Le Vent du Nord Plays in Harrisburg Sunday, March 1

Le Vent du Nord, which translated means the wind from the north, brings the incomparable spirit and roots of traditional Québec

Le Vent du Nordmusic to the Harrisburg area on Sunday, March 1, 2015, for a 4 p.m. Susquehanna Folk Music Society matinee concert at the Appalachian Brewing Company, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg.

Concert tickets are $27 General Admission, $23 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. (Young people are welcome; Appalachian Brewing Company’s 21+ age rule does not apply to this matinee concert.) Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at www.sfmsfolk.org.

This is Le Vent du Nord’s forth visit to the area compliments of the Susquehanna Folk Music Society. Two years ago their show was recorded live and later aired on WITF’s Center Stage.

So what is it about this band that makes Susquehanna Folk want to bring them back again and again? Our patrons really seem to love the familiar Celtic flavor to some of their tunes (due to the couple of hundred years of assimilation between French, Irish and Scottish immigrants to Canada) coupled with a freshness coming from the use of less familiar instruments. The most obvious is the hurdy gurdy, Nicolas’ speciality, and the jaw harp from Réjean.

Vital to the overall sound is the use of both feet to tap out the sometimes complex rhythms of the tune, given the delightful name of podorythmie.

Song lyrics are, naturally, in French but the obvious problem this could create for English speaking audiences is neatly sidestepped by the often hilariously entertaining explanations, rarely translations, offered by the various band members. This humor and the clear enjoyment that the band derives from describing and then singing their songs contributes vastly to the Le Vent du Nord experience.

I had a chance to chat with Rejéan Brunet, Le Vent Du Nord’s fantastic accordion and keyboard player about the band and what they’ve been up to.

FOLKMAMA: I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about the Le Vent du Nord experience. What should expect to hear when they come to one of your concerts?

REJÉAN: For the people who have seen us or not seen us it’s always nice. For the people who have not seen us it’s a super good way to experience the old tradition in a new way. We do a lot of traditional stuff and also compose in the style of the tradition. It’s a good mixture between old and new.

Sometimes it sounds quite traditional. We use the traditional instruments: guitar, fiddle, and accordion and we all sing. The group is quite strong on vocals. We do a lot of harmonies so it makes the song really full. So it’s a very unique experience with Québécoise music.

FOLKMAMA: Once thing I’ve always been impressed about with your band is that you seem really organized on stage. You seem to know what you’re going to do every moment—real pros!

REJÉAN: Yes. Right now we are in the process of developing a new show because in the end of March we are going to release our new CD. So the show that we’ll do in Harrisburg will have some new songs and some old songs. But when we structure our shows we know that we want to place a trad song in a certain place, the smooth songs we try to place in the middle of sets, we try to start to with a song that will create a feeling of what will happen. We see our show like a popular singer would see it and plan it carefully. Create an event—create a feeling to bring the people in with our stories.

And of course the Québécoise accent is so nice when we speak English. After the third or fourth word that we say people are getting into it and very receptive.

We have been playing a lot in the states and in many countries where they don’t speak French. We play with words and we always have a lot of fun translating things and explaining instruments.

FOLKMAMA: So can you talk a little bit about the unusual instruments that the group plays; the hurdy gurdy and the jaws harp?

REJÉAN: The hurdy gurdy is a very unusual instrument. Maybe people won’t know much about it. It’s like a wheeled fiddle with strings. There are traces of that instrument a long time ago in Quebec 200 years ago, but not that much. It was not so easy to travel with the hurdy gurdy. But traditionally it’s been singing and fiddle when the colony first started. And jaw harp is a very old instrument, easy to carry, so it was more evident early on.

The other instrument that we play that would be interesting to talk about is the bouzoki. It’s quite a new instrument. It’s like the Greek bouzoki except without the rounded back. It looks very much like a big mandolin. Even in Irish music, it came in the end of the 1960s. It was in fact a mistake, a guy wanted to have another instrument, and someone brought back a bouzoki instead. He started to play on that and it became quite popular.

FOLKMAMA: I’ve read that about 50% of your music is traditional and 50% are your own compositions. I’ve also read that you like to find old traditional pieces that have never been recorded. Where do you find them?

REJÉAN:  It’s always different of course; the story of how we find each one is different for each song. It happens sometimes that we just have found the lyrics and we have to compose a melody for that. Many we go seek people who know a lot about the music or we go to the archives. There is a big University in Quebec City called Université Laval that has a super large amount of archives with old recordings.

FOLKMAMA: I saw some of your You Tubes at Celtic Connections (a large winter festival in Glasgow, Scotland), and I saw that you performed with the Scottish singer Julie Fowlis who is going to do a concert for Susquehanna Folk in October. How did this concert come about and what was it like performing with Julie?

REJÉAN: So it was a special show, only a once in a lifetime show. The concept was “Misses & Messieurs” because we are four guys and we invite only girls. So we had a string quartet that was four girls and we invite a few others like Julie Fowlis.

The folk music scene is not so big. So we see each other sometimes at festivals. So we saw Julie many years ago and she’s a great singer. Super great voice. In terms of a Celtic music singer she’s one of the best. So when they asked us to do this special program we said that we thought Julie would be super good. She sang a little bit with us on stage in French. She’s a very nice, a very kind person. Very generous and very talented.

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