Endangered Music in St. Mary’s Bay/ CLARE- The hidden music gem of Nova Scotia, Canada
© Ekphrasis Studio, 2015
The project is supported from Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, & Municipality of Clare
The project consolidates the first music history in 4 centuries of Saint Mary’s Bay- Clare, Nova Scotia. While a great deal of information was hardly recorded in writing or digitized, there does still exist a great body of information and recordings, largely in private collections, and scattered in various archives and books, as well as within the memories of the area’s residents. The information below does provide in English, a look at music in Clare from 1768 to 2016. The following information will be always updated, so please come back to check for more videos, info and songs, and feel free to contact us if you have any info to share.
Background: Clare Municipality/ Baie Sainte-Marie is an area of South-West Nova Scotia, settled by Acadians in 1768, in the land known by the Mi’kmaw as Kespukwitk, or “Land’s End”. The Acadians settled the area after returning from 13 years of exile from Nova Scotia. Clare is the municipal name of the area, while Baie Sainte-Marie is the colloquial name, coming from the name of the bay adjacent to the shore. Today it is the only bilingual municipality in Nova Scotia, with a majority French-speaking population, along with a common Nova Scotia ethnic profile of Irish, Scottish, German, Mi’kmaq, Metis, and so on. Universite Sainte- Anne, mainly in French, now draws hundreds of international students each year to the area, as well as some international staff, who add to the cultural fabric.
Photo by Joey Robichaud- Mavillete Beach, Clare, Nova Scotia (August, 2015)
* Please, click on the images for a larger view and highlighted text for links, videos, songs and more details.
As the Acadians returned from the exile of 1755 and settled in Clare in 1768, they didn’t necessarily have access to a great variety of instruments. The first to settle were Joseph and Marie Dugas, who would have likely passed one or more tunes along to their children, as parents do. The music they would have known would have likely been continental French songs of the era, as well as tunes or lyrics about their own time and place. The first instruments in those early years of music were the voice, the violin, triangle, accordion and other improvised instruments like cutlery, bones, or whatever they could create with saws and the metal tools they had. This innovation out of necessity (or curiosity!) continues today, even though all modern musical instruments are now available.
I. The Early Years – Music and Religion
Music and song have always been an important part of Acadian culture, as also noted in Deveau’s La Ville Francaise, that Acadian women in the Baie (Bay) would often sing when doing chores around home, and the men would exercise their voices at the same time as their muscles while working in the fields, fishing or while cutting wood in the forest. Current performances that preserve Acadian traditions have elements related like the spoons and aprons used by the dancers of La Baie en Joie, an artistic evolution of the women doing their chores at home, and it is certain that children in Baie Sainte-Marie would naturally grow up learning the sounds and songs of the past. Early songs in Clare would have been both original and imported from France and Europe, however most of this early heritage is not recorded, and what we know is fragmented.
Between 1755 and the end of that century, Acadians had very little formal contact with the church, and any musical traditions had to have been maintained independently. By the end of the century, the musical influence of the church began to grow, as Priests arrived in Clare from Quebec, New Brunswick and France, at first for baptisms and funerals, and eventually establishing institutions. Churches would also become a location for learning and teaching music, and slowly the clergy began to pass along musical skills to the congregation.
The first choir in Church Point was organized in 1800 by Father Jean-Mandé Sigogne, after arriving in Clare from Europe. Each parish that was formed afterwards also created its own choir. By 1832, the first six public schools had opened in Clare, and Father Sigogne, who was teaching in these schools until 1840, may have had a musical influence on some students.
Traditionally, and due to the influence of the church, songs have often been about religion. Away from the church however, songs have been sung about children, marriage, dating, drinking, working and other activities, including seafaring exploits and tragedies, such as in “Complainte Sur Le Voyage Du Brig Vinalia” (Vanilla) as found in Helen Creighton and Roland Labelle’s 1948 collection “La Fleur du Rosier”, who report the original publishing was in L’Evangeline, 23 Feb. 1905, and is referenced in J. Alphonse Deveau’s Clare ou La Ville Francaise, as coming from the manuscripts of John Blinn from Saulnierville, now in the Acadian Centre in Church Point. The song is about a ship that set sail from Belliveau Cove to Guadeloupe, and suffered misfortune on the return voyage. Its writer, Frederic Robicheau (1785-1863), also happened to be an early resident of Corberrie, NS, was the first Acadian deputy elected to the Nova Scotia Provincial legislature in 1836, and a rare case from that time where we can attribute the lyrics of a song to a particular songwriter. He was also one of the earliest students of Father Sigogne.
In 1866*, a centennial celebration was held at Pointe a Major in Belliveau Cove, which naturally included musical entertainment. (*the actual centennial would have been 1868, but the date had been based on an error with Joseph Dugas’ birthdate.)
Often has been the case that songs in the area may have been influenced or based on songs from elsewhere, and adapted to suit the local taste or experience, such as “Les Gens de Cheticamp” which was known in Bay St. Mary’s as “Les Gens de Saulnierville” (The folks of Saulnierville) and goes by other names elsewhere in Canada. Other songs simply share a familiar tune but have localized lyrics. Some old songs found in Clare have also been found in places like Belgium and France, and speak of the King, Paris, St Malo and other subjects.
The song “Saint Nicolas, Patron des écoliers/ Venez Venez Saint Nicolas” (Saint Nicolas, Patron of school children/Come, Come Saint Nicholas) is an example of a song known in Baie Sainte-Marie that is still sung in Belgium (Wallonie) and parts of Eastern France, although with slight variations of lyrics and tunes. The version we have recorded in Clare has the children asking Saint Nicolas for “sucres” (candies) while other versions ask for apples. As we have found, the version in Baie Sainte-Marie more closely resembles the one sung in Belgium. The version from Belgium is sung on December 6 on Saint Nicolas day, while the local version is sung at Christmas. A song with the same tune called “C’est la mère Michel” or “Le Chat de la mère Michel” (It’s Mother Michel/ Mother Michel’s Cat) was first made popular in France in 1820, and remains a popular kids song today. That song’s tune comes from an older soldiers march from the reign of Louis XIV called “Ah si vous aviez vu Monsieur de Catinat” (Ah, if you saw Mr. Catinat) which praised Nicolas Catinat, Marshal of France in the 17th century. Thus, the tune of this well known Christmas song in Baie Sainte-Marie, has evolved from a French military march in France, to nursery rhyme, to another nursery rhyme about the December 6th Saint Nicolas Day, to a Christmas song about Saint Nicolas on December 25 in Clare!
II. Planting the seeds of Music Education
Music education has existed to some degree in St. Mary’s Bay since Collège Sainte-Anne was founded in 1890. School and college choirs have enjoyed success, and some Acadian musicians from the Bay area have performed on the world stage. Others have entertained audiences at the Bay’s churches, taverns, restaurants and festivals. Countless more musicians have not been heard outside the kitchens and garages of Clare.
With the Collège Sainte-Anne, Clare benefited from the establishment of a fanfare and orchestra, along with its choir. These would accompany theatre performances and other activities. While music and the fine arts were not officially added to the Saint-Anne program until 1960, their rightful place had already been established at the college since 1891, and Father Gustave Blanche and his successors encouraged putting some money aside for pianos and instruments for the fanfare. Music in those early days was also used as a fundraiser, and did help in raising funds to build Collège Sainte-Anne, currently Universitè Sainte-Anne.
A few names remembered from this period were pianists Eugenie Melanson (also teacher and organist at Saulnierville church) and Rose-Anne Doucet, as well as W. Amiro who played violin and George Robichaud who played castagnettes in 1891. Adeline Comeau (Comeauville), and Auguste L. Deveau who was a violinist from Meteghan were other contributors in those early days.
In 1892 the college received a gift from the former school of Father Blanche, Saint-Jean de Versailles, consisting of several instruments to organize a fanfare to play at parties, and Father Le Dore offered the college chapel a new organ. The fanfare was made up of locals, as there were not enough students to fill the roles. There is a note from 1894 about the March 17 performances of the march “Alsace Lorraine”, a polka and “Allegro Militaire”, interpreted by the Church Point Brass Band. In 1902 Father Conan became director of the fanfare. Songs at this time were both original compositions, and also famous tunes of that era, and largely instrumental music.
Musical training was not common in the early days of the fanfare, rather a good ear, some flair and minimum knowledge of techniques, and availability was more of a requirement than ability or talent. Father Dagnaud, claimed that “The Acadians are born singers and each of them has in his crib a lyre whose strings are just waiting for the artist’s fingers to resonate and charm the ear” (as mentioned by Alphonse Deveau in La Ville Francaise.).
In the 1930s, Charles (à Louis à Pierre) Comeau (born 1882) from Comeauville passed a tune on to his daughter Louise (Comeau) Pooler, who reached us by phone to pass it along once more. The song, known as “C’est la Vieille Qu’on M’appelle” was learned by Louise as a child and uses some language that is no longer current. We have not found any other references or sources with information on the song. This song is an example of “endangered music” in St. Mary’s Bay as the recording by Ekphrasis Studio is the first and only at this time .
Another interesting song, from a historical perspective was known by some further south in the Pubnico region, but also likely by some in the Baie Sainte-Marie area, and was transcribed in “La Rosier” from a 1948 interview in Pubnico, telling of a Syrian peddler of hats, who was well known in that region. The character of the Syrian peddler was a sort of general goods door to door salesman, once common in North America in the late 19th century and early 20th century, so its fair to say that the man in this song would have passed through Clare. This particular song tells of peddler who sold hats around Pubnico, and that he drove a car tells us this song was written some time after 1907, when the Province’s Motor Vehicle Law was first created, although even until the 1930s, automobiles were still relatively rare in Nova Scotia, and paved roads did not exist. The song, nonetheless, shows the local feelings towards the automobile, in its comparison to a cage, giving us a rare glimpse into a world just beginning to be invaded by the automobile!
For the early fanfares, orchestras and choirs, aside from local performances in Church Point, further trips were made to Pubnico and beyond and would have involved transport ranging from boat, train, car, truck and so on, and taken many hours of travel. The fanfare’s repertoire varied depending on its director and the skills of its musicians, as well as the period in which they played.
In 1942, the granite church of St. Bernard was completed, and is home to a Casavant organ with 1222 pipes. French songs would have been sung by choirs at services, along with Latin songs. Saint Mary’s Church in Church Point also acquired a Casavant organ in 1944, with 1007 pipes.
III. Music in Daily Life
In the 1940s, a youth centre was opened in Salmon River, and much of the fundraising efforts were done by young musicians, including a teenager named Herbert LeBlanc. These fundraising shows, small and local as they were, would prove to be a crucial piece in the revival of Acadian music that would take place nearly half a century later, as it was during this time that Herb LeBlanc had his first significant musical performance experiences!
After the war ended in 1945, the fanfare performed in Yarmouth for the troops of CEOC, and regularly thereafter at the November 11 Remembrance Day ceremonies in Saulnierville, alongside the Choir which sang the mass for the war dead.
Professor Ulysse (à John/Jean) Comeau de Comeauville, was a professor of Piano for 50 years. Some say there were many great musicians and students who made music, but no teacher like him. The college choir sang at his funeral mass in 1950. Theodore (Ted) Melanson from Meteghan was noted as a great singer of this era, and theatre of the time included songs of Simeon Comeau and his family from Concessions.
Since early on, there had always been an English presence in Baie Sainte-Marie, but a mass invasion into the peoples homes took place in the 1950s with the arrival of the television. This brought shows into the home like the Country Hoedown, Don Messer’s Jubilee, Grand Ol’ Opry along with musicians like Ernest Tubb (the Texas Troubadour). Despite this, French music continued and the Church was still an influential force at this time, but a major English influence had taken control.
If French music was facing a decline at this time, music in general remained a vibrant part of life. In 1951 father Yvon Savoie, who had been director of the fanfare in Bathurst, New Brunswick, organized the first mixed choir in Clare, consisting of the Choir of Baie Saint-Marie and Choir of the College, totaling 120 male and female voices. This choir would feature in the first Acadian Festival of Clare in 1955, and also performed in an open air mass on August 15, 1955 at Grand Pré in front of 10,000 people. Among the activities of the first Festival Acadian de Clare in 1955 was a sort of beach party in Belliveau Cove at the end of the Pointe Rd. with a bonfire, games and of course, music.
In J. Alphonse Deveau’s Clare ou La Ville Francaise – Les Premiers Cent Ans, he notes that around this time, Georges Comeau (born in 1877, father of Eddie Comeau) of Comeauville had a repertoire of 164 songs, and Willie Doucet of Cape Saint Mary’s (born 1886) had a repertoire of some 400 songs. Lyrics by George Comeau give insight into the love life of a young couple, in the song “Je m’en ete voir ma Mignonnette” (Im going to see my Mignonette), and translate as “Have you talked to your father? Have you talked to your mother? Because if your father wishes it, your little heart will be mine.”
The Collection 1952 et 1962 by Carmen Roy and Maguy Andral further lists Willie Doucet as well as Eddie Doucet as major contributors to the information collected at that time. The collection includes interviews with Willy Doucet about songs such as “Les filles de notres temps” (The girls of our times), “Derrière la muraille” (Behind the wall) and “Arthur n’ayant point de richesses” (Arthur has no wealth) among many others. This collection was published by the Canadian Museum of Civilization and can be found in the Acadian Centre at Sainte-Anne University.
An announcement from a 1955 edition of Le Petit Courier shows Les Vieux Copains were to perform in April of 1955 at the parish hall in Pubnico West and at Collège Ste. Anne, Church Point. Les Vieux Copains (The Old Friends), were a small college orchestra from Bathurst, New Brunswick, created and directed by Father Maurice LeBlanc of West Pubnico. Each year it would reinvent itself, as new and old students came and went. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, this and other orchestras in Bathurst were directed by Father LeBlanc, who has been a longtime catalyst of music also in Saint Mary’s Bay and beyond, having directed college and town bands and church choirs for seven decades as of 2015. This advertisement shows that although Father LeBlanc, a West Pubnico native, was living and working in Bathurst, he continued to influence the music in South-West Nova Scotia, and Baie Sainte-Marie, long before he returned as a resident.
Since the founding of Collège Sainte-Anne, music and fundraising have long been partners, and this ad from a 1954 Le Petit Courier mentions two dances featuring an orchestra, (house band) to benefit the St. Bernard Fire Department.
Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, it may be said that French language music in Clare was in a state of decline. Country music radio from as far as West Virginia, such as Wheeling West Virginia Radio taught a generation to learn English language country and bluegrass tunes, which has led to numerous country and bluegrass musicians, bands and festivals. It may be possible to trace the arrival of bluegrass through the airwaves in the Bay back to one man, Mac Weisman, a 1960s radio DJ and bluegrass icon from Virginia, adding to the already established country music genre. Music nonetheless, persisted!
Dave LeBlanc remembers growing up in Grosses Coques with his father playing the harmonica, and his grandmother giving him his first guitar. Lester Doucet credits neighbours moving from Ontario to New Edinburgh for inspiring him to pursue music, as they being from away had more open views that a youth could become anything they wanted. In Belliveau Cove, Jean-Louis Belliveau says a friend showed him some chords on the mandolin, and quotes “Every second house in the area has a world caliber musician living there.”
On the left is a photo of Louis Burridge and wife Estelle Deveau Burridge and daughter Anne playing music in 1950 from the Collier collection at the Acadian Center.
IV. Woodstock and after
As the 1960s came along, rock music began to infiltrate Clare, and by the 70s, Bruce Boudreau remembers teaching himself guitar at age 14 by listening to Led Zeppelin and watching bands visiting from Halifax, trying to mimic their techniques. People remember him playing “until his fingers bled”. This was also the case for many others, and Julien Weaver remembers teaching himself to play the drums, with the exception of one half hour training session at a music store in Halifax. He also remembers not having a stand for his cymbal, and putting a stick in a drum airhole with a thumb tack fastening the cymbal on the drum stick, and playing this way. Bands emerged, some with great skill and ability, such as Man and Peace, who with the lead guitar of Dave LeBlanc, covered Deep Purple and other guitar rock bands. Other bands included The Web, Blue Diamond, Motion 5, Harpon, Bonded Stock, Desperados, Sirkus, the Grinders, 57 Chevy, Stirling County, and more. Most of the bands at this time played mainly cover songs, and the fact that such a quantity existed in Clare is quite special, and indicates the importance of music in the region.
By the mid 1970s in Northern Ontario, a progressive folk rock band called Cano emerged, featuring the guitar and songs of Marcel Aymar, native of Baie Sainte-Marie. An African proverb that states that “It takes a village to raise a child”, meaning that the combined influence of the greater community will effect the development of a child, and in the case of Aymar, this may be seen in the 1976 Cano song called Baie Sainte-Marie, in the verse “Baie Sainte-Marie, La Baie de mon pere m’appelle, On ne c’est pas connu, depuis mon enfance (Saint Mary’s Bay, My Father’s Bay is calling me, We’ve only known each other, When I was a child). Cano and Aymar have earned a place in French Canadian music history, are renowned as among the greatest Franco-Ontarian acts of all time.
Meanwhile, during this time in Clare, there were at least 10 venues for music, ranging from the Nights of Columbus Hall and the Legion, to local social clubs and taverns, and also a unique party location in Saulnierville which was a giant barn, known as “13 step” due to the amount of stairs to go up, and could fit several hundred people. Likewise, there were at least 10 bands in the area filling these venues every weekend. This would average out to at least 1 band per 1000 people, which is an incredibly high ratio! The bands would play different songs and styles, depending on the audience. A band could play a country show on Wednesday night under one name (like Jacky and friends), and on Friday as a rock band (like Chelsea Road). There were also Open Nights, which were a sort of pre-karaoke where a house band would back up audience members as they sang their favourite songs. With up to 4 nights a week to play, a musician could make $500 a week back then, sometimes $1000 per person for a show on New Years Eve. Lester Doucet remembers it being a lucrative job, being able to buy a car after 3 months of shows, and managed to avoid working in the fish plants by regularly playing music. Dave Leblanc remembers the amazed look on his father’s face when he paid $400 cash for a guitar, with money earned from playing music. Meanwhile, Brenda Doucet remembers being inspired by the music at the rehearsals of bands like Chelsea Road, Sundown and Liberty taking place on her parent’s New Edinburgh porch.
Band rosters frequently changed, and once again being available was one of the main requirements for being in a band.
In 1974, Father Maurice LeBlanc became the director of the university fanfare and choir.
V. Acadian Revival
Paul-Emile Comeau remembers a tourist from New Orleans who had come to the Acadian Festival in the late 1970s and was disappointed to find only cover bands, but no local or distinctive sounds to be heard. Comeau’s response at the time was, there were two types of music being played by Acadians: “Big American country hits, and more commonly Big American pop and rock & roll hits” and that in general, a modern Acadian style was still in its embryonic stage, with a long road ahead. Nonetheless, these bands were playing music and drawing crowds.
Despite the rise of rock music, country ballads were still as strong as ever, and Acadian-French music was gaining traction. During these times there was a good level of cooperation among musicians, and songs were written by some and sung by others, and arranged by multiple people. An example is “M’en Allant a Saulnierville Station” written by Denis Comeau and made famous by Suroit, 1755 and others.
Mainly, music was a pass-time in Clare and all musicians worked where they could to make ends meet. Eddie Doucet worked in a fish factory, often 6 days a week. He was not a trained musician, but had an attachment to music. A recording from the collection of Dan Robichaud features Fishbox Eddie (Doucet) singing the song Deux Fevrier (February 2nd) about the Groundhog Day Gale that crashed into New Edinburgh in 1976, leaving people without power and heat for close to 10 days. New Edinburgh is known in French as Bas-de-la-Rivière, as it is situated at the mouth of the Sissiboo River, and the song tells Eddie’s perspective of that storm, which began as a light wind in the morning, and shortly after unleashed its fury for 2 hours on New Edinburgh, lifting his metal shed right into the air, which is referenced in the third verse of the song. The full lyrics can be found in “Sur La Mer” prepared in 1997 for Le Comité régional de la FANE de Clare. Here are a few excerpts:
This was the beginnings of an era of revival for Acadian music in Clare, taking place from late 1970s and into the 80s when musicians like Herb LeBlanc stopped playing English country tunes, and switched to writing and singing Acadian tunes. According to Dave LeBlanc, this particular renaissance went together with the earliest days of Anne-Marie Comeau’s dance troupe. A group of these dancers went to the Festival Acadien in Caraquet, NB, with Herb and his band playing the music. The act was casually called La Baie en Caraquet, and for this Herb brought out a French song that he had been hiding away, called “Bienvenue en Clare”. This can be seen as the beginning of a wide scale Acadian-French musical revival. Quoted by his nephew Len LeBlanc, to the Canadian Press: “Herb was definitely the captain of the Acadian music boat”, “He liked music that told stories. He liked music that would explain where he was.” Much of his acclaim came from his time with the band Tymeux de la Baie. “It means partiers of the Bay,” Len said. “He made it a very important part of his life.” Upon the death of Herb LeBlanc, Dan Robichaud recorded several interviews about his influence. Listen to Sebastien Dol, Germaine Comeau, Jason Saulnier.
Among the Tymeux de la Baie was the violin player Everett “Bayo” Thibodeau. He was the kind of player who liked songs to go on for 20 minutes or more, as to him 4 minutes was just getting warmed up. He did however play short songs as well, and Dave Leblanc, who played mandolin in the band remembers one road trip, where Bayo played at least 100 songs in the car from Truro to Antigonish. The Book “Violoneux dans l’l’âme (Fiddler in the soul/at heart) by Andre Gaudet was published in 2000, and is all about “Bayo” Everett Thibodeau.
Kenneth Saulnier was a young musician at this time, having grown up surrounded by musicians, he learned at a young age to play the mandolin, guitar, banjo and violin. After starting in a high school band with Paul Melanson and others, in 1977 Saulnier joined the group 1755 which also was a major part of the cultural awakening of the Acadian people. They wrote a 1979 hit called Vivre a la Baie.
La Cabane by Phil Comeau, a 1978 film about organizing a music festival, features the song Pointe D’Jobs from Bluegrass Acadie, and the music in his films solidifies the country music genre in the oral traditions of Clare. In order to achieve the gritty/earthy feel of the song Point D’Jobs, the band Bluegrass Acadie used a saw cutting a log as a bass-line. The log had a notch from a branch that came out, and a metal rod was sharpened and inserted in the hole, hooked to a pickup and plugged in, becoming an electric log. Julien Weaver admits that this was not the first time a log was cut by a saw to produce a musical bass-line, but it may well have been the first time a log was plugged in and played.
From the 1970s to the mid 80s, Le Festin de Musique de la Baie Sainte-Marie began as a Woodstock inspired event, coming from the efforts of people who were at the Woodstock festival in 1969, and others inspired by peace and love. The very first was Le Festival de Musique, and was held behind Sainte-Anne University. In time it became a side event of the Festival Acadien, but in 1978 was incorporated on its own as a society for the promotion of Acadian Music. Among the activities to raise funds was a series of workshops, which consisted of a week’s practice followed by a performance. Lucien Gagnon of CBC attended one workshop that featured a group called Kartouche, made up of Daniel Comeau, Paul Doucet, Lester Doucet and Bruce Boudreau. They were invited to Halifax to record a 4 track demo with three French songs, while the fourth was an instrumental. The producer was mostly interested in the instrumental. According to Deveau’s Clare our La Ville Francaise Tome II, the 1982 board of the Festin included Jean Paul Comeau, Julien Weaver, Lester Doucet, Jacky Comeau, Glen Comeau, and others, and had over 100 members. The Mediateque of Popular French Songs in Canada has a copy of a poster for the 1980 edition. The Festin was mentioned in a 1985 Nova Scotia tourism article about the province’s festivals, and a poster shows the festival took place in 1987 at Snare Lake in Hectanooga.
In 1981, the Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia (FANE), the publisher “Le Réveil de Pombcoup” and the Acadian Centre at Université Sainte-Anne collaborated to create a collection of traditional and contemporary Acadian songs from the Southwest Nova Scotia region, entitled Musique Acadienne du Sud-Ouest de la Nouvelle Ecosse. The collection featured the local language and the oral traditions of Clare and Argyle Municipalities, and highlighted that song is the melodic expression of language. Among those who helped to make this possible were Paul Saulnier, Dickie LeBlanc, Marie-Catherine Saulnier, Lester Doucet, Father Maurice LeBlanc, Yvonne Comeau, Dave LeBLanc and Nadine Boudreau. This collection can be found in the Acadian Centre at Church Point.
In 1984, Phil Comeau returned to make his third film in Clare, La Musique Nous Explique, which featured songs and stories from over two dozen local musicians including Dave Leblanc, Steven Gaudet, Wayne Dugas, and others. The film features an excellent example of traditional podorythmie, or tapping ones feet as a percussion technique, and the use of spoons in “Le Reel du Chemin de Fer” (The Railroad Reel), performed by Gus Robichaud, Carol Robichaud and Dennie Doucet. Songs like “Poésie de la Baie” (Poetry of the Bay) by Normand LeBlanc, “Mon Grand Père” (My Grandfather) by Doris Comeau, “Le Vieux Pêcheur” (the old fisherman) by Monnette Robichaud, “La Baie Sainte-Marie”, by Jean Louis Belliveau, Raymond Comeau’s “Mon village de hier” (My village of yesterday), Glen Comeau’s “J’ai Quitté Mon Pays” (I left my homeland), and Julien Weaver’s, “Notre retour” (Our return), which featured Richard Deveau, tell some of the stories of Baie Sainte-Marie.
Richard Deveau, from Meteghan had several hits in the 1980s including “Je suis Acadien” (I am Acadian) and “Acadie de nos couers” (Acadia of our Hearts), which exist today on reels and cassettes. According to Dan Robichaud, if there had been social media or even community radio back then, his songs would have been huge hits. His song “Les Capes” was featured in Phil Comeau’s La Musique Nous Explique.
In 1986, an opportunity arose for some musicians from the Bay area to visit Morocco. The trip was coordinated by Jean-Louis Belliveau, on behalf of King Hassan II of Morrocco’s 25th anniversary of enthronement, and coincided with the International Year of Peace. A group of musicians assembled and called themselves the Condon Chats, consisting of Julien Weaver, Richard Deveau, Jeannette Belliveau and others. The festival’s closing remarks in a letter to UNESCO, stated that it has been proven that through music, a basis exists for living side by side in peace, harmony, justice and happiness. Also that year, Les Tymeux de la Baie represented l’Acadie at the World Expo in Vancouver.
Jason Saulnier remembers in the mid 1980s taking the school bus to Bangor for a friend’s birthday party, and the bus was driven by Alphonse Melanson. He was shocked and elated to learn that Melanson would sing as he drove the bus! At the birthday party, Melanson’s son Briand was drumming in the band Abstract. Seeing Abstract play, particularly Briand on drums, was just what young Jason needed to inspire him to follow that path. He also remembers his grandmother, Angel (Melanson) Saulnier being a major influence, who played guitar and bought him heavy metal cassettes when she could.
Around the same time, a teenage Daniel Leblanc was interested in learning the guitar, and went to learn from Bruce Boudreau. At first, Boudreau says he did not give much credit to LeBlanc and pushed him with difficult material, to see if he’d quit. Not only did he complete his lessons, but LeBlanc absorbed in just 3 years what had taken Boudreau 19 years to teach himself. Daniel LeBlanc would later graduate in 1996 from the Guitar Institute of Technology in California, establish the band Le Grand Derangement, as well as teach at the Music Conservatory in Halifax, among other musical pursuits.
By 1988, Baptiste Comeau was writing and recording in Acadian French, eventually producing 80 songs on 4 cds. His music would inspire musicians years and decades to come, and still remains a popular influence today.
Showing love for all of Clare, Lester Doucet wrote the song “De l’un bout a l’autre de Clare” (From one end of Clare to the other), and had initially wanted Herb LeBlanc to partner with Fishbox Eddie Doucet to sing the song together, with Herb coming from the southern part of Clare, and Eddie from the northern part. This never managed to happen, although Lester himself did play the song with Herb and the group Studio B at the 2008 Festival Acadien de Clare, with Daniel LeBlanc on violin.
VI. The Fruits of Music Ripen
Community radio began in 1990, when CIFA was established by Paul-Emile Comeau, and the first song ever broadcast by that station was one by Baptiste Comeau.
In the early years of CIFA, Dave LeBlanc, who has also been featured on Phil Comeau’s “La Musique Nous Explique”, hosted a show on CIFA featuring interviews with residents about culture and tradition, and was accompanied by local songs. He recalls in his first year having barely 50 people willing to do an interview, however that number slowly grew to 500 a year, who would call the show on air to be interviewed live. The show, as well as the station were huge successes!
Bands continued to emerge, and in the early 1990s, Billy Therriault formed the band Rated R, which continues today as Yukon Jack. Many other cover bands have continued to play regular shows year after year.
In 1992, the Franco-Ontarian group Paquette Aymar Demers (P.A.D.) was formed, consisting of three of the biggest francophone artists outside of Quebec. Marcel Aymar was originally from Baie Sainte-Marie, and brought the band to record in the area. The cassette was and may still be at CIFA.
Also that year saw the establishment of the Southwest Acadian Choir, who first performed a two night show in Halifax, called “Acadien Heritage”, alongside Symphony Nova Scotia at the Rebecca Cohn Theatre, directed by Father Maurice LeBlanc. Throughout this decade, the choir would go on to perform on multiple occasions with Symphony Nova Scotia, as well as regular Christmas Concerts, and at the World Acadian Congress in Louisiana in 1999.
Marcel Aymar, who co-wrote SRC’s Soirée du Hockey, the French version of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, teamed up with filmmaker Phil Comeau on the soundtrack of his 1994 film Jerome’s Secret, also set and filmed in Baie Sainte-Marie.
That same year, local group Les Bâtisseux d’Pont released their first cassette called “Tunes des harhacks“, which was a satirical, acoustic folk-blues style music.
1994 was also the year Manitoba native Patrice Boulianne relocated to Clare and created the group Blou, which also featured top local musicians including Paul Melanson, Tommy Maillet and Len LeBlanc. Blou won three prizes at the Gala de la Chanson de la Nouvelle Ecosse, and by 1998 the Album “Acadico” won the East Coast Music Award for best Francophone Album. Blou has since won many more awards, including the 2012 ECMA for fans choice “Entertainer of the year”.
In the book Les Ecoles acadiennes en Nouvelle Ecosse 1758-2000 by Sally Hall, an interview with Daniel Comeau tells that more than anywhere else, in music we can notice the biggest mentality shift towards French in Clare. The interview noted that he and all his generation in Clare listened to English and American musicians, and that even the Tymeux de la Baie had previously been known as the Claretones and sang in English. “If anyone told me 25 years ago that the best musicians in Clare would make CDs in French, I would have said You dream in color! And today, its exactly what they do!”
Female musicians also hold a strong presence in the music of Baie Sainte-Marie, such as the group Turlututu, consisting of Mae Gaudet, Nadine Belliveau and Josephne Hanna, along with musical accompaniment from Daniel LeBlanc and Avery d’Entrement. They recorded a self titled cassette, which featured both traditional and original songs, and remain active in various musical projects and as leaders of the cultural community in Clare.
A compilation entitled La Revue Musicale Acadienne 1997 with the musical direction of Patrice Boulianne and the top Acadian musicians at the time was recorded with the support of CBC Maritimes and the Conseil culturel acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse. The album has 12 tracks and is available at the
In 1997, after learning of the death of Lady Diana, Brenda Doucet began writing a poem in her honour, and desired to make it a song. After contacting Jacky Comeau, who had hung out at her home for many years while practicing with other members of her brother’s bands, they discussed putting the poem into a song, and with his encouragement and musical arrangements, “Diana’s Dream” was born. in 1999, she sent the song to the Royal Family in the UK, and received a formal letter from Buckingham Palace thanking her for her heartfelt efforts. She would collaborate again with Jacky Comeau, as well as with Bruce Boudreau, Clayton Lewis and Christopher Meuse. A portion of her music sales also goes to her fund “The Mental Health Awareness Fund”. Although many of Brenda’s songs are in English, she continues to write and record in Acadian French as well.
In 1998, the album “Hallo…ca rinque moi” was recorded by Herb LeBlanc with over a dozen local musicians helping out, including Vic Mullen, Gary Greene and “Bayo” Thibodeau on violins, Yvon Comeau on bass, Len LeBlanc on drums, Russel Saulnier on banjo, Melvin Cottreau and Paul Deveau on mandolin, Jacky Comeau and Ray Burridge on piano, Nelson LeBlanc on harmonica, Melvin Cottreau on accordion, and on guitars were Herb LeBlanc, Daniel LeBlanc, Paul Deveau, Gerry Boudreau and Brian Melanson. The album featured 12 of LeBlanc’s classic songs. A funny story about the title track “Hallo c’est rinque moi” (Hello, its me) relates to a line where he gives a local 902 phone number. The number is a real one, and belongs to relatives of LeBlanc, who have received phone calls from people in Alberta that have just listened to the song and called the number, often staying on the line to have a chat.
As always, bands come and go, form and reform, and play when they can. Family reunions regularly feature musical performances, such as a 2004 Theriault reunion in Saulnierville that featured the band 340 South, with Yvon Comeau, Paul Deveau, Russel Saulnier, Peter Comeau and David Saulnier, playing French Acadian and bluegrass tunes, with instruments ranging from guitar and violin to bones. This reunion also featured the band Blou, singer Ted Melanson, and the group Easy II, as well as a Holy Mass which again featured several musicians including Claire Comeau. Family reunions occur regularly in Saint Mary’s Bay, drawing relatives from across North America to the area, and almost always feature local bands. This association of hospitality with music has extended into local restaurants, starting with Paul Comeau of the former Restaurant Chez Christophe in Grosses Coques, to Musique de la Baie, beginning in the summer of 2000.
VII. A New Century
Around 2000, Lesly Dupassé was created as a side project of a group of local musicians. Lesly Dupassé tells the history of the Acadians and other topics using a folk-avant-garde type music with all sorts genres intertwined. Over 300 songs have been recorded, including the 2002 track “Les Acadiens” and the 2007 track “Quoice qui se passe“. While the music of Lesly Dupassé is quite unknown and relatively misunderstood, its creators believe it will stand the test of time and become a cult-classic.
By 2001, a hip hop duo known as Jacobus and Maleco had teamed up with DJ Alexandre, releasing their first album in 2003, and their second in 2005. As their CBC music bio puts it “Their message is delivered with a raw poetry floating in an ocean of fresh sounds of DJ Alexandre.” This was the first big example of local hip hop in Clare, and even in all of the Acadian world. By 2007, Maleco had left the group, leading Jacques Doucet and DJ Alexandre Bilodeau to New Brunswick to recruit members for the new band Radio Radio, which would grow to become one of the biggest Francophone hip hop acts in Canada.
By 2002, the punk band Freedom 35 had also hit the scene, and added to the level of musical diversity that Clare had not seen before, mixing punk, hair metal, soft core, folk, rock & roll, together with Acadian.
Also around this time, Quebec native Luc Tardif relocated to Saint Mary’s Bay, and has remained a part of the local music scene for over 15 years, writing and performing French songs. Over the years, he has received numerous nominations for music awards, including Nova Scotia Music and East Coast Music Awards, and has performed throughout the Maritimes and Quebec.
While music in Clare was evolving and changing shape, 2003 was also a year that looked to the past, and the book “Nos vieilles chansons: du sud-ouest de la Nouvelle-Écosse” (Our old songs: from South West Nova Scotia) was published by the Association Radio Clare (CIFA), featuring the music notes, lyrics and a series of CDs about some of the old songs from the region. CIFA has done a number of collections through the years, and is among the major conservators of Clare’s musical heritage, although several valuable collections were lost during the conversion to digital format preservation. Other audio collections released by CIFA include “Chemin des 3 rues: la musique alternative des artistes du Sud-Ouest (2002)” and “Écoutez voir Ça: la musique du sud-ouest de la Nouvelle-Écosse (2001)“, which can both be found in the Western Counties Library system, in Meteghan, Weymouth and Pubnico.
Many independent and community based albums were released during this time such as a compilation of various songs called “Southwest of Downeast” in 2001, as well as others like “Just Jammin” country and bluegrass songs in 2003. Len LeBlanc released the album Brûlé in 2004, which also featured local musicians and was produced at CIFA, and made possible by many members of the community. The Libraries in Weymouth, Meteghan and Pubnico have unique collections of many of the albums released during this period. Most albums were printed in small numbers, and can often be randomly found at various shops and yard sales throughout Clare.
By around 2004, a retired teacher embarked on a musical journey, adding dozens of original new songs about the Acadian experience. Her name was Jeanne (Doucet) Currie, and she recorded 3 CDs in 6 years, and was nominated many times for Music Nova Scotia awards. At each live performance, she would introduce herself as Jeanne à Georges à Tim à Jim à Timothee à Joseph à Francois à Rene à Pierre à Germain Doucet (Port Royal, 1636). Sadly, she passed away in 2010. A video of Jeanne performing at Nova Scotia Music week in 2009 can be seen here.
The year 2006 saw the release of the only album by the band G-Strung. Also in 2006, Studio B recorded “Mon Hiver” at Hope Studio in Meteghan, and “Soleil se couche” in 2008. Making and recording music in Clare had reached a point where it was a relatively common thing to do, and just as the area had a high level of live music in the 1970s, Clare now also had a high level of recorded music, with new albums being produced regularly.
School programs have been implemented over the years, and in 2007 Lester Doucet with the help of others, initiated a project to have high school students create and record original French songs. To help the students were Bruce Boudreau, Patrice Boulianne, Christophe Dol, Paul Lombard, Len LeBlanc, Dave LeBlanc, Germaine Comeau, Marc d’Entremont, Elaine Thimot, Gerald Thériault, Arnold LeBlanc, Marc Boudreau, Michel Melanson, Judy Melanson, Joan Boudreau, Martin Comeau and others. Since then, CDs of Bête, have been made, with funds being raised to buy new equipment. The 2007 CD for Bête had 10 tracks and was produced at Hope Studio with support from organizations and members of the community.
Also beginning in 2007, under the direction of Gerald Thibault has been an annual series of fundraising concerts with proceeds going to support a charity. Musicians including Gerald Theriault, Brian Amirault, Lloyd Doucet, Don Saulnier, Avery d’Entremont, Simon LeBlanc, Rose Madden, Jennifer McIntosh, Justine Boulianne, Patrice Boulianne, and Claire Comeau have participated in these fundraising concerts, and in 2014 the proceeds went to the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia.
Around this time, a “Musique de la Baie” compilation was recorded by Studio CIFA. It was supported by local business partners and sponsors, local government departments, community groups as well as the musicians and technicians involved. It has 19 tracks by various artists and is available in the Western Counties Regional Library system.
In 2008, a group of local musicians assembled to play a tribute show to Baptiste at Lescarbot Theatre in Church Point. The group featured musicians such as Christophe Dol, Sebastien Dol, Mike (a Viktor) Gaudet, Carmen d’Entremont and many others.
Also that year, Rock Le Bot was held, featuring the bands Quart de Trois, Les Salauds, 305-A, Renée Elastic at la Rubber Band and Les Inscrables, totalling over 40 students paying music. The activity included musical training with students of all ages and a concert at Lescarbot Theatre at Univeristy Sainte-Anne. A DVD of Rock le bot 2008 is available at the Meteghan Library and as of writing this it has been borrowed three times.
The group “Les Sapins Verts” which featured Christophe Dol, Michael Gaudet and Léon Stuart, has performed in both English and French in styles ranging from traditional Acadian to grunge and rock, and were the first Acadian rock group to be on the official programme of Nova Scotia Music Week. All members of this band have written many original French songs, and are able to play several instruments. Drummer Léon Stuart also plays guitar, violin and mandolin, while Michael Gaudet sings, drums, plays guitar and keyboard, and also raps. Members of this band have played in other bands such as Sahara Dragon, Brume Sur l’Echine and more.
Jason Saulnier, former student of Bruce Boudreau has become a well known metal/rock speed guitarist, endorsed by Gibson Guitars, Seymour Duncan Pickups and Sfarzo Strings, and auditioned in 2009 to be Ozzy Osbourne’s guitar player. He spent time in California, and returned to Clare where he participates in bands as a drummer, bassist or whatever else is needed to put on a show. He has long been active in the Centre Acadien and CIFA radio, and is a noted music interviewer.
In 2009, the compilation “C’est comme ça que ça s’passe…à La Baie Sainte-Marie” was created by Monette Robichaud and Bruce Boudreau, featuring songs about the community by known musicians including Herb LeBlanc, Jeanne (Doucet) Currie, Nadine Belliveau, Marcel Cottreau and Anne Downing, with a group of 9 young singers. Songs include “Quand j’étais jeune” and “Au grenier de grand-mère” (In Grandma’s attic). It was recorded at Hope Studio and is available in the Western Counties Regional Library.
In 2010, Unisson, an established band of Musique de la Baie, released a self-titled album of 14 tracks, recorded by Jean Pascal Comeau. As described by Germaine Comeau, “Unisson is like a well-aged wine spiced with bouquets of jig, traditional, cajun, down-east and bluegrass rhythms and served with the best Acadian comfort food”
Also in 2010, Baie Sainte-Marie native Georgette LeBlanc was awarded the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award for her lyrical poetry which focuses on cultural memory, and had previously completed a master’s degree on the evolution of traditional music in Baie Sainte-Marie at Université Sainte-Anne.
In 2011, the Nova Scotia cultural ensemble DRUM!, which combines rhythms from the province’s Black, Celtic, Aboriginal and Acadian traditions performed in Yarmouth and featured Len LeBlanc as a special guest. An interview with Len LeBlanc by Jason Saulnier can be seen here.
Also that year, Kyle Doucette, Lisa Doucette, and Nathan Boudreau were first round winners in the Nova Scotia regional tourism campaign “My Nova Scotia”, for which Kyle was quoted
We are so excited to be part of the My Nova Scotia contest. We love Nova Scotia for its music scene. From old time fiddle and traditional, to folk and bluegrass, there’s always great music being played in Clare, Yarmouth and across the province. We are proud to be able to tell everyone they need to come and enjoy it for themselves. Known from Musique de la Baie, Kyle and Lisa spent the 2013 summer season performing on the Digby-Saint John ferry Princess of Acadia, and also that year released an instrumental CD under the band name Accord, which featured Paul Deveau on mandolin, along with bass players Simon Robichaud and Marcel Weaver. They also sing in both French and English in live performances, with Nathan Boudreau performing with the group.
Since 2011, The song “Coureur du Bois” by Phillip and Wendell d’Eon of West Pubnico, has become the official song of the Association Acadien-Metis Souriquois in Saint Mary’s Bay and is sang at all of their gatherings. The song is significant to the history and mixed-blood heritage of the Acadian-Metis as verbalized in the song: example “I’m a coureur de bois, I know the Mi’kmaq, their blood flows in me.” The Association’s website features the lyrics here.
In 2012-13, La Société acadienne de Clare presented the summer camp Rock Le Bot through a national heritage fund award which allowed for a concert, a DVD and a CD, as well as the 7th CD of Bête. Past students have gone on to music studies at Canadian universities, including in New Brunswick and Quebec.
A major longtime supporter of Francophone Music in Clare is Dan Robichaud, who has worked for two decades in French music radio, including CIFA in Clare, CKDU and Radio Canada in Halifax, and was 4 times involved in the Nova Scotia Gala of (French) songs, which is currently in hiatus. He has been critical of the situation of French music in Clare, arguing in a published letter in 2013, that many have been hiding behind the established country twang of days gone by, and neglecting the developmental effect music can have on language and culture. He has argued that the French music ‘industry’ in Clare has not made efforts to enrich and educate the population, for example to the word games of Brassens, or the philosophy of Brel. He also argues that the leading institutions and tourism players have not done enough to develop the local music scene, while still boasting in tourism fairs how great and plentiful the local music is. He continues to advocate for the cultural importance of French music in Clare, however like most in the area, music is a passion while another job pays the bills. This last fact has also been mentioned in the 1984 film La Musique Nous Explique, and remains true today. Regardless of how one perceives his opinions, it is indeed true that in the past the attitude and feelings towards French music in Clare has been largely simplistic and nostalgic, and has not taken major steps to be exposed to the greater world of Francophonie.
VIII. Modern Era
The radio station CIFA has broadcast in French for 25 years, and airs mainly country music and older tunes, the majority of which are francophone. As of 2015, “Tide School Cruise” is a new program on CIFA hosted by Arthur Comeau (Alexandre Bilodeau) with guests like Johan MeltWave and Mike Viktor among others, and is by far CIFA’s most eclectic show. Arthur Comeau, former DJ and rapper with award winning group Radio Radio and has collaborated with various diverse artists from around the Francophone world. Long time radio personalities include Wayne Dugas, Emile Blinn, Jene Dugas. Wayne Dugas has won awards including many times the Eastern Canada Bluegrass Radio/TV DJ of the year. Also new in 2015 on CIFA is the program “La Cerise sur le Franco”, which aims to bring interest in the international world of Francophonie to audiences in Clare. In 2016, CIFA released a special 25th anniversary CD entitled “Envole” and held a promotional concert with local artists. The CD was a compilation of 12 original songs by 10 young artists, and was coordinated by Emile Blinn, who has worked at CIFA for the last 17 years.
While French is still the dominant language in Clare, much of the music is now anglophone, being received on radio and TV from the Maritimes and beyond. There continues to be Francophone influence from Quebec, but also Anglophone influence from Calgary, Toronto and Halifax, while many residents have traveled or moved abroad and returned with songs, styles and experiences from far away, in addition to the reach offered by the internet and satellite/ cable TV, etc.
Locals often comment that there had previously been many more opportunities to perform along the shore, and from Shelburne to the Annapolis Valley, and they attribute decline of live music venues and activities to a stricter enforcement of drinking & driving laws, as well as the new anti-smoking laws, but also to the population decline through out-migration and declining family size…6 children used to be a small family! They also mention a lack of audience interest with more distractions and activities, as well as music being widely available online. This however has opened up new opportunities as well, and music from Clare can now be heard globally, including at the 2016 exhibition “Les Acadiens d’la Baie” as part of “French Week” in Albania.
In Clare municipality today, there are several venues that regularly promote live music, including Le Chateau (Université Ste. Anne), The Church Point Social Club, Evalinas Rappie Pie, Theatre Lescarbot, The Legion, various church halls, and several restaurants participating in Musique de la Baie, where a local Acadian act plays music during the dinner service during the summer. Also during the summer, a local musician regularly participates at the Beaux Vendredi lobster supper on Friday nights at the municipal park in Belliveau Cove. Taking place at Evelina’s since 2006, has been the Moulin Productions, which feature diverse, high quality musical performances from acts such as Ron Hynes, JP Cormier, Coig, Adonis Puentes and many more, often bringing a very different musical perspective to Clare.
Major venues for choral music are Sacre-Coeur Church in Saulnierville and St. Bernard Church in Saint Bernard, the latter which since 2008 has annually hosted the High C’s Choral Festival in May, assembling up to a 200 voice mass choir from throughout Nova Scotia, the Maritimes and beyond with notable guest directors from Nova Scotia with national and international experience. Major contributors to the choral music of Clare include Jean-Louis Robichaud, who has directed the choir at Sacre-Couer Church for over 2 decades, and Father Maurice LeBlanc who has long directed la Chorale Acadienne du Sud-Ouest.
Many private residences host musical activities, including every Friday night for the past 20 or so years at the St. Benoni garage of Les Saulniers and other garages and houses in the area, while guests at Su Ben B&B in Little Brook can often join in a small kitchen party with the hosts at the inn.
Music often runs in the family, and this is especially evident with the Bouliannes, consisting of father Patrice of Blou fame, mother Claire Comeau, and children Justine (Juste Love Peace), Sylvie Boulianne, and Guyaume (Cy). Many members of this family have a university education in music, and all have a great deal of ability and talent.
Photo by Joey Robichaud-Left to right: Paul Deveau, Kyle Doucette, Lisa Doucette, Sébastien Dol, Daniel LeBlanc, Crystal Thibault, Léon Stuart, Gilles Saulnier, Simon Robichaud (July, 2014 at Marc Lescarbot Theater, Universite St. Anne, Clare, Nova Scotia)
Being able to play an instrument has always been a sort of ‘ticket” to get to the party, and many of the middle generation continue to play including Brian Amirault, the harmonica player who recently returned from Alberta, and is working to adapt his blues harp playing style to fit the local bluegrass style. Other journeymen musicians like Julien Weaver (Bluegrass Acadie, La Rig a Tony, etc), Paul Melanson, etc. can adapt their own styles to play almost any style, or to fill in for various bands and shows as needed. The blues/rock band Rig a Tony (Julien Weaver, Tony Doucet, Jason Saulnier) plays several shows each year, and has a diverse repertoire of original French and English songs such as Dans L’Anse, as well as other locally themed songs such as Les Acadiens d’la Baie, Mon Canoe, and a remake of Julien Weaver’s Le Temps de Notre Retour which was featured in Phil Comeau’s 1984 film La Musique Nous Explique. A different Brian Amirault remains active and has performed at the Clare Country Music Festival, and elsewhere. Other groups like RNV3 (Normand Cormier, Rene Robicheau, Vernon Stuart) and The Radiaters (Daniel Lewis, Simon Robichaud, Francis Robichaud, Charles Robicheau) continue to perform, although much of their repertoires are in English. Daniel Lewis is a regular keyboardist, mandolin player and singer, and many others like him continue to play in the evenings and weekends, although maintaining regular day jobs. Others keep the musical flame burning through small production studios, such as Bruce Boudreau’s Hope Studio, which has produced singles and albums for anyone willing to record. Another local production studio is Arthur Comeau’s Tide School.
Marc à Paul à Jos is an Acadian French act inspired by Baptiste Comeau, that blends the mandolin with modern stories and themes such as “Le Tim Hortons de Meteghan“. Though living in Vancouver, Marc LeBlanc has performed in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia with with local Clare residents Simon Robichaud and Charles Robichaud. His music career began in English rock and metal, but has taken a significant detour to the spot it is today, and now helps to ensure the lyrical survival of both dialect and expressions from the Acadian language. Another respected mandolin and banjo player from the Baie is Dillon Robicheau of the Backyard Devils. Other bands such as Unison bring modern energy to traditional sounds.
Still active, now as a production company, Turlututu Productions presented a new musical in 2015 called “Margueritte. Sa vie.”, which featured Josephine Hanna, Mae Gaudet, Nadine Belliveau, Justine Boulianne, Claire Comeau, Lisette Sieberath, Marcel Weaver, Dave LeBlanc, Michel Pothier, and was performed at the Theatre Lescarbot in Church Point.
While the award winning group Le Grand Derangement is still active, members of the group continue to perform in other bands such as Beer for Iguana and The Radiaters, as well as sitting on various boards and committees relating to music and cultural activities. Briand Melanson has relocated himself to Toronto and reinvented himself as Bamtone, and since 2010 has written hundreds of songs, although mainly in English.
Photo by Joey Robichaud- From left to right: Jacques Boudreau, Briand Melanson, Jean-Pascal Comeau, Eric Dow, Marcel Aymar, Jacques Blinn, Guillaume Boulianne, Charles Robicheau, Daniel Leblanc (August, 2015, Clare, Nova Scotia)
Among the musicians from the new generation to sing in Acadian include Juste Love Peace and CY (Jacques Boudreau, Jacques Blinn, Guyaume Boulianne, Éric Dow) whose name comes from a Baie Sainte-Marie legend, based on a man called Cy à Mateur who was thought by some to be possessed by the devil. Arthur Comeau has become a household name and won the 2015 Prix Grand Pre, awarded to an Acadian artist whose work best promoted Acadian arts and culture. Together with Jonah MeltWave, Mikael Viktor and others, they are re-defining the sound of Acadian music.
As the Festival Acadien de Clare marked its 60th anniversary in 2015, Radio Canada was there to broadcast live on National French public television, particularly important in reaching audiences in Quebec, New Brunswick, and beyond.
A new festival began in 2015, organized by The FéCANE (Cultural Federation of Acadians in Nova Scotia) called the Festival Stella, which serves as a platform for emerging Acadian and Francophone artists in five disciplines including music, which in 2015 featured 4 musical acts, 3 of which were from Baie Sainte-Marie, and were Justine Boulianne, Cy and JonahMeltWave.
The FéCANE also produced the album “Régénération musicale 2015“, which was recorded in Dartmouth at FMP Studio. The album featured an assortment of emerging Acadian and Francophone musicians from Nova Scotia, including Clare musicians Sylvie Boulianne, Mikael Viktor, Jonah MeltWave, Juste Love Peace and Cy, who reinterpreted traditional French and Acadian songs. The album’s session musicians included Daniel LeBlanc, Jean-Pascal Comeau and Briand Melanson of Clare.
The year 2015 also saw the release of Paul-Émile Comeau’s book “Acadian Driftwood – The Roots of Acadian and Cajun Music”, and he has been nominated for the 2016 ECMA Media Person of the Year.
In the spring and fall of 2016, the production “L’Acadie, un pays qui se ra-conte” (Acadie tells her story) is being presented in 90 shows throughout France, and features music, storytelling and dance. Among the 17 performers, 8 are musicians, including Dillon Robicheau, along with several dancers from Baie Sainte-Marie. This is not the first time Acadian music has been shared in France, as “L’Acadie has become an official member “nation” of the Inter-Celtic Festival of Lorient, one of the largest festivals in Europe! These are important events, as not only do they expose Acadian culture to France, but for many it will inform them for the first time that Acadie exists!
IX. The Future
This research shows how deeply rooted music is in the community, and how far the talents reach. While many musicians and their stories have not been mentioned, it still shows that the stage is set to continue the french musical tradition found in Baie Sainte-Marie for many years to come, in both retaining the traditional Acadian musical experience, as well as evolving to suit modern tastes and reflections. Likewise, as Université Sainte-Anne continues to attract foreign students, the musical diversity will continue to grow.
While the musical traditions are thriving in Clare, what leads us to conclude that French music there is indeed endangered is that Clare is a small community of 8000 people, surrounded by Anglophones in an English province of a predominantly English country, which in addition is isolated from any large francophone audience. Not only isolated, but as a part of a Francophone world that still largely is unaware of its existence. The challenge for French music is global as even in France there has been a decrease in French albums created, sold and played on the radio over the last 2 decades. If French music is declining in France, that makes it even more difficult for French music from Clare to find an audience. And yet in Clare, these 8000 people continue to produce music, and musicians! The strength and support of community and local organizations have proven for more than 2 centuries that Francophone music can be nurtured and survive in Baie Sainte-Marie, and now continued participation in activities abroad and an outward reach will be crucial to ensuring its survival in years to come, as still today French Nova Scotia and L’Acadie are not well known even throughout Canada, let alone in the rest of the world of Francophonie.
To finish, lets go back to Daniel Comeau’s quote from close to 2 decades ago: “If anyone told me 25 years ago that the best musicians in Clare would make CDs in French, I would have said You dream in color! And today, its exactly what they do!”
Let us see Clare continue to defy the conventions, and rise to become a beacon of French music, not just in Canada, but in all of Francophonie!
Photo by Joey Robichaud- Christmas concert, left to right: Daniel Leblanc, Suzanne Comeau, David Saulnier, Melissa Comeau, Shiela Carabine, Brian Amirault, Brianne Leblanc, Charles Robicheau, Simon Robichaud, Keyboards – Daniel Lewis, Drums – Francis Robichaud (December, 2015, Clare, Nova Scotia)
Timeline of notable achievements in Baie Sainte-Marie’s music history:
- 1768 – Arrival of the first Acadian settlers to the area
- 1800 – First Choir established in Church Point by Father Sigogne
- 1836 – Songwriter Frederic Robicheau the first Acadian deputy in Nova Scotia Legislature
- 1890 – Establishment of fanfare and orchestra at Ste Anne College
- 1940s – Willie Doucet of Cape Saint Marys has repertoire of over 400 songs
- 1942/1944 – St Bernard Church gets Casavant organ / Ste Marie Church gets Casavant organ
- 1951 – First Mixed Choir in Clare organized by Father Savoie
- 1955 – First Acadian Festival de Clare
- 1970s-1980s – Le Festin de Musique is held (Woodstock inspired outdoor festival)
- 1986 – Les Tymeux de la Baie represent Acadia at Expo 86 in Vancouver
- 1986 – Les Condon Chats represent Canada in Morrocco at the 1st International Festival of Music and Youth at the invitation of King Hassan II
- 1990 – Establishment of community radio CIFA by Paul-Emile Comeau & others
- 1992 – Establishment of Southwest Acadian Choir, directed by Father Maurice LeBlanc
- 1997 – Brenda Doucet recognized by Buckingham Palace for her song “Diana’s Dream”
- 1998 – Blou wins ECMA best Francophone Album
- 1996 – Daniel Leblanc, Briand Melanson, Jean-Pascal Comeau study music at Musicians Institute of Technology in California, forming Le Grand Derangement in 1998
- 2000 – Le Grand Derangement release their second album and tour North America and Europe
- 2000 – First annual Clare Bluegrass Festival
- 2004-2009 – Jeanne (Doucet) Currie nominated for Music Nova Scotia Awards including Francophone Artist of the Year and as Country/Bluegrass Artist of the Year in 2008
- 2007 – Jacques Alphonse Doucet and Arthur Comeau help create award winning rap group Radio Radio
- 2007 – “Bête” and “Rock le Bot” are established to involve high school students in music
- 2008 – First annual High C’s Choral Festival at St. Bernard Church
- 2009-2015 – Wayne Dugas regularly awarded best bluegrass DJ/ Emcee in Atlantic Canada
- 2010 – Georgette LeBlanc awarded the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award for her lyrical poetry
- 2012 – Blou wins ECMA Fans Choice Entertainer of the Year
- 2013 – First annual Clare Country Music Festival
- 2014 – Jason Saulnier’s cover of “Devil Went Down to Georgia” gets 100,000 views on Youtube
- 2015 – Paul-Emile Comeau publishes “Acadian Driftwood: The Roots of Acadian and Cajun Music”
- 2015 – 60th Acadian Festival de Clare
- 2015 – Arthur Comeau recieves the Prix Grand Pré at the Creative Nova Scotia Awards Gala
- 2016 – “L’Acadie, un pays qui se ra-conte” music and dance performance begins 90 show tour of France
- Belliveau, Jean-Louis. Interview. 2015.
- Comeau, Phil, La Cabane. National Film Board of Canada. 1978.
- Comeau, Phil, La Musique Nous Explique. National Film Board of Canada. 1984.
- Creighton, Helen & Labelle, Roland. “Chansons Folkloriques D’Acadie. La Fleur du Rosier” University College Cape Breton Press. 1948.
- Deveau, Marie-Adèle, Sur La Mer, Comité régional de la FANE de Clare, 1997. http://www.bdaa.ca/biblio/recherche/fane/fane.pdf
- Deveau, J. Alphonse, La Ville Francaise, Les Editions Ferland Quebec 1968
- Deveau, J. Alphonse, Clare ou La Ville Francaise – Tome 1, Les Premiers Cent Ans
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Notice: Looking for people who know old unrecorded or recorded songs in French language to digitally preserve for future generations. Do you know an old song that is a risk of disappearing from Clare if its not recorded or promoted now?! Do you know somebody who does? (Acadian, Metis, Quebecois, other French, etc.)
If so, mail us your own recording, or contact us to arrange a free recording: firstname.lastname@example.org / 902-586-2045