With a deep passion for the music and art that enveloped her childhood, Emmanuelle LeBlanc never considered any other style when she and her twin sister, Pastelle, followed their dreams of performing on stage.

The soundtrack of her youth was Acadian music – that combination of fiddle playing and step dancing with the sounds of Irish and Scottish music that grew out of the French culture of the Canadian Maritime provinces.

“We always had people around playing Celtic music, Acadian music,” LeBlanc said earlier this week from New Brunswick during a break from rehearsal with her band Vishten. “We had house parties. We did dance and all the Acadian things. So when we started a band, we had never ever thought of anything else.

“We listened to a lot of Irish, Scottish and stuff like that so we’ve always been interested in folk and traditional music. It was just natural when we started the band.”

Taking its kitchen party on the road, Vishten kicks off the 2004-05 L/A Arts’ Cabaret Series Thursday, Dec. 16, at the Ramada Inn in Lewiston.

Besides the LeBlanc twins Emmanuelle (bodhran and Irish flute) and Pastelle (accordion), the five-piece band includes Remi Arsenault (guitar), Megan Bergeron (piano) and Pascal Miousse (fiddle). Step dancing by the LeBlancs and Bergeron add to the partylike atmosphere of Vishten’s live shows.

The stop in the Twin Cities will mark the group’s second visit to Maine. In August, Vishten received glowing reviews in reports from the National Folk Festival in Bangor.

“It was probably one of the best venues that we had this summer,” LeBlanc said. “We had heard of the National Folk Fest for a few years; but once we got there, we just couldn’t have imagined. There were so many people. We saw some great music. We performed four times and each show the energy of the people in the tents was amazing.”

Born to a family of musicians, Emmanuelle and Pastelle began step dancing at age 5 and started piano lessons before they were teenagers. They performed with a dance troupe that traveled throughout the Maritimes and Quebec.

Their parents also hosted large kitchen parties, an informal assemblage of friends and neighbors who would sing and dance until dawn. The evenings and early morning hours were filled with reels, jigs and other types of traditional music for which Acadian music is famous.

It is that same type of energy that Vishten brings to the stage.

The sisters spent a year at university before realizing that their hearts were more into performing than studying. They formed the band Celtitude with Arsenault in 1999, starting with local showcases before expanding their fan base throughout Eastern Canada. The group eventually changed its name to Vishten and grew to a quintet.

Their self-titled debut CD was released last March. The 11-track disc includes six instrumentals and five songs sung in the French language of the Acadian region.

“All the traditional songs we find in the archives are all French language,” LeBlanc said.

Bergeron will be leaving the band shortly but will perform with the group in Lewiston. With both Emmanuelle and Pastelle trained to play piano, the sisters will share keyboard duties in the future.

“It’s really tough to travel for some musicians,” LeBlanc said. “Not everybody can tour so we will be just a four-piece band.”

Vishten has seen its popularity grow throughout Europe and is beginning to make headway in America. The band loves how it is received at U.S. venues, compared to serene European audiences.

“We love the crowds in the States,” LeBlanc said. “They’re really awesome; they’re really energetic. They react a lot to our music, which is really nice. That’s the difference from going to Europe, where they’re so polite. We like people to do what they feel like when we play.”


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