Friday, October 9, 2009

Dennis Stroughmatt and his French Creole music and culture from old upper Louisiana will be featured at the Red House Interpretive Center during a Wine and Cheese Fundraiser to be held on Sunday October 18 from 3-5p.m. Admission to the outdoor concert will be $10 per person. Tickets may be purchased at the Red House, CVB or the Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department.

Returning to Cape Girardeau, Dennis Stroughmatt will take his audience on a musical tour of the French settlements in North America. Emphasis will be on the French Creole settler's music, language and history of Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana.

While many people know of the French-speaking Cajun and Creole culture that yet thrives today in the state of Louisiana, few know the story of the French Creole of "Upper" Louisiana, and the remnants of still-thriving French culture in towns like Sainte Genevieve, Missouri, and Vincennes, Indiana. Creole musician Dennis Stroughmatt has gained wide acclaim for his work in bringing their songs and stories, and the charming Upper Louisiana Creole dialect, to the attention of the world once again.

His work on CDs will be available for purchase.

As a college student, Stoughmatt went in search of a culture once thought to be extinct, visiting the French Creole populations along the Mississippi River south of St. Louis, Missouri. There he discovered his life's work, as he has become immersed in the customs and stories that distinguish this small French enclave of Upper Louisiana. He learned to play fiddle with Roy Boyer and Charlie Pashia, and to sing in French from Ida Portell. Over time, he has become fluent in the French Creole that has been spoken in these isolated mining communities for over 300 years.

Upon suggestion of his friends in Old Mines, Missouri, Dennis moved to the state of Louisiana. Not one to let his cultural pursuit waver, he found work as a curator at the Vermilionville Cajun and Creole Folklife Museum in Lafayette, Louisiana. During his time there he would meet and befriend many local fiddlers such as Black Allemand, Canray Fontenot, Faren Serrette, and Morris Ardoin. This direction in his life thrust him into the heart of Acadiana, and soon he was found performing nightly with many local bands from Baton Rouge to Lake Charles, Louisiana. Eventually though, Illinois, Missouri, and his own roots would call him back home.

After finishing a Master of History from Southern Illinois University, Dennis traveled to Chicoutimi, Quebec, where he completed a Certificate of Quebecois Studies and Language; thus completing the circle of North American French cultures. Little did he realize that his time in Quebec would help him to understand how French North America was connected from the St. Lawrence Valley to the Gulf of Mexico. And that the Illinois Country of old Upper Louisiana was not only a geographical bridge between French Canada and Louisiana, but also a cultural and musical bridge as well.

Now back home in southern Illinois, over the past seven years Dennis has traveled across the world as a solo artist, with his band Creole Stomp, and with many Louisiana based bands including Dexter Ardoin and the Creole Ramblers, The Morris Ardoin Quartet, and Sheryl Cormier and the Cajun Sounds. A recognized African Creole and French Creole fiddle master, Dennis is also a fluid Creole-style accordionist having studied with the Eunice, Louisiana-based musical legend Morris Ardoin (son of the legendary Bois Sec). He has also been honored many times in the state of Louisiana and was most recently signed to Swallow Records, the preeminent Cajun/Creole record label.

Yearly, Dennis takes Mississippi River Creole culture and music to thousands of music lovers, students and dancers everywhere. And with this he preserves the tradition of The Illinois Country for French Creole generations to come.

His recordings include: Enfin, 2002, independent; Creole Stranger, 2005, Swallow Records; The Gambler's Fiddle: French Creole Fiddle Tunes and Ballads from Old Upper Louisiana, Volume 1, 2006, Swallow Records.

Journal Features: Times Pick, July 26-August 1, 2006, Times of Acadiana, Lafayette, LA; Not Your Ordinary Missouri Paw Paw French Fiddler, June/July 2006 Dirty Linen; Northern Zydeco, February 2006, Big City Blues, Detroit, MI; Creole Stranger Review, June 2005, Offbeat, New Orleans, LA; Old Mines Music, June 2004, Archeology Magazine.

Selected Past Performances: NEH "Lewis and Clark Meet the West" Tour 2004-05; National Collegiate Honors Conference, New Orleans, LA, 2004; A Prairie Home Companion, NPR 2000; National Mississippi River Museum, Dubuque, IA 2005-06; Rendezvous des Cajuns, Eunice, LA, 2004-05; LaFete D'Automne, Old Mines, MO, 1997-2006; Philadelphia Folk Festival, Philadelphia, PA, 2006; Midwest Folk Festival, Bishop Hill, IL, 2006; and the Louisiana Folk-Life Festival, Monroe, LA, 2003.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: