This weekend I engaged in my lightning-strike road trip up to Canada and back–specifically, to Qualicum Beach to attend a music workshop, house concert, and post-concert session, featuring my boys of De Temps Antan!
Which meant I got up at 4:30am on Saturday morning and spent pretty much all of the morning in transit in order to get to Qualicum in time for the workshop. And I spent pretty much all of Sunday in transit home. But the time in between? Stupendous levels of awesomeness, and worth every minute of the hours I spent on the road and on ferries! For the chance to learn more tunes from André Brunet, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Saturday morning: British Columbia is BIG
So yeah, as mentioned, up at Stupid-o’Clock. I was out the door shortly after five, and discovered pretty much what I was expecting about traffic at that hour: which is to say, Ballinger Way and I-5 are pretty devoid of vehicles before 6am on a Saturday! I made excellent time and crossed the border shortly after 7. Only about a ten minute wait. Best crossing I’d had in a while!
Paul loaned me his Garmin, and between that and printed-out directions from Google Maps, I fortunately didn’t get lost. And I needed those directions since I managed to completely confuse the Garmin on the way up to Qualicum, once I got off the boat. Which was a ferry to Victoria–I was going to take the ferry to Nanaimo until I discovered that that one runs only every three hours, and that BC was having a holiday weekend. But the ferry to Victoria had reservations open for the 9am ferry, and I was not, under any circumstances, going to risk missing André’s workshop.
Turns out though that I got to Tsawwassen Point just before 8, and even though my reservation was for 9, they let me on the 8am boat anyway. And so I got off the ferry in Victoria around 9:30 and proceeded to head up the island towards Qualicum. Directions-wise, this worked a lot like my and Dara’s trip to Cumberland to see Le Vent du Nord–I even wound up stopping at the same Dairy Queen we stopped at before, for a pit stop. The only difference this time was getting off BC-19 earlier!
Made it into Qualicum around 12:30ish, only to discover that crap, the RBC was closed. This was a wrench in my plan for getting Canadian money for purposes of paying for both the workshop and the house concert. Fortunately though the ATM was happy to accept my debit card, even though it charged me two bucks for the privilege, and I got dinged for a foreign transaction as well.
Then I strolled around the town center for a bit, got some yogurt, and visited a couple of the local shops. Had a lovely conversation in the bookshop asking about Canadian authors, and unsurprisingly, being ME, I walked out with a couple of books. Also picked up some nice handmade soaps from another shop as well.
And, since I have come to the conclusion that if I’m showing up for an event involving Quebec music I must bring Sortilège, I ducked into the nearby BC Liquor to do that too. Only to discover that they did not have any of this particular elixir of the gods–at least not the maple whiskey form. They DID have the form that’s more like Bailey’s Irish Cream, only maple-flavored. I was perfectly happy to buy that instead, since I hadn’t tried it before.
Then it was finally time to show up for the workshop!
Saturday afternoon: André Brunet, Professor of SWING!
I showed up at the home of Joyce Beaton shortly before the workshop time of 2pm, and was immediately recognized and greeted by Joyce and Cilla (the lady who very kindly offered to give me crash space at her place), and even hugged. Awww. <3 (And by ‘hugged’ I mean in particular ‘hugged by Éric Beaudry’, who got out of his chair and came over to say hi to me as soon as I set foot in the kitchen. This did not suck.)
There were small children present (Joyce’s grandchildren) as well as an old but friendly dog named Molly. The children eyed me with dubious expressions, but the dog was quite happy to follow me around demanding head pets.
And, I discovered I was not in fact the only person who’d come up from Seattle! There was another lady who’d come up for the shenanigans, and she told me she lived in the U-district. Small world and all.
But there wasn’t that much time for socializing before we all got down to business, and gathered at the other end of the house to enjoy learning some serious tunage from André Brunet!
I’m here to tell you, Internets–if you’re an instrumentalist who likes trad music, and you get an opportunity to participate in a workshop with one of your favorite musicians, for the love of all that’s holy, do it. Having a fiddler of André’s skill walk you through learning a tune by ear is a priceless experience–particularly for a trad n00b like me, without much practice yet in picking up stuff by ear. And now I’ve done this twice, and have established to my distinct satisfaction that if you break a tune down into easy phrases, I can, in fact, understand them!
Bonus fun too for me not actually being the only wind player in the room. There was a lady named Bronwyn who had a very nice whistle out, so she and I got to be the wind section. Which provoked some interesting discoveries when André took us down below the lowest D that either of us could play–and it was fun to see how Bronwyn tried to figure out alternate ways to handle those phrases, versus how I did it. She tended to jump back up an octave, while I hung out down at the bottom of the range and tried to find arpeggios that did smaller jumps, but back up rather than down. Which was all to the good–André specifically encouraged us to do that, since in a full-bore session environment, multiple players of the same instrument will often vary it up like that.
André was a great teacher, very wry and lively, though that was hardly any surprise since I’d already had that impression of his personality before. The tunes he chose to share with us were “La gigue à Jos Bernatchez” (which got some amused discussion going since apparently the gentleman named in the tune title was Spanish), and another for which he wasn’t actually sure about the title. So he laughingly called it the “No-Name Reel”, but after he actually played it for us, one of the fiddle players said she thought it might be “Reel des poilus”, which roughly translates to “Hairy Reel”. André suggested this was a reel to play for when you’re getting up out of bed and your hair is a mess.
(I for one agree that “Bed Hair Reel” and “Bad Hair Day Reel” are both titles that need music attached to them. I further feel that anything called “Bad Hair Day Reel” is clearly a crooked tune with unexpected time signature changes and may also possibly have ornamentations to make it sound like your instrument is saying ‘oh god oh god where is my hat?’)
We took a couple hours to go over those tunes, and pretty much all of us recorded André playing them as well, first fast and then slow. And now I have these recordings and will be able to fling them through Tempo Slow to really get the tunes into my fingers. For bonus YES!, I also even found the first reel hiding in my tunes PDF collection. I may ALSO have the second reel–I need to doublecheck the PDF against the recording and see if it’s what I think it is. So YAY this’ll bring my count of tunes I have half a clue about up again!
Much discussion was had about the various types of tunes and how they line up with specific dances. Which was something I knew already, but still, it was valuable for me to hear it talked about in depth by the more experienced players, especially when they got into talking about schottisches.
ALSO valuable, despite the fact that I am not a fiddle player: André demonstrating a particular technique for rotating the right hand at the wrist in order to minimize the amount of motion necessary to hit a particular run on the strings. Because even though I am not a fiddler, my character Kendis is, and the likelihood of further fiddlers showing up in the Warder universe is high! So understanding things like this is potentially very useful just for purposes of writing about fiddlers correctly!
Great fun as well to try to figure out how to mimic fiddle ornamentations on my flute. I’ve heard Alexandre from Genticorum talk about this and have found myself trying to do it when listening to recordings, or trying to follow folks at session. Usually this means throwing in grace notes, one or two of ’em as appropriate, and sometimes I can actually pull this off. The second tune André went over in particular had this one descending run with a lot of ornamentation in it–that bit, in particular, I’ll need to experiment with to try to make it sound as awesome on my flutes as it did on his fiddle.
On the whole, a most satisfying and gratifying experience. I really dig this whole concept of “give a musician my money, he teaches me stuff”. Everybody wins! (And now I am clearly going to have to find an opportunity to get into a workshop taught by Olivier Demers. ‘Cause after this workshop André’s giving him a run for his money for the position of Anna’s Favorite Fiddle Player. ;D )
Saturday evening: Interlude
Most of us scampered off out of the house after the workshop was over, to give the boys time to set up and soundcheck and other such things. So Cilla and I and the other lady from Seattle (on whose name I have unfortunately spaced *^_^*;;) went out to take a walk along the beach. This was an excellent opportunity to stretch my legs after having spent several hours in the car, even given the difficulty of walking barefoot on rocks while trying to wade in the water! I didn’t get a chance to take proper pictures of the beach, though. Suffice to say that there was a great deal of wide and a great deal of blue sky and blue water. It was quite hot, so once Cilla let me wear her flip-flops, walking through the water was very refreshing.
Then I went over to Cilla’s house, which was not far away at all from Joyce’s place, to drop off my suitcase and to inhale a bit of dinner that Cilla had prepared. I also met her pets, a big ol’ dog by the name of Winter who I believe she said was a husky/shepherd mix, and a small white cat. About the dog, what I mostly gathered was that he was a) large, b) fluffy, and c) surprisingly about the same color as George. He too was a very friendly doggie. The cat was less impressed with me and made no overtures, perhaps because it sensed I smelled like American cats.
Soon enough though it was time to head back for the concert! At which time I discovered to my delight that my friends Ginny and Gary had made it to the show, so hugs and greetings were happily exchanged. It was a bit of a relief to see a couple more familiar faces, even though the whole afternoon up to that point had been awesome.
Then it was about to get more awesome. Because concert.
Saturday night: De Temps Antan rocks the living room
We packed a lot of people into the rather cozy room in Joyce’s house where the boys had their sets–and since it’s August, it got quite toasty in there. All the windows were opened, certainly much to the relief of the band, and certainly myself. I claimed a spot by the window on the far right of the room, since I had already spent most of the day pretty overheated. And I wound up chatting with a gentleman named Ian, originally from Australia! To whom I explained that I’d claimed the seat by the window because of heat sensitivity, and also that I’d gotten up at 4:30 for the specific purpose of making André’s workshop. I pointed at André, in fact, who overheard me and pointed back. LOL.
Once the boys got started, of course, the room temperature picked up considerably. Which is what happens when you unleash Quebec music into a crowded room.
Right out of the gate was, I believe, “Les Pissenlits Bricoleurs”–very lively instrumental set off the first DTA album. Then we got “Intrinifor”, one of my favorites, also from the same album! And this particular version threw in some tasty harmony in the bridge that you don’t get in the studio version.
I’m pretty sure it was here where the boys backtracked to introduce the songs they’d just done, before heading into introducing “Pu d’argent”, which they identified as being from Éric’s family. And certainly, sitting at Stage Éric (never mind the lack of actual stage) did not suck.
Then they finally jumped over to the current album, Ce monde ici-bas, to break out “Refaire le monde”. This one’s fun just because they all get to take turns singing parts of it, which is a fabulous thing to do when you’re a trio of strong singers.
Another instrumental set followed, at which point the lady sitting in front of Ian (and who was therefore just in front and to the left of me) broke out her spoons and kept excellent rhythm. She kept doing feet, too, and she wasn’t the only one. I didn’t have much room to do feet with a chair in front of me, so I wound up using my hands instead.
And then, oh my yes: “Adieu donc cher cœur”! Éric introduced it by saying it was about a woman named Hélène, and asking if there was anyone in the audience with that name. Answer: yes. Wry replies followed! And this there was a bit of extra harmony in the turnover going into the third verse that doesn’t appear in the studio version, to wit, yum. (Also um yeah I might possibly have been playing the hell out of this song, with ulterior motives of wanting to learn it. As became pertinent later in the evening!)
After that André stood up, and amused us all by doing some rather Elvis-esque leg shaking. You may assume, O Internets, that yours truly found this entirely acceptable. Pierre-Luc and Éric then also stood up, and while André introduced “Valse St-Sévère”, kept making little lovebird-y whistling noises. And they were all amused to call this tune an “expensive waltz”.
Note: crowded though the room was, this didn’t stop Ginny and Gary from getting up to dance in the corner. Aww. <3
Then another instrumental set to close the first half of the show! At which point I scampered off to the kitchen to break into the Sortilège, and several folks perked up with interest when I kept describing it as “like Bailey’s Irish Cream, only maple”. That went over very well.
When someone dimmed the lights to warn us all to come back to our seats, the second half of the show began! And André went over some of the same stuff he’d told us during the workshop–to wit, how his father was a guitarist and his mother an organist, and that his father and his uncle had married a pair of sisters. So his favorite band was in fact his family, and his father and uncle had been the first edition of Les frères Brunet. Awesome!
Then he asked Pierre-Luc to elaborate on his own background. Pierre-Luc proclaimed that he’d learned music from two bears in the woods, so of course Éric had to jump in with how he’d learned music from wolves. André then claimed “ducks” as his source of instruction, which just goes to show you that in Quebec, even the animals are musical. (This may also explain the high number of ducks I keep spotting in Quebec trad lyrics!)
Next then was “Medley des couches”–what the boys describe as their Diaper Reel, since it was inspired by their all becoming fathers in the same year. Now me, I do have a bit of background changing diapers, having done so for my little sisters. And that wasn’t so long ago that I don’t remember what that was like. All I gotta say is, had I known at the time that changing diapers could lead to music, I would have enjoyed the entire process lots more.
Pierre-Luc threw a very spicy harmonica solo in there, too.
“La maison renfoncée” was next, just to give some love to album #2, and it’s always fun to hear Pierre-Luc sing lead on that. Very nice dark closing chords out of Éric’s guitar, too.
The second album continued to set the mood for this half of the show with “Les jumelles au camp” being next, of which the boys wryly noted that they’d composed it just before that album, not after, as they almost accidentally said. Because yeah, Quebec trad has a great deal of awesome to go around, but not even their assorted awesome musicians can quite pull off composing a song for an album after that album comes out. (Well okay, they could, but it’d be annoying to get it onto that album!)
“Jeune et joli” had the now-familiar joke about the title meaning “young and pretty”, and Éric proclaiming, deadpan, “Thank you!” At which point Pierre-Luc noted that this song was sung by Éric, not for Éric.
Then, one of the things I’d been waiting for the whole performance: “La fée des dents”! André told the story of his son losing his tooth inspiring naming this tune, and made jokes about the tooth fairy leaving iPads or iPhones under the pillow–updated for the modern age, don’t you know. But what was really awesome was that he invited anyone with instruments in the room to play along with them!
And I’m here to tell ya, the only thing that kept me from chirping “OKAY!” and whipping out my little D carbon fiber was that I’d put all my flutes in the other room to get them out of the way–and I would have had to scramble over half a dozen people to get from my spot by the window over to the door into the hall. And yeah no. Nobody else whipped out instruments either, possibly for the exact same reason–but we did all sing the tune, and it was lovely. <3
Future De Temps Antan shows, though? I’m totally gonna be armed with the flute. Just in case.
Next: “La turlutte du rotoculteur”! Which, as y’all know, is arguably my all time favorite DTA track, just because it’s the one that first seized my attention. Lots of singing from the listeners on this, too. And, it must be said, there was a badass upward climb on the strings out of André at the end!
Pierre-Luc had a bit of jaw harp fail leading into “Mépriseuse de garçons”, and proceeded to explain how he’d had to employ glue of all things to adjust the tone the thing produced. Then we got into the actual explanation about the song, which this time involved Pierre-Luc telling us how he’d found two different versions of the verses in his research. So he merged them together into one story.
Last but most assuredly not least: “Pétipétan”! Described by Pierre-Luc this time around as a “classic” from their repertoire. I would agree with this assessment. 😀
The boys finished up by proclaiming they were heading to what sounded to my ears like “Kenmore”, which made a part of my brain go “wut?” But no, they actually meant Canmore, a city in Alberta. Darn!
But to absolutely no one’s surprise, there was one encore. And what an encore: “Chère Léonore”, with the boys standing up once again. And might I say: yum. Particularly with some delicious low harmony coming out of Pierre-Luc; not quite bass range, but still quite rumbly and tasty. An excellent way to end the set, and let it be said for the record: this is De Temps Antan’s answer to Le Vent du Nord’s “Le retour du fils soldat”, if you love some a capella harmony. Which, as I have said before, I do.
Still though the night’s amusements didn’t end there!
Saturday postlude: Session!
Right about here was when I heard from André and Éric a VERY critical piece of information: i.e., that they were aiming to play Cumberland in November for their next BC tour. AND that they were targeting coming back to the Rogue as well. That was when I went !!! and started feeling another road trip coming on, even though I hadn’t come home from this one yet!
And at this point some folks left, but quite a few others started breaking out instruments. I decided, doggedly, that since I’d hauled the General all the way up there I was going to damn well play him. So at least for some of the rest of the night, I hung out in one of the other rooms of the house chatting more with Ian, and strumming on the guitar. Mostly Great Big Sea stuff, but I’d gotten hit with an urge to see if I could figure out how to play “Mari-Mac” in D minor.
Because D minor is a key I don’t have much experience in–and it has become more relevant to my interests on the grounds that “Adieu donc cher cœur” seemed to me to be in that key, based on earlier twiddling around with it on my flutes. So I asked Éric about that and he confirmed yep, that’s the key, but that it’s modal. I feel experimentation coming on, Internets. Because if any song can get me to practice that damn D minor chord, it’s this one!
(Although I make no promises that I won’t capo the thing or even transpose it. I’m not sure yet if this is a key that’s friendly to my range!)
I did pop into the kitchen periodically though, and wound up showing off my carbon fiber flutes to Bronwyn and another gentleman who was interested in them. He had much better reach for my big D’s finger holes and accordingly, made significantly more awesome noises on it than I’ve been able to, so far! Both he and Bronwyn were impressed at the strength of the tone the carbon fibers can produce, and I was very happy to recommend Carbony Celtic Winds to them.
Eventually though the session group actually startled me by playing “Road to Lisdoonvarna”, at which point I went HEY I KNOW THAT ONE and scampered back in there. They paired it up with “Swallow Tail Jig”, which I initially mistook for “Morrison’s Jig”, but we happily went into that too.
Next time I came back into the room André had joined the session. Éric and Pierre-Luc had crashed, I think–since they had to get up at stupid-o’clock to take off for Alberta, no surprises there. It was very impressive to see Joyce holding her own on the cello to André’s left, though me, I didn’t do much until they actually went into “André à Toto”. Which I can kinda stumble my way through!
YOU GUYS, I actually made halfway coherent flute noises in a room that contained André Brunet! WINNAH IS ME.
Not too long after that though Cilla asked about my status and whether I was ready to head out any time soon, so I announced to the room that we needed to go. At which time André got up and came over and hugged me. <3 And I told him that if they were playing Cumberland, friends of mine and Dara’s live right next door to the Cumberland Hotel, and that I’d try to come back up for November!
And that was indeed a lovely note on which to end the evening. I went out into Joyce’s front yard, extremely content–and then stopped dead as I looked up and saw a sky full of amazing stars. Stars of the kind we don’t get in Seattle with all the city’s ambient light. And I almost teared up, it was so beautiful. An amazing visual note on which to end a night full of music.
Sunday: Home again
Many kudos must be given to Cilla, who provided me with toast and tea and pointers on how to get to the Nanaimo ferry crossing from her place. We wound up heading back to Joyce’s the following morning so she could pick up her bike and walk the dog–and I could pick up not only the ice packs I’d left in Joyce’s freezer (ice packs I’d been using for the cooler), but also my piccolo.
Ooooooops. I’d have really been chagrined if I’d left that there. *^_^*;; It was rather reassuring though that the other Seattleite I met was there and noted to me that she’d have brought it back down to me if I hadn’t come back to fetch it myself. So yay!
The ferry was successfully achieved, thanks to the combo of Cilla’s directions and Paul’s Garmin. It sat well with my heart to drive past Stanley Park, too–and even though I ran smack into a wall of bumper-to-bumper traffic because of the Pride Parade Vancouver was having, I nevertheless made it to Siegel’s to acquire the obligatory delicious bagels.
There, I met up with one of my readers, Jessica, and hand-delivered her a copy of Faerie Blood. She and her spouse and I had a delightful conversation about SF/F and Pern and other books, and there was nomming of tasty food. And at last I got back on the road and came home!
I’m exhausted, but very happy, and already looking forward to my next meeting with the boys of De Temps Antan!
If you’re on Facebook I’ve posted my best pics from the house concert there–the three above in this post as well as some others. The Facebook album of pics is here.
If you’re NOT on Facebook, you can find the same pics on my Flickr account here!