Avila was born March 14th, 1914 and died July 13th 2010 at Gros-Cap in the Magdalen Islands off the coast of Canada. He was 96 when he died and during his lifetime he was celebrated as a fisherman, folklorist and fiddler. He fished for lobster and herring in Baie de Plaisance with his father and brothers. During his lifetime he gathered stories about the life and times of the Madelinots and was a respected storyteller and oral historian. He was a friend of Père Anselme Chiasson, the great collector of folklore and a co-author with Jean-Claude Delorme of the book « Histoires Populaires des Iles » (A Popular History of the Islands). He is cited in another book as the guardian of the oral tradition of the islands: « Deux Cents Ans d’Histoire aux Iles de la Madelaine » (Two Hundred Years of History in the Magdalen Islands). Above all, Avila was a great fiddler. His father bought him his first fiddle for 38 cents. Finally, his uncle bought him a Simpson/Sears fiddle for $50 and this is the one he played for gatherings and dances through the 1950’s to the 1970’s. Many of his tunes were recorded by the department of folklore studies at the Université Laval and there are also recordings at the University of Moncton. Robert Richard, the Archivist at the Centre d'Etudes Acadiennes Anselme Chiassson has graciously sent us some recordings of Avila Leblanc which we share below along with an approximate notation. Many of Avila's tunes are without titles and are known as either Rabestans (short pieces), Cotillons, Reels, and Gigues (Stepdances). La Bottine Souriante featured one of his tunes "Air de Cotillon" in a Pot-Pouri (medley) called "Surf and Turf" on their CD: "Tout Comme au Jour de l'An". Another great fiddler who knows and plays many of Avila's tunes is Lisa Ornstein. On her CD: "Par un Beau Samedi d'Eté" (One Fine Summer Day), she plays a medley of a cotillons sandwiched between two rabestans in "La Suite des Madelinots".
Lisa Ornstein also posted one of Avila's rabestans on her monthly blog of fiddle tunes. Click on the link for her version of Le Petit Métier.