Apprenticeships in the Folk & Traditional Arts: Ed Poullard & Dan Chevalier, Creole Fiddle
Back in the early 1990s, when Ed Poullard apprenticed under the guidance of the famous Creole fiddler Canray Fontenot, he recalls being told how important this apprenticeship would be for future generations. As Mr. Poullard remembers, “He said that when Canray’s gone, you become a torchbearer. You have to do whatever you can to bring this to others and show them what you know.” Over two decades later, Mr. Poullard has been one of, if not the, preeminent advocates of Creole fiddle: he travels all over the country and beyond, performing in folk festivals, giving workshops, and continuing as a torchbearer from Mr. Fontenot. Now in 2016, Mr. Poullard has become the master artist, passing what he has learned from Mr. Fontenot and others to apprentice Daniel Chevalier to continue the next generation of torchbearers for Creole fiddle music, and Creole music as a whole.
While Mr. Poullard’s grandfather had played fiddle, the accordion had been his first instrument. Born in Eunice, Louisiana Mr. Poullard moved with his family to Beaumont, Texas at nine months as the oil business provided a better living than what was available in Louisiana at that time. Growing up in a musical family of multiple accordion players on both sides, he had also started on the instrument at first. But, after an accident that injured his right hand prevented him from playing accordion, his father had him play his grandfather’s fiddle. Through the direction of his father on accordion and his mother, who did not play an instrument but possessed a keen musical ear, Mr. Poullard continued on fiddle. An apprenticeship would eventually form when his mother, a relative of Mr. Fontenot, got in touch about lessons. Before and after the apprenticeship Mr. Poullard learned under Mr. Fontenot, learning not just the music but listening to the stories Mr. Fontenot would tell. Mr. Poullard states, “It’s an education listening to him talk just as much as listening to him play. I got to hear a lot of things that I feel privileged to have been able to get at the time.”
Now, the years of experience are being passed to Daniel Chevalier. While fiddle in Creole music isn’t recognized as frequently as the accordion, Mr. Chevalier argues that the fiddle is what made a song Creole: “It has the sound, the texture, the slide. It has that edge that makes that song that song. There is nothing that can replace the fiddle player.” While only taking up fiddle recently, Mr. Chevalier has shown a deep dedication to learn not just the repertoire of songs but significance of the music and the musicians associated with it. Like Mr. Fontenot to Mr. Poullard, Mr. Chevalier will continue to learn well after the apprenticeship is over, expanding his knowledge of the music and becoming a torchbearer for the next generation of Creole fiddle musicians. A large part of encouraging the next generation, Mr. Chevalier states, is through the exposure of the music: “You can save something just by exposing people to it, and there’s a greater likelihood of it being preserved and passed on. I want to preserve it culturally, but I also want to learn it because of my own interest and enjoyment.”
Watch Mr. Poullard & Mr. Chevalier Perform "Quoi Faire (Why)" and "Old Carpenter's Waltz":