In 1984, Joe Cormier of Waltham, Massachusetts was the recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship, given by the Folk Arts program of the National Endowment for the Arts. The award recognized Mr. Cormier's contribution to his nation as a virtuoso performer in a beautiful and complex folk violin style.
This style came to the United States from Cape Breton island in the northwestern corner of Nova Scotia, Canada. The roots of the style came to Cape Breton between 1800 and 1850, along with some 30,000 Scottish settlers. Derived from the "golden age" of late 18th century folk violin, this Scottish-based style was preserved and improved by subsequent generations of Cape Breton players. Here, ordinary people developed an intense interest in violin music, an interest that seems unmatched elsewhere In North America.
Joe Cormier was reared in Cheticamp, a French-speaking village of people expelled by the British in 1755 from Acadia, another region of Nova Scotia. Other refugees from the tragedy also created the Acadian (Cajun) enclaves in southwestern Louisiana. So there are French melodies in Joe's repertoire as well as scores of Scottish and Cape Breton melodies. The style, however, is now as American as it is Canadian. Cape Breton violinists have been settling in the Boston area for some fifty years where other great masters of the style such as Angus Chisoim and Winston Fitzgerald have lived.
While living in Boston during the 1960's, Joe was the organizer of what came to be known as the Cape Breton Symphony, a group of six Cape Breton master violinists with piano and string bass accompanists who performed for several seasons on Canadian television. That group is remembered with much respect and affection by violin lovers throughout Canada.
Since that time, Cormier has performed at festivals and in concert halls around the country and, in 1982, represented the United States on a USIA tour of the Republic of China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Korea.
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cormier Since June 4, 1997
Updated Tuesday, January 23, 2001