LEWISTON — Madeleine LeBlanc, 86, had to dance.

She’d already sung “La Vie en Rose” to the crowd of 40 or so. She gave her own plaintive take on the Edith Piaf ballad, translated as “Life through rose-colored glasses.” Then, the piano and the accordion inspired her.

She stood, dancing in place for a minute as people applauded.

“I couldn’t help it,” she said.

LeBlanc was part of a line of Franco-Americans who rose up Wednesday at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College to share a song, tell a few jokes and remember a time when their culture dominated.

For an hour Wednesday, it did again. Little English was spoken. And everyone seemed to speak Quebec French.

“It’s like we’re at a house party,” said Cindy Larock, who helped organize the event with James Myall, coordinator of the college’s Franco-American Collection.

It was the second event in what they hope will be a regular Franco sing-along, scheduled for 1:15 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month.

The first drew about 30 people. This time, folks breezed through a songbook of 20 tunes, beginning with “Ah! Si Mon Moine” (“If Only My Monk Would Dance with Me”).

Aliette Couturier, the president La Survivance Francaise, led people through the book. Most of the tunes were traditional Quebec response songs, in which the audience repeated the lines first sung by Couturier.

Then, there were others, party songs that were sung in living rooms in Quebec and Lewiston decades ago.

During a pause between songs, Helene Sylvain of Lewiston stood and took the microphone. She sang with the easy confidence of a veteran performer.

“Every French family sang” she said, attempting to explain away her ease in front of the group. But, she admitted she can be “hammy.”

“If you’re the first child in the family, you can’t be shy,” she said.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.