After my critic last year, I decided to be more open-minded. I know Nicolas Boulerice and Olivier Demers look for new influences, new styles and new experiments to bring to the participants of this festival, that not necessarily is all about Quebecois trad music. Once prepared for new experiences, I went to Chants de Vielles 2009, in Calixa-Lavallée, QC.

The opening of the festival to the public this year was a surprise. Instead of a gathering of musicians playing and singing lyrics of 200 years ago, we had three very expressive guys and many curious metallic tools on stage. From hammers and chains to keyboard, the story-tellers Simon Gauthier, Marc St-Pierre and Jean-Marc Massie caught the attention of the entire French audience with their show Les Hommes à Scie. It's hard to comment on scenes since my French isn't enough to fully understand all the stories told that night - my comments would be completely out of contest, but surely I got the comments related to their performance of the American anthem.

This year for the first time, Le Vent du Nord performed on the festival organized by two of its members. This was the first time I saw live a LVDN show with Rejean Brunet, although I've seen the band playing in other contexts. They presented some songs of the new album coming soon. The impression of many is that the tunes are becoming less trad and with more influences from other styles. I'm waiting to check on the lyrics... maybe the band is giving to the stories of the old days a modern angle of view. Anyway, their new album is coming up this October 3rd. I'm very curious about it. I really liked the tune they sang acapella during the festival. I hope it's in the new CD.

Also this year at Chants, trad bands Ad Vielle Que Pourra, Dentdelion, Cercamon, Les Poules à Colin, Les Mononcles, Nightingale, among others, presented their tunes. I'm following the works of some of them for a while now and I enjoyed to see their shows. My personal favorite ones were Les Mononcles and Max Cohen and Donna Hébert. The Breton songs presented by Charles Quimbert and André Drumel at the church for the closure of the festival also charmed me. I need to research more the Breton music heritage...

Les Mononcles: Wow! I already knew the work of some of its members - well, basically 3 out 4 members of Mononcles are part of another trad band, Les Charbonniers de l'Enfer. This band performs trad music in acapella style and I saw their show (through video) in Paimpol, France. Because of that, I was very curious to go to Les Mononcles at Chants. And I wasn't disappointed at all. They are jazzy, they have great stage presence being so comfortable in front of the audience. Between their tunes, they always have funny stories to complement the performance, what gives the audience a feeling of a home party with people talking and playing right in your living room! Pity their work isn't easily accessible. They are not online yet but their album can be ordered here.

Max Cohen and Donna Hébert: I e-know them for a while now. Donna and Max do a great job presenting their work online, from tunes to scores to mp3 extracts... But that's not enough... you gotta see them live! Donna is a great fiddler! I basically cried when she played a particularly complex and difficult tune right in front of me. I barely could see her fingers... The audience stood up and applauded. Max on the guitar, performing with her, made everything look so easy I just wanted to jump on stage and play along... I was surprised and conquered by many of their compositions. Max tunes his guitar in an unusual way and his sensibility is transparent when he is playing. I left Calixa-Lavallée carrying their new work In Full Bloom - I highly recommend!

Apart the shows, the organization improved. The festival is getting bigger every year and more preparation is required. The area for parking expanded. Montreal pub brewer Dieu du Ciel took care of the drinks bringing their exotic flavors to the fest.

Another side of the festival that I enjoy in particular is the chance to meet with old friends: Liz, Sue, Shoja, Pam, Kara, Denis, Walt and so many others... also the chance to meet new ones like Anne, an esteemed reader that asked me few questions before planning her trip out to Quebec. Thanks Anne for the support! Also, my visit to Calixa-Lavallée, Chants de Vielles and Verchères (where I usually stay) has a special place in my heart since François and I met out there. This year we celebrated our 1-year anniversary, on site! :)

Productions Littorale vous convie à venir découvrir le conte, cette forme d’expression millénaire que, depuis plus de 17 ans, nous réactualisons pour tisser de manière contemporaine le fil d’une parole de partage, de rassemblement et de réjouissance. En plus de notre programmation régulière de l'automne, nous avons deux événements à ne pas manquer: Rencontre internationale sur Le Conte à Sherbrooke du 16 au 18 octobre 2009 et 17e édition du festival Les jours sont contés en Estrie du 22 au 25 octobre 2009. Info.

Feet of Flames
16th December - County Stadium, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 7.30pm
18th December - City Fulfillment Amphitheatre, Taichung, Taiwan, 7.30pm
19th-20th December - Arena, Taipei, Taiwan, 2.30pm & 7.30pm

Lord of the Dance
21st October - Frauenthal Theater, Muskegon, MI, USA, 7.30pm
22nd November - Memorial Hall, Pueblo, CO, USA, 7.30pm
18th February 2010 - Municipal Auditorium, Morganton, NC, USA, 7.30pm
21st February 2010 - Times Union Center, Jacksonville, FL, USA, 7pm

Spirit of the Dance
9th October - Schouwburg, Venray, Netherlands, 8pm
10th October - Fulcotheater, IJsselstein, Netherlands, 8.30pm
11th October - Theaterhotel de Oranjerie, Roermond, Netherlands, 8pm
13th October - De Hanzehof, Zutphen, Netherlands, 8pm
14th October - Agora Theater, Lelystad, Netherlands, 8.15pm
15th-16th October - Theater De Leest, Waalwijk, Netherlands, 8.15pm
17th October - De Meervaart, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 8.15pm
18th October - De Reehorst, Ede, Netherlands, 8.15pm

10th-12th November - Orpheum Theatre, Omaha, NE, USA, 7.30pm
13th November - Orpheum Theatre, Omaha, NE, USA, 8pm
20th-21st November - Lutcher Auditorium, Orange, TX, USA, 7.30pm
21st-22nd November - Lutcher Auditorium, Orange, TX, USA, 2pm

Fil Campbell, one of the best lady singers we have in Ireland is currently on a short USA tour and well worth catching up with.

Fil had a wonderful TV series here, on RTE, called "Songbirds" featuring music of pioneering women singers in Ireland from the 30s and 40s.

In the USA, her band includes Jay Ansell who is a great songwriter and multi instrumentalist musician who also does excellent covers of Robin Williamson Incredible String Band songs.

Fil's website for dates and some video clips of Fil performing.
video 1
video 2

John of Celtic Ways