March 18th, 2015
There is a pianist that I frequently work with who has come up with a very interesting idea for a music project. He recently went on a trip to visit his ancestral home in New Brunswick. On his journey he learned a bit about the local fold music and it's history. So he kindly asked me to participate in this project, and I'm really looking forward to it. My ancesters are from Canada as well, but Quebéc.
This naturally sparked my interest and curiosity of the folk music traditions of my own forefathers (and foremothers.) So I've been learning about the rich variety of music that was enjoyed in that region. Because Quebéc (as most of canada) was a bit of a melting pot of cultures, there are a variety of influences that can be seen.
A strong Celtic culture can be seen in Eastern Canada, which is clearly evident in the lilting reels and dances. The French history is also predominant with the lyrical folk songs that often have somewhat risqué subject matters. What I found most interesting, however came about a little later in history.
Ragtime was very popular in the US in the turn of the 20th century. From the 1890's to the 1910's, the dance halls of St. Louis and New Orleans were filled with people dancing to this new syncopated two step. Quebéc turned it's ear our way. There were several French-Canadian composers writing rags, two steps, and cake walks at that time. Ragtime was an influencial predicessor to Jazz, of which you probably noticed I'm a fan. :-)
I'm planning to explore Quebécois Ragtime further. I have a few ideas brewing in my mind for a new project involving arranging some of these rags for flute and piano, and possibly creating an album with the resulting pieces. This will be a lengthy pet project, as I'm trying to fit in into an already busy schedule, but it's one that I'm finding rewarding so far. As the project nears completion I'll post samples of the sheet music and recordings here, so be sure to check back if you're interested in the results.