A new spin on French tradition

Quebec's Mélisande part of francophone music contingent at 2017 Festival du Voyageur


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More than 150 artists on 17 stages over 10 days — while music isn’t the main focus of Festival du Voyageur, it certainly plays a large part.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/02/2017 (2180 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

More than 150 artists on 17 stages over 10 days — while music isn’t the main focus of Festival du Voyageur, it certainly plays a large part.

The annual winter festival kicks off today and, as usual, the musical lineup is bursting with local francophone and anglophone talent representing all genres.

Opening night features everyone from indie-pop artist Micah Visser and Celtic punk band the Dust Rhinos to the kings and queens of soul, the Retro Rhythm Review.

Along with the Manitoba acts, a handful of imported artists will also perform, including Quebec electro-trad group Mélisande, who will play Voyageur Park’s Sugar Shack next week, on Feb. 24, and bring with them their sophomore record, which is set to be released in early March.

The core duo of the band, namesake Mélisande Gélinas-Fauteux and her “partner in crime,” Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand, merge traditional Québécois music with elements of electro and pop.

Their new record, Les millésimes (translated to “the vintages”), has a unique concept — it’s a collection of carefully curated traditional French songs the pair have designated with a vintage, based on the year in which the source versions they used were recorded.

“If, for example, the version we listened to that made us want to do that song was in 1942, we gave the song the millésimes 1942,” says Gélinas-Fauteux. “Like good wines, we like to say good songs age well, so that’s kind of the whole concept of the album, to apply that principle to songs, rather than to wine.”

To cement that theme, numerous tracks on the 11-song record include references to wine, including the opener, Plantons La Vigne (millésimes 1576), which explores the tradition of vine-planting in the wine regions of France. Gélinas-Fauteux pulled lyrics from two sources, while Grosbois-Garand “modified the melody and composed a piece of mouth music and petit reel to go along with it.”

As part of their research, the pair spent some time in francophone archives at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., after Gélinas-Fauteux won the Henry Reed Award, which provided a small stipend to “support activities directly involving folk artists, especially when the activities reflect, draw upon or strengthen the collections of the American Folklife Center,” which is in the Library of Congress.

From there, they also listened to and selected material from the archives of the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., and the Université Laval.

Once their collection was complete, they began the process of recreating and rearranging the traditional songs, morphing them into exciting, multi-layered pop-influenced interpretations.

“There’s no non-groovy song,” says Gélinas-Fauteux, laughing.

“Alex is very good at arranging songs… I would choose a song and say, ‘I want to do that song’ — we say it’s arrangements, but it’s mainly, I think, composition as well, because for the melody sometimes we have to recreate part of it, or even create it, so it’s more like creation.

Albert Zablit photo Mélisande Gélinas-Fauteux (right) and Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand

“But Alex is very good and very inspired, and does an arrangement that is super-cool,” she says of her musical partner.

“We went to the team that were producing the album and they would build on our ideas. It’s funny how the two songs they were uncertain about ended up being their favourite songs,” she continues. “So we had conversations sometimes about what we wanted — it’s just a matter of convincing other people that this is the right thing or that yes, it can be done, so it was a very, very cool process…

“It turned out to be something we are really proud of. We’re very happy and we cannot wait to release it to the world.”

Festival du Voyageur begins today and runs until Feb. 26. All schedules, ticket information and festival site hours can be found at heho.ca.


Twitter: @NireRabel

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