By Anya Burgess | From the July-August 2022 issue of Strings magazine
I own a violin shop in the heart of Cajun and Creole country, two-and-a-half hours west of New Orleans. South Louisiana is home to a vibrant traditional music scene as well as a hearty classical presence of orchestras and school string programs. It’s a musically rich area in all aspects. A wide variety of violins come through the shop, but sometimes the most compelling ones once belonged to historic local players. Fiddles played by the Cajun and Creole greats have all spent time on my bench and carry the strong aura of their master players.
One of the more memorable instruments I worked on was played by Edius Naquin (1901–85) from Mamou, Louisiana. He had an archaic style of unaccompanied fiddling and sang lengthy French ballads from centuries past. His was not a notable instrument, a cheaper Strad copy textured with decades of patina, but it had a real presence. After finishing the setup for his great-grandson, I tuned it down to the unusual tuning Naquin used to match his voice. I played one of his songs, and the fiddle sounded just like him! It was a beautiful and eerie connection to a person long gone. Though the instrument passed through my hands briefly, it left me with the same sense of wonder and awe that’s felt when playing the finest of violins.