Conversations with a Musical Power Couple: My interview with married musicians Yann Falquet and Natalie Haas (who will play in Harrisburg, PA on Thursday, May 21, 2015)

Natalie + YannI have a weakness for married musical super groups.  Last year, the first couple of banjo playing Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn’s self titled record Bela Fleck & Abigail Wasburn became one of my favorite albums of 2014.  So I was super excited to get to interview another true power couple of the folk music world, Natalie Haas and Yann Falquet.  Yann is a celebrated singer and guitarist in Québecois music, while Natalie basically wrote the book on the Cello’s place in Celtic Music.  The two are taking time off from their regular projects (Natalie from her duo work with Scottish Fiddle great Alistair Fraser and Yann from his celebrated group Genticorum) to embark on their first ever tour as a duo.  They are playing a show Thursday March 21st 2015 at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn at 7:30

 

PETER: How did the two of you meet and begin to play together?
YANN & NATALIE: In November 2007, Alasdair Fraser brought his fiddle camp extravaganza onto the Trans-Canadian railway for the first and only “Fiddle Train.” Alasdair, Natalie, and Genticorum were the performers/instructors on this 5-day long journey from Vancouver to Toronto. In the enclosed space of the 5 train cars taken over by the campers, lots of music was made and the instructors had the opportunity to get to know each other well (some more than others!). This was the beginning of our musical and romantic endeavor! Over the years since then, we have played together in various contexts (with the Hanneke Cassel Trio, in various jam sessions at fiddle camps and in Montreal’s Québecois music scene) but this will be the first duo tour.

PETER: Although the two of you are both incredibly versatile musicians, Natalie is more associated with Celtic music, while you Yann have strong ties to Quebecois/French Canadian Music.  What are the connections between these two traditions? What are some of the strings that connect then and what would you describe as some key differences?

YANN & NATALIE: We are not seasoned ethno musicological scholars, but we know that foot tapping works great on Scottish tunes! Many Scots emigrated to Canada (mostly to Cape Breton, but some ventured further west). The Québecois repertoire is comprised of a mix of Scottish and Irish reels with French songs from old world France, along with influences from English, German, Italian and First Nations (Métis) people. Although the repertoire that you will hear as a part of this show includes Scottish and Québecois material, we will also venture further afield into other North Atlantic fiddling genres.

PETER: I’m sure between the two of you, the list of known songs and tunes must be extensive to say the least.  When coming up with your repertoire for these duo performances, how do you decide what will make it into the show? Do you rework tunes you have done in other settings with other artists or have you been putting together new material?

YANN & NATALIE: Mostly we just pick tunes that we both love! Great melodies and grooves are some of our favorite things! We will be doing a mix of original compositions from both of us and traditional Scottish, Québecois, Scandinavian, English, Spanish, and French tunes. Yann will also do some French Canadian songs from his repertoire that he has found and arranged from old songbooks and from the National folkloric archives.
PETER: Natalie, you are no stranger to playing in a duo, due to your long-standing, celebrated collaboration with Alistair Fraser.  Do you feel your role in the music changes much when playing with Yann on guitar as opposed to Alistair on fiddle? How much does the change in instrumentation alter how you approach things?
YANN & NATALIE: It has been a challenge for both of us as seasoned accompanists to step into a more melodic and leading role. We learned a lot and gained a lot of confidence in our own playing through this process! It is also challenging because the cello and guitar have similar registers to find parts that are complementary without getting in each other’s way. We also wanted to avoid letting the cello fall into a sleepy, long-tone role without the brighter presence of a fiddle! Natalie is also singing for the first time, and in French to boot! These are all good challenges.

PETER: You are both in the upper echelon of respected accompanists for tunes, something that I really think is such a skill and art form in and of itself.  As a guitar player, I would be remiss if I didn’t use this opportunity to ask you both for some good solid tips to keep in mind for all of musicians out there playing accompaniment on tunes.

YANN: Listen, listen, listen! Learn accompaniment parts off of CDs you enjoy. Learn the tunes themselves if you have the time (even if you can’t play them fast)…you will get some great insight from that process. Remember, solid rhythm is always more important than playing fancy chords.

 

NATALIE: Sit next to people whose accompanying you admire in a session and try to copy what they do! CDs are great if this is not a viable option for you, but nothing beats getting inside someone else’s harmonic and rhythmic mind in person!

PETER: What are some recent albums released by your friends/contemporaries that you have really gotten into?

YANN & NATALIE: Laura Cortese just came out with a tunes album (which Yann plays on) featuring her own compositions with collaborators from Québec, Sweden, and Galicia…it rocks! Brittany, Natalie’s sister, is releasing a beautiful duo fiddle album with Swedish fiddler Lena Jonsson on June 30th…check it out! We also were both lucky enough to record on Montreal multi-instrumentalist and composer extraordinaire Jean-François Bélanger’s new CD ‘Les vents orfèvres’ . The album features mesmerizing music inspired by the Nordic fiddling tradition with a hint of Baroque influence. We also both love Scandinavian music and some current favorites include the new album from Sver and anything by the Goodland Trio. Our favorite bands of ALL TIME are: Väsen and Lake Street Dive. Can’t wait for their collaborative album! 😉
 

Any chance we are going to get a duo record from the two of you anytime soon? The answer to this question should be “yes.”
We have some recording time booked in late October this year along with Brittany Haas! Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Yann and Natalie are playing a show Thursday March 21st 2015 at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn at 7:30.

Tickets can be purchased at the door or here at : http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/YannFalquet_NatalieHaas.html

 

For more information on these fantastic artists check out:

 

http://www.nataliehaas.com/

 

http://www.genticorum.com/en/bio_falquet.html

 

 

Peter Winter is a musician writer based in Harrisburg.  Follow him on twitter @peterwinter38 and check out his band: http://www.seasonsmusic.com

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