I belong to a group on facebook called Clawhammer Rules, a place where members typically share clean versions of tunes in the form of videos as well as other interesting things related to clawhammer banjo. Back before Christmas, the idea emerged of having a tune of the month. The suggestion was that one member of the group would present a tune with some kind of accompanying tutorial to help others along learning the tune.
I thought it would be fun to participate and give back to the group by presenting a tune, nevermind that I’ve never done anything quite like that before. Instead of waiting for some stronger players to take the lead and set the tone for the tune of the month, in my enthusiasm, I volunteered to present one for February.
The tune I chose is a French Canadian reel called La Grande Chaîne. It’s a French Canadian reel, played for square dancing. The title refers to the grand chain, a common square dancing figure. I thought it would be good to present a Canadian tune seeing that I’m a Canadian guy. The curious thing is that I didn’t learn to play the tune from a Canadian player. Instead, I drove to Michigan to Midwest Banjo Camp, where I learned this French Canadian tune from a Missouri banjo player, Cathy Barton. I’ve taken a bunch of classes from Cathy during my 3 times at this banjo camp and she is one of my fave banjo players. Cathy and her partner Dave have recorded this tune on their Carp Fishing in Missouri recording, with Cathy playing it on hammered dulcimer.
Here’s a recording of La Grande Chaîne I found on YouTube by Louis Beaudoin and family.
It’s infectious, isn’t it? Now here’s my attempt at breaking it down for other clawhammer players in the group.
I found it very difficult to slow the tune way down and also to try to describe the fingering, which I did because I thought it would be helpful for some people.