Quebecois Music

My first Quebecois session: Incroyable!

Tonight, O Internets, I participated in my very first “Chanson et langue” group and Quebecois session at the home of La Famille Léger. And I am here to tell you that that was unmitigated, 100%, home-grown organic AWESOME!

(This post is long, so clickie on the cut link for the evening’s adventures!) (And I need, NEED I TELL YOU, a suitable podorythmie icon now for Quebecois music posts, at least the mirrored ones y’all on Dreamwidth and LJ are seeing. It needs to say My Fandom Wears the Smiling Boots on it. I need this icon like the BURNING OF A THOUSAND FIERY SUNS! Until I have it, I will have to make do with hugely grinning Elvis!)

Part one of the evening’s great fun was the song and language group. Led by Dejah Léger, we worked on translating and then singing the lyrics to the Le Vent du Nord song C’est une jeune mariée. If you just listen to this song without knowing French, it sounds very light and jaunty. Nicolas Boulerice sings it on the high end of his range, and the other Le Vent boys are backing him up with sweet-sounding harmonies, so melody-wise it’s this lovely perky thing that you imagine singing in the summertime at a dance.

And then you translate the lyrics and learn that it’s actually about a housewife who apparently has quite a few issues with her housework, since she winds up milking the chicken instead of the cow, and trust me when I say you do not want to know where she was churning the butter. Let’s just say the cat has significant cause to be cranky at this housewife. Muahaha.

It helped our group a great deal that the lyrics had been transcribed for us, not only the actual readable words–but also a phonetic rendering to give us all a decent idea of how to actually pronounce those words. We discussed the differences in vowel sounds (and especially how it’s important for Americans trying to sing these songs to pay attention to ‘le’ versus ‘la’, to which I will also add that you really need to pay attention to the difference between ‘la’ and ‘là’ as well), and how eliding works.

Then we sang! A couple of the actual French speakers in the group took turns doing the lead singing while the rest of us sang the responses. This part was great fun. One of the many big draws for me with Quebecois music is the whole call and response aspect, and if you’re going to learn these songs, the best way to do it is in a big group where you can get that call and response going. I was not brave enough to try to do the calling myself, though apparently I had the easiest time with some of the more complex rhythms in the very last verse. (You’d think I’d already been listening to this song a lot on my Francophone Favorites playlist or something!)

Once we were done, Dejah called for suggestions for next songs to try. I threw in a plug for “Dans la ville de Paris”, since I love the hell out of that one as the Charbonniers sing it. <3

Then a lot more people showed up and the session proper got started. This was a significantly bigger session than the tiny one I've been going to in Renton, and for the most part it was a lot livelier as well. I could not play along for the most part since I don't know the tunes yet–but I did ask for "La maison de glace", one of the first ones I've been trying to learn. And I recognized "Le reel du Pointe-au-Pic", because I've got that on a La Bottine Souriante album!

So since I couldn't play along, I did wind up mutter-singing along since I can pick up tunes by ear vocally better than I can on an instrument so far. And this was, after all, Quebecois music. So I was hanging out over there in the corner mutter-singing a lot of “tay-da-da-diddle-um-days”.

But. But. But. I ALSO DID PODORYTHMIE! Several other people were regularly getting the footwork going, which was exciting! A lady sitting next to me had a board and she kept at the footwork a lot as she played her fiddle. And there was a board in the center of the circle as well, on which several of the women present danced. So I got in on the podorythmie some, figuring that if I couldn’t contribute actual playing along yet (which I was sad about especially given that I was the only flute player in the room), I would by gods contribute feet!

And oh my giddy aunt, that was hard. I was trying very hard to remember what Monsieur Olivier Demers says in the YouTube video where he is doing a footwork demonstration at a Le Vent concert–that it’s important to not try too hard. You don’t really want to seriously stomp. But getting it going correctly does also require some measure of physical coordination as well as energy. I couldn’t do it on all of the reels; I kept having to take breaks. But it was huge, huge fun to get three of us over in the corner going with our feet all at once. / My legs are going to be sore in the morning, but it was every bit worth it!

On the way out I had the pleasure of a conversation with Devon Leger as well, who let me snap a quick pic of the lyrics to one of the songs on the new La Bottine Souriante album, since he has a physical copy and mine is digital. He heartily endorsed a few more albums I need to pick up, and even gave me an extra copy of one album to take home! I bid everyone a delighted “bonsoir”, offered up the Murkworks as a potential hosting site for further language/session goodness, and came home grinning like mad.

This will be happening again. SOON. Watch this space for further Quebecois session reports, all! And merci beaucoup à tous, for all of you who are reading this who attended the session tonight!

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