LEWISTON — The public is invited free of charge to the Lewiston-Auburn campus of the University of Southern Maine at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11, for “Franco Memory Through Song,” a multi-media presentation focusing on the local Franco-American musical heritage. The presentation will take place in Room 170 at USM-LAC, 51 Westminster St.

Colby College music professor Natalie Zelensky will discuss a project undertaken by her students to collect and preserve some of Lewiston’s most unique — and treasured — Franco-American chansons. The project began in early 2017 with the students interviewing Aliette Couturier, Jeannine Doucette and Irene Mercier, all Lewiston residents and senior members of the local Franco women’s chorus, Les Troubadours. As part of the interview process, the women shared songs that they recalled singing years ago with their families but which had never been written down. The Colby students — all music majors — recorded the women singing these songs, and then proceeded to create song sheets for each of them including both the music and the lyrics, as well as background information and English translations.

Colby College music professor Natalie Zelensky.


Copies of the songs are now available to the public through the archives of the Franco-American Collection at USM-LAC and also via a website that the students designed specifically to showcase the project, thereby making the songs readily available to future generations. As part of Thursday’s program, Zelensky will give a guided tour of the website, which includes both audio recordings of the songs as well as video clips from the celebration which served as the culminating event of the project.

Natalie Zelensky, PhD, is an ethnomusicologist who specializes in the study of music’s role within migrant communities. Though her initial realm of focus was on Russian music, since coming to Colby in 2012, she has spent much time researching Maine’s music cultures, most notably that of the Franco-American community. Reflecting on her involvement with the “Franco Memory Through Song” project, she said: “The work my students and I conducted was deeply enriching and enlightening and presented us with a vivid glimpse of local Franco-American music culture. It was a privilege working alongside members of Les Troubadours.”

Thursday’s program will conclude with an opportunity for the audience to join members of Les Troubadours in singing some of their favorite chansons. Refreshments will be served.

For more information, call the Franco-American Collection office at 207-753-6545.

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