LEWISTON, Me– It was a special occasion to enjoy the performance of the talented Don and Cindy (Lebrecque) Roy, when the talented musical couple from Gorham performed on Friday, June 22, at the Saint John Baptiste celebration held at the Franco-Gendron Center, on Cedar Street in Lewiston.
In fact, the talented Maine musical duo will be inducted into the National Heritage Fellows by the National Endowment for the Arts, during the organization’s September 28, 2018 ceremonies. They are expert performers. Don Roy is a masterful fiddler, he even makes violins. His talented wife Cindy accompanies him on piano and entertains with step dancing during certain segments of the music. They are fun to watch and their personal chemistry demonstrate their joy in performing lively Franco-American music.
In fact, Don Roy learned to play the violin at 15 years old. He played music with his Uncle Lucian, who is also a talented fiddler. He taught himself the Franco-American music and fiddling by ear, while listening to long playing records of fiddlers music. He would put the records on a stack and set the playing speed at 16 rounds per minute, so he could hear the notes while he taught himself how to play the tunes on the recordings. “I would go to sleep while listening to the long playing records,” he told the audience who attended the duo’s performance in Lewiston.
Among those attending their enjoyable performance was Marie-Claude Francoeur, the Quebec delegate to New England, who came from Boston to attend. (Congratulations to Madame Francoeur for celebrating her birthday during the June 22 program!).
During their 40 year partnership, the Roy’s have performed at Carnegie Hall, at the Lincoln Center in New York City, the Kennedy Center and the Library of Congress in Washington DC. Don Roy is a leader among Maine’s best fiddlers. He attributes his talent to a deep respect he holds for the musical traditions he grew up with in his family and his Franco-American heritage. His family lived in Rockland when he grew up and their Franco-American roots originated in the Winslow area of Maine. During school vacations, he would go to Westbrook to fish and play music with his Uncle Lucien. His wife Cindy grew up in a Franco-American family and her ancestry is traced to the French-Canadians who came to Maine from Prince Edward Island, in the Canadian Maritimes.
What I most enjoyed about watching Don and Cindy perform was the pleasure of feeling like they were comfortable guests in my home, as though they just stopped by to say “bonjour”. Their joy of performing is as much a part of their talent as are their expert musical abilities.
Saint John Baptiste celebrations are held annually around the saint’s feast day of June 24, to honor the cousin of Jesus Christ and the patron of Quebec. In fact, there are places in France where the ceremonies continue to be a tradition, said Mary Rice-DeFosse, who is a French professor at Bates College and a member of the Franco-Gendron Board of Directors and the Franc-American Collection Board of Directors at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston Auburn College.
Congratulations to the vibrantly talented Don and Cindy Roy! Maine is fortunate to have you among the state’s recognized Franco-American musicians. Your NEA National Heritage Fellowship honor is well deserved.