Quebec Trip 2017 Report, Part 4: Classes and activities at Violon Trad

And now, finally, back to my trip report about going to Quebec for Camp Violon Trad and Memoire et Racines! In the last post, I talked about the locale and scenery of where the camp was held. In this post, I’ll talk about what we actually did! Or at least some of what we did, because there was a lot, and that’ll stretch across multiple posts.
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Quebec Trip 2017 Report, Part 3: Locale and scenery at Violon Trad

So when last we left my Quebec trip report, I’d gotten to Montreal and had managed to rendezvous successfully with the other incoming attendees, and with the drivers who were on tap to get us from downtown Montreal to the site of Camp Violon Trad.
This post, I’ll talk about that site and what it was like.
I’m told that Plein Air Lanaudia is not Violon Trad’s original location, and that a few years in, it’d gotten big enough that they moved to where they are now. During my time at the camp, I learned that at least some of the attendees had been there often enough that they did in fact remember the previous location. Which just goes to show you that this camp is so well loved that it has devoted attendees that come back every year–rather like Fiddle Tunes!
Since I have no experience with the previous locale, I can only comment about the current one. And to be sure, what I saw was lovely.
I was assigned to room in the Foyer building, which I can only assume was pronounced French-fashion, and which I certainly tried to say to myself as such for the duration. I shared a room with three other women, and our room had two bunk beds, so I wound up taking one of the top bunks as I was younger and a bit more agile than a couple of the others. Having a top bunk did rather make me feel like I was twelve.
Here’s the backside of the Foyer building, as seen from just in front of the dining hall.
The Foyer building at Violon Trad//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Since the room I was in (room 3) was up on the second floor, this meant I did in fact need to go up and down a lot of stairs during the course of this camp. While carrying a guitar case, my backpack, and often also my fiddle. And of course my luggage, on the way in and out! All of which certainly contributed to my exercise. And I certainly did enjoy just walking around exploring, since this was mostly how I got pics during the camp.
One of my goals wound up being looking at signs on everything and seeing how many of them I could translate. My favorite of these was “poubelle”, which I learned pretty quickly was the word for a trashcan. And you can see the full set of the sign pics here.
You will note that one of those pictures has Jean-Claude in it. This would be because of course I took Jean-Claude to Violon Trad. ;D I mean, how can you start the party if you don’t have a mammoth? Commencez la fête!
Jean-Claude et moi!//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
And it was very, very necessary to let him explore the grounds! And also to periodically bring him around to various events and pester at least a couple of the boys of Le Vent du Nord about whether I could get photo ops. All hail Nicolas Boulerice and Simon Beaudry for being good sports. <3
You all can see the full set of Jean-Claude at Violon Trad pics here.
(Side tangent! Note also that a couple of those Jean-Claude pics have a guitar in them. That? That there? That is the guitar of André Brunet, which I note here because André was super, super kind in loaning me his very own guitar so that I wouldn’t have to haul one of mine on a plane all the way to Quebec. I got it from him just before the beginning of classes on the Monday, and in between hauling it around to classes, I spent some time just playing it so I could get acquainted with it.
It was a lovely little guitar, with a good clear voice on it, though perhaps not as muscular and strong a tone as the General–which was kinda fine because this guitar wasn’t a dreadnought, so that was to be expected. And the case had seen quite a bit of usage, which is to be expected for the instrument of a professional touring and teaching musician. This got me amused remarks from Éric Beaudry when I enthused at him about André’s kindness, because of course Éric knows his bandmate’s guitar and case when he sees them.
Let it also be noted for the record that I took a rather inordinate amount of glee in discovering that André had the same kind of strings I use on the General stuffed into the storage box in his case. \0/ Elixir strings FTW!)
But back to the scenery of the place. Overall the layout was this: a central open area with an administration building at the front, and chalets surrounding that space on all sides. Opposite the admin building was the place where the younger attendees were staying. If I were to stand by the admin building and face the youth chalets, the buildings to my left would be the Grand Salle (more on this to come), the buildings where the professors and their families were staying, and the building where I had the guitar classes (more on this to come, too). To the right would be the Foyer building that I stayed in, and past that, the dining hall.
Between the youth chalets and the Foyer building was one access to the lake, which is where the dock and kayaks I took pics of were. There was another access to the lake past the Foyer building, next to the dining hall.
In the opposite direction, towards the building where I had the guitar classes, was the bridge I ventured over and which led to the hockey court, the equipment shed, and the Hebertisme sign. It was over in that direction that I spotted the zipline, too.
I quite enjoyed walking around the grounds, despite the fact that I was massively swarmed with mosquitos. Pro tip for my fellow Cascadians: if you go to a fiddle camp in Quebec, for the love of all that’s holy, do not forget the bug spray. Introvert Anna, who was shy about throwing herself headlong into evening activities yet didn’t want to hide in her room, thought it would be a good idea to hang out outside on Tuesday night practicing on André’s guitar. Only I forgot the bug spray, and boy howdy did the mosquitos find me tasty. (There was much complaining about this on Facebook, oh my yes.)
But aside from the Jean-Claude pics, I think I most enjoyed taking the shots of the lake. Like this one.
Reflection of clouds on the lake//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
All of the scenery shots are tagged on flickr here.
What else? I didn’t do any of the possible camp-type activities that were available–like the kayaks or the zip line or the hockey equipment. But I did do a lot of walking around just to see the place and because I am an active walker. I think if I get to come back to this camp again, I’ll totally want to explore the Hébertisme arch and whatever that mysterious pathway was!
I also didn’t get a chance to explore St-Côme at all, about which I was a little bit sad. But it was too far away to get to on foot, and I had no particular reason to pester the nice gentleman Luc who’d given me a ride in to take me back over there, even though he did offer. (I did pester him to let me check his car when I misplaced my sunglasses, though.) I would rather like a closer look at St-Côme!
Weather-wise we kept alternating between quite nice and sunny, and ALL THE RAIN IN QUEBEC. It was a good thing I’d come with layers to wear!
And that’s about everything I can think of to say about the scenery of the place. Next post, I’ll talk about the actual camp activities, and the actual camp classes! Stay tuned!

Le Vent du Nord at the Rogue in Vancouver BC, 1/27/2016

As I’ve already written about several times on my blog, it’s always a pleasure to hear Le Vent du Nord perform–although this time, it was on a seriously rainy Wednesday night at the Rogue. Yet the loyal fans filled the place nonetheless!
This time too we actually were without Olivier Demers. If you’ve been following my posts and have seen my earlier Le Vent concert posts, you know Olo’s my favorite of all the members of the group! (And I’m not just saying that because he follows me on Facebook and therefore might actually read this. Auquel cas je dois dire SALUT OLO!)
But this time he had to stay home, due to having a death in his family. :( He posted to his Facebook wall that his father had passed away just a couple of days before the show. (And I was simultaneously very sad to hear the news and a bit relieved to have been warned about it in advance, because if I’d shown up without knowing M. Demers wouldn’t be on hand, I would have been even sadder!)
So Le Vent had to pull in Jean-François Gagnon Branchaud as emergency backup fiddler. If you know Quebecois trad, you may well recognize his name as one of the two fiddlers currently playing with La Bottine Souriante, who also sings some lead on La Bottine’s last album. And if you know La Bottine, you know that anybody who plays for them is guaranteed to bring their A game to a stage. Jean-François did not disappoint, and so even though we all missed Olivier, it was still a delightful show!
Let’s get down to the details, shall we?
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Victoria/Cumberland 2014 Trip, Day 4: Le Vent du Nord at the Cumberland Hotel, 3/11/2014

And now, O Internets, the second to last post of my Victoria and Cumberland vacation series–in which Dara, , , and I all had the supreme pleasure of getting to see Le Vent du Nord play at the Cumberland Hotel!
Previously in this particular adventure, Dara and I saw Le Vent in Victoria! And then we explored a bunch of rocks before Dara sang that night! And then we explored Cumberland and sang some more!
It’s truly fitting that we wound up the trip with one hell of a gig out of les gars. Because don’t get me wrong, you guys–I enjoyed the symphony show immensely, but even after only four shows’ worth of experience, I’m here to tell you that the best way to enjoy Le Vent du Nord is in a tiny, cozy venue. Preferably front row center. With a MAMMOTH.
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Victoria/Cumberland 2014 trip, Day 1: Le Vent du Nord at the Royal Theater, Victoria BC, 3/8/2014

And now, to start documenting my and Dara’s recent excellent trip up to Victoria, to see Le Vent du Nord! Saturday the 8th was when the adventure got underway–when we headed up to Victoria in the morning, for the symphony show to take place that night!
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Le Vent du Nord at Hermann's Jazz Club, Victoria BC, 4/6/2013

I made absolutely no secret of how crushed I was, Internets, when I missed Le Vent du Nord’s Oregon show this past November. And I was quite disappointed as well when the symphony show in Vancouver was cancelled.
But tonight, I am thrilled to report that the show at Hermann’s Jazz Club in Victoria, BC, completely and utterly made up for both of these things. It was short but tight, and a truly intimate little show. And OMG YOU GUYS, Dara and I managed to snag a table right smack in front of the stage!
Clickie for the in-depth show report goodness!
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Le Vent du Nord at St. James Hall in Vancouver, 3/1/2012

As you know, O Internets, I was extremely eager for my first Le Vent Du Nord show. I’ve been getting ridiculous amounts of glee out of listening to their albums and watching their YouTube videos, and of course, I had the challenge laid down by fellow Le Vent fan Susan that in her considered opinion, Le Vent gives much better concerts than Great Big Sea! Which, of course, is a mighty challenge indeed to issue to this passionate Great Big Sea fangirl. And so, the question of the hour is: how did Le Vent do?

Let’s put it this way. I ain’t saying I’m throwing over The Doyle for Simon Beaudry, when it comes down to Most Favored Bouzouki Player Who Isn’t Dara–but I will say it’s a damn fine thing that I have room in my heart for all manner of joyous music. And love my B’ys as I do, they better be bringing their A game when they go back on tour next year, because the show Le Vent put on for us in Vancouver shot straight up to stratospheric levels of awesome, and it will be extremely hard to top.

I hadn’t been to a GBS show that tiny since they stopped playing the Showbox in Seattle, and the level of energy they let loose was every bit the rival of those earlier GBS shows. Le Vent might not have the same sheer physicality that the B’ys do; they don’t bounce around the stage the same way at all. But that’s every bit of quite all right, because all the energy they didn’t spend bouncing came right out their instruments. They were charming and funny, especially Réjean Brunet. Simon’s singing is a direct threat to the structural integrity of my knees. Olivier Demers does amazing things with his fiddle, especially given the amazing things he does at the same time with his feet. And Nicolas Boulerice? That man commands a room with his voice, and when he unleashed a solo that caused Dara to use the phrase “bitchin’ metal hurdy-gurdy solo”, he was channelling lightning.

But that’s just the picoreview! This being a patented Anna the Piper In-Depth Concert Squeefest, let me get into the details!

Continue reading “Le Vent du Nord at St. James Hall in Vancouver, 3/1/2012”

More music geekery

And now, in no particular order, some more points of general geekery regarding my ongoing passion for Quebecois music:
One: this morning, I stomped all over 375 calories on the treadmill while listening to Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer’s live album. They made for excellent workout music, and I feel I should get calorie bonuses for trying to sing along with “Les turluttes”, even if I couldn’t keep up in the middle part where they’re all singing together rather than doing call and response. Hell, I have trouble keeping up with that part when I’m not on the treadmill; the operative phrase there is “breath control”!
Two: I am amusing myself transcribing lyrics out of the liner notes of Le sort des amoureux, the Beaudrys’ album, on the theory that if I have them in a file on my phone, I can read along when I’m listening on my commute, and improve my ability to understand these lyrics as words. However, as I type all these French words into TextEdit on my MacBook, I’m discovering a couple of things. One, TextEdit’s spellcheck is doing amazingly well with French words, and two, I’m actually understanding some of these phrases without having to throw them through Google’s translation engine first! More or less, anyway. I am pretty sure I just figured out that this one verse is a mother telling her children they don’t have a father anymore.
Three: Speaking of lyrics, I’ve been looking through the English translations available for Le Vent songs up on their site, and about died laughing when I realized what “Les métiers” is actually about: a girl with multiple lovers, and why their occupations all suck. Except for the fiddler. Of whom she says, “he shall practice on me / he can play the fiddle, I’ll be making music”.
And here I’d gone and added that song to my Francophone Favorites and Le Vent Favorites playlists on the strength of its sweet and perky-sounding performance alone. I had NO IDEA. Lesson learned: Le Vent are apparently periodically quite a bit more bawdy than they actually sound. WOO! ;>
Four: The Le Vent Symphonique album is growing on me hard. I’m finding the blend of the band’s instruments and the orchestra more awesome each time I listen to various tracks, and while I still want to be in a crowd doing “Cre-mardi”, I’m nonetheless seriously grooving on the energy of the orchestra behind the band in that song in particular. I also happened to observe that a few video snippets of this performance are actually on Le Vent’s site, here, and WHOA AND DAMN I wish there was a DVD of this. I would be buying the HELL out of that.
Also, it is amusing to play Spot the Piccolo in the various tracks as well! Piccolo players, represent!
And last but not least, speaking of my piccolo: I am now also amusing myself trying to transcribe M. Demers’ fiddle solo from “Lanlaire”. I wanted to do this just by way of exercising my ear. Last night, though, I found a very nifty little app for the iThings–a thing called Tempo. You can use it to play with the tempo of a track out of your iTunes library, and slow it down without losing pitch. Which is AWESOME. I kicked “Lanlaire” down to about 70 percent speed, and am now trying to inch my way through the fiddle solo to see if I can better figure out the notes that way.
Some sound quality is lost, but the pitch is still on target, and it’s very odd hearing the song that slow, especially the footwork! But I’ll have great fun trying to see if this app can help me figure out the solo. \0/

Le sort des amoureux: Album review post!

Just finished listening to Le sort des amoureux, the album by Éric and Simon Beaudry! This was fun. Lower-key than much of the Quebecois music I have now, but fun nonetheless.
Éric and Simon trade off singing lead vocals on the various tracks, and I’m beginning to see that while they have very similar voices, I can in fact tell which one is singing when, even without consulting the liner notes. I’ve come to know Simon’s voice well of course from the tracks he sings lead on for Le Vent du Nord, even though there are only a few of those, so that’s helpful! I prefer Simon’s voice; it’s got a bit of a darker, richer flavor to it. But that said, Éric sings very well too. (This, I note, is pretty much what I can say about both of their singing voices when I don’t speak French–it means I punt back to thinking about the character of the voices doing the singing, instead of the actual words. Which is actually kind of fun in its own right.)
Note also: the title track, “Le sort des amoureux” (“The fate of love”, according to Google Translate), has the Beaudry boys singing together a capella. NICE. They sound rather haunting together, and while they don’t sing with the force of the lead singers in their other bands (Nicolas Boulerice, I am looking at you, monsieur), they blend very, very well.
Meanwhile, though, I also have to give the album high marks for significant levels of bouzouki! All video evidence I’ve been able to find to date suggests that Éric may actually have more bouzouki awesome in his musical arsenal than Simon does–but this is only because I’m seeing vids of Éric playing bouzouki as a lead instrument, including doing some really nice fingerwork, vs. Simon playing bouzouki as a rhythm instrument. The liner notes on this album, anyway, are crediting the zouk specifically to Éric. And that’s all good. I REALLY like the zouk on these tracks; it stands out very clearly, and gives it a flavor I do not actually get from most other albums I’ve got, Quebecois or otherwise!
There are several guest musicians here too, so it’s not just the Beaudrys. In particular, I’m noticing the name of André Marchand showing up heavily in the credits of the liner notes–who I now know as one of the members of Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer, and a former member of La Bottine Souriante, as I posted about before! (He apparently produced this album for the Beaudrys, and if this is an example of his production prowess, I can only say ‘well done, monsieur!’) The second to last track is all instrumental, and has seven people total playing on it, so the energy kicks up closer to what I hear from oh, say, Le Vent du Nord. High bouzouki there too. :D
The last track in particular is also noteworthy. It’s also a capella, and is in fact sung by an 81-year-old (at the time of recording) lady named Clémence Gagné. If I understand the translation I’m getting off the liner notes correctly, she apparently taught the Beaudrys this song, and they invited her to sing it on the album. Éric sings along with her. Aw. <3
Last but not least: the album artwork's really kind of adorable! It's got this whole Chutes-and-Ladders-like motif on the front of it, only instead of chutes, there are a couple of snakes! And there are some cute little sketches of a guy and his sweetheart, including one charming little one of him holding out a bouquet of flowers to her. I'm glad to have a physical copy of this CD for the artwork alone–but also because lyrics are provided on the liner notes, which is extremely helpful given my lack of French, as it means I can try to translate them.
So yeah. Generally recommended for anybody who likes trad in the general category of "laid back and groovy, with a bit of blues and country twang to it", as well as anyone who likes the sound of French lyrics! If you're in the US and you want the album, CD Baby is your friend. This particular album’s CD-only, but the CD Baby page does have listenable samples, so check it out!
And the Beaudrys’ site for the album lives right over here. You can see the aforementioned adorable artwork on the landing page! (Note that while they have a button for French and a button for English, only the French one actually works. But you can always load the site up in Chrome and have it translate for you on the fly!)
ETA: Spelling of album title corrected! Oops!
ETA #2: says the title is correctly translated to The Fate of Lovers, which makes better sense, and goes very well with the aforementioned adorable artwork! Thanks, !

Day of Bouzouki Player Awesomeness, Part 1

As previously squeed about, I have been alerted to De Temps Antan, one of at least two bands known to me in which Éric Beaudry is one of the musicians. These guys shot up in interest to me when I then learned that André Brunet, brother of Rejean Brunet of Le Vent du Nord, is ALSO in this band–and all three of the guys in it are either former or current members of La Bottine Souriante!
So I went and listened to the samples of both their albums on iTunes, and they had me absolutely sold on the first track I listened to when they broke out the mouth reels and then WOO! BOUZOUKI SOLO! Turns out that this particular Beaudry brother, like Simon, is a bouzouki player, and this appears to be his primary De Temps Antan instrument. Found some vids of them playing as well, and yep, it’s official, dude can PLAY.
They appear to have a YouTube account, and here’s their vid of the song in question!

Also? if I weren’t already going to buy these guys’ two albums because of that, they also made me laugh out loud just at the sight of one of their track titles: “Suite du Laptop”.
This has now also definitely bumped up the priority on finding more recent La Bottine Souriante, since all of the LBS I have predates Éric’s joining!
Relatedly, I came home tonight to find the Beaudry brothers’ album, Le Sort Des Amoureux, waiting for me in the mail! I’m very much looking forward to giving this a listen, especially now that I know Éric is also a bouzouki player. From what I’m hearing in song samples and in the DTA vids I’ve found so far, vocally, he sounds a lot like Simon. It’ll be fun to see if I can distinguish their voices. Fortunately, the album I’ve just received helpfully calls out in the liner notes which of them is singing lead on which songs.