Festival Mémoire et Racines 2021: Re-starting this legendary festival
You’ve been really missing live music, and you’ve been missing even more the live music that is weekend-long music festivals. With the re-start of Festival Mémoire et Racines in Joliette, QC next month (July 23-25), the wait for some of us will soon be over.
In 2019, Festival Mémoire et Racines celebrated its 25th anniversary. You might say that that was in the nick of time, because the following year, in 2020, like music festivals all over the world, this legendary live and in-person Québec folk festival could not take place due to the global pandemic of Covid-19.
FMR was replaced in 2020 with a 100 per cent virtual edition, Les Veillées FMR, which turned out to be 100 per cent successful. But in a few short weeks, the in-person festival will be on its way back, albeit in a more limited way, with a close watch on audience numbers and a different site configuration.
Sadly, this year there will not be the much loved square dances in the auditorium, and camping is not permitted. But, the Gilles Cantin main stage is happening, (Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights), as well as two other stages: the Chapiteau Maria-Goretti, a covered stage that will present 5@7 FMR (world, folk and bluegrass concerts) and the late night (9-11 p.m.) Les Soirées Folklore, with two of Québec’s awesome trad bands each night.
There is also the Centre André Hénault stage, a more intimate venue with a 100 person capacity. This venue will have presentations starting from mid-day: Les Après-midis de Conte (storytelling and beyond) followed by Les Concerts d’Aprés-Midi. Each venue will be ticketed separately to ensure audience numbers remain within their limits. Check out the FMR website for details.
Much of the planned program from the 2020 festival is being used, so that the artists who had contracted gigs receive the benefit this year. The Artistic Director, Jean Desrochers, is also very pleased to say that all of the guest artists this year are from Québec. The programs include both established artists and some new to the scene. In addition to several TradQuébec bands, there will be a First Nations band and an Innu storyteller, along with Latin American music from Mexico, Peru and Brazil. It will be the kind of varied and exciting program that Mémoire et Racines audiences have long come to expect.
On the Gilles Cantin main stage, there will be a variety of excellent artists, starting Friday evening with Alexis Chartrand and Nicolas Babineau. Alexis, who will be playing a baroque violin in this performance, has been wowing audiences with his stellar playing for a few years now, even though he is barely out of school. His fiddle playing is being likened to that of the legendary Jean Carignan as he regularly leaves audience members’ jaws on the floor.
Isaac Neto, with his Montréal-based trio, plays Brazilian rhythms and original music and lyrics. The band members will be strutting their stuff on the Friday night Gilles Cantin main stage. Prepare to be swept away on a journey with this excellent Brazilian music, which features the “bandolim” (Brazilian mandolin) together with a superb percussionist originally from Togo.
Next up will be Mélisande [électrotrad], shaking up traditional music with a really innovative 21st century re-imagining of song and dance. Imagine breakdancing to call and response songs! Fiddler/banjoist David Boulanger joins singer Mélisande and bass/flute player Alexandre DeGrosbois-Garand in the band, backed up by a terrific drummer.
Finishing up the Friday night main stage will be the Winston Band from Montréal. This group of young men puts on a great show with a party atmosphere. They play a unique kind of Zydeco mixed with influences from rock, Cajun and their French-Canadian roots.
Saturday night on the Gilles Cantin main stage will be four acts that give you a terrific sense of the state of the Québecois Trad movement right now. It’s high quality, fun music with lots of young people jumping right in with fiddles and step dancing feet.
First in the lineup is Moccasins Volants: flying moccasins, which directly relates to the famous Québecois legend of Le Chasse Galerie – the mythical flying canoe. Moccasins Volants is a quartet comprised of pianist Rachel Aucoin and fiddler Liette Remon, together with two members of the Huron Wendat community, Andrée Lévesque-Sioui and Michel Savard. Together, the four will be presenting a unique mix of songs from the Huron Wendat and Québecois musical traditions.
Next up on Saturday night will be Bigico, presenting contemporary step dance with lots of improvisation. Thierry Clouette will play the music for dancer Jonathan C. Rousseau. We will see choreographed dances as well as improvisations on themes and exploring how the musician can find ways to challenge the step dancer. Traditional step dance is very exciting to watch. I look forward with great anticipation to this performance.É.T.É will be next on the program. Since this trio emerged a few short years ago, they have knocked the socks off their audiences every single time out. Élisabeth Moquin plays fiddle like a dervish and stepdances up a storm – sometimes at the same time! And her band mates are no slouches either. Thierry Clouette plays a mean Irish bouzouki, and Élisabeth Giroux is absolutely wicked on the cello.
Finishing up the evening is the sure-to-be-stellar performance of power trio De Temps Antan. David Boulanger on fiddle, Éric Beaudry on guitar/bouzouki, and Pierre-Luc Dupuis on harmonicas and accordions make a fantastic show bringing lively Québecois music played by their ancestors into the contemporary era. In this performance, the band will showcase music from their upcoming new album Pesant. Don’t even bother wearing socks; they’ll just get knocked right off.
Sunday night on the Gilles Cantin main stage will be wonderful too! Jordan Bélanger with his young band, La Croisée d’Antan will showcase their take on traditional Québecois music. We have seen this young man go from shy student at fiddle camp to an increasingly seasoned performer of the fun and exciting QuéTrad repertoire.
Jordan’s band will be followed by Les Pykadors. Stéphanie Lépine (fiddle), Éric Beaudry (guitars, mandolin, bouzouki), and Daniel Lemieux (fiddle) will be performing their instrumental tribute to composer and QuéTrad stalwart Jean-Claude Mirandette, who sadly died in 2019. Also in the band will be Jean-Claude’s nephew, Yoan Filiol, on guitar, mandolin and banjo. J-C Mirandette was an amazingly talented musician who was a member of the five piece a cappella group Les Charbonniers de l’enfer. Their last performance at Mémoire et Racines a few years ago was simply astounding.
The remaining four members of Les Charbonniers de l’enfer, Michel Bordeleau, Normand Miron, Michel Faubert and André Marchand, will be on stage for the finale of Sunday night’s Gilles Cantin main stage performances. They will perform as La NEF et 4 Charbonniers, in a project titled La Traverse Miraculeuse, a musical exploration of the new world. La NEF is an ensemble that performs period music. Alex Kehler (fiddle and nyckelharpa), Sean Dagher (cittern), Amanda Keesmat (cello), Éric Breton (percussion), and Pierre-Alexander Saint-Yves (flutes) bring historic music to new life. I look forward with great anticipation to what these nine excellent musicians bring to the stage as they explore the rivers and seas of the world during the great age of exploration.
Here is what’s happening on the two other stages happening over the weekend:
In the Parc Maria Goretti under the marquee, there will be an outdoor stage: Les 5@7 FMR. Performances there will include Isaac Neto, Dan Livingstone and the Griffintown Jug Addicts, El Son Sono, Guy Donis et La Ligue de Bluegrass de Montréal, Via Pangée and Élixir de Gumbo.
On “Les Soirées folklore” late nights, there will be some great Quétrad concerts. É.T.É. and Juno nominated Le Diable à Cinq on Friday July 23, La Croisée d’Antan and Mythes et Légendes on the 24, and finally, the Duo Nadeau/Branchaud and De Temps Antan on the 25.
In the Centre-André Hénault (the air conditioned hall previously used for the dances), there will be afternoon storytelling and concerts. Patrick Courtois from Lac St. Jean’s Innu nation will regale us with tales from his Mashteuiatsh community. Francis Désilets and Yolaine will perform traditionally inspired Québecois stories. Légendes locales de Joliette and Le Conte de la Rivière Croche will experiment with cross-overs between storytelling and other forms of expressions. There will also be a Contest of Liars where all solo storytellers will participate in telling the best confabulations. Be prepared to participate as an audience member in voting for the best liar!
The afternoon concerts In the Centre André Hénault look fantastic. I look forward to hearing Via Pangée, a trio of QuéTrad musicians from Lanaudière Region, and Germaine, a quartet of young women a cappella singers who also fiddle and stepdance. We will also be serenaded by Nicolas Boulerice with Fréderic Samson on double bass. Fans of Le Vent Du Nord are no strangers to the magnificent singing voice of Nicolas. Here, he will be presenting the music of his new solo CD, Maison de Pierres. There are thirteen “complaintes,” traditional ballads from the historic region of his home, loosely based around the theme of voyages of all kinds.
The organizers of Festival Mémoire et Racines are very aware that not everyone will be able to attend the live concerts at Parc Bosco in Joliette. Many regular attendees to the festival from the USA and the rest of Canada will not be able to travel this year due to the continuing Covid related restrictions. There will therefore be several virtual performances and workshops available for viewing online.
Élisabeth Moquin will give a stepdancing workshop. Raynald Ouellet, a master of living tradition, will play tunes and talk about all the great accordion traditions in the Montmagny region. Pierre Chartrand, a legend in Québecois square-dance and “gigue” (stepdance) will teach a callers’ workshop. To cap it all off, Mia Lacroix will interview the grand master of call and response singing, the venerable M. Jean-Paul Guimond. From the small town of Wotton, he knows literally thousands of trad songs and freely shares them with all who are interested to hear.
There will also be films relating to Québecois traditional music that will be shared over the FMR Facebook page. These films will include three works (two world premieres) by the respected QuéTrad film maker André Gladu. One will be his film L’Esprit du violon trad(2020) about the Camp Violon TradQuébecois, normally held every year in St-Côme, in the Lanaudière region to celebrate and disseminate the traditional music of the province. Another film by André Gladu, Excusez-là (2021), features a night of traditional singing at the CRAPO, a cultural centre dedicated to trad music in Lanaudière. Finally, the medium-length documentary L’autre bout du monde”(2021) takes us to a unique atmosphere, a singing party with dozens of great male voices in a tiny sugar shack raising their voices in celebration of the call and response songs of their province.
Finally, on the Sunday night of the festival weekend, there is a plan afoot to share online over Facebook Live, the Saturday night performances from the Gilles Cantin main stage. With any luck, fans of this festival who live further afield can still engage and enjoy the music even though many of us can’t be there in person this year.
It’s a magical thing, going to a music festival, and especially so when your heart leaps at the sound of a fiddle, banjo or accordion. Festival Mémoire et Racines has been known for years as the very special place where both anglophone and francophone lovers of folk music have gathered to celebrate friendships through the music, the dance and the stories.
There’s truly a ton of fun music and storytelling happening at Festival Mémoire et Racines this year. Do pore over the listings on the website, pick your favourite performers, as well as some you have never heard before. You’ll have a blast.
Tickets to the festival are now available through the FMR website: https://
Welcome back Festival Mémoire et Racines!