“There’s always a singalong involved somewhere,” said Walter Devoe as he sat in his music room at his Irishtown home Friday.
Growing up in Upper Ferry in the Codroy Valley, Devoe learned to play at the age of 11 and has been at it ever since.
“Every Saturday night at our house there was always the fiddle going, and the guitars and the mandolins.”
Devoe, 60, comes from a musical heritage, of Scottish descent on his mother’s side though the MacIsaacs and French on his father’s side.
It’s the Scottish in him that plays the most influence on his music, although he said the French does creep through.
“Everybody tells me I plays it different, because I plays the Scottish music with a French style.”
The first instrument he learned to play was the mandolin.
“Pretty much anything I’ve ever picked up, tried to play, I play and I picked it all up on my own,” he said.
But that’s not to say that he had no mentors. He’s learned from many a local musician, including his bagpipe playing uncle Walter MacIsaac who lived in Curling.
As a teenager Devoe played in school bands and through his adult life played in many local bands, everything from the traditional to rock. And he’s still playing, whether it be with co-workers on a Marine Atlantic ferry, where he works as an engineer, around someone’s kitchen, at a folk festival or at a local seniors home.
He gets just about the same enjoyment out of playing as he does from the reaction of others.
“The enjoyment people get out of it,” he said.
His music room is normally filled with instruments — fiddles, mandolins, guitars, a keyboard, button and piano accordions — and equipment — a PA system and a drummer — but on this day much of it is already in the Codroy Valley. Back at the 100-year-old, five-bedroom home he grew up in and now calls his cabin.
Devoe is performing at the Codroy Valley Folk Festival this weekend and will then spend the next few days rehearsing with some local musicians.
Devoe will join with family members Loretta Johnson, Karen Farrell and Calvin Cormier and family friend Willie Parsons to make up the Homecoming Scottish Newfoundlanders.
On July 31 the group is headed to Scotland for Feis Celebrations as part of the Scotland Homecoming 2014. The group has been invited there by the National Trust of Scotland.
It’s the second such trip to their Scottish homeland for Johnson, Farrell and Cormier, all part of the MacArthur clan that came to Newfoundland some 200 years ago. They first went back in 2009 on a similar trip.
The group has full itinerary for the 10-day trip that includes visits to a lot of little villages where they’ll play music, square dance and provide a bit of tutoring for locals.
“This is the stuff Scotland lost their tradition for, and that’s really where it all started,” said Devoe. “And now they’re trying to bring back the traditional. The way it was done without no trained musicians. The way it used to be around the kitchen.”
Devoe figures he’ll do alright with the music and tutoring, but as for his dancing abilities he laughed and said “the more drinks, the better I get.”