New England Fiddles Transcript
New England Fiddles
(Annotated transcription with notes by Nick Hawes)
[2003 preface to this 1983 film to be added]
[MUSIC: Chorus Jig]
Narrator (V/O): Oh yes, we've got lots of fiddlers in New England, good ones. We've got 'em that plays the French style and from Scotland and Ireland, and of course, Yankees. Course it sounds different from the rest of the country, but that's the way New England fiddles.
(Exterior shots of highway signs at state borders: Welcome to Massachusetts; Welcome to Maine, Vactionland; Welcome to New Hampshire; Welcome to Vermont, Green Mountain State)
TITLE: NEW ENGLAND FIDDLES
CREDITS: a film by John M. Bishop
CREDITS: associate producer Nicholas Hawes
TITLE: Wilfred Guillette Derby, Vermont
TITLE: Wilfred Guillette -fiddle
Wilfred Guillette: When I was young, my dad used to play the fiddle you know. And Sundays, he'd generally take it out Sundays, and before dinner he'd take the fiddle and play a few tunes. And he'd put it on the table, and he'd take his paper and start reading, see.
One Sunday he did the same thing again. He played, and he put his fiddle on the table like that you know and I asked him if I could play his fiddle. "Yeah," he said, "Go ahead." And he was reading away and when I played that tune he brings his paper down and look. "Well I guess you're beginning to know how to play fiddle. Well you can play the fiddle any time you want to." Well I tell you I was a happy boy.
I used to play at nights. Every time I had a chance, you know, I'd really play that thing. Like I say, I like to do that at night, by myself, that's when it sounds good to me.
[MUSIC: Reel Des Jigeurs; Wilfred Guillette -fiddle]
Wilfred Guillette: When I was young, I had, that was before I was married, they used to come and knock on the door, you know, they wanted a fiddler because they was having a party. I'd get up and I'd go, and I'd play five- six o'clock in the morning. I worked on the road, you know, the next day and the boss, when he knew I'd played all night, he was over at the dance too, so he knew, he'd tell me to go in the little barn and take a little nap.
TITLE: Harold Luce
TITLE: Chelsea, Vermont
[MUSIC: Soldiers Joy; Harold Luce- fiddle]
Harold Luce: When I first started to want to play, my brother had the violin and I wasn't only six years old. And I took a few lessons when I was fourteen, at that time I got so I could play fairly well, so I played with Ed Larkin, quite a lot for old contra dances, learned all the old ones I could learn that way. When I was seventeen I took some more lessons. I've been playing for dances ever since.
[MUSIC: Pop Goes the Weasel; Harold Luce- fiddle & calling; Gertrude Larkin Roberts- piano]
Harold Luce: You can control the band by waving your hand a little bit if want to go a little slower, a little faster.
Edith Luce: Can you call easier with the music or with?
Harold Luce: I can call easier with myself if I'm goingn to call, by my own playing.
Gertrude Larkin Roberts: I know that Harold can take the tempo. Because I notice if I get going too fast, he slows down.
Nick Hawes: Is he a hard fiddler to play with?
Gertrude Larkin Roberts: No, he's very good.
[MUSIC: Chorus Jig; Harold Luce- fiddle, Gertrude Larkin Roberts- piano, Dave --caller]
TITLE: Ron West
TITLE: Richford, Vermont
[MUSIC: Opera Reel; Ron West- fiddle]
Ron West: You hear a lot of guys today that that will play and they'll just barely touch the fiddle, you know. Unless it's over a microphone or something you couldn't hear it. That wouldn't go back then. You had to hear the fiddle because that was the lead instrument.
When I was growing up there, most of your fiddlers, they didn't actually know that many tunes. Their repertoire of tunes wasn't that great. Probably 25-30 tunes was just enough to carry them through an evening of dancing.
[MUSIC: Waltz of the Leaves (Graham Townsend); Ron West- fiddle, Dave Carr-- guitar]
Ron West: Organizing the Old Time Fiddlers and having these meetings was one of the best things that ever happened to us. And it's a change for the better; you've got more players, you've got better players, and they seem to improve every year. With the contest and things it keeps people practicing all the time. Before that losing interest all the time; I think that's what was happening to fiddling. Old time fiddle playing was simply dying out.
What's nice about the whole thing though is all the people that you are meeting, the friends that you are making. It's just like, you go to these meetings and it's just like a big family reunion.
[MUSIC: Uncle Jim; Ron West- fiddle, Dave Carr-- guitar]
[MUSIC: Exposition Jig; Jodie Maranchie-fiddle]
Announcer (V/O): Open fiddler number six has won the open division for the past two years. This is Jerry Robichaud.
TITLE: Jerry Robichaud
TITLE: Waltham, Massachusetts
[MUSIC: York County Hornpipe (Earl Mitton), Jerry Robichaud-fiddle, Bob Robichaud-- guitar]
Jodie Maranchie: Jerry Robichaud is my fiddle teacher. We go to all the competitions around this area and Jerry, Jerry is one of the best fiddlers around here. And he has a really great style and that's what we wanted to get from him so we've been going to his house about once a month or so. And he'll tape us a bunch of tunes, and he'll play for us. What he does is give us his style; we're trying to learn his style. We pick it up by listening to what he does. He helps us with our competition tunes. And since we've been taking from him we've been doing a lot better, so he must be doing something right.
[MUSIC: Woodchopper's Breakdown (Ned Landry); Jerry Robichaud- fiddle, Jodie Maranchie- fiddle, Tracy Maranchie- fiddle]
Jerry Robichaud: These kids are already fiddlers. But they are also half and half violinists. The only thing I could teach them was the use of their wrist, how to bow their tunes better. A violinist will use most of his bow for whatever he's playing and if he wants to turn into a fiddler, he's going to have to change his style.
If you use too much bow, you run out of notes. You gotta keep going up and down, you gotta pick up on your way down what you lost on your way up.
[MUSIC: Concert Reel (Joe Durocher); Jerry Robichaud- fiddle, Joe Robichaud- fiddle, Bob Robichaud- guitar]
Joe Robichaud: Nobody can beat this guy here. Nobody can beat him. He's by fart the best, that I've ever heard, I'll tell you. I've heard a lot of them, I'm 66 years old, started playing the fiddle at six and nobody gets a tune out of the box like this guy.
[MUSIC: Butcha Dancer's Jig (Joe Durocher); Jerry Robichaud- fiddle, Bob Robichaud- guitar]
Jerry Robichaud: When I first started playing, I asked my mother if I could use her fiddle, I wanted to be a fiddler. And she told me that I was too young, couldn't reach the fingerboard, and I started scratching away, and within a week I could play one tune. I was eight. After that they came very easy, most of the tunes that I wanted to learn I picked them up pretty fast.
This tune that I'm about to play, I learned from a good friend of mine in Canada when I was a kid. He took sick and he had to stay in bed, he couldn't -play anymore. So I would go over to his house and he would whistle this tune. It was a little hard to pick up, I finally got it.
[MUSIC: Twin Sisters; Jerry Robichaud-fiddle]
[MUSIC: Growling Old Man; Jerry Robichaud-fiddle, Sandra Robichaud- step dancing]
[MUSIC: Reel des Aveugles; Ben Guillemette- fiddle]
Ben Guillemette: I like the look of a piece of wood, especially before it has any finish at all on it. I was a finish carpenter, then I started working at home and I started doing things at night for people, a little bit better things. And then we got to buy a little bit more machineries and first thing you know got pressed into just doing this.
TITLE: Ben Guillemette
TITLE: Sanford, Maine
Ben Guillemette (V/O): I like to work as I feel, and if I feel like coming over here at night and doing a bit more work, I will. And in the daytime, if I feel like picking up my fiddle, I'll pick it up. It's very relaxing. Just like going and sitting down and having a cup of coffee, or sitting down and chewing the rag with someone else, you know, so instead of doing that you talk to the fiddle and it talks back to you.
[MUSIC: The MacDougall's Polka; Ben Guillemette- fiddle]
Ben Guillemette (V/O): the fiddle is a little scratchy. Now it wasn't but now it is see. Now on a no good fiddle, it's always the same tone, you know. There isn't a bad day, it's always a bad day. But on a fine instrument, it's not like that at all; the finer, the more sensitive it is, and the weather changes-- you notice it. But you start playing with it, and the more you play, the better the sound.
[MUSIC: Blue Jeans & Gingham (Spade Cooley ?); Ben Guillemette- fiddle, Lionel "Toots" Bouthot-piano]
Ben Guilemette (V/O): Then after awhile we started going down to this old fella, down at the bottom of the hill. He came from Canada, and my grandfather and him were neighbors. At that time when you were a kid you used to sit there and you could listen but you couldn't say anything. You know what I mean.
These two guys, they each have a batch of home brew going all the time, see, and they'd play a number, you know, and then they'd tell a story, you know; they were funny as hell. But they were very clean people, never a word out of the way, see. But I'd go there about every Saturday night, I'd go down there, knock on the door, they'd invite me in and I'd just sit right there. I didn't say a word, just listen, you know. I remember some of the tunes they play; yeah, I remember that.
[MUSIC: Money Musk; Ben Guillemette- fiddle]
TITLE: Paddy Cronin
TITLE: Boston, Massachusetts
Paddy Cronin: Boston's a grand place, one of the grandest places under the sun, this place right here. You couldn't beat it.
[MUSIC: Filmmaker's Reel (Paddy Cronin); Paddy Cronin-fiddle]
Paddy Cronin: All the old fiddlers in Ireland, you know, used to sit around the fire and play away. It was good music. The folk music of any country is better than what they, the other things, you know. When the music goes modern, it's not so good, you know, takes a lot of the music out of it.
If you don't have a musician for fiddler, forget him; he might as well leave it there, because you just can't do it. He's going to be mechanical, and a mechanic and a musician are different things all together.
[Lord Gordon; Paddy Cronin-fiddle, Betsy Gerber-guitar]
TITLE: Joe Cormier
TITLE: Waltham, Massachusetts
[MUSIC: MacDonald's Reel; Joe Cormier-- fiddle]
Joe Cormier: I play all the old traditional tunes. Some of them are very old, some have no names. Cape Breton fiddler plays Scottish music primarily, there's some Irish tunes mixed in it. A cape Breton fiddler doesn't play like a Scottish fiddler, Scotland fiddler, no. He's got his own style. How to explain what it is I don't know. It's just, I guess, a Cape Breton soul. That's the only thing I can see.
[MUSIC: Sir William Wallace (J. Scott Skinner)]
[MUSIC: The Highlander's Farewell to Ireland]
[MUSIC: Old King's Reel; Joe Cormier-fiddle, Edmund Boudreau-guitar, Joe Patineaude-- piano]
Joe Cormier: I was the youngest of seven, seven kids, two girls, five boys. My father played the fiddle, also played the accordion. At our house it was kind of a way of life.
Well I came here in 1961. Jerry Robichaud played the French Club then, and of course we used to go there every Saturday night, and I always got up and played fro a square set. Right now they play two quadrilles, every night, and then waltz. The fiddler plays for two quadrilles and for waltzes.
Joe Patineaude: Ok. Right now we'd like to bring out Joe Cormier to do a waltz before the second square set. Joe Cormier.
[MUSIC: Hundred Pipers' Waltz; Joe Cormier-fiddle with the French Club Band]
[MUSIC: Golden Rod Jig (Wilfred Gillis)]
[MUSIC: Speed the Plough]
[MUSIC: Old King's Reel; Joe Cormier-fiddle, William Chaison-caller, with the French Club Band]
Joe Cormier (V/O): My father played the fiddle. At our house it was kind of a way of life.
Wilfred Guillette (V/O): Well I know when I'm blue or something, I'll take up my fiddle and forget about it.
Ron West (V/O): And it's a change for the better, you've got more players, you've got better players, and they seem to improve every year.
[MUSIC: Messer's Memorial Waltz (John Durocher); Jerry Robichaud- fiddle, Bob Robichaud-guitar]
Ben Guilemette (V/O): It's very relaxing, it's just like going and sitting down and chewing the rag with somebody else. So instead of doing that, well you talk to the fiddle and it talks back to you.
Paddy Cronin (V/O): Nothing would make me give up the fiddle. I'll be playing it til I die. I never made a penny on it, but I put it on the dinning room table and every time I go by it, I play a tune on it.
New England Fiddles
A Film By
John M. Bishop
Harold Luce w/ Gertrude Larkin Roberts (piano)
Ron West w/ Dave Carr (guitar)
Jerry Robichaud w/ Bob Robichaud (guitar)
Ben Guillemette w/ Lionel "Toots" Bouthot (piano)
Paddy Cronin w/ Elizabeth Gerber (guitar)
Joe Cormier w/ Edmund Boudreau (guitar), Joe Patenaude (piano)
Frency American Victory Club Band
Northfield Contra Dance Orchestra
Filmed and Edited by
John M. Bishop
Naomi H. Bishop
Stereo Sound Mix
Special Thanks to
Sue Marshall Cabezas
Documentary Educational Resources
French American Victory Club
Spencer Fiddle 'n' Flea
National Endowment for the Arts
A Media Generation Production