Friday, March 23, 2007

Le Vent du Nord to appear at Merrill - Portland, ME - Mar 24-25, 2007

By Juliana L'Heureux
Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram
Thursday, March 22, 2007

Maine's celebration of "la semaine de la Francophone" culminates with a special concert at Merrill Auditorium featuring Montreal's lively music and dance ensemble, "Le Vent du Nord," performing with the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

"We're excited about this rare chance to play and perform with a symphony orchestra in Portland," says Olivier Demers, 30, violinist and guitar player with the Quebecois group. Demers, trained in classical music, is one of four accomplished performers who formed the Celtic-inspired "Le Vent du Nord" four and a half years ago.

"Our Portland concert is the first time we've performed with a symphony," he says.

"Le Vent du Nord" (or "North Wind") will connect their Quebec traditions and music to the classical symphony with performances Saturday night and a matinee Sunday at Merrill Auditorium. Daniel Meyer is guest conductor for the performances.

Canada's government is a principal sponsor of the program, in celebration of Maine's Francophone week, which recognizes the state's French-Canadian population.

"We've been touring like crazy lately," says Demers.

Performing with him is Nicolas Boulerice, 31, lead singer and fiddler who also plays a hurdy-gurdy. Demers said the hurdy-gurdy is actually a wheel fiddle, or a stringed musical instrument using a circular shaped bow.

Boulerice first learned music and singing with his grandmother, who often hosted kitchen soirees in Quebec. Simon Beaudry, 28, from Quebec's LanaudiËre area, is the group's guitar player and lead singer.

"Simon lives our Quebecois traditions," says Demers.

Benoit Bourque, 49, is the accordion player who also performs with bones ("Like barbecue ribs," says Demers) and does step dancing. Beaudry has danced since he was 13, having grown up in a musical family.

All four performers take pride in their French-Canadian heritage. French is their first language, because they grew up in Quebec Province and Montreal. Demers recognizes the good work being done by people of French-Canadian descent in Maine to help preserve the culture and the language for future generations.

"Le Vent du Nord is proud and pleased to be part of the celebration of the French language in Maine during the week of the Francophone," he says. Although Demers was surprised to learn how common his family's surname is among Mainers, he was, nevertheless, knowledgeable about the migration of French-Canadians who left Quebec to help settle the state.

"Maine is into 100 years of receiving French-Canadian immigrants," he says. French- speaking Canadians recognize how hard it is to carry on the Quebecois traditions and culture in an English-speaking society.

"We work hard to preserve our language and traditions because they're important to us," he says. "Francophone people in Maine are like our extended Quebecois family."

Performing with Le Vent du Nord is essentially a cultural tribute to the 400-year history of French-Canadian heritage, beginning with the 1608 founding of Quebec by explorer Samuel de Champlain.

"Quebecois music is not only a product of making recordings, it's actually a reflection of our lifetime of work," says Demers. "It's like researching our heritage and creating a collection of pictures or photographs of our culture."

The performers want to create a window for audiences to see through, as they peer into the lively nature of the French-Canadian and Quebecois culture. "We're totally dedicated to our Quebecois traditions," he says.

Ticket-holders for the Portland Symphony's performance with Le Vent du Nord are eligible for a drawing to win a three-day trip to Quebec in 2008.
Juliana L'Heureux can be contacted at: