De Temps Antan, the trio of veteran French Canadian roots musicians, will be touring the United States and Canada will in February-April, 2011.
“For us, it’s not only the story of the music we need to tell,” exclaims accordionist Pierre-Luc Dupuis, “but we try to live the story on stage, to really get across what you’d hear and feel and do during a family party.”
All three musicians hail from small Quebecois towns and majorly musical families. They grew up hearing relatives jam on fiddle and guitar, or following their lead on the call-and-response songs common at kitchen parties. The echoes of these good times ring on the fun-loving Cajun-flavored “La maison reenforcée,” learned in a sugar shack, or the onomatopoeic original “Pétipetan,” both from Habits de Papier (2010).
Yet the trio also followed their roots deeper-and further afield-transforming tradition with fresh, technically astute musicianship. These roots extend into the difficult past endured by Francophone communities in North America and show the musical ingenuity of generations of Quebecois.
The fancy footwork the trio does-all three bring their footboards to tap on tour-stems from the days long ago when dance parties, powered by a lone fiddler, needed a good strong beat to keep the couples going. The solution: sit the fiddler on the table and let him tap his feet. “To amplify the foot tapping, the fiddler would get up on the table and tap in middle of kitchen,” Dupuis notes. “That would make it much louder and get everyone in the whole house dancing.”
Festive mouth music numbers like the quicksilver “La turlutte de rotoculteur” also have a long (and tragic) history: “It’s a way to remember a tune, or dance without an instrument,” explains Dupuis. “I’ve heard, for example, that when the French settlers were driven out of the Maritimes centuries ago, they used turlutte to avoid losing their repertoire.”
De Temps Antan, a name meaning both “from time to time” and “in olden days,” got together as a side project when Dupuis, guitarist Éric Beaudry, and fiddle player André Brunet were playing with the Quebecois super group La Bottine Souriente. Practicing and performing the occasional gig when they had the time, De Temps Antan honed both their musical bonhomie and their ability to move large crowds. “Our approach has stayed the same in many ways, even though we are a much smaller band,” Dupuis says. “You have to play grooves and have fun on stage. You have to be tight and keep the same energy.”
Now that the time-and-again project has become a full-time occupation, the group is on a constant quest for interesting old material. They have scoured archives, uncovering gems like the sorrowful “Jeune et Joli.” They have learned from older musicians, like Gaspé fiddler Édouard Richard sand his reels (one forms part of “Roma au lac bell”). They have heard new songs among friends, relatives, and neighbors: Beaudry’s hometown of Saint-Côme is famous in Quebec traditional music circles as the capital of traditional song, and Beaudry managed to collect more than 1,000 tunes there.
The group loves experimenting with new sounds. Take “Dominic a Marcel,” a silly song with some serious grit. “The song comes from Nova Scotia, but we decided to plug the bouzouki into an old amp for this grungy sound,” Dupuis recalls. “We were inspired by the southern musicians we’ve played with over the past few years at festivals, all the bluegrass and old-time and Cajun players we’ve met.”
De Temps Antan are also creating the traditional favorites of the future, like Brunet’s gentle “La fée des dents,” an homage to the tooth fairy’s arrival, following a long line of songwriters and tunesmiths who created Quebec’s rich musical heritage. “You can play traditional tunes all your life, but if you don’t compose new stuff, there won’t be any traditional stuff to play,” Dupuis comments. “We have lots of great composers in Quebec who add new rich tunes to the traditional repertoire. Our grandparents composed, and we’re keeping that tradition alive.”
Full Tour Schedule
Sainte-Rose en blanc
Forest Grove, OR
Taylor-Mead Performing Arts Center
2043 College Way
Gesù, Festival Montréal en Lumière
Tickets: $15, Show: 8:00 pm
Rosslyn Spectrum Theater
1611 N. Kent St.
Show: 8:00 pm
New Cumberland, PA
Susquehanna Folk Music Society
Yorktown Hotel @ 48 East Market St.
Tickets: $22, Show: 4:00 pm
John Michael Kohler Arts Center
608 New York Ave.
Show: 4:00 pm
Des Moines IA
Temple Theater – Civic Center of Greater Des Moines
1011 Locust St.
Sun Valley, ID
Sun Valley Opera House
1 Sun Valley Rd.
Tickets: $20/$30 – non-members, Show: 6:30 pm
Tickets: $27, Show: 7:30 pm
Myrna Loy Center
15 N. Ewing
Tickets: $20/$30 – non-members, Show: 7:30 pm
Warch Campus Center 224 Julie Esch Studio
Show: 8:00 pm