Nicolas Boulerice, one of the organizers of the festival.

Finally, I'll bring some tales about the 5th edition of Chants de Vielles festival - 2008. It was held last September 5th to 7th, in the Quebecois city of Calixa-Lavallée.

Just keep in mind this is my view of the fest and I didn't see all the shows - well, duh, nobody saw since there were 3 stages with multiple events going on simultaneously... But I missed shows of very talented artists that I won't be mentioning here. So, feel free to add any comments to this post, if you want to...

After enjoying a day in Montréal with François, we arrived in Calixa on Friday afternoon and had just a quick moment to prepare before starting our night at the fest, meeting old friends and new ones...

The first people I ran into were my beloved friends Sue and Liz... And the night started with an ensemble of artists as a preview of what was about to come the following days... They were all gathered together for a tribute to great Quebecois trad singer Jean-Paul Guimond. Everybody sang his famous tunes, great part a cappella, and Monsieur Guimond joined many himself.

I had the chance to walk around the festival site and visit with friends coming from USA and Canada. The organization of the event this year surprised me with their efficiency in distributing the spaces and adding more parking area. And in good time, because the audience grows bigger every year!

The two brothers Beaudry (from right).

Saturday started with the main reason for my visit to Chants de Vielles this year: Eric and Simon Beaudry. Their 2007 album Le Sort Des Amoureux is my favorite one for that year (in Quebecois Trad) and one of my favorites of all times. This is one album I do recommend to everyone! I lost the count how many times I've listened to it... It was really great to see them live playing my favorite tunes!

That same afternoon, we enjoyed ourselves with the sounds of Daniel Roy, Ruthie Dornfeld, Simon Riopel, Jean-François Bélanger and many others. For me listening to the music from France, Québec and Scandinavia with Paul Marchand (guitar) and Laurie Hart (nyckelharpa, vielle à roue, fiddle) was refreshing. I was fully conquered by the ingenuity of the nyckelharpa! Maybe an instrument to think about in the future?

The brothers Brunet.

One of the most surprising performances of that Saturday though was André and Réjean Brunet's... Their show was simply ecstatic! I can't find a better word to describe the exaltation on everyone's faces in the audience... (Well, I was actually going to use another word, but I think I would make Réjean blush) They were electric and exhilarating, and it was impossible to stay still with those two on stage...

Later on, another surprise: for one of the main night shows, Claire Pelletier performed with Pierre Duchesne on the keyboards. Claire is getting famous through out Québec, playing electronic music. Many people were excited with her presence at Chants. I confess I'm not a big fan of electronic music and I never heard her before that day. I asked Nicolas Boulerice (one of the organizers of the festival) what was the intention bringing Claire Pelletier to a Quebecois Trad fest. He told me they were looking for exotic mixes and having Claire playing Quebecois Trad would be really interesting. Well, I actually agree although I didn't see that happening... Nicolas played one song with them on his vielle à roue, and then it was all electronic music. Although, I really enjoyed one song in Spanish on voice and flute. Claire has a beautiful voice indeed... Still, not my style and I thought the show was out of place. But that's just me... the audience apparently enjoyed, since they had full house!

After socializing around a bit and enjoying the variety of beers and the catered food, we were back to the night shows, but this time it involved more from the audience: the Quebecois traditional dances, under the guidance of the musicians Olivier Demers, André and Réjean Brunet, and caller Jean-François Berthiaume. I had a great time enjoying the show although I didn't dance. It was really exciting to see the chemistry between the fiddlers on stage... For moments, it seemed they would even forget they were playing with an audience... the interaction and stage jokes among them would be a show apart. They were there having fun and enjoying to play just for playing, and I really like to see this side of the artists.

In between shows through out the day, it's common to see many of the artists that are in the audience, filling all the spaces of the festival site with folk music. All sorts of instruments and influences gather together and exchange tunes, tips, experience and friendship, creating a family-friend environment for all ages. This is the usual spirit of these festivals on Quebecois Trad. The artists scheduled to be on stage, also join the crowd from time to time, making themselves very accessible to friends and fans.

Despite all full Saturday immersed in music, Sunday everybody is back for more! This time, we started with the accordion battle with Jeremiah McLane, Daniel Thonon, Réjean Brunet and Jan Le Clair. Each one took the time to explain their model of the instrument (piano accordion, chromatic, diatonic, etc) showing their structure and sound. Then, the artist would play a group of trad tunes proper for that particular kind of accordion. It was really educational, giving a clearer view of the instrument limitations and advantages in comparison with each other.

Of course, being François a guitar player, our next step was the Rencontre de plectromanes with Paul Marchand, Éric Beaudry, Jean-Philipe Reny, Daniel Roy and Michael Ayles.

We were lucky that the shows in another stage were delayed because we could enjoy once again the brothers Brunet! This time playing for another dance session with caller Jean-François Berthiaume. It's very difficult to choose when you have shows happening at the same time...

The final moments of the festival happened in the same sequence of previous years: a walk between the fest site till Calixa-Lavallée's church - Église Sainte-Théodosie, a pause for the official photo of the event - including the artists and the audience - and then, the last concerts of Chants de Vielles, inside the church. This year, the artists performing were: Laurie Hart and Paul Marchand, Jean-François Bélanger and Yann Falquet and The Swamp Ward Orchestra. I actually just saw the first two shows due to other appointment previously scheduled.

Other extra highlights (there are so many, I couldn't possibly write them all) that only added to the fun:

1) Quebecois artist Bernard Simard came to the festival as audience member. I was disappointed for not having him playing in one of the shows, but it was nice to talk to him about his new projects. Simard is the talent that recorded my favorite album (Quebecois Trad) of 2006 and one of my fav of all times: Spectacle Solo.

2) The person responsible for making sure every artist will be in the right stage at the right time of their concert, confused François for Ben Grossman. It was fun to watch her trying to convince François to go to the stage and play "his" vielle à roue. When he realized the confusion but also pictured himself sharing the stage with the talents we were enjoying so much, it was his time to convince her he was indeed Grossman but he was thinking about doing something different and show his skills on the guitar. The whole scene was... priceless! :)

I had a great time at Chants de Vielles this year. Bought many new albums (great majority with at least one of the Brunet brothers on them), visited with dear friends - although we could all use more time together, saw many of my favorite talents on stage and learned a bit more of this culture and art that conquered me years ago...

[photos by François]


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