To begin with there were the two Dominiques, Dominique Louis and Dominique Maire. It was through their passion for traditional music and dance that a couple of years ago, at the Feufliâzhe no less, they met Jane Parry and Alex Alexander, who share the same musical tastes. These two being English, they began to swap tunes, and together they now play music from Savoy, Piedmont, England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.


In the age-old way of traditional musicians, they learn their tunes mostly by ear, playing for friends and neighbours, village fêtes and dances. Their music is dance music - sometimes gentle melodies, sometimes driving rhythms that get the feet tapping: waltzes, mazurkas, schottisches, polkas, bourrées, monfarines, courentas, circle dances. Their repertoire is drawn mainly from the Alps, but can also veer off into the celtic tradition...

The founder of the group is Dominique Louis, who had already, in 2005, founded the association Trad'Aulps Danses, based in Le Biot (between Thonon and Morzine in the Haute Savoie).

It was at a workshop on traditional dance in 1980 that he discovered the diatonic accordion (known in English as the melodeon). He was fascinated from the outset by the warm tones of this instrument and by the soulful airs that it could produce. Self-taught to begin with, and later learning from the renowned accordionists Marc Perrone and Emmanuel Pariselle, he stopped playing in around 1987. In the late 1990s he took up the instrument once again, taking musical theory lessons and attending more workshops with Pariselle and the singer-accordionist François Heim.


Meeting Dominique Maire was a turning-point. The latter had just started playing his hurdy-gurdy again - for a long time before that he had rarely taken it out of its case. He had fallen in love with the instrument as a child, listening to the first concerts of the celebrated Savoyard band La Kinkerne. As a drummer in the Ville-La-Grand brass band, he had already come across Jean-Marc Jacquier and his trombone, but not until the age of 22 did he start taking hurdy-gurdy lessons from him. He was later taught by Evelyne Girardon and Pierre Imbert, one of the founders of the iconic folk group from Lyon, Le Grand Rouge. He played hurdy-gurdy in the band Traine Soques in Les Gets, and began studying the bagpipes under Bernard Amyot in 2011.


One of the best things about the Feufliâzhe is that it serves as a meeting place for music-lovers and musicians. At the last Feufliâzhe, Dominique Louis met Jane and Alex, who had recently moved to St Paul en Chablais in the Haute Savoie. This was the English couple's first introduction to the music and dance of the Mont Blanc region. Jane Parry herself takes up the story, which is truly fascinating.

"I was already going to folk clubs and listening to folk music while I was still at school, and in my first few weeks at university in Bristol (where I was later to meet Alex) I discovered folk dancing. I began learning the traditional social dances, but more particularly Morris dancing*, a very special and ancient form of dance originally exclusively for men, but now far more open to all; I continued to perform the Morris for 30 years. Later, I became a caller for barn dances and ceilidhs, explaining and calling the dances, as is nowadays customary in England, with such a large repertoire of often quite complicated dances. I played the bodhrán (the Irish drum) and tin whistle, but it was only at the age of 33 that I took up the violin. To begin with I took classical violin lessons, but it was always with the intention of playing folk music. I have attended numerous courses and workshops, notably in Scotland and in Germany. When we decided to move to France (to live in the mountains, because the mountains are also our passion!) we were not at all sure we would find other musicians to play with, but over the last four years we have discovered the rich treasure that is the music of this beautiful region.


As for Alex Alexander, like most boys of his age he learned to play the guitar in his youth. He was particularly fond of ragtime guitar. As a student, he was one of the organisers of the Folk & Blues Club of the University of Bristol, but it was through me that he got into folk dance. After finishing university, Morris dancing came to be an important part of our lives. One day, he borrowed a melodeon from a friend for the weekend, and that was that! He had to have one of his own, and very soon he became one of the principal musicians for our Morris side. At the same time, together with some friends from another Morris team, we formed The New Village Band and played for dances and at folk clubs in the South-East of England over a period of 15 years. During this time Alex also learned to play the concertina.

The other passion in his musical life is for renaissance and baroque music, which he plays on the entire range of recorders and on the cornetto**. He was President of the Cambridge Branch of the Society of Recorder Players for several years. And in the last two years, with Bois de Lune, he has begin playing the recorder in our traditional music as well."


Dominique Louis: melodeons

Jane Parry: fiddle

Alex Alexander: recorders, melodeon, concertina

Dominique Maire: hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes

* The Morris Dance is a traditional English form of dance that used to be part of the processions and other rituals celebrating, above all, the month of May. Originally intended as a celebration of the arrival of spring, and to ensure the fertility of the earth, its origins have been attributed to the Berbers. Its name is said to be a corruption of the word 'Moorish'; and indeed, some dancers blacken their faces and dance with little bells on their feet as they do in Africa. There is no proof, however, of this link. The first reference to Morris dancing dates from 1448. The dancers use sticks to drive away the evil spirits and handkerchiefs to wave down the good spirits. The music, originally played on the pipe and tabor, is now usually played on fiddle or a free-reed instrument (accordion, melodeon), most often in 6/8 or 4/4. See also:

Vidéo :

Jane, Morris dancer, bottom right and Alex, musician, top right, in 2008.

** Wind instrument used in the Renaissance, made of ivory or wood covered with leather, slightly curved in shape. In cross-section it is octagonal externally and conical internally, and has seven or eight fingerholes and, on some of the larger instruments, a key. It is considered part of the brass family. Ideally, the sound of the Cornetto was close to that of the human voice, which it often doubled or replaced in polyphonic music, particularly in the soprano range. It was an essential part of the wind ensembles used in the Renaissance for ceremonial music. Bach used it in a number of his cantatas for the sweetness of its sound, and Monteverdi used it in his Vespers.

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