Dennis Stroughmatt

Musician and Historian
About the Speaker

Fiddler and cultural historian Dennis Stroughmatt became acquainted with the historically French Creole community of Old Mines, Missouri, as a student three decades ago and learned the community’s music and folklore from its tradition-bearers. He is now recognized as one of the foremost experts on French Creole culture of North America, especially that of the old Illinois Country (encompassing much of present-day Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana). He has made numerous recordings and received awards from national cultural institutions. He travels extensively throughout the country as both a musical performer and an educational speaker, and teaches at Illinois Eastern Community Colleges.

In French Fiddle Tunes and Tall Tales: The French Creole Founding of Missouri

Beginning in 1699 with the building of villages like Cahokia and Kaskaskia along the Mississippi River, and later Ste Genevieve and St Louis, French colonists from Western France and Quebec would merge with the native populations of modern-day Missouri to create a Creole culture that is still unique from its cousins in Louisiana and Canada even today. As this early Missouri population grew throughout the mid and late 18th century and changed the wild Missouri landscape to one with a distinct French flavor, it would eventually leave its legacy through not only town names and landmarks, but also songs, language, stories, and food. Via 300 hundred-year-old songs and stories, this exciting program will take the listener on a fascinating trip through the French Creole history of Missouri from both a historical and cultural perspective and will highlight the enduring French identity of places like Ste Genevieve and Old Mines through ancient French folktales, haunting ballads, and foot-stomping fiddle tunes.

La Guillanee: Ancient French Traditions Live in Missouri through Music and Food

Who could have imagined a tradition that began centuries ago, one now extinct in western France, would remain alive in Missouri and Illinois? “La Guillanee,” originally a Celtic tradition to share food and bounty throughout the community during winter, began in Europe as a gesture of charity over two thousand years ago. In France, it also brought the community together to celebrate the New Year and French joie de vivre (joy of life). Enjoy a musical and educational presentation that will explore the European, Canadian, and French Creole roots of this now Missouri tradition (performed annually in Ste Genevieve, MO), as well as the fiddle music, performed and food eaten. This “Carnival” tradition famously encompasses not only Ste Genevieve’s New Year stroll but the St Louis tradition of “The King’s Ball” and even the Mardi Gras!