Like his grandfather, his father and his brother, Gaston Vigneau is a lobster fisherman. However, this Madelinot has many other occupations!
He is the owner of a retail outlet for marine security equipment, he is a volunteer officer fireman, he is a fireworks technician and to top it all, he is passionate about traditional Acadian music. How's that for multitasking?
He recalls with a touch of nostalgia the Sunday afternoons spent at the home of his grandparents, Edwin and Rose-Alma.
Once the lobster season was over and the calmer pace of autumn had returned, fiddler friends would congregate in their kitchen. The violins of Edwin, Avila, Léoni and Johnny poured out traditional Acadian and Irish tunes and Rose-Alma danced to the rhythms of lively reels.
Gaston never took any music lessons. Music came as a natural gift. Whenever he heard a new tune, he enjoyed learning to play it by ear. He says that, when he was 7 or 8 years old, he attended a performance by Gilles Lapierre, a Madelinot who played several instruments. During the show, young Gaston tapped on the back of the seat in front of him all the rhythms of every tune played on the stage. After the show, Gilles Lapierre, no doubt impressed and amused by Gaston's performance, gave him a brand new set of drumsticks. Gaston treasures the memory of this wonderfully kind gesture.
He spontaneously chose the drums as his first musical instruments. Later, in his teens, he switched to the bass, a rhythm instrument which he could play with his uncle Guy, who played the guitar and was the same age as Gaston.
A few years later in 1989, with other Madelinot musicians, they formed Échouerie, a band with which Gaston played for 12 years. Still fresh in his memory is the summer when he agreed to play with the group during a full week, at Chez Gaspar, while the lobster season was in full swing.
"I went to play music with my lunch box and my rubber boots in the truck. At 3 in the morning, I would leave the bar to go lobster fishing. I was back home around noon. I would catch a few hours of sleep and by 8 p.m. it was time to head back to Chez Gaspar. I needed the rest of the summer to recover, but it was great fun!"
- Gaston Vigneau
Gaston was born in the Canton des Caps, at Étang-du-Nord, a short hop from the Canton de Fatima on the island of Cap-aux-Meules. Fatima is where the mid-lent festivity called Mi-Carême gets full treatment. The feast originated in France, in the Middle Ages. Mi-Carême was a welcome relief at the midpoint of the 40-day long lent period. Nowadays, it has taken a life of its own, especially in Fatima. During three evenings, the people of Fatima open their homes to about 100 disguised individuals celebrating Mi-Carême. These people from house to house, dressed in costumes that are as amusing as they are extravagant. The goal is not to be recognised. This is difficult to achieve in a community where everybody knows everybody else!
Gaston has often participated in this festival with his uncle and friends. They play their music in a noisy parade through the streets of Fatima
On the Îles de la Madeleine, music is everywhere. In every Madelinot family, there are fiddlers, guitar, accordion and piano players. The wealth of musical talent among Madelinots is amazing. Music is part of everyday life. Gaston says that the Acadian roots of the Madelinots are probably a factor and that it may also have something to do with the rhythms of seasonal activities. Madelinots have the luxury of taking time to live and to get together as other activities slow down with the onset of winter.
When the lobster season comes to a close, Gaston and his fisher friends get together at the workshop (the shed) with their musical instruments to mark the end of a period of intense activity.