THE PRELUDE: THE DEAN SMITH TRIO IN THE FOYER OF THE THEATRE
I can’t think of a better way to start a musical evening than to hear a Duke Ellington tune drifting out through the main doors of the Key City Theatre. This musical prelude to the evening was provided by Dean Smith on piano, Ben Smith on bass and the very youthful (grade 9) Micah on drums – The Dean Smith Trio.
THEME AND VARIATIONS: THE MUSIC OF QUEBEC
As presented by Le Vent du Nord – Nicholas Boulerice (piano, accordion, hurdy gurdy & vocals); Olivier Demers (fiddle, Quebecois foot percussion, guitar, vocals); Simon Baudry (Irish bouzouki, guitar & vocals); Bejean Brunet (accordions, jew’s harp, fret-less bass guitar & vocals). From the first number the band ripped into music that literally rocked the room. The foot stamping Quebecois foot percussion delivered the unmistakable sound that could only be French Canadian. For the average non-francophone this music probably came as a surprise. It is so lively and vibrant and so unlike any other north American pop/rock/roots music that it is truly unique. As Canadians we tend to look south for our musical inspiration from the world of rock/pop, Bluegrass, jazz, Cajun, folk and what ever. We forget that within Canada there are enough unique vibrant regional musical styles to inspire any generation of musicians. We seemed to be too hung up on being second-rate Americans to notice. Well Le Vent du Nord certainly served notice with their entertaining evening of great instrumentals, songs, vocal harmonies, humor and unique collection of instruments. Fiddles we know; accordions we know (perhaps not the variety played this evening); bass guitar we know; piano we know; guitar we know; the Irish Bouzouki we sort of know from the band Great Big Sea and the many Celtic bands that have played in the area; Jews Harp, although an ancient instrument is probably new to us; If you have ever listened to Quebecois music in the past the foot percussion, that is pretty distinctive, would be instantly recognizable; Now, the Hurdy Gurdy is probably from way out in left field. When was the last time (or the first time) you actually heard a Hurdy Gurdy.The name, for me, conjures up images of the Swedish Chef on the old Muppets TV shows chattering away in that fake Swedish accent “dis here is de huuurdy guuurdy”). Nicolas teased the audience about the instrument before he risked arrest and incarceration for “indecently exposing his Hurdy Gurdy”. He removed the cover to reveal the crank operated rotating wheel that rested against the drone strings that ran along both sides of the instrument. He then next flipped open the cover to reveal the inner workings of the instrument. The main melodies are played on what appear to be violin strings that react to levers to produced the individual melody notes. The player rotates the crank with his right hand, the wheel rubs against the strings to produce the required drone and melody notes while the left hand manipulates the levels that change the pitch of the melody notes. It is easy to see why the instrument has been called a wheel-violin. The Swedes have a very similar instrument called a Nykelharpa that is played with a bow rather than by cranking a wheel. Some much for the esoteric part of the show. Here are some more images from a very memorable night of unique Canadian (or is it Canadien?) music. (click on the images for a larger view)
So ends a spectacular night of “REEL” music.
Here is a special treat – a YouTube clip of the band