Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Traditional Music Enclaves in Canada

I'm sitting here in the frigid, unusually snowy Northwest thinking about Canada in the Summer and Fall. Fans of various types of European traditional music and worldbeat flock to Canada's eastern provinces in the Summer and Fall. With good reason.

I've referenced Quebec City's fabulous Festival d'ete, held each July, in a previous post. That fine festival, set in North America's oldest town, has a serious musical vibe going all the time. Concerts are scheduled from morning until late at night, all over old-town and in the outdoor expo facility. There are three "tracks" of music, generally: Francophone Pop; Classical, and Worldbeat. I have attended performances by Kurdish groups, Balkan Gypsy bands, African Griots, Indian slide guitar players and Amadou & Miriam while at the Festival. Last summer, Twisted Sister provided a heavy metal exclamation point to the event. You could hear that concert all over town. I highly recommend this party, it's awesome. In addition to the scheduled concerts, every amateur performer and street musician within miles shows up for the duration. Flamenco dancers, magicians, sword swallowers, unicyclists, mimes, sax players blowing sad tunes; all there, all showcasing their best stuff.

Stay at the Chateau Frontenac, if you've got the juice. At the Manoir Victoria, if you're looking for good, but more modestly priced digs. At the Frontenac, a "turret" room low enough to enjoy the activity along the boardwalk is the ticket. At the Manoir, there's a fifth floor room with a balcony overlooking the street that is right on top of the action.

Further East, there's the Festival mondial de folklore de Drummondville. An annual festival held in Drummondville, Que, during 10 days each July, it includes music, dance, and art exhibitions. The event has well over half a million visitors a year.

Quebec is home to Canada's "Acadian" community, much like Louisiana hosts their Francophone cousins in the U.S. Acadian tunes often feature an energetic accordion, with traditional instruments. There is an annual Acadian World Conference held in Moncton, New Brunswick that features some concerts.

The Canadian Maritime provinces are a treasure-trove of traditional musicians, events, and festivals. There's no shortage of good pubs with lively Celtic music as well. Known for their seafaring tunes; the Maritimes are rich in Scottish; Irish and old English communities that hold fast to their musical heritage. Cape Breton, Nova Scotia is the site of the only Gaelic-speaking college in the Western Hemisphere. There is music happening in Nova Scotia 24/7/365. One, continuous Celtic musicgasm. Scottish traditional fiddle Diva, Natalie McMaster, calls this area home. Flautist Chris Norman is often around as well, playing his wooden Celtic flute, or an old English Baroque instrument. The best-known of all Canada's Celtic music Festivals is held in October every year on Cape Breton: Celtic Colours. The island is also the site of famous national parks and two of Canada's most beautiful drives. What's not to love?

In New Brunswick, the Miramichi Folksong Festival runs for six days in late Summer. The event was founded in 1958 in Newcastle, NB, and held every August at the Lord Beaverbrook Town Hall.

Traveling in Canada is easy and economical, though you'll now need your passport to get BACK into the U.S. Figures. The rate of exchange is favorable, unlike Europe, and the locals are friendly. I've been back four times.

No comments: