Bill: When did you first come to teach at Maine Fiddle Camp?
Éric: I think it was over ten years, or around
Bill: Who recommended you to MFC? Was it either Guy B. or Lisa O.
Éric: No body recommend me to go at MFC, I remember Guy Bouchard had been there before. I was just interested to travel, to go someplace where the people are interested about Québec music. I sent to Doug a package with my CD Reel à 2 and the last album I did with the band Entourloupe. His answer was cool and he invite me the years after.
Bill: You keep coming back, so what do you like about Maine Fiddle Camp and how is it different from other camps you have taught at?
Éric: I think many people share the same opinion and the view I can have about MFC. The first experience that I had made me feel good even if English is not my strong point and I always feel this very nice feeling of being surrounded by people who appreciate you and who have the open-minded to want to meet each other.
I really appreciate the fact that everyone can find a place there regardless of their musical level. It is this openness and broad intent that is unique and remarkable at MFC that allows everyone to participate. The Variety Show is a magical moment, because we really do not know what to expect. Here I find the spirit that exists in my family during family party, everyone contributes, does something to entertain, amuse people, spend time offering something precious, a short moment of what we are, without there is no judgment or comparison. This is an important moment, valuing and appreciated. MFC is also very multi-generational and differs a lot from the other camp. Often at other camps, there are special weeks for young people without parents or the presence of young people is limited. This mix is impressive and matches the spirit that prevails in families. This contact between generations is as important for young people as for older ones. The teachers who teach young people do a remarkable job, I do not always know how they do it, but very often I am impressed by the result. I lift my hat!
I appreciate the organization and all the people who make the camp work like clockwork and of course… the food.
Bill: Everyone at Camp knows you are a member of “Raz de Maree” with Rachel, Sabin and Stuart. How did you meet them? Did you play with Rachel and Sabin (in QC) before R d M?
Éric: I met Sabin for the first time longtime ago (around 30 years) in the musical gala kind of Jamboree, not contest. We have the same age and it was normal for us to connect. He come from Matane, very far from Québec city, but during a certain period I had a girl friend who came from the same area. Every time when it was possible, when we were visiting my girl friend’s family, I was going to visit Sabin. We did a few musical trips together with a dance troup. We lost sight of him for a long time until the day he got back in touch with the Tidal Wave project, that’s when I met Rachel, one of the most talented pianists I know.
Bill: How did coming to the states and playing for contradance weekends change your approach to traditional music and dance? Was it strange for you (i.e. just playing 32 bar tunes over and over etc..)
Éric: It is sure that the dances are different and certain rules must be respected as not played crooked melody, or tunes with short phrases, no three parts tunes (except for square), but it’s not strange, it’s what the dance need, quite simply. One of the strengths of Tidal Wave is that we do not try to do like the contra bands. We play music as we play it in Quebec. We try to find the melodies that will match the spirit of the dance proposed by the caller, in some cases we will slow down the original tempo, to create a special atmosphere. The accompaniment of Rachel and Stuart contributes greatly to establish the grooves.
Bill: Have you made new “musical alliances” at MFC?
Éric: I believe that the alliances are mainly in relation with the friendships that are created. I appreciate each person in their musical diversity. Obviously I developed a closer bond with certain people like Owen Marshall. For a long time, we played together only sporadically, for a very short time during the camp in anticipation of playing on the stage. Friendship has grown and I am learning more and more about him as a person. Owen is talented both in music and personality, he is an important asset for the camp. We plan to make a record in the next year. Very honestly, it’s Owen who pushes me to make a record, without this friendship I would not have the interest to do it. It’s a bit like when I made the album Reel à 2 with Mario Landry, it’s more than a record of music, it’s a story of friendship.
Bill: This is unrelated to camp but I know from MFC that you do these “Sugar Shack” gigs in Quebec. Say a little about that.
Éric: Ha Ha! Sugar Shack…Yes, I play at this place since 10 years. The name of the place is Érablière du Chemin du Roy at St-Augustin de Desmaures, http://erabliere-cheminduroy.qc.ca/ , close to Québec city and close to my house too.
The place is open all year-round, for any group, tourist or not. I play there around 100 times each year and I split the gig with Paul Marchand a guitar and singer and he plays 100 times too. A lot of people come at this place, because the place is very nice, typical, the food is excellent. They have won many honors and distinctions. Usually I play alone but, when the sugar shack is full ( over 200 people) we play together. Its very interesting place for observing people. We are on a little stage, we play with amplification, the place have a very good sound system. We see everything, people who eat in your face, the staff who work at the sugar shack… My role in this place is to entertain and create an atmosphere that smells good, is not that the primary role of a fiddler? I do “call and answers” songs, tunes of fiddle, play spoons with people, I call dances when we have a place in the center. Sometime I have in my head the image of Doug at fiddle camp, and I thank him for the inspiration he gives me, (but no bell on stage). The place receives people from all around the world. Each season of the year is associated with tourists coming from different places. In Autumn its mostly Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German. During the summer from France, Belgium, Germany, Italy too. And the place receives a lot of students from high school, mostly from States and Canada.
Marsh-April is the real sugar time and its mostly a local people who make their annual sugar pilgrimage, completely crazy, (in a good sense), especially when you have 250 peoples who sing with you, a good cure for diabetic. I’m happy to do this in general because it’s fun to do, I learned many things about the people, about me, I learned to work alone and to be more confident. Owen Marshall visit me last year and he came play with me at the sugar shack it was great, and the group was a student from Newfoundland. At the end of the evening a few kids came to speak with me and tried to speak in French with Owen, because no body know he come from States.
See you for the next BEST Maine Fiddle Camp EVER!
– bill o.