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I know it’s nice out, but you do NOT want to miss Festival Mémoire et Racines’ online festival

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Photo by Elizabeth Szekeres.

Festival Mémoire et Racines, the biggest and most loved folk festival in Québec, is, of course, not happening this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s sad, but inevitable, given that we all must physically distance ourselves. Live music with audiences in close proximity just cannot happen while we are waiting with bated breath for a vaccine, or at the very least, a treatment for this terrible illness which is so easily transmitted from person to person.

So… what to do?

Like many musicians and musical events around the world, Festival Mémoire et Racines will be taking advantage of the capabilities of the internet, hosting online concerts from the beautiful church Église Catholique de Lavaltrie, in Lavaltrie, QC, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, during the third week of July, the week that the festival usually runs.

Lavaltrie is the village that is the site of the well-known flying canoe legend La Chasse-galerie. Long ago, lumberjacks far away in a logging camp wanted to spend Christmas with their wives and families. They made a deal with the devil for a flying canoe to take them home, but they had to promise not to use foul language or the canoe would fall from the sky. A tough assignment, I’m sure!

This year, the flying canoe is the internet – allowing us all to join the party from wherever we happen to be in the world. Musicians, audiences, and festival organizers alike are thrilled that the usual sponsors for the festival continue to extend their support, making it possible for a virtual festival to take place.

But – you gotta be there on time and on the day! These concerts are indeed ephemeral. They will happen only once, during the third week of July, from Wednesday, July 22 to Sunday, July 26, presented through Facebook Live. There will be concerts, storytelling, children’s programs and dance ? something for every age group.

You can check out the detailed schedule on the website: https://memoireracines.org, but here is a précis of what’s coming:

Wednesday, July 22: Two evening concerts

  • Gen and Marcus, a jazz/folk duo from Montreal, whose sound is described as “natural acoustic poetry.”
  • Réveillons, from Lanaudière region, the quintessential Québecois folk band: two fiddles, accordion, raucous voices, foot percussion and some of the best call-and-response songs this side of anywhere.

Thursday, July 23: Two evening concerts

  • Michael Jerome Browne, from Montreal, “a living encyclopedia of American roots music,” presenting his astounding blues and roots repertoire.
  • Stephen Faulkner, from Montreal, a venerated singer, guitarist and pianist who has recorded seven albums and has earned two Félix awards.

Friday, July 24: two evening concerts

  • Duo Beaudry-Prud’homme: Singer Simon Beaudry (Le Vent du Nord) joins forces with virtuoso pianist Philippe Prud’homme to present French songs from both the French classical and folk repertoires. If you see nothing else this week, make sure you catch these guys!
  • Les Chauffeurs à Pieds: This four-piece trad band from Québec city will truly knock your socks off with very danceable jigs, reels and call-and-response songs, all of it expressing the full joie de vivre of their home province.

Saturday, July 25: Afternoon workshops and evening concerts

  • Élise Guay et Martin Aucoin: a wonderful show for both the young and young at heart involving a bewitched fiddle!
  • Hélène Clément : Ceinture Fléché tying for newbies. These wide and colourful woven belts have been worn for centuries and were once worn by the canoe paddling, fur trading voyageurs.
  • Jean-François Berthiaume: Elements of Quebecois foot percussion. This is a learning workshop. Podorhythmie is used as a percussive accompaniment to most traditional music of Québec.
  • Stéphanie Lépine: A very fine fiddler and music teacher from Lanaudière region will lead a learning workshop for intermediate level fiddlers who would like to learn a tune from the Québecois repertoire.
  • Les Contes de Normanville: These storytellers will have you doubled over with laughter.
  • Grosse Isle: Fiddler Sophie Lavoie from Lac St. Jean and piper Fiachra O’Regan from Ireland have joined forces with venerable Québecois accompanist André Marchand to produce a fantastic intermingling of Irish and Québecois music.
  • Musique à Bouches: Sherbrooke’s fantastic and highly regarded quintet of a cappella singers will bring us five part harmonies, call-and-response songs and more from their region of southern Québec.
  • Les Tireux de Roches: Here are five guys of exceptional talent who have spent the past 20 years on the road refining their performance. Gravel-voiced with boundless energy and a great rapport among band members, these guys really know how to engage their audiences. No wonder they are finishing up the Saturday night concerts.

Sunday, July 26: Afternoon workshops and evening performances

  • Mélanie Boucher et Philippe Jetté: Singing workshop for children.
  • Evelyn Ménard et Karine Echaquan: Storytelling from the Québec and Manawan nations for listeners of all ages.
  • Mélissandre Tremblay-Bourassa: An educational workshop offering an introduction to Québecois step-dancing.
  • Josiane Hébert: And educational workshop offering an introduction to Turlutte, the technique of singing without words, a very traditional Québecois artform.
  • Moe Clark: A singer of Métis repertoire, using looping systems, slam and pop techniques. This will be a very intense presentation!
  • Mamzelle Ruiz Duo: Québec’s own chanteuse of Mexican repertoire. Expect a stunning concert from this gal who leaves her soul bleeding on the floor of the stage after every performance.
  • MAZ: This experimental jazz/folk/electro quartet from Montreal will leave you gobsmacked and wanting more. Their flying canoe of traditional instruments transports you onto a magic carpet.
  • Yves Lambert Trio: Fiddle, accordion, guitar and voices here from three of the absolute best in the business. Yves Lambert has blazed his own path since 2007 when he left La Bottine Souriante, the groundbreaking Québec folk band he founded in 1976. Joining forces with guitarist Olivier Rondeau and fiddler Tommy Gaultier in 2010, he now has a compelling vehicle for his musical voice and virtuoso accordion playing. This will be a fantastic closer for the Sunday night performances.

It’s fantastic that the great organizing team of Festival Mémoire et Racines has continued to find a way to fulfil their mandate of bringing the exceptional talents of Québec folk artists to the rest of the world. If you’ve always thought you should check out what they are doing in French Canada, now is your opportunity. Conjure up your own flying canoe and touch down at the performance space in Lavaltrie. You will not be disappointed.

All of the FMR Viellées ephemeral concerts will be viewable free of charge through the Festival Mémoire et Racines Facebook page on the dates specified. But please be warned, they will not be available to view afterwards. This is the nature of FMR Viellées. Full schedule, times and links will be available at: https://memoireracines.org

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