Quebecois Music

Le Vent du Nord Symphonique album review!

Here’s another thing I’m going to do a whole separate post about from this week’s Vancouver goodness: while I was up there, I made a very specific point of ducking into the HMV in downtown Vancouver, my current only source for Quebecois music when I go up there. And much to my pleasure, they had the one remaining Le Vent du Nord album I didn’t have yet: Symphonique, which is Le Vent du Nord pretty much doing a full concert backed up by the Quebec Symphony Orchestra! As both a newly minted LVN fangirl and a piccolo player who still has very fond memories of her high school days in concert band and wind ensemble, it’s my beholden duty to do a proper review post of this album.

I have only minor quibbles with it, and they mostly have to do with the mixing of the LVN instruments vs. those of the orchestra behind them. As a casual listener it’s not clear to me what the musical intent here is: whether LVN should be seamlessly blending with the orchestra, or whether you should still be able to distinguish, oh, say, Olivier Demers’ violin vs. the violin section in the orchestra. It’s easier with Nicolas Boulerice on the hurdy gurdy, since the sound is so distinctive. But I frequently lost M. Demers’ violin against the rest of them, as well as his footwork. In some places as well, such as in “Rosette”, the boys’ vocals were a bit overwhelmed by the orchestra.

And I’ll say right out that although I adore “Cre-mardi”, and while the orchestra did perfectly decent punctuation to the rhythm of the song, it just didn’t sound nearly as awesome as when it’s done as a proper crowd-rousing foot-stomper–like in this video right over here! That song right there is very specifically why I want to see LVN live, since it’s so far their liveliest, audience-participation-iest song, and I am quite prepared to hey-up-a-diddle-um-day-da right back at ’em. 😉

But really, these are fairly minor quibbles. On several of these tracks, the orchestra actually blends quite beautifully with the band. The instrumentals in particular are awesome: “L’heure bleue”, and “Petit reve III”. On those tracks, they achieve the exact right balance between the band’s instruments and the orchestra’s. “Elise” and “Les amants du Saint-Laurent” work well as examples of tracks where the orchestra enhances the overall flavor of the song, and where they don’t overwhelm the band’s vocals.

Also, I have to give the album mad props just for being the only current recorded version of Simon Beaudry singing “Vive l’amour”, since the studio version of this song was done before he joined the band. And on LVN’s previous live album, Mesdames et messieurs, they brought back the original guy who sang lead on that track for that performance!

And while we’re on the topic of M. Beaudry, his other major song on this album is “Lanlaire”, which as y’all know I’m already strongly partial to. So I made a point of listening more closer to this song than several of the others–and I do quite like the drum strikes in the background on the second verse. Well done back there, timpani player! And since I’m trying to commit M. Demers’ nameless bridge/outro bit to memory, I also noted that the orchestra did not fully accompany him on those parts, but they did echo him on several passages nicely. There’s some nice swooping from the strings back there, too.

Someone–either M. Demers or else a soloist from the violin section, it’s not clear to me which since it’s not called out in the liner notes, and I don’t know the original studio version well enough to say for certain yet–has a nice bit in the middle of the second to the last track: “Octobre 1837”. In the bridge in the middle, the performer does some tricky-sounding descending syncopation with his fiddle on top of the rest of the instruments, and gets some well-deserved applause right in the middle of the song after that. Well done there, whoever you were!

M. Boulerice fares the best out of the band in the overall mix, I think. His voice is more powerful than M. Beaudry’s, so he stands out better against the orchestra–and for that matter, so does his hurdy gurdy. (Also: as a former symphonic band student, I have to just giggle my head off at the mental image of the first chair of the hurdy gurdy section. But really, do you need more than one? XD )

Checking the liner notes on the album, I see that Airat Ichmouratov was apparently doing the conducting of the orchestra, and I see a total of 23 violin players, 8 viola players, 8 cellists, 5 double basses, two flutes (woo! flute section represent! And one of them’s a piccolo player! / ), two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, two trombones, one low trombone, one tuba, one timpani, two people on general percussion, and one harpist. So that’s 67 people, a pretty good-sized orchestra! I am now definitely curious about whether they’ve got some recordings of their own, and I may need to seek them out.

All in all I’m very pleased to have found a copy of this album and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the band. In several ways I actually like this performance better than the other live album, just because the orchestral angle is of more musical interest to me–though if LVN ever do a rowdier live album, I’ll be much more interested in that!

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