Trip to New Brunswick: a return to our roots
Devon had been invited to give a presentation on Acadian fiddlers during Celtic Colors and we jumped at the occasion to visit some fiddlers in New Brunswick. We landed in Halifax, rented a car, then drove first to Moncton, then to Memramcook were the Léger grandparents came from. After a visit to Collège St. Joseph and some samples of fried clams and lobster rolls, we headed north along the coast up the Acadian Peninsula. Our first visit was to the home of Robin LeBlanc, a young fiddler who had visited many of the old Acadian fiddlers and picked up some great tunes. We shared a wonderful home cooked meal at Robin's old farmhouse outside of Bathurst. We also met his wife and three lovely daughters and Robin shared tunes that he had learned from his uncle Ira from Memramcook.
Our next stop was to Shippagan to visit André Savoie, aka André à Toto. He invited us in to his small downstairs apartment in town and we spend a few hours listening to his tales and tunes. André told us that the name "Toto" was from his father who got the nickname when he would look for a "marteau" (hammer) for his father who was a carpenter. He would call it a "toto" and the name stuck. We also got the real name of the famous Reel à Toto which André called Reel à Belzebuth. One of our favorite tunes, Reel du Coqueron was actually named after the "cook room" where the workers would hang out. The tune became the theme of a yearly festival in Shippagan called Le Coqueron
Before leaving, we asked André if he knew any other fiddlers in the area. He pointed us in the direction of Bulger's Fish Market in the nearby village of Le Goulet. There we met Hedar Bulger, the patriarch of the company, now retired and hanging out in the shop. His son explained that his dad no longer played much fiddle but had been very active in his younger years, playing for local dances called quadrilles. Devon handed Hedar his fiddle and off we went into the office to listen to Hedar play some of his great tunes. At first he was a bit tentative but as he warmed up, we just couldn't get him to stop. We finally and regrettably had to leave, since we had made plans to visit Etienne Larocque
Our last stop in Shippagan was to visit Etienne Larocque, a legendary New Brunswick fiddler who lives nearby in Cap Bateau on the island of Lamèque. He has won numerous awards throughout his lifetime as a Maritime fiddle and was inducted into the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of fame along with such great fiddlers as Don Messer, Ned Landry, and Ivan Hicks. We spent a very pleasant afternoon with him and his wife, playing tunes and enjoying the scenery of the bay out the window of his beautiful home.