MORRISBURG – “This is a band of five friends who create intense, joyful and dynamic live performances,” said Sandra Whitworth, chair of the board of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage.
Le Vent du Nord, coming to Upper Canada Playhouse on Saturday, January 18, for one concert only at 7 p.m., is musically this and much, much more.
Since their formation in 2012, the band has released 10 albums, and performed in concerts literally all over the world.
They have won an enviable collection of awards including two Junos, a Grand Prix du Disque Charles Cros and Artist of the Year at the North American Folk Alliance Annual Gala.
They have also appeared regularly on Canadian, American, French and United Kingdom television and radio and performed with several artists including Harry Manx and The Chieftains.
Following their Morrisburg concert the band will head to New York for an engagement at Carnegie Hall and then fly off on a new European Tour.
Fortunately, Réjean Brunet (the other members of the band are Olivier Demers, Simon Beaudry, Nicolas Boulerice and André Brunet) took time from the group’s very full schedule to talk about Le Vente Du Nord’s music. (“Actually, that busy schedule keeps us all out of trouble,” he laughed).
The group’s repertoire has often been described as “progressive Francophone folk.” I asked Réjean to discuss what that phrase meant in terms of Le Vent du Nord’s appeal to a wide range of audiences, many of whom are not French-speaking.
“Actually, our sound is not the pure, traditional Québécois music, although that is where it all begins,” he explained. “We create our words, compose our tunes then we develop arrangements that are really very contemporary. We definitely put our own touch to our music. I guess you could say we include a bit of roots, a little funk, a little classical, and a little folk. And we’re willing to add a lot of harmonies, and even some jazz twists in our music. We look for character in our music.”
Band members are all accomplished instrumentalists as well as singers. Again, in a departure from what many would regard as tradition, their on stage instruments include fiddles, guitars, an accordion, and also a bouzouki, a kind of mandolin. However, one Québécois tradition they do retain is foot tapping as part of the rhythm of a song.
“This foot tapping is not done in either Irish or American Gaelic traditional music,” Réjean explained. “It is very Québécois. However, I’ve noticed that the foot tapping has begun to catch on with some performers in France, so maybe Le Vente du Nord is changing the world,” he added.
He talks of the band members as being on a kind of musical journey together over the last 18 years. “Some,” he laughed, “would say that with our back up support, we are six people married together, and sharing our dreams.”
The songs Le Vent du Nord write are a collaborative effort. All the band members are full time musicians, who “respect and listen to each other,” and also balance hectic tour schedules and home lives.
“We play, we sing, we work on all our new material together: we come up with the lyrics, then dress up the tune with chords and counterpoint. And we find inspiration in many ways on our journey. We are never stuck in a rut. We always try to see where a tune takes us.”
He compared the process of creating music to “someone working in wood, sculpting and forming it,” but not knowing just what shape the wood will ultimately take.
Le Vente du Nord has attracted a huge and growing fan base in both North America and Europe.
“On our tours, we are often performing for non-Francophone audiences. So our goal is to appeal to music lovers everywhere, to attract a wide range of audience members. We look to connect to people’s emotions, and to present vibrant music: we don’t limit ourselves. I think we often surprize people at our concerts with our ‘joie de vivre’ on stage.”
With their 20th anniversary as a band coming up, Le Vent du Nord is already planning a special tour and the release of a new album.
Réjean said that the band is looking forward to their concert at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage.
“We are open and expecting a fun time in Morrisburg. We are eager to share our music, the thing that we love.”
A passion for music, and for sharing that passion with audiences is at the heart of Le Vente du Nord’s powerful appeal.
“We put all our energy into our music,” said Réjean Brunet, “for after all, we are all floating in a great big sea of music.”