Genticorum | De Temps Antan
MEL LEHAN HALL AT ST. JAMES i
3214 West 10th Ave, Kitsilano
Accessible All ages
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Please note that the articles on this page are by longtime Rogue supporter freelance journalist Tony Montague.
Montreal-based trio Genticorum has a penchant for music with a twist. The band delights in airs croches [crooked tunes] – instrumental pieces with unexpected shifts of time-signature, little rhythmic hiccups that have come to be regarded by Celtic jammers from Sligo to Sydney as a hallmark of Quebecois jigs and reels.
“Musicians from outside of Quebec have been fascinated by these airs croches for quite a while,” says guitarist Yann Falquet. “Lisa Ornstein, who played with La Bottine Souriante in the early days, wrote her master’s degree thesis about them. The Quebecois have also come to love the irregularities. Often the tunes are really beautiful. Many of the composers from the new generation of musicians here – people like Pascal Gemme, our fiddle-player, or Jean-François Bélanger – write in this way.”
Genticorum’s instrumental material reflects a diversity of influences. Broadly speaking it’s all Quebecois or in the Quebecois vein - but that can entail French, Breton, Scots, English or Irish origins. And there are elements from other traditions - Scandinavian especially.
“It’s not so much specific borrowings from Swedish or Norwegian music, it’s more a matter of the general approach that Scandinavian bands take,” says Falquet. “They seem to have particularly good taste in arranging and adapting traditional material, giving tunes their personal stamp while not bending them out of shape. The problem with a lot of bands who work in the Celtic vein is that they think everything’s going to benefit from having a backbeat. The Scandinavians know better.”
If the inspirations behind Genticorum’s tunes span the Atlantic the trio’s songs stay home in Quebec. Gemme learned the fascinating song that provides Genticorum with its unusual name from his grandfather André Billette. The chorus is a turlutte in dog-Latin, a kind of nonsense rhyme that combines religious and sexual allusions in a uniquely Quebecois way. In rough translation, it begins: On the bri on the blade on the brestouri / On the bumorum on the brestorum / Genticorum on gelorum. And that’s just part of it.
“In the past it was quite common to hide references to things like sexuality or drinking behind invented words that mimic Latin,” Falquet explains. “As the [Catholic] Church was so present in Quebecois society you had to be careful what you talked or sang about, and this was an ingenious and permissible way of alluding to taboo subjects. Needless to say it was Pascal’s favourite song as a kid.”
Another fave is “Les Parties de Grégoire”, a cumulative song in the pattern The Twelve Days of Christmas, which celebrates the culinary highlights of good old garçon Grégoire’s little party - six partridges, five legs of mutton, four quarters of veal, three lambs, two chickens, and a boneless veal chop ‘expertly roasted’.
“It comes from the singing of Jean-Paul Guimond, one of the best known Quebecois traditional singers of the old generation. We like the good humour of this song, and the subject of feasting in the fields is dear to the heart of every Quebecois.”
The musicians of Genticorum have a special interest in performing for dancers. “We have a passion for veillées [dance evenings] not simply because we all love to play at them but because of the kick we get when we look out from the stage and see the new enthusiasm for these old dances,“ says Falquet. “Whereas in the ‘70s, in the first big revival of traditional music here, there wasn’t much connection to dance, in the present revival that connection is very strong. Veillées are a great way for the generations to meet socially - and that’s incredibly healthy for the future both of music and of dance in Quebec.”
De Temps Antan
De Temps Antan began life as a small Quebecois roots band within a much bigger one. Pierre-Luc Dupuis, André Brunet, and Eric Beaudry first got together as a trio while playing and touring as members of La Bottine Souriante, a 10-piece outfit with horns. But while La Bottine opened up new horizons for the musicians its size and volume - not to mention its cost - meant they couldn’t play in smaller venues for traditional music.
“The project for the trio was born in 2004 following a request by a friend who does bookings for a room,” says Dupuis, reached in Memphis where the three singers and multi-instrumentalists were showcasing at a music conference. “He wanted to hear the three of us playing together. It meant really bringing things down to basics, to the essence of the music.”
The trio’s name harks back to its early days, and is a pun that’s largely lost in translation. The written words mean ‘of olden times’, but when spoken they sound the same as “de temps en temps”, meaning ‘from time to time’. Vive l’ambiguité!
“It’s because we were only able to perform every now and then, between our commitments with La Bottine,” says Dupuis, speaking in French. “We still managed to tour a bit and to make an album, À L’Année.
Touring outside of French Canada has become the life-blood for Quebecois roots bands these days. “Our music is already popular in some parts of the US,” says Dupuis, De Temps Antan’s accordionist and harmonica-player. “Traditional music is only really big in Quebec during the Christmas holidays, and it’s become associated with that period by many people. The rest of the time you have to fight hard for attention. Recognition at home always seems to take longer to come.“
Nevertheless home, in a more localized sense, is very much at the heart of De Temps Antan and the source of much of its music. “A lot comes from our own families,” says Dupuis, who like all the members of the trio is a singer. “On the album especially there’s a lot from the village of St. Côme where Eric was born.”
“He’s got many songs and tunes from there,” Dupuis continues. “And he also inherited the work of someone in the village who collected back in the ‘60s, among them Eric’s granddad, an excellent fiddle-player. So you get a sense of the richness of just one little corner of the country. Our aim is to keep the essence of that music, but to have an open-minded attitude. In short, to let it live.”
[André Brunet is now a member of Le Vent Du Nord and is replaced on fiddle by David Boulanger, also a member of La Bottine Souriante ]
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