1755: Still having a great time

Despite having an original life span comparable to The Beatles, Acadian folk heroes 1755 have maintained an almost mythic status here in New Brunswick.

Originally formed in 1976, the group disbanded in 1984. But in the eight short years they were together, they achieved what some bands can only aspire to achieve in twice as much time.

In the time they were together, 1755 helped to popularize Acadian music, singing in the regional “Chiac” dialect and helping pave the way for hundreds of francophone artists who would inevitably follow in their footsteps. Their influence is still seen and heard in many of today’s francophone artists.

The legendary band will be performing at Casino New Brunswick tomorrow night, starting at 8:30 p.m.

Since reforming in 1994 to help celebrate the Congres Mondial Acadien held in Moncton that year, 1755 have continued to play throughout New Brunswick for their faithful fans, even though the band is no longer a full-time job for any of its five members.

Along with bandmates Pierre Robichuad, Kenneth Saulnier, Ronald Dupuis and Donald Boudreau, 1755 guitarist Roland Gauvin says that the quintet still enjoys performing and that 2009 was actually one of their busiest years since reforming in 1994.

“Last year, we played a total of 22 shows throughout the Maritimes,” Roland says. “Remarkably, there was more than a combined 50,000 people out to the shows which was amazing and incredibly heartening.”

Roland says that undertaking a similarly ambitious tour might be in the cards in another few years but for the time being, each member of the band is working away on their own projects.

“Ron Dupuis keeps busy with Glamour Puss while Ken Saulnier has a solo career on the go and typically plays quite a few festivals on the country circuit in Quebec throughout the summer. Donald, our bass player, is the only one with a steady job,” Roland laughs. “He works for Parks Canada in Cape Breton. And finally, Pierre lives in Montreal and has a solo music career.”

For Roland himself, he is currently in the midst of promoting a recently released children’s book and CD, targeting the three-to-seven-year old age group.

“I have been working on my kids book and CD for the past two years,” he says. “I spent quite a bit of time consulting with different people to see what’s available on the market now and working with different musicians and artists to ensure that we have the best quality product we can have.”

Roland says that since 1755 disbanded in 1984, he has focused a lot of his energy in this specific market even though it has not necessarily garnered him a lot of attention.

“I have spent a lot of time doing workshops and shows in the public school system, touring across Canada and France and am actually going to be heading down to Louisiana to help promote the record.”

Roland says that he considers writing for children to be a very normal part of his persona, driven first and foremost by wanting to entertain that specific demographic.

“I like to think that I have always been good in interacting with children. It is a type of entertainment that I truly love; it is very different from what we would do in 1755.”

The primary focus of Roland’s latest work, entitled Roland et Monsieur Crapaud, is to help children realize that while there may be cultural differences between us, everyone is still very special in their own right.

“A lot of what was covered off in these workshops I attended was the importance of helping children recognize self-identity, their cultural identity and to have a healthy self-esteem. I did my best to ensure that those aspects were included in my work.”

Incorporating musical styles ranging from classical music to jazz to hip hop, Roland’s children’s album is currently being geared towards the francophone market and is currently available throughout the province.

With such a hive of activity happening for each respective member outside of 1755, does Roland see a time that the group may settle down long enough to compose a record of new material?

“We have talked about it a few different times; it definitely crosses our minds,” he says. “I do think it could be possible but the timing has to be there.

“Gerald LeBlanc was an Acadian poet who unfortunately passed away in 2005 and was a big part of our identity. Gerald helped co-write half of our songs and we tend to think that a large part of us disappeared when Gerald passed.

“But at the same time, we have become songwriters in our own right and think we should give ourselves the chance of writing new material. I think we will eventually sit down and try to put something together.”

Don’t expect a lack of new material to stop the band from playing live, however. Roland says that the onstage chemistry between the group’s members is as strong today as it ever was.

“We have such a great time on stage and I feel that the live show is still a magical experience. What is perhaps most interesting is that you have a certain amount of people at each show coming out for the nostalgia but we have also seen a growing amount of people from younger generations coming out as well. And best of all, they all know the songs and the words to sing along.

“We really can’t ask for anything more. We are a very lucky group of guys that truly cherish the fact that our music still appeals to people.”

Article published in October 7, 2010 edition of the Times & Transcript