Browsing Category

Quebecois Music

Quebecois Music

Album review: Consolez-vous, by De Temps Antan

De Temps Antan Consolez-vous

Consolez-vous

I have already established that the phrase “new Le Vent du Nord album” is at the top of the list of Things That Give Me Joy. But right behind that is the phrase “new De Temps Antan album”. And I am delighted, O Internets, to report that I have that very thing to rejoice over today!

This is De Temps Antan’s fourth album, and the first one featuring new member David Boulanger, who replaces André Brunet as the trio’s fiddle player. Fans of Quebecois trad will probably recognize the name David Boulanger. I certainly have some past exposure to him, since he’s one of the current lineup of La Bottine Souriante. I was also a supporter of the album he did with Maja Kjær Jacobsen, and I own the album Boulanger did called Pièces sur pièces, along with flute player Jean Duval.

Also: David was one of the professors at Violon Trad this year, and I got to see him in action there!

So while I’m sad that André Brunet is no longer part of this trio, I knew that with Boulanger on board, De Temps Antan would be absolutely fine. Now that I’ve had the distinct pleasure of listening to this new release, I can report that this assurance is entirely vindicated!

As with prior album reviews I’ve done in the realm of Quebecois trad, you can assume going in that of course I love this album. That goes without saying! (Though of course, I’m going to say it. \0/) And while I do have a history of my album review posts often just being “I’m going to squee at you for several paragraphs about all the ways I love this thing”, I do actually have some review-type commentary to share with you this time!

Ready? Let’s DO THIS THING.

Continue Reading

Music, Quebecois Music

Fiddle practice, now with added winds

Just to check in on the whole fiddle practice thing, here, have a post about that, y’all!

Today my practice actually also involved winds, because I determined that I need to practice my arpeggios on my wind instruments as well as the fiddle. There are two goals here. One is to get better at recognizing those patterns in general, and the other is to get better at reproducing them quickly on my wind instruments, since those are the ones I’m most likely to be playing in session right now.

My main scales for fiddle practice, and their related arpeggios, are G, D, and A. These map easiest to fiddle strings tuning (G-D-A-E), and also, the vast majority of tunes at our session are in these keys. So they’re the ones I practice in the most.

Continue Reading

Quebecois Music

Quebec Trip 2017 Report, Part 3: Locale and scenery at Violon Trad

So when last we left my Quebec trip report, I’d gotten to Montreal and had managed to rendezvous successfully with the other incoming attendees, and with the drivers who were on tap to get us from downtown Montreal to the site of Camp Violon Trad.

This post, I’ll talk about that site and what it was like.

I’m told that Plein Air Lanaudia is not Violon Trad’s original location, and that a few years in, it’d gotten big enough that they moved to where they are now. During my time at the camp, I learned that at least some of the attendees had been there often enough that they did in fact remember the previous location. Which just goes to show you that this camp is so well loved that it has devoted attendees that come back every year–rather like Fiddle Tunes!

Since I have no experience with the previous locale, I can only comment about the current one. And to be sure, what I saw was lovely.

I was assigned to room in the Foyer building, which I can only assume was pronounced French-fashion, and which I certainly tried to say to myself as such for the duration. I shared a room with three other women, and our room had two bunk beds, so I wound up taking one of the top bunks as I was younger and a bit more agile than a couple of the others. Having a top bunk did rather make me feel like I was twelve.

Here’s the backside of the Foyer building, as seen from just in front of the dining hall.

The Foyer building at Violon Trad

Since the room I was in (room 3) was up on the second floor, this meant I did in fact need to go up and down a lot of stairs during the course of this camp. While carrying a guitar case, my backpack, and often also my fiddle. And of course my luggage, on the way in and out! All of which certainly contributed to my exercise. And I certainly did enjoy just walking around exploring, since this was mostly how I got pics during the camp.

One of my goals wound up being looking at signs on everything and seeing how many of them I could translate. My favorite of these was “poubelle”, which I learned pretty quickly was the word for a trashcan. And you can see the full set of the sign pics here.

You will note that one of those pictures has Jean-Claude in it. This would be because of course I took Jean-Claude to Violon Trad. ;D I mean, how can you start the party if you don’t have a mammoth? Commencez la fête!

Jean-Claude et moi!

And it was very, very necessary to let him explore the grounds! And also to periodically bring him around to various events and pester at least a couple of the boys of Le Vent du Nord about whether I could get photo ops. All hail Nicolas Boulerice and Simon Beaudry for being good sports. <3

You all can see the full set of Jean-Claude at Violon Trad pics here.

(Side tangent! Note also that a couple of those Jean-Claude pics have a guitar in them. That? That there? That is the guitar of André Brunet, which I note here because André was super, super kind in loaning me his very own guitar so that I wouldn’t have to haul one of mine on a plane all the way to Quebec. I got it from him just before the beginning of classes on the Monday, and in between hauling it around to classes, I spent some time just playing it so I could get acquainted with it.

It was a lovely little guitar, with a good clear voice on it, though perhaps not as muscular and strong a tone as the General–which was kinda fine because this guitar wasn’t a dreadnought, so that was to be expected. And the case had seen quite a bit of usage, which is to be expected for the instrument of a professional touring and teaching musician. This got me amused remarks from Éric Beaudry when I enthused at him about André’s kindness, because of course Éric knows his bandmate’s guitar and case when he sees them.

Let it also be noted for the record that I took a rather inordinate amount of glee in discovering that André had the same kind of strings I use on the General stuffed into the storage box in his case. \0/ Elixir strings FTW!)

But back to the scenery of the place. Overall the layout was this: a central open area with an administration building at the front, and chalets surrounding that space on all sides. Opposite the admin building was the place where the younger attendees were staying. If I were to stand by the admin building and face the youth chalets, the buildings to my left would be the Grand Salle (more on this to come), the buildings where the professors and their families were staying, and the building where I had the guitar classes (more on this to come, too). To the right would be the Foyer building that I stayed in, and past that, the dining hall.

Between the youth chalets and the Foyer building was one access to the lake, which is where the dock and kayaks I took pics of were. There was another access to the lake past the Foyer building, next to the dining hall.

In the opposite direction, towards the building where I had the guitar classes, was the bridge I ventured over and which led to the hockey court, the equipment shed, and the Hebertisme sign. It was over in that direction that I spotted the zipline, too.

I quite enjoyed walking around the grounds, despite the fact that I was massively swarmed with mosquitos. Pro tip for my fellow Cascadians: if you go to a fiddle camp in Quebec, for the love of all that’s holy, do not forget the bug spray. Introvert Anna, who was shy about throwing herself headlong into evening activities yet didn’t want to hide in her room, thought it would be a good idea to hang out outside on Tuesday night practicing on André’s guitar. Only I forgot the bug spray, and boy howdy did the mosquitos find me tasty. (There was much complaining about this on Facebook, oh my yes.)

But aside from the Jean-Claude pics, I think I most enjoyed taking the shots of the lake. Like this one.

Reflection of clouds on the lake

All of the scenery shots are tagged on flickr here.

What else? I didn’t do any of the possible camp-type activities that were available–like the kayaks or the zip line or the hockey equipment. But I did do a lot of walking around just to see the place and because I am an active walker. I think if I get to come back to this camp again, I’ll totally want to explore the Hébertisme arch and whatever that mysterious pathway was!

I also didn’t get a chance to explore St-Côme at all, about which I was a little bit sad. But it was too far away to get to on foot, and I had no particular reason to pester the nice gentleman Luc who’d given me a ride in to take me back over there, even though he did offer. (I did pester him to let me check his car when I misplaced my sunglasses, though.) I would rather like a closer look at St-Côme!

Weather-wise we kept alternating between quite nice and sunny, and ALL THE RAIN IN QUEBEC. It was a good thing I’d come with layers to wear!

And that’s about everything I can think of to say about the scenery of the place. Next post, I’ll talk about the actual camp activities, and the actual camp classes! Stay tuned!

Quebecois Music

Quebec Trip 2017 Report, Part 2: Montreal

The one major thing I was sad about re: our trip to Quebec–other than the saga of Dara’s lost luggage, and I’ll get to that–was that I got to spend only a few hours in Montreal. And that was only because the travel plans meant I had a bit of buffer time between when I arrived at the hotel, and when I needed to rendezvous with the shuttle going to Camp Violon Trad.

Because, fortunately, there was in fact going to be a shuttle. The camp’s staffer in charge of communicating with campers, when she sent out a notice in June telling us what to expect, mentioned that they’d be running a shuttle from downtown Montreal up to where Camp Violon Trad actually happens. I was quite happy about this news, because this meant I didn’t have to try to rent a car and navigate my way northward through a French-speaking province.

(Note that the street signs at this point probably wouldn’t have given me a problem. I’m good enough with reading French at this point that I can figure out roughly where I am, if I need to. The tricky parts would just be not being familiar with any specific traffic laws in Quebec. Or if I had to pull over for directions, or got pulled over by a cop or something–because then I’d have to try to communicate and my conversational French is not up to speed yet. But that was also part of why I wanted to go to Camp Violon Trad. More on this to come, too.)

What amused the hell out of me about the camp shuttle was this: the designated pickup point was right by the Berri-UQAM Metro station. Which, as it turns out, was about the only part of Montreal I knew anything about, because when Dara and I had spent our weekend there in 2012, that very corner was right by the hotel we stayed at, the Lord Berri.

This meant that I also knew that there was an Archambault there, and I knew there were a lot of shops and restaurants and things within immediate walking distance. So, that gave me at least a bit of buffer time, long enough for running errands and having a brunch, between “leaving the hotel” and “rendezvousing with the shuttle”.

Getting out of the hotel

Getting out of the hotel was a bit of a challenge. I knew that in theory there was a bus I could take from the airport to the aforementioned Metro station, and I remembered that on the way in the night before, I’d walked past a kiosk that looked like it had information for the bus in question. But I got a little lost walking around with my luggage through the airport–which, now that it was a much saner morning hour, was a lot busier than when I’d arrived the night before.

Turned out I’d come down onto the wrong floor. I had to backtrack a bit, but ultimately, found that kiosk. And determined that I had to buy a pass that’d cost me ten bucks (Canadian). This struck me as expensive. But on the other hand, it was still significantly cheaper than paying for a taxi.

The bus in question, the 747 (not to be confused with the jet, lol), had a stop not far from the ticket kiosk. So I got out there and soon enough was on my way.

It was awfully bright that morning, so I had my sunglasses on. This impacted my ability to look at things en route, but I did notice that Montreal was undergoing a lot of construction. Rather like Seattle, in that respect.

Once I was off the bus

The bus route was very straightforward: get on the bus at the airport, and get off the bus at its very last stop. So there was no risk of confusion or anything in that regard.

There was a bit of confusion as I was turned around regarding what street I was on once I was off the bus, but that was easily corrected. I found the Archambault (and the Lord Berri right beside it) as landmarks quickly enough. And that let me orient myself on the plan I had for the morning: go to a pharmacy a couple blocks north of the Archambault, then go to the Archambault, then go find something to eat, and finally, rendezvous with the shuttle.

On the way to the pharmacy (and back again, for that matter) I got panhandled in French. Or at least, one active panhandle and one attempt to see if I spoke French, but which I suspected was a panhandle. I was rather amused by that, just because being panhandled in a different language was at least a bit of a switch.

I was also deeply amused by this, which was not something I expected to see in Montreal.

Elvis imitateur? Qui savait? Pas moi!

Apparently, at least one Elvis impersonator is a big deal there. Ha!

The Archambault was the major errand I wanted to run (the pharmacy was just for necessities). And what I wanted was Tolkien things in French! I nabbed a French translation of The Silmarillion: this one, to be specific. And I bought the Blu-ray set of The Lord of the Rings movies again, but this time because this set actually had French dubs of all three movies. The US releases we’ve already bought–both the DVDs and the Blu-rays–do not have French dubs, which baffles the hell out of me. Portuguese, yes. French, no. To this day I do not for the life of me understand that particular marketing decision!

I amused the clerk at the counter telling him I wanted to practice my French by doing the reading, and by watching the French dubs of the movies. He tried to warn me that The Silmarillion is not exactly an easy book to follow. I assured him that I had read it repeatedly in English, so yes, I was very, very aware. ;D

I’m pretty sure I provided at least a bit of amusement of my own to passersby on the street, just because I was dragging my suitcase around behind me, with my backpack on top of it so I wouldn’t have the weight of it on my back. And of course, I also had my fiddle, which was what I was carrying on my back instead, since it was lighter than the backpack. This led to multiple conversations with people about how I was in the middle of a lot of travel and was on my way north for the next leg of my journey.

Finally I did make it to Juliette et Chocolat, which had been recommended to me on Facebook as a good source of brunch. And which, in fact, I was pretty sure I’d remembered going to in 2012. The brunch was in fact excellent. So was the dessert, a thing called “petit pot fleur de sel”, which was all chocolate-mousse-y and salted-caramel-y and gracious that thing was tasty.

Eventually I wandered around as much as I felt I was up for wandering around. Half of me really wanted to go to the Café des chats, one of Montreal’s cat cafes, but it was just a bit too far of a walk when I was hauling luggage around with me. So I finally just parked for a bit at the corner, sat in the shade, and hung out playing Gummy Drop on my iPad; while I was doing that, I had another random conversation with a gent amused by my stack of luggage.

That didn’t kill enough time, so I got up and wandered off again to go into a nearby coffeeshop for a cold beverage and a visit to a ladies’ room. And that accomplished, I came back again and finally found some folks waiting in a little cluster with violin cases and other luggage.

I’d found the Camp Violon Trad crowd!

Waiting for the shuttle

I discovered to my surprise that I was not actually the only person from the extended Seattle-area session crowd. One of the other ladies waiting for the shuttle was another Seattle person. So that was awesome to discover. 😀 Turned out we had a bit of a wait on our hands, once we greeted one another and exchanged names and such. None of us were particularly sure which corner the shuttle would be showing up on, or even what kind of vehicle we were looking for.

It was a good thing for me that there was public municipal wifi available, though, because that let me check my mail–and find an update sent out by the camp coordinator, Ghislaine, warning us that there had been a bit of a mixup as to vehicle rentals, and that there would be two drivers coming, but one was running late. Which ultimately meant that there’d be two cars for about six passengers, so we had to divide up who would ride with which driver.

The driver I rode with was a fellow named Luc. Who, as it turned out, is André Brunet’s cousin! He was very nice, and told me and the other two ladies riding with him that he taught English. The route he chose to take northward was a bit random, since he wanted to avoid the tunnel that runs underneath the St. Lawrence river, which is often very crowded. None of us minded, as it was a pleasant drive. I amused myself practicing reading signs we went past, as well as keeping up with the bilingual conversation going on in the car.

Once we made it to St-Côme, I was able to observe that it is a) tiny, and b) kind of adorable. The same applied to Plein Air Lanaudia, the site of Camp Violon Trad. There was a lovely lake there, a bunch of trees, and assorted chalets that we were all staying in.

But more on this in Part 3 of the trip report!

Quebecois Music

Quebec Trip 2017 Report, Part 1: Getting there

My grand Camp Violon Trad + Memoire et Racines Quebec adventure is sadly now concluded, but now at least I can have the fun of telling you all about it! So now let us begin the blogging!

I can’t give you a day-by-day report of every single thing that happened, though I took a bunch of notes in various forms throughout the trip, and I’ll be relying on those to write these posts. I did have wifi access at Violon Trad–but it was erratic and, well, I was kinda busy, so I didn’t try to do constant reporting of what was going on. So I took a bunch of notes instead on my phone and some in hand-written form as well.

This post is intro and will be all about just organizing to go on the trip!

Continue Reading

Quebecois Music

Andre Brunet Fiddle Workshop, March 2017!

(This post is a little overdue, as all of this went down a couple of weekends ago, and I didn’t really have the chance to sit down and write this out in full until now! Plus, there was a session to go to as well as questionable mammogram results that, thank all the universe’s powers, turned out to not be a problem after all. So let’s return to this post in progress and get this written up, shall we?)

Y’all may remember that last year in February, I had the distinct pleasure of getting to attend a workshop in Qualicum Beach, at which André Brunet spent a glorious weekend teaching a bunch of us how to play several tunes. Well, we all had such fun doing that last year that our hosts, the Beatons–not to mention André himself–decided we had to do it again.

And when I learned from Joyce Beaton that this was happening, I leapt RIGHT ALL OVER THAT. Because last year’s workshop was a huge influence on my decision to start taking official fiddle lessons! Plus it’s just such great glorious fun to hang out with a house full of musicians for a weekend, learning things and jamming.

Better yet: this year I brought Dara. 😀 Not to mention a whole pile of instruments.

All! The! Instruments!

All! The! Instruments!

(For those keeping score, the instruments in this picture are the General, my guitar; my as of yet unnamed fiddle; Silver, my flute with keys; my carbon fiber and blackwood whistles; and my quartet of carbon fiber flutes, the little D, the G, the A, and the big D.)

Continue Reading