BLACK DUCK BROOK — Tony Benoit said this past weekend was one of music in Black Duck Brook as he, family members and friends paid tribute to his father, Émile Benoit’s memory on the 20th anniversary of his death.
Tony lives in his dad’s homestead and said despite two the decades since his father died on Sept. 2, 1992, his spirit still remains in the home.
“Everyone is still listening to his music and there is always someone talking about him when they come to visit,” he said. “His legacy will live on through his music.”
Tony played music to honour his father on Sunday’s anniversary, and visited his gravesite.
Prior to Sunday’s memorial, Tony said his father’s instruments would be included in the celebration.
“Dad’s fiddle, mandolin and accordion will be out during the weekend and we will be celebrating his life,” he said.
He said he would likely tip a warm beer in his honour, as that’s how his father used to like to drink it.
“Dad’s not forgotten and he will never be forgotten due to the legacy of his own brand of music that he left behind,” Tony said.
Another important date in honouring his father will be taking place on March 24, 2013, the day his father would have turned 100 years old.
Émile started work as a fisherman at a young age and continued in the industry throughout his life. After getting a violin, he played at dances, weddings, community and family gatherings.
He went on to become a prolific composer, creating more than 200 fiddle tunes. For several thousand Franco-Newfoundlanders, he was a key link between the culture of the past and the culture of today. In recognition of his contribution to the Acadian cause, the Société nationale des Acadiens awarded him in 1988 with the Léger-Comeau Medal.
Benoit raised 13 children, so it wasn’t until he reached the age of 60 years that he could devote himself entirely to his music. In 1973, he won his first fiddle competition in Stephenville. He went on to take part in a number of festivals, including Une longue veillée in Cap St-Georges, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in St. John's.
In 1987, he went to the Festival International in Nantes, France and a year later to the Jazz Heritage Festival in New Orleans. He was invited to perform in Norway and England, and often played with Newfoundland groups specializing in traditional music. He recorded three albums — Émile's Dream in 1979, Ça vient du Tchoeur in 1982 and Vive la Rose in 1992.
His Vive la Rose record came out just prior to his death.
“Vive la Rose is a song that is being sung and played by people all over, including internationally,” Jim Mercer of the Bay St. George Folks Arts Society said. “It’s a fitting tribute to a musician to have his music recognized so widely decades after he is gone. You really have to admire his talent.”
He said it’s musicians like Benoit of the Port au Port Peninsula, Rufus Guinchard of the Northern Peninsula and Minnie White of the Codroy Valley that kept traditional music alive in western Newfoundland, even when it wasn’t so popular to do so. Mercer said anyone involved with music should be thankful to these local artists, especially because they made their own music based on history, culture and tradition.
“Émile’s music will live on forevermore because of its link to the French culture and tradition and because it was his own,” he said.