Toussaint Arsenault | Bowing Down Home

Toussaint Arsenault, 1991

Biography

Toussaint Arsenault was a prominent Prince County fiddler, who grew up in Egmont Bay but spent most of his adult life in Summerside. He started playing fiddle at about age 12, and modeled his initial style on other fiddlers from the region, notably Joe Bibienne Arsenault, his daughter Zélie-Anne Arsenault and several of her fiddling sisters. In the 1930s and 40s, he played frequently at house parties and dances in the Evangeline region. Later on he became an avid competitor at local fiddle contests.

After the the Second World War, Toussaint developed a friendship with fellow fiddler Ervan Sonier that kept him musically active. He taught Sonier quite a number of tunes and helped him improve the efficiency of his bowing style. And after Sonier opened a barbershop, Toussaint would often drop by around closing time and the two would play till midnight.

Over the next few decades Sonier and Arsenault often performed together at local benefit concerts and other public events. Their music was often featured on the West Prince Party Line Show, and they helped found the Prince County Fiddlers. When Arsenault suffered a stroke in the late 1980s, he was only able to remember his tunes when Sonier came by for their weekly music session. We were lucky enough to record one of these sessions.

(Note:  all the selections here feature Toussaint Arsenault and Ervan Sonier playing together.)

Tune Selections

Sonier, Ervan & Toussaint Arsenault - Carl's Homecoming Accompanied by: Anne-Marie Gallant Arsenault, pno
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Sonier, Ervan & Toussaint Arsenault - High Level Hornpipe Accompanied by: Anne-Marie Gallant Arsenault, pno
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Sonier, Ervan & Toussaint Arsenault - Hughie Shortie Accompanied by: Anne-Marie Gallant Arsenault, pno
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Sonier, Ervan & Toussaint Arsenault - Island Boy Accompanied by: Anne-Marie Gallant Arsenault, pno
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Sonier, Ervan & Toussaint Arsenault - Jack Richard's Tune Accompanied by: Anne-Marie Gallant Arsenault, pno
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Sonier, Ervan & Toussaint Arsenault - Miramichi Fire, The Accompanied by: Anne-Marie Gallant Arsenault, pno
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Sonier, Ervan & Toussaint Arsenault - Old Man & the Old Woman, The Accompanied by: Anne-Marie Gallant Arsenault, pno
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Sonier, Ervan & Toussaint Arsenault - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Anne-Marie Gallant Arsenault, pno
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Sonier, Ervan & Toussaint Arsenault - Seaweed Reel Accompanied by: Anne-Marie Gallant Arsenault, pno
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Oral Histories

"I'd save to say it's a bad instrument” I'd have to say it's a bad instrument info and transcript
Arriving fiddler is lionized Just like Santa with a sack of toys: the fella with the fiddle; using knitting needles on the back strings for rhythm info and transcript
Pretend fiddling Pretend fiddling with two sticks and jigging; fiddle play info and transcript