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Daniel Boucher is a fiddle player and singer in the traditional French-Canadian style. He grew up in a Bristol, Connecticut family that originally came from Québec. Connecticut has a very large Franco-American community consisting of Québécois immigrants as well as Acadians from Fort Kent, Maine. Daniel took lessons from local fiddlers while learning many French-Canadian tunes from his father Jules, who plays accordion, spoons, harmonica, and limberjack.
French-Canadian music in the northeastern parts of America is characterized by its instrumentation, song style, and social function. The main melodic instruments are the fiddle and the diatonic button accordion, with jaw harp and harmonica often added. Harmonic and rhythmic accompaniment on guitar and piano is common, as are various kinds of pump organs in older communities. Percussion is particularly creative; it includes rhythmic foot-tapping on the floor or a special wooden board, a sound now known as podorhythmie. It also includes bones (originally the rib-bones of an animal but now often made of wood), spoons, and limberjack, a wooden doll that appears to dance when a board under its feet is rhythmically struck. Step dancing or clogging often accompanies the music.
The song repertoire includes chansons à répondre, call and response songs between singer and audience, which show the high degree of interaction in French-Canadian music. Songs of love (often bawdy), drinking songs, and story songs with hilarious vocal improvisations are other popular subjects. The preferred settings for French Canadian music-making in New England continue to be the kitchen, living room, outdoor picnic, restaurant, or dance hall, where traditional quadrilles are still called to fiddle group accompaniment.
Daniel developed a passion for the musical traditions of Québec and did a lot of research on his own there during the family's regular trips to their Canadian home, including maple-sugaring activities and New Year celebrations. From age sixteen he collected old recordings, amassing a collection of over three hundred albums of French folk music, and jammed often with musicians both in Québec and around New England.
As part of the Southern New England Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, Daniel apprenticed to Massachusetts fiddler Donna Hébert in 2002 and Connecticut fiddler Rosaire LeHoux in 2003, and worked with Colette Fournier of Rhode Island to expand his repertoire of French songs. The apprenticeships served to hone his technical skills and teach him some new tunes, but Daniel is a very strong musician and a cultural leader in his own right now at the age of thirty-one. He is a composer of Québécois fiddle tunes and a fine singer of traditional songs, many of them very funny. In 2008 he started Jam Français, a popular bi-weekly gathering of musicians at a restaurant near his home. These soirées, along with Daniel’s seasonal celebrations featuring music, dance, French-Canadian traditional arts exhibits and food, and his annual Maple Sugar Party, draw regular audiences from Rhode Island and Massachusetts and have revitalized French folk music in central Connecticut. In Daniel’s words:
Daniel has performed with French-Canadian music groups such as Chanterelle, The Beaudoin Family, and singer Josée Vachon, and with a variety of musicians from across southern New England. He was invited to participate in the Québec 400 celebrations in Québec City in 2008, a great honor. Other performances have taken place at dance parties at Le Foyer in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the Blackstone River Theater in Cumberland, Rhode Island, French Day at the State Capitol in Hartford, and the hugely popular public folk festivals in Lowell, Massachusetts and Bangor, Maine. His tune "Reel Circulaire" appears on albums by Donna Hébert and Genticorum. Daniel is equally comfortable in a concert setting or a dance party where his music inspires audiences to dance, join in the chansons à répondre, or play the spoons. For this concert he will be joined by guitarist/fiddler Reynold Pelletier, guitarist/fiddler George Wilson, and fiddler/stepdancer Glenn Bombardier from The Beaudoin Family.
The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American Folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs, and training. The Center includes the American Folklife Center Archive of folk culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world. Please visit our web site.
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