Boréal Tordu: music of Maine’s heritage comes to Deertrees Theatre

5 mins read

When the fiddle beat picks up or the words spin a story of songs learned from loving grandparents, the unique group Boréal Tordu brings to life the many influences of Maine’s poignant past. Referring to their style as a French-American mélange, Boréal Tordu represents both cultures that have stamped themselves so picturesquely on the Maine that is such a popular destination today. Folk songs, ballads, Cajun Swing music and French fiddle tunes — some traditional through the ages, some a heritage in the performers’ families, and some original creations that have been inspired in their recognition of ancestral roots — are part of Boréal Tordu’s performance, as well as songs and dances from Quebec, the Maritime provinces, and Acadia.


(Left to right) Steve Muise, Andy Buckland, Pip Walter, and Rob Sylvain

Boréal Tordu began when fiddler Steve Muise and singer Robert Sylvain discovered a mutual interest in the music of their shared Acadian heritage. While signs of their parents’ French culture can still be found in Maine, it was almost lost to their generation, after years of forced assimilation. More than a revival, their music represents a continuation of musical traditions passed down from the Acadians, the Québécois, and the unique French-speaking people of the the Republic of Madawaska and milltowns all over New England.

Maine Acadians have been harboring a rich musical culture underground for generations. Now, there is a new music rising up out of Maine steeped in that tradition with a fresh take on familiar ground. A new generation of Acadian-Maineiacs are showing their joie de vivre. Voilà Boréal Tordu. C’est dingue ça!

Boréal Tordu began when fiddler Steve Muise and singer-songwriter Robert Sylvain discovered a mutual interest in the music of their shared Acadian heritage. Both are sons of native French speaking parents. Both end up finding their roots through their music. More than a revival, this is the reinvention of a culture almost lost to a new generation. The result is a rhythmically unstoppable, lyrically fantastic blend of Acadian traditions with original Americana sensibilities.

Since 2003, Boréal Tordu has played to enthusiastic English and French speaking audiences throughout New England, Quebec, and the Canadian Maritimes. They have been featured on Maine’s 207, NPR, CIFA Radio 104.1 Nova Scotia, WMPG 90.9 Portland, ME, CBC Radio Canada, Lakes Region Radio 94.1 Poultney, VT and Robert Resnick’s, All the Traditions on Vermont Public Radio. Their 2006 release La Bonne Vie was called “an inspiration to the Franco-American community” by Dirty Linen Magazine, and has been heard on the PBS series Now with Bill Moyers.

Steve Muise – fiddle, vocals, accordian, feet
Steve Muise is a Canadian at heart; his parents are first and second generation Acadians from Nova Scotia. Wishing to communicate with traditional French musicians and his relatives, he has been studying French with his friend from Québec, and has spent the summer of 2002 in French immersion at the Université de Ste. Anne in Church Point, Nova Scotia. He is happy to be playing his late grandfather’s accordion, and a violin handmade here in Maine. Steve teaches orchestra and The Franklin County Fiddlers in Farmington,Maine.

Robert Sylvain – vocals, dobro
Having found his Acadian roots and the rich musical heritage that came with it, Sylvain has reworked many of his earlier songs, as well as writing new originals in French. When not enjoying his family, writing or playing Dobro, Sylvain does sound acquisition for film & video. He is also artistic director of Gigafone Records, which features documentary-style recordings of acoustic music in unusual settings.

Pip Walter – guitar, vocals
A well-known multi-instrumentalist from the Portland music scene, Pip has an uncanny ability not only to find that elusive and bone-tickling third vocal harmony, but to sing it en français during rehearsal before ever having heard the lyrics. For this the band bestowed on him the title of honorary Franco-Maineiac.

Andy Buckland – bass, vocals
The newest addition to the family, Andy is another francophile-Acadian by marriage and a superb musician with a decades-long background in a plethora of acoustic and electric styles. Andy lives in Farmington, Maine with his wife and four children.

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