|Scholar shares soul of French-Canadian music
By SHAWN MACOMBER, Telegraph Correspondent
Published: Thursday, Jan. 6, 2005
Lucie Therrien's lecture, "French
-Canadian Music and its Cross-Cultures"
When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9.
Where: Hunt Memorial Library Building,
6 Main St., Library Hill, Nashua.
Information: Call 594-3661. Or,
for more information on Lucie Therrien, www.star.net/People/~lt/.
Traveling music is like a traveling
people. In a new home it clings to some aspects while others fall away
and, oftentimes without even realizing it, becomes a completely different
creature altogether in a complex web of pollination and cross-pollination.
Much of this happens below the cultural radar, with even the human musical
pollination bees unaware of their own rippling effect.
Enter self-proclaimed "citizen
of the world" Lucie Therrien, a Portsmouth chanteuse and scholar who plans
to shed some light on the trajectory and impact of French-Canadian music
Sunday at the Hunt Memorial Library Building with a talk titled, "French-Canadian
Music and its Cross-Cultures."
"People here, I believe, want to
reconnect with their past, their culture," Therrien said. "There is so
little chance to reconnect to our roots these days and the warm, fuzzy
feelings that come with doing so. It's become my mission to sing and educate.
It's become my passion. My lecture will be an extension of that. I might
even throw in a couple a cappella numbers."
Therrien has written two small
tomes, outgrowths of her University of New Hampshire Master's thesis, on
her beloved French music - "The Biculturalism of French-Canadian Music
(1534-1759), Indian/French" and "The Biculturalism of Quebec Music (1789-1800),
French English" - in addition to her international touring schedule.
Therrien also serves on the American
and Canadian French Cultural Exchange Commission, a post she was recently
appointed to by New Hampshire Cultural Affairs Commissioner Van McLeod.
Therrien sings in many languages, and has performed or participated in
cultural exchanges in Quebec, Vietnam, Martinique, North Africa and Cuba.
In her spare time, Therrien teaches music and French to students at her
Studio Do-Re-Mi in Portsmouth.
"We're very excited Lucie is coming,"
said event coordinator Elaine Griffiths. "We hope, with the area's large
French population, to get a good crowd. I think people are going to learn
quite a bit and be entertained as well."
The history of French-Canadian
music, especially since the British came to Canada in the mid-1700s, has
been rich and varied, Therrien said.
"I'll talk about the history of
the music right up until today, following the winding paths of the music's
migration," she said. "For example, traditional Acadian music migrated
to Louisiana and became Cajun music. Quebec music migrated to the New England
mills, and was retained by Franco-Americans."
While Franco-Americans retained
Quebec's music, they also sort of froze it in time, while music being made
in Quebec continued to evolve.
"Quebec is a modern civilization,
and its music has, therefore, developed into something more modern," Therrien
explained. "Franco-Americans have stuck more closely to tradition because
they are nostalgic, and traditional music reminds them of home. You could
call Franco-Americans the keepers of the traditional music.
"I learned those songs as a schoolgirl
in Quebec," she continued. "These were French folk songs we sang at recess
or that my papa taught me. But they are not songs you will hear on the
radio driving through Quebec."
Both worldliness and music run
freely in Therrien's blood. Her father was French-Canadian and her mother
was English-Canadian. Therrien spoke two languages at home and school.
She remembers early in life telling her mother she wanted to be a musician.
"My papa was a fiddler," Therrien
said. "On Sundays, our days of leisure and pleasure, we would often jam
and make music together. I also took classical music classes in school.
Growing up, I listened to both the French and English music my parents
were fans of. So I had music coming at me from all sides, in all languages,
and I just loved it."
Therrien's talk will also touch
on the musical culture and happenings in France. But when asked to explain
the major differences between French and American music, Therrien demurred.
"The difference between French
music and any other music comes from the soul," She said. "It is incomparable.
It has its own soul. Since I was a child I had a strong love for this music."
According to the multilingual Therrien,
learning new languages can also help spur a broader understanding of cultures,
musical and otherwise.
"Language is tied into music,"
she said. "Both allow you to have a bigger world. Every time you can speak
another language, you enter someone else's world. You're no longer on the
outside looking in, you connect with their life. Music, like language,
is a vocabulary that can be used to connect with and understand different
Perhaps it should come as no surprise
that a scholar who has spent many years exploring the nooks and crannies
of the French music traditions objects to being slapped with the French-Canadian
"People tend to call us all French-Canadians,"
she said. "We are not. We're not living in Canada. We're a subculture of
those great traditions. I think that is what satisfying about exploring
this music. People are always in awe of all the connections when they start
to dig in to the history. My talk, I hope, will be a good starting point."
For Therrien, that exploration
should not end at the water's edge of French music.
"My world is very large," Therrien
said. "I'm really an international person. I need to be constantly exposed
to new ideas and places almost to survive, really. It's my water. I need
that international stimulus."