Playing in her apartment, in the company of her friends or even strangers who dropped in, intrigued by the music they could hear from the street, Mary began to gain assurance and became known as an excellent violinist. In 1928, Conrad Gauthier, who hosted a show called Veillées du Bon Vieux Temps (Evenings from the good old days) at the Monument-National and who listened to her play in her living room not long before, hired her to replace a fiddler in his group who had fallen ill. Her career as a multi-instrumentalist was underway. She was about to enter a whole new world.
Mary appeared on Veillées du Bon Vieux Temps shows several times, but in late November, on Sainte Catherine’s day, she was offered another new experience, radio performance. That evening, the show was broadcast on CKAC radio and Mary would have the opportunity to play with some of the leading performers of the day (Alfred Montmarquette and Lucille Turner). The radio performance, during which she played the violin and the mouth organ, would be a turning point in her young career and would bring her into the spotlight.
Mary started composing at her kitchen table. She would use her violin, harmonica and her signature vocalisations (turlutes) to improvise her tunes, and gradually the words would come to her. In early 1929, after having attended a Veillées du Bon Vieux Temps show, Roméo Beaudry – then artistic manager for Starr Records – offered Mary a contract to make 5 records between April and Christmas. Mary accepted and entered the studio on April 12, 1929 to record two tunes she had picked out: Y’a longtemps que je couche par terre, an old French song, and Gaspésienne, an instrumental reel. Unfortunately, when released, they were a commercial flop. Mary continued to record three more albums, none of them any more successful. Then, the Great Depression stuck the country full force and it became increasingly complicated to sell records. But success was waiting in the wings, and in no time at all, Madame Édouard Bolduc stepped out into the limelight.
The Musée de la Gaspésie has one of Madame Édouard Bolduc’s wooden harmonicas. It is much larger than the one shown in this photo, but is similar to the one in the photo of a Soirées du Bon Vieux-Temps show. The instrument we have is formed of two double harmonicas, positioned side by side so they can be played from either side. It also has 80 holes in which there are 160 metal reeds. A metal plate with 44 tiny openings has been added to the upper part to make sure the sound disperses properly. The top of the harmonica bears a magnificent incised inscription: MH / MARINE BAND ECHO / TREMOLO / PATENTED / MADE IN GERMANY D A G C HOHNER; and on the case: THE / MARINE BAND ECHO / VERY BEST / TREMOLO CONCERT […] / M. HOHNER […]
Harmonica – bois; métal; fibre – 4,7×5,1 cm – 19220.127.116.11-3 – Musée de la Gaspésie
Violon – bois; peau, cuir; fibre – 61×21,5 cm – 1918.104.22.168-12 – Musée de la Gaspésie
The Musée de la Gaspésie is honoured to have Madame Édouard Bolduc’s violin. This one has a slightly convex wood sounding board, longer than it is wide, with the sides, or ribs, indented in the middle, and attached to a neck holding pegs. It has a bridge, a chin rest and four strings stretched between the tailpiece and the pegs. The violin case has two clasps and a leather handle. It holds two bows, a Heint violin string, a fragment of a violin, rosin in an envelope and a packet of Black Diamond violin strings.
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