Franco folk singer will perform at L-A College

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LEWISTON — Franco-American folk singer Josee Vachon will bring her lilting voice, humor and upbeat rhythms to the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College on Sunday, May 22.

The free concert will take place at 2 p.m. in the college’s function room, Room 170.

A Quebec native transplanted to central Maine as a child, Vachon has been entertaining audiences throughout the Northeast and beyond for more than 25 years. She performs a varied repertoire of songs in French, accompanying herself on guitar, spoons and foot-tapping.

Vachon often entertained at family gatherings and began singing publicly with the support of the Franco-American Center at the University of Maine, where she discovered others who shared her rich heritage. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Romance languages in 1984, she continued to perform at schools, parish soirees and cultural celebrations such as Lewiston’s Franco-American Festival.

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These experiences inspired her to document her Quebec roots by writing original compositions, which she performs along with a wealth of French-Canadian songs, both traditional and contemporary. To date, she has recorded 12 solo albums in French.

Her warm vocals, welcoming personality and increasing popularity among Francos led to an 11-year stint as host of “Bonjour!” (1987-1998), the most widely seen French-language cable TV show produced in the United States, airing in markets from Maine to Louisiana as well as in Canada. She also has appeared on Radio-Canada and on television shows in Paris, France.

Vachon was recorded for a special on La Bolduc on Canada’s History Channel, made Yankee Magazine’s Top 40 Music picks (July 2001) and contributed an original song on Smithsonian Folkways’ compilation, “Mademoiselle voulez-vous danser: Franco-American Music from the New England Borderlands,” a Top 10 folk music CD pick from NPR in 1999. That same year, she was awarded the National Culture Through the Arts Award from the New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers for her work in schools.

She performed with the 1994 touring show “Women’s Singing Traditions of New England,” under the sponsorship of the National Endowment for the Arts, and was a founding member of the Franco-American group Chanterelle, with whom she recorded two albums. In 2007, she was inducted into the American-French Genealogical Society’s French-Canadian Hall of Fame.

Vachon says she has “great memories of the very enthusiastic audiences who have attended my concerts in Lewiston over the years. Moving away from New England to follow my husband’s work was difficult, so I’m particularly excited to be back ‘home’ with fans during this upcoming visit.”

Vachon will conclude her concert at L-A College with a singalong, when she will invite audience members to join her in a rousing selection of response songs and other local Franco-American favorites.

L-A College is at 51 Westminster St. For more information, call James Myall, coordinator of the Franco-American Collection at L-A College, at 753-6545.

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