Learning what I could of traditional French Canadian music before I began the fiddle, I knew right away when taking lessons that I wanted to learn something from the canon of Voyageur songs. It is said that having a good singing voice was a job requirement to join the canoe brigades in the 18th and 19th century fur trade. Songs were vital to breaking up the monotony along the thousands of miles rowed from Montreal to the interior and back.
Singing also served another purpose: the music helped the paddlers keep pace by timing their rowing to the songs. Song also undoubtedly helped maintain a spirit of levity and camaraderie. Some voyageur songs evoked ‘home’ – either Quebec or France. Songs would have been learned by ear and kept in memory.