We finally got word about the lineup for this year’s Festival Mémoire et Racines, and we were definitely not disappointed! It’s the 29th edition of this fabulous festival, the biggest, best and brightest of the excellent musical extravaganzas of the province of Québec. It happens on the weekend of July 28 to July 30, 2023, in St-Charles-Borromée, QC, just an hour northeast of Montreal, and always showcases the wonderfully diverse talents and cultures of musicians of that province and beyond.
There is much to tell you about in the lineup for this year’s festival. There is always a focus on the traditional music of Québec, but there are interesting changes that broaden the appeal and bring those sounds to new generations.
Friday night, the main stage will be opened with superb performances from Camp Violon Trad Québec. The stage will be jammed with students of all ages who have learned new tunes from the masters of Québecois repertoire: André Brunet, Stéphanie Lépine, Éric Beaudry and friends. Prepare to be blown away.
The Friday night lineup includes Black Bear from Manawan’s Atikamekw First Nation in Lanaudière Region. These musicians are big on the pow-wow circuit and are already featured on an A Tribe Called Red (now the Halluci Nation) recording. They will be performing here with Indigenous dancers, so this will be a real treat.
Next up will be Traverse. Laura Risk (fiddle), Nicholas Williams (flute/accordions) and Rachel Aucoin (piano) are to present their new CD, also called Traverse, and will have step dancer Nic Gareiss performing with them. Nic is one of the best step dancers in North America, favorite of Québec’s step dancing master Pierre Chartrand, so this set is sure to absolutely be amazing.
Then, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their band, Les Chauffeurs à Pieds will present their new album. Les Chauffeurs is one of the most venerable and adored trad bands in Québec.
Friday night’s main stage finale will be a new band: 6 Hearts, featuring Pascal Miousse and Emmanuelle LeBlanc (Vishtèn) with Tim Chaisson and Jake Charron (The East Pointers). They are all from the East Coast, namely Prince Edward Island and the Magdalen Islands, and all grew up in strong family musical traditions. The band’s name, 6 Hearts, pays tribute to Koady Chaisson and Pastelle LeBlanc who died recently and who were band members and huge contributors to the music of the other four musicians. I look forward to hearing a wonderful confluence of Acadian and English musical traditions from PEI in this performance.
Any conversation about Festival Mémoire et Racines would be wholly incomplete without mention of the dances. On Friday night, the indoor air conditioned dance hall will be full of people dancing Québecois squares to the music of La Déferlance with Marie-Soleil Pilette calling. Saturday night, it will be Les Chauffeurs à Pieds with caller Érick Tarte. And, take note of the dance stage events during the day on Saturday and Sunday. There are workshops in everything from step dance to Indigenous hoop dancing to Mexican folk dance. Plus, there will be a demonstration of Afro-Colombian music and dance.
There are dozens of side stage performances throughout Saturday and Sunday as well. Workshops for fiddle, accordion, winds, voices and guitars are interspersed with more intimate and alternate performances from many of the main stage bands. Look carefully at the schedule to find the jewels of the festival. If you have children, don’t forget the circus workshops, kids’ performances, storytelling and Indigenous crafts. Who doesn’t want to go home with their own handmade dream-catcher?
Sunday afternoon, we are in for a real treat: the strolling musicians of Fanfare Monfarleau. The last time we saw this band, they were dressed in charming costumes, parading through the site and enchanting all who saw and heard them.
The Saturday night main stage will begin with the country folk and bluegrass band Veranda. They’ll be followed by Genticorum, showcasing the music from their gorgeous new CD: Au Coeur de L’Aube. (Check out our April 2023 review here: https://www.rootsmusic.
Maria and the Band will take the main stage next. This dynamic Brazilian band from Toronto plays lively Forro, a musical style from the north east of Brazil that they mix with other influences. That will totally make you want to get up and dance.
Next up, La Volée d’Castors takes the stage for the 30th Anniversary Reunion performance. There will be the current five members plus two former and founding members of the band. The seven performers are all from New Acadie, a group of four historic villages in Lanaudière Region near Joliette. This performance promises to give new meaning to the phrase “kitchen party!” We will all be dancing and singing our way towards midnight and the late night sessions on the festival site.
Sunday night will be in the “and now for something completely different” vein. We will have Le Rêve du Diable, the oldest trad band in Québec, kicking off the night with their devilish take on QuéTrad music. Next up will be the punk-trad band Carotté from Portneuf near Québec City, followed by the Québec Redneck Bluegrass Project, whose name does not reflect at all their very different take on modern music using traditional instruments such as mandolin, banjo and guitar. I am excited to hear this apparently very exciting music that arose after band members met on a trip to China.
Don’t hesitate to bring instruments to Festival Mémoire et Racines. There is always a depot inside the Centre André-Hénault where you can safely stash your instrument until session time. There will be late night jams all over the park during every night of the festival, and this year, sessions facilitated by professional musicians Carmen Guérard and Alexis Chartrand will occur during the dinner breaks on Saturday and Sunday at 5 and 6 p.m.
There’s a ton more music and dance events that will be happening over the weekend, and if you register early, you just might get a campsite in the nearby river side park.
Please go to the website: https://www.