Song Tradition: Acadian

L'Isle Royale, 1764. N. Bellin. Map 707. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

My granduncle, Germain à John à Basil Chiasson used to sing a song that began, "Nous sommes venus du Grand Toulon. Trois grands vaisseaux du roi Bourbon." In the song, the three ships from Toulon are captured by the British and the crew are taken captive. While the song is not dated, its content suggests the period of The Seven Years' War and, indeed, the story is almost identical to another song from the collection by Father Anselme Chiasson of Chéticamp which is dated as of the same period.

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Granduncle Germain learned the song from his mother in St. Joseph du Moine on the west coast of Cape Breton. She would have been born around 1850; obviously there was no television, no radio, no newspapers and probably no books in her home. But she had access to world events of one hundred years previous through her songs.

My own mother, Lucy Doucet, sang a song about a young man who invites a girl to dine with him. She refuses. Her father would disapprove. Who will tell him? The birds. Do the birds speak? Yes, they speak French and English. A few words in Gaelic and even in Spanish. "Des petits mots en ecossais, et puis en espanol aussi."

When my mother grew up, 300 years had passed since her people had any connection with the Spanish. Again, the song gave them access to a time long past.

There are many songs of soldiers going off to fight for the King of France, so the songs predate the 1600s. And the king isn't always a good guy, or at least not his son. In one song, the prince shoots the peasant's innocent white duck with his silver gun. The early settlers of Chéticamp, suffering new forms of oppression, were able to sing of a time when their ancestors spoke up to the king's son and reprimanded him. No doubt this would affirm them in facing up to their own social structures.

There were work songs, for milling frolics, spinning frolics and harvest frolics. Work instruments often substituted for musical instruments. The butter was churned to the sound of "sa, sa, sa, Murette, donne moi de ton lait." Later, the sewing machine would accompany similar lyrics. There were songs for parties on religious feasts, like La Chandeleur, and there were laments, stories of betrayed lovers and of broken hearts. The songs covered every area of human endeavour but particularized in the way that their own people had lived it out.

Dan Doucet


Songs from the Acadian Tradition

  1. Adieu, Papa Lucy Doucet
  2. Allons Danser, Lanture Lucy Doucet
  3. Au Chant De L'Alouette Petit-de-Grat Church Choir
  4. Ave Maris Stella Petit-de-Grat Church Choir
  5. Belle Alouette Grise Petit-de-Grat Church Choir
  6. Belle Nanon Joseph Larade
  7. Le Bonhomme Gautier Hélène Landry
  8. C'est Une Bouteille De Rhum (Video) Leo à Pat Aucoin
  9. Cécilia (Video) La Foulerie
  10. Le Couteau Volé Joseph Larade
  11. De Paris À Rochelle (Video) Leo à Pat Aucoin
  12. Dessus La Fougere Rev. Charles Aucoin
  13. En Roulant Ma Boule (Video) La Foulerie
  14. En Vous R'Merciant Joe Delaney
  15. En Vous R'Merciant Pat Aucoin
  1. L'Escaouette Marie Deveaux
  2. L'Escaouette Pat Aucoin
  3. L'Étoile Du Nord Lucy Doucet
  4. Fleur D'Épine Lucy Doucet
  5. Joli Coeur Du Rosier Hélène Landry
  6. Le Joli Petit Panier Pat Aucoin
  7. Joséphine Joseph Larade
  8. Mon Père A Fait Bâtir Maison Marie Deveaux
  9. O Réveil De L'Exile Petit-de-Grat Church Choir
  10. Partons La Mer Est Belle Petit-de-Grat Church Choir
  11. Rosette Lucy Doucet
  12. Le Rosier Blanc Marie Deveaux
  13. Venez Jeunes Gens Lucy Doucet
  14. La Vie Au Cachots Joseph Larade
  15. Wing Tra La Lucy Doucet