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What I Saw Above the St. Lawrence | KFP Articles
What I Saw Above the St. Lawrence PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 07 August 2011 18:29

It brings me great joy to write about my experience of Quebecois trad music.  I am a lover of traditional music, especially the Irish kind, and could write a very long post about what it offers, and what it offers, in my opinion, is not matched.  To put it simply traditonal music bridges the generation gaps, it is uplifting in a way that leads to a dancing that is interactive and friendly to all folks.  Its the product of a culture.


Back in 2001 a friend, from l'Universite Laval, and I took a bike ride to a folk festival in Cap-Rouge just outside the city of Quebec.  Cap-Rouge sits atop a ridge overlooking the St. Lawrence river and provides some beautiful scenery, especially for a bike ride and some fine dining.  When we arrived at the festival we ran into some friends and waited for the next band to come on.  What I saw and heard surprised me greatly.  I was completely unaware of the musical traditions of the Quebecois that lived just 5 hours north of my up state New York home.  The singer sat in a custom made white chair with the Fleur De L'Isle serving as the back to the chair.  My first bril thought was to notice how happy he seemed.  That is before we realized that while playing his mandolin he was tapping his feet on a sound board that was attached to the chair.  What at first seemed like a typical band set up for a concert revealed a key aspect of Quebecois trad music, dancing!  He was dancing a jig as he played and it was at that point that I realized the brilliance of their music tradition. Quebecois trad music is one of North America's best kept secrets.

Recently, videos have been placed on You Tube by Commando Trad, a sort of flash mob of traditional musicians and dancers in Quebec.  I have not seen a video that quite captures the joy of trad music like their videos.  Here is one from within the walls of the old city of Quebec that I chose for its song.


Dim lights


Beautiful! Its a kind of beauty thats hard to compare to.  The beauty is unique and is an all to hidden gem of western culture.  This reminds me of a prolonged discussion I had some years ago with a seminarian friend.  On numerous occassions we discussed the idea that there is a hierarchy to the value of different music.  Simply put, some types of music are more beautiful than others.  To avoid the detailed concerns of a philosophy of beauty, the debate could be broken down into these general terms.  My friend argued that music that was fit for liturgy, such a polyphonic compositions or a Mozart Mass, was clearly the most beautiful music as the Mass is the most beautiful event.  It would also follow that similar music, such as other Mozart compositions, were more beautiful than say folk music.  Now, I would not argue against that point but prefer to agree that context matters.  There is a beauty to trad folk music that is not easily ascertained by simply watching a band play in a concert hall or by attempting to measure the value of the music it in relation to the liturgy.  My point hit home when we both attended a party with Irish musicians playing for a ceili dance.  The beauty was made evident through the joy of the dancers.  The proper context to understand the beauty of trad music is the interaction of family and friends. 

There is another that I believe has been inspiring other folks to do the same in their tradition.  This one from Commando Trad takes place on Avenue Month-Royal in Montreal and can be viewed here.

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