Hey, you aspiring Cajun fiddlers and budding zydeco accordionists, don’t count on this year’s Dewey Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Week mirroring what it looked like last year. Under the leadership of Louisiana Folk Roots Executive Director and Revelers beat keeper Glenn Fields, the camp, held April 21–27 2018, takes on a new, invigorated look that’ll defy any accusation of being predictable.
This year the camp moves to the picturesque Chicot State Park (north of Ville Platte), roughly an hour’s drive from Lafayette’s Historic Vermilionville Village, where it had been since 2014. With 6,400 acres of piney woods, rolling hills and a beautiful, well-stocked manmade lake, Fields calls the Chicot locale immersive with a naturalist aspect, devoid of any city hustle and bustle.
The tantalizing course offerings have been totally revamped, other than a few beginning instrument “scratch” classes. “No offense to my predecessors, but I felt camp was getting a little stagnant as far as the classes offered,” Fields explains. “This year the classes are much more eclectic and varied in scope and at the same time, more detailed in the different styles and genres of music that make up Cajun and Creole music.”
Fields has plenty to be stoked up about in this year’s curriculum. One envelope-pushing new course is “Dennis and Sady,” mastering and de-mystifying the tunes of legendary Cajun twin fiddlers Dennis McGee and Sady Courville. “It’s often hard to tell when one fiddle ends,” Fields remarks. So McGee-Courville style masters Kevin Wimmer and Mitch Reed will spend an hour daily dissecting tunes and teaching students how to play both parts.
Blake Miller will teach a class on how different styles of music influenced Cajun music. “There are a lot of Cajun tunes that are French versions of English tunes, old-time tunes or Irish tunes,” Fields says about Cajun music’s eclectic nature.
Additionally, there are courses on learning specific repertoires, such as the Balfa Brothers’, and various styles like dancehall Cajun and string band Cajun. There’s even a class where beginning accordionists can learn stock zydeco riffs to have in their back pocket.
This year, Balfa Week couldn’t have a more explosive beginning, being preceded by the two-day Le Grand Hoorah Festival, also held at Chicot, on Friday and Saturday, April 20–21.
“I’m hoping people will come and get excited about the changes and be inspired,” Fields said. “I’ve worked at Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camp for many years as well as Augusta for five years and I learned a lot from both of those places. So for me, I’m trying to borrow from the best of both, you know?”
For more, go to www.lafolkroots.org/events/balfa-week/.