Dynamic Acadian Music and Dance with Vishtèn, 7:30 February 16th in Harrisburg, PA

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Vishtèn is a traditionally oriented group of musicians who members are from two different Acadian communities in Canada—onefound on Prince Edward Island and the other on the Magdalen Islands. The group draws from the Acadian heritage of the area, as well as from the Irish and Scots immigrants who the Acadians co-mingled with. The group creates a lively up-beat dance hall fusion sound that’s frequently punctuated by foot percussion and step dancing.

Vishtèn features twin sisters Emmanuelle and Pastelle LeBlanc who join forces with Pascal Miousse.

Vishtèn is scheduled to play for the Susquehanna Folk Music Society at 7:30 PM, Sunday, February 16, 2013 at the Abbey Bar of the Appalachian Brewing Company located at 50 N. Cameron St in Harrisburg, PA 17101. This is a sit-down concert in a listening room environment.  Free parking is available behind the building.

Tickets are $23 and are available in advance at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/436456 or at the door.

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I had a really interesting conversation with Vishtèn member Pastelle LeBlanc about Acadian music and dance and what their band is doing to refresh and enliven the Acadian traditions.

FOLKMAMA: So for this concert coming up, what will people see and hear?

PASTELLE: We’re going to be doing some music and dance from the Acadian tradition. My sister Emmanuelle and I have been step dancing for quite a while and we’ll be presenting some Acadian steps which are a totally different style than Irish stepdancing. There will be a bit of sitting down dance, which is foot percussion done with actual steps.

So the people will be able to see some of that as well as hear high energy Acadian tunes.

We’ll  also be singing some songs.  Most of the songs are kind of old songs that we have reworked, keeping the nice melodies but adding some modern influences. All of us sing and there will be about 12 instruments on stage.

FOLKMAMA: Which instruments?

PASTELLE: There’s fiddle, guitar, mandolin, octave mandolin, accordion, harmonium, whistles, piano, bodhrán, jaw harp, moog, and electric guitar.

FOLKMAMA: And you compose a lot of your pieces?

PASTELLE: Yes, we create a lot. We try to mix the old and the new and keep it interesting.

FOLKMAMA: Could you please give us a little history of the Acadian culture?

PASTELLE: The Acadians were from France and about 400 years ago traveled to start a new life in Acadia which was in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Islands. They got established there for about 150 years before there was a great deportation so a lot of Acadians got deported back to France or to many parts of the United States, especially Louisiana.

Many of the Acadians that remained after the deportation didn’t have the money to buy instruments, but a way for them to keep the music alive was through “mouth music”, so that’s a big part of the Acadian culture. The foot taping was used to help keep the beat and to help the dancers. There is also very distinctive swing to the Acadian style. So the bowing is kind of a “shuffle” bowing.

There is still a strong connection between Acadians throughout the world. We have Acadian congresses– this summer there’s one. It’s a reunion of all the Acadian cultures–Cajun cousins in the United States, Acadians in France and Acadians throughout Atlantic Canada.

FOLKMAMA: I’m curious about that distinctive swing style that you were just mentioning. Has Acadian music always had that swing, or is it a new development?

PASTELLE: I think it is a bit more recent. One of the stories that Pascal tells is from the Magdalen Islands. A lot of the fishermen play fiddle and so they say that the syncopated rhythm kind of imitates the sound of the engines from the fishing boats. So the fiddler would be on the fishing boat the whole day and get back on the island at night and it would make sense that they would still have the engine’s rhythm in their ears.

FOLKMAMA: What about your growing -up years? How has being a set of twins influenced your music?

PASTELLE: We grew up in a household where there was lots of music. Hearing the same music and having the same influences has definitely affected the way that we create arrangement. We don’t notice it but people say that we talk basically the same and even our singing voices are very similar. It’s kind of a twin thing of knowing what the other thinks or is going to say and I guess that kind of transpires into the music as well.

Pascal is from the Magdalen Islands and he started playing fiddle when he was about four or five years old. He actually has a twin brother and sister so he understands the twin thing. He has a very instinctive traditional feel. He’s very creative, and he composes a lot. He plays the fiddle but also guitar and mandolin, anything with strings. He’s a big force in the band.

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