Fire, wind, and history from Québec: Le Vent du Nord

The Canadian province of Québec has its own style of music in just about every genre from jazz to classical to pop. The traditional music of the province holds a distinctive sound which has evolved from the intertwining of musics carried by settlers from several parts of France, especially Brittany and Normandy, with music from settlers from Ireland, Scotland, and England

quebec canada le vent du nord music

Like parts of the musics played in its ancestral countries, Québécois music often comes with rhythms appropriate for dancing, and is often played for just that purpose. Though often times there are light hearted lyrics to go along with that sort of feeling, the music of Québec has lent itself to storytelling and history, too. Those are just the sort of songs the men of Le Vent du Nord decided to choose as the focus for their album La Part Du Feu.

Not that the music is not lively: there’s more than one piece that’s just fine for spirited dancing or at least a bit of stamping feet and clapping hands. You would hardly expect otherwise from a group which has rocked out audiences from the after hours festival club at the Celtic Colours Festival on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in Scotland, and whose albums have ben recognized by Canadian Folk Music and Juno awards. Nicolas Boulerice. Olivier Demers, Simon Beaudry, and Réjean Brunet form a tight knit band of friends whose work is as adventurous as it is traditional. Both aspects come in to play on La Part du Feu.

“Through traditional songs we discover pieces of our history,” says Boulerice, a founding member of the band who plays accordion, piano, and hurdy gurdy. The song Octubre 1837 talks of an uprising in French Canada that changed the way the French and British thought of each other in the province, he points out. It was inspired by a personal connection to the history: the house where Boulerice lives now was a place where soldiers from one of the battles of this times stayed for a while. La Mine is a traditional song, a sorrowful one about a mine disaster which has been handed down across the years. Band members learned it from a recording of a singer in New Brunswick. A traditional song called Lanlaire, from the nineteenth century, is paired with a newly composed reel derived from it music by Olivier Demers. Montcalm, one of Canada’s oldest songs, was written by that general after the battle of Carillon in 1758. Mamzelle Kennedy carries on another Quebec and Celtic tradition of writing tunes to honor friends: it is a newly composed piece in honor of irish flutist and composer Nuala Kennedy.

Fiddle, guitar, mandolin, accordion, bouzouki, bass, violin, and even not so traditional saxophone, sousaphone, and trombone show up on the pieces, along with several types of percussion, played mainly by band members, with a few special guests along including André Brunet and Patrick Graham. The songs are from Québec, Acadia, and the Maritimes, going back long centuries through the tradition and reaching up until the present with music recently written. “On this album, we wanted to show that this music can tell us about who we are as Québécois,” says Réjean Brunet. Indeed, it does that, and sheds new light of Québec’s history to those beyond the borders of the province as well.

Update: You may also want to know about Le Vent du Nord’s recent album Territoires, in which they continue to explore and reimagine traditions and stories of Quebec.

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