Hello, everyone!

Last year, my dear friend Laura went to this Workshop in West Virginia and promised me a review of the entire event. Despite the delay, she finally reported back on this and I’m sharing her thoughts with you all. I hope you enjoy it!

completely jealous...

PS: I couldn’t resist and added few comments around. :) Feel free to add yours too!

Genticorum Gives Workshops at Upper Potomac Celtic Fiddle and Feet Weekend

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, is the scene of an annual meeting of musicians, dancers and teachers, performing, playing, sharing and learning the traditional music from Ireland, Scotland and Québec. The Upper Potomac Celtic Fiddle and Feet Weekend was held last November 16th to 18th, and the participants were in for a rare treat!

The list of teachers included the talented artists Laura Risk (Scottish Fiddle), Ken Kolodner (hammered dulcimer), Robin Bullock (mandolin, guitar, repertoire), Kieran Jordan (step dance), Cleek Shrey (Irish fiddle), and the French-Canadian band Genticorum.

The brilliant trio from Québec taught classes on fiddle, guitar, dance and singing, besides offering a special repertoire class opened to all instrumentalists. In addition, they played one evening for a ceilí [also written as céilidh that is the traditional Gaelic social dance in Ireland, Scotland and Atlantic Canada], and gave a concert during another.

I took the repertoire classes given by Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand, who plays flute and electric bass in the band. During these classes, he also treated us to a couple of tunes on the fiddle - an instrument he claims he is "still learning". He taught the class to a wide variety of musicians (fiddle, flute, whistle, uilleann pipes, and even a couple of harps). The reels and 6/8 jigs are familiar to Irish and Scottish musicians, with some stylistic differences. The Reel Issoudun, was described by Alexander as "crooked...but not TOO crooked!", to mention one of these tunes…

He also took the time to teach us dance styles unique to Québec: the brandy, which he described as a 3-beat reel, the galope, and the gigue. The gigue, by the way, should not be confused with the jig, a dance style in 6/8 or 9/8. A gigue is a step dance tune, normally in 2/2.

I feel that my repertoire and my knowledge have been greatly enriched by these classes, though as a harper, I am also left with some perplexing dilemmas about how to arrange this music for harp in such a way as to retain its character, without ending up sounding too Irish! I aslo took a singing class with Yann Falquet [I envy you!!] which was pure joy! In the band, Yann plays guitar and guimbarde (jaw harp) and for the most part does backing vocals. Yann was an excellent teacher, explaining the history of the songs as well as nuances of the French language not immediately apparent to us, English-speakers; all with his delightfully naughty sense of humor! In fact, his insights allowed us to understand just how dirty some of these songs really are. This is not true of every song, however. As Yann says, "Sometimes a sausage is just a sausage!" At this point of my review, I know that Bengal might be so jealows! [You are SO right!]

Saturday night, all the instructors who taught at the festival gave a concert. Genticorum played for the entire second half of the program. A day prior to the beginning of this festival, the band performed in Germantown, Maryland - a concert that I also attended. [photo] Anyone familiar with the band's two CDs, Le Galarneau, and Malins Plaisirs will know that the music is excellent, but what is not apparent until one sees them perform on stage is the spontaneous humor and fun that soon spills out onto the audience. Although if you read the CD notes - I do recommend, you will get some idea of what you're in for! :) Genticorum performed several old favorites from the two existing albums, such as Les Cousinages, La belle en vous aimant, and that whirlwind of reels they have dubbed Cyclone. They also gave us a taste of coming delights which will be on their next album [scheduled for this Feb 13th], such as Le Moine Blanc that tell us the story of a monk, a girl, and a bottle of ink. You can guess the rest… ;)

Besides all these delights, there were open sessions at the hotel every night of the weekend, where participants had the opportunity to play with and share tunes with all the instructors at the festival. These sessions went on into the wee hours of the morning.

The weekend ended with another opened workshop with all the members of Genticorum (another rare treat). Yann taught us a couple of tunes on the button accordion - an instrument that at least so far he does not use on stage (but should!). This last meeting included tunes, songs, some general information, and even lessons on foot tapping given by Pascal Gemme, the band's fiddle player and lead vocalist [that keeps a very interesting blog, you can check here]. Ah, foot tapping… This is perhaps my way out of the dilemma about "sounding too Irish". Pascal says that foot tapping takes five minutes to learn and five years to master. [Ha! I know exactly what he means!!] I am still practicing...



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