September 4, 2020. Le Vent du Nord plays virtual concert for SFMS

The Susquehanna Folk Music Society is excited to host the French-Canadian supergroup Le Vent du Nord for the first show of our fall Virtual Season at 8:00 PM on Friday, September 4, 2020!

Join us for a LIVE streamed concert, including Q&A with the band at intermission. Buy tickets at https://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/LeVentDuNord.html  Tickets are available until 30 minutes before the show starts.

It will be some time until Le Vent du Nord can leave their native Québec, so the Susquehanna Folk Music Society has teamed up with the band for a special concert, broadcast LIVE from Centre Culturel de Joliette, Québec, using a multi-camera system with exceptional lighting and sound.

Le Vent du Nord have played in the area many times over the band’s 18-year history, and audiences have loved them every time. The group’s dynamic live performances expand the bounds of tradition in striking global directions. It’s no wonder that Le Vent du Nord is a leading force in Quebec’s progressive francophone folk movement.

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.

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 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.

Nicolas Boulerice’s hurdy-gurdy “adds an earthy, rough-hewn flavor” to the fiddles of Olivier Demers and André Brunet, underpinned by Réjean Brunet’s accordion and Simon Beaudry’s solid string foundation. 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.

Concert tickets are $13 for general admission or $20 at the supporter level.  Both ticket levels will receive a confirmation email with an access link to view this performance live and both price levels will receive the same viewing experience. Access is available for one device at a time and cannot be shared.

Below is a conversation with Rejéan Brunet, Le Vent Du Nord’s fantastic accordion and bass player. (Adapted from a 2015 interview)

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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. 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?

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 a Susquehanna Folk Music Society favorite. 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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