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Tout passe: Chants d’Acadie
Quand j’ai parti du Canada [4:24]
Ernie Arsenault’s Favourite, the Draggers Reel [2:27]
La Novelle Chanson de Terre-Neuve [6:13]
Ton Bale, The Bluebird, Annie Annie [4:14]
La Pauvre Lisette [3:21]
À Saint-Malo, Laridé de Pontivy, Rond de Loudéac [3:33]
Les Pèlerins [2:32]
Tout passe [6:30]
La Fille tuée par sa mère, or Le Baron [5:36]
Comment veux-tu que je t’embrasse [1:44]
Valse de ’Cadien [2:04]
Suite “Le Mariage”: (The Basquett of Oysters [1:43]; L’Alouette et le Poisson [2:32]; Pigeon on the Gate [1:31]; Le jour du mariage [4:33]; Laridé [1:25])
Tout d’travers, tout à l’envers [2:52]
The Bedding of the Bride, La Disputeuse, Keep It Up! [3:06]
Suzie LeBlanc (soprano, harpsichord, shruti box, spoons); David Greenberg (violin, voice); Chris Norman (flutes, small pipes, percussion, voice); Betsy MacMillan (viola da gamba, voice); Sylvain Bergeron (acoustic guitar, baroque guitar, shruti box); David McGuinness (harpsichord, harmonium, melodica, voice); Shawn Mativetsky (percussion, tabla)
rec. 17-19 October 2006, Église Saint-Augustin de Mirabel, Quebec
Texts and translations included
ATMA CLASSIQUE ACD2 2522 [60:29]



The name – and the voice – of soprano Suzie LeBlanc will be familiar to all followers of baroque music. This is on the strength of her many fine recordings with, amongst others, Stephen Stubbs, Reinhard Göbel and Sigiswald Kuijken. Here, though, she sings traditional songs from Acadia, the land of her birth.
 
Acadia was the early name of the French colonial territory in the north-eastern corner of North America, made up of the modern Maritime Provinces of Canada, the eastern parts of Quebec and parts of modern New England. The early European population of Acadia came chiefly from west-central France, the first French settlement being established in 1604. The British held Acadia briefly at the end of the seventeenth century and then, more permanently, after the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. Understandably the bulk of the inhabitants were less than eager to swear loyalty to Britain, as their new masters demanded. Eventually, beginning in 1755, the British undertook a process we might nowadays call ethnic cleansing, forcing out as many as six or seven thousand Acadians in what became known, by the Acadians, as the Great Upheaval (‘Grand Dérangement’).
 
Some of the songs which LeBlanc sings here have the pains and wanderings of the Great Upheaval as their background. Some are reflections on the general transience of things. Others are more light-hearted – playful songs of love and marriage. LeBlanc, as she explains in the booklet notes, was introduced to many of the songs by Georges Arsenault, one of the Acadian musical family that includes Angèle Arsenault, and by the traditional singer Hélène Myers, now in her eighties. The Acadian musical tradition naturally has strong French elements; but it is also clearly marked by the music of its North-American neighbours of Scottish descent. Some of the Acadians expelled in the great upheaval found their way to Louisiana and the musical traditions they took with them were part of the mixture that produced modern Cajun music.
 
I haven’t been able to find the name of an arranger on the CD, so I am not sure who is responsible for the richly eclectic approach adopted here. LeBlanc’s early music experience is reflected in the use of viola da gamba and harpsichord; nineteenth century Acadian practice is doubtless reflected in the use of the harmonium on some tracks; fiddles, flutes and pipes draw on a whole range of musical languages. With the intermittent use of tabla and shruti box (a hand-pumped drone) Indian ingredients are also added to the mixture.
 
The results are infectious and inviting. The fact that three separate visitors, each happening to hear this music playing, immediately asked for details of it, is a good illustration of its instant appeal! Ten of the tracks are vocal, the rest instrumental. The emotional range, as I have indicated, is relatively various. I suppose this is what we are expected to call ‘world music’ these days but, in truth, it’s the sort of music that seems to make nonsense of most labels. It is, with deceptive simplicity, quality music made by very accomplished musicians with a clear commitment to communication and a real respect for the tradition(s) out of which they are working.
 
If you only know Suzie LeBlanc singing Monteverdi, Bach or Vivaldi, this CD will probably come as a surprise – but not, I would hope, an unpleasant one. In 2004 LeBlanc made an earlier CD (La Mer jolie) of Acadian songs; I haven’t, sadly, heard it.
 
Except, I dare say, for those familiar with La Mer jolie, Tout passé will be unexpected. But its quirkiness is attractive and its honesty, commitment, and evident sense of shared fondness for the music make it a rewarding listen for those with reasonably open minds and ears.
 
Glyn Pursglove
 



 


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