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About Me, Quebecois Music

2017, are you TRYING to give me emotional whiplash?

This past Monday I had my annual mammogram.

This afternoon, Dara alerted me that Evergreen had left me a message on our home answering machine asking me to call them. This is not normal procedure when a mammogram goes well. I got through to them after a couple of tries, and was informed by their staffer that their radiologists want me to come in for an ultrasound of my left side.

Doublechecking my January 2013 posts, I am reminded that this is not the first time I’ve had a questionable mammogram. In 2013, they told me they saw teeny calcifications on the left side, and after they did a biopsy, they told me it was fine.

I am nervous now, four years later, to be informed that they want an ultrasound of that same side. So now I am scheduled to go back in for an ultrasound, on Wednesday of next week, and I get to be nervous about this until then.

I will now be doggedly focusing on trying to be the least amount of nervous I can manage, because goddammit, cancer, I do not have time for your shit. I have writing to do. I have tunes to learn. And I have a fiddle to learn how to play better.

Especially because goddammit I am going to Quebec this summer, for Camp Violon Trad, as I’ve been wanting to do for ages now. Dara and I are beginning a plan for her to meet up with me after the camp is done, for Memoire et Racines, which I’ve been wanting to go back to ever since the brief and awesome time we had there in 2012. We’re discussing the possibility of meeting up with Vicka there, even.

And I have a lot riding on this, you guys. Because not only is Violon Trad run by two of my favorite Quebec musicians–André Brunet and Éric Beaudry, along with their colleague Stéphanie Lépine–this is going to be the 10th anniversary of the camp, which is sure to make it extra epic this year.

Pretty much guaranteeing that it will be epic: ALL FOUR MEMBERS OF LE VENT DU NORD WILL BE GUEST TEACHERS.

Which means, Internets, that I’m going to be at a music camp that will contain André Brunet (from whom I have already had the pleasure of a couple of excellent workshops, now), Éric Beaudry (because BOY HOWDY do I want to spend multiple days learning guitar from this man, YES PLEASE), AND Olivier Demers (who, as y’all may recall, I dubbed the Best Fiddle Player Ever).

I am not remotely ready to tackle playing the fiddle in a full-bore week-long camp like Violon Trad–I’ll be going for the guitar classes, mostly. But I will also be bringing at least some flutes. And now that I actually do own the fiddle I’ve been renting (I bought it because woo! promotion and bonus!), along with a bow that doesn’t suck, I will ALSO be taking that fiddle to try to at least learn SOMETHING.

Because why yes an opportunity to learn tunes from Olivier Demers will make up for how I haven’t seen Le Vent perform in over a year, and I haven’t seen them perform with Olivier for over two years.


Han says NO.

Han says NO.

TAKE THAT, questionable mammogram results. >:|


Going to Fiddle Tunes!

This summer I will be doing a first for me: going to a musical workshop camp! Specifically, I’m going to Fiddle Tunes!

“But Anna,” I hear you cry, “you’re not a fiddle player!” This is true! But I am a guitarist, and there are several guitarists that will be teaching at this camp. Most notably, André Marchand!

If you know anything about Quebecois music at all, you may know this man’s name. At minimum, if you know anything about La Bottine Souriante, you’ve very likely heard him. He’s a veteran of the genre, with a long history with La Bottine and later with Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer. He also has recorded with flautist Grey Larsen, is one third of the trio Le Bruit Court Dans La Ville (all of whom will also be at Fiddle Tunes!), and has recorded with a few of the other Charbonniers gentlemen under the name Les Mononcles as well.

While my blatant fangirling is reserved for Le Vent du Nord and De Temps Antan, my general musical respect for the Quebecois trad genre owes a lot to Monsieur Marchand. He’s an excellent singer–several of my repeat-play La Bottine and Charbonniers tracks are things he sings lead on. But he’s also a fine guitarist, and I feel I would be entirely bonkers crazypants to pass up a chance to learn from him.

Bonus: my pal Dejah will also be there, and she will in fact be acting as M. Marchand’s assistant, providing translation assistance to help jump the language barrier. And a bit of a musical barrier as well, since Francophones use a system of scales oriented around “do re mi fa so la ti do”–so what an English speaker thinks of as the key of C, a French speaker’s going to be calling the key of do. D becomes re, E becomes mi, and so on.

I am very much looking forward to tackling this. Not only for exposure to a different way of thinking about musical scales, not only for a chance to learn from a veteran of the Quebecois trad genre (and maybe get in a bit of practice listening to someone speak French), but in general to just be able to sit down with people who know what they’re doing and improve my general ability to play. I feel like I’ve gone about as far as I can on my own, as a self-taught guitarist who just likes to doink around with the instrument. Talking to skilled musicians and learning from them will open up all sorts of new and exciting things to practice!

I’ll also be taking my carbon fiber flutes and the good whistle, mind you–because if any all-melody-instrument tunes sessions break out, I want to be prepared to practice learning those, too. And there will be some organization of participants into bands, too! So maybe somebody will want a flute or a whistle. 😀

These musical shenanigans will be taking place in the last week of June, and will be taking place out in Port Townsend in Washington–which is the other reason I want to go to this thing. It’s a camp I can get to by car. And since I won’t need to get on a plane, I can bring the General.

Because if I’m going to learn from a veteran of the Quebec trad genre, better believe I want to bring the good guitar!

SO EXCITED. This is going to be huge fun. Y’all may expect I’ll report on the experience in depth!


What I can do with a guitar

As I have previously squeed about, O Internets, I just had a delightful time scampering up to BC again to see De Temps Antan! This time though there were specific opportunities to make musical noises myself in a house that happened to contain three of my favorite musicians–even aside from André’s workshop, there was also the after-concert session, and I did in fact wind up making noises on both my flutes and my guitar.

Trust me when I tell you that the prospect of making musical noises of my own in any room that contains these boys is simultaneously deeply exciting and nerve-wracking! I’m comfier on my flutes since those are my native instrument–so that did help. And so did the knowledge that I had the General with me. Because you better believe that if I was going to show up in Éric Beaudry’s proximity with a guitar, I was going to bring the good guitar.

Not that I actually played in the same room as Éric, and I don’t really have enough play-by-ear fu yet to be the backup guitar for a full roaring session. But I did wind up hanging out in one of the other rooms while I was chatting with Aussie Ian, and noodled around a lot on various songs I know. Because as will surprise none of you, I get the General in my hands, I start playing Great Big Sea.

And if you want to have an idea of what else I’m likely to do with a guitar in my hands, here now though is a roundup of Stuff I Can Do With the Guitar.

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Quebecois Music

In which Anna figures out how to play Au rang d’aimer!

I’ve been spending quite a bit of my musical time on tunes from the Quebecois repertoire, but every so often I get to remind myself that actually, y’know? I also play guitar. Especially when I hear a song like the delicious “Au rang d’aimer” by La Bottine Souriante, which I’ve been swooning over for ages. It’s pulled hard into the lead to become the first song from Quebec that I’ve been able to figure out how to play and sing at the same time, properly!

I used the Chord Detector app I’ve got on my iPhone to get an initial idea of the chords. Now, the app ain’t perfect, and I find that when I throw a song at it, it’s usually good for giving me the general ballpark–the right key and several of the right base chords. But then I need to go in and finesse it and figure out things like strum patterns, and where to plug in chords that might be missing.

This song’s delightful to play with, just because it requires a more delicate strum pattern than I’m used to playing. (‘Cause hi, right, I’m the girl used to playing the sorts of chords that are better fitting to boinging around the living room, playing along with the Great Big DVD and belting out “Mari Mac” at the top of your lungs, NOT THAT I DO THAT OR ANYTHING!) Don’t quote me on the key, but I think we’re dealing with D mix here. There’s a lot of F, D, Em, and G, with periodic loverly little bits of Em7 and C. And I THINK there’s an Am that pops in as a transition chord between D and Em on the third line of the verses, but I’m not a hundred percent sure of that.

Note also, if you play with these chords, the first and fifth verses start with D->G->D->G, but the rest of them go F->Em->D->G, as near as I can tell. Because the first and fifth ones are coming after the intro and bridge, and starting them with D instead of F makes the chord flow work better.

I’ve got the overall strum pattern down, though, I think! And I’ve even managed to memorize the words, and for the most part I even know what they mean–though there’s a line in the fourth verse that goes “C’était un soir un facsillant, en courtisant sa mise”, and for the life of me I haven’t been able to figure out what the hell “facsillant” means. My google fu fails me. So did asking the La Bottine Souriante Facebook group I’m on, though one nice person from Quebec says she thinks it’s maybe an Old French word. Which would explain why Google Translate has no earthly idea what it means, and why I can’t find it in any of my usual online dictionary sources, either.

(Any French speakers out there who recognize this word, you want to clue me in, I’d be much obliged! I have even taken the drastic step of pinging the excellent gentleman who sings it, Éric Beaudry himself, to see if he can enlighten me. Given that I tried that in French, we’ll see if I managed to do so coherently. I make no guarantees. *^_^*;;)

Anyway though, here, lookit! I made a thing! This is a snippet of me playing with the chord progression, on the General, my big guitar (the Taylor 210). If you listen to the actual recording of the song (and you should, because goddamn, it’s pretty), there’s some mandolin in there. So I could make a case to myself for playing this on my little Ti-Jéan instead, but I dunno yet, the General’s deeper voice has a certain nice flavor to it too. Clearly, I shall have to try it on both instruments!

Every so often, I feel like I actually can play guitar. Tonight is one of those nights!


Chibi session tonight

It’s kind of lulzy that userinfotechnoshaman, userinfosolarbird, and I made a point of doing a bit of session practice this weekend–because it turned out that the session tonight was just us and Annie! Our usual session leader was off busy playing with these guys at the Tractor Tavern tonight, so we had to make do with just us four!

But it was all good. Annie was technically our session leader but we took it really casually and just took turns picking things to play. This wound up meaning that Annie, being the one who knew various actual tunes, focused on those while Dara, Glenn, and I mostly chose the GBS ditties we knew and a couple of the other non-GBS things from Jam as well: “Elf Glade” and “Pirate Bill and Squidly”. The biggest reaction we got from the crowd in the bar though was the last thing we did: “Last Saskatchewan Pirate”. That got a big ol’ roar of approval, and that was very cool. 😀

Y’all remember though how I said that at last week’s session, the guys at the bar let me have one of my drinks for free?

This time they let Dara and me eat for free, so I only had to fork over for my two Irish creams. Dara and I have been paid for making public music with tasty foods! WOO!

Hopefully next time we’ll be back up to a more normal size of group, but in the meantime I’m clearly going to have to check out Matt’s band. See previous commentary re: that dude can PLAY.


Session homework FTW!

I’ll say this for the session that userinfosolarbird and I have started attending: I haven’t been this inspired to start working on learning new stuff to play in ages. Playing with a group of people who are all very clearly not only comfortable with the material they’re playing but also in several cases comfortable with switching off between diverse instruments is a new experience for me! And the pressure is on for me to step up my game. Noodling around on my guitar in the living room is all well and good. But I’ve come to the realization that it had stopped being really challenging; I can noodle around without thinking about it.

I am ready for something more, and I hadn’t really realized this until I was called upon to play “Lukey” at last week’s session. I’ve been hit upside the head with a resurgence of the same feeling I got in the very earliest days of my Great Big Sea fandom, to wit: THIS. I WANT TO DO THIS.

Where by “this”, I mean, “play this type of music along with people who are as engaged by it as I am!”

For the first time I finally have a reason to start looking through these various songbooks I’ve got–in particular, the Celtic Guitar book, the Irish flute book, and the guitar fakebook. In which I found proper sheet music, including chords, for both “Drowsy Maggie” and “Morrison’s Jig”! I don’t appear to have “Road to Lisdoonvarna”, but a quick Google pointed me here, which more than served the purpose. (Although I’m not a hundred percent sure about that AF#m–Dara says that’s just an inversion of an F#m chord, so I can work with that, sure.)

All of this of course was leading up to the fact that I’ve got multiple recordings of both “Drowsy Maggie” and “Morrison’s Jig”, and in particular, those of you who are fans of Heather Alexander or her Heir, Alexander James Adams, will recall that on the album Insh’allah, there’s a kickass set of Road, Morrison’s, and Maggie all tearing right through one another.

Tonight, ladies and gents, I more or less played along with it! I say “more or less” mostly because I just need to memorize these chords. But you know what’s awesome? Being able to play rhythm guitar along with AJA ripping away on his fiddle. Even if it IS just a recording.

And then jumping over to The Fables on a recording of theirs that ALSO paired up Morrison’s and Maggie was fun, too–since their style was significantly different, it meant I needed to play around a bit with how to strum in support.

Altan’s got a recording with Maggie in it, but they don’t line it up with Morrison’s, they’ve got it instead with “Rakish Paddy” and “Harvest Storm”. Yet here too the style was significantly different.

I came out of this pretty sure I’ll properly recognize “Drowsy Maggie” now, anyway! And a few more times playing it, I should have it down cold.

Something else I’ll need to consider, too: I’ve been mostly a guitarist the last few years, but I’m also a goddamn flute player, and I want to remind myself of that! However, my piccolo ain’t exactly in keeping with the overall idea of an Irish session, so I’m thinking I’ll have to break out the bamboos instead. Most likely Jade, who’s in E minor, and Sparrow, who’s in G (which will also let me cover D), but possibly also Sorrel, who’s in A minor.

I look forward to the Bringing of It next week. 😀 Session homework FTW!