Trent Bruner

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Memories of Saskatoon’s La Ribambelle 1986-2014 Print E-mail
I remember my first performance with La Ribambelle on January 21, 1990 with the Saskatoon Silver Strings Fiddle Club for their folk music production of Cinderella at Saskatoon’s 25th Street Theatre. It was a time when founder and artistic director Jean Duppereault reached out to the Saskatoon fiddle community to provide backup musicians for the troupe’s annual show. I was new to the fiddle scene and was learning much about the wide diversity of Canadian fiddling that exists. I have seen many changes from 1990 to the present in French Canadian folklore music, the Canadian fiddle scene in general, and in the lives of those who have participated in these events. By definition, a literal translation of La Ribambelle means “The Rowdy Bunch.”  Although there were many late night parties that happened whenever we played with this troupe, there were also some wonderful memories and experiences shared both nationally and internationally.

La Ribambelle performed many French Canadian round dances as well as square dances and step dances as a part of their dance repertoire. Dances such as "Les Mouchoirs" (The Handkerchief Dance), the Barber routine, "Le grand carre" and "Menage a trois" will live as a permanent part of their performances. The troupe also incorporated acting and French Canadian folk songs as a part of their annual shows from their beginnings in 1986. From 1986 to the mid 2000s, artistic directors changed over the years from Jean Duppereault to Marc Bru, Rochelle Cote, Eirka Fox (nee Mink) and Guy Verrette. Troupe fiddlers also changed over the years from Dean Bernier, Richard Levesque, and Tyler Kushneryk to when Rodney Krip began to play with the troupe and The Cleavers were formed. We had many opportunities to perform at their annual shows since, as well as perform with them at the Francophone Pavilion during Saskatoon Folkfest. It was also an opportunity for us to learn French Canadian fiddle and button accordion tunes that were not played in the Western Canadian fiddle contest circuit at that time. We all discovered a close link between the Irish, Scottish and French influences that made their folk music an important part of Canadian folklore as we would learn their repertoire. We made a point as a trio to include these tunes in our various stage shows throughout Canada and the Northwestern United States, as well as record a portion of them on our three album releases.

In July 1998, our trip to the Canary Islands of Spain for the International Folklore Festival in the City of Ingenio was The Cleavers’ first European performance as we performed with La Ribambelle. It was also my first European performance and my first European trip. We will never forget the friendships we made with many musicians and dancers from Argentina, Hungary, Ukraine, Eastern Spain, and so many locals from the City of Ingenio. I wanted to see if there was any way that an archival recording would be possible of the performances the troupe could be done to preserve this history. Through the efforts of La Ribambelle troupe member Marielle Gauthier, local radio station Antena Sureste and our translator, Spanish professor Lois Marie Jaeck of the University of Saskatchewan, we ended up with a digital audio tape (DAT) recording that sounded better than we first thought.  We never thought it might become a part of Saskatchewan recording history, but it became the foundation for what would become the first live fiddle album from Saskatchewan to be released in CD format: La Ribambelle and The Cleavers: En Spectacle “Live”.

Because of this DAT tape from Antena Sereste in Ingenio, we had the beginnings of the live album we eventually co-released in late 1999. It also led us to meeting Wes and Sharon Friesen from Keyteck Studios in Hague to help us record our live album, with live performances in Unity, Debden and Saskatoon. It also led to mastering and editing help from Saskatoon recording engineers Joel Gruendal and the late Neil Meckleborg, and a live album promotion in French by Cyril Deault of La Ribambelle over Radio-Canada Saskatchewan and Yours truly on the Country 600 CJWW Old Time Dance Party in Saskatoon with host Steve Takarniuk for the English promotion of the album.  The release party, which was a show and dance, took place at Saskatoon’s “Le Relais,” the francophone cultural club operated by the Saskatoon Francophone Association on January 15, 2000.

Because we had gained this experience with La Ribambelle, we also became troupe musicians on various occasions for Gravelbourg’s Les Danseurs de la Riviére La Veille during the 1990s and 2000’s. The beautiful part is that we were able to contribute to Saskatchewan folk culture and specifically to the culture of the Saskatchewan French community, also known as “Les Fransaskois”. We were able to accompany both troupes at Le Fête Fransaskoise on various occasions as their troupe musicians and as guest musicians throughout the years.

Unfortunately, Saskatoon’s French Canadian dance troupe La Ribambelle became dormant in its final years of existence and folded officially on May 3, 2014. I know I will miss my time with this troupe very much, but for all who have played with the troupe over the years, we also know that the friendships and memories will always remain. You were a part of our musical history, and we were a part of your history too, as together we shared a history locally, provincially, nationally and internationally.  The Cleavers continue to sell copies of the live CD and accompanying music book through for those who are interested.

For anyone wishing to take a look at past memories of the Saskatoon troupe, take a look at their Facebook page of memories:

Merci beaucoup. La Ribambelle.