Dispatches from Festival Mémoire et Racines day three (Sunday)
Arthur Coates and Pierre-Luc Dupuis
Arthur was named musician in residence for 2023 by the City of Joliette and worked with Pierre-Luc to prepare for this concert. The pair have brought together a fusion of Scottish and Québecois music. Arthur grew up in a musical family. His parents were from the Shetland Islands of Scotland, and Arthur was transfixed as a teenager by the music of La Bottine Souriante. Arthur plays fiddle with stunning virtuosity for such a young man—he’s only 21!—and he’s got equal facility on the guitar as well.
Pierre-Luc (De Temps Antan) is twice Arthur’s age. He’s from Lanaudière region and plays accordions and harmonicas with huge skill as well. He brings the weight of generations to his performances. In this performance, we heard dance tunes, songs from both Scottish and Quebecois traditions and the melding of musical cultures. Both guys performed with great enthusiasm and energy and often used foot percussion simultaneously. It was a great show made all the better by the fun and humour these two brought to the stage. It’s obvious they have formed a great friendship during this residency.
The singing workshop
The singing workshop stage today had six performers giving us a variety of songs from the traditions of Québecois call and response, Gaspé, Cajun, American Country music and Acadia. At the beginnng, we felt this was going to be the workshop of forgotten lyrics since the first two singers had to refer to notes, and the fifth changed his song entirely when the words escaped him. But the subject of missing lyrics became a running joke throughout, and the forgiving crowd erupted in hilarity again and again. The songs became funnier as the time went by and the crowd raised their voices in strong unison when called upon to give their response to a chorus.
The fiddle workshop
A blast of QuéTrad tunes opened the fiddle workshop Sunday afternoon. All six fiddlers played together and made a really great noise. Daniel Lemieux spoke about his family’s musical history in Gaspé and played a fun reel from that repertoire. Étienne Bourré-Denis from the Trad-Punk band Carrottée played a fun reel, followed by two ladies from Archetype-Trad band who together played a fantastic arrangement of the famous QuéTrad tune “Louis Cyr.” Naturally, everyone else joined in. That tune is just too good to not be playing. The Archetype Trad ladies then launched into a set of Irish reels. Fantastic twin fiddling!
Fiddle prodigy Arthur Coates was up next and played two pieces composed by his Shetland Islander dad.
Antoine Gauthier was next, playing a set that included the great tune “Les Eboulements,” and of course, everyone else joined in that one as well. Daniel Lemieux went next with “Reel des Voyageurs” which again was too good to not play, so we had six-stringed voices joining again. A fantastic full house of strings. A few more tunes were enjoyed and at every opportunity, all the fiddlers joined in. The finale included the famous “La Belle Catherine,” a fast reel with multiple parts that just gets everyone’s feet flying. Naturally, all six fantastic fiddlers were playing together.
What a fun way to enjoy a sunny Sunday afternoon.
The wind instrument workshop
Wind instruments were up on the next workshop stage. Nicholas Williams from Traverse and Genticorum hosted four other performers who demonstrated clarinet, saxophone, saxhorn, whistles and flutes. Three members of Fanfare Monfarleau strutted their stuff: saxhorn, saxophone and clarinet. Their approach was charming: a jazz arrangement of Sheepskins Beeswax that’s in the QuéTrad common repertoire.
Nicholas Williams showed his black, wooden Irish flute and played a set of Irish jigs. The next, François-Xavier Dueymes played a set of Breton tunes on his identical wooden flute. Nicholas then played a piece from the repertoire of the late Edouard Richard, Gaspé fiddler that had been collected by Lanaudière fiddler Stéphanie Lepine.
Next, Benoit Fortin demonstrated the technique for the small wooden flute, an instrument from the Middle Ages. His set included tunes from Jos Bouchard and a couple of accordionists known for their complex ornamentations.
A waltz from Phillipe Bruneau was played on tenor saxophone and then the clarinet played a complex and beautiful intro for a Klezmer piece. The Fanfare trio then played a lovely arrangement of a crooked Québecois tune followed by a fun reel.
More Irish reels followed on the large wooden flutes and then the tune “Le Rossignol” played by Benoit Fortier on small wooden flute was played at the request of an audience member. Much appreciated. A spirited rendition of “La Bastringue” by all the wind players concluded the performances. But, it wasn’t over! The remaining four members of Fanfare Monfarleau entered the scene and wonderful musical mayhem ensued! What fun!
The highly anticipated open-air Sunday evening dinner time jam session with the extraordinarily talented fiddler Alexis Chartrand leading was just getting underway at Mémoire et Racines when the skies darkened, the wind markedly picked up, and rain began to fall. Within seconds, all the instruments were back in their weatherproof cases and players were heading for shelter. We took this as a sign… to actually read the online weather forecast for the next two hours. It was not looking good. The evening program was minutes away from starting and there were decisions to be made.
Looking at the dire evening forecast and the fact that we had cycled from our accommodations to the festival, we decided to forego getting drenched.
We were sad to miss FMR’s foray into programming for a new generation of music lovers. We would miss the final three acts of the weekend: QuéTrad power band Le Rêve du Diable, the punk-Trad band Carotté and the Québec Redneck Bluegrass Project.
As we left the park, we saw legions of fans of those bands coming into the grounds. With any luck, next year they will come earlier in the weekend for the full Mémoire et Racines experience, because really, there is nothing like this festival, anywhere, for its embrace of the province’s national music, it’s friendly, welcoming atmosphere and it’s wealth of talent here in the heartland of QuéTrad culture.
Until next year, Mémoire et Racines!