On Wednesday, July 13, the Québécois group Les Poules à Colin, performs in Phoenicia for Flying Cat Music at the Empire State Railway Museum at 70 Lower High Street. The doors open at 7:00 p.m. and music begins at 7:30. Tickets are $17 or $15 with reservations. For information or reservations email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845-688-9453.
Age old traditions are enlivened by the exuberance of youth when Les Poules à Colin perform. Despite their young ages, (19-24) the members of Les Poules à Colin have been playing together for seven years, touring across North America as well as Europe. Natives of Lanaudière, renowned as Quebec’s most musical region, the four women and one man who comprise Les Poules à Colin each come from parents who themselves are celebrated traditional musicians. Throughout their journey they remain close, a sister and brother and three childhood friends who all still live on the same street, sharing a history of music-making and family ties.
The music in their blood spurs group members to accomplishments that might otherwise seem beyond their years. Les Poules a Colin’s second and most recent recording Ste-Waves, garnished a prestigious nomination at ADISQ 2015 (Québec Association for the Recording, Concert and Video Industries) for Traditional Album of the Year. In 2010 they were winners of The Grand Prix Desjardins culture Lanaudière, at the annual gala that showcases the important cultural environment of the region.
Les Poules à Colin’s sound is a seamless blend of their strong folk upbringing and North American influences that range from old-time to jazz, with some provocative and moody effects that serve to deepen their spell. They draw from a repertoire that is a mix of original and traditional pieces, primarily in French but with some English compositions, all of which reveal gorgeous vocal, instrumental and rhythmic prowess. Penguin Eggs, billed as Canada’s folk, roots, and world music magazine, calls their music “Profoundly traditional but completely open to current trends.” The UK’s fRoots Magazine, specializing in folk and world music, describes Les Poules à Colin as: “a new take on Québécois folk – recharging the music from within while at the same time bringing fresh elements from outside.”
Les Poules à Colin’s respectful adaptations of traditional songs speak eloquently to their own generation while retaining the beauty of timeless music. Les Poules à Colin appear frequently at international festivals such as the Vancouver Folk Festival and Winnipeg’s Festival du Voyageur (a ten-day affair held in Winnipeg’s French Quarter) that typically attracts 100,000 attendees. Outside of Canada they’ve enthralled crowds at festivals like the Festival International Louisiana, and at Celtic Connections in Glasgow – the largest annual winter music festival of its kind and the UK’s premier celebration of Celtic music. In reviewing Les Poules à Colin’s performance at Celtic Connections, The Scotsman praised the group’s music as, “sparkling and beguiling.” It lauded them for bringing, “freshly inventive vitality to these deeply planted roots, centered on bright yet sultry twin female vocals.”
In a recent interview, fiddler and vocalist Béa Méthé described how the band achieves its special sound: “We aim for a traditional sound with acoustic instruments such as the fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar, and foot percussion. We compose and play reels, jigs and waltzes but adding the piano, the Rhodes and the electric bass really gives us the opportunity to bring our sound to another level, taking us away from the traditional music that we are used to hearing. We like to play around with chord progressions and add a good number of effects to our instruments to make them sound different than they usually do. We feel totally free to experiment and create around a tradition that is so strong and rooted.”
It is no wonder then that Montreal’s Le Devoir, long considered to be Canada’s francophone newspaper of record, in 2015 exclaimed (in translation from the original French) “This group is truly unique!” Or that, also in 2015, a Les Poules à Colin song was chosen by Canada’s Council for the Arts, from among submissions made by 165 artists, for inclusion on a special 15 track CD through an initiative with the UK-based magazine Songlines. Songs were picked that would, to quote the Council, “illustrate that Canada’s world music scene is as unique and diverse as Canadians themselves” drawn from musicians who “fuse the contemporary with the traditional.” Through Songlines some 20,000 copies of the CD, containing Les Poules à Colin’s “Ti-Mé”, were distributed to music lovers and industry professionals in 65 countries with the October 2015 issue of the magazine.
We dare say that opportunities to hear the young and rising Québécois group Les Poules à Colin, in as exquisite and intimate a setting as Phoenicia’s Empire State Railway Museum, are rare and only getting rarer.