Monday, July 22, 2013

Going around the Gaspé - Going out to play with the Sussex Avenue Fiddlers

My watercolor of Blue Poppies at Reford Gardens, Métis, Québec. 
How sweet it is when you get an invitation to go out and play - something that we did as kids and tend to forget about once we get older. For me, life's motto is carpe diem - and if I don't have a really good reason not to go with you when you ask, you can count me in! 

 A few weeks ago I had the chance to say 'yes' when asked if I would like to tag along on a road trip with Ivan and Vivian Hicks and the Sussex Avenue Fiddlers and Friends. The Sussex Avenue Fiddlers is a group of very talented musicians who all play the fiddle of course, as well as many, many other instruments (from the bagpipes to the spoons). Some sing, step-dance and yodel. Besides the old favourites, they also write their own fiddle music and sing their own songs. Over the years many have belonged and if you are big enough to hold a fiddle and can play a tune, you are welcome. When on tour, the musicians perform all of this under the direction of Ivan Hicks who first organized the group over thirty-five years ago in his Sussex Avenue home in Riverview, NB.

When the Sussex Avenue Fiddlers go on tour, fiddler and musician 'friends' are invited to join in. If there is a spare seat on the bus, others like me are also invited and we make up the on-board cheering section. This year the Sussex Avenue Fiddlers are celebrating their 35th anniversary and the Gaspé tour marked the occasion.

Our first stop was in Janeville, NB. Here the Sussex Avenue Fiddlers and Friends put on a concert at the local elementary school as a fund-raiser for a local project. Local musicians and artists joined them on stage and they played to a 'standing-room only' audience.

On Stage at the Janeville Elementary School

  As we began to wend our way up and around the Gaspé coast, sightseeing and evening 'jam' sessions (as well as impromptu entertainment on the bus) kept the music flowing. 
Coming around the last curve in the highway before the town of Percé, I had my first sight of the magnificent Percé rock that looms out of the water just off-shore.

Percé, Québec
 Next stop was another evening concert in Douglastown where local musicians again joined in to entertain the crowd. The concert was held in the Holy Name Hall which was completed in 1938. Originally built as a concert hall and cinema, Holy Name Hall is still complete with the original furnishings and technical equipment. No longer used as a cinema since the 1960's, the hall continues to be used for various community gatherings and concerts. Renovations and up-dates have been on-going since the 1950's and one of the current projects is to raise the funds to replace the original seats that have welcomed guests over the years.

Inside the historic Holy Name Hall in Douglastown

 During the afternoon before a concert there is always a sound check to make sure that everything is ready for the show. Before getting together as a group in Douglastown, the fiddlers scattered around the hall outdoors to practice their parts.
Working out the tricky parts!

Sounds OK!
I've got it!

A quiet place to practice

 Further along the road the next day we made an unscheduled stop near the village of Petite-Vallée at the Théâtre de la Vielle Forge. Since 1983 a local committee has held a summer song festival with various music camps in the village and at the theatre. The festivities were soon to start and we were curious to see what might be going on. As it turned out, we were a week early so the Sussex Avenue Fiddlers got out their instruments and put on an impromptu concert in the theatre café. Like magic, other musicians from the community began to arrive with their instruments and joined in the fun. 

The origin of Le Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée begins with the tragic story of the deaths of two sons of a local blacksmith who was also a well-known fiddler and singer. The boys were musicians like their father and after their sudden deaths, music was no longer a part of the family or the community. Even the sound of the rhythm of the waves was unwanted but it couldn't be shut out. In time music came back to the village when the blacksmith's home became a hotel and people began to gather there and to make music. Le Festival is a major cultural event on the Gaspé coast.

Jamming in the café at Le Théâtre de La Vielle Forge de Petit-Vallée
A fiddler's welcome to Petite-Vallée

Sunday morning service at the hotel in Rimouski

Blue Poppies at Reford Gardens

The next day our adventure was a trip to the Reford Gardens in Métis. This is where I was able to photograph and then paint my picture of their beautiful blue poppies. Also on site are the installations of the 14th International Garden Festival - which is an opportunity for international garden designers to present their innovative creations within a garden setting. Some, like Smart Small, are interactive and you're invited enter the garden and move the pieces around (which I gleefully did!).

Smart Small by Ecoid (Yongkyu Kim and Jonghyun Baek), United States
Another interesting piece was Buoyant. Balloons that are trapped between layers of net change in size and shape as the temperature changes and are moved about, depending on the wind.

Buoyant by Laura B. Garófalo, United States
For three days we enjoyed a wonderful time in Québec City, visited the Sainte-Anne-de Beaupré Shrine and found some lovely braided rugs at Marie's Oven - as well as delicious homemade bread topped with maple butter!

Mosaics at Sainte-Anne de Beapré Shrine
Braided rugs for sale at Marie's Oven

Now I'm home again - and wondering -  where are we off to next time?