By John Guay for Bengal's Corner

This wonderful little weekend festival comes near the end of February in the very small town of St-Bernard de Michaudville, Québec, Canada. It has the feel of large house party or family celebration.

By American festival standards there are not a lot of events on the schedule – concerts Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, a jam (both instrumental and song) on Saturday afternoon and a dance on Sunday afternoon. But this is totally offset by the quality and intensity of both the performers and the spectators – indeed often times you can’t tell the difference without a program.

Each year Michel Riopel comes up with a quality line up. This year’s concerts included: Hommage aux Aines, Le Vent du Nord, Les Tireux d’Roches, La famille Lamoureux, L’Attisee, Commeres, Louis-Simon and Daniel Lemieux, and Tu M’en Diras Tant!, among others.

The workshops happened during the day while the concerts started around 7:30 PM and lasted past midnight; and if you stayed for the sessions afterward, it would indeed be a long night! The audience all joined in on the songs and danced in the aisles for the tunes! Friday night’s concerts usually feature the unique music and songs of one of the region’s families. It was within the family setting that traditional music flourished.

My wife and I, amateur musicians who love Quebecois music, had a wonderful time playing with the pros at the Saturday afternoon jam. In between the tune medleys they passed a mic around and someone would lead a song. It was cold outside, and the wind blowing off the St. Lawrence River would rattle the windows, but inside it was great!

We are also dancers – so Sunday’s dance was a must. The music by Louis-Simon and Daniel Lemieux and the caller, Erick Tarte, were first rate. Parents brought their children to learn the Traditional dances and that’s great. There were also a number of dancers over sixty and seventy, but in between, several generations are missing. (This problem for traditional music and dance is much the same in the States.) This is the weakest part of the program – but those who danced were enthusiastic, if not always experienced, and we had a good time!

This was our second festival and we will return next year – reserving seats ahead of time would be good as they sold out the Friday night concert for the first time. If you’ve been to summer festivals, like Old Songs and NEFFA in the States or Memoire et Racines and Le Grande Rencontre in Québec, this festival is quite different. There are no amenities on site or in the town. Meals and lodging are in other adjoining very small villages. MacDonald’s and Holiday Inns are 30 miles away, over wind swept and snow drifted country roads. The festival’s MySpace site does list places to stay.

We don’t speak French, but that has not been a problem. The locals are very helpful, friendly and delighted to share their Traditions.

The simple program, the physical isolation due to winter conditions and the small town setting might seem like negatives but, in my opinion, they contribute to the intensity and quality of this festival, and surely helped shape the traditional Quebecois music and dance that Chantez-Vous Bien Chez Nous and the people of St. Bernardde Michaudville proudly celebrates.

John Guay is part of the Two Bits String Band.


  1. hammered dulcimer said...
    A correction: Genticorum and De Temps Antan were there last year, not this year. The Saturday jam with them and Hurlevent (along with Mr. Berthiaume, Jean Paul Guimond, etc.) as well as the concert and dance portion of the festival was well worth the trip then!
    Bengal said...
    I can imagine that! It is very nice to participate in these festivals since the interaction between artist and audience is great. Everybody is accessible and the information shared is valuable for anyone interested in Quebecois Traditional Music. I can´t wait to participate in one or more of the festivals coming soon... Thanks for stopping by!


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