Friday, January 11, 2019

The rich life of Franco-American musicians and recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts perform in Raymond

By Lorraine Glowczak

Over 130 music lovers in the Lakes Region area joined in on the fun last Saturday night, January 5 at the Raymond Village Community Church, United Church of Christ to enjoy the unique Franco-American musical sounds of Don and Cindy Roy. Both musicians are the recipients of the 2018 National Heritage Fellowship for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Hosted by the Raymond Arts Alliance, Don and Cindy performed together with Erica Brown and Matt Shipman as the Side By Each musical group. The melodic variety included songs and performances that one would expect in the backyard of great friends here in Maine – or at Carnegie Hall, a performance on NPR’s Prairie Home Companion, in Quebec or at Celtic Colors International Festival in Cape Breton island– all of which the Roys have performed at least once.

Cindy and Don Roy
For those who may be curious, the Side By Each musical group tells the story of how their name came to be. Although the group originally named themselves “Four on the Floor”, based upon a popular song of the same title, they discovered the name had been unknowingly used by another local band in the area. As a result, they creatively changed their name. “When the Canadian French order their breakfast,” Brown explained the night of the performance, “They say, ‘Two eggs side by each with pair of toast.’” And, thus, the name “Side by Each” was chosen.

The Roys took a moment out of their busy schedule to share their story and adventures in music last Tuesday. Don and Cindy were both born into musical families that carry roots in New England, Quebec and the Canadian Maritimes. Don and Cindy have been a member of many successful groups including the Maine French Fiddlers and Fiddle-icious. Cindy is also well known for her step dancing piano accompaniment.

Don’s uncle, Lucien Mathieu and Cindy’s grandfather, Alphy Martin, were well known local musicians. Mathieu was a friend and musical acquaintance with Al Hawkes of Westbrook, who would often jam together in backyard gatherings that were so popular with Hawkes’ musical family and his friends. Don has performed along with Hawkes, as well, in the band “The Night Hawkes”.

Although they each had jobs in other walks of life to support their love of performing, the Roys promote music as a career and they offer the following advice: “You must wear three hats if you make music your life’s work,” Don began. “You are not only a musician and creator, but you also must be a promoter/marketer as well as an accountant.”

Don suggested educating oneself in these three areas as a way to success. He also added, “Be aware that if you are married or in a relationship, there is a lot of time you will spend away from those you love. Or, you can perform together like we did.” Of which - Cindy added with a laugh, “And sometimes, that can be difficult.”

Both Don and Cindy agreed that choosing a career in music can be a feast or famine experience – financially and emotionally. “But if you can hang in there, it is the most beautiful and rich experience one could possibly have.

They have performed together for over 30 years including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center with a performance on NPR’s Prairie Home Companion – all in the early to mid-1990s. When asked what it was like to perform in such exquisite and well-known arenas, Don stated that it felt like performing anywhere in Maine, only on a larger scale. For Cindy it was a bit nerve racking, especially at Carnegie Hall. “It was one of my first times to ever play a Steinway grand piano and I was a bit nervous,” she stated. “But once I began to play, the keys felt like butter and I was able to relax.”

Although they did find a level of fame and recognition performing at the above well-known venues, they admit the greatest experience thus far came to them in the form of a phone call one morning in April of 2018.

“The phone rang, and the caller ID said it was from Chellie Pingree.” Cindy explained. “I usually don’t answer what I believe to be robocalls, but I answered this one. A voice said, ‘Hi. Is this Cindy Roy?’ When I responded yes, the voice continued, ‘This is Chellie Pingree and I wish to congratulate you for being nominated and chosen as recipients of the 2018 National Heritage Fellowship of the National Endowment for the Arts’.”

Cindy stated that she didn’t quite believe the authenticity of the call until Rep. Pingree was very clear – “Yes – this is really Chellie Pingree and yes – you and Don really won the National Heritage Fellowship.”  To this, Cindy said, “Well, you will have to tell my husband because I’m not sure he’ll believe me.”

As stated earlier, the career of a musician is either feast or famine. The past year has been one of the “feast” experiences and they are enjoying the ride.

In addition to the usual performances, they run a non-profit musical group. Fiddle-icious. According to the website, Fiddle-icious is “comprised of a diverse group of enthusiastic fiddlers and other musicians of all ages and all walks of life. The group’s music features tunes passed on from our Scottish, Irish, Quebecois, and Acadian ancestors. The primary goal of Fiddle-icious is to keep the tradition alive by sharing Maine’s musical heritage with the community.” The group meets at the Falmouth Congregational Church, 267 Falmouth Rd at 7 p.m. every other Monday.

This year, Fiddle-icious will offer a weekend workshop at the University of Southern Maine -Lewiston Campus from Friday April 12 to Sunday, April 14. To learn more about the non-profit group and the weekend workshop, peruse the website at:

The Roys agree their lives have been filled with goodness - both in experiences and in friendships -as a result of following their love of music. They agree with a good friend and fellow musician from New Orleans who once said, “I may not be rich, but I live a rich life.”

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