Tune of the Month
"Road to Batoche"
In 1994 WOTFA and contra dance musicians assembled a band, and tunes, to play “Northwest and Yankee Music” for the new Fifth Saturday Contra Dance in Seattle. Stuart Williams brought ‘Road to Budtesh,’ from a video of Belcourt ND fiddler Mike Page (‘Medicine Fiddle’ by Michael Loukinen –Northern Michigan University). The tune had Celtic-like Em/D chording, “drive” like a Quebec reel, interesting syncopation and clean phrasing. Stuart's version was a winner for our dances; it's been promulgated ever since among WOTFA and contra dance musicians.
Phil Katz discovered that the tune was a version of ‘Road to Batoche,’ by renowned Metis fiddler Andy DeJarlis see The Evergreen Fiddler: Volume I – Blueberry Jig). The Metis are descendants of the mixed French/Native people, who worked throughout the 19th century fur trade in trapping, transport, and trade-fort operation for the Hudson Bay and Northwest Companies. Metis fiddling, originating with the French and Scots of the trade forts, evolved to a distinctive style and repertoire that has lived strongly to this day. That tradition encourages substantial variation. Besides the original DeJarlis version and the one published here, we know of three other versions, all differing substantially, including a "crooked" version later played by Mike Page. But the version here is the major one promulgated in Washington, through WOTFA at Kittitas, and via contra dance bands and sessions.
The Metis lost out in the transition of French Western Canada to the English and a farming economy. After initial accommodations (e.g. a French system east of the Red River, and an English one to the west, at Winnipeg), compromise broke down, and the Metis fought the English troops. After initial victories, the Metis were overwhelmed at the Battle of Batoche, north of what is now Saskatoon, SK.
Phil has travelled to Metis country, visiting Mike Page in Belcourt on the Turtle Mt. Reservation, as well as John Arcand's Metis Fiddlefest outside Saskatoon, the interpretive center at Batoche, and the French Canadian towns east of Winnipeg. WOTFA members Miche Baker-Harvey and Jay Finkelstein have made several trips, as have Bellingham fiddler Steve Blum-Anderson, and Seattle fiddler Sono Hashisaki. They all regularly play Metis-origin tunes for dances, and can pass them on, along with great stories.
Your guest Music Editor – Phil Katz
Please contact me if you have questions or requests.
Stuart Williams, Music Editor
December 10, 2010; revised 2/20/2013