chants de vielles

It was a nice day for a drive – last Sunday (9/12), with a warm breeze and a sky full of silver clouds.

Early autumn is filtering into the landscape now with shades of gold trimming the green trees and fields that thrived in this year’s hot summer.

This time the destination was north: around 45 minutes outside (northeast) of Montreal, out in the Canadian countryside. The small village of Calixa-Lavallée is named after its most famous resident, the composer of the Canadian national anthem. The town is also the site of the Chants de Vielles Festival, an annual three-day celebration of Québecois history and culture realized through music, dancing, and local arts.

I can tell you I’ve never seen more hurdy-gurdys in a single place than at this festival: strapped in their distinctive trapeziodal cases on people’s backs, lying around on the picnic tables behind the artisan’s tent, and best of all – being played, often, all over the place. Fiddles, bagpipes and wooden flutes rounded out the instruments of the day, all in the service of traditional Québecois music that ranged from lively and rollicking to plaintive, and poignant.

At the end of the day when the last notes had resounded in the converted stable and the tents around the corn field, all of the artists gathered together and paraded from the festival grounds to the Church in town for a grand final concert. I was there as a bystander, and was still invited to join the procession! What fun.

Can’t wait to go back next year, except I’ll probably plan on spending more than a single day there.

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