Feature

Folk Alliance: the business of trad music in Quebec

Photo by Elizabeth Szekeres.
The annual Folk Alliance International conference wrapped up in Montreal this weekend – its first time in Canada since 2013 – and Roots Music Canada was there in force.  We’re still processing all the amazing things we saw and did and will continue bringing you coverage on and off for several days.  Today, we bring you Elizabeth Szekeres’ recap of a session on the Quebec traditional music industry.
 
Mid-day at the Folk Alliance International music conference on Thursday, we attended a great workshop about the business of traditional music in Quebec. 
 
First, Gilles Garand gave a fascinating talk about the history of traditional music and dance in the province, starting with the settlers from France and through waves of immigration from Ireland and other places in Europe, all of which influenced the forms of culture we are interested in.
 
 
The organization Gilles is a part of, Folquébec, was formed in the year 2000 to help bring the unique music of Québec to the world.  Agents were needed to represent bands in international markets as well as to coordinate and fund promotions and showcases, produce promotional materials and staff event booths. Québec artists are now well represented at international music conferences such as WOMEX, Folk Alliance and such. This weekend at FAI Montreal, Folquébec coordinated 66 showcases for Québec artists and also looked after obtaining grants to cover the expenses of their activities. All of this is done with essentially a skeleton staff. More could be done, they say, but for the limitations of staff time and funding.
 
Next, Antoine Gaulthier (fiddler from Les Chauffeurs à Pied) gave a presentation about new initiatives. He is the director of Québec Folklife and is on the Québec Council of Intangible Heritage. Antoine gave an overview of the initiatives being undertaken in response to the 2011 UNESCO cultural heritage bill, which outlined why intangible heritage is important and needs protection. 
 
Antoine’s organization looks at all aspects of culture, from Inuit throat singing traditions in northern Québec to the weaving of les ceintures fleischées, singing traditions in small villages, dance traditions, accordion and fiddle festivals, folk arts and sculpture. It seems that no aspect of traditional culture is ignored. Québec Folklife assists small municipalities in identifying and encouraging their intangible cultural heritage assets, helps disparate agencies talk to each other and conducts workshops, educational events and webinars to facilitate communication in places that are sometimes remote. They are seeking to digitize collections of ancient music recordings as well as to provide assistance for educational initiatives such as music and dance camps. And broadening the reach of other organizations is also a part of their mandate. The Québec Council for Music has up to now been a solely classical music organization, but due to the initiatives of Antoine’s organization, traditional music will now be included in its reach.
 
Folquébec is proud that this year, it has no less than 33 festivals under its umbrella, from storytelling to sculpture and art, and from tiny small town events to large city happenings like Festival Mémoire et Racines, the biggest folk music gathering in the province.
 
It’s all happening due to a team of absolutely passionate individuals who are dedicating their time and energy far beyond their usual work days to promoting and supporting traditional music in Québec.
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