Dispatches from Festival Mémoire et Racines – Day One (Friday)
Friday night at Mémoire et Racines opened with a bang. The 25th anniversary festival is under way with the best weather you could order.
We arrived at the mainstage in time for Rosier, the newly re-christened five-piece band that was previously called Les Poules à Colin, a cute moniker that no longer suits this maturing quintet.
Rosier created a wall of sound, having added electric instruments to its acoustic kit. The members sing beautifully and compose their own original stuff. For some years, I’ve been watching these young people transition from talented teenagers to adults who really know where they are going musically.
A special moment happened in their set when a trio of accompanists came on stage wearing the new Rosier t-shirts. They were André Brunet, Stephanie Lepine and Dávid Boulanger, three of the most talented fiddlers in Québec. It was the young generation of 25 years ago tipping its hat to the next.
A lovely tweener on the mainstage happened before Talisk took the stage.
Two of the original members of La Bottine Souriante, the legendary Québec folk band, came to play. Now venerated members of the community, Mario Forest and Martin Racine, playing harmonica and violin respectively, played “Reel Pointe au Pic.” The audience was delighted. Mario was the founder of the festival and was given a huge round of applause.
Talisk, from Scotland, put on quite a show. Their music is all about the groove. “Scottish music on steroids,” I thought.
Our seat-mate said this is what mosh pit Celtic must surely be all about.
Talisk is certainly a high-energy trio with just fiddle, concertina and guitar. Just when you thought they couldn’t possibly play any faster, they’d put the pedal to the metal and go even faster. The crowd went bananas.
The next tweener, Emerald Rae from Gloucester, MA did a fine job following Talisk. She sang bluegrassy original and traditional songs, accompanying herself on fiddle in beautifully creative ways. It was just lovely.
Finishing up the mainstage on Friday night was Discord, a quartet of highly accomplished fiddlers. Marie-Pierre Lecault, Michel Bordeleau, Nicolas Pellerin and Jean-François Branchaud knocked the socks off the audience with their unison trad tunes, their harmonies, their simultaneous foot percussion and their fantastic singing.
Michel Bordeleau, also an accomplished drummer, created interesting rhythms with both feet and wooden sticks he stomped on the floor, and each member of the ensemble had the opportunity to strut their musical stuff in solo pieces.
The finale of Discord’s set had guest Sébastien Dubé on five-string contrabasse. I have never seen a bassist play like this before. It was quite extraordinary.
The Mémoire et Racines crowd chanted “un autre” over and over until the band came back to do an encore. It was an outstanding way to conclude the mainstage, but the night was not yet over.
In the dance hall on Friday night were two of the original bands who played 25 years ago at the first Festival Mémoire et Racines.
Le Bruit Court dans Le Ville played for the square dances. Lisa Orenstein (fiddle) and André Marchand (guitar) were joined this time by accordionist Sabin Jacques, since Normand Miron was unable to attend due to illness.
After the dance concluded, Hommage aux Aînés took the stage. This venerated band performed a very special late night concert of the call-and-response songs they are famous for. These seven men all grew up in Saint-Côme, a little mountain village in northern Lanaudière region, a place so isolated that the music from its Acadian roots became preserved for generations in the memories of the village singers. The hall was packed for these guys.
And as we left the park, we heard music emerging from the darkness. The midnight jam sessions had begun.