Tributes to Ben Guilllemette
We lost Ben Guillemette, his having preceded everyone reading this to the heavenly dance band at age 95.
I first met Ben when he showed up with “Toots” Bouthot (our Joanne’s father!) in 1975 to compete at the East Benton Fiddlers’ Convention. We young upshot fiddlers knew we were listening to fiddling and piano accompaniment gravitas, a major cut above anyone else who took the stage (a flatbed trailer in front of the Littlefield farm blacksmith shop) that day. I remember his playing as having that indescribable dynamic of a technique that comes from a special dedication, and feeling that comes from a deep engagement with his own being and inheritance, both cultural and universal.
He was, in fact, too good for the judges that day, and asI remember, “lost” to Dave Livingston’s soulful jiggery–soulfulness of a different sort, for sure. Ben’s gracefulness was not slow to shine after that, and we all soon learned of the generosity he had along with his intensity, a dynamic we learned to savor in his company as a mentor and friend. He was the real deal, as a human being and carrier of traditional French music, which he in turn enriched with his truly catholic interests in any violin music played with heart.
Ben loved working with wood, and over time moved from house carpentry to cabinetry to violin-making–from structures that shelter people to what holds their food and goods to that which houses their hearts, which fiddlers know only opens fully when someone pulls the bow over the string, to pry into and celebrate the mysteries of existence and the love that gives life and sustains us all.
There is a lot in Maine Fiddle Camp that is of Ben Guillemette, having touched my life and the lives of our founding staff in profound ways, guiding us all toward the savoring of every participant at every stage of their lives, musical or otherwise.
— Greg Boardman
I met Ben in 1975 when Uncle Lucien and I visited with him at his home in Sanford. Within minutes we had the fiddles out with Ben was giving me pointers, sharing tunes and telling really great stories. Ben and Lucien began joyfully needling each other about whatever subject offered the opportunity to do so. The fun lasted for the duration of the visit. This scenario was repeated every time I visited Ben and we soon became good friends and he became a mentor. On Saturdays as a young, newly married man, I would visit Ben at his cabinet shop in Alfred. He had a piano in a spare room and we would go in there to play music for a couple hours. He always took time to teach me some technical aspects of playing the fiddle. I like to think that Uncle Lucien taught me the tunes but Ben taught me how to play them.
Ben was quite the player. He was self taught. In the service he bunked with a classical violinist with whom he credited much of his knowledge about playing the violin. He played in a Bluegrass band for 13 years touring across Canada; he played on the Grand Old Opry in Nashville a few times, won many prestigious fiddle contest and the list goes on and on. He was very humble and rarely talked about his credentials.
Throughout the years Ben, Uncle Lucien and I along with our spouses and friends journeyed all over the North East playing concerts, attending fiddle contests and parties. Ben and his grandson Daniel were part of the first Maine French Fiddlers group who played Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and many other venues. The trips to these events are as memorable as the events themselves, or more so. Ben and Lucien once started a conversation during a van trip to Aroostook County about the difference between onions and scallions that lasted for hours! BTW it was unresolved! It was always fun!
No one loved the violin and violin music more than Ben. Right up to his passing he would call me with news about some player or tune he just heard, just as excited as he was in 1975. Ben lost his index finger on his left hand when he was in his eighties and taught himself to play with the other 3 fingers left. He was still making violins at age 95. When he wasn’t playing or making fiddles he was watching music on TV. He was a lifelong student of the music and was always eager to share his knowledge.
Ben was a devout Catholic with tremendous faith. He had a beautiful love for his family and taught his grandsons to play fiddle. He was married to Harriet for 69 years. She passed away 364 days before Ben and he told me last year “she was just as beautiful as she was when I met her”. His life was full of joy that was very contagious. I was truly blessed to have met Ben and he will be missed.
— Don Roy
Mother Marc’s Waltz, a favorite of Ben Guillemette
In Memory of David Surette
It is our sad duty and honor to announce the passing of a long time Maine Fiddle Camp teacher and inspiration David Surette, whose family, music, and spirit were perfect examples of the kind of leadership that has made MFC the “nurturing while learning” community it is. There will be tributes to him occurring throughout the vast legion of friends, musicians, dancers, listeners, and family, so look for some offerings from us in the near future as we reflect on his influence. We will miss him greatly. All our loving best to Susie, Isa, Julianna, all veterans of MFC, as his spirit lives on through his music.
Film premiere: “Bonsoir Mes Amis / Goodnight My Friends” — A Film by Huey
“Huey explores the changing relationship of two top folk musicians and captures a joyous facet of Maine life. From start to finish the film is a unique, sensitive and satisfying contribution to understanding our time and place.”
(William D. Barry, Maine historian and writer).
“Bonsoir Mes Amis” features cameo appearances by MFC’ers MFC Ellen and John Gawler, Greg, Doug, Smokey, Don and Cindy, plus others from Maine’s Franco community. The film is a wonderful look at how traditional music and dance helps build and maintain community!
Come to the Maine Tent Zoom Room at 6:00 pm EST the filmmaker to put the film in context (and some live music). Watch the film premiere live on YouTube 6:30 – 7:30. Then rejoin the Zoom gathering for questions, dialog, music and rememberances.
Maine Country Dance Fiddle Workshop, Feb 13, 2021
A note from Greg Boardman: We would just like to tell you about the upcoming Maine Country Dance Fiddle Workshop this February 13, 2021. We are still negotiating for a hall in which to invite the first five registrants of each group, advanced, intermediate and beginner, to do the live portion of the workshop (wearing masks and keeping our distance, of course). Simultaneously, the entire workshop will go out on Zoom and thus involve as many folks as care to participate. [Read more…] about Maine Country Dance Fiddle Workshop, Feb 13, 2021
VIRTUAL MAINE FIDDLE CAMP February 19-21 2021
An online traditional music camp for all ages and abilities!!!
“Twice the program at half the price”. We laugh but it’s really not a joke.
What is MFC? Why is it different?
I am often asked “why is Maine Fiddle Camp different?” I don’t normally answer that question here on the MFC newsletter because I’m pretty much preaching to the choir, BUT with the advent of “Virtual” MFC this past June, things have changed a bit. With an enlarged audience that doesn’t have to travel to Maine to go to camp, many of you out there reading this might not know much about MFC, so I thought I’d start out with a short description. The following (PRE-COVID) blurb is from a piece I wrote in 2018. Here we go:
Interview with Sylivia Miskoe
Most Fiddle Campers know who Sylvia Miskoe is. She has been teaching piano accordion at Camp for a couple decades, a petite woman with blonde/grey/white hair walking through Camp with an accordion slung over her back. Sylvia loves traditional Scottish dance music and also New England traditional dance music and old time country dancing. [Read more…] about Interview with Sylivia Miskoe
Help Jeremiah McLane!
Jeremiah, Annemieke, and Luke McLane’s house in Strafford, VT burned to the ground on Tuesday night. Luckily, they were not home and no one was hurt. However, they lost all their possessions—including their treasured instruments. Jeremiah is the second MFC staff member (after Kaity) to lose a house to fire this summer.[Read more…] about Help Jeremiah McLane!
KAITY NEWELL HOUSE FIRE
Most of you know from FaceBook that long time MFC staff member, Kaity Newell’s, home in Damariscotta burned to the ground last week. Kaity is fine as are her dogs, cats, chickens, car and fiddle. Everything else is pretty much gone. There is a go fund me campaign started to help Kaity recover from this devastating loss, and you can find that here: www.gofundme.com/f/kaity-newell-fire-recovery I can’t say enough about how big a part Kaity has been in the traditional music scene in Maine for the last 40 years or so. Please help as much as you can!
Those of you who registered for V-MFC all received a survey form to fill out. If you haven’t done that yet, please do, so we know what we did right and what we could improve on. We will definitely have more Maestro Bistros throughout the summer and there is talk about a “virtual winter MFC”, but no definite plans at this point. There are still “Camper Concert” Virtual Ensemble videos being processed and you can stay informed by watching the website and all news will be carried on the newsletter right here!! And of course, we are still hoping to get back to REAL “in person” live Maine Fiddle Camp in 2021. We will keep you informed right here!!
VIRTUAL MAINE FIDDLE CAMP IS THE BEST EVER!!!
Well… we ALL did it!! Virtual Maine Fiddle Camp is over and it was an unqualified success. There were close to 500 registered campers and well over 1000 who “stopped by.” (Many stayed!) I’d like to let you know about the “crew” who put this all together. This was unchartered territory, and starting approximately one month before the virtual camp, we pretty much made it up as we went. Some of the MFC staff had familiarity with Zoom meetings and other interactive online platforms. Others had knowledge of YouTube, and others yet were familiar with website design, etc. None had EVER done anything approaching the scope of Virtual Maine Fiddle Camp 2020, but we wanted to give it a try. Read on if you want to know who made this happen… [Read more…] about VIRTUAL MAINE FIDDLE CAMP IS THE BEST EVER!!!
FIDDLE HELL ONLINE JAM
Ashokan Music & Dance Camps Online
A Step Back in Time with Don Messer
A note from Doug:
This is a dance tune we played for many years, along with The Dominion Reel. It works great and is an intermediate level classic. This tune was first collected by Smokey Mckeen, Greg Boardman, John Gawler, and Bob Childs around 1976 when visiting maritime folklorist -tune collector Gale Huntington in Cape Cod. He played it for them on a button accordion.
I think it is on the OGG Folkways recording from 1978. — Douglas Protsik
The Grand Life of Upright Piano
“The Grand Life of Upright Piano”
by John Pranio
(PA Starck Piano Co. est.1891 New York – Chicago)
So here’s the fairly thrilling story of the piano the Oshima boys grew up plunking away on as kids in Whitefield. Toki’s mother’s old upright was gifted to us early on, and we all enjoyed years of its musical generosity. We had the old-timer tuned countless times and refurbished more than once. But finally, a couple years before we moved to Belfast, it was beyond repair and it ended up out on the screen porch. Here it hunkered down, functioning as a table of sorts at pot-lucks; a dusty collector of stuff; a plant stand, etc. There, hit by sideways spraying rain or snow, spilled lemonade, or manhandled by a new generation of young musical explorers, it stood, dignified, with unflagging posture. [Read more…] about The Grand Life of Upright Piano
HERE IS A WAY TO SUPPORT MAINE FIDDLE CAMP!
Hi Fiddle Campers and prospective Fiddle Campers! As most of you know, the complete 2020 season of MFC has been cancelled due to the coronavirus. *sigh*.. BUT the MFC staff has put together a team to work on a “Virtual Fiddle Camp”. We plan to keep the spirit of MFC alive with live streaming concerts, workshops, presentations, music videos, one on one or group lessons with your favorite instructor, and MORE!! This will definitely be the BEST virtual Fiddle Camp ever!!! You can help to that end by donating with the knowledge that your donation will be going to help underwrite this project and help the MFC staff who are working on the project, many of whom have lost some or all of their livelihood. So keep an eye right here on the website for updates.. Stay safe!!
MAINE FIDDLE CAMP SADLY CANCELLED FOR 2020
Dear MFC Campers and friends, It is my sad job to inform you all that we are canceling this season of MFC due to the obvious uncertainty of the virus situation. Most camps have done the same. The plan, just for now, will be to return with the same line up and (approximate) dates in 2021. In the mean time we plan to keep the spirit of MFC alive with live streaming concerts, workshops, presentations, music videos, etc., maybe even a “virtual” online fiddle camp. We are putting together a team to work on that now and you can keep updated on the MFC website and there will be regular newsletters. MFC missed a year in the past and can do so again. Staying healthy is always so important, we have been so lucky in that regard at camp. Hopefully next year will be the best ever.For Campers who have already registered for 2020, there are choices: you may request a full refund (including the “non-refundable” deposit), request to apply the funds to next year’s camp, or donate all or some of the payment to MFC to help support our staff until we can reopen next year. We will be contacting each of you soon regarding these refunds, and all refund requests will be honored without question.With sorrow, but always optimistic, and many thanks to Bill, Jo-Anne and the rest of the MFC management team, and remember: “Look for the Silver Lining!!”
Your fearless leader,Doug
Chris Brinn: Irish Piano Accordion
Chris Brinn taught piano accordion for a weekend at MFC several years ago. In 2020 he is BACK and will be teaching during the newly established accordion track for the June week, June 21-26. here are Chris’s own words!! – bill o.
I started playing the trumpet when I was about seven years old. I was extremely lucky that both my parents and teachers always encouraged music. Both my grandmothers played piano, and my grandfather on mother’s side (who was from Wicklow, Ireland) played in a harmonica band when he was in the army. In school though, the headmaster always played guitar and had us all singing during weekly assemblies. I think this was where I first heard, and became hooked on, folks songs and folk music.[Read more…] about Chris Brinn: Irish Piano Accordion
AN INTERVIEW WITH QUEBECOIS FIDDLER ÉRIC FAVREAU, (BILL OLSON, FEB 2019)
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.[Read more…] about AN INTERVIEW WITH QUEBECOIS FIDDLER ÉRIC FAVREAU, (BILL OLSON, FEB 2019)
Want to play in the dance band?
Simon St. Pierre Project
Fiddle campers Emeline Dehn-Reynolds, Peter Yarensky and Paul Fackler, have just completed a project to transcribe the tunes played by Maine fiddler, Simon St. Pierre. Check out this page to see a short biography of Simon and a discussion of his playing, as well as the detailed transcriptions of his three albums.
New Simon St. Pierre Interview Video
In honor of the untimely passing of Maine’s legendary Simon St. Pierre in 2016 we are celebrating his music this year at Maine Fiddle Camp. Click HERE to view the last interview and music playing I did with him just a few years ago, and his fiddling is still masterful and a classic example of our region’s fiddling style. More tunes from this session on mp3 are available on our website: www.mainefiddlecamp.org.
Also there will be an upcoming version, just music performance, with many more tunes from Simon.
Like MFC? Send Us a Review
Hi Fiddle Campers and potential Fiddle Campers! A few days ago we received a very nice review of MFC for the first August Camp last year. This was so great, we realized we need a page just for folks to send in “testimonials”. You will now see that at the top of the web page and can access it here. Feel free to send Camp reviews to us ([email protected]) and we will review and possibly post them on the website. We won’t use your full name if you don’t want us to.. Thanks.. – bill o.
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You Asked For It: Maine Fiddle Camp Director Doug Protsik
Published on Jun 1, 2015
Maine Fiddle Camp Director Doug Protsik talks about this multi-generational tradition music camp and demonstrates the music on various instruments offered at the camp in an interview by Ann Page.