Fiddlers pay respects to famous local musician
PORT SAUNDERS, N.L. – At French Shore Academy, the legacy of Rufus Guinchard’s music lives on.
This past month, junior high students from the Port Saunders school travelled to the legendary fiddler’s final resting place to pay their respects with a performance of his own music.
Guinchard (1899-1990) was born in Daniel’s Harbour and grew up playing the fiddle from age 11.
He initially played for dances in the Daniel’s Harbour area and then around Port Saunders as well.
Eventually, he became popular throughout the province, releasing multiple LPs and even travelling internationally, to share his take on traditional Newfoundland folk music with the world.
He was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 1986.
Travelling to where Guinchard is laid to rest to perform is something that had been on the mind of music teacher Ryan Wiltshire and his class for some time.
Wiltshire says he started the fiddle program over 10 years ago because of the history of fiddle music on the coast, particularly Guinchard’s.
He felt it was necessary to directly pay respects to the man and the legacy the great fiddler’s music has left behind.
On May 16, on their way to a concert in Corner Brook, the class stopped at the cemetery in Daniel’s Harbour.
There, the 15 students, standing over the grave of one of the most famous fiddler players this province has ever produced, performed two of Guinchard’s tunes, “Pretty Little Mary” and “Aunt Mary”.
It was a fitting tribute, though the cold temperature and wind that afternoon cut the visit a little bit short.
Wiltshire believes the experience made an impact upon the students and himself.
“You’re standing there, you’re playing around Rufus’ gravesite and we’ve been studying about him and thinking about him for so many years, to actually be where his resting place is, it was an emotional experience,” he said. “And then there was the beautiful scenery as well, with the mountains in behind. It made an impact.”
There was no publicity and just one other person, a parent chaperone, attending with Wilthshire and his class.
“It was a thing that we wanted to for ourselves at this point, to have that special relationship with him at that moment,” he said.
But Wiltshire is considering doing it again sometime and letting the public know beforehand so they may attend.
It has certainly generated lots of subsequent public interest, as the picture posted on the French Shore Academy Facebook page has garnered nearly 200 likes.
The French Shore Academy junior high music class performing at the final resting place of fiddler Rufus Guinchard last month.