Fid­dlers pay re­spects to fa­mous lo­cal mu­si­cian

Northern Pen - - Front page - BY STEPHEN ROBERTS stephen.roberts@north­ern­

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.

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