Le Vent du Nord, a folk band from the French-speaking province of Québec in Canada, visited Culver Academies Wednesday as part of the Arts Midwest World Fest program. The band, which will perform in concert at the Lincoln Junior High School auditorium in Plymouth tonight at 7 p.m., conducted three workshops on campus during its visit.
The band’s visit is sponsored locally by the Encore Performing Arts Series, the Center at Donaldson, and the Marshall County Community Foundation. Culver’s Spiritual Life and Global Studies Institute offered assistance while the group was on campus. The workshops included a combination of music, speaking and singing in French, and a brief talk on the secession movement in Québec.
The group plays Québécoisis folk music, which contains Celtic and French influences. Their songs are a mix of traditional music and new compositions written by band members. They all showcase many traditional folk instruments like the jaw harp, hurdy gurdy, accordion, and Irish bouzouki. Cajun music in southern Louisiana is a spin-off of Québécoisis folk music after some French-speaking Acadians re-settled in the region during the 1700s.
Band members also gave the students a small taste of podorythmie, a form of percussion where a musician taps her feet on the floor or wooden box to create a lively, driving beat behind the music. The musician will often sit and tap her feet while playing another instrument, such as the fiddle.
The most unusual instrument was the hurdy gurdy, that band member Nicolas Boulerice said originated in Italy. A stringed instrument, it is played by using a keyboard and turning a crank. The distinctive sound is similar to a bagpipe and a special bridge creates a buzzing sound when the wheel is cranked.
The Irish bouzouki, played by Simon Beaudry, is actually a relatively new instrument that was introduced to folk music in the 1960s. Beaudry called it “an oversized mandolin” that adds a different sound to folk songs.
Réjean Brunet played the jaw harp, the oldest instrument. It is a reed attached to a frame. It is played by placing the frame between the teeth and using a finger to pluck the reed, creating a note. Changing the same of the mouth and breathing both ways changes the sound to create the melodies, he said.
Olivier Demers, who taught the students and instructors to podorythmie, said the secession movement is ongoing in Québec. The French in the province see it as preservation of their customs and language. He added there is a general feeling among the French Canadians that Québec would be a better neighbor to the rest of Canada as a separate nation than it is now as a province because the tension over the separation would be a non-issue.