Sit down and dance

Acadian dance and fiddle group keep the party going

Albert (left) and Chuck Arsenault of Barachois.

Albert (left) and Chuck Arsenault of Barachois.

Photo By Tom Angel

Barachois Laxson Auditorium, Chico State Campus Sunday, Sept. 7

The band called Barachois (bara-SHWA) comes from Prince Edward Island in Eastern Canada and has Albert Arsenault on fiddle, guitar, saw, percussion (including a cake rack instead of a washboard), jaw harp, vocals and dance; his sister Helene Arsenault-Bergeron on keyboard, guitar, fiddle, vocals and dance; their very perky cousin Louise Arsenault on fiddle, guitar, vocals and dance; and the somehow-related ("I don’t want to know…” he told me during the break) Chuck Arsenault on guitar, French horn, tuba, vocals, harmonica and dance.

They play traditional Acadian music (forerunner of Louisiana’s Cajun music), a largely joyous, rollicking style of music born partly of French songs brought over to that part of the New World two and one-half centuries ago and transformed by the influences of Scottish and Irish styles of fiddling and modernized by the addition of, for instance, guitars.

I have to say that they were indeed enchanting. They grew on you. And that’s not at all to suggest anything bad about how they started out. It’s just that over the course of the two-set evening, Barachois and its audience increasingly warmed to one another, so much so that it would not be difficult to imagine taking them all home with you after the show and continuing the party in your living room. Fabulous instrumentalists, singers and step-dancers they were. And comedians, too. One of the evening’s highlights was Chuck Arsenault’s very funny skit in which he imitated “Michel Jagger,” singing “Satisfaction” ("Hey, hey, hey…Ah—qu’est-ce que c’est?”), Glen Campbell ("I’m a cowboy r-r-r-r-rhinestone!” he belted in his Acadian accent) and the Bee Gees singing “Stayin’ Alive.” The skit was introduced with the claim that those particular songs were actually Barachois originals, stolen by those particular artists, and Barachois wanted to show us how they were really meant to be done, complete with a foot-tapping beat, fine fiddling and sit-down step dancing (of which Louise Arsenault is a master).

One of my favorite songs was a 200-year-old one about a soldat who comes home from the war to a wife who has remarried because she thought he was dead. The moving a cappella harmonies of the quartet were just beautiful.