WHERE THE VALLEY FINDS OUT ABOUT THE VALLEY
April 21, 2010 - April 8, 2016
Musical Cajun 'cousins' tour the St. John Valley
By JESSICA POTILA
Published June 30, 2015
FORT KENT / St. John Valley – On June 28 at the University of Maine at Fort Kent's Fox Auditorium, Louisiana-based musical group La Recolte kicked off their St. John Valley tour with a Cajun music performance for a house full of appreciative Valley fans, many of whom are likely distant Acadian relatives of the band members.
Dr. Marc Chasse organized the Sunday evening concert, which also served as a fundraiser for the Fort Kent Outdoor Center (FKOC).
Laura Audibert, president of the FKOC, said the organization appreciates the support. “It's awesome. They're just so entertaining... and just to watch the accordion. I'm not used to seeing that. It's fabulous. They feel like they're at home and that's great,” she said.
In fact, the band members say that that the Valley feels so much like home they wanted to spend as much time as possible getting to know their distant Acadian "cousins". La Recolte visited the area last year during the World Acadian Congress and, soon there-after, began making plans to return to the St. John Valley.
(For more on the band's previous visit and connection to the Valley, see the Fiddlehead Focus story "Cajun band returns to the Valley..."from April 24, 2015.)
“I think it went great. We enjoyed it. The people seemed to enjoy the music,” accordion player and vocalist Shane Bellard said of the mostly French set at Fox. “For us, it was an opportunity not only to play music like we would at a festival or something, but it was more of an intimate setting. We were able to share some stories about the (Acadian) culture. It was almost like a family reunion. We talked about it after and said to one another, 'this was really fun, right?'”
The family band members are all Acadian musicians from Louisiana. Shane Bellard plays accordion and sings. His father Learlin Bellard strums guitar and also sings. Joel Breaux sings and keeps toes tapping with his fiddle. Chris LeFleur keeps the rythym on drums and - as he demonstrated at the show - triangle. Paul Borel plays bass, sings, and peppers tunes with whoops-n-hollers.
Audience members expressed their enjoyment and praised the musicians' talents. “Oh, it's wonderful. I'm having a good time dancing in my seat,” said Benita Ouellette, who traveled to Fort Kent from New Sweden to see La Recolte. “It's a wonderful way to spend the evening.”
The audience also appreciated Shane Bellard's on-stage quips, which he delivered in his Louisiana bayou drawl. While sharing what it's like in the swampy areas of Louisiana, Bellard said they have to deal with mosquitoes just like folks in Northern Maine: “Ya'all have some, too. I think they cousins, too. They share the same blood.”
Bellard shared many other similarities between his homeland and the St. John Valley, though he did note the weather was a refreshing surprise. “When we got off the plane (on Saturday) I looked at my wife and said, 'you forgot the Christmas presents'.”
La Recolte honored Dr. Chasse during the concert with a plaque drummer LeFleur designed. The plaque displays a traditional Acadian flag as is seen flying in the St. John Valley, as well as a Louisiana flag, which Bellard said is the symbol of Acadians living in Louisiana. LeFleur's cousin cut the steel plaque with a water jet system at his company acadianagraphics.com.
“He wanted to kind of meld our two cultures together,” said Bellard of LeFleur's design. “When he ran it by us, I said 'Man I love it. Let's get it done.'"
Bellard said Dr. Chasse was a vital part of getting the band back up to the Valley, so they wanted to show their appreciation.
If you missed La Recolte at Fox Auditorium, it's not too late to catch them at one of three other stops on their 2015 St. John Valley tour. The band will play from 7 - 10 p.m. on Sweden Street in Caribou on Thursday, July 1. Then they will swing over to Madawaska for a Friday night show at the Acadian Festival from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. Their final performance, which Bellard said he believes is sold out, will take place Saturday, July 4 at the Eagle Lake American Legion from 1 to 3 p.m. Band members will share their southern Cajun cuisine preceding the concert, serving up jambalaya and bread pudding for folks to enjoy.