Louise Gallant Arsenault | Bowing Down Home

Louise Arsenault at Atlantic Jamboree, 1991

Biography

Louise Gallant Arsenault grew up in a large musical family; before her family home got hooked up to electricity in 1967, her family often played music together in the evenings to pass the time. Her father, the fiddler Alyre Gallant, noted her aptitude at a young age and jigged tunes to her until she found them on the fiddle. She was one of the last fiddlers with a traditional Island style to develop in Prince County, and has an extremely independent attitude towards developing and maintaining her own tune versions, or twists.

Fiddling females were still very much a curiosity in the Evangeline Coast region during Louise’s childhood, despite the substantial precedent that had been set there decades earlier by Zélie-Anne Arsenault Poirier and her sisters. This was very much a mixed blessing. On the plus side, her talents were much in demand for community events. Once she reached adolescence, however, pressures to quit were strong enough that she felt she needed to put the instrument aside for a while.

When I first recorded her in 1992, Louise was a powerful dance fiddler who was also a mainstay at Acadian Festivals and a regular performer at La Cuisine à Mémé (Granny's Kitchen), a dinner theatre production based in Mont Carmel. From this production grew the band Barachois, which toured widely throughout North America, Britain and Western Europe, and enabled Louise to support herself as a professional musician for nearly a decade.

With Barachois in the past and a new band brewing, Louise’s energies have focused on the preservation of Acadian music through teaching and serving as a band coach; in 2006 she had a long range plan to found a fiddle-teaching camp on the Evangeline Coast.

Of special interest to fiddlers: Louise offers an explanation of the bowing technique that produces Acadian style sawstroke syncopation (what she calls "shuffles").

Tune Selections

Arsenault, Louise - Fermoy Lasses Accompanied by: Philippe Leblanc, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Louise - Growling Old Man Accompanied by: Zelma Gallant Arsenault, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Louise - Heather on the Hill / Dragger's Reel Accompanied by: Philippe Leblanc, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Louise - LArsenault Strathspey 1 / Big John MacNeil / Cotton-Eyed Joe Accompanied by: Philippe Leblanc, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Louise - La Bastringue / À San Malo à Bord de Mer Accompanied by: Philippe Leblanc, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Louise - La Rose Accompanied by: Philippe Leblanc, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Louise - Lord MacDonald's Reel Accompanied by: Philippe Leblanc, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Louise - Pigeon on the Gatepost Accompanied by: Zelma Gallant Arsenault, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Louise - Promenade Waltz Accompanied by: Zelma Gallant Arsenault, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Louise - Reel de Narcisse Accompanied by: Zelma Gallant Arsenault, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Louise - Reel de Pendu Accompanied by: Philippe Leblanc, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Louise - Reel à Joe Bibienne Accompanied by: Philippe Leblanc, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Louise - Ste. Anne's Reel Accompanied by: Philippe Leblanc, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Louise - Theresa MacLellan Reel / Farmer's Reel Accompanied by: Zelma Gallant Arsenault, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
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Arsenault, Louise - West Point Reel Accompanied by: Zelma Gallant Arsenault, pno
Evangeline Coast / East Prince
info

Oral Histories

Acadian syncopation explained How sawstroke syncopation is accomplished ("Twin Sisters" used as example) info and transcript
Arsenault, Louise - Musical evenings at home Didn't have electricity, so family all played music in the evening; father played organ when she played fiddle info and transcript
Arsenault, Louise - Preserving Acadian musical style Wants to start fiddle camp to start music alive; outside world is not aware of style info and transcript
Father’s encouragement Started at 7, she "stole the fiddle" one day and showed that she could play; Father Helaire Gallant would tune her the tunes and she would find the notes info and transcript
Sticks to the way she learned Stick to the way she learned it, even if the original fiddler had it different; no two fiddlers the same: everyone has own style of playing; she and sisters step-danced together info and transcript