LEWISTON — Noted French-Canadian folk musician and dancer Benoit Bourque will be joined by family and friends in concert Friday, May 18, and Sunday, May 20, at Bates College.
Bourque, a member of the Quebecois band La Bottine Souriante (a multiple winner of the Juno Award, Canada's version of the Emmy), has plied his skills as a singer, instrumentalist and step dancer with many other popular Canadian ensembles over the past 30-plus years. He most recently performed with Le Vent du Nord and Matapat.
Bourque, known for his boundless energy, charisma and versatility, switches effortlessly from accordion to guitar to bones while performing chansons a repondre and other songs derived from Quebec's rich archive of traditional ballads.
He punctuates performances with spirited bouts of jigging, demonstrating what one journalist described as “a remarkable light-footedness, which belies his imposing physique: a 6-foot-5-inch frame which sports size-13 shoes at one end and a never-ending smile on the other.”
Making his first U.S. appearance with his dad is Benoit's son, Antoine, age 22, who is pursuing a bachelors degree in music at the University of Montreal. Although he played piano for many years, his major instrument is now accordion. Along with traditional dance tunes and folk songs learned from his father and other "roots" musicians in Quebec, Antoine is studying the classical music repertoire for piano-accordion.
On Friday, May 18, at 8 p.m., Benoit and Antoine will share the stage at Olin Arts Center Concert Hall (75 Russell St.) with Frank Ferrel and Ed Pearlman, two of America's leading practitioners of Irish and Scottish music, in a program titled “Franco-Celtic Connections.”
Ferrel, who lives in mid-coast Maine, has paternal roots extending through the Canadian Maritimes to Ireland's Longford area. He began fiddling at age 8; and while stationed at the old Charlestown Navel Shipyard in Boston in the 1960s, he was strongly influenced by fiddlers from the local Irish and Canadian (both French and Celtic) immigrant communities. He has performed on numerous occasions with the legendary Celtic group The Boys of the Lough, and his CD “Yankee Dreams” was chosen by the Library of Congress for its “Select List of 25 Examples of American Folk Music” recordings.
Ferrel will be joined for this event by pianist Rob Choiniere of Madison.
Pearlman, of Portland, has been an institution on the Scottish music scene in the United States for more than 30 years, working with almost every major name in Scottish and Cape Breton music. Like Ferrel, he spent many years in the Boston area, and his fiddling style is a reflection of the multifaceted Scottish music scene there – a scene he played a central role in creating. He has performed and taught throughout the United States as well as in Canada and Scotland, and has been music columnist for Scottish Life magazine since 1996.
Accompanying Pearlman will be his son, Neil Pearlman. A recent graduate of Columbia University, he is making a name for himself as a working musician with his piano accompaniment style that merges Cape Breton traditions with jazz, salsa and funk influences.
The father and son also perform as the Highland Soles with other family members: renowned Highland and Cape Breton step dancer Laura Scott, fiddler Lilly Pearlman and pennywhistler/dancer Jesse Pearlman. They have been invited to perform at the May 18 concert.
A question-and-answer session will follow the concert.
On Sunday, May 20, at 3 p.m. Benoit and Antoine will headline a program inspired by old-time kitchen parties common among Franco-American families in Lewiston until a couple of generations ago. Also performing at Bates College's Schaeffer Theatre (300 College St.) will be local Franco-American singers, dancers and instrumentalists, including well-known fiddlers Greg and Jessie Boardman and some of Greg's fiddle students. Popular storyteller Michael Parent, a Lewiston native, will act as host.
Concert tickets are $10, $5 for children and students. The concerts are put on by the Bates department of French and Francophone studies, department of theater and dance and Freewill Folk Society. They are part of a three-day community residency organized by the Maine Folque Co-op with additional support from the Franco-American Collection at USM's Lewiston-Auburn College, the Lewiston Public Library, the Lewiston chapter of the Association Canado-Amèricaine/Royal Arcanum and the Farwell School PTA.
Other activities — all with a French-Canadian theme — include a song workshop, family dance, step dance workshop and dance party for teens and young adults, and a day of folk dance workshops for schoolchildren.
For more information on these events and advance reservations for the two concerts, call 782-0386 or visit www.mainefolqueco-op.com.
Friday, May 18, concert: French-Canadian multi-instrumentalist/singer Benoit Bourque and his accordionist/singer son, Antoine, will be joined by Maine master fiddlers Frank Ferrel and Ed Pearlman; 8 p.m., Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, 75 Russell St., Lewiston. $10, $5 for children/students.
Saturday, May 19, song workshop: Benoit and Antoine Bourque, 10-11:30 a.m., room 170 Lewiston-Auburn College, 51 Westminster St., Lewiston. Lyrics will be provided. $1.
Saturday, May 19, family dance: Benoit Bourque will lead children ages 6 and older, parents and grandparents in a Quebecois-style barn dance with music provided by accordionist Antoine Bourque and Maine musicians; 2-3:30 p.m., Callahan Hall, Lewiston Public Library, 200 Lisbon St. $1.
Saturday, May 19, Quebecois step dance workshop: Benoit Bourque will lead the session for dancers ages 13-29 with some prior tap, clogging or other percussive dance experience; 7 p.m., Chase Hall, Bates College, 56 Campus Ave., Lewiston. $1.
Saturday, May 19, Quadrilles and other French-Canadian social dances: Led by Benoit Bourque with accordionist Antoine Pigeon-Bourque and others, for those in their teens and 20s, no prior dance experience required; 8 p.m., Chase Hall, Bates College. $1.
Sunday, May 20, concert: Benoit and Antoine Bourque will be joined by fiddlers Greg and Jessie Boardman and others for an old-time Franco kitchen party; 3 p.m., Schaeffer Theatre, Bates College. $10, $5 for children/students.