Tuesday, April 12, 2011

BeauSoleil and The Basin Brothers

More than one factor led to our sitting outside Room 153 in Angelle Hall one afternoon on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL): (1) the members of BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet (all six members shown below; Michael Doucet in photo #3; and fiddler Mitch Reed, second from left, sitting in with three of the students #5) were in residence for the week and was fulfilling a central role in the program. (Since their inception in 1975, BeauSoleil has not only spearheaded a cultural Renaissance, but has elevated Cajun music to one of domestic and inter-national acclaim. We first heard this ten Grammy-winning band on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion.)

(2) The band members were to participate in a public master class with traditional music ensemble students and in panel discussions about the future of the traditional music program at ULL. (This seemed related to our impressions of the relationship between the Cajun culture and the music [see recent entries].)

(3) The week-long program was part of the first year of programming by the holder of the Dr. Tommy Comeaux Endowed Chair of Traditional Music. (Comeaux, a pathologist, a marathon runner, an accomplished guitarist and member of BeauSoleil and our favorite Cajun band, the Basin Brothers, had been killed while riding his bicycle in 1997.) Dr. Mark DeWitt (right), the first person holding this endowed chair, talks with students Forest Huval and Meg Brown.)

So with equal amounts of anticipation and uncertainty about what to expect, we were waiting outside the room when another person asked, "Do you know anything about these afternoon sessions?"

"No. We're here because we have been fans of the Basin Brothers--" I began.

"The Basin Brothers!!!" screamed this woman. Before I could add that we had met Tommy Comeaux and had been fans of the Basin Brothers since first hearing them in 1989, she continued, "My brother-in-law was the bass player with the Basin Brothers; I know Al Berard (fiddler/mandolin player with the band) and (?) the drummer."

With those two words, we became instant friends of Adele Huval. After many comments like, "That's amazing" and "What a small world" and "I don't believe it," we learned that Adele's son, Forest, was a member of one of the student ensembles that performed two selections for the audience and received a brief critique from the members of BeauSoleil.

The audience was small, so when the faculty panel members were discussing traditional music research, I added one suggestion: consider the impact of Cajun music (as one component of the culture) on the mental health of the people. Because the connection to one's culture (through the music of that culture), stressors may have less of a negative impact on them. I elaborated on this point, but I don't know....

Before the afternoon ended, we were able to take this photo of Forest (left), Adele Huval (center), and her friend Cabrina (right). (Forest was very friendly, but we couldn't help but think that he was thinking: "Who are these two people?")

Stay alert, Forest, we'll be back.

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