Louise Manny - Organizer of the First Miramichi Folksong Festival

Commentary on Miramichi Folksong Festival  by Helen Creighton

In 1958 Dr. Louise Manny of Newcastle, New Brunswick, originated a Folk Music Festival which has been held annually ever since. Participants were from the adjacent lumbering and fishing communities on New Brunswick’s north-eastern shore. The Festival was held in a large hall and prizes were given for a variety of reasons. One man for instance whose singing didn’t really merit a prize was given one because, as Dr. Manny said, he had a large family to support and he should have had some reward.

For the first five years I acted as one of the three judges, and for me this was a high spot in the season’s fieldwork. Competitors would telephone and ask if they could sing such and such a song. If it was not familiar to Dr. Manny she would ask our opinion and we often heard her say, “No, you can’t sing that one; the judges say it is not a folk song.” In this way we established the stipulation that songs must be in the traditional style. Many valuable songs were saved through these festivals, and we who had tape recorders were permitted to use them.

There are Acadians along this coast, so it was a rare festival that did not have one or two songs in French. One of the most prolific singers is Allan Kelly who is fluently bilingual and I am told by Ronald LaBelle (who has written the notes for this publication) that he still sings there. He is a happy person and many of his songs are humorous: others can be tragic. His contributions were full of surprises, and just as he followed a sad song with one that had the audience laughing, he would change from French to English. 

- La Fleur du Rosier: Acadian Folksongs, 1988. Collected by Helen Creighton/ Edited by Ronald Labelle, p. ix

Helen Creighton
Ronald Labelle
c. 1988
New Brunswick, CANADA
© 1988, University of Cape Breton Press. All Rights Reserved.

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