And now, finally, back to my trip report about going to Quebec for Camp Violon Trad and Memoire et Racines! In the last post, I talked about the locale and scenery of where the camp was held. In this post, I’ll talk about what we actually did! Or at least some of what we did, because there was a lot, and that’ll stretch across multiple posts.
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.
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!
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.
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!
As I’ve already written about several times on my blog, it’s always a pleasure to hear Le Vent du Nord perform–although this time, it was on a seriously rainy Wednesday night at the Rogue. Yet the loyal fans filled the place nonetheless!
This time too we actually were without Olivier Demers. If you’ve been following my posts and have seen my earlier Le Vent concert posts, you know Olo’s my favorite of all the members of the group! (And I’m not just saying that because he follows me on Facebook and therefore might actually read this. Auquel cas je dois dire SALUT OLO!)
But this time he had to stay home, due to having a death in his family. 🙁 He posted to his Facebook wall that his father had passed away just a couple of days before the show. (And I was simultaneously very sad to hear the news and a bit relieved to have been warned about it in advance, because if I’d shown up without knowing M. Demers wouldn’t be on hand, I would have been even sadder!)
So Le Vent had to pull in Jean-François Gagnon Branchaud as emergency backup fiddler. If you know Quebecois trad, you may well recognize his name as one of the two fiddlers currently playing with La Bottine Souriante, who also sings some lead on La Bottine’s last album. And if you know La Bottine, you know that anybody who plays for them is guaranteed to bring their A game to a stage. Jean-François did not disappoint, and so even though we all missed Olivier, it was still a delightful show!
Let’s get down to the details, shall we?
I have written upon many occasions about Le Vent du Nord, and in particular about how every single one of those boys ranks very high on my list of musicians for whom I’ll buy ANYTHING they produce. And I would do this no matter what was on those albums. Olivier Demers accorde son violon? I’d buy that! Quarante-cinq minutes de la basse de Réjean Brunet? Gimme! Simon Beaudry chante dans le douche? Sign me the HELL up.
Given my documented partiality, therefore, it’ll surprise exactly none of you that I jumped all over Nicolas Boulerice’s new solo release, Maison de bois.
If you know Le Vent du Nord, you know that M. Boulerice is the lead singer, hurdy-gurdy player, and piano player. If you’ve seen my prior album and show reviews for this band, you know in particular that he is a master of the hurdy-gurdy, and provoked my Dara into using the phrase “bitchin’ metal hurdy-gurdy solo”. The rich character of his voice and his dynamic hurdy-gurdy playing are a huge part of Le Vent’s overall sound, and therefore a huge part of what cemented my fandom of them in the first place.
It is important to note straight up, though, that you should not expect Maison de bois to sound like a Le Vent du Nord album.
Prior Le Vent releases do hint at what you’ll find on this album, mind you. On Tromper le temps, there’s a track called “Dans les cachots” that gives you a very good preview of the overall flavor of Maison de bois: Nico’s vocals standing on their own, with a stark, emotive aspect to them that a singer of traditional music doesn’t necessarily always have a chance to display, especially if he’s in a band renowned for being upbeat and lively. I’m still enough of a beginner at French that I can’t follow his lyrics without seeing them written out (and I’m not seeing lyrics on Nico’s Bandcamp page, drat), but I can tell you that the songs we get in this release are introspective and thoughtful of tone. I can easily imagine them sung in a smoky nightclub in a noir film.
Instrumentally, we have no hurdy-gurdy here. But we do have plenty of piano, and like the vocals, the piano aims for an overall introspective timbre. Which is not to say it’s understated–because as with the singing, the piano covers a broad range of expression, from quiet, delicate accents to more powerful chords. Other instruments from the backup musicians make appearances as well: some light percussion, a bit of bass, even a nicely muted trumpet on “Avec toi” (which is I think the song that sounded most to me like it should be sung in a smoky nightclub).
The backup vocals are likewise lightly handled. Accustomed as they are to hearing Nico singing with the Le Vent boys, my ears found it a bit odd to hear him harmonizing with a woman–but Mia Lacroix’s voice blended beautifully with his, and so her presence on the album stood out the most for me among the backup musicians in the credits on the Bandcamp page.
Overall, if you’re a Le Vent fan, this album is definitely required listening, just so that you can get a true sense of what Nicolas Boulerice is capable of with his vocals. It’s a refreshing change of pace, albeit one best suited for when you want your music to be moody and quiet. Because as much as I love Le Vent du Nord’s skill at making me want to get up and dance (or play!), sometimes I just want to kick back and listen. And this release has much to reward a thoughtful listener.
Maison du bois is available on Bandcamp. (I will update this post if I find other places you can buy it!)
And now, O Internets, the second to last post of my Victoria and Cumberland vacation series–in which Dara,
Previously in this particular adventure, Dara and I saw Le Vent in Victoria! And then we explored a bunch of rocks before Dara sang that night! And then we explored Cumberland and sang some more!
It’s truly fitting that we wound up the trip with one hell of a gig out of les gars. Because don’t get me wrong, you guys–I enjoyed the symphony show immensely, but even after only four shows’ worth of experience, I’m here to tell you that the best way to enjoy Le Vent du Nord is in a tiny, cozy venue. Preferably front row center. With a MAMMOTH.
I made absolutely no secret of how crushed I was, Internets, when I missed Le Vent du Nord’s Oregon show this past November. And I was quite disappointed as well when the symphony show in Vancouver was cancelled.
But tonight, I am thrilled to report that the show at Hermann’s Jazz Club in Victoria, BC, completely and utterly made up for both of these things. It was short but tight, and a truly intimate little show. And OMG YOU GUYS, Dara and I managed to snag a table right smack in front of the stage!
Clickie for the in-depth show report goodness!