Acadien Saturday Night
at Centre La Picasse,
Petit-de-Grat, Isle Madame, NS
(9 October 2004)

It was a wonderful night in this Acadien area of Isle Madame, off the southernmost tip of Cape Breton. This island, which has the fourth deepest harbor in the world, was settled in the 1750s by Acadien fishermen. Some descendants of these first settlers still live here.

It didn't take long for the foot-stomping and whooping to begin once Samantha Robichaud from New Brunswick took the stage. She has four CDs out, is a Maritime fiddle champion and has played at Carnegie Hall. These are amazing accomplishments for anyone -- especially for one who is only 17 years old. Her fiddling was amazing and she had a lovely singing voice as well. It was obvious she enjoyed playing as she swayed and moved with the music.

Robichaud played a nice array of tunes including a set of Scottish tunes, some Acadien tunes (but of course), a lovely Acadien song and "The Orange Blossom Special" -- that really got the crowd excited and more than warmed up for the musicians to follow. She left the stage to a standing ovation.

Next up were two Cape Breton musicians that made the locals very happy. Brent Aucoin, a third-generation fiddler from Cheticamp, was accompanied on keyboards by Robert Deveaux from Sydney Mines. Both played very well and kept the crowd's feet tapping away. It was obvious that Aucoin loved to play his fiddle as some of the sets were quite long, with transitions from one tune to the next. I found myself wishing there were more breaks in the tune sets and a lot more talking from Aucoin so we could know what tunes he played -- and to get to know him a bit more -- but he chose to let the music speak for him. Deveaux did most of the talking for the duo and spoke mostly in French. He said something very funny that had about half of the crowd in stitches and the other half wondering what was so funny. (I was in the other half.)

After the intermission, 2004 Juno winner Le Vent du Nord took the stage. This Quebec-based band includes Nicholas Boulerice (hurdy-gurdy, accordion, bodhran, piano, voice and foot tapping), Olivier Demers (fiddle, guitar, voice and foot tapping), Benoit Bourque (dance, accordion, bones, spoons, mandolin and voice) and Simon Beaudry (guitar and voice).

With their opening tune, "Au bord de la Fontaine," it immediately became evident they were going to take this night and the festival by storm. They played a mixture of songs from their current CD Maudite Moisson! and from their upcoming CD. Most songs and tunes were faster paced and induced (or was that seduced?) many to dance. Even during the few slower numbers during which the audience had a chance to catch its breath, many just could not stop dancing and did a waltz.

Borque showed his stepdancing skills and then led some of the audience in a Quebec-style line dance near the stage. Most of the dancers never went back to their seats while more of the crowd joined them in front of the stage. When I took a moment to peel my eyes away from the stage and look around at the crowd, they all had big grins and happy, sparkly eyes. Many looked like children who just that second opened a present they've been wanting for a long time. The band even made it difficult for me to do my job of jotting down notes for this review as I was wiggling in my seat and whooping with the rest of the crowd.

I loved the quality of Boulerice's voice -- it was full of energy and fun one moment and quite sensual the next as he sang lead on several different songs. "C'Est Dans Paris" was one of my favorites. Beaudry occasionally sang lead and has a wonderful voice as well. The entire group all harmonized seamlessly during songs that had the Quebec-style of call and response singing. Demers played fiddle, sang and tapped his feet on a piece of wood with a microphone on it. Bourque stepdanced and played a number of different accordions, bones, spoons, mandolin and mouth harp.

Le Vent du Nord's performance was intoxicating ... their music and energy crossed many cultural and language barriers as both the band and audience got lost in the music and were simply having fun and enjoying life.

It was a very memorable night in Petit-de-Grat. I will jump at the chance to go listen to some more Acadien music.

- Rambles
written by Erika S. Rabideau
published 5 February 2005

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