Musicians bring Mardi Gras to Harmony
Thursday, March 07, 2013 8:11 AM
It may be the middle of the Lenten season for many local
Washboard player Desiree Champagne of Bijou Creole and Cedric Watson perform a variety of French-Louisiana inspired songs. Many of the lyrics were in French and ranged from songs of regret to tunes of partying, Mardi Gras style.
residents, but on the evening of Feb. 26, people were still celebrating Mardi Gras.
Close to 70 people attended the mini-concert at the JEM Theatre in Harmony to see four-time Grammy nominated Creole, Cajun and Zydeco artist Cedric Watson put on a mini-concert. Mixing casual storytelling with virtuosic musicianship, Cedric and his washboard player, Desiree Champagne, who is from Cedric's band Bijou Creole, entertained the crowd with their energy.
The concert was put on by the Harmony Public Library as their annual mini-concert and was made possible through a grant from the Southeast Minnesota Arts Council. Cedric and the rest of Bijou Creole were contacted through Riverside Concerts in Rochester and traveled throughout southeast Minnesota, sharing their passion for music with the young and old.
"It's hard to explain. It's like you are tapping into something else. A spirit hits you and it just gets warmer and warmer," shared Cedric, describing the emotions and otherworldly connections he feels when performing.
Despite his unmatched musical ability and different cultural background, Cedric was easily able to connect with the crowd assembled at the JEM Theatre.
"Why ya'll so quiet?" he jokingly asked during some dead time in between songs.
When he received the answer that the people in the audience were Norwegian, Cedric launched into a story about a time he performed in Norway. "The people there were so nice, but they were quiet. In Louisiana, people would be yelling all the time."
During many of his songs, Cedric prompted the crowd to let loose by calling out, "Somebody scream!"
The concert playlist varied throughout the hour and Cedric showed just how diverse Creole, Cajun and Zydeco music is. As he explained, much of the music Cedric and Bijou Creole performs trace influences to African, Native American, French, and other styles. To prove his point, before one song, Cedric explained it as a Catholic, French and blues piece. "They don't really go together," he said. But they did. Much of Cedric's ancestry traces from many of those same influences, which has helped him identify with the genre of music even more.
Growing up, Cedric explained, he was raised by his grandmother, who listened to the Creole, Cajun and Zydeco styles a lot. In fact, when Cedric wanted to get a fiddle, his grandmother only let him after he had proven he could play that style of music on a guitar.
Before playing the most sober of all the pieces he performed last Tuesday, Cedric told a story about how the piece had terrified him when he was younger. The song had themes about death in it.
"My grandmother was gone one afternoon, and I was all by myself when this song came on," he said describing the anxiety he went through the rest of the day.
Cedric and Desiree than contrasted that song with one about Mardi Gras, which was very upbeat. The ability of music to evoke both the good and bad is something Cedric and Desiree enjoy about it.
"Music was born between the struggle of light and dark," explained Cedric, adding, "It has been around forever and can be used for both evil and good."
Besides the one song about death, most of the music performed that evening was lively and joyful. Since Cedric sang in French for many of the songs, he translated the meanings before he sang it.
Allowing music to influence people for good is something Cedric is dedicated to doing. After performing his last piece, Cedric asked everyone to take a message to heart saying, "If everyone respected themselves and those around them, the world would change tomorrow."
That message of Cedric's may be more powerful than his music.