We are incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful folk music society here in Central Pennsylvania that has an uncanny knack for bringing traditional Canadian musicians to our part of the world. Indeed, over the last couple of years, the Susquehanna Folk Music Society has successfully brought established acts such as De Temps Antan, Cassie and Maggie, and Ten Strings and a Goat Skin to the PA midstate. Checking their performance schedule from time to time, we happened to see that the popular Québécois group Le Vent du Nord were performing just 60 miles from our home, on the last remaining open Saturday on our calendar for this month. A very short-lived remaining open date: tickets were purchased, as we had missed this band on two previous visits to PA and we did not want to let another opportunity pass by.
Arriving at the venue on a pleasant Saturday evening, we selected some great seats and prepared ourselves for what we knew would be a great night of live music. And of course, with the caliber of musicianship on offer from this quartet, we were certainly not disappointed. With two full sets of their traditional Québécois folk music, and a plethora of instruments on hand, Le Vent du Nord earned the full attention of the room from the off-set. With their flawless instrumental skills, lively tunes and jigs, and the strong camaraderie between the band members, this proved to be an incredibly entertaining night.
And what about those instruments: Olivier Demers (violin, acoustic guitar, podorythmie), Réjean Brunet (bass, accordion(s), mouth harp, podorythmie), Simon Beaudry (acoustic guitar, bouzouki) and Nicolas Boulerice (keyboards, hurdy-gurdy) had plenty of tools on hand to keep the music flowing. As an added bonus for everybody in attendance, the quartet would bring out André Brunet as a guest musician for the show. No stranger to performances here in PA, we were delighted to see André once again and marvel at his lively, personable stage presence, as well as his prowess on the violin and podorythmie. (We were also delighted when Nicolas announced that André had just learned he’d been awarded a Canadian Folk Music Award for his recent solo album during the intermission.)
With a natural emphasis to perform the more recent material from their 2015 “Tétu” release, the ‘quintet’ mixed some older and popular tunes into the set list to satisfy fans both new and old. Olivier would start a conversation about the album title, and debates followed with his band-mates throughout the show about “to add or not add the letter ‘S’ to Tétu.” This naturally prompted some amusing banter back and forth between them, with Nicolas adding some convincing arguments to his opinions. The end result here was that while the music flowed all evening, the opportunities for each performer to address the audience and offer up tales of song titles, travelling, music and ‘just how old was Canada this year’ kept everybody fully engaged all evening.
With their intoxicating modern interpretation of traditional Québec music, Le Vent du Nord brought a good old-fashioned ceilidh to Central PA. And in closing their second set to a well-deserved ovation, all five members would return for a brief encore, opting to send the audience home with a wonderful a capella tune. Having the opportunity to meet each and every member of the band immediately after the show, we left the venue without a care in the world (they genuinely made it that easy to become disconnected from everyday burdens). We certainly wish Le Vent du Nord the best for the remainder of their current tour, and hope (with fingers crossed) that these very talented musicians grace the Keystone State with their presence again very soon. With a new album on the way, rest assured that these gentlemen will be taking their music on the road once more.