Thursday, July 6, 2017

"La Nouvelle Marche De Marris" - Happy Fats

The New Wedding March.   The song has it's origins in colonial French Louisiana and folklore connects it to the old Acadian ancestors in Europe.  Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc, with Willie Vincent on steel guitar, teamed up with the Guidry brothers, Ray on banjo, Nathan on bass and Doc on fiddle, to cover a Cajun classic tune called the Wedding March.   Happy took the song, which was first recorded by Joe Falcon as "La Marche De La Noce", and created a fiddle-led string band version, entitled "La Nouvelle Marche De Marris" (#2057).    The 1938 Bluebird recording session was held at the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans.

One old convention still found in south Louisiana is le bal de noce, or wedding dance, often held in a dancehall.  In the old days when people were poor, the owner paid the wedding couple ten or fifteen dollars to have the adance at his hall, and charged fifteen cents entrance fee.  During the first song, "La marche des maries", the newlyweds link arms and, followed by the wedding party, walk around the dance floor at least twice.  Then they dance the first waltz. Afterwards all dance, and every man present is expected to dance with the bride and pin money on her veil.1

(Je vas) te prendre dans mes bras pour toujours, ma tite fille,
(Je vas) te soigner et t'aimer pour toujours, jolie fille, malheureux,
Mais, aujourd’hui, tu me promets de m'aimer, pour toujours,
Moi j'connais ce promis, c'est pour vrai.

Mais, aujourd’hui, tu me promets de m'aimer, pour toujours,
Moi j'connais ce promis, c'est pour vrai.

Happy Fats recalled these wedding dances and how different they were from regular dances:
Now they were different when there was a wedding dance, a bal de noce.  They had a wedding dance, the wedding couple and their attendants would come in, and they had possession of the floor for the march.  They'd make a march around the hall a couple of times, the music they'd play would be the wedding march, and the first tow dances were theirs, just them and their attendants.  And they'd dance a waltz and a two-step, then their mothers would come in.2

In 1936, folklorist Lauren Post remarked about Acadians and their wedding dance:
The bal de noce followed and the wedding crowd augmented the regular Saturday night group of dances.  The big crowd, the wedding, and the festive spirit all combined to make the dance a memorable one, and many an Acadian housewife takes pleasure in recalling so many present that they could not all enter the fais-do-do.3

(I'll) take you in my arms forever, my little girl,
(I'll) care for you and love you forever, pretty girl, oh my,
Well, today, you promised you'll love me, forever,
I know that this promise, it's for real.

Well, today, you promise you'll love me, forever,
I know that this promise, it's for real.

After the wedding, gaiety prevailed.  There was a wild and joyful procession back to the bride's home with the newlyweds buggy--drawn by the fastest horse around.  The fathers rode in the second buggy also with a fast horse, and others followed fast on their heels.  Men along the way often saluted the couple with shotgun lasts.  A sumptuous feast was laid at the bride's home and the size or importance of the wedding was sometimes judged by the number of cakes brought by the guests. Dancing lasted until daybreak, although the newlyweds had retired around midnight.4  

Other marriage customs existed.  One marriage custom observed in the remote marshes was "sauter le manche de balai", or jumping over the broomstick.   This allowed a young couple to marry without a priest, who might live far away.  "Witnesses" held the stick about a foot or so above the ground and the couple simply hopped over it together.  The couple was then wed and the merrymaking could begin.4   

Another custom determined who would boss the home.  Old people would get together to make quilts for the girl's trousseau.  When they were through, the boy would stand on one side of a quilt and the girl on the other.  A cat was placed on the quilt and the quilt was tossed into the air.  Whichever side the cat jumped to would determine the boss of the family.4 

  1. Cajun Dancing by Ormande Plater
  2. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  3. The Acadians of South Louisiana--Their Courtships and Weddings.  Lauren Post. Rayne Tribune.   May 22, 1936
  4. Cajuns Had Unusual Courtship Customs.  Crowley Post Signal. Jun 6, 1976
  6. Lyrics by Jordy A

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