Stroughmatt performs at Village

January 9, 2019

MT. VERNON — Music will fill the air at the Jefferson County Historical Village when Dennis Stroughmatt performs the folk songs of the French colonists and visitors to the Southern Illinois region from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Stroughmatt is a fiddler, singer, cultural historian and southeastern Illinois native. He is recognized as one of the foremost experts on French Creole culture in North American, especially that of the Illinois Country or Upper Louisiana — which now encompasses much of present-day Illinois, Missouri and Indiana. He has made numerous recordings, received awards from national cultural institutions, travels throughout the country as a musical performer and educational speaker and teaches at Illinois Eastern Community Colleges.

As a student, he became acquainted with the historically French Creole community of Old Mines, Mo., as a student and learned the community’s music and folklore from its tradition bearers. Beginning in 1699 with the building of villages such as Cahokia and Kaskaskia along the Mississippi River, French colonists from western France and Quebec would intermarry with the Native populations of what is now Illinois, Missouri and Indiana — developing a Creole culture that remains distinct from its cousins in Louisiana and Canada today. The early Illinois Creole population grew during the 18th century, giving the landscape of the Illinois Country a decidedly French character. Eventually, the French Creole left its legacy not only in town names and landmarks, but also through songs, language, stories, food and the first lieutenant governor of Illinois, Pierre Menard.
By way of 3030-year-old traditions such as the annual “La Guillannee” French New Year celebration, Stroughmatt will take listeners on a trip through the Illinois Country. He will highlight the French identity of historic Illinois communities such as Prairie de Rocher and Cahokia through long-told folktales, haunting ballads and foot-stomping fiddle tunes.
The program is free to the public, although donations are appreciated. The program will be held inside the Schweinfurth Museum at the Jefferson County Historical Village, located at 1411 N. 27th St., Mt. Vernon. For more information, contact the Historical Society office at 246-0033.