Illinois Country

Voices of Illinois Country: Dennis Stroughmatt


Dennis Stroughmatt is an award-winning fiddler, educator and historian. Stroughmatt is an expert in the early music and history of the French Midwest Creole cultures along the Mississippi River in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. He is the founder of the Dennis Stroughmatt et l’Espirit Creole band. He performs and lectures widely across the nation. When he’s not on the road, Stroughmatt is an instructor at Wabash Valley College in Mt. Carmel, IL.

Dennis Stroughmatt appears throughout the “Illinois Country” documentary, coming in 2020.

“Le Beau Mardi Gras”

In the early 1700’s, French colonists from Western France and Quebec integrated into the native populations of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, and a unique Creole culture was born.  This French influence had a distinct impact on the region’s food, music, language and stories.  In this video, Illinois historian and musician Dennis Stroughmatt and guitarist Doug Hawf perform the 1800’s French Creole tune “Le Beaux Mardi Gras.”

“La Guillannee”

“La Guillannee” is an old new year’s tradition practiced in French communities along the Mississippi River.  Illinois historian Dennis Stroughmatt calls it a kind of ‘mumming’ tradition, like caroling or trick-or-treating.  “La Guillannee” began more than 300 years ago and is still practiced in areas of Missouri today. Participants in “La Guillannee” dress in costumes, wear masks and go house to house begging for food and drink in exchange for a doorstep performance of singing and dancing.  The performers then use the food to create a large stew for both themselves and anyone in the community who is hungry.

In this video, Stroughmatt and guitarist Doug Hawf perform the traditional “La Guillannee” song of the same title.

Check out more French Creole tunes from Dennis Stroughmatt on Spotify: