The Fiddle Music of
Newfoundland & Labrador
Rufus Guinchard & Emile Benoit
Revised Edition 2020
Introduction to the 2020 Edition
This collection was first published in 2000. The tune transcriptions were generated during the years from 1995 to 1999 using a music notation software program called Personal Composer. Assembling those 254 tune transcriptions into a music book proved to be a bit of a challenge for this musician turned self publisher and I knew of no easy way to do it. Ultimately I resorted to cutting and pasting everything together the old fashioned way, with scissors and a glue stick. In this manner I created my master copy which I then used to print copies of the book. Somewhat rudimentary I admit, but it got the job done. The Personal Composer software also created a MIDI file (musical instrument digital interface) for each tune, capable of “playing” the music notation so the user could hear the tune as well as read it. It was always my intention to make these digital files available but alas, life has a way of establishing other priorities and the MIDI files found themselves stored on floppy discs in a box along with old cassettes and VHS tapes.
Over the years I have noticed various errors in my transcriptions and in 2019 I decided to get to work and do some necessary revision. I would first of all need a new copy of the Personal Composer software since my original version was lost in a computer crash several years prior. Imagine my shock and dismay upon discovering that the Personal Composer software had been discontinued! I frantically searched the internet for a solution, hoping that perhaps another program would recognize these files but to no avail. As a last resort I posted on Facebook regarding my dilemma and, lo and behold, salvation arrived in the form of Solomon Foster and Allan Farrell , both traditional music players and enthusiasts, one a computer programmer, the other a web developer. With Sol and Allan's help I was able to resurrect my digital files, convert them into the more common ABC format, create MIDI files and produce a PDF that would be suitable for printing. We also discussed the idea of creating a website which would make the material available on the internet, including my recordings of the fiddlers themselves playing the tunes. This book and the accompanying website are the result of our collaboration.
My field recordings of Newfoundland & Labrador fiddlers were made between 1976 and 1991. The cheap cassette recorder I used is long gone but the cassette tapes remained in storage, along with those floppies, most of them now 30 to 40 years old. Would they still be playable? The miraculous answer was yes. So, with plenty of free time during the Covid 19 pandemic, I set to work digitizing my cassettes. I was very pleased to discover that, not only were the recordings intact and audible, with one exception, but that there were additional tunes on those tapes that I had previously either passed over or just missed completely. The end result was that I had 28 more recordings of Rufus Guinchard for a total of 130 tunes. Of these, I had recordings of Rufus playing all but 16 of them. In the case of Emile, I had found 25 new recordings for a total of 177, with recorded performances of him playing all but 11 of them. Using Audacity software, I was able to slow these recordings to half speed, resulting in some of the corrected melodies in this edition. I offer my apologies along with these corrections.
The end result is Kelly Russell’s Collection, Volume 1, Revised Edition 2020 with companion website. The notations are much more clearly reproduced in the book and easier to read. There are additional tunes now in the collection; some of them are rare gems indeed! The website has the notations, MIDI files so you can hear those notations at any speed, corresponding recorded performances by the fiddlers of most of the tunes, and a photo gallery with some great pictures of both Rufus and Emile. This is about as good as it gets as a resource for interested persons learning to play this music. I am grateful to the following people for their assistance and contribution: The aforementioned Sol Foster and Allan Farrell, without whose skill and support this project would not have been possible; Christina Smith for her recordings of Emile Benoit and for kindly taking the time to proofread many of his tunes; Tom Power for writing an excellent foreword to the new edition; Jessie Meyer for updating the front and back cover graphic design; Daniel Payne for his tape of Rufus Guinchard made by Trevor Bennett in 1969; Pamela Morgan for permission to use recordings from the “Vive La Rose” CD by Emile Benoit; my family (Tonya, Naomi & Tamsyn) for tolerating all the weeks of “slow fiddle sounds” emanating from our music room; and finally, to all those who have taken an interest in this work and in this music. Without you it would all be pointless.
Kelly Russell, June 2020