Steve Muise is one of the musicians featured in the Franco-American Fiddlers Rendezvous in Kennedy Park on Aug. 8. Submitted photo

 

LEWISTON — Kennedy Park will come alive with the sound of fiddling when a Franco-American Fiddlers Rendezvous takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8.

Featured musicians include Don and Cindy Roy, Erica and Matt Shipman, Steve Muise and Robert Sylvain, Greg Boardman and Neil Pearlman, and Pam Weeks. All are Mainers well-known for their skill in and passion for French-flavored dance music and song.

The event is being offered to the public free of charge under the sponsorship of LA Arts, with funding provided by a grant from the Maine Bicentennial Commission. Jim Parakilas, chair of LA Arts, said the organization “would be proud to sponsor a concert by any one of these exceptional musicians who have been integral to preserving Maine’s French Canadian musical traditions. Bringing them together in one concert, we feel, provides our community with a unique opportunity to experience the richness of this musical culture.”

Don and Cindy Roy are a husband-and-wife team whose music is rooted in both the Quebecois and Acadian traditions. Don was introduced to the fiddle at the age of 15 by his uncle Lou Mathieu, a noted fiddler within Franco-American circles, and soon he was winning fiddle contests throughout Maine and beyond. Joined by his wife, Cindy, on piano, he formed the Maine French Fiddlers in 1988, an ensemble which over the next several years took its distinctive Franco-American sound to a national audience with appearances at such notable venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Wolf Trap. In 2018 Don and Cindy received a National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment For the Arts.

Erica (Brown) Shipman grew up in Lewiston, where she started fiddle lessons with Greg Boardman as a young child. At age 9 she was invited to join the Maine French Fiddlers, with whom she toured throughout New England, Canada, and even Louisiana. More recently she has focused her talents on bluegrass music, performing widely with her husband, Matt, in the band The Bluegrass Connection.

Steve Muise’s ancestry is Acadian, with grandparents on both sides hailing from Nova Scotia. He serves as the stringed instrument teacher for the Farmington area school district, where he founded the Franklin County Fiddlers, a group of musicians from Mt. Blue High School who tour around Maine and beyond performing, promoting and learning about diverse fiddle styles, ranging from Downeast, Quebecois and Celtic to jazz and swing. Winner of the Maine Music Educator of the Year Award in 2007, he performs with several different folk bands.

Singer/guitarist Robert Sylvain also claims Acadian heritage, and his largely original repertoire incorporates lyrics from ballads he discovered in the songbooks brought down from the St. John Valley by his grandmother, intertwining them with Quebecois, Breton French and Cajun influences. He has performed in the band Boréal Tordu with Steve Muise, and also founded his own band, Sylvain’s Acadian Aces, which plays Cajun-style dance music.

Fiddler Pam Weeks has been a fixture on Maine’s contra dance scene since moving to the state 35 years ago. Invigorated by the energy of the French Canadian dance tunes popular in the contra repertoire, she went on to become a founding member of two French-themed bands: T-Acadie, whose repertoire emphasizes Acadian and Quebecois music, and Jimmyjo & the Jumbol’Ayuhs, which specializes in Cajun music.

Greg Boardman — whose grandmother was from Trois-Rivières, Quebec — is an enduring presence on the Maine fiddling scene, having begun playing for concerts, dances and other community events in the early 1970s. Along the way he co-founded the East Benton Fiddlers Convention, The Maine Country Dance Fiddle Workshop and Maine Fiddle Camp, all of which remain staples for fiddling enthusiasts. Locally, Boardman teaches strings in the Lewiston Public Schools, assists in music ministry at Trinity Church, and is the founder/curator of the Oasis of Music concert series.

Backing up Boardman in the Fiddlers Rendezvous is pianist Neil Pearlman, who is recognized as one of the most innovative young artists on Maine’s traditional music scene. His piano style is rooted in Cape Breton traditions while drawing on Latin, jazz and funk influences. Pearlman honed his performance skills in his family’s band, The Highland Soles, through which he learned Cape Breton-style step dancing from his mother, and rumor has it that the Rendezvous audience may be treated to a bit of jigging before the end of the show.

The idea for a Franco-American Fiddlers Rendezvous was proposed to LA Arts by Boardman, who recruited the cast and will be serving as MC. Looking ahead to the Aug. 8 event, he said “I am thrilled to be sharing the stage with so many of our state’s finest and most inspired traditional musicians.”

The concert will take place in the gazebo in Lewiston’s Kennedy Park, which is located on Pine Street between Park and Bates streets. Attendees should bring chairs or blankets for seating. The rain date for the event is the following Sunday, Aug. 15.

More information is available by calling the LA Arts Office at 207-782-7228.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.