Tomorrow night we are collaborating with the 100 Mile Arts Network initiative of Theatre Wakefield to bring you an evening of music and more from West Quebec artists. A Different Tune will be sponsoring some of the artists from Shawville, Wakefield, and Chelsea who shared there music with the project in December 2019. You can tune in on the Facebook pages for either the 100 Mile Arts Network or A Different Tune (you don’t need a Facebook account to watch).
7:00 – 7:05 – Words of Welcome (100 Mile Arts Network and A Different Tune)
7:05 – 7:20 – Devorah Sugarman (Wakefield)
7:20 – 7:35 – Luther Wright (Wakefield)
7:35 – 7:50 – Tony McKenzie & Katelyn Zimmerling (Shawville)
This past March, I was en route to Shigawake and Gaspé when Premier Legault announced a state of emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A few months earlier, I had reached out to Dave Felker of the Bonaventure County Agricultural Society as part of this project, hoping to collaborate to put together a series of music videos of local songwriters from the Baie-des-Chaleurs communities who have written songs about the area. The idea was to release these videos in the weeks leading up to the annual Shigawake Fair and Music Festival which takes place in mid-August. This initiative would culminate with the the opening night of music at the Fair, featuring an evening celebrating local songwriters and their songs of the Coast.
As I was making my way east last March, listening to the radio, it was clear the situation on the ground was changing so fast. After a few days in Quebec City I turned around and headed back to Montreal, indefinitely postponing my Gaspé trip. By May, every live music event in Quebec had been cancelled for at least the next six months and both Dave and I were regrouping to adapt to the new socially distant reality, working on our respective projects to deliver local musical programming using live streaming services.
Dave is currently leading a project for CASA called, The Gaspesian Way, which seeks to create an inventory of English-speaking artists, artisans, and their products on the Coast to help develop the local cultural milieu and increase tourist attraction to their communities. Tonight, we sat down 1000 km apart on Facebook Live, and discussed our partnership in the upcoming weekly “Thirsty Thursday” livestreams of local Gaspesian music.
Join us this Thursday at 8 pm at on the Facebook Live (details below) to hear Sammy Lind and Nadine Landry, an old-time country and cajun duo living in Pointe-à-la-Croix play music from their living room. Nadine grew up in a musical family on the Gaspé Coast before heading out West. Sammy Lind is originally from Minnesota but lived for many years in Portland, Oregon where he was a staple of the old-time country and square dance scene, founding The Foghorn Stringband, one of the best known old-time country ensembles in the U.S. and Canada. In 2016, Nadine and Sammy moved back to the Gaspé Coast, their current home-base when they are not touring the globe either as a duo or with the Foghorn Stringband. Together, they play fiddle tunes, early country and Cajun songs, alternating between fiddle, banjo, guitar and accordion.
To tune into the broadcast, simply visit either one of the two following Facebook pages (you don’t need an account to watch) every Thursday at 8pm:
This Thursday, “A Different Tune” has partnered with QAHN’s “Heritage Talks” to bring you a free afternoon of Irish culture, music, and history with a range of speakers, musicians, and dance experts. Join us over on the Heritage Talks Live Facebook page beginning at 1 pm.
Read on for bios and a schedule of the afternoon.
See you then!
1:00 PM – 1:05 PM Welcome words by Heritage Talks project director, Christina Adamko
1:05 PM – 2:00 PM Building a Monument Park: The Fight for the Irish Commemorative Stone, by Fergus Keyes
2:00 PM – 2:20 PM Celtic music by multi-instrumentalist Roy McLaren
2:20 PM – 2:50 PM Interview with Irish dance instructor Bernadette Short and researcher Rachel Hoffman. Glenn Patterson of QAHN’s “A Different Tune” project will lead the interview.
2:50 PM – 3:30 PM Donovan King, founder of Haunted Montreal Ghost Tours will tell a bone-chilling Irish-Montreal ghost-story
3:30 PM – 3:50 PM Celtic/Jazz flute player David Gossage closes the afternoon with traditional music and original compositions.
Fergus Keyes has had a lifelong interest in the general history of Montreal, Quebec, and Canada. Based on his heritage, his special focus has been on the Irish immigration and contributions to Quebec. For over 10 years, the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation has been dedicated to building a beautiful world-class memorial park around the Black Rock on the Montreal side of the Victoria Bridge to remember more than 6000 Irish victims that died and were buried in the the area in 1847. Fergus Keyes, a founding director of the organization, will provide details on this journey from a concept to reality – and the many difficulties, as well as positive steps that have been encountered along the way. Keyes will discuss some of the main historical elements of this topic as well as bring the audience up to date on the latest developments, including the recent discovery of numerous human remains at the site.
Roy MacLaren, Multi-Instrumentalist, The Narrows
A native of Quebec’s Eastern Townships, Roy’s introduction to Celtic music was through his first instrument the highland bagpipes. After receiving a grant from the Quebec government to study the piping traditions of Brittany, France, he discovered the tin whistle and spent time travelling and playing in Ireland and Scotland. While living in Nova Scotia, Roy has recorded and performed with musicians such as Joel Plaskett, Buck 65 and Al Tuck. Residing in Quebec’s Eastern Townships once again, he still performs with Halifax-based Celtic group “The Narrows” who play a range of repertoire from the Newfoundland, Irish, Cape Breton, and Québécois traditions.
Bernadette Short, Bernadette Short School of Irish Dancing, Commission Certified Irish Dance Adjudicator
Bernadette came to Montreal from her native Dublin in early 1974. From age 6 she was a pupil of the renowned Peter Bolton School of Irish Dance in Dublin and participated in many festivals and competitions throughout Ireland until moving to Montreal. There, she became involved in passing her knowledge and passion for Irish dance and culture to her new friends across Quebec. Over the years, she has fostered and spread the traditions of Ireland enriching the community where she lives and abroad. She is not only an Irish dance teacher, but is also a qualified adjudicator, much in demand across North America. She has judged major championships around the world including the World championships and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the school she created.
Rachel Hoffman, Concordia University
Rachel studies anthropology and Irish studies at Concordia University, exploring the historical roots that link an Irish-speaking past with a present-day Quebec. Her particular interest surrounds Irish music, dance and language, and the cultural space they occupy.
Donovan King, Haunted Montreal
Donovan is an Irish-Montreal historian, teacher, tour guide and professional actor. As the founder of Haunted Montreal, he combines his skills to create the best possible Montreal ghost stories, in both writing and theatrical performance. King holds a DEC (Professional Theatre Acting, John Abbott College), BFA (Drama-in-Education, Concordia), B.Ed (History and English Teaching, McGill), MFA (Theatre Studies, University of Calgary) and ACS (Montreal Tourist Guide, Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec). He is also a certified Montreal Destination Specialist.
David Gossage, Composer, Improviser, Multi-Instrumentalist
David Gossage is one of Montreal’s most respected and experienced musicians. Once cited by Gazette music critic as “Montreal’s secret weapon” multi-instrumentalist David switches from flute to guitar, whistles and harmonica with ease and in virtually all styles of music.
He attended the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and later received his degree from Concordia in Montreal specializing in theory and composition. Over the years David has played in all styles of music including African, classical, rock and funk, but he is probably best known for his jazz and Celtic playing. He has headed his own groups in both these styles and is considered one of the pioneers of the acid jazz scene here in Montreal.
David currently tours with his new band Dave Gossage and the Celtic Mindwarp. He has played in North American venues from New Mexico to New York City and from Louisiana to the Baffin Islands and all over Europe. David also teaches Jazz at the Schulich School of Music at Mcgill and Concordia University.
A few weeks back, my friend and colleague Laura Risk gave an online fiddle workshop for this project. The event had originally been scheduled to happen at MacDougall Hall in Ormstown but we moved it over to Zoom in light of current restrictions on public gatherings. We had nine beginner fiddlers join from all over Quebec and one student from southern Ontario. At the intermission, we were treated to a short set of fiddle music from the Chateauguay Valley’s barn dance era by John and Connie Wilson of Brooklet, QC (near Huntingdon). He provides some nice commentary on the role of this music in the dances and answered mine and Laura Risk’s questions about the musical history of the local area. Here is the Zoom online footage of their set.
I’ve known John for about ten years now and it’s always a joy to hear him play – even over an at-times unreliable rural Internet connection on Zoom. He has a distinctively graceful and expressive style that is complemented so well by Connie’s old-time piano style. I’m looking forward to sharing more music and history from John and his community later in this project. Stay tuned!
Join us live, online at QAHN Heritage Talks for an afternoon filled with some of Irish-Montreal’s finest in history, story-telling, music and dance! Heritage Talks in collaboration with “A Different Tune: Musical Heritage in English-Speaking Quebec” brings you a series of presentations featuring: Fergus Keyes, who will speak about the history of the Black Rock site and bring us up to date on the most recent developments in the building of a monument park; musical performances by Roy McLaren and David Gossage; an Irish-Montreal ghost-story by Donovan King; and an interview with Irish dance instructor Bernadette Short and researcher Rachel Hoffman about Irish dance in Quebec since the 1970s. Do not miss this one-of-a-kind event! Please see the detailed schedule below.
On a cold, blustery night in late February, I headed over to Harley Avenue in the Westhaven section of NDG in Montreal to document what was very much a typical night at the West-Can dance studio. The studio is located next door to the Westhaven Community Centre and famous Snowdon Bakery. There were piles of boots near the front entrance and I was warmly greeted by several of the parents who were there for their children’s rehearsal. Towards the back of the small rehearsal space, more parents were working diligently to sew the last few costumes together for an upcoming performance of the West-Can junior drum and dance troupe at the annual Monnaie-Money Show taking place that weekend.
I’d been invited by West-Can director Melika Forde-Lewis to document the rehearsal. As I began setting up my tripod and audio recorder, an adorable toddler wandered over and took a keen interest in what I was doing and all the levers and buttons she could easily reach. She listened with intrigue as I put my headphones over hear ears and she heard the sounds coming through. Fortunately, she stayed faithfully by my side for much of the evening as a I worked to document the rehearsal.
For me, this small moment gets to the heart of what West-Can feels like: an extended family gathering. Everyone looks out for everyone else. And everyone — parent, sibling, cousin, and performer — helps out in some way or other. This family feeling is built into the organization’s DNA: West-Can was founded in 1978 by a group of recent immigrant families from Trinidad and other Caribbean islands. According to West-Can’s leadership with whom I spoke, these founding families were looking to ease the pangs of homesickness by continuing their rich folk culture (drumming, singing, dance, storytelling, crafts, and food), passing these traditions from one generation to the next in their new home. Today, many of those who participate in and run West-Can are the children and grandchildren of these founding families.
I was caught off guard as the youth performers began their drumming. The room felt electric and I scrambled to setup my gear to capture what was happening. The drummers launched into complex and overlapping rhythms which propelled the dancers who moved with both an ease and a practiced discipline. It’s always difficult to put these moments of music and movement into words; but thankfully, the video and audio I captured seems to convey just a bit of what it was like.
Here are the junior drummers and dancers are doing a full run-through of the performance they had prepared.
I want to thank the West-Can organizers and parents for inviting me out and trusting me to document a small part of what they do. Like many of our project partners, they have been deeply affected by the current Covid-19 crisis which has halted all public gatherings. But they are a resilient and dedicated organization: Within two weeks of Quebec declaring a state of emergency, they were hosting online classes in Afro-Caribbean dance using their Facebook page and the suddenly-popular Zoom conferencing platform. Most recently, they have begun a storytelling series for children based on Caribbean folk tales. West-Can are in the middle of a fundraising campaign with a 50/50 raffle to raise money for the organization and see them through these strange and difficult times. Visit them online and consider participating in or supporting their initiatives. When things get back to normal, you might even consider hiring one of their performance troupes for your public event!
Date: Saturday, April 25, 2020 Location: Online using Zoom (www.zoom.us) Time: 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Description: Have you ever wanted to play fiddle? If you have an internet connection, a fiddle, and a bit of spare time on your hands, then Brysonville Revisited and the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network invite you to a free online beginner fiddle workshop with renowned fiddler Laura Risk on April 25, 2020. Our goal is to help inspire the next generation of Chateauguay Valley fiddlers, an important part of our region’s cultural heritage. For over two decades, fiddler Laura Risk has been immersed in the fiddle music of Quebec and Scotland and has performed and taught at festivals and music camps all over North America as well as in Europe and Australia. She also holds a PhD in musicology from McGill and currently teaches at the University of Toronto. This workshop will be aimed at beginners who have some experience with the instrument but wish to hone their fiddle style. If you know how to hold the instrument and can play a few easy melodies, this workshop will be perfect for you. Laura will teach a few simple tunes used for local dances while focusing on bowing, timing, ornamentation, rhythm, and technique. This event will take place online with the popular and easy-to-use the Zoom video conference calling platform which can be accessed from laptops, smartphones, and tablets (www.zoom.us). We will provide each participants instructions on how to connect to Zoom and join the online lesson.
During the mid-workshop break, we will be joined online by local fiddler and pianist, John and Connie Wilson who are steeped in the fiddle music of the Valley. They will share tunes played at old-time barn dances and the stories behind them.
Please Note: Participants must register beforehand and are expected to have a violin and bow in playable condition. Registration is limited to a maximum of eight students. To register call Bruce Barr at 905-984-1316 or email Glenn Patterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About: The event is part of a collaboration between the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network (QAHN) and Brysonville Revisited as part of QAHN’s “A Different Tune” project. Generously funded by Canadian Heritage, this province-wide initiative is exploring, documenting, and strengthening musical heritage in Quebec’s English-speaking communities. We also with to thank the Chateauguay Valley Community Information Services for their assistance promoting this event.
Today’s post features a guest co-author, Gern f. Vlcheck, a musician, songwriter, storyteller, and author whom I’ve known for fifteen years. Gern moved to Montreal from Ontario in the early 1990s as a long-distance trucker. Before long, he was deeply involved in Montreal’s vibrant post-Referendum music and culture scene, fronting the well-known indie rock band The United Steelworkers of Montreal in the mid-2000s. He has also been a favourite bartender at Grumpy’s bar on Bishop Street (having been voted Montreal’s best bartender multiple times in the popular CultMTL event, “Best of Montreal”). His latest project, The Vlcheks, is a three-piece electric folk band that he fronts with Randall Anderson on bass and Mike Kennedy on drums. All three musicians have been deeply involved in Montreal’s folk and roots music scene, especially through the old-time country and bluegrass jam that takes place at Grumpy’s every Thursday night. Randall is also a renowned visual artist and Mike is a luthier who makes stunning custom acoustic guitars.
Gern’s songwriting is deeply shaped by the places he has lived, worked, and travelled – in particular the working class histories of Quebecers and Canadians. His band The Vlcheks are currently releasing one video a week as part of a 10-week music video series called “Up Against the Wall.” The first song they released last week, “The Bridge,” tells of an important yet often forgotten story in our province’s history: of the workers – many of them from the Mohawk community of Kahnawake – who were killed while building the Quebec Bridge in the early 20th century. Here is their video:
I asked Gern to provide a bit of context for how he came to write this song and his songwriting approach. Here is what he had to say.
I first crossed the Pierre Laporte bridge many years ago travelling in a band van as I was touring with the alt-country band the United Steel Workers of Montreal. Approaching Quebec from Highway 20 on the south side of the St. Lawrence river, the bridge sort of sweeps you up towards Quebec City. Its only remarkable tribute is directly to the east by a couple hundred feet, The Quebec Bridge. I remember the striking design, a multiple diamond shaped cantilever affair that harkens back to Scotland and the Firth of Fourth Bridge which had very much caught my attention years ago in a different part of my life, a different point of travel. The Quebec Bridge with its similar angles and its ornateness struck me as out of the ordinary. Its beauty seemed to do one thing very well and that was to show that its sister bridge, The Pierre LaPorte, which we were traveling on, was considerably under beautified to say the least.
It was the similarities to the Firth of Forth and the dressing down of the Pierre LaPorte that stuck with me and found me at home later researching this wonderful find of architecture. The first searches I did clarified to me that it was simply known as The Quebec Bridge which centres it in history for me. One hundred years ago, one did not need to name a bridge that remarkably spanned the entire St. Lawrence in one bound after a King or a Queen or a dead politician; it was a feat and was enough to refer to it by the fact it crossed the river at Quebec. Early into my research I found that its most interesting feature was the story of how it was built: three times in fact, and the 88 folks that died building it and the many others who greatly suffered way back in the early 1900s for a mathematical mistake and a company’s hubris.
This song, as with a lot of the songs I have written, is dedicated to the workers. In this case to the workers who, on two separate occasions, fell and were crushed or drowned as they did their day-to-day work just trying to make a living. As I delved deeper into this story, I found out that many of the men who died building this bridge had come from Kahnawake, a Mohawk reserve just south of Montreal. It was the thought of one small community loosing forty members in one fell swoop that inspired me to write this song. The devastating fact that many families lost multiple members in a single event is a lot for one small community to take.
I was assisted in my research by Kahnawake resident and photographer Dave Bush, as well as The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, Canadian Society for Civil Engineering, and the Montreal Ironworkers Local. There are several decent documentaries about the construction and failure of this bridge and quite a few good articles about it. And yet it was a challenge to get a complete list of all who died in the accident; getting the Mohawk names right for the video was, I thought, necessary to properly pay homage to these workers.
I’m proud of this song and found it to be an interesting culmination of efforts, probably the most-researched song of my career. I recorded “The Bridge” with my band, The Vlcheks, and it is being released on YouTube as the first video track of our new video album, Up Against the Wall. We will be releasing one video every Wednesday at noon for a total of ten videos over the next ten weeks.
You can follow the Vlcheks and their “Up Against the Wall Series” on their Facebook page and YouTube channel. I want to thank Gern for taking the time to contribute this song and his reflections to this project.
These are difficult times for all of us. For those of us working in the culture and heritage sector, this means rethinking public gatherings for the time being. At QAHN, in an effort to do our part to limit the risk of spreading of COVID-19, all public events scheduled for this project in 2020 are postponed until further notice.
Between last October and the beginning of this month, performers, organizers, and community groups across the province generously shared their time and talents with the Different Tune project, inviting me into their communities to document the ways they come together as a community through musical culture and dance. Their enthusiasm sharing their music, insights, and ideas was truly heartwarming. You can expect much more of this content to appear here, on our Facebook page, and our YouTube channel in the months ahead.
We are still committed to celebrating, documenting, and sharing the sounds and stories of musical culture in our communities throughout these difficult times. Rest assured we will comply with all public health directives and precautions to protect the well-being of everyone involved in this project—and that includes you, our audience, most of all.
Last November, the communities of Valcartier and Shannon north of Quebec City welcomed this project to their area with an impromptu afternoon of music featuring a host of local musicians, set dancers, and listeners. I was lucky enough to capture some of the music on video. In honour of St. Patrick’s Day festivities this coming weekend, and with the people in Shannon getting into high gear to bring you their traditional Shannon Irish Show (now in its fifth decade), I wanted to share with you two Irish songs I recorded as part of this project’s archival collection.
First, we have Larry Hamilton, a strong-voiced singer from Shannon who grew up hearing his uncles Tim and Elmer singing many of the songs he still sings today. Here is Larry singing the old Irish comic song and tongue-twister, “Clancy’s Wooden Wedding.”
Next up, we have a song from Jimmy Kelly, a fine singer and fiddler whose music was featured on the 2010 Prix Mnémo award-winning album, Ireland in Quebec/L’Irlande au Québec, with Valcartier’s late accordionist Keith Corrigan. Jimmy has a vast repertoire of unaccompanied ballads from Quebec and New England lumber camps as well as an almost inexhaustible collection of Irish comic songs – usually of the slightly more risqué variety. After some cajoling Jimmy told us, through a song, why “The Women are Better than Men.”