Don Roy has been called “the dean of Franco-American fiddling in Maine,” a title which reflects both his skilled playing and his dedication to sharing his musical heritage.
- Maine French fiddle
- Gorham, Maine
Listen[audio:http://rvanews.net/folk_festival/2009/artists/DonRoyTrio.mp3|artists=Don Roy Trio|titles=Don Roy Trio]
From The Brothers Burton
Scott says: Music firmly rooted in the Franco American folk tradition. This is when you call a violin a fiddle.
Taylor says: Very traditional Acadian Fiddle music. Good light-hearted music, with an ever-steady rhythm. If you’re into step dancing, this is your band.
Don Roy has been called “the dean of Franco-American fiddling in Maine,” a title which reflects both his skilled playing and his dedication to sharing his musical heritage. House parties with fiddling and singing were a weekly occurrence among Don’s extended family in the Winslow, Maine area. His uncle Norman Mathieu taught him to play guitar when Don was six, and another uncle, Lucien Mathieu, taught him to play the fiddle at age 15. Don traveled with his “Uncle Lou” to the homes of noted fiddler friends and to fiddle contests throughout New England and Canada, where he refined his skills. He now leads the Don Roy Trio, one of the finest Franco-American ensembles in the country.
According to ethnomusicologist Bau Graves, Don Roy’s playing “exactly exemplifies what Franco American fiddling is all about. It is simultaneously precisely controlled and wildly danceable.” Inspired by fiddlers like Ben Guillemette, Joe and Gerry Robichaud, and Graham Townsend, Don’s fiddling blends the sounds of Quebec, Ireland, Ontario and the Maritime Provinces. French settlers in Maine brought with them both Acadian and Quebecois musical styles, with the Quebecois emphasizing multi-part tune structures and the Acadian generally exhibiting a repeated two-part structure. The tradition in southern Maine primarily reflects the Acadian style, which incorporates melodies from the Irish and Scottish repertoire. More recently, the tradition has begun to show the influence of decades of fiddle contests, emphasizing clear, precise, and—perhaps most significantly—fast playing, all the better to bring audiences to their feet.
Don organized and then managed The Maine French Fiddlers, a large fiddle orchestra, for 11 years, and has performed at venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” Closer to home, he has twice won the Maine Fellowship for Excellence in Traditional Music. Don has recently begun to pursue his interest in making stringed instruments, working under the tutelage of his friend, master craftsman Jon Cooper. He finds great joy in “taking a piece of wood and making it alive.”
The other members of the Don Roy Trio are Cindy Roy and Jay Young. Growing up in the Acadian-American community, Cindy was encouraged to take up the piano by her grandfather, fiddler Alphy Martin, who played twin fiddles with Don’s Uncle Lucien. While she had classical training in her youth, Cindy began to focus on learning traditional Franco-American piano chording in 1980 when she met her future husband Don. In performance she also incorporates the step dancing she has loved since childhood; Cindy recalls having to be carried off to bed crying as a young girl because she wanted to keep dancing all night at family soirees. Bassist Jay Young comes to the tradition via a more circuitous route through rock and roll and bluegrass, and teamed up with Don in 1985. In the last few years Jay has taken another great leap, literally, studying with Cindy to become, perhaps, the only step-dancing upright bass player in the world.