Event: French tunes, moves

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LEWISTON – The public is invited to a multi-generational evening of traditional Franco-American music and dancing at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 18, at Bates College’s Olin Concert Hall.

The free program will open with a concert of Quebecois jigs and reels performed by fiddler Jessie Gagne-Hall, guitarist John Cote and mandolin and banjo player Glen Loper.

Joining them on selected tunes will be local teen fiddlers Rebecca Grube, Matt Lamare and Hannah Rodrigue, who first learned to play violin under Greg Boardman in the Lewiston Public Schools’ string program. They have been coached as a folk trio by Gagne-Hall and Cote for the past year.

A crew of sixth-graders from Pettingill School will add some old-time dancing to the program as they demonstrate a French Canadian contredanse, which they recently learned in preparation for a class trip they will take to Quebec in June.

The audience will then be invited to join them in easy French dances led by Franco-American folk dance instructor Cindy Larock, a Master Artist with the Maine Arts Commission’s Traditional Arts Program.

The older generation will be represented as the senior members of Lewiston’s Association Canado-Americaine Chapter 52 provide moral support from the audience. The organization helped establish and nurture the youth fiddle group in an effort to preserve and pass along the French musical heritage of their “homeland,” French Canada.

“We’re very pleased to be able to invite the community to join us in this celebration of traditional Franco-American culture,” said Bates French Professor Mary Rice-Defosse, who arranged for the event and whose department is funding it.

Adviser to the college’s new Francophone Club, she is teaching a course this spring on “French in Maine” and has returned from a research excursion to Quebec with her students, some of whom will participate on stage in Thursday’s festivities.

The event is expected to conclude by 9 p.m. Seating is first-come, first-served, with no advance reservations. The concert hall is located at the Olin Arts Center on Russell Street. More information is available by calling Rice-Defosse at 786-6279 or Larock at 782-0386.

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