Quebecois Music

How to get a raging introvert with a flute to go to a PARTY

Yesterday, O Internets, I had the second most amazing musical experience of my entire year, thanks to the local Quebecois music crowd and the band Genticorum!

Picking up at roughly 2pm yesterday afternoon, workshop lessons hosted by Devon and Dejah Leger took place, with Genticorum’s fiddler Pascal Gemme leading a group in working on tunes. But since yours truly is not a fiddler, I got to corner Genticorum’s flute player, Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand, for a solo lesson! That was great. I’m coming to learn that flute players are pretty thin on the ground in Quebecois trad–apparently there’s Genticorum’s guy, and a woman in another group, and that’s about it at the moment. According to Alexandre’s bio, he’s leading a charge to establish a Quebec-style flute tradition, which for my money is awesome.

So I got to work with him for a couple of hours on two tunes, a jig and a reel, in the name of trying to exercise my ability to learn stuff by ear. I explained my musical background to him, i.e., six years in school band and being accustomed to learning stuff from sheet music, so I don’t have a mental link between hearing a tune being played and getting it quickly into my fingers. But I DID manage to more or less pick up the two tunes he played at me, as we broke them down into smaller pieces. And he had me record him playing them on my iPhone, so I could take them home and play more with them later. It was a bit of a challenge to hear him play given that there was a great big stomping herd of fiddle players in the other room, but we made it work! 😀

Once the lessons were done, though, it was time to head over to the Phinney Neighborhood Center for Genticorum’s concert. Dejah gave me a lift over so I could meet Dara there, and then Dara and I inhaled some dinner and hung out for a little bit playing our instruments and bellowing Great Big Sea songs. +10 to Dara though about making cracks about me needing to stop thinking in French long enough to shift back to playing the B’ys. Hee. *^_^*;;

The show itself, crowd-wise, was a bit more sedate than I’d have liked–this was a sit-down type crowd for the most part, generally older than Dara and me, but things got lively in the second set once Genticorum got the participatory stuff going. And while they’re not as much of a powerhouse on stage as Le Vent (which would be difficult without a hurdy gurdy), make no mistake, these boys are nimble of style, deft of vocals, and quite, quite funny. Alexandre is an excellent flutist (and a good fiddler and bass player, for that matter); Pascal has a distinctive hand on his fiddle AND showed fun variety of podorythmie style; and Yann, their guitarist, kept things moving nicely with his rhythm support.

ETA: Forgot to add the two funniest bits of the concert:

  • Yann teaching us the (all nonsense syllables) response line for one of the choruses, and all three guys expounding at length upon the power of that particular line of syllables in Quebec (“it comes with great responsibilities”, Yann informed us, and Alexandre added, “It’s also a great pickup line”). What really made me chortle, though, was Yann translating the line to “English” by singing the exact same syllables with an Americanized accent. *chortle*
  • Alexandre switching off to the bass, which prompted the other guys to expound upon how he came from a long line of five-string, electric, fretless bass players. “His great-great-grandmother played fretless bass…” Dara promptly threw up her hand in an appropriate R0XX0R gesture and got the band to HA! in her general direction.

The real fun of the evening, though, was the kitchen party after the show! I’ve been to a couple of sessions with the local Quebecois music crowd now, but this was another level of wild and awesome up beyond those–so well-attended a party that we had frequently had two distinct groups of musicians ripping their way through tunes going at the same time. I didn’t do an actual head count, but I’m pretty sure we had every fiddle player in Seattle stuffed into that house! There was at least one mandolin (spotted in the hands of the aforementioned Pascale)! There were at least three guitars! There was several accordions and a keyboard! There was a bouzouki (in the hands of my very own Dara!)! And there were two flute players, Alexandre and me, i.e., the one who knew what he was doing, and the one hanging out on the edges of the whirlwind of music and trying desperately to pick up anything by ear AT ALL!

(Which I did a couple of times, which kind of surprised me! I’m suspecting this is support for the theory I espoused to Alexandre, i.e., that lack of connection between hearing a certain sequence of notes and being able to immediately pick them out on the flute. MAN, I want to do this some more. I’ll have to play with the recording we made and see if I can nail down those two tunes, and then see how frisky I feel about trying to learn Alexandre’s ornamentations. 😀 He even asked me after the show if I was coming to Fiddle Tunes, which is a big week-long musical workshop, since he and Pascale are apparently both doing tutoring there–and MAN, if I hadn’t already allocated most of my vacation for the year to the Great Atlantic Canadian Adventure, I’d be seriously, seriously eying this.)

Surprise fun was had by Dara and me as well when Yann the guitarist chatted with us a bit! Dara’s bouzouki caught his eye, so they musicgeeked about that a bit, which led of course to Dara getting to describe Crime and the Forces of Evil and ‘rage-driven acoustic elfmetal’. THAT actually wound up leading to jokes about Elvis vs. Elvish and THAT led to jokes about Elvish Elvis impersonators, and–you know where this is going, people–THAT naturally led to me having to mention Faerie Blood, because Elessir a’Natharion demands nothing less. So I told Yann I had a Kickstarter going and he asked me for the link, and I showed him the cover art in progress and enthused about just getting to see all these fiddlers even if I wasn’t a fiddler myself, because then I could learn how to describe fiddle playing better in my prose. 😀

And here’s what else I wind up doing at these things when I hit the point of my brain being full and telling me SRY NO MORE TUNES FOR YOU RIGHT NOW PLZ–I start watching the stepdancers and trying to follow THAT. Because several women at the party jumped up to dance, and Yann was showing Dara and me and a couple other people how the steps worked, so I just had to try that too! It’s like podorythmie without a chair and holy crap that was fun.

Around 11:30 or so I reluctantly admitted to Dara that we should probably leave by midnight, just because I did have to work in the morning! I didn’t want to go, but y’know, work and stuff. Which was really almost the most amazing thing about it–actually wanting to stay at a party because what alien had taken over my brain, anyway? XD

We stayed long enough for a little show on a cranky, in honor of Genticorum, while a fiddler and a guitarist whose names I have sadly forgotten performed one of the waltzes the boys had recorded. Which was a lovely, lovely way to make our exit.

And now that I have experienced an actual Quebec-style kitchen party with actual Quebecois musicians, I gotta say: That. Was. AWESOME. All I gotta do now is experience a proper Newfoundland-style kitchen party, to compare. For SCIENCE! \0/

In conclusion: all of you should go buy Genticorum’s albums too, when you’re done buying Le Vent du Nord! 😀 Many, many thanks to those boys for their awesome show, to Alexandre for the superb lesson, to the Legers for hosting the lessons, to Valerie for arranging the concert, and to Julia for hosting the after-party!

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