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Le Vent du Nord performs Octobre 1837, recorded by the BBC

Quebec Music’s Celtic Roots

I enjoyed listening to C’est dans Paris … The melody is so soothing. I do not think that album or CD is on the market at this point. It was recorded in December 2020, during the Covid-19’s pandemics. Moreover, C’est dans Paris is French folklore. The very last sentence of the song, C’est dans Paris … reads as follows

 C’est pas l’affaire d’une servante … de se farder.
 [It is not a servant’s business to wear makeup.]

Equal Temperament

However, three of the musicians I featured in my was post were in Britain in 2015 performing Celtic music. This time, the ensemble has a fiddler, a violoneux, or violinist/fiddler. Certain performers play with different ensembles. You will notice that at the very beginning of the group’s performance, the violineux/fiddler plays consecutive notes that span less than a semitone. Using a string instrument, such as the violin, and certain wind instruments, a musician is at liberty to play two consecutive notes spanning less than a semitone. On a piano, one plays a semitone by moving from C (white on a piano) to C sharp (the next black key). There are smaller units than the semitone, but a piano cannot produce these smaller units. Were it not for the development of equal temperament, an arbitrary division of the scale into semitones, instruments could not play together. When I was a student of music, the European music theorist who developed equal temperament was Vincenzo Galilei, Galileo Galilei’s father. More research has led to new findings.

Celtic Music

The piece we are hearing today is Celtic music, or it has been influenced by Celtic music. Our fiddler is sitting on a chair and uses podorythmie. Podorythmie is not step dancing. Our fiddler is emphasizing the rythmic pattern of the piece the group is interpreting. Until research proves underwise, podorythmie originates in Quebec and Acadie. As for step dancing, it occurs in many cultures, including Quebec. Podorythmie is a technique that was not used when I was a child in Quebec. Its use or revival dates back to the 1970s. As well, in the Quebec of my childhood, before 1960, there were fiddlers, but the piano was the instrument of choice. We have heard Jean Carignan, an accomplished fiddler, perhaps the best ever, play with the legendary Jehudi Menuhin. They played a piece composed by André Gagnon who died in December.

Le Vent du Nord

Many of Quebec’s Irish population came to North America at the time of the potato famine. My great-grandmother was Irish. These immigrants were very poor, as were many French Canadians. The McGarrigle sisters also had ancestors who moved to Quebec in order to eat. Owners evicted tenants who could not pay the rent.

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© Micheline Walker
16 February 2021