Simon St. Pierre (FRC206)
by Joe Wilson
Simon St. Pierre is a fascinating and elusive figure in Maine fiddling, more heard about than actually heard, a north woods lumberjack skilled in an array of music learned in logging bunkhouses. He came to the French festival in the company of Fred Pike, a stunning guitarist from Maine, and a force of nature almost as elusive as his fiddling partner. They made a huge impression, especially upon Dewey Balfa, who found the musical lumberjack to be ” a brother I met today.”
Reared in a logging community in Quebec, Simon told of long winters in the logging bunkhouses of the northern region of the province. Fiddlers from many parts of Canada were employed there, and Simon’s eclectic repertoire began there, but his style is grounded in Quebec. Yes, he’d heard all the radio fiddlers, as well as many of the recorded ones, but his favorites were men he had met and learned from, sitting in a circle. A favorite was Claire Lake, a neighbor in the Smyrna Mills area of Maine.
Simon had been in the USA for about twenty years at the time of the festival, and his son Danny was also a fine guitarist. He still earned his living as a lumberjack, operating a one-man sawmill, sawing white swamp cedar into logs to create insect-proof log cabins. He subsequently toured Louisiana and the Mississippi Valley with a music and dance showcase featuring Cajun, zydeco, Missouri French, French New England and Mitchif Indian artists put together for the National Council for the Traditional Arts by musicologist and ethnographer Kathy James. In 1982 he was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship by the Folk Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts. He is living in retirement in Maine.