Four North Country fiddlers will represent New Hampshire on Wednesday at the Kennedy Center and Library of Congress, carrying on the tradition of French-Canadian fiddle music.
NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.
Patrick Ross was three when he played his first song on a fiddle.
It was called “The Rocking Chair Jig.”
Tick tock sound over and over…
Okay, it was simply rocking the back of the bow against the back of the fiddle.
“And that was it. And the crowd would go nuts because I was three years-old, four years-old and that was the only thing I could do.”
Now fast forward almost three decades.
Sound of a complex, quick-moving tune…
That’s called “The Growling Old Man and Old Woman.”
It is how Ross – who lives in Colebrook - plans to open Wednesday evening at the Kennedy Center.
Nominated by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, Ross along with Jean Theroux, Dalton Binnette and Bow Thayer will represent New Hampshire in the Library of Congress’ Homegrown Summer Concert Series.
In addition their music will be archived at the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center.
Growing up in the North Country Ross learned to play from his father – a welder and fishing guide.
The elder Ross often played the fiddle after work and at mega-family gatherings attended by dozens of relatives.
Fade in music here….
“My father always brought a genuine happiness to the instrument when he played it. He was never mournful, sad, heart-wrenching music. It had that drive. You could just imagine people dancing. I wanted to be like my Dad in every respect.”
But unlike his dad, the kid who started with “The Rocking Chair Jig” ended up earning his living from music, music that he wants to preserve and pass on.
A person who passed it on to Ross is Jean Theroux of West Stewartstown.
Now 78-years-old. Theroux worked in logging camps as a teenager and has been playing the fiddle just about forever.
Theroux has a quick smile and seems completely un-smitten with himself.
He talks to Ross in a quick-fire language that does and does not sound like French.
Ross is worried about the world losing Theroux and his music.
“The music that he plays is fading away. It is fading away. I could go on and on about that. I won’t exactly. But he is one of the last icons of this music.”
One of the people to whom Ross is handing down the music is Dalton Binette, 16, of Milan.
“Dalton is a great example of the preservation of traditional music. He’s really smart and he gets it so even if some day he puts down the instrument for a while he will still have that core of these tunes and this music.”
Sitting on a front porch on Monday Binette, Theroux and Ross are working through a few tunes before the trip to Washington.
Sound of talking – in French – and then music…
Their performance – under the name “Les Bon Hommes du Nord” – will be streamed live Wednesday at 6 p.m. from the Kennedy Center.
For NHPR News this is Chris Jensen
In about a month the performance of Les Bon Hommes du Nord at the Library of Congress will be available at the web site of the American Folklife Center.