A beloved Métis fiddler from Fort Resolution, N.W.T., is being remembered for his kindness, his deep knowledge of his family and community, and for being the "personification of music" in the territory.
Angus Beaulieu died on Saturday at age 89, according to one of his nephews.
"It was very peaceful," said Tom Beaulieu. "He fell asleep and stayed asleep until he stopped breathing.… He didn't appear to be in any pain."
Beaulieu said his uncle had been battling cancer.
Angus Beaulieu, who among other things was a husband and a father, is being remembered fondly for playing the fiddle — something that had been a part of his life for more than 70 years.
Dorothy Beaulieu in 2013, holding her wedding picture in front of the church in Fort Resolution, N.W.T. (Alex Brockman/CBC)
A master fiddler
In an interview for Musicians of the Midnight Sun, a CBC radio series about the North's most celebrated musicians, Angus Beaulieu talked about playing the fiddle at a dance for the first time when he was 14. He said he had to stop playing because his arms became too tired, and he was so embarrassed that he considered never picking up the fiddle again.
He overcame that early embarrassment with great success.
Linda Duford, a long-time fiddler in Hay River who met Beaulieu in her late teens, said he had a "profound" impact on her as a musician.
She said he was the first person she heard playing Métis crooked tunes. A crooked tune is one where the piece deviates from the usual number of beats for the style of music.
"I was just mesmerized by that," she said. That style of music became the "love of her life," she said, and she credits Angus for that, and for shaping her musical path.
Tom Beaulieu said his uncle was also a founding member of The Native Cousins — a musical group that travelled around the N.W.T. "Some people figure that was the best band that travelled around up here. They were all made up of Angus and his cousins," he said.
Dorothy and Angus Beaulieu playing a song in their home in Fort Resolution, N.W.T. on June 2, 2021. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)
"People respected him," Duford said. "Everybody loved him because he was such a nice person and willing to share, share his stories, share his music.
"Angus was the personification of music in the N.W.T. I mean he lived it, was it, everything he did."
Duford is also remembering Beaulieu as a "walking museum" because of the home he shared with his wife, Dorothy, in Fort Resolution.
"Anyone who has been to Angus and Dorothy's home in Fort Resolution will know the thrill of walking into their home. The whole place is full of fiddles and trophies and posters. It's like walking into the past," she said.
Angus Beaulieu's violin collection includes antiques and some he made himself, like the one shaped in the Métis flag. (Alex Brockman/CBC)
Duford and Beaulieu's nephew, Tom, recall he had a lot of knowledge about his family history and his community. It was something he'd been passing down to Tom over the past 15 years.
"He taught me about the history of Fort Resolution, we spent hours and hours talking about the history of this community," he said.
Duford last visited the Beaulieus in mid-December. She said anyone who visited them, even unexpectedly, received a warm welcome and a story.
"Angus gets up and starts making a pan of bannock," she said, painting a picture of what a typical visit would be like. "Dorothy is putting on the tea … out would come the big old scrap books, the picture books, and he'd walk you through.
"He really commanded your attention. He was so fervent about it, so proud of his past."
Duford said she and some young fiddlers in Hay River are planning to do something in Beaulieu's memory on Friday. She said fiddlers in other parts of the territory have done memorials of their own, too.