September 19, 2018

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Winter event aims to warm spirits

Festival du Voyageur has doubled number of musical acts over the years

Faouzia (Facebook photo)</p>

Faouzia (Facebook photo)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/2/2018 (216 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When you think about Manitoba’s largest music festivals, there are a few that come to mind instantly: the Winnipeg Folk Festival, the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival and Dauphin’s CountryFest.

Somehow, the largest winter festival in North America — Festival du Voyageur — frequently gets left off that list despite holding the title for most music acts booked, at more than 150, on its 17 stages over the course of 10 days.

That number is twice the number of bands the festival booked just five years ago, and artistic producer Julien Desaulniers attributes the big increase to the length of the festival and spending a lot of its budget to book local acts.

“We do run two weekends, and we definitely support local music tremendously. We might not have the budgets of the bigger festivals, but how we make the most of our budget is by hiring locally and hiring quality and I think we have a pretty incredible scene right now,” Desaulniers says.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/2/2018 (216 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When you think about Manitoba’s largest music festivals, there are a few that come to mind instantly: the Winnipeg Folk Festival, the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival and Dauphin’s CountryFest.

Somehow, the largest winter festival in North America — Festival du Voyageur — frequently gets left off that list despite holding the title for most music acts booked, at more than 150, on its 17 stages over the course of 10 days.

That number is twice the number of bands the festival booked just five years ago, and artistic producer Julien Desaulniers attributes the big increase to the length of the festival and spending a lot of its budget to book local acts.

"We do run two weekends, and we definitely support local music tremendously. We might not have the budgets of the bigger festivals, but how we make the most of our budget is by hiring locally and hiring quality and I think we have a pretty incredible scene right now," Desaulniers says.

"For whatever reason, things are just coming together right now... everyone is working together, it seems like, and we’re just capitalizing on a fantastic scene that’s already existing."

Desaulniers says the growth of the music component of Festival du Voyageur was organic and not something he and his team specifically planned to accomplish — it was just this year they looked through past lineups and realized they had doubled the number of musical acts.

"It wasn’t a strategy or anything, it’s just the way it turned out, and it’s worked well," he says.

This year, headliners include Americana singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle — a show put on in partnership with folk fest — Klô Pelgag from Quebec, Sweet Crude out of New Orleans and local bilingual singer-songwriter Faouzia, who Desaulniers says is "carrying the torch" for the Franco-Manitoban music community.

"Faouzia is definitely setting the pace for the (French) community right now, she’s doing incredible work," he says.

Supplied</p><p>American singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle is a headliner at this year’s Festival du Voyageur.</p></p>

Supplied

American singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle is a headliner at this year’s Festival du Voyageur.

"Festival is a fantastic opportunity for artists to get discovered. Faouzia was discovered at Festival du Voyageur... and we’re growing with her. A few years ago we had her in a smaller tent, and as her career progressed and she got older, we put her in bigger tents and now she’s one of our headliners, so Festival is a great music incubator."

Capitalizing on that discovery aspect, there are also two Manitoba Music-run conferences occurring at the same time as Festival du Voyageur: Passport and Rame à la rencontre. The former is a new national program run with support from the federal government to do export training for artists and managers, and while it’s not technically connected to the festival, Passport was planned with it in mind, so attendees would be able to access a cultural event outside of the conference.

The latter is a francophone artist development residency which does run in partnership with Festival du Voyageur and includes a showcase of participating artists at the festival.

"I think Festival is the best backdrop to promote local music and if we’re looking to export our artists and get professionals talking about what Manitobans are doing in their music scene," Desaulniers says. "I think Festival is a natural fit."

As Festival du Voyageur becomes more anchored by its musical content — be it the expansion of the lineup or aligning itself with the conferences — it may seem as though the event is pulling away from the original intent, which has always been to showcase Franco-Manitoban history and culture.

Desaulniers offers his assurance that the festival will remain both a cultural and music festival.

"I think we can be both, and I really do think we mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and that’s fine," he says.

"Those that come for music, they come at night. Those who want that cultural experience, they’re coming during the day, and I think there’s room for everything because the point is just getting people together during the winter time," he says. "That’s the point, and we don’t want to throw labels on anything — we are a music festival and we are a cultural festival and we’re fine with that. At the end of the day... we want people to have a ­fantastic time, enjoy winter time and we want to get them out of the house and listening to music and learning about their heritage.

"I think we’re kind of nailing it, and it’s going well for us right now."

Festival du Voyageur kicks off Feb. 16 and runs until Feb. 25. Festival passes ($65) and day passes ($25) are available, as well as separate tickets for concerts at the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre. For more information, including festival schedules and to purchase tickets, visit heho.ca.

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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