.

Guitar on #6 and #7 - Teddy Boy Houle; #9 - Anne Lederman

6. A Reel (Wind That Turns The Mill) - Attributed to Andy De Jarlis but probably older.

7. D Reel - Jimmy learned this from Willie Ross (‘Punjab’), an older Kinosota player who was well-known. It seems to be a version of the Québecois Les Guenilles (literally translated as ‘the rags’) and may have come from a recording.

8. D Two Step - This tune may be related to Jim Magill’sParry Sound Reel.

9. Gilbert Sanderson’s Waltz - Gilbert Sanderson lived at Reedy Creek, the name given to the area between Ebb and Flow and Kinosota. Many other players in the area learned this waltz from him.

Eldon Campbell

Born: 1945, Kinosota
Current Residence: Kinosota

Eldon began playing guitar for his uncle, Willie Ross, as a boy and took up the fiddle around age 12, hearing mainly Willie and other uncles Emerson and Colin, and his grandmother, Lizzie. He says that before he started he would pick up the fiddle and pretend to play while singing a tune, something his 5-year-old son, Cameron, does now. The first tune he tried to play was Elvis Presley’s Don’t Be Cruel. Several of Eldon’s brothers and sisters also played instruments (mainly guitar) and would play together at local dances and amateur shows. Eldon also learned many tunes from the radio and from Don Messer records. Later he picked up some novelty fiddling from television, such as playing under a knee and behind the back, and slacking the hair off the bow and wrapping it across all four strings for a bagpipe effect. (The same technique was adopted by jazz fiddlers such as Joe Venuti.) But he also has many old local tunes in his repertoire, largely learned from Willie Ross.

Eldon’s band ‘The Country Cousins’ - consisting of bass, drums and guitar (the latter played by brother Sandy Campbell) - is in great demand for local dances. Most of the time they play two-steps, polkas and a range of popular country songs. However, Eldon still remembers the tunes for some of the older dances and is currently involved in helping revive ‘old-time’ dances in Kinosota.

Recording Situation: #10 and #13 were recorded at the Hill School in Ebb and Flow, August, 1986. #11 and #12 were recorded at Eldon Campbell’s home in Kinosota on a Sony cassette recorder in September, 1986.

Guitar - Sandy Campbell

10. Yank Four - Eldon says this tune was used for the dance Yank Four in Kinosota, although other tunes were used at Ebb and Flow.

11. G Second Change - Eldon says he learned this from Allen McLeod, Angus’s father. It is played by most Ebb and Flow and Camperville players and has been adopted also for a Saulteaux song sun at Ebb and Flow often called Ganawai kokush, meaning ‘We have no more bacon’. It apparently was a popular tune in Québec also, having been recorded with French words by Madame Bolduc under the title Le bonhomme avec le nez pointu (Carnival C518, Swing La Baquaise et les autres chansons). Unfortunately, I don’t remember what the clacking sounds were. There were a number of people at this gathering, including several children. Someone may have been experimenting with a set of spoons.

12. Broom Dance/Rabbit Dance - Tunes for older dances. The first tune is the Scottish Keel Row, the second so far untraced to sources outside the northwest.

13. Harry Asham’s Tune - Fiddle is tuned A E A E. Eldon learned this from Harry Asham, an older player in Kinosota. As he mentions, however, other people thought of it as belonging to different players.

Volume II - Camperville and Pine Creek

Camperville and the adjacent reserve of Pine Creek form a community of about 800 people on the western shores of Lake Manitoba. Most residents speak Saulteaux as their first language (a northern branch of Ojibwa, pronounced ‘Soto’ by those who live there) even though surnames in the community are largely French or Scottish - Beauchamp, Belhumeur, Chartrand, Fagnan, Ferland, Genaille, Guiboche, Ledoux, Mckay, Ross, Thompson, to name a few. Even the commonly used tribal name ‘Saulteaux’ is French and there is a move in the community to return to the Native word ‘Ojibwa’ as a name for both the tribal group and the language. Most residents actually speak a little of several languages: Saulteaux, Cree, Swampy Cree, French, English and Inishino - that mixture of French and Cree indigenous to the Métis of the Western plains.

The Pine Creek reserve was created in 1874. As usual on the prairies, a large non-status community grew up around it. Together, they were just called Pine Creek until the early years of this century, as told by Albert Sutherland, a former resident:

“There was a priest, my mum, she used to tell me. His name was Camper. That was what the place was called the first time - Camper... then they changed it to Camperville. People used to go from Camperville to Duck Bay to fish for the winter. No one ever lived out there (in Duck Bay). There was a Flatfoot was the chief there at that time and... that church they built, I think it was 1910... it took them three years to build that church... in Camperville. And then finally the chief requested that they should stop building that church, they’ll be out of stones.”

Today, the non-status community greatly outnumbers the reserve - 640 or so in the town of Camperville, as opposed to about 150 on the reserve.

In the past, the livelihood of Camperville and Pine Creek residents depended mainly on fishing, trapping, logging and whatever casual or seasonal work could be acquired. Now, much of the community collects social assistance. But the spirit of independence has not been lost, and in 1984 some residents of Camperville declared themselves an ‘independent Métis Nation’ under the leadership of Ferland Guiboche. They had their own flag featuring a maple leaf and a fleur-de-lys and proposed a program of self-government which they hoped would give the community control over its own education, health care and natural resources. Although the declaration has been basically ignored by Provincial and Federal governments and was not supported by many residents of Camperville itself, the issue is still debated in the area.

The Players And The Tunes


Albert Sutherland, a guitar player from Camperville now residing in Dauphin, was one of my main sources of information about Camperville players and past musical activities. He was part of a country band called ‘Prairie Pals’ in the early 1960s, which consisted at various times of himself, Albert and Walter Menard on bass and guitar, Roderick Ross or Fred Makay on fiddle, Gordon Chartrand on accordion and ‘Little Joe’ Chartrand as singer and yodeller. The band enjoyed a certain amount of radio exposure on station CKDM in Dauphin, playing every Saturday afternoon for a time between 3:15 and 3:30. They also played for local dances. Mr. Sutherland began making a tape collection of some of the older players in the mid-60s from which much of the material on Sides II and III is taken.

Although the great fiddlers of the past are well remembered, specific details are hard to come by. Michel Chartrand was considered by many to be the best player in the 30s, by which time ‘he was already an old man.’ According to Grandy Fagnan, he ‘came from Québec some place.’* Other players who are now deceased, but who influenced this recording, include Charlie Sanderson, Charlie Chartrand (Michel’s younger brother), Albert Beauchamp (who was older than Michel), Joe Beauchamp, Louis Demerais (from Amaranth area, near Ebb and Flow), and the older players from Ebb and Flow, many of whom have family connections to Camperville.

(*Verbal reports of historical detail must be taken lightly, as many of the people I spoke to had only vague notions of where their relatives had come from. It does not seem to have been a matter of great importance for many.)

Grandy Fagnan says he brought the first guitar into the community:

“The first guitar there was in Camperville, that must have been about 1928... you know what I paid for it? $7.75. It was a good guitar too. I got it from Eaton’s in Winnipeg. A guy sent... away and he got it and he didn’t know how to tune it; it was not tuned... well, I says, who can tune that? No regulations of any kind on how to tune the guitar, just the guitar... it was in a paper box.

“I took it to Pine River from Camperville... 30 miles, I didn’t have no box, only that paper box... there was a guy there, his name was Mike Sarok, Ukrainian guy, and I took it over to him and he tuned it, tuned it Spanish. He said it’s better Spanish to use your fingers than to use a bar... there was a bar with that guitar, I still got that bar, it’s in here somewhere in the house. He tuned it up and then he learned me; then, he wrote on a piece of paper where I was supposed to put my fingers.”

Before that, fiddlers either played solo or with other fiddlers. Later Grandy’s wife Virginia learned how to play the guitar and accompanied him. In Camperville, there was little talk of the harmonizing or chording on a second fiddle that was mentioned often at Ebb and Flow, but it may well have occurred. Now, however, players prefer to play with guitar. There were button accordion players at Duck Bay, but they had moved there within the past 60 years from further south, according to Albert Sutherland. Fred Mckay played some piano, which he may have learned at the Catholic school or in the Sanitarium where he apparently spent a few years in the 1950s.*

(*Tuberculosis is still a common ailment in Native communities, although it has decreased in recent years.)

The players on these recordings range from those who were relatively unaffected by commercial recordings such as Grandy Fagnan, to those who learn many of their tunes from the radio but still know some of the old ones as well. I have emphasized the old style and repertoire on these recordings because it is fast disappearing. In some cases, this meant encouraging fiddlers to play old local tunes they could barely remember, rather than recent ones from recordings with which they were more familiar, but the result is a much more valuable historical collection. Many of the old time players have passed on within the past ten years, so I am glad that at least some of their music survives them.

Recording Situations: Grandy Fagnan was recorded by Willie Henry on a stereo Marantz cassette machine on several occasions between 1982 and 1984. An old cassette tape of Frank Catchaway was provided by Mike Stanley of Camperville. Tunes of Fred and Hyacinth Mckay as well as the last two of René Ferland come from reels made by myself on a portable Uher in June, 1985, at their homes in Camperville.

The other recordings of René Ferland were made on Beta using an F1 digital processor and two Sennheiser CK 30 microphones. He was taped in September, 1986 in the Administration Building in Camperville. Mr. Ferland and other local residents were invited down for a taping session for which Albert Sutherland came from Dauphin to play guitar. Many local stories and bits of history were passed around that night, almost all in Saulteaux. All other recordings - those of J. B. Ledoux, Stanley Sabiston, George Demerais, Roderick Ross, Little Joe Chartrand and one tune of Grandy Fagnan were provided by Albert Sutherland. Although originally recorded on reels, many of the original tapes have been lost or damaged and Albert had only cassette dubs of them, many copied from the reels through a microphone and speaker set up in his garage.


Side I


Grandy Fagnan

Born: November, 1902, Camperville
Died: January, 1986, Camperville

Grandy’s father, William Fagnan, was French, born 40 miles north of Regina. He says his grandfather was Mexican (could mean southern States). His mother, Charlotte Wakitakamikowinen, was Cree. Grandy worked at various jobs when younger, including logging and farm labour, and claimed to speak some 10 different languages: Cree, Saulteaux, Swampy Cree, English, French, Mexican, Icelandic, German, Ukrainian and Polish, all of which he picked up from relatives or from people he worked and lived with over the years. There were no schools for Métis children in Camperville in the early 1900s, but he taught himself basic reading and writing. He also knew much local lore, including various cures for diseases such as rubbing your neck against a trough where a pregnant sow has drunk in order to cure goiter; alternatively, wrapping a garter snake around your neck briefly would do as well.

He describes learning to play as a teenager:

“I bought a violin from an old man; he said, ‘give me $2.00, you can have it’... but it didn’t have no bow. I didn’t know what to do. I got the red willow, I bent it like that and I put black thread; you know, machine thread, and I put rosin on. I used to play with that.

“I started to play when I was 13 years old, I didn’t play any of them before, but maybe when I was 20, 21, 22, then I began to think a little more. Then I started to hear violin players there and there and I started to watch very close. Just like a sneaky person, that’s the way I was. I figure I’m going to learn ‘til I can... play good enough, nobody’ll beat me on earth, but I can’t do it yet.”

At first Grandy learned mostly from his uncle, Michel Chartrand, who had apparently taken lessons with a European violinist:

“I bought a bottle of home brew, he was a bugger to drink, that old Michel. I gave him half a glass. ‘I want you to play real good now uncle because I want to learn from you. You say you had a man to learn you for 6 years. Well, you’re not going to learn me for six years, just today you’re going to learn me.’”

He mentioned having a lot of newer tunes later from Charlie Chartrand, his cousin, and from Albert Beauchamp, Johnny Asham, John Genaille and Joe Contois.

As mentioned, Grandy’s wife, Virginia played guitar with him for many years. When she died, he did not play for several years but took it up again eventually at the encouragement of a close friend. Mike Stanley, a Camperville resident, says: “I remember when I was about 13, I used to come down to this little house (Grandy’s). Every Sunday people used to come and play at his house.” Carl Grexton, who worked with him in the lumber camps in the 1930s, remembers him as the best player in Camperville next to Michel Chartrand. Albert Sutherland calls him ‘the daddy of them all.’

Grandy used quite a bit of bow when he played and was a fairly aggressive player. His use of slurs and some of his repertoire seem to have been influenced by old-time American playing. He ‘clogged’ energetically, especially in dance situations. He had a very large repertoire of old local tunes and seems to have been relatively unaffected by the more doublestops and his phrasing was usually quite asymmetric.

He also frequently played introductory lines or chords (listen to #6) as well as long chordal endings (#5, second and third tunes in the medley). He used several different tunings including A E A E (#3, #4); Hangman’s tuning, A E A C# (#1); Red River Jig tuning, A D A E (#10); and an E tuning of E E A E, which is not on this record (he couldn’t remember the tune). Grandy also liked to say he could play the same tune in ‘five different ways’ by which he seemed to mean various improvisations around the melody, changing key and lengthening phrases at will.

Recording Situation: All selections except #9 are from tapes made by Willie Henry in 1982 and 1984, either at his home in Valley River, the home of Carl Grexton in Grandview or Grandy’s own home in Sturgiss, Saskatchewan. #9 is from a tape made by Albert Sutherland at a party in 1982. On this tune Grandy is playing through an amplifier.

Guitar - Willie Henry on all but #9; #9 - Albert Sutherland Bass on #6 - Conrad Grexton

1. Devil’s Reel - Fiddle is tuned A E A C#. Versions of this tune and the Devil’s Waltz (in the same tuning. See #7, side III) are played by most older fiddlers in the community. It is probably a version of La Reel du pendu of Québec, or Lost Indian in the US but played here without the A part normally associated with those two tunes. In Ebb and Flow the tune is associated with stories of possession, but I did not hear these stories in Camperville.

2. D Reel - Grandy said he learned this tune from cousin Charlie Chartrand. I have heard no other versions of it, but some of the Ebb and Flow players remember hearing it from Roderick Flett who may have learned it from the Camperville players.

3. A Jig - Fiddle tuned A E A E. Grandy said he knew ‘about seven’ tunes in this tuning (he actually taped nine or ten). He sometimes played this jig as the First Change of a Quadrille set.

4. A Reel - Fiddle tuned A E A E. The ‘little’ (high-pitched) part may be a version of the Scottish High Road to Linton.

5. Three Sisters - Grandy learned these three tunes from his uncle, Michel Chartrand, who called them by this name and said they went together. They are all well-known amongst the older players in both Camperville and Ebb and Flow, some of whom play them together and some separately, not always in the same order. Grandy himself sometimes reversed the first two. The first tune appears to be a version of the Braes of Auchtertyre (the American Billy In The Low Ground), while the second is related to the American Wagoner, but was recorded by Andy De Jarlis under the name Trading Post Reel. Interestingly, Sam Bayard considers the A parts of Wagoner and Bill in the Lowground to be related to each other, while the B part of Wagoner may come from another Scottish tune, The Gaberlunzie Man (see Bayard’s Dance to the Fiddle, March to the Fife, Pennsylvania State University, 1982). The third tune is a version of the Scottish Caber Feigh. It is quite possible that the grouping of all three tunes relates to Scottish tradition, where playing ‘sets’ in the same key is common. None of the Native players I met had names for them individually.

6. D Reel (La Double Gigue, Fisher’s Hornpipe) - Grandy had no name for this tune, but versions of it are known by all players in the community, sometimes called La Double Gigue since it is used for a dance of that name (a stepdance done by two couples). Others know it as Fisher’s Hornpipe. It is considered one of the oldest tunes in the area and is often played in very asymmetric versions. The association with the dance La Double Gigue almost undoubtedly comes from Québec.

7. Arkansas Traveller and ‘Brother’ - The second tune is the ‘brother’ to Arkansas Traveller, according to Michel Chartrand from whom Grandy learned the tune. The high parts are nearly identical. Interestingly, Grandy’s version of Arkansas Traveller is completely regular. It is possible that the ‘brother’ is an old version of Arkansas Traveller in the community and that the more standard version was relearned later as a different tune. (This frequently happens. Players will have an old local version of a tune that has undergone much change from the original and then learn the standard version later from a recording. Whether or not they consider them the same tune or two different ones, in these cases, varies from player to player and from tune to tune.) It is also possible, however, that the second part of Arkansas Traveller was just attached to a different first part entirely to create the ‘brother.’

8. G March - This is one of the few tunes Grandy remembered learning from his father. I have not traced it to any other source.

9. Wedding Reel, La reel du mariage - Grandy got the French name from his father. He said this was played at weddings in Camperville. The end is cut off in the original recording.

10. Red River Jig - Fiddle is tuned A D A E. Grandy knew a ‘newer’ version of this as well which he says is now the ‘young folks’ play it, probably derived from the Andy De Jarlis recording.


Side II


J. B. Ledoux

Born: approx. 1915
Died: approx. 1982

Recording Situation: These two selections and the next four are made from tapes made by Albert Sutherland on a home machine at parties in Camperville around 1967 - 68.

1. Romeo’s First Change (with call) - The pickup (usually three notes at the beginning) was cut off in the original recording. Romeo’s First Change is the name given by Andy De Jarlis to this tune, but it seems to have been well-known before he recorded it. Today, most versions are regular in phrasing, much closer to De Jarlis’s recording, whereas, this one has several shortened phrases. The opening phrase is much the same as that of Little Burnt Potato and Bride of the Wind, both old ‘Down-East’ standards. However, the rest of the tune does not correspond to either of these two.

Gilbert Delarond, a local resident, is calling a First Change, but some of it is indecipherable from the recording. Notice that the calls occur often in the middle of musical phrases, in a ‘prompting’ rather than ‘patter’ style.

“The allemande left... (unclear)... and you go all down, all the way to the right, the four a way down the center...(unclear)... See your way there and all the way back... ...The allemande left with the old right and the old left hand, all the way down the middle... (unclear)... then meet your own and give her a... (unclear)... ...Second couple into the race, then put away... and go under ...back and right and left through. right away back to you places all. All, bring the left back.... (unclear)

2. G Two-Step - Unknown

Stanley Sabiston

Born: Approx. 1930
Died: early 1970s

Stanley came from Meadow Portage. he made most of his living fishing and spent a fair amount of time in Camperville.

Recording Situation: Again, from older tapes of Albert Sutherland.

Guitar - Albert Sutherland

3. Red River Jig - See #10, Side I

4. G Reel - Unknown

George Demerais

Born: Approx. 1920
Died: Early 1980s

George was the son of Louis Demerais, also a fiddler, who moved to the Camperville area from Amaranth some years ago, probably in the 1940s.

Recording Situation: As above

Guitar - Albert Sutherland

5. D Reel - The first part of this tune is much the same as De Jarlis’s Jack Pine Trail which again, may be a version of an older tune, while the second begins like the Growling Old Man. The tune may be a composite or the whole thing may be an older version of one of these two tunes.

6. G Reel - Unknown. The second part is a common pattern, found also in the Little Indian Reel and Logger’s Breakdown.

Frank Catchaway
(‘Kiisens,’ literally ‘small boy’)

Born: approx. 1910, Skownan
Died: early 1970s

Frank was the son of Andrew Catchaway of Skownan (also a fiddler) and worked in the sawmill near Winnipegosis part of his life. Neither spoke any English, according to Mike Stanely, a friend from Camperville. Mike also likes to tell this story of Frank’s father:

“He didn’t believe the earth was round. We were trapping up north one winter. ‘You know this earth,’ I said, ‘it’s just like a ball.’ ‘Oh no’, he said, ‘if that was the case we’d all fall down. I’d never believe the earth was round. What would happen to the water? It would all spill.’”

Recording Situation: This tape was made by Mike Stanley of Camperville at a house party in the 1970s. Most of the tunes were probably learned from recordings, except for #11 and #14 which are part of the older repertoire of the area.

7. D Reel (Bonaparte’s Retreat) - Fiddle is tuned D D A D. Although this tune is sometimes played slowly in the mid-western States in imitation of a bagpipe air, here it is a fast reel. In Pennsylvania this tune is sometimes known as The Old Man And Woman Scolding and could be vaguely related to the Canadian versions of the Growling Old Man And Grumbling Old Woman. All of these tunes may ultimately be derived from some common ancestor but are more likely just variations on a familiar theme. Walter Flett of Ebb and Flow also played the tune in this tuning, but it does not seem to have been generally well-known.

8. F Waltz - Unknown

9. Bb Jig - Unknown, but may be an Andy De Jarlis tune. Somebody on the recording says “Strawberry Polka” near the end of the tune. That may refer to the tune being played, but could also be a request for another tune.

10. A Reel (Satellite Reel - Johnny Durocher) - A version of the popular Down-East tune.

11. D Reel (Year of Jubilo) - This is a common tune in the local ‘old-time’ repertoire, again occurring in many different versions with quite asymmetric phrasing. It was a well-known American popular song and dance tune of the late 1800s and is usually attributed to Henry Clay Work, who published it as a song in 1862 under the name Kingdom Coming. None of the fiddlers I met had a name for it.

12. Growling Old Man and the Grumbling Old Woman - Also considered one of the older tunes. Here it is in its common A major key.

13. E Two-Step (Carnival Hornpipe or Keep a-Whetting on the Point, recorded by Ned Landry). The fiddle is tuned low, so the tune actually sounds closer to D but is being played with E major fingering.

14. C Reel (Trading Post) - Again, the tune sounds a tone lower (Bb major) because the fiddle was tuned below concert, although he is actually playing with C major fingering. It is the second of Grandy Fagnan’s Three Sisters set. Frank played all three tunes from Three Sisters on the tape I was given but not consecutively.


Side III


Roderick Ross

Born: Approx. 1920
Current Residence: Winnipeg, Manitoba

For some time, Roderick Ross was known as the musician in Camperville. Mike Stanley, a friend of his, says,

“Nobody would play when he played, they were all chicken. I remember once there was a dance in Ste. Rose. I told someone ‘my partner plays fiddle’. They were all sitting around watching, they wouldn’t dance.”

Roderick worked at the school residence in Pine Creek and played with local bands in the 1950s and 1960s, especially the ‘Prairie Pals,’ which usually consisted of Albert Sutherland on guitar, Gordon Chartrand on accordion and ‘Little Joe’ Chartrand singing. He has lived in Winnipeg since about 1960.

Recording Situation: From Albert Sutherland, as above.

Guitar - Albert Sutherland

1. Drops of Brand, The Hook Dance - This tune is a standard for all old-time players in Native and Métis communities on the prairies as the dance was very popular. Tune and dance are derived from the Québec Le Brandy. Versions of the tune vary widely from player to player. There are some dropouts on the original recording.

2. D Foxtrot - Probably American, and may have been learned from a recording. This one demonstrates a smooth use of higher positions and sliding chords.

Joe Chartrand

Born: 1933, Camperville
Current Residence: Winnipeg, Manitoba

Joe is the son of Charlie Chartrand, nephew of Michel, both well-known Camperville fiddlers. Joe was known in the 1950s as a country singer and yodeller with the Prairie Pals. Joe’s brother, Sonny, was known as a good stepdancer. Although considered very good at the time, Joe does not play fiddle much anymore, so that the only recordings available of him were made about 25 years ago.

Recording Situation: as above

3. D Reel (Growling Old man) - Although probably related to #5, Side II, this tune is even more clearly a D major version of the Growling Old Man.

4. D Reel - This tune appears to be a version of the “Down-East” Fiddlin’ Phil, but may come from an older Scottish tune. It is well-known in both Camperville and Ebb and Flow.

5. D Reel - Unknown

Fred Mckay

Born: July, 1908, Pine Creek Reserve
Current Residence: Pine Creek Reserve

Fred started playing at age nine, learning from older Camperville players: his father, William and Michel Chartrand, a Mr. Beauchamp and his uncles Willie Mousseau and George Flett from Ebb and Flow. He especially remembers his father playing Home Sweet Home. He has played all his life, but did not have a fiddle when I visited him, having lent his to a friend. He plays left-handed, but, typical of all left-handed players in the area, uses fiddles strung in the standard way.

Fred has worked throughout his life cutting brush, working on road crews, fishing and hunting. He went to the local Catholic school up to Grade 4. He is known locally as a medicine man and remembers many of the old stories of Nanabozho and Windigo, two heroes of Ojibwa-Cree mythology.

Recording Situation: These recordings were made at Fred’s home in Pine Creek in June, 1985. I am playing guitar out of necessity only, as Fred did not want to play solo.

6. D First Change, Haste To The Wedding - Versions of Haste To The Wedding are known by all fiddlers in this community, often unnamed. At Ebb and Flow, it is often known as ‘the wedding tune’ and played as the first dance at a wedding party. But in Camperville, it seems to be generally played just as a standard First Change. Grandy Fagnan says that another tune (G Reel, #9, Side I) was played as a wedding tune in Camperville.

7. Devil’s Reel / Devil’s Waltz - Fiddle is tuned to A E A C#. The waltz seems to be a version of the American Drunken Hiccoughs, or Rye Whisky (also known by several other names - The Cuckoo, Wagoner’s Lad, Jack of Diamonds).

8. G Second Change - This tune is very common in the local old-time repertoire. It has Saulteaux words at Ebb and Flow where it is often called ‘Ganawai kokush’ which means ‘We have no more bacon.’ Although the origin of the tune is unknown to me, Madame Bolduc, a Québec chanteuse who often sets words to older fiddle tunes, recorded a version of it called Le Bonhomme avec le nez pointu (Carnival C518, Swing La Baquaise et les autres chansons). Thus, it must have been an older Québecois tune as well. The French and Saulteaux words do not seem to be related.

9. D Reel - unknown, but bears a resemblance to Andy De Jarlis’s Reel du Chat Grafineé, of which it may be an ancestor.

10. A Quadrille Set - Fiddle is tuned A E A E. As mentioned in the section on ‘dancing’, most older fiddlers have a least one Quadrille set in this tuning, and the tunes seem to be quite personal. None of these three tunes, for example, seem to relate to any of the ones Mr. Fagnan played in this tuning.


Side IV


Hyacinth McKay

Born: 1923, Pine Creek Reserve
Current Residence: Pine Creek Reserve

Hyacinth is Fred Mckay’s younger brother. He learned tunes especially from John Thompson of Ebb and Flow and from the Ross brothers, Romeo and Roderick. He plays some old local tunes but mostly those from the radio and records, and says that many of the older players in Camperville won’t play their tunes for other players (nor, in some cases, for the tape recorder, as I discovered). In spite of that, his playing is distinctly in the local style, with much use of ‘double-stringing’ and separate bow strokes. His versions of tunes are usually fairly unique and often have asymmetric phrasing.

Hyacinth, like many Native players, is quite comfortable with the fiddle in a variety of positions, from low on his chest to under his chin.

Recording Situation: These tunes are all from one afternoon session at Mr. Mckay’s home in Pine Creek, June, 1985. I am playing guitar, again, out of necessity only.

1. D Waltz (Valse St. Pierre) - This tune is well-known in L’Ile d’Orleans and other parts of Québec as Valse St. Pierre. It was also recorded by Don Messer. Hyacinth may have learned it from the radio.

2. D Jig (Fairy Toddler Jig - Graham Townsend) - Hyacinth probably learned this from the radio but has added the doublestopping and bowing characteristic of the local style.

3. D Reel - This is a common old-time tune in the area and is played by many Ebb and Flow players as well. Hyacinth says he learned it from John Thompson of Ebb and Flow.

4. D Reel (Pemmican Reel) - This tune was recorded by Andy De Jarlis under the name Pemmican Reel, although Hyacinth’s B part is quite different. It may be an older local version or a composite.

5. C Reel (Braes of Auchtertyre, Billy In The Lowground) - Another version of one of The Three Sisters, the only one of the three that Hyacinth played for me. This seems to be the best-known individually of the three tunes, is often played separately, and is considered to be very old by all the players. According to Sam Bayard, this tune can be traced back to a 3/4 song tune of the early 1700s called O Dear Mother, What Shall I do. The song subsequently gave rise to the jig, Blue Bonnets Over the border, and possibly the reel, The Braes of Auchtertyre, which seems to be the antecedent of both Bill in the Lowground and this tune. However, the Scottish reel may have preceded the song tune. The tune may have arrived in Camperville and Ebb and Flow either from Scottish or American sources, or both.

6. D Reel (Eighth of January) - This tune may go back to various British antecedents, but there do not seem to be any clear connections. Hyacinth probably learned it from the radio, although there are no older tunes in the community which may be related.

René Ferland (‘Perchy’)


Born: December, 1934, Pine Creek Reserve
Current Residence: Camperville

Perchy used to chord on the guitar for his father John Ferland, also a fiddler, and only took it up himself around the age of 30. He says he has trouble remembering his father’s tunes since there were no tape recorders at the time. When he was younger, he says there were a lot of house parties where they still did square dances, but “by the time I was playing, they wanted waltzes and polkas... The young people, they like rock ‘n’ roll. Sometimes they just use records.” Still, he plays for weddings and parties, often in a band with Fred Guiboche and the Gambler boys, René and Pat.

Recording Situation: All the following, except for the last two selections were taped in September, 1986, in the Administration Building in Camperville., The last two were recorded at Mr. Ferland’s house the previous year, June, 1985, with a neighbor boy, Stewart Klyne, 12 years old, playing guitar.

Guitar - Albert Sutherland, except #13 and #14 by Stewart Klyne.

7. Drops of Brandy - At the end of the tune, they are discussing the Saulteaux name for it: ‘Koshkwepigiken nishimun’. Koshkwepigiken means ‘fish hook’ and nishimun is the word for a dance with partners. The tune was often called the Hook Dance (fish-hook dance in Saulteaux) because of the swinging figures in which the partners hook elbows.

8. D Jig - This tune may be an ancestor of Andy De Jarlis’s House Party Jig (see Jean Carignan as part of his Reel of the Blindmen medley (Pot-pourri du reel des aveugles, Philo FI 2001, Jean Carignan). It may have been introduced into this area via the French recordings or be part of the older oral tradition. The tune sounds Scottish in outline. It is also well-known in Ebb and Flow.

14. The Duck Dance - This is one of the tunes used for the Duck Dance. This version was probably influenced by the De Jarlis recording but is somewhat similar to Fred Mckay’s D Reel., #9, Side III.

(Note: the booklets that come with these two volumes contain other notes on the History of the communities, the cultural repertoires of the residents, as well as transcriptions of some tunes and notes on dance. These booklets also contain photographs of many of the players. - Ed.)

Contact: Anne Lederman - anne.lederman@sympatico.ca

These albums are on CD and available from Anne's website www.annelederman.com

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