Archive for June, 2014

Two new banjo pieces

I haven’t written anything for the banjo in over 35 years and now, two new pieces out of the blue. I hope it keeps up because I’ve always loved the banjo, a weird instrument of African origins that is part stringed instrument, part drum, featuring an odd 5th string that is highest in pitch because it only goes 3/4 of the way up the neck.


1. Pepère Villeneuve’s Garden


In 1952, our family moved into our new home, bringing with us pepère Villeneuve, my maternal grandmother’s second husband and a very important member of our family. Pepère Villeneuve bought a lot adjacent to our property, which was basically a bog, and turned it into a magnificent garden. He built a high retaining wall at the base of a rocky slope which made up one side of the lot and created a flat surface half way up the slope where he grew his corn. The lowlands were all potatoes, irrigated by a small stream that cut through the lot. The upper areas were for carrots, cucumbers, cabbages and turnips, which he waxed himself. Pepère Villeneuve, strong as an ox, did this all by hand when he was in his late eighties and early nineties. He stored his vegetables in our root cellar, which always had that good smell of the earth. All of this to say that I was a very fortunate boy, living in a small rural community, surrounded by supportive brothers and sisters, hard-working parents, and of course, pepère Villeneuve, a man from a previous time.

Pepère Villeneuve’s Garden

2. Slowpoke

Richard in 1956

Richard in 1956

When I first started kindergarten my mother walked with me to school the very first morning, a distance of about a mile along the main street. After that I was on my own! Nobody drove their kids to school (very few people had cars) and there were no school buses back then. Also, Rockland was a small rural community where people looked out for each other, a far cry from the norm these days. Although walking to school was serious business (I HAD to be on time), walking back home was my first taste of freedom. I was curious by nature and everything fascinated me so I frequently stopped along the way to ponder this and ponder that. My mother sometimes sent my brother Gabriel to see where I was on my journey and it was he who nicknamed me « courte-patte », literally « short-paw », which I’ve liberally translated here as « Slowpoke. »




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