Bertrand Deraspe and the Magdalen Islands

Bertrand Deraspe One of the things I love about Fiddle Tunes is that some of the faculty are NOT full-time professional musicians; they might be farmers or furniture makers or school bus drivers.

Quebecois fiddler Bertrand Deraspe comes from a long line of fisherman. He just recently retired from fishing and gave his boat to his son, otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to come to Fiddle Tunes as it’s right at the height of fishing season!

Bertrand plays in a different style of Quebecois fiddling than what we’ve had at Fiddle Tunes in the past – it’s a style that is unique to the Magdalen Islands, where Bertrand was born and still lives. The islands form an archipelago right smack in the middle of the St. Lawrence Bay, 50 miles by boat from anywhere! This is one of the places that the original Acadians (who became the Cajuns after settling in Louisiana) retreated to, where the British didn’t come after them.

Here’s a description of Bertrand by National Geographic writer Kennedy Warne, who plays fiddle and was in the Magdalen Islands investigating harp seals:

“Bertrand was amazing. He would lean forward on his chair, say something like “‘Ere is a tune I learned from a woodcutter,” and start into some soulful melody that gradually increased in volume and speed until both his legs pounded up and down on the wooden floor, beads of sweat stood out on his forehead, and the musical equivalent of sparks flew from his bow.”

Louis Leger has blogged about Bertrand on his family band’s website, and there are some recordings and sheet music there as well.

Learn to light a Quebecois fire this summer in Port Townsend with Bertrand and pianist Alain Turbide!

–Suzy Thompson

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